Pervasive doom and gloom dominates much of the popular news about the environment. Global warming, sea level rise, ocean acidification, drought, wildfires, overfishing, or overpopulation—it all contributes to a feeling of despair and hopelessness, particularly among young people. This struck home for me on a personal level during a recent conversation with my college-aged son and a few of his friends—they felt they were “totally screwed” because of the inevitable impacts of climate change.
On August 3, 2015, the Obama administration announced the finalized US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Clean Power Plan.” The plan has been developed under the Clean Air Act and aims to slash carbon emissions from US power plants, which account for one-third of all carbon emissions in the country, by giving each state an individual goal for cutting these emissions. The EPA estimates that the new national standards will significantly decrease carbon pollution produced by the electric sector by 2030; carbon emissions will be 32% lower than the 2005 levels. For a step-by-step guide on how the Clean Power Plan works, head here. Continue reading →
Peak oil, or peak water? Peak water might be the (unfortunate) answer. Alternative sources of energy may become more widely available, but there are no alternatives to water. The ongoing depletion of groundwater contained in aquifers—one of the most important sources of water on our planet—is a significant threat to our future. Many countries are already near or beyond peak water, and results from recent studies show that significant segments of Earth’s population are consuming groundwater all too quickly, without knowing when it might run out. Continue reading →
Next week is National Pollinator Week in the US (June 15-21, 2015), and a good time to consider the importance of bees, birds, butterflies, and bats for a healthy ecosystem. Pollinators contribute more than $24 billion annually to the US economy by tending to the vineyards, orchards, farmlands, nurseries, and countless acres of open space used by tourists every year. Pollinating requires a significant natural work force. But right now, nature’s workers are not doing so well. Continue reading →
A guest post by Marshall Shepherd, Director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program, University of Georgia, and author of the Weather Underground blog “From the Mind of J. Marsh WxGeeks Edition”
On April 15, 2015, at the University of Georgia, I wandered over to the Miller Learning Center to hear a talk by Dr. Steve McNulty (Link) with the United States Forest Service and the USDA Southern Regional Climate Hub (@SEClimateHub).
Let me start by saying this was one of the best and most effective climate communication talks that I have ever seen. It was so good that I felt compelled to write this blog to share some of it with you. Continue reading →
The impacts of global climate change on human health and well-being are undeniably alarming. Safe drinking water, sufficient food, and secure shelter are threatened by rising sea levels and severe weather events. Heat waves dramatically increase death rates not only from heat strokes, but also from complications arising from cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular diseases. According to the WHO, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050, mostly from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress. Unfortunately, these estimates take into account only a subset of the possible health impacts and assume continued economic growth and health progress. The global situation is likely to be much worse. Continue reading →
Climate change is happening here and now, and the rate of change is also speeding up, as demonstrated by a recent study. The most dramatic effects are clearly visible all around us—shifting precipitation patterns, sea level rise, ocean acidification, shrinking Arctic sea ice, melting of the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets, and amplified occurrence of wildfires, floods, heat waves, and droughts. Climate change is also a “threat multiplier”—the environmental fallout it causes can exacerbate political instability in the world’s most dangerous regions and increase the chances of armed conflict. In addition to these conspicuously damaging effects, there are some others that are causing alarm, although not discussed as often and not as clearly discernible at this time: climate change may alter the release, dispersal, and toxic effect of chemicals in the environment, potentially resulting in dangerous levels of human exposure and deleterious consequences for ecosystems. Continue reading →