Archive | March 2016

With a Forecast of Sea Level Rising 5-6 Feet Under “Business-as-Usual” Conditions, Media and Others Ought Ask Presidential Contenders What Steps the Country and Its People Ought Be Taking to Reduce this Major Threat to Humanity!

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The latest study in the prestigious Journal Nature predicts the world’s oceans will rise 5 or 6 feet by the end of this century without major changes to end fossil fuel burning – NOW! We are causing irreparable harm to the earth’s climate and its physical and biological systems – including warming and acidification of the oceans as well as rising sea levels – processes that have already begun and will not be possible to reverse even if humans stop burning fossil fuels today.

So all we can do is slow the rate of change and help those most likely to be affected to prepare for the worst.  It’s the least we can do.

The League of Conservation Voters has a continually updated report “In Own Words” on each remaining 2016 presidential candidates’ past statements on climate change . Non of the candidates statements reflect the study on sea level rise released last week.

Artist’s Rendering of State of Wisconsin’s Gift to the NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks Owners

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker committed Wisconsin taxpayers to contribute $250 million, or $400 million with interest, over the next 20 years, to pay for the Milwaukee Bucks new arena. That will supposedly cover roughly half the cost of this “investment” of State of Wisconsin funds. The other $250 million will be paid by the Milwaukee Bucks’ wealthy owners.

The NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks convinced the State’s Republican lawmakers and Governor Walker last August that this would be a sound investment for the state for the next 20 years, albeit a condition for keeping the Bucks franchise in Wisconsin.

Global warming and the need to drastically cut the air travel emissions that professional sports teams emit to Earth’s atmosphere, free of charge, will be just one of the many changes required to keep climate extremes and Earth’s rising ocean levels at bay. Big arenas like the  Buck’s new arena could become symbols of a day gone bye-bye. Too bad for the investors in this white elephant and all professional sports team owners and big time athletic colleges, too. Only time will tell how big a white elephant the new Milwaukee Bucks and the State of Wisconsin’s new pro basketball sports team arena will turn out to be.

Instead of Climate Change Legislation, Wisconsin’s Legislature and Governor Pass Laws to Relax or Prohibit Protection of State’s 15,074 Lakes, Rivers and Streams

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Just in the past year, the GOP-led Wisconsin Legislature, at the behest of mainly agriculture, construction and real estate interests, has approved numerous bills to relax or prohibit state and local efforts to regulate, safeguard or even monitor the state’s lakes, rivers, and streams. Between January 2011 and December 2015, those special interests contributed about $2.7 million to Republican legislators and nearly $9 million to Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Here are a few of those controversial measures:

Assembly Bill 603, which creates new standards for placing structures along the shores of lakes and rivers, and prohibits counties from using zoning ordinances to regulate or restrict shoreline construction projects, like boathouses and fishing rafts, among others. The measure, which was backed by agriculture, construction and real estate interests, was signed into law by Walker.

The 2015-17 state budget, which was approved by the legislature and signed by Walker last summer, prohibits Dane County from making wastewater, sewage and other water quality decisions. Instead, the Department of Natural Resources is in charge of water quality decisions for Dane County. The DNR is required to base its decisions on water quality standards outlined in state law, rather than stricter local standards, and to make decisions on applications to revise the plan for new real estate developments within 90 days. The DNR is also banned from working with the county or its other local governments on the water quality plan or changes to it. The non-fiscal measure was tucked into the budget and passed at the request of developers.

The 2015-17 state budget, which prohibits counties from adopting zoning rules stricter than state law when it comes to what shoreline property owners can do with their property. Zoning rules govern how close structures can be to water, lot sizes, building maintenance, and vegetation, among other things, in order to protect water quality in streams, rivers, and lakes. The plan strips at least 20 counties of their right to have zoning and shoreland protection rules stricter than state law. The non-spending measure was inserted into the budget with the backing of construction and real estate interests.

Senate Bill 459, which loosens state regulations and restricts local control involving waterways and the land around them, dry lake beds, wetlands, storm water control systems and other man-made ditches, and rules governing the repair of piers and boathouses. The measure, which was approved by the legislature and sent to Walker, is backed by agriculture, construction, real estate, and business interests.

SB493, which would reduce the state’s authority to regulate fish farms. The measure, which was approved and sent to Walker, expands the permissible bodies of water where fish farms can be built; loosens requirements on the amount of water that dams on fish farms may control or discharge; and exempts man-made ponds, wetlands, and roads on fish farms from DNR permit requirements. The measure was backed by the agriculture and restaurant industries.

Text from Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Alarming New Study Predicts Dangerous Sea Level Rise to Occur in Decades, Not Centuries

 

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A new scientific study, released to the media Tuesday by the European Geoscience Union’s Journal of Atmospheric and Physics, has major media sources reporting “alarming” study predictions of sea level rise and extreme weather from global warming, “much faster” than the rate of rise predicted in the most recent report by IPCC scientists. The world’s governments are being urged to “speed up the transition to carbon-free energy.” (Slate, 3/22/16)

Last year was the hottest on record. This January was the hottest on record. This February was the hottest on record — when the northern hemisphere breached 2 degrees of average warming for the first time in human history. “Our planet’s temperature just reached a terrifying milestone.” (Slate, 3/12/16)

The study uses climate simulations, paleoclimate data and modern observations to infer that continued high fossil fuel emissions will cause a slowdown and eventually shutdown the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and the Southern Meridional Oceanic Circulation, resulting in an increase in powerful storms and nonlinear sea level rise, rising up to several meters in 50–150 years.

The meridional overturning circulation is a system of surface and deep currents encompassing all ocean basins. It transports large amounts of water, heat, salt, carbon, nutrients and other substances around the globe, and connects the surface ocean and atmosphere with the huge reservoir of the deep sea. The circulation of ocean water has been found to play a central role in climate and climate variability. Historically, the focus of research has been on the North Atlantic Basin, a primary site where water sinks from the surface to depth, triggered by loss of heat, and therefore buoyancy, to the atmosphere. A key part of the overturning puzzle, however, is the return path from the interior ocean to the surface through upwelling in the Southern Ocean. This return path is largely driven by winds. It has become clear over the past few years that the importance of Southern Ocean upwelling for our understanding of climate rivals that of North Atlantic downwelling, because it controls the rate at which ocean reservoirs of heat and carbon communicate with the surface.

The authors of the new study claim that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “missed” reporting on these important changes in their latest IPCC report, which the 18 authors of the new study underestimates ice sheet melt and the IPCC’s models are too insensitive to accurately  account for ocean waters mixing.

In a video abstract: “Ice melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms”, lead author and climate scientist Dr. James Hansen states that evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations show that the maximum level of global warming that was set at the Paris Climate Summit meetings in early December 2015 of  2°C global warming to be “highly dangerous” and that “We have a climate emergency and must slash CO2 emissions ASAP or irreparable harm to the climate will be done for succeeding generations”.

State of Wisconsin Would Upset Gaylord Nelson

This opinion was published in The Cap Times, March 16, 2016
By Dave Zweifel – Editor Emeritus

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Gaylord Nelson*, the late Wisconsin governor and senator, would often confide to friends that if he were king he’d make it tough for big, smoke-belching manufacturing plants to locate in the state.

To say that publicly wouldn’t have sat well with the state’s business gurus. Nelson would have been pilloried for having an anti-business attitude and holding back the state’s economy, but he firmly believed that Wisconsin was a unique place, a natural wonder that needed to be protected for eternity.

And while the state never had a policy to keep big manufacturing plants out, it did develop laws to protect its natural beauty, adopting strong environmental safeguards for everything from the state’s towering northern forests to its thousands of blue-water lakes. Manufacturers were expected to follow those regulations and the Department of Natural Resources was charged with making sure they did. We didn’t want any Gary, Indianas, in our midst.

It wasn’t just Democrat Nelson who carried the torch to protect Wisconsin from potential polluters. A Republican named Warren Knowles did too. The two Wisconsin politicians grew up not too far from each other, Knowles in River Falls in Pierce County and Nelson in little Clear Lake in Polk County, about an hour’s drive to the north.

They knew firsthand Wisconsin’s rushing rivers, its fresh and unpolluted air, its varied landscapes that beckoned folks to enjoy the great outdoors. It was their love of Wisconsin’s unspoiled beauty that resulted in the two of them pushing the state to buy land and preserve it for the people.

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program wound up protecting over a half-million acres for posterity and keeping Wisconsin as true to its natural roots as possible. The state became known for its environmental protections and was considered a model of how states could balance the interests of businesses, conservationists and environmentalists for the benefit of all.

I am struck by how much that’s changed under Scott Walker’s tenure as Wisconsin’s governor.

A recent story in the Wisconsin State Journal described how the current leadership of the DNR is hurriedly putting together a reorganization of the department that many fear will reduce the department’s ability to keep tabs on potential polluters. That is coming on top of several laws passed in the state Legislature’s most recent session that will harm our state’s waters.

And that’s on top of a gradual reduction in DNR staff, including educators and foresters, and decimation of the department’s Science Bureau. And that’s still on top of the Walker administration’s directive to the DNR to sell off some of the land preserved by the Knowles-Nelson fund.

In short, where just a few years ago the state’s environmental interests were on equal footing with those of businesses and developers, the playing field has been tilted in favor of the latter groups.

Wisconsin is already starting to show scars. The proliferation of controversial megafarms called CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) continues unabated around the state, often in areas where private wells and groundwater aquifers can be contaminated. In Kewaunee County, a high concentration of cows in CAFOs and the resulting liquid manure is suspected in the contamination of numerous residential wells.

Other CAFOs have experienced devastating accidental spills of manure, the most recent in Grant County, where two miles of a pristine trout stream were poisoned. Yet the CAFOs seem to get routine approval. One proposed to be opened near the town of Saratoga in Wood County, complete with 5,300 cattle producing enough waste to equal that of a city of 106,000 people, is being fought relentlessly by the local people, but the fight may all be for naught.

The DNR’s deputy secretary, Kurt Thiede, said the planned reorganization, which is targeted to occur as early as June 1, is aimed at taking best practices from other states. Arizona, Iowa and Tennessee were given as examples.

There was a time when other states came to Wisconsin to learn about the best ways to protect their natural resources.

No more.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.

Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day, celebrated in the United States and around the world annually, on April 22, since 1970. His last book was “Beyond Earth Day: Fulfilling the Promise”.

Aldo Leopold was a professor at the University of Wisconsin and is best known for his book “A Sand County Almanac” (1949), which has sold more than two million copies.

Enbridge Pipeline Public Hearing Wednesday in Madison

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The State of Wisconsin, which has already issued a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources permit to the Enbridge Company to increase the capacity of its pipeline across Wisconsin, to transport up to 1.2 million barrels of tar sands oil a day, will hold a contested case hearing on March 23, 2016, in the hearing room at the Wisconsin Division of Hearings and Appeals, 505 University Avenue, Suite 201, Madison, WI, at 9:00 am.

The tar sands oil, some of which is already being pumped through the pipeline, originates from the tar sands mines located in Alberta, Canada where the product is processed, is also believed to contain significant quantities of flammable additives which make the product fluid so that it can be pumped through the pipeline. The fluid of additives is then returned to the processing site in Alberta, Canada via an adjacent pipeline for reuse.

Wisconsin’s Legislature Ends 2015-2016 Session Without Addressing Poverty, Racial Disparities, Climate Change, and Groundwater Pollution

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As far as the Wisconsin State Legislature is concerned, which concluded its 2-year legislative session last week, the problems of poverty, racial disparities in income and education, climate change – with its possibility for more extreme and threatening extremes in the weather and an acceleration of sea level rise (and a warming Great Lakes) – and groundwater pollution – one-third of the wells of residents of Kewaunee County that were tested contain water found unsafe to drink – are not worth their time to discuss.

Dr. Martin Jr. once said: “an injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.” While he seemingly meant those words to apply to the racial injustices, one could just well apply them to generational injustices. Global warming – a long lasting and life-threatening consequence of the last century and today’s fuel burning economic lifestyle, especially in developed countries, — is most certainly a generational injustice.

New Poll Results by FINANCIAL.com show the U.S. population’s concern about global warming is at an eight-year high.

Accepting the reality of human-caused global warming and climate change – not just more costly and more dangerous extreme weather events (such as stronger hurricanes, increases in flooding, longer and hotter heat waves, worse droughts and the increase in disease prone areas throughout the world) and the unprecedented in human history and accelerating rise of the elevation level of the oceans along with its increased acidification – is the necessary first step world citizens must take if we are to have any hope for passing on to our succeeding generations a planet that is fit to live on. The necessary second step is for EVERYONE: including people of all races and places, of all businesses and governments, of all colleges and universities, of tourism organizations and recreational providers, of professional and amateur athletes and their coaches and fans, and all other entities, work towards minimizing and ultimately stopping their daily and annual contributions of greenhouse gas to our atmosphere, what is considered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) scientists as a dangerous buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Thursday, 17 March 2016:

The FINANCIAL — Americans are taking global warming more seriously than at any time in the past eight years, according to several measures in Gallup’s annual environment poll. Most emblematic is the rise in their stated concern about the issue. Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults say they are worried a “great deal” or “fair amount” about global warming, up from 55% at this time last year and the highest reading since 2008.

As they should be. What we’re seeing now, including February’s record smashing global average temperatures, is just the beginning of the unimaginable changes predicted to result from the buildup of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere, primarily resulting from too much fossil fuel burning, over decades and centuries, mostly in the developed countries of the world.

Mirroring this, the March 2-6 survey — conducted at the close of what has reportedly been the warmest winter on record in the U.S. — documents a slight increase in the percentage of Americans who believe the effects of global warming have already begun. Nearly six in 10 (59%) today say the effects have already begun, up from 55% in March 2015. Another 31%, up from 28% in 2015, believe the effects are not currently manifest but will be at some point in the future. That leaves only 10% saying the effects will never happen, down from 16% last year and the lowest since 2007.

A third key indicator of public concern about global warming is the percentage of U.S. adults who believe the phenomenon will eventually pose a serious threat to them or their way of life. Forty-one percent now say it will, up from 37% in 2015 and, by one point, the highest in Gallup’s trend dating back to 1997.

Americans’ clear shift toward belief in global warming follows a winter that most described in the same poll as being unusually warm. Sixty-three percent say they experienced an unusually warm winter, and the majority of this group ascribes the warm weather pattern to human-caused climate change.

Record 65% Blame Human Activity for Rising Temperatures

That finding relates to another record broken in the new poll — the 65% of Americans now saying increases in the Earth’s temperature over the last century are primarily attributable to human activities rather than natural causes. This represents a striking 10-percentage-point increase in the past year and is four points above the previous high of 61% in 2007.

All Party Groups Show Increased Concern

Concern about global warming has increased among all party groups since 2015, although it remains much higher among Democrats than Republicans and independents. For example, 40% of Republicans say they worry a great deal or fair amount about global warming, up from 31% last year. The percentage of independents expressing concern has also increased nine points, from 55% to 64%. Democrats’ concern is up slightly less, from 78% to 84%.

Democrats and independents also show double-digit increases in the percentages attributing warmer temperatures to human activities. Republicans show a more modest uptick of four points on this question.

Bottom Line

A confluence of factors — the economic downturn, the Climategate controversy and some well-publicized pushback against global warming science — may have dampened public concern about global warming from about 2009 to 2015. However, Americans are now expressing record- or near-record-high belief that global warming is happening, as well as concern about the issue. Several years of unseasonably warm weather — including the 2011-2012, 2012-2013 and 2015-2016 winters — has potentially contributed to this shift in attitudes. If that’s true, continuation of such weather patterns would likely do more than anything politicians and even climate-change scientists can to further raise public concern.

Above story from “FINANCIAL” was written by Lydia Saad and Jeffrey M. Jones.

“There is nothing more sad or glorious than generations changing hands.” – John Cougar Mellencamp, 1985, on jacket of his album “Scarcrow”, 1985.