Posts tagged: climate change

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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.

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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.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
28 July 2011, 12:45 PM
Wrecked summer vacations, revved up gas mileage, watered down chemical regs
The agave plant, typically used to distill tequila. Courtesy of kimsdinner.

Tequila takes a shot at decreasing gasoline use
A new study that looks at the life-cycle analysis of agave-derived ethanol has found that the desert plant produces relatively few carbon emissions, positioning itself as a possible biofuel and substitute for gasoline, reports the Guardian. Though agave is best known for its use in distilling tequila, the sugar-filled plant’s ability to grow on desert lands that aren’t usable for other food crops has garnered the interest of the biofuel industry, which is eager to find a plant-based fuel that won’t drive up food prices, a la the corn ethanol disaster. Scientists are already conducting agave biofuel trials in Australia, and the technology may also have potential for use in abandoned agave plantations in Mexico and Africa. Though experts warn that biofuels can’t be the only strategy used to cut carbon emissions, finding more options to fight climate change is still a success worth drinking to.

View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
22 July 2011, 4:05 PM
Hijacking our democracy to attack our environment
Part of The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy (1773) by Domenico Tiepolo.

If you've ever suspected that Congress thinks of corporate polluters first and the polluted public last, the debacle unfolding in Washington, D.C. this week should leave you with little doubt—and a bitter taste. Many of our elected leaders have hijacked the process by which we fund government agencies to sack the environment like Odysseus did Troy.

The Trojan Horse that is the federal appropriations bill is filled with an unprecedented number of anti-environmental "riders"—provisions added to a piece of legislation that have little to no connection with the subject of the bill itself. And just as the Greeks sought to extinguish the fires of life in Troy, these riders are meant to run down the bedrock environmental protections that were created to keep our environment clean and our imperiled wildlife safe from extinction.

One egregious effort—dubbed the Extinction Rider—would paralyze the nation's ability to protect hundreds of species and turn the decision-making about endangered wildlife into a one-way street where protections can only be weakened, never strengthened.

This is an absolutely inappropriate way to set new policy. It demeans the democratic process and indicates that such extreme measures can't stand on their own—instead, they have to be slipped as stowaways into a must-pass bill.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
22 July 2011, 10:26 AM
Fishy cleanups, meaty eco dilemmas, dirty soaps
Grey wolves in Yellowstone help keep the elk population in check. Photo courtesy of Arran_Edmonstone

Environment loses in predator versus people standoff
A new study has found that the decline of the world’s largest predators is wreaking havoc on the rest of the ecosystem, reports the Washington Post. Nature abhors a vacuum, and by killing off large sums of the world’s wolves, lions, buffalo and wildebeest, humans have inadvertently opened a door to other, sometimes less beneficial, wildlife. For example, the decimation of lions and leopards in parts of sub-Saharan Africa has allowed disease-ridden baboons to thrive, sometimes venturing into populated areas. And in the U.S., the hunting and killing of wolves in Yellowstone Park has incresed the numbers of elk and deer, which devour the forest food supply, leaving less food for other creatures. Deer also carry ticks that spread Lyme disease, an emerging infectious disease that can affect the joints, heart and central nervous system in humans.

Though the authors of the report acknowledge that it can be difficult to predict the effect that the loss of a large predator will have on the environment, what is clear is that no species is an island unto itself. In fact, the reintroduction of a native species can sometimes have a positive effect on the environment. For example, a reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone back in the 1990s has helped keep the elk population in check, thereby allowing other creatures like beavers and birds to bounce back. Said William Ripple, co-author of the international report, “It’s amazing the effect one species, the wolf, can have on the entire ecosystem.”

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
15 July 2011, 10:56 AM
Conservative face off, hot climate deniers, big coal’s big misstep
The hunting and fishing crowd is increasingly unhappy with GOP efforts to slash conservation spending. Photo courtesy of eadmund42

Republicans cutting enviro bills shoot themselves in the foot
Republican measures to cut environmental programs that keep the nation’s air and water clean may prove foolish if they continue to ruffle the feathers of outdoorsmen, reports Politico. The angler and hunter crowd may typically swing conservative, but that could change if House Republicans continue their attempts to pull the trigger on a number of programs that keep wildlife intact, such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act or State Wildlife Grants. Last week, leaders from a handful of conservation organizations like Ducks Unlimited met with top officials to make their case for restoring funding for environmental programs, arguing that the benefits of wildlife conservation go far beyond the duck pond, like cleaning up waterways and providing flood control for coastal communities. Though hunting and fishing types tend to be fiscally conservative, when it comes to slashing conservation programs that diminish the favorite pastimes of a large voting bloc, Republicans better think twice before going in for the kill.
 

View Ben Barron's blog posts
13 July 2011, 12:23 PM
Fracking invades rainforest havens of birds and natives who mimic them

Anyone who has seen the “Planet Earth” episode on jungles has witnessed the colorful plumes and remarkable displays of the Birds of Paradise.

But when you’re hiking (read: struggling) through the dense growth of Papua New Guinea’s rainforest, one of the world’s largest at over 100,000 square miles and home to 38 of the 43 Bird of Paradise species, it’s pretty difficult to catch a glimpse these magnificent birds.

You can’t help but hear them, though. Jungle life has a soundtrack, and the BOPs are the lead singers.

However, a new voice is about to join the New Guinea chorus, threatening to drown out the unique birds.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
08 July 2011, 10:08 AM
Killer candles, revenge of the nerds, France fracking halt
Michelle Bachman has some crazy ideas about the environment. Photo courtesy of Markn3tel.

Michelle Bachman drills down to solve the energy crisis
As the Republican contenders for the 2012 election begin to emerge, a old theme among the crew is arising deep from within the ashes of the failed McCain-Palin 2008 presidential run: Drill, baby, drill. The most recent aspiring president, Michelle Bachman, recently said that energy can be the “most easy problem for America to solve” by, you guessed it, digging for more fossil fuels, reports Grist. Unfortunately, the Republican rhetoric, as nice and easy as it may sound, relies heavily on ignoring all of the environmental and health problems that come with the practices involved in this age of extreme energy, such blowing up mountains and shoving millions of gallons of chemically treated water into rock formations.

Unfortunately for those of us stuck in the real world, this overly simplistic solution to the current energy crisis is just par for the course in Bachman’s world. According to recent news reports, Bachman has been busy spreading lies like the idea that high-speed rail from Disneyland to Las Vegas is just a ploy to get little kids hooked on gambling and that EPA is a murderous villain that’s attacking “helpless” corporations. Those kinds of allegations are akin to environmentalists calling Bachman a deranged serial killer—a serious allegation that has bite but is nonetheless inaccurate. Good thing she already beat everyone to the punch by accidently comparing herself to John Wayne Gacy

Scented candles may burn users with dangerous toxins
Filling a room with an array of scented candles may no longer be a harmless option for Romeos looking to make their Juliets swoon, reports the UK’s Daily Mail. A recent study found that burning scented candles in a poorly ventilated room may release air pollution toxic enough to raise the risk of asthma, eczema and skin complaints. Though stuffing candle wax with synthetic fragrances is harmful enough, the wicks themselves are also a concern. When burned, they release soot particles that can travel deep into the lungs and aggravate respiratory illness. To avoid getting burned, experts suggest using beeswax or soy-based candles with thin, braided wicks. Or, skip the candles and buy her fair trade, locally grown, organic, vegan chocolates. Everybody wins! 

View Liz Judge's blog posts
06 July 2011, 9:03 AM
House comes out swinging in its newly revealed 2012 spending bill

The 112th Session of the House of Representatives is at it again, doing what they do best: writing legislation to strike and block the clean air and clean water laws that keep us alive and healthy.

This morning, the House majority released its spending bill for the year 2012, and not to disappoint those who wish to live in a world with big corporations enjoying full freedom to foul our air and water without restriction, penalty or accountability, the bill manages to take direct aim at a handful of landmark environmental safeguards and a slew of major public health protections.

Legislating through appropriations is a back-door, manipulative move in its own right. It essentially means that instead of having to muster the votes required to pass new laws or take our current environmental and health safeguards off the books, House leadership is using a spending bill to simply stop and block all funding for these protections. The laws still stand as they are, they just can't be enforced. The way this House sees it, if the agencies can't get the money to enforce our current laws, there's no need to worry about what the laws actually mandate.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
01 July 2011, 6:52 AM
Extreme weather, germy pillows, feminine mice
A recent Greenpeace investigation found that dirty energy companies have been financing a prominent climate change denier. Photo courtesy of L.C.Nøttaasen.

Climate change skeptic awash in oily money
A Greenpeace investigation has found that climate change denier Dr. Willie Soon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, has received more than $1 million in payment from major U.S. oil and coal companies over the past decade, reports the Guardian. Though Dr. Soon denies that any group influenced his studies, the fact that every new grant he has received since 2002 has been from oil or coal interests has raised more than a few eyebrows. Kert Davies, a research director at Greenpeace, summed it up well by saying, "A campaign of climate change denial has been waged for over 20 years by big oil and big coal. Scientists like Dr. Soon, who take fossil fuel money and pretend to be independent scientists, are pawns."

So who are some of the benefactors shoving money into the good doctor's coffer? None other than ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and the Koch brothers. That's right. In addition to doing some behind-the-scenes fundraising for a number of Republicans who sit on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, many of whom have vowed to restrict the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Charles G Koch Foundation gave Soon two grants that ran about $175,000 in 2005/2006 and again in 2010, according to the Guardian. Apparently when it comes to pushing an anti-environmental agenda, the Koch brothers are going all in.

America’s pocketbook weathered by climate change
It’s no doubt that 2011 has been a year of extreme weather (and the year’s barely half over). All of those tornadoes, floods and droughts have taken an emotional toll on all Americans, especially those hardest hit by these events. Not surprisingly, this flood of record bad weather has also take a significant economic toll, reports Time. According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, extreme weather costs the U.S. about $485 billion per year, which adds up to almost 4 percent of the country’s GDP. And, as we continue to release more carbon emissions into the atmosphere, the weather will only get worse and the cost to repair more steep. As the author notes, “If a broken planet isn't enough to mobilize us, a flat-broke country ought to be.” Find out how Earthjustice is encouraging the use of the cleanest, cheapest and most available source of energy to help weather this inevitable storm.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
24 June 2011, 2:33 PM
Natural gas doesn't deserve squeaky clean image

Follow along as I walk us up the steep learning curve about natural gas that Earthjustice, the environmental community and the nation are navigating. The curve suddenly steepened a few years ago when natural gas advocates started promoting their fuel as a refreshing alternative to coal and oil, and a bridge to a clean energy future.

If we have learned anything along the way, it is this: the clean reputation of natural gas is good PR, but lousy science.
 
For decades, Earthjustice has worked to protect special places on our public lands from being pockmarked by gas development. Our litigation has helped protect such treasures as the Wyoming Range south of the Tetons, Otero Mesa in southern New Mexico, the Roan Plateau in western Colorado, and some of the spectacular red rock country near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah.
 
Despite some improvements by the Obama administration in leasing and drilling policies, we are forced to keep fighting some of these battles. We’ve come to know that gas development can fragment wildlife habitat and industrialize a pristine landscape, and we’ve worked on federal and state rules to reduce those impacts.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
24 June 2011, 12:25 PM
Oceanic catastrophe, mythological creatures, oil baron payback
Haul from a dumpster dive in Sweden. Photo courtesy of sigurdas.

Dumpster diver documentary details discard diet
Americans need to stop tossing out more of half of their food and start donating it, reports dumpster diver Jeremy Seifert in Grist. Seifert, who’s been diving into dumpsters and pulling out edible food for several years, recently created a documentary detailing our wasteful society and the dumpster diving culture. In the article, he also calls on the progressive grocery store chain Trader Joes to end food waste by donating soon-to-expire foods to homeless shelters rather than tossing them. Making sustainable food choices not only helps feed the more than one-in-eight Americans dependent on food stamps, it also helps the environment by cutting down on water use and methane emitted by rotting food. So, dive in!

Report finds oceans under attack
The world may be on the verge of the sixth mass extinction with the oceans serving as ground zero, reports Reuters. According to the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, coral reefs are dying, low-oxygen dead zones are spreading and fish populations are collapsing worldwide thanks to climate change, over-fishing, pollution and habitat destruction. Though many of these issues are all too familiar to the scientific community, the magnitude and direness of the situation managed to shock even the ocean experts who created the report. In the report, the authors issue a dire warning: "Unless action is taken now, the consequences of our activities are at a high risk of causing ….the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean.” Find out how Earthjustice is working in the courts to protect our vital oceans.