unEARTHED, the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.

ABOUT EARTHJUSTICE'S BLOG

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

Learn more about Earthjustice.

View Shirley Hao's blog posts
07 December 2009, 6:12 AM
The curious effect of climate change on wild boars.
I can run at speeds of 30 mph. Beware. Photo: GerardM.

Last week, unEARTHED reported on a recent study detailing the impact of global warming on endangered species. We’ve also heard of starving polar bears eating each other due to thinning ice, and pika freezing to death as melting snow drifts become too thin to insulate them in the winter. However, swinging the other way in this warming world are wild boars. Spiegel Online tells the tale of a small nation of more than two million wild boars, who are at present traipsing across the German countryside in growing ranks; they increased three-fold last year alone. But is that a good thing?

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
04 December 2009, 12:50 PM
Ice core samples clearly show link to our use of fossil fuels

Here's an interesting climate change observation reported by the BBC—over the last 800,000 years, up until industrial revolution times, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere never rose above 300 ppm. Since then, and particulary from the 20th century on, CO2 concentration has steeply climbed to where it is today, nearing 400 ppm. Many scientists believe significant global warming consequences are inevitable above 350 ppm.

The historical data cited by the BBC come in part from ice core samples taken in Antarctica and Greenland. Bubbles of air trapped in the ice show cycles of 100,000 years, during which air temperatures and CO2 levels fluctuate in parallel. As humankind grew in population and started heavily relying on fossil fuels, the cyclical pattern was broken. Now, CO2 and temperatures are simply going up.

This bad news is actually good news of a sort as the world prepares to meet next week in Copenhagen to deal with climate change. The recent hacked email scandal is being used by deniers and contrarians to weaken the chances of getting anything done at the conference. A good dose of solid science like this could help keep things on track.

 

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
04 December 2009, 12:41 PM
Programs enacted this decade will lead to significant emissions cuts

The Bush years—a seemingly endless era in which those concerned about the planet's fate found themselves arguing with a table, to appropriate the words of a silver-tongued Massachusetts congressman—aren't typically remembered for good efforts to combat global warming.

But a new report by Environment America—"America on the Move"—contends those lost years, thanks to states (not the Bush administration), may actually prove themselves a critical period in our national efforts to lower carbon pollution. The report estimates that states like California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and many others initiated programs during those years that will lead to a reduction of more than 500 million tons of global warming pollution by 2020.

The projected amount, approximately 7 percent of total domestic emissions in 2007, is no small thing, roughly equivalent to the collective annual emissions of more than 100 million cars.

View Molly Woodward's blog posts
04 December 2009, 10:10 AM
Copenhagen, Climate Change, Coal

Some top stories from the last two weeks at Earthjustice...

The Copenhagen Climate Conference begins next week. President Obama will lead the U.S. delegation, and in anticipation of the conference, the Dalai Lama spoke about the need for governments to put global priorities first.

Studies on the effects of global warming abound; few offer good news. Polar ice is thinner than previously thought, and polar bears are struggling more than ever to surviveonly one of many species seriously threatened by climate change. 

Our addiction to coal-fired power is at the heart of global warming. And as we know, coal plants are responsible for much more destruction. Almost a year ago, 500 million gallons of toxic coal ash flooded 300 acres along Tennessee’s Emory River. Now, despite this disaster, some companies are claiming that the location and contents of their toxic coal ash ponds should be left a mystery. Earthjustice disagrees.

Other mysteries, however, are quite welcomelike lonely stones sailing quietly across the desert.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
03 December 2009, 6:14 PM
California readies plan for adapting to effects of global warming

Recently, some global warming skeptics have used a series of hacked emails to cast aspersions on the scientific consensus on man-made global warming. The hope, perhaps, is to gain support for a delusion that thrives in their fertile imaginations: that global warming is a hoax perpetuated by a clandestine network of global conspirators. A number of reputable experts have thankfully stepped up to put the conspiracy theorists back in their place.

And back in reality, some pragmatists are moving forward with plans to adapt to the changes that global warming, very real indeed, will inevitably bring our way.

The California Natural Resources Agency just released the "2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy," which examines likely impacts on the Golden State from global warming, and how best to mitigate the damage. According to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who authorized the strategy in an executive order one year ago, California is the first state to officially adopt an adaptation strategy.

View Brian Smith's blog posts
03 December 2009, 5:25 PM
Green conferencing saves money and the planet
Oakland, CA and Washington, DC at one long table

As the first day of Earthjustice's annual meeting on global warming came to a close, it struck me how seriously the organization now takes the goal of reducing our own carbon footprint.

How can we fight against global warming if we are part of the problem?

This year's annual strategy session included 28 staff people from around the country. A few years ago, this meeting would have required at least a dozen cross-country air flights, hotel stays, and nights away from family.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
03 December 2009, 9:14 AM
EPA dumps Bush-era rule that allowed unfettered hazardous waste burning

The Bush Years: Sounds like an afternoon special, right? Unfortunately it was a reality we remember all too well.

As President Bush prepared to leave office, his cronies at EPA pushed for a slew of bad rulemakings that favored polluters at the cost of public health and the environment. This came as no surprise back then, and Earthjustice and others did a wonderful job of fighting back and defeating many of these "midnight rulemakings," as they were often called.

One particularly egregious rule, known as the Emissions Comparable Fuels rule, allowed industries to burn up to 100,000 tons of hazardous waste without any federal hazardous waste protections.

View Brian Smith's blog posts
02 December 2009, 5:33 PM
Industry thinks so, but Earthjustice disagrees

Almost one year ago, a dyke holding back the 40-acre coal ash pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant broke, releasing more than 500 million gallons of toxic coal ash. The sludge (six feet deep in some places) spread out over 400 acres, damaged 12 homes, and wrecked a train. It was the largest human-induced environmental disaster since Chernobyl.

For the last year, Earthjustice and our partners have worked to reveal the location and contents of toxic coal ash ponds around the United States. We have had some notable success.

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View Tom Turner's blog posts
02 December 2009, 3:57 PM
A different angle from the Center for Food Safety

I just received two copies of a newsletter called Cool Foods: Countdown to Copenhagen & Beyond from the Center for Food Safety. The purpose of the effort is to remind negotiators and the public that industrial agriculture accounts for between 13.5 percent and as much as 32 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. "Particularly alarming," they write, "is that industrial agriculture is responsible for 60 percent of total global nitrous oxide emissions, largely from nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrous oxide is the deadliest of the three major GHGs, approximately 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide." And on in the same vein. Scary but vital information.

Lester Brown's Earth Policy Institute has a somewhat different take on the subject, but also provides compelling evidence and argument that climate change and agriculture are intimately linked.

View Molly Woodward's blog posts
02 December 2009, 3:53 PM
How a cute cartoon can fight climate change
Tamagotchi. Photo: imeleven.

As the Copenhagen conference approaches, our instinct may be to let politicians resolve the planet’s fate. But we’re also realizing more and more that we can’t just rely on politicians. Each of us needs to cut our individual energy usage. Dramatically. Now.

I’m the first to say that cutting down on the pleasures and convenience of heat and electricity is hard. It’s too easy to put off my goals for another day, or to console myself about the ways I do conserve. What will it take to get us all really saving?

Knowing us Americans, maybe what we need is… a new fad! Something fun. Something that will spur some friendly competition. Maybe even something a little bit cute.

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