Category Archives: Environment

Chart of the day: Trump want billions for defense


More precisely $54 billion, a ten percent boost in current defense spending a a boon to that military/industrial complex Dwight Eisenhower warned us about in his presidential farewell address.

Which brings us to out chart from BBC News:

blog-military

More from the accompanying story:

If he wants to boost the defence budget by $54bn without adding to the deficit, that money will have to come from somewhere – and mandatory spending on welfare and debt interest takes nearly 70% of the budget off the table.

Early reports are that the Environmental Protection Agency is facing sharp cuts, but its total annual budget is just over $8bn – a drop in the bucket.

The State Department has also been singled out as a source for the needed funds, and its $50bn annually (including $22bn in direct aid) makes it a fatter target.

The lion’s share of humanitarian assistance goes to rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan and Aids treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa, however, which will be difficult to touch. Also unlikely to get the axe is military support, dominated by $3.1 bn annually to Israel.

There’s a reason the Trump administration announced the military budget number before revealing where the money will come from. Spending is easy; cutting is hard.

Why Donald Trump could win his war on the EPA


Founded in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency is the one positive legacy left by Richard M. Nixon, one of America’s worst Republican Presidents, the only one forced to resign in disgrace because of his criminal conduct.

The agency, charged with protecting folks from the worst environmental ravages wrought by corporations and developers, the EPA has played a major role in cleaning up the nation’s worst environmental disasters and preventing others.

But with prominent members of the Trump administration opposed to the agency’s vary existence, California legislators announced new measures this week designed to replace threatened federal regulations with new state counterparts.

From the Sacramento Bee:

Fearing a federal rollback of longstanding protections for air quality, clean water, endangered species and workers’ rights, California Democrats are pursuing legislation that would cement those environmental and labor regulations in state law.

The trio of bills announced Thursday also seek to use state authority to block private development of federal lands in California and extend some safeguards to federal whistleblowers.

“Californians can’t afford to go back to the days of unregulated pollution,” Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said at a press conference. “So we’re not going to let this administration or any other undermine our progress.”

>snip<

De León and other state senators who joined him Thursday pointed to a litany of developments over recent months that compelled them to act: Trump calling climate change a hoax; proposals to eliminate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the confirmation of Scott Pruitt, who as attorney general of Oklahoma repeatedly sued the EPA, to lead the agency.

But nationally the threat remains

And it’s very real, with the Trumpies presented with uniquely circumstances boding ill for our world and our descendants.

University of Florida Professor Emeritus of Political Science Walter A. Rosenbaum is uniquely suited to address the threat, being both an internationally recognized academic environmentalist and a former Special Assistant to the EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Policy Planning.

What follows is his analysis, Why Trump’s EPA is far more vulnerable to attack than Reagan’s or Bush’s, an essay written for The Conversation, an open-source academic journal written in conversational English:

For people concerned with environmental protection, including many EPA employees, there is broad agreement: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in deep trouble.

The Trump administration has begun the third, most formidable White House-led attempt in EPA’s brief history to diminish the agency’s regulatory capacity.

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s newly appointed EPA administrator, is a harsh critic and self-described “leading advocate against EPA’s activist agenda.” Pruitt’s intention to reduce EPA’s budget, workforce and authority is powerfully fortified by President Donald Trump’s own determination to repeal major EPA regulations like the Obama’s Clean Power Plan and Climate Action Plan.

Previous presidents have tried to scale back the work of the EPA, but as a former EPA staff member and researcher in environmental policy and politics, I believe the current administration is likely to seriously degrade EPA’s authority and enforcement capacity.

The vanished majorities

This latest assault on EPA is more menacing than previous ones in part because of today’s Republican-led Congress. The Democratic congressional majorities forestalled most past White House efforts to impair the agency’s rulemaking and protected EPA from prolonged damage to its enforcement capability.

Presidents Ronald Reagan (1981-1988) and George H. W. Bush (1989-1993) both sought to cut back EPA’s regulatory activism. Reagan was fixated on governmental deregulation and EPA was a favorite target. His powerful assault on EPA’s authority began with the appointment of Anne Gorsuch, an outspoken EPA critic, as EPA administrator. Gorsuch populated the agency’s leadership positions with like-minded reformers and supervised progressive reductions in EPA’s budget, especially for EPA’s critically important enforcement division, and hobbled the agency’s rule-making – a key step in the regulatory process – while reducing scientific support services.

Bush’s forays against EPA authority were milder, consisting primarily of progressive budget cuts, impaired rule-making and disengagement from international environmental activism.

Continue reading

Colorado River Basin faces epochal droughts


And they’ve already begun, according to The 21st century Colorado River hot drought and implications for the future [open access]. a new report from Scientists at the Colorado Water Institute and the university of Arizona, just published in Water Resources Research.

From the American Geophysical Union:

Warming in the 21st century reduced Colorado River flows by at least 0.5 million acre-feet, about the amount of water used by 2 million people for one year, according to new research.

The research is the first to quantify the different effects of temperature and precipitation on recent Colorado River flow, said authors Bradley Udall of Colorado State University and Jonathan Overpeck of the University of Arizona.

“This paper is the first to show the large role that warming temperatures are playing in reducing the flows of the Colorado River,” said Overpeck, UA Regents’ Professor of Geosciences and of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences and director of the UA Institute of the Environment. The new paper has been accepted for publication in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

From 2000-2014, the river’s flows declined to only 81 percent of the 20th-century average, a reduction of about 2.9 million acre-feet of water per year. One acre-foot of water will serve a family of four for one year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

From one-sixth to one-half of the 21st-century reduction in flow can be attributed to the higher temperatures since 2000, report Udall and Overpeck. Their analysis shows as temperature continues to increase with climate change, Colorado River flows will continue to decline.

Current climate change models indicate temperatures will increase as long as humans continue to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but the projections of future precipitation are far less certain.

Forty million people rely on the Colorado River for water, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The river supplies water to seven U.S. Western states plus the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California.

Udall, a senior water and climate scientist/scholar at CSU’s Colorado Water Institute, said, “The future of Colorado River is far less rosy than other recent assessments have portrayed. A clear message to water managers is that they need to plan for significantly lower river flows.”

The study’s findings, he said, “provide a sobering look at future Colorado River flows.”

The Colorado River Basin has been in a drought since 2000. Previous research has shown the region’s risk of a megadrought – one lasting more than 20 years – rises as temperatures increase.

Continue reading

Catastrophe imminent for the world’s oceans


The lead author of a comprehensive new survey of the world’s oceans offers of offers a stark summation of his findings: “The rate of change underway in our oceans is faster than at any point we know of in geological history.”

What is at stake is nothing less than the entire ecosystem covering 71 percent of the planet’s surface, the foundation on which all life on earth is based.

From Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh:

New research from Heriot-Watt, published on open-access journal Elementa today, shows that food supply to some areas of the Earth’s deep oceans will decline by up to half by 2100.

Dr Andrew Sweetman, associate professor at the Lyell Centre for Earth and Marine Science, and colleagues from 20 of the world’s leading oceanographic research centres have used earth system models and projected climate change scenarios, developed for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to quantify impending changes to deep oceans.

The team looked at a number of sea and ocean beds, from the Arctic to Antarctic Oceans, focusing on bathyal (200-3000m) and abyssal (3000-6000m) depths. As well as measuring how the deep oceans’ food sources will decline, the team examined the impact that increased seabed temperatures, declining oxygen levels and increasingly acidic seawater will have, under the sea and across the planet.

Sweetman, associate professor at Heriot-Watt’s Lyell Centre for Earth and Marine Science and Technology, said: “The rate of change underway in our oceans is faster than at any point we know of in geological history.

“Deep seafloor ecosystems provide services that are vitally important to the entire ocean and biosphere; we should all be concerned at what’s happening on our ocean floors.”

Most of the deep sea currently experiences a severe lack of food, but according to Dr Sweetman and his research team, it is about to face a famine.

Sweetman continued: “Abyssal ocean environments, which are over 3000m deep, are some of the most food-deprived regions on the planet.

“These habitats currently rely on less carbon per m2 each year than is present in a single sugar cube.

“We’ve shown that large areas of the abyss will have this tiny amount of food halved by 2100. For a habitat that covers half the earth, the impacts of this will be enormous.”

Continue reading

Map of the day: America’s fast-vanishing forests


Loss of Forest Coverage [upper maps] and Changes in Average Distance from Nearest Forest [lower maps], 1991-2000  From Forest dynamics in the U.S. indicate disproportionate attrition in western forests, rural areas and public lands, a new study published in PLOS One [open access], maps indicate tghe decline in forest area [a] and percentage of change [b] and the average distance of an individual from the nearest forest [c] and the change in distance over the decade [d].

Loss of Forest Coverage [upper maps] and Changes in Average Distance from Nearest Forest [lower maps], 1991-2000
From Forest dynamics in the U.S. indicate disproportionate attrition in western forests, rural areas and public lands, a new study published in PLOS One [open access], maps indicate the decline in forest area [a] and percentage of change [b] and the average distance of an individual from the nearest forest [c] and the change in distance over the decade [d]. Click on the image to enlarge.

Forests in the United States are dying, whether at the hands of loggers, ranchers, or real estate developers, or, as in the cases of Colorado, Oregon, and California, from disease and drought.

Loss of habitat poses a major environmental threat to countless species, but loss of the nation’s forest has another impact as well.

It further isolates us from an environment that provides us with both recreation and a source of renewal and reflection.

And with the Trump administration already implementing policies top open up yet more of the nation’s forests and other public lands to commercial exploitation, things can only get worse.

New study reveals extent of a one-decade loss

Scientists looked a forest losses over the last decade of the 20th Century, and their findings are very worrisome, especially in light of what the next four years may bring.

From the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Americans are spending their lives farther from forests than they did at the end of the 20th century and, contrary to popular wisdom, the change is more pronounced in rural areas than in urban settings.

A study published today [open access] in the journal PLOS ONE says that between 1990 and 2000, the average distance from any point in the United States to the nearest forest increased by 14 percent – or about a third of a mile. And while the distance isn’t insurmountable for humans in search of a nature fix, it can present challenges for wildlife and have broad effects on ecosystems.

Dr. Giorgos Mountrakis, an associate professor in the ESF Department of Environmental Resources, and co-author of the study, called the results “eye opening.”

“Our study analyzed geographic distribution of forest losses across the continental U.S. While we focused on forests, the implications of our results go beyond forestry,” Mountrakis said.

The study overturned conventional wisdom about forest loss, the researcher noted. The amount of forest attrition – the complete removal of forest patches – is considerably higher in rural areas and in public lands. “The public perceives the urbanized and private lands as more vulnerable,” said Mountrakis, “but that’s not what our study showed. Rural areas are at a higher risk of losing these forested patches.

Continue reading

DroughtWatch: The worst is over, at least for now


It’s official. None of California remains in the two most severe drought categories, and just 4.19 percent is affected by Severe Drought, 12.178 percent is classified as afflicted by Moderate Drought, and 21.47 percent is listed as Abnormally Dry, for a total of 38.34 percent of California that is afflicted by one or another of the classifications defined by the United States Drought Monitor.

That compares to 100 percent just five months ago [click on the image to enlarge]:

blog-drought

Charts of the day: Support for DAPL steadily falls


Two charts from a new report from the Pew Research Center reveal that public support for the Dakota Access Pipeline has fallen steadily and where the divisions lie.

First, a look at how support has fallen over time:

blog-dapl-2

And, second, a closer look at where the dividing lines are drawn, with supporters drawn heavily from the ranks of old, white, Republican men:

blog-dapl-1

More form the report:

Americans are divided over whether to build the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines – issues that returned to the forefront after President Donald Trump signed executive orders to move forward on their construction.

The Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines have become touchstones in the debate over energy and the environment. While parts of the larger Keystone pipeline have already been completed, the Dakota Access pipeline is in earlier stages of development.

About four-in-ten (42%) favor building the Keystone XL pipeline, while 48% are opposed, according to a national Pew Research Center survey conducted Feb. 7-12, 2017, among 1,503 U.S. adults. The pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada’s oil sands region through the Midwest to refineries on the Gulf Coast, had been blocked by the Obama administration over environmental concerns.

Support for Keystone XL has fallen since 2014, largely because of a sharp decline among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. The share of the overall public favoring the pipeline has fallen 17 percentage points since 2014 (from 59% to 42%). Just 17% of Democrats favor building the pipeline, less than half the share that did so three years ago (44%).