IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Deadly earthquake in New Zealand; Aging dams at risk in the U.S.; 50 million environmental refugees by 2020, and other cheerful news from America's scientists ... PLUS: The WI gov's attack on labor and renewable energy, brought to you by the Billionaire Koch Brothers ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Oil prices rise on Libya unrest; Foodies can save the green movement; Dead baby dolphins washing up along Gulf Coast; 153M gallons of sewage overwhelming dump in SC; Futurist Kurzweil not worried about climate change; Chicago coal-power co. delays pollution upgrades; China to blow doors off US elec. car market; Shocking decline in large fish; How we know recent global warming is not natural; China Readies $1 Billion for Drought Aid; US may open Grand Canyon to uranium mining ... PLUS: Are Girl Scout cookies killing orangutans? ...
STORIES DISCUSSED IN TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...
- Deadly Earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand:
- New Zealand quake kills at least 65; race to reach trapped (Reuters):
New Zealand rescue teamsworked under search lights early Wednesday to find scores ofpeople trapped under collapsed buildings after an earthquakestruck the country's second-biggest city of Christchurch, killing at least 65 people.
- 'We may be witnessing New Zealand's darkest day': PM says 65 killed in quake (Western Australia Today)
- Location and Timing Contribute to Losses in New Zealand Earthquake (Dot Earth)
- Christchurch quakes may be connected (Australia Broadcasting Co.)
- SLIDESHOW: Trapped workers send messages from quake rubble: At least 100 people feared buried in New Zealand; many aftershocks reported (msnbc)
- Aging dams, at risk in the U.S.:
- Danger Pent Up Behind Aging Dams (NY Times):
Lake Isabella Dam is just one acute example of a widespread problem: Of the nation's 85,000 dams, more than 4,400 are considered susceptible to failure, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials. But repairing all those dams would cost billions of dollars, and it is far from clear who would provide all the money in a recessionary era.
Nationwide, the potential repair costs are staggering. A 2009 report by the state dam safety officials' group put the cost of fixing the most critical dams - where failure could cause loss of life - at $16 billion over 12 years, with the total cost of rehabilitating all dams at $51 billion.
But about two-thirds of all dams are private, and financially struggling state and local governments own most of the remainder. It is difficult to predict how needed repairs to these dams will be financed; legislation to provide federal money to help has languished in Congress. What's more, the number of high-risk dams keeps rising as structures age, downstream development increases and more accurate information is obtained about watersheds and earthquake hazards.
- 50 Million Environmental Refugees by 2020, and Other Cheerful News from America's Scientists:
- Main Website: Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS.org)
- 50 million 'environmental refugees' by 2020, experts say (AFP) [emphasis added]:
Fifty million "environmental refugees" will flood into the global north by 2020, fleeing food shortages sparked by climate change, experts warned at a major science conference that ended here Monday.
"In 2020, the UN has projected that we will have 50 million environmental refugees," Cristina Tirado, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
"When people are not living in sustainable conditions, they migrate," she said, outlining with the other speakers how climate change is already impacting the amount of food we have --- food security --- and food safety, or the healthfulness of that food.
"What we saw in Tunisia --- a change in government and suddenly there are a whole lot of people going to Italy -- this is going to be the pattern," [Michigan State University professor Ewen] Todd said.
- Methane Promises Immediate Climate Change Impacts: Reducing emissions of black carbon and methane can be done today with existing technologies and could significantly slow climate change (Scientific American):
Placing strict limits on a handful of common air pollutants could pay big dividends for efforts to limit climate change, improve public health and increase agricultural productivity, according to a new U.N. report.
Curbing emissions of black carbon, a component of soot, along with methane and tropospheric ozone, could cut projected climate warming by 0.5 degree Celsius, or about 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit, by 2070.
Such cuts could be made with existing technology, the report says, and would "have immediate and multiple benefits for human well-being."
- AUDIO: Worse is yet to come, say scientists (Australia Broadcasting Company)
- The WI gov's attack on labor and renewable energy, brought to you by the Billionaire Koch Brothers:
- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: Funded by the Koch Bros. (Mother Jones):
Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker, whose bill to kill collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions has caused an uproar among state employees, might not be where he is today without the Koch brothers.
For years, the billionaires have made extensive political donations to Republican candidates across the country and have provided millions of dollars to astroturf right-wing organizations. Koch Industries' political action committee has doled out more than $2.6 million to candidates. And one prominent beneficiary of the Koch brothers' largess is Scott Walker.
- The other part of the Scott Walker plan: Firesale of Wisconsin state assets (Joan McCarter, Daily Kos)
- Priorities? GOP Governors Shift Burden To Poor, Middle Class To Pay For Tax Breaks For Rich, Corporations (Think Progress):
State budgets across the country are in disarray as a weak economy, the end of tens of billions in Recovery Act funds, and a GOP-led House that is pushing for deep cuts to many programs that benefit state and local governments set the stage for massive in shortfalls over the next two years. Instead of making the tough choices necessary to help their states weather the current crisis with some semblance of the social safety net and basic government services intact, Republican governors are instead using it as an opportunity to advance several longtime GOP projects: union busting, draconian cuts to social programs, and massive corporate tax breaks.
- It's the Inequality, Stupid: Eight charts that explain everything that's wrong with America (Mother Jones)
- Governor Scott Walker blowing wind power jobs to Illinois (Milwaukee Examiner)
- The Republican War on the EPA Begins—But Will They Overreach? (TIME's Eco-centric blog)
- Energy Industry Sways Congress With Misleading Data (Pro Publica):
The two key arguments that the oil and gas industry is using to fight federal regulation of the natural gas drilling process called hydraulic fracturing --- that the costs would cripple their business and that state regulations are already strong --- are challenged by the same data and reports the industry is using to bolster its position.
'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...
- Dead Baby Dolphins Washing Up Along Gulf Coast at 10 Times Normal Rates (Treehugger) [emphasis added]:
Director of IMMS Moby Solangi told the Sun Herald, "For some reason, [the dolphins] have started aborting or they were dead before they were born. We shouldn't really jump to any conclusions, but this is more than just a coincidence."
- Oil, Bonds Rally, Stocks Retreat as Mideast Unrest Intensifies (Business Week)
- Foodies Can Eclipse (and Save) the Green Movement (TIME Eco-centric blog) [emphasis added]:
Even as traditional environmentalism struggles, another movement is rising in its place, aligning consumers, producers, the media and even politicians. It's the food movement, and if it continues to grow it may be able to create just the sort of political and social transformation that environmentalists have failed to achieve in recent years. That would mean not only changing the way Americans eat and the way they farm — away from industrialized, cheap calories and toward more organic, small-scale production, with plenty of fruits and vegetables — but also altering the way we work and relate to one another. To its most ardent adherents, the food movement isn't just about reform — it's about revolution.
- Power company holds off on cleaning up Chicago-area coal plants: Midwest Generation faces protests, federal suit over aging sites that churn out toxic soot (Chicago Tribune) [emphasis added]:
In recently filed documents, Midwest Generation signaled it might delay installing pollution controls at its six coal-fired power plants "for the maximum time available," making it more likely the aging units will keep churning out high levels of lung- and heart-damaging soot for most of the decade.
With Republican lawmakers in Washington seeking to block tougher pollution limits proposed by the Obama administration, Midwest Generation now appears to be hedging on its next steps.
Late last year, the company secured state permits to install pollution-control equipment that would reduce soot- and smog-forming emissions from its power plants. But whether it actually makes the $1.2 billion investment depends in part on "regulatory and legislative developments," according to its latest financial documents.
- 153 million gallons of sewage, grease dumped: Questions arise about whether sewage dump was overwhelmed (SC's The State):
The company’s disposal practices have contaminated groundwater beneath the site, state regulators say, and have come under increasing scrutiny since a toxin was found in three nearby private wells last year. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control finds itself trying to explain why the sewage dump was permitted in the first place, given the site’s geology — and deciding whether the site should close.
- I drink your milkshake: China to blow the doors off Obama’s namby-pamby electric car program (Grist):
China just announced plans to build 1 million electric cars per year. Let's put that in perspective: In Obama's State of the Union Address, he said the U.S. should shoot for 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015, total.
Here's the really crazy part of this equation: a panel of U.S. auto industry experts thinks Obama's plan is "too ambitious," and that automakers are unlikely to meet that goal because of "uncertain consumer demand."
- Futurist Ray Kurzweil isn’t worried about climate change (Grist) [emphasis added]:
One of my primary theses is that information technologies grow exponentially in capability and power and bandwidth and so on. ....That is happening with solar energy --- it is doubling every two years.
[D]doubling every two years means it's only eight more doublings before it meets a 100 percent of the world's energy needs. So that's 16 years. We will increase our use of electricity during that period, so add another couple of doublings: In 20 years we'll be meeting all of our energy needs with solar, based on this trend which has already been underway for 20 years.
People say we're running out of energy. That's only true if we stick with these old 19th-century technologies. We are awash in energy from the sunlight.
- Predator fish in oceans on alarming decline, experts say (Washington Post) [emphasis added]:
Over the past 100 years, some two-thirds of the large predator fish in the ocean have been caught and consumed by humans, and in the decades ahead, the rest are likely to perish, too.
In their place, small fish such as sardines and anchovies are flourishing in the absence of the tuna, grouper and cod that traditionally feed on them, creating an ecological imbalance that experts say will forever change the oceans.
This grim reckoning was presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting Friday during a panel that asked the question: "2050: Will there be fish in the ocean?"
- How we know recent global warming is not natural (Climate Progress)
- China Readies $1 Billion for Drought Aid (Guardian UK)
- U.S. May Open Up Grand Canyon to Uranium Mining (Guardian UK)
- Are Girl Scout cookies killing orangutans? (Grist):
When Madison and Rhiannon found out that Girl Scout cookies were destroying the forest homes of endangered wildlife like orangutans, pygmy elephants, and Sumatran tigers --- and displacing indigenous people --- they sprung into action. First, they stopped selling the cookies, and then launched an effort to encourage the Girl Scouts to switch to more environmentally friendly (and healthier) alternatives like canola oil. The Girl Scouts USA and their CEO Kathy Clonginer, however, have refused to act despite efforts by Girl Scouts across the country and the encouragement of organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists and Center for Biological Diversity.
[T]he Girl Scouts’ British sister organization, the Girl Guides, have eliminated palm oil from their cookies, and are offering to help the Girl Scouts USA and Girl Guides Canada do the same. The English bakers also found, unsurprisingly, that replacing unhealthy palm oil with olive oil and canola oil doesn’t only save forests, it also resulted in a 60 to 70 percent reduction in saturated fat.