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Friday Quote: David Roberts on climate change and “environmental journalism”


Over the years I’ve been asked many times about how to get into environmental journalism, or, alternately, how to save environmental journalism. The answer is always: I have no f’ing idea.

For one thing, as I mentioned the other day, my path into professional journalism was highly idiosyncratic and probably not replicable. I remain blissfully unaware of the career mechanics that other journalists are forced to deal with (bless their hearts).

For another thing: What is environmental journalism anyway? For those concerned about the interlocking problems of our age — sustainability, energy poverty, peak everything — I’m not sure it matters.

Climate change is messing up your favorite things

Climate Progress
compiled a list of a few of our favorite things that are impacted by climate change. When we usually talk about carbon pollution, the data centers around rising seas but this is a different kind of list. "These things can seem distant and unlikely to affect most people’s day-to-day lives, but there is growing evidence that the reality of climate change will strike close to home," writes Ryan Koronowski." Below is a list of things of things that will be negatively affected by climate change that may not immediately come to mind when someone says “the greenhouse effect.” 

Check it out below:


Climate change endangers clean water, quality barley, and ample hops. A study from 2009 suggested that the quality of Saaz hops from the Czech Republic has been falling since 1954 due to warmer temperatures. This is true for hops-growing regions across Europe. Smaller brewers like Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Company understand the seriousness of the problem, as the company’s sustainability director said in 2011, “If you drink beer now, the issue of climate change is impacting you right now. … Craft brewers — the emphasis there is on craft. We make something, and it’s a deeply agricultural product.”

Crapo gets Unicorn Award

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo speaks at news conference Monday in Boise at the Idaho state capitol

Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo got caught up in an Obama campaign stunt to help push his initiative to address climate change.

Volunteers for Organizing for America, the political arm of President Barack Obama headed by Boise’s Jim Messina, gave Crapo the Unicorn Award, along with 134 other Senators and Congressmen who deny climate change is caused by greenhouse gases.

“Senator Crapo has shown leadership in land use issues and worked closely with the environmental and scientific community. Why won’t he sit down at the table with them – and a majority of the American people – on climate change?” said Jill Kuraitis, a Boise Obama volunteer. “Senator Crapo is highly intelligent and Harvard-educated. It doesn’t make sense that he isn’t acting with the urgency this issue presents.” Read More. Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman


Read more here: http://blogs.idahostatesman.com/obama-group-calls-crapo-out-on-climate-science/#storylink=cpy

Climate change gets interactive - and scarier

The Climate Hot Map, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, is a google map displaying climate trouble spots worldwide.

Creators say, "The greatest concentration of global warming indicators on the map is in North America and Europe because that is where most scientific investigation has been done to date. As scientists focus increasingly on fingerprints of global warming in other regions—from Russia to Antarctica and Oceania to South America—the evidence they find will be added to the map."

When you use the map, you can turn the global warming effects on and off to see which places are affected with the boxes above.

The crude truth about Spokane’s rail pipeline

Did you know that at least one trainload of oil from the Bakken field in North Dakota rolls through Spokane each day?

We've certainly exhausted a lot of bandwidth on coal exports - and we aren't finished - but while we were sleeping the number of train traffic carrying crude oil could increase tenfold in the next few years.

The Spokesman had an excellent editorial on the need for our region's better preparedness in the wake of the Quebec derailment. According to the Spokesman, the majority of the state’s planning and resources to respond to crude oil spills are deployed in Western Washington because "the state’s five refineries are there, as are the waterways over which the state has jurisdiction."


Could this be Spokane? Image courtesy of Greenpeace

Scary stuff. As of this posting, the death toll is fifty after runaway train cars loaded with fracked crude from North Dakota derailed in Quebec on July 6th.

A good place to get started learning about this issue is the Sightline report called "The Northwest's Pipeline On Rails."

Here are some important findings from Sightline: 

-In Oregon and Washington, 11 refineries and port terminals are planning, building, or already operating oil-by-rail shipments.

-If all of the projects were built and operated at full capacity, they would put an estimated 20 mile-long trains per day on the Northwest’s railway system. Many worry about the risk of oil spills from thousands of loaded oil trains that may soon traverse the region each year.

Tuesday Video: This is what climate change sounds like

Hot enough for ya? Maybe the weather conjures up a certain DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince classic but University of Minnesota student/cellist Daniel Crawford created a musical way to demonstrate the warming trend in historical temperature data. 

Crawford converted the average global temperature for each year to a note by using a higher pitch for hotter weather.

Just a little sumthin to break the monotony, as Fresh Prince would say.

He is basically playing data - with notes going up and down to indicate normal variation until the pitch gets gets higher and the average is getting higher as well. It's not really catchy but I've never heard science communicated in such a way. 

Nerd out from Ensia: Crawford based his composition on surface temperature data from NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies. The temperature data were mapped over a range of three octaves, with the coldest year on record (–0.47 °C in 1909) set to the lowest note on the cello (open C). Each ascending halftone is equal to roughly 0.03°C of planetary warming.

In Crawford’s composition, each note represents a year, ordered from 1880 to 2012. The pitch reflects the average temperature of the planet relative to the 1951–80 base line. Low notes represent relatively cool years, while high notes signify relatively warm ones.

Friday Quote: “Obama’s overdue climate-change speech”

Better late than never. This afternoon, speaking at Georgetown University, President Obama laid out what his aides had billed as a major initiative to fight climate change. The big news—which was not really news, since it had already been widely reported—was that the Administration will impose rules limiting carbon emissions from both new and existing power plants.

Image courtesy of IEEE Spectrum

“For the sake of our children and the health and safety of all Americans, I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants,” Obama said. This is, truly, a big deal. Power plants are responsible for about forty per cent of U.S. emissions. And if the rules actually take effect—years of litigation are considered inevitable—they could significantly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide Americans add to the atmosphere every year.

“This is the change Americans have been waiting for on climate,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in response to the announcement.

But if the President deserves to be congratulated for finally taking action—and he does—then he also deserves to be admonished for having waited so long. The option of imposing regulations to limit carbon dioxide has been available to Obama almost since he took office. Indeed, as David Roberts of Grist has repeatedly pointed out, the Obama Administration has been legally obligated to issue such regulations ever since it declared carbon dioxide a dangerous pollutant, back in 2009. Steven Cohen, executive director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, put it this way: “We have wasted five years getting to this point.”

Tuesday Video: Watch President Obama’s climate change speech

Check out President Obama's speech outlining his climate plan. Grist does a great job listing the takeaways. The House was bashing it before he started but something else happened in the run up to the speech: Coal stock plummeted.

Army Corps ignores broad view of coal exports

On Tuesday, at a hearing in Washington, D.C., the Army Corps of Engineers rejected studying the cumulative effects of sending millions of tons of Powder River Basin coal across Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon.

Regionally, more than 500 businesses, 160 elected officials, Washington and Oregon Governors Inslee and Kitzhaber, 10 members of Congress, 3 dozen municipalities, more than 100 organizations, 600 health professionals and more than a dozen newspapers have called for a full and thorough cumulative review of the proposed terminals. At least 35,000 citizens wrote to the Army Corps calling for an area-wide EIS.

It's definitely a step back. Three of the remaining proposed coal ports would have significant cumulative impacts, including dramatically increased rail traffic through Spokane leading to more pollution, traffic congestion, and longer emergency response times.

Stay tuned.

Study looks at connection between extreme weather and climate change

Natural disasters are often just that - natural - and given the tragic twister out of Oklahoma we've certainly seen a discussion on whether climate change is to blame. The truth is we don't know, we just know we can help disaster victims.

With so many folks making that immediate connection, however, it's important to provide context. Last year, Superstorm Sandy shook people that, hey, climate change is here and it is real. A study by Yale/George Mason research on American climate attitudes was released and it shows an uptick in the number of people who connect extreme weather with climate change. 

Some key findings: 

-About six in ten Americans (58 percent) say “global warming is affecting weather in the United States.” In the West, 54 percent say this.

-Many Americans believe global warming made recent extreme weather and climatic events “more severe,” specifically: 2012 as the warmest year on record in the United States (50 percent); the ongoing drought in the Midwest and the Great Plains (49 percent); Superstorm Sandy (46 percent); and Superstorm Nemo (42 percent).

-Most Americans (80 percent) have close friends or family members (not living with them) who experienced extreme weather events in the past year, including extreme high winds (47 percent), an extreme heat wave (46 percent), an extreme snowstorm (39 percent), extreme cold temperatures (39 percent), an extreme rainstorm (37 percent), or a drought (35 percent).

CO2 crossed 400ppm threshold and I’m officially scared

This isn't good. Last year, I remember stumbling across an article that said our carbon dioxide could pass a daily average of 400 parts per million (ppm) in at least four years. That number is significant because it's an atmospheric concentration not seen in human history. Over the weekend, like a sequel that was rushed to theaters without time for screening from critics, the New York Times reported we've now gone beyond that milestone

Scientific monitors reported that the gas had reached an average daily level that surpassed 400 parts per million — just an odometer moment in one sense, but also a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control are faltering.

The best available evidence suggests the amount of the gas in the air has not been this high for at least three million years, before humans evolved, and scientists believe the rise portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea.

The whole article is worth reading.

Key quote: “If you start turning the Titanic long before you hit the iceberg, you can go clear without even spilling a drink of a passenger on deck,” said Richard B. Alley, a climate scientist at the Pennsylvania State University. “If you wait until you’re really close, spilling a lot of drinks is the best you can hope for.”

Tuesday Video: Ocean Acidification and the People Of Washington

This video from the Ocean Conservancy does a great job of explaining the dangers of ocean acidification off the Washington coast and the deadly effects on shellfish. Ocean acidification primarily occurs when carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean and turns into carbonic acid, absorbing about one-quarter of all of the carbon dioxide that has been released by humans into the atmosphere. To make matters worse, in many coastal areas along the Washington coast, the impacts of ocean acidification can be magnified due to land-based pollution and runoff.

On Earth Day, see the many faces of climate change

Happy Earth Day to all!

Each year, I'm asked why Earth Day matters and I'm truthfully exhausted with that argument. It just matters, okay!? (For a longer piece on that issue, read an old blog post called Why Earth Day Matters.)

One of the key reasons of its relevance is awareness and Earth Day has developed global themes for each year. This time it is The Face Of Climate Change. To help put that human face on climate change, the Earth Day Network collected images of people, animals, and places affected by climate change. It's not all doom and gloom: There are many images of people working hard to find a solution.


Check the Earth Day Network's description of the project:

Although climate change still seems a remote problem to some people, the reality is quite different. This past year marked many climate-change milestones. Arctic sea-ice cover reached a record low in September. The United States experienced its hottest year ever; this after the World Meteorological Organization announced that the first decade of this century was the hottest on record for the entire planet. Public perception of extreme weather events as “the new normal” grew, as unusual super storms rocked the Caribbean, the Philippines and the northeast United States; droughts plagued northern Brazil, Russia, China and two-thirds of United States; exceptional floods inundated Nigeria, Pakistan and parts of China; and more. Meanwhile, international climate change talks stagnated.

Adventure scientists document chilling facts of global warming

ENVIRONMENT – “Chasing Ice,” a fascinating and award-winning National Geographic documentary about adventure-scientist documenting changes in the arctic will be presented by the Idaho Conservation League and other local environmental groups on Monday, 7 p.m., at the Panida Theater in Sandpoint.

Read on for details about the making of this 2012 film, and why local groups are bringing the stunning images to the big screen in North Idaho.

Climber’s photos document shrinking Cascades glaciers

CLIMBING — Northwest climber/photographer Alan Kearney has an ongoing project to photograph Cascades glaciers from the same spot he photographed them on climbing trips decades ago.

As you might expect, having read anything about climate change in the past few decades, the glaciers show considerable shrinkage. See one of his stories and photo comparisons here

Also check out his blog for other stories and photos.

Women, climate change topic of Gonzaga environmental series talk

ENVIRONMENT – Sustainability expert Gloria Flora will be in Spokane this week to discuss how women worldwide are confronting the challenge of climate change.

The free public lecture titled, “If You Can’t Stand the Heat: Women and the Global Response to Climate Change” at 5:30 p.m., Friday (March 22) in the Wolff Auditorium of Gonzaga University's Jepson Center.

The lecture is part of the Gonzaga Environmental Studies Speaker Series — which recently sponsored Dr. Jane Goodall — and is sponsored by the Gonzaga environmental studies, and women’s and gender studies departments.

Read on for more details about Flora and her quest to keep flora and fauna functioning on earth.

Climate change not kind to kindly pikas

WILDLIFE — Researchers are documenting how climate change is dealing a skimpy hand to the chipper pika, the "rock rabbits" of the high mountain talus slopes, as reported in this Idaho Statesman story.

Remember, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied endangered species protections for the pika in 2010.

How to win any climate change argument

James West from Climate Desk in Mother Jones kills it:

"I don't see what all those environmentalists are worried about," sneers your Great Uncle Joe. "Carbon dioxide is harmless, and great for plants!"

Okay. Take a deep breath. If you're not careful, comments like this can result in dinner-table screaming matches. Luckily, we have a secret weapon: A flowchart that will help you calmly slay even the most outlandish and annoying of climate-denying arguments.

Go to Mother Jones to see the whole amazing thing in full size


Tuesday Video: How did Bill Nye get so fly?

I go back with Bill Nye "The Science Guy." Even before he was rocking my childhood by teaching the impacts of combining vinegar and baking soda, he was part of the Seattle late night comedy ensemble "Almost Live" as one of "the high-fiving white guys" and "Speedwalker." In the latter, he miraculously saved the Kingdome from an explosion. If only. 

Fast-forward twenty years and Bill Nye is out front on climate change, using his profile to raise awareness. In this clip called "Climate 101," he cuts through a lot of the noise and lays down the facts. Check it out.

Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!


Friday Quote: “Why I got arrested at the White House to stop the tar sands pipeline”

On Sunday, NRDC and the Waterkeeper Alliance will join 350.org, the Sierra Club, and many other partners in holding the Forward on Climate Rally in Washington, D.C. This will be the largest climate rally in American history, with tens of thousands of people expected. From rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to limiting carbon pollution from our nation's dirty power plants, President Barack Obama's legacy will rest squarely on his response, resolve, and leadership in solving the climate crisis.

It is striking how tar sands and the Keystone XL pipeline have brought people together around concern for our water and climate. In Canada, communities such as the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Beaver Lake Cree are fighting to protect their health, waters, and lands from the leaking dams of toxic waste and the destruction of strip-mining for tar sands. In British Columbia, over 100 First Nations have taken a strong stand against tar sands pipelines crossing their land and waters. In Nebraska, ranchers such as Randy Thompson — who was arrested with me at a White House protest this week — are saying no to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Water and climate walk hand in hand with threats as big as the dirty energy path of tar sands. A dirty energy future means trading our water for tar sands, and that is not a choice any of us want to make.

That was Robert Kennedy Jr from On Earth Magazine. Read the rest of his story HERE. Also, be sure to check out Spokane's own "Forward on Clmate Rally" this Sunday in Riverfront Park at 1pm. 

Tuesday Video: President Obama says “we will respond to threat of climate change” at second inaugural address

When President Barack Obama gave his second inaugural address yesterday he seemed different. Perhaps emboldened after the election, he tipped the axis a bit towards a more powerful progressive embrace than I've seen in a while and he called for united action. In the "ask not what your country can do for you" mold, he then devoted time to climate change: 

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries — we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

Watch the clip after the jump and you can read the whole address HERE

Sunday Spin: Rhetoric can only get better

OLYMPIA – The start of a new Legislature with a new administration is much given over to pomp and ceremony, so it wasn’t too surprising that most of the players aren’t yet bringing their A game when it comes to rhetoric.

Still, there were troubling signs that we’re all in for a long, hard slog if the level of debate doesn’t improve at some point soon.

For example, Gov. Jay Inslee showed clearly in his inaugural address where he’s willing to lock horns with Republicans in the Legislature. Abortion. Climate change. Medicaid expansion.

Republicans assembled in the joint legislative session sat in stony silence when he called for them to pass the Reproductive Parity Act, which would require any insurance company that covers live births to also cover abortions. Some shook their heads when he said the science is settled on climate change and when he said they should take the federal government up on its offer to pay the costs of expanding Medicaid.

Abortion is too divisive an issue, GOP leaders said in a post-speech press conference. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

“Chasing Ice” opens today at the Magic Lantern

The film "Chasing Ice" - which I showed a clip of last Tuesday - will open today at the Magic Lantern, located at 25 W. Main in downtown Spokane. Everybody should see this film, especially climate skeptics and dubious commenters, as filmmakers trackdown melting glaciers in Alaska, Iceland, Greenland, and Montana. 

Showtimes are as follows: 

Friday - Saturday: 2:00, 3:30, 7:00, 8:30

Sunday: 12:30, 4:30

Wednesday and Thursday 3:30, 6:45. 


Trailer after the jump. 

Tuesday Video: Largest glacier break-up ever filmed

Watch this amazing footage of a massive 4.6-cubic-mile glacier in Greenland crumbling to pieces. It's the largest glacier break-up ever caught on camera and part of a segment that will be featured in a documentary called Chasing Ice. The film is dedicated to chronicling the irreversible impact of climate change on glaciers around the world.

Filmmaker James Balog said watching the roaring landscape shift is like watching "Manhattan breaking apart in front of your eyes." 

I've never seen anything like it. 



Friday Quote: Van Jones says “Climate is the issue Obama will be judged on”

Q. Obama and global warming — decode his signals for us. Is he really going to take the lead here in the next four years, and prioritize this issue?

A. I think it’s not clear sometimes how America is prioritizing the issue. Four years ago, both presidential candidates, McCain and Obama, ran as climate champions. The only thing that they agreed on was that global warming was real, caused by humans, could be fixed by cap-and-trade, and that that would lead to jobs. Four years ago, that was common ground, and the only common ground. And four years ago, people were still impacted by Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth.

Well, all of the horrible things that were shown in Al Gore’s film in 2007, you can see on the Weather Channel in 2012. And yet you don’t see people marching down the street, even in the wake of Sandy, even in the face of the drought, demanding change. So I think that’s a factor in Washington, D.C., not being as vocal or as visible.

Could winter recreation resorts be left out in the warm?

WINTER SPORTS — Warm thoughts for the future of ski areas….

Report pegs cost of warming climate to winter tourism at $2B annually

The "Winter Tourism in Peril" report released Thursday by Protect Our Winters and the Natural Resources Defense Council said that warming temperatures and less snowpack could cut $2 billion annually from the $12.2-billion-a-year winter tourism industry in the United States. — Denver Post

Tuesday Video: Fun video on the history of climate talks

This video does a great job recapping the gridlocked mess that are known as global climate talks. Every November, the UN convenes world leaders at a different location for a week of slogging through how to cut greenhouse gas emissions. This year, it's at Doha, Qatar and expectations for postive outcomes are already low. Stay tuned.

Are you 27 or younger? Then you’ve never experienced a colder-than-average month

In the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration's "State Of The Climate" there are more than a few scary findings. The winning statistic: If you were born in or after April 1985, or if you are currently 27 years old or younger, you have never lived through a month that was colder than average. 

Here's what the NOAA said about October 2012's weather: The average temperature across land and ocean surfaces during October was 14.63°C (58.23°F). This is 0.63°C (1.13°F) above the 20th century average and ties with 2008 as the fifth warmest October on record. The record warmest October occurred in 2003 and the record coldest October occurred in 1912. This is the 332nd consecutive month with an above-average temperature.  

Yikes. This image from the NOAA summarizes most of 2012: