A weekly newsletter focusing on climate and environmental justice, regulatory and judicial actions, science and fellow activist allies. From the U.S. Northeast, around the nation and across the world!

Vol. 4, No. 34 – Large-scale Responses to Climate Change

August 14, 2018
This week we focus on current programs and research into large-scale remediation and reversal of Greenhouse Gases and other effects of 150 years of reliance on fossil fuels.
But first the news.

Dear reader, we are well into the third month of our fund drive, and receiving one donation a week. We are about halfway to our goal of $750, and must raise about $350 more. Thank you if you have already contributed. Some have been very generous indeed. But every little bit helps, if enough of our readers respond!

And while we are on the topic, the articles in The Banner always end with a link blue (like this) to the full article along with an acknowledgement of the author and publisher. If the publisher’s name is also in blue it is a link to the independent journal’s donation page. Please make an effort to support these women and men working hard to uncover and present hard-to-find details we all need. On behalf of all them, thank you for whatever you can do – small or huge!

Action Alert! An Invitation from Sandra Steingraber:
No Fracked Gas Cayuga

Join me, Josh Fox, and other environmental leaders in a new citizen campaign against fracking infrastructure at the state capital on Tuesday, august 14 at noon as we launch No Fracked Gas Cayuga.—Sandra Steingraber

WHO: No Fracked Gas Cayuga campaign, local residents, environmentalists,

WHAT: Campaign launch and press conference

WHEN: Tuesday, August 14 – Noon

WHERE: Third-floor stairwell near Senate chambers, state capital, Albany

Speakers include: Author and anti-fracking activist Sandra Steingraber, filmmaker Josh Fox, Irene Weiser (Fossil Free Tompkins); Lisa Marshall (Mothers Out Front); Karen Edelstein (FracTracker and Lansing resident); Alex Beauchamp (Food & Water Watch)

RSVP here if you can join me in Albany!

We oppose the planned conversion of the old coal-burning power plant on Cayuga Lake in Lansing to a natural gas “peaker” plant.

Please sign our petition asking Governor Cuomo to reject this coal-to-gas conversion!

This regressive plan violates everything we know about what’s required to address the climate crisis.

  • We know that the energy produced by this dinosaur plant is not needed.
  • We know that renewable energy with battery storage has proven a safe, cheaper option for inefficient gas-fired peaker plants like this one.
  • We know the Finger Lakes region is an epi-center of the anti-fracking movement, as the recent victory again gas storage at Seneca Lake once again demonstrates. We’re ready to mobilize.

We demand the governor reject this plant, and we hold him personally responsible for the outcome. Join me in Albany today if you can.—Sandra Steingraber

P.S. Please forward this e-mail to all your lists and networks, follow us on Facebook and on Twitter at @stopcayuga


A Week to Remember in the Climate Fight

On August 3rd rubber-stamping FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, ordered a suspension of any new construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Then, one week later, on August 10th, they did the same thing for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

News stories about these suspensions report that they are expected to last for months. Both came in each case after federal Court of Appeals decisions revoking permits by other federal agencies just days before FERC’s actions.

The court had found that the U.S. Forest Service had suddenly dropped — without any explanation — its longstanding concerns that soil erosion from the pipeline would harm rivers, streams and aquatic life. It also found that the Bureau of Land Management approved a new construction path through the Jefferson National Forest, ignoring rules that favor sticking to existing utility rights-of-way.–Kate Mishkin, Ken Ward Jr. (Gazette-Mail) and Beena Raghavendran (ProPublica), Regulators change the rules to ease pipeline approval, Charleston Gazette-Mail | ProPublica, 8/10/18

How big are these two proposed fracked-gas-carrying pipelines? They are very big; between them they would run for 900 miles. MVP would run through West Virginia and Virginia, and ACP would run from West Virginia to North Carolina.

But these aren’t the only things which happened in this week to remember. On August 10th Robert Powelson stepped down as one of five FERC commissioners after less than a year in the job. Republican Powelson was nominated by Trump in 2017, along with Republicans Kevin McIntyre, as chair, and Neil Chatterjee. Trump also nominated Democrat Richard Glick. He had to nominate a Democrat because of FERC rules allowing for no more than three commissioners from one party.

Powelson’s resignation means that, until Trump nominates someone else and the Senate confirms that nominee, there will be two Democrats and two Republicans making up FERC’s decision-making body.

Further reading FERC’s approval of Mountain Valley Pipeline stirs defiance, determination
Feds Order Work to Stop on Mountain Valley Pipeline
Federal agency halts all work on Atlantic Coast Pipeline after judges revoke permits
FERC halts Atlantic Coast, clears 3 other pipeline projects in busy Friday

Up until about nine months ago, that wouldn’t have made any difference when it comes to FERC’s decision-making on gas industry expansion. For decades, it has been a bi-partisan rubber-stamper for all but two of over 400 permit applications to build new gas pipelines, compressor stations and other infrastructure.

Richard Glick has changed that. Glick has a background in the renewable energy industry, going back many years, and his votes have reflected his experience. He has dissented often on pipeline decisions, and his willingness to do so seems to have affected the other Democrat, Cheryl Lafleur, who has been a commissioner for eight years. Not as frequently but sometimes, she has also dissented.

So it’s a very big deal that for most likely several months, very possibly many months, especially but not only if Democrats win control of the Senate, FERC has a leadership reflecting almost exactly the 50-50’ish political divisions in the Senate.

Those Democrats in the Senate will need massive grassroots political pressure on them. If they get it, many could stand firm with the rising demand of the movement against new fossil fuel infrastructure that there be no Trump nominees to FERC approved by the Senate until there are Senate hearings on FERC’s abuses of the law, the environment and people’s rights, and action is taken to stop those abuses.…—Ted Glick, “A Week to Remember in the Climate Fight,” Hope Columns, 8/12/18


Court Update: Spectra Financing Blockaders

From left to right: Nick Katkevich, arrestee; Organizer extraordinaire, member of FANG (Fighting Against Natural Gas) from RI who fought against the AIM pipeline along side of us; Zach Oppenheimer, arrestee, on his way join the resistance in Louisiana against the Bayou Bridge pipeline; Lee Stewart, veteran activist with a long history of being in the right fights! Arrested here fighting against the AIM pipeline; Nancy Vann, Local host, support, and bail-mother;Dave Dorfman attorney/professor at Pace Law School who is also representing the defendants in our necessity Defense Trial.

Those who were tried last week in the Town of Cortlandt Manor Court were fined $75 for disturbing the peace plus the $125 Court fee. Represented by Dave Dorfman, who is attorney in the Necessity Defense trial. Defendants mounting the Necessity Defense will be back in court in September. Stay tuned!


The Latest Pipeline Battle
Is Ramping Up in New York

The Latest Pipeline Battle Is Ramping Up in New York

When Hurricane Sandy tore through New York City in 2012, flooding entire neighborhoods, knocking out electricity, and decimating the shores of Staten Island, Queens, and Brooklyn, few New Yorkers were downplaying the significance of climate change. They had already lived through what they hoped was the worst of it.

It’s understandable, then, that New Yorkers are not looking kindly upon a new fracked-gas pipeline that’s proposed to snake its way mere miles from the same areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. Banding together in a coalition of environmental groups and local communities, they are now organizing to prevent the construction of the Northeast Supply Enhancement pipeline.

Developed by Williams, a publicly traded, Fortune 500 company, the NESE is proposed to span Lower New York Bay, from Sayreville, New Jersey, to the Rockaways in Queens. The project would be an extension of the existing Transco pipeline, which stretches from Texas to New York. There is already one segment of the Transco that crosses Lower New York Bay, just south of where the NESE is slated.

“Unfortunately, due to the growing popularity of gas, the existing pipeline operates at maximum capacity,” says Chris Stockton, a Williams spokesperson.

Further reading: Vicki Fuller, Former NY State Pension Fund Manager Takes Fossil Fuel Post

…“Williams claims that the pipeline would bring gas supply that New Yorkers desperately need,” says Kim Fraczek, director of the Sane Energy Project, a sustainable-energy-advocacy group. “However, New York City’s boiler conversions would require only a max 6 percent increase in National Grid supply, which will be more than accounted for in building-efficiency improvements and the transition to renewables.”

To corroborate that 6 percent figure, Fraczek points to an assessment commissioned by the city itself. Similarly, in comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, National Grid states that it needs only a 10 percent increase in gas supply to cover both New York City and Long Island. The NESE, on the other hand, would increase capacity by more than 64 percent.

Fraczek accuses Williams of looking to capitalize on the construction of an unnecessary pipeline through legal loopholes, rather than meeting the genuine needs of New Yorkers. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is responsible for regulating pipeline construction, established a guaranteed 14 percent return on equity for developers in 1997–and, despite the passing of more than two decades and the halving of interest rates, has not changed that figure since.

That legally guaranteed return on equity “will make [the NESE] profitable regardless of demand” for gas, says Fraczek, “while passing much of its $900 million construction price tag onto consumers.”…—Arvind Dilawar, “The Latest Pipeline Battle Is Ramping Up in New York,” The Nation, 8/10/18


Large-Scale Responses
The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas. The World Is Watching.

The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas. The World Is Watching.

ROTTERDAM, the Netherlands — The wind over the canal stirred up whitecaps and rattled cafe umbrellas. Rowers strained toward a finish line and spectators hugged the shore. Henk Ovink, hawkish, wiry, head shaved, watched from a V.I.P. deck, one eye on the boats, the other, as usual, on his phone.

Mr. Ovink is the country’s globe-trotting salesman in chief for Dutch expertise on rising water and climate change. Like cheese in France or cars in Germany, climate change is a business in the Netherlands. Month in, month out, delegations from as far away as Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, New York and New Orleans make the rounds in the port city of Rotterdam. They often end up hiring Dutch firms, which dominate the global market in high-tech engineering and water management.

That’s because from the first moment settlers in this small nation started pumping water to clear land for farms and houses, water has been the central, existential fact of life in the Netherlands, a daily matter of survival and national identity. No place in Europe is under greater threat than this waterlogged country on the edge of the Continent. Much of the nation sits below sea level and is gradually sinking. Now climate change brings the prospect of rising tides and fiercer storms.

From a Dutch mind-set, climate change is not a hypothetical or a drag on the economy, but an opportunity. While the Trump administration withdraws from the Paris accord, the Dutch are pioneering a singular way forward.

It is, in essence, to let water in, where possible, not hope to subdue Mother Nature: to live with the water, rather than struggle to defeat it. The Dutch devise lakes, garages, parks and plazas that are a boon to daily life but also double as enormous reservoirs for when the seas and rivers spill over. You may wish to pretend that rising seas are a hoax perpetrated by scientists and a gullible news media. Or you can build barriers galore. But in the end, neither will provide adequate defense, the Dutch say.…—Michael Kimmelman, “The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas. The World Is Watching,” The New York Times, 6/15/17


The toxic red tide that’s decimating
Florida’s marine life

In South Florida this summer, one ecological scourge has piled on top of another.

First came the red tide, a flotilla of microorganisms that dyed the sea rust and eventually stretched out along 100 miles of the Gulf Coast. Oxygen-starved fish, eels, dolphins and turtles littered beaches, in numbers too vast to count. In one marina, so many fish went belly up that they appeared to pave a walkway across the water.

The foul siege reached from Sarasota nearly to the tip of Florida by early June, when ecological insult No. 2 arrived. A green film of cyanobacteria appeared, as it regularly does in summer, in vast Lake Okeechobee. But this year the bacteria also spilled over into rivers and canals, which carried the toxic green sludge east to the Atlantic Ocean and west to the Gulf of Mexico. Already distressed Floridians gagged on the noxious odor, and more than a dozen people reportedly went to local emergency rooms after coming into contact with the contaminated water. Some wept as beloved manatees expired, bloated and tinted a ghastly green.

…The red tides seem to have increased in frequency and persistence over the last 20 years, though the historical record is too sketchy to say whether the events are really more prevalent. The current episode arrived in November and has lasted for nine months. That does not yet approach the 17-month red tide that beset southern Florida from the end of 2004 until early 2006, or the red tide just a few years before that, which didn’t dissipate for an epic 21 months.…—James Rainey, “The toxic red tide that’s decimating Florida’s marine life,” NBC News, 8/3/18


Neoliberalism has conned us
into fighting climate change as individuals

Neoliberalism has conned us into fighting climate change as individuals | Martin Lukacs

…While we busy ourselves greening our personal lives, fossil fuel corporations are rendering these efforts irrelevant. The breakdown of carbon emissions since 1988? A hundred companies alone are responsible for an astonishing 71%. You tinker with those pens or that panel; they go on torching the planet.

The freedom of these corporations to pollute – and the fixation on a feeble lifestyle response – is no accident. It is the result of an ideological war, waged over the last 40 years, against the possibility of collective action. Devastatingly successful, it is not too late to reverse it.

The political project of neoliberalism, brought to ascendence by Thatcher and Reagan, has pursued two principal objectives. The first has been to dismantle any barriers to the exercise of unaccountable private power. The second had been to erect them to the exercise of any democratic public will.

Its trademark policies of privatization, deregulation, tax cuts and free trade deals: these have liberated corporations to accumulate enormous profits and treat the atmosphere like a sewage dump, and hamstrung our ability, through the instrument of the state, to plan for our collective welfare.

Neoliberalism has not merely ensured this agenda is politically unrealistic: it has also tried to make it culturally unthinkable. Its celebration of competitive self-interest and hyper-individualism, its stigmatization of compassion and solidarity, has frayed our collective bonds. It has spread, like an insidious anti-social toxin, what Margaret Thatcher preached: “there is no such thing as society.”

Anything resembling a collective check on corporate power has become a target of the elite: lobbying and corporate donations, hollowing out democracies, have obstructed green policies and kept fossil fuel subsidies flowing; and the rights of associations like unions, the most effective means for workers to wield power together, have been undercut whenever possible.

At the very moment when climate change demands an unprecedented collective public response, neoliberal ideology stands in the way. Which is why, if we want to bring down emissions fast, we will need to overcome all of its free-market mantras: take railways and utilities and energy grids back into public control; regulate corporations to phase out fossil fuels; and raise taxes to pay for massive investment in climate-ready infrastructure and renewable energy — so that solar panels can go on everyone’s rooftop, not just on those who can afford it.…—Martin Lukacs, “Neoliberalism has conned us into fighting climate change as individuals,” The Guardian, 7/17/17


This book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change. The results are surprising.

This book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change. The results are surprising.

By now, the looming dangers of climate change are clear to anyone who’s been paying attention, covered extensively in both academic literature and the popular press.

But what about solutions?

For all the hand-wringing on climate change over the years, discussion of solutions remains puzzlingly anemic and fractured. A few high-profile approaches, mainly around renewable energy and electric cars, dominate discussion and modeling. But there’s been no real way for ordinary people to get an understanding of what they can do and what impact it can have. There remains no single, comprehensive, reliable compendium of carbon-reduction solutions across sectors.

At least until now.

It seems Paul Hawken got tired of waiting.

Hawken is a legend in environmental circles. Since the early 1980s, he has been starting green businesses, writing books on ecological commerce (President Bill Clinton called Hawken’s Natural Capitalism one of the five most important books in the world), consulting with businesses and governments, speaking to civic groups, and collecting honorary doctorates (six so far).

A few years ago, he set out to pull together the careful coverage of solutions that had so long been lacking. With the help of a little funding, he and a team of several dozen research fellows set out to “map, measure, and model” the 100 most substantive solutions to climate change, using only peer-reviewed research.

The result, released in April 2016, is called Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.

Working with Project Drawdown Upcoming Project Drawdown Events: Rochester, NY
Project Drawdown at Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, NY
Drawdown at NYC Society for Ethical Culture
Project Drawdown International Calendar
A Smorgasbord of Solutions for Global Warming

Unlike most popular books on climate change, it is not a polemic or a collection of anecdotes and exhortations. In fact, with the exception of a few thoughtful essays scattered throughout, it’s basically a reference book: a list of solutions, ranked by potential carbon impact, each with cost estimates and a short description. A set of scenarios show the cumulative potential.…—David Roberts, “This book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change. The results are surprising.Vox, 5/10//17


Scientists aren’t impressed with New York Times’ new story on climate change

Scientists aren’t impressed with New York Times’ new story on climate change

Experts label 30,000 word piece “historically inaccurate” and “based on logical non sequiturs.”

[This author fails to discuss why the American public would be so susceptible to the fossil fuel industry’s blandishments, the neoliberal’s platform of “Drill Baby Drill,” (well disguised as “All of the above,” by Democrats) in a world where we stood alone in our naivete about climate change and the science that brings insight into it. Could it really be that the American people are simply innocent by-standers to a program of political, professional and corporate proaganda? Were there no such people as Naomi Klein, I.F. Stone, Dahr Jamail, Ian Urbina, Peter Mantius, Robert Parry and a host of other independent journalists and thinkers warning us while we opted for Fox News, People Magazine and USA Today? No Ralph Nader, no Ross Perot, no Bernie Sanders being laughed out of mind? That the disastrous American response to climate change has been put upon us against our will by evil forces that have nothing to do with our own human nature?—Editor]

The New York Times Magazine is hyping a massive new story claiming that the period from 1979 to 1989 was “The decade we almost stopped climate change.”

But the just-released, roughly 30,000 word article by Nathaniel Rich is already being widely criticized by leading scientists, historians, and climate experts. As physicist Ben Franta, who studies the history of climate politics, put it, “Rich’s exoneration of fossil fuel producers as well as the Republican party seem based on logical non sequiturs.”

Bob Brulle, a Drexel University sociologist and author of numerous studies on climate politics and lobbying, said in a media statement, “This article strikes me as a highly selective historical account that omits key facts that run counter to its overall narrative.”

In particular, “its treatment of industry actors is limited to their official statements, and neglect their political actions,” Brulle said. Those political actions have always been to oppose action on climate change and spread disinformation.

The article’s thesis is that the reason we failed to act during this supposedly “decisive decade” was neither Republican intransigence nor Big Oil’s efforts to downplay the issue and block action, but just human nature.

…But the claim that “nothing stood in our way” is simply ahistorical. The article asks and answers the key question:

Why didn’t we act? A common boogeyman today is the fossil-fuel industry, which in recent decades has committed to playing the role of villain with comic-book bravado… But the coordinated efforts to bewilder the public did not begin in earnest until the end of 1989. During the preceding decade, some of the largest oil companies, including Exxon and Shell, made good-faith efforts to understand the scope of the crisis and grapple with possible solutions.

Further reading Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not ‘Human Nature’
The Wrath of Capital: neoliberalism and Climate Change Politics
Fossil fuel industry spent nearly $2 billion to kill U.S. climate action, new study finds

As Dr. Franta explains, this is not the full picture.

“For the record, the American Petroleum Institute [API] publicly downplayed the dangers of global warming as early as 1980 — check out ‘Two Energy Futures: A National Choice for the ’80s‘ which argues fossil fuel production, including coal, could be expanded without deleterious effects on the environment,” he said in a media statement. This publication came at the same time API’s own analysis warned that, absent immediate action, the world faced “globally catastrophic effects.”

And as Brulle adds, the article “also neglects the beginning of climate science denial efforts with the publication of Carbon Dioxide, Friend or Foe by Sherwood Idso in 1982.”

Exxon’s activities too, are brushed aside. As previous investigations have revealed, the oil giant knew as early as 1977 about how fossil fuels were impacting the atmosphere. In 1982, the company’s own scientists confirmed the mainstream scientific consensus on global warming.…—Joe Romm, “Scientists aren’t impressed with New York Times’ new story on climate change,” ThinkProgress, 8/1/18


The climate impact of the food in the back of your fridge

Opinion | The climate impact of the food in the back of your fridge

The climate impact of the food in the back of your fridge

Chad Frischmann is the vice president and research director at Project Drawdown.

Many of us have had the experience of opening the refrigerator door, reaching to the back and pulling out the remains of a dinner spoiled and gone to waste. No one likes to waste food, and the negative emotions we feel when we do stem from a variety of sources.

What may not come immediately to mind, however, is food waste’s impact on the climate. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 30 percent of food is wasted globally across the supply chain, contributing 8 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. If food waste were a country, it would come in third after the United States and China in terms of impact on global warming.

Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and hydrofluorocarbons (fluorinated gases used in refrigeration) are produced and emitted from food production to our refrigerators. And don’t forget all the metal cans, plastic bags and cardboard boxes our food comes in. By throwing away half a lasagna, half of the emissions that resulted from producing and processing, packaging, shipping, storing, picking up and cooking are also wasted.

It turns out reducing food waste is one of the most important things we can do to reverse global warming. Project Drawdown’s team of researchers ranked solutions to global warming; to our surprise, we discovered that cutting down on food waste could have nearly the same impact on reducing emissions over the next three decades as onshore wind turbines. More than 70 billion tons of greenhouse gases could be prevented from being released into the atmosphere. It represents one of the greatest possibilities for individuals, companies and communities to contribute to reversing global warming and at the same time feed more people, increase economic benefits and preserve threatened ecosystems.

Most food waste worldwide occurs when food is left in the field. But food is not wasted the same way in every part of the world. In high and medium-income countries, 40 percent of food waste occurs in markets and by consumers. In low-income countries, food is rarely wasted by households; instead, 40 percent is lost during the post-harvest and processing stages, usually because of poor infrastructure and the lack of efficient storage technology.…—Chad Frischmann, “Food waste is a vastly overlooked driver of climate change,” The Washington Post, 7/31/18


Turning the dirt on carbon farming

Turning the dirt on carbon farming

Actions to mitigate climate change are urgently needed and can be found in carbon sequestration, or carbon farming. Agriculture here and around the globe can make a major impact. Dr. Jeff Creque, cited in this article, will give a presentation in Ithaca on Sept. 26 at the Public Library, 7:00pm. Save the date!

With growing knowledge and new tools, carbon farming is emerging as a major consideration for agriculture in its effort to combat climate change.

The USA leads the world in exploring the sequestering of carbon in soil. Californian Jeff Creque, who has a PhD in range-land ecology, has been to the fore since the early 2000s, co-founding the Marin Carbon Project (MCP), a consortium of university researchers, county and federal agencies, non-profits and a science advisory task force.

“Most folks don’t understand soil and its potential as a carbon sink,” Creque told Fonterra. “And most (of) agriculture does not understand or engage with that process either. Carbon has been missing from our agricultural curricula for a very long time and we see it finally coming back into the conversation today.”

The premise of carbon farming is to slow down the release of carbon back into the atmosphere after it has been absorbed into the soil via plants and grass during the photosynthesis process. Practices that build soil carbon, such as good manure management, composting and minimising tillage need to be promoted, whereas cultivation, over-drainage and over-irrigation need to be discouraged.

Interest in carbon farming has risen as it has become clear that reducing emissions will not sufficiently halt or limit global warming. A risk assessment by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that operates under the auspices of the United Nations, puts the world’s current situation like this “emission reductions will no longer stop this runaway destabilization of the climate. We must develop an ongoing strategy of removing carbon from the atmosphere that is sustainable.”

Creque says it is ignorance, more than irony, that leaves agriculture out of the solution side of the climate equation.To help farmers with that change of thinking the MCP developed a carbon plan for different types of land use – orchards, vineyards, dairy, beef, sheep – that provides a step-by-step guide on the best and most feasible ways to absorb CO2 long term. Other tools are also available to farmers. Collaboration among USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado State University and USDA’s Climate Change Program Office, developed COMET-FARM™ that, once loaded with information such as soil characteristics, land uses, tillage practices and nutrient use, will allow farmers to estimate carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emission reductions associated with conservation practices for cropland, pasture, range-land, livestock operations and energy.…—”Pull carbon out of the atmosphere = cool the planet,” Fonterra, 7/29/18


An army of deer ticks carrying Lyme disease is advancing, and here’s why it will only get worse

An army of deer ticks carrying Lyme disease is advancing, and here’s why it will only get worse

Maine’s invasion came early this year. In recent hotbeds of tick activity—from Scarborough to Belfast and Brewer—people say they spotted the eight-legged arachnid before spring. They noticed the ticks—which look like moving poppy seeds—encroaching on roads, beaches, playgrounds, cemeteries and library floors. They saw them clinging to dogs, birds and squirrels.

By May, people were finding the ticks crawling on their legs, backs and necks. Now, in midsummer, daily encounters seem almost impossible to avoid.

Maine is home to 15 tick species but only one public-health menace: the blacklegged tick—called the “deer” tick—a carrier of Lyme and other debilitating diseases. For 30 years, an army of deer ticks has advanced from the state’s southwest corner some 350 miles to the Canadian border, infesting towns such as Houlton, Limestone and Presque Isle.

…The explosion of disease correlates with a warming climate in Maine where, over the past three decades, summers generally have grown hotter and longer and winters milder and shorter.

It’s one strand in an ominous tapestry: Across the United States, tick- and mosquito-borne diseases, some potentially lethal, are emerging in places and volumes not previously seen. Climate change almost certainly is to blame, according to a 2016 report by 13 federal agencies that warned of intensifying heat, storms, air pollution and infectious diseases. Last year, a coalition of 24 academic and government groups tried to track climate-related health hazards worldwide. It found them “far worse than previously understood,” jeopardizing half a century of public-health gains.

Climate’s role in intensifying diseases carried by ‘vectors’— organisms transmitting pathogens and parasites—isn’t as obvious as in heat-related conditions or pollen allergies. But it poses a grave threat. Of all infectious diseases, those caused by bites from ticks, mosquitoes and other cold-blooded insects are most climate-sensitive, scientists say. Even slight shifts in temperatures can alter their distribution patterns.

Yet in Maine, Gov. Paul LePage—a conservative Republican who has questioned global-warming science—won’t acknowledge the phenomenon. His administration has suppressed state plans and vetoed legislation aimed at limiting the damage, former government officials say. They say state employees, including at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, have been told not to discuss climate change.…—Kristen Lombardi and Fatima Bhojani, “An Army of Deer Ticks Carrying Lyme Disease Is Advancing and Here’s Why It Will Only Get Worse,” Mother Jones, 8/6/18


World’s first ocean plastic clean-up machine
set to launch

World’s first ocean plastic clean-up machine set to launch


Scientists are preparing to launch the world’s first machine to clean up the planet’s largest mass of ocean plastic.

The system, originally dreamed up by a teenager, will be shipped out this summer to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California, and which contains an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic.

It will be the first ever attempt to tackle the patch since it was discovered in 1997.

The experts believe the machine should be able to collect half of the detritus in the patch – about 40,000 metric tons – within five years.

In the past few weeks they have been busy welding together giant tubes that will sit on the surface of the sea and form the skeleton of the machine, creating the largest floating barrier ever made.

Further reading

Government promises £61m to tackle scourge of ocean plastic

Plastic pollution killed sperm whale found dead on Spanish beach
Music made from sounds of sea created to raise money to fight plastic
Plastic pollution in sea set to treble in a decade, warn scientists

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) spans 617,763 sq miles – more than twice the size of France, and contains at least 79,000 tons of plastic, research found last month.

Most of it is made up of “ghost gear” – parts of abandoned and lost fishing gear, such as nets and ropes – often from illegal fishing vessels.

Ghost gear kills more than 100,000 whales, dolphins and seals each year, according to scientific surveys. Seabirds and other marine life are increasingly being found dead with stomachs full of small pieces of plastic.…—Jane Dalton, “World’s first ocean plastic-cleaning machine set to tackle Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” The Independent, 4/22/18


Trump White House quietly cancels NASA research verifying greenhouse gas cuts

Trump White House quietly cancels NASA research verifying greenhouse gas cuts

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. The adage is especially relevant for climate-warming greenhouse gases, which are crucial to manage—and challenging to measure. In recent years, though, satellite and aircraft instruments have begun monitoring carbon dioxide and methane remotely, and NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a $10-million-a-year research line, has helped stitch together observations of sources and sinks into high-resolution models of the planet’s flows of carbon. Now, President Donald Trump’s administration has quietly killed the CMS, Science has learned.

The move jeopardizes plans to verify the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris climate accords, says Kelly Sims Gallagher, director of Tufts University’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy in Medford, Massachusetts. “If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement,” she says. Canceling the CMS “is a grave mistake,” she adds.

The White House has mounted a broad attack on climate science, repeatedly proposing cuts to NASA’s earth science budget, including the CMS, and cancellations of climate missions such as the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3). Although Congress fended off the budget and mission cuts, a spending deal signed in March made no mention of the CMS. That allowed the administration’s move to take effect, says Steve Cole, a NASA spokesperson in Washington, D.C. Cole says existing grants will be allowed to finish up, but no new research will be supported.

The agency declined to provide a reason for the cancellation beyond “budget constraints and higher priorities within the science budget.” But the CMS is an obvious target for the Trump administration because of its association with climate treaties and its work to help foreign nations understand their emissions, says Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts. And, unlike the satellites that provide the data, the research line had no private contractor to lobby for it.…—Paul Voosen, “Trump White House quietly cancels NASA research verifying greenhouse gas cuts,” Science Magazine, 5/9/18


North Dakota regulators again ask judge to ban TigerSwan

North Dakota regulators again ask judge to ban TigerSwan

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The board that licenses private security firms in North Dakota implored a judge on Tuesday to reconsider his decision not to ban from the state a North Carolina-based company hired by the developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

North Dakota’s Private Investigative and Security Board maintains that TigerSwan operated illegally without a state license in 2016 and 2017, and that an injunction is necessary to prevent the company from doing it again.

TigerSwan has argued that the work it did in the state was beyond the board’s purview, “so I’m not sure why there would be any limitations in (them) coming back to the state and operating in the same way,” board attorney Monte Rogneby told Judge John Grinsteiner.

TigerSwan attorney Lynn Boughey noted that CEO James Reese said in an affidavit that the company has no intention of returning to North Dakota until the dispute with the licensing board is resolved.

“They’re not coming into this state after the way they’ve been treated by this board,” Boughey said.

Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners hired TigerSwan to handle security as thousands of pipeline opponents flocked to North Dakota to protest the $3.8 billion project to move oil to a shipping point in Illinois.…—”North Dakota regulators again ask judge to ban TigerSwan,” Tampa Bay Times, 7/24/18


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