IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Look out 1998 and 2005: 2010 shaping up to be hottest year evah; Coral reefs totally stressed out --- wouldn't you be?; More questions on the safety of Gulf seafood; Labeling "Frankenfish" ... PLUS: House panel investigates which came first: the chicken --- or the tainted eggs? ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below):
Cyprus facing up to life after 'peak water'; Green Marines phase out fuel, bring solar panels to war; Global warming may have slowed in the 1970s: study; China blocks rare earth exports to Japan; UK launches World's Largest Wind Farm; US losing renewable energy race to Asia; GOP 'Pledge To America' is an oath to Big Oil; Meg Whitman would 'probably' veto CA global-warming law; How Hillary Clinton's clean stoves will help African women; US "oblivious" to Canadian oil sands impact ...PLUS: "Global warming" vs. "Climate disruption" ...
STORIES DISCUSSED IN TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...
- US Climate Negotiator: No Deal Likely This Year in UN Climate Negotiations:
- Stern talking to: Don't expect much from Cancun climate summit, U.S. negotiator says: "Expectations are not too high, but they are not low," Stern said, summing up the mood among climate negotiators ahead of the Cancun talks. (AFP)
- Kremlin Adviser Says Kyoto Can't Stop Climate Change : The Kyoto Protocol will have virtually no impact on slowing global warming unless it expands to take in the U.S., China and more developing countries, Russia's chief climate negotiator said on Wednesday. (Reuters)
- Climate change enlightenment was fun while it lasted. But now it's dead: The collapse of the talks at Copenhagen took away all momentum for change and the lobbyists are back in control. So what next? (Goerge Monbiot, Guardian UK):
In 2012 the only global deal for limiting greenhouse gas emissions - the Kyoto protocol - expires. There is no realistic prospect that it will be replaced before it elapses: the existing treaty took five years to negotiate and a further eight years to come into force. In terms of real hopes for global action on climate change, we are now far behind where we were in 1997, or even 1992. It's not just that we have lost 18 precious years. Throughout the age of good intentions and grand announcements we spiralled backwards.
Hanging over everything is the growing recognition that the United States isn't going to play. Not this year, perhaps not in any year. If Congress couldn't pass a climate bill so feeble that it consisted of little but loopholes while Barack Obama was president and the Democrats had a majority in both houses, where does hope lie for action in other circumstances?
- Todd Stern: U.N. Climate Talks "Going Backward" As Big Powers Meet For Major Economies Forum (Huffington Post Green)
- 2010 Shaping Up to be Hottest Year Ever:
- NASA reports hottest January to August on record: August tied for hottest in UAH satellite record* (Climate Progress):
It seems all but certain we will outpace 1998, which currently ties for fourth hottest year in the NASA dataset (though it is technically described by NASA folks as tied for the second hottest year with 2005 and 2007).
Outpacing 2005, the hottest year on record, will be closer. In NASA's surface-based dataset, we are unlikely to set the record monthly temperatures for the rest of this year; last month wasn't close to the hottest August for NASA. We have entered a moderate La Niña, which NOAA says [pdf] is "expected to last at least through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2010-11."
Interestingly, while the disinformers have been breathlessly touting the La Niña as sure to cool things down rapidly, global temperatures have held up quite well, even in the satellite datasets, which are typically sensitive to the El Niño Southern oscillation (ENSO). The more trustworthy RSS data for August is not yet up, but even the UAH data for the lower troposphere shows August 2010 having almost an identical temperature to 1998, which was the hottest August on record.
- Coral Reefs Bleaching, Dying Around the World:
- Extreme Heat Bleaches Coral, and Threat Is Seen (NY Times)
- Fears Mount of Massive Caribbean Coral Bleaching: Study: Above-average temperatures this year could spark massive coral bleaching in the Caribbean basin region, experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned Wednesday after a major study. (AFP)
- Update: BP Oil Disaster in the Gulf:
- RAW STORY Exclusive: Gulf seafood poses long-term health risks, experts say: In particular, experts tell Raw Story, contaminants from the massive oil spill and unprecedented use of the dispersants employed to dissolve the spill have the potential to cause cancer and neurological disorders. (Raw Story)
- Gas from ruptured well remained trapped in deep waters (Greenwire)
- BP By the Numbers: BP Oil Disaster Index (vol. 1) (NRDC Switchboard):
* Number of oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico: 50,000
* Number of abandoned oil and gas wells in the Gulf: 27,000
* Number of inspections of leaking abandoned wells in Gulf: 0
* Total amount BP expects to pay for Gulf cleanup and claims: $32 billion
* Amount of oil industry profits over past three years: $289 billion
* Amount industry spends yearly on safety and accident prevention: $20 million
- BP's Missing Research Money: In May, the company pledged $500 million for critical oil spill science. Then politics and parochialism got in the way. (On Earth Magazine)
- The BP Oil Spill, and the 24-Hour Science Cycle (Dan Rather, Huffington Post Green):
[H]ere's the problem. Science and our need for instant answers don't always go together very well. And if you want a good example, you can start with a recent announcement by the Obama administration that put the facile needs of politics over the reasoned requirements of science.
- Another Oil Disaster, This Time in the Caribbean: A still-smoldering fire that raged out of control for two days at an oil storage facility on the Caribbean island of Bonaire has left residents shaken and wondering how island wildlife, which drives tourism, will fare in the aftermath. (On Earth Magazine)
- Get Ready for FRANKENFISH: FDA Panel Recommends More Rigorous Study, Labeling:
- Panel Advises More Aggressive FDA Analysis of Engineered Salmon (Greenwire):
The independent panel made up largely of veterinary scientists was convened by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to discuss the agency's upcoming decision on whether to allow the commercial cultivation of a fast-growing salmon engineered by the biotech firm AquaBounty Technologies. The panel's deliberations, which included no formal vote, are not binding on the agency, but could prompt an internal review of FDA's protocols.
"It is extremely important how this precedent gets set," he said. "And it's not an economic issue. It may be, but it can't be. Economics is the shovel with which we dig the grave at the very end of these [deliberations]."
- The GM salmon saga continues (Marion Nestle, Food Politics):
The public wants the right to choose. The public should have the right to choose.
The issue of GM foods cannot just be about safety.
My mantra on this one: Even if genetically modified foods are safe, they are not necessarily acceptable.
- FDA rules won't require labeling of genetically modified salmon: Despite a growing public demand for more information about how food is produced, that won't happen with the salmon because of idiosyncracies embedded in federal regulations. (Washington Post)
- Consumer groups push for label for modified salmon (Washington Post)
- WHAT'S NEXT?: FDA panel on genetically modified salmon leaves questions unanswered: A look at how the decision will proceed from here (USA Today)
- Genetically modified foods in supermarkets: how many? (Food Politics)
- ANALYSIS: Why is the FDA about to rubber-stamp GE salmon? (Jill Richardson, Grist)
- WATCH and TAKE ACTION (Food & Water Watch)
- Tainted Egg Recall: Testimony Reveals Shoddy Practices, Lack of Oversight:
- WATCH: Salmonella Egg Recall and Food Safety, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (C-SPAN):
- Headless chicken companies: Revelations from the House egg-recall hearing (Tom Philpott, Grist):
For a conventional account of what went on at the hearing, check out this New York Times report. It has the goods on "habitual violator" Jack DeCoster's public apology, as well as the sparks that flew as Congresspeople did their posturing and grandstanding.
I'm more interested in the subtle details that emerged. For students of the food industry and the corporate machinations behind the recall, the day's events were nothing short of riveting.
I didn't really understand Bethel's move [to plead the 5th] until I realized that the subcommittee had released two juicy emails between Bethel and John Glessner, Jack DeCoster's longtime lieutenant and business collaborator....
- Egg Producer Says His Business Grew Too Quickly (NY Times):
"What I mean by that is, we were big before we started adopting sophisticated procedures to be sure we met all of the government requirements," the egg producer, Austin J. DeCoster, said in testimony before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. He is the founder of an egg empire that has been linked over three decades to outbreaks of salmonella poisoning in many states, some leading to deaths.
- An Iowa Egg Farmer and a History of Salmonella: Despite the gap of decades, there is a crucial link between the two outbreaks: in both cases, the eggs came from farms owned by Austin J. DeCoster, one of the country's biggest egg producers. (NY Times)
- Egg-recall hearing makes little headway in discovering cause of salmonella outbreak (Chicago Tribune):
Asked repeatedly how he and his son, Peter, who is the company's chief executive, could have so many problems after being cited multiple times over the years for a variety of health and sanitation violations, both responded by listing steps taken to clean up after specific problems were cited by regulators. But they couldn't explain why problems kept cropping up at their operations.
- Farm Owner Pleads Fifth in Egg Recall Hearing: A subcommittee investigation found that Wright County Egg had received hundreds of positive results for salmonella in the past two years, including 73 samples that were potentially positive for Salmonella enteritidis. (FOXNews.com)
- A decent food safety system: will we ever get one? (Marion Nestle, Food Politics)
'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...
- Cyprus facing up to life after 'peak water' (CNN):
Cyprus is an island of one million people in the Mediterranean Sea and it's facing a water crisis.
It is the first country in the European Union to face what is being described as "peak water" where the demand for water is greater than that which the natural resources can supply.
Traditionally water on the island came from aquifers; water stored beneath the Earth's surface. But groundwater supplies have been depleted, and aquifers by the coast have started to take in seawater. This makes the freshwater salty, and means it can't be used for drinking water.
- Green Marines Phase Out Fuel, Take Solar Generators to War (Wired):
The greenest Marine company ever is going to war, [preparing] to deploy with a new collection of solar powered equipment that could reduce their fuel consumption in Afghanistan by 30 to 50 percent.
Combined, the two entail significant logistical challenges, not to mention their environmental and financial toll. A single soldier in Afghanistan uses 22 gallons of fuel a day, and delivering each gallon to the war-zone costs between $300 and $400, according to estimates released last year.
“A lot of commanders in the field want to do this for operational benefits,” Christine Parthemore, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, tells Danger Room. “There’s no operational benefit to these huge fuel convoys, and they’re also a significant security risk.”
- Global Warming May Have Slowed in the 1970s Due to Suddenly Cooler Oceans (Solve Climate):
A rapid surface cooling of the northern oceans may have caused a temporary slowdown in global warming that occurred during the early 1970s, according to an article in the September 22 issue of the science journal Nature. Moreover, the article also suggests that the cooling coincided with an unexpected influx of freshwater, most likely from melting ice, that flowed from the Arctic Ocean into the North Atlantic.
The findings cast doubt on the conventional explanation that human-produced sulfate aerosols were responsible for the cooling, and in the larger picture suggest that climate change can happen more abruptly than was thought.
- China Blocks Rare Earth Exports to Japan: Sharply raising the stakes in a dispute over Japan's detention of a Chinese boat captain, China has blocked exports to Japan of minerals used in products like hybrid cars, wind turbines and guided missiles. (New York Times)
- World's Biggest Offshore Farm Pushes U.K.'s Wind Power Beyond 5 Gigawatts: Britain's capacity to generate electricity from the wind will pass 5 GW today, enough for 2.7 million homes, as Vattenfall opens the world's biggest offshore turbine farm southeast of England. (Bloomberg)
- U.S. Seen Losing Renewable Energy Race to Asia: Several Asian countries could soon challenge the U.S. in the race to build a renewable energy industry if Washington doesn't provide more incentives for its domestic business, venture capitalists and others told a Congressional hearing on Wednesday. (Reuters)
- I Pledge Oil-legiance: GOP 'Pledge To America' is an oath to Big Oil (Grist):
The Republicans claim that their document --- written by former Exxon lobbyist Brian Wild --- is "one in which the people have the most say and the best ideas trump the most entrenched interests." When it comes to energy policy, the GOP leaders actually ignore public opinion, ignore science, and instead promote the same old ideas [pushed] by big oil lobbyists and other energy interests. The entire Republican energy policy is a single sentence:
We will fight to increase access to domestic energy sources and oppose attempts to impose a national "cap-and-trade" energy tax.
"Increase access to domestic energy sources" is code for "drill, baby, drill."
- Meg Whitman would 'probably' veto global-warming law if she were California governor: The former eBay CEO also said that had she been governor in 2006, she would have signed the state's landmark global-warming bill --- but, she added, if it were on her desk as governor today, she'd "probably" veto it. (San Jose Mercury News)
- How Hillary Clinton's clean stoves will help African women: Poorly ventilated small fires are claiming millions of lives - as wood for them wrecks the environment (Guardian UK)
- U.S. Oblivious to Oil Sands Impact: Native Leaders: A pair of Canadian aboriginal leaders said decisionmakers in Washington are unaware but receptive to arguments about the environmental impact of oil sands development, after meeting with federal officials. (Canadian Press)
- Climate disruption caused by global warming driven by human emissions of greenhouse gases: By any other name, it's still Hell and High Water (Climate Progress):
Last week Fox News and other conservative media outlets tried once again to fabricate controversy over climate science when they pounced on a presentation made by the President's science adviser Dr. John Holdren in Oslo. In it, Holdren makes the case (for the umpteenth time) that it's time to move past the oversimplified term "global warming" and start facing the painful reality that without sharply reducing our carbon pollution, we face something more akin to a "global climate disruption."
It was GOP strategist and wordmeister Frank Luntz who counseled in a confidential 2003 memo that the Administration and conservatives should stop using the term "global warming" because it was too frightening:
It's time for us to start talking about "climate change" instead of global warming and "conservation" instead of preservation.
1)"Climate change" is less frightening than "global warming". As one focus group participant noted, climate change "sounds like you're going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale." While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge.
Scientists have been advocating for a new term for "global warming" for a long time. That's because slight changes in global average temperature can have drastic effects on local climates and ecosystems around the world, affecting billions of lives. The simple term "global warming" does not capture the very severe and uneven impacts that warming is already having on society.