Plus: London smog, EPA’s petrified politics, grocery bill blues
Greenland's ice melt from July 8th (left image) to July 12 (right image).
Photo courtesy of NASA
Greenland's record ice melt blows scientists’ beakers
The ice melt happening in Greenland right now is one for the record books, reports the UK Guardian. In fact, it’s so dramatic that even the scientists who have been staring at Greenland’s ice melt for decades were so surprised at just how fast the ice is melting that they thought they made a mistake in their data. They didn't. One group of researchers even had to rebuild their research camp after the snow and ice melted beneath their feet. Within a four-day period, the area of melting ice in Greenland increased from approximately 40 percent of the ice sheet surface to 97 percent. Typically, only about half of Greenland’s ice sheet melts during the summer. The unprecedented ice melt doesn’t bode well for those living near sea level, like, say, the almost four million Americans that live within just a few feet of high tide.
London smog may send athletes sprinting for inhalers
As the Olympics in London heats up, the world’s best athletes are gearing up with top-notch running shoes, high-performance energy drinks...and their best inhalers, reports the UK Guardian. Health experts are warning that London’s forecast temperature of hot weather and easterly winds this week may result in a deadly combination that spikes smog pollution in the area, triggering breathing problems and scratchy throats. Also known as ground level ozone, smog is formed when sunlight reacts with oxygen and pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, which spews out of vehicle tailpipes and industry smokestacks. Though physicians often recommend that people reduce physical activity during really smoggy days, that’s not really an option for speedy, air-sucking Olympic athletes. Last fall, President Obama withdrew the EPA’s new smog standard, which would have tightened air toxics regulations and saved thousands of lives each year. Though the president cited economic concerns as the reason for his decision, it’s unclear whether he considered the economic impact of putting a smog-filled damper on the Olympics. As for the non-athletes attending the games this year who’d like to know when air pollution spikes, don’t worry. There’s an app for that.
EPA chickens out on forcing factory farms to scoop their own poop
An industry that regularly creates a big stink for the environment will be able to continue hiding their polluting ways from federal regulators, reports Grist. Recently, the U.S. EPA announced that it is withdrawing a rule that would require large factory farms known as CAFOs or confined animal feeding operations to submit basic information such as the CAFO’s address and the number of animals it houses. Essentially giant Ford-style assembly lines for producing pigs, cows and chickens, CAFOs create more than three times the waste than people do, but instead of treating the waste, most CAFOs dump it into nearby waters because, well, they can. For obvious reasons, dumping untreated raw sewage into U.S. waters creates a bit of a health hazard for people and animals, especially given that the waste is often laced with diseases like E.coli as well as arsenic and antibiotics. That’s why environmental groups like Earthjustice have pushed the EPA to regulate, or at least identify, these massive animal operations, regardless of whether they discharge into water. The EPA’s about-face most likely came from pressure from the industrial agriculture industry since CAFO operators are reluctant to be regulated. After all, why pay for cow poop cleanup when you can dump the waste for free?
Drought threatens America’s bread and butter
Consumers may soon get a punch to the proverbial gut with spikes in prices for food crops that are being decimated by the drought, reports Mother Jones. According to the USDA, the cost of basic food staples like milk and eggs is expected to increase dramatically next year thanks to a record-breaking drought that’s affected the majority of America’s farmland. Carnivores are expected to be hit the hardest, with poultry and beef prices predicted to raise at least a couple of percentage points next year. That’s bad news for the Obama campaign, which runs on bread-and-butter issues like keeping bread and butter affordable for average Americans. Worse yet, it doesn’t help that the Obama administration has largely abandoned efforts to curb one of the major causes of this record-breaking drought, climate change. Meanwhile, agro-tech companies like Monsanto are doing everything they can to bring home their own bacon by pushing their genetically modified, drought-resistant crops down consumers’ throats via the 2012 Farm Bill and the 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill.