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Friday Finds: It’s (Almost) End of the World As We Know It

Climate scientists warn that Earth’s tipping points are at the tipping point

Climate scientists warn that Earth’s tipping points are at the tipping point
Recently, climate scientists announced that this is the last decade to cut carbon emissions significantly or there’s no going back on global warming, reports Reuters. And they’re not just talking about freak heat waves and threats to Cherry Blossom festivals. Though estimates differ, the world’s temperature is expected to rise by six degrees Celsius by 2100 if we keep doing “business as usual” in terms of emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases. That increase, in turn, is expected to melt polar ice sheets, which greatly assist in keeping the climate livable. Other tipping points that we’re close to crossing include the loss of rainforests and melting of permafrost—which both store vast amounts of carbon and could change from carbon sinks to carbon emitters if humanity doesn’t get its act together, and soon. In other words, it’s the end of the world as we know it. There’s no way to feel fine about that.

Pennsylvania doctors with fracking info get gagged
Fracking uses millions of gallons of toxic chemicals that could harm human health, but doctors in Pennsylvania aren’t allowed to tell their patients about them, reports Mother Jones. According to a new law that’s been deemed a gag rule by its detractors, though doctors in Pennsylvania are allowed to see information about fracking chemicals—unlike the general public in the rest of the U.S.—they can’t share any of that information with their patients, even those who have been exposed to a hazardous chemical from fracking. The new provision, which was quietly slipped in near the end of the debate about the law, is just another in a long line of favors given to the oil and gas drilling industry over the past few years. Others include a fracking exemption from the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory and another exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. It seems that, at least when it comes to fracking, the more secrets you have to hide, the more exemptions you crave. Find out how Earthjustice is working to uncover those secrets.

North Dakota’s oil and gas boom brings with it exploding bottles of urine
North Dakota’s oil rush is wrecking the local environment, but this time it’s not in the form of air or water pollution. Instead, the oil boom has brought with it an influx of truckers who often chuck their bodily fluids on the side of the road, reports the Associated Press. Though litter has always been a problem along highway roads, the issue has gotten especially bad in North Dakota where clean-up volunteers will find everything from bottles of urine to hardhats and oily clothing. The problem, according to a trucking industry spokesperson, is the lack of rest stops along the highway. Truckers don’t want to throw urine out of the window, but they’re forced to due to a lack of available receptacles. Others, like local mayor Nathan Germundson, chalk the urine bombing practice up to a plain old lack of respect for both the environment and the people who have to clean up the resulting mess. Whatever the reason, the problem isn’t likely to get resolved soon, unfortunately. Currently, the state’s fine for dumping human waste on the road is a measly $20, and that’s only if the cops catch the perp.   

NPR’s new guidelines are good news for climate change coverage
Listen up, NPR fans. From here on out, the radio news station will give preference to the truth over balance in its news coverage, reports The Atlantic. Though the change seems minor on its face, it's actually a big deal in terms of covering scientific certainties that, nevertheless, incite major controversy, such as human-induced climate change. That’s because in the past the way that NPR and most other news organizations have attempted to achieve “balance and fairness” in their news reporting is by making sure that both sides of an issue receive equal coverage. However, on issues like climate change where scientific fact clearly falls on one side, equal coverage to climate believers and climate deniers gives the false impression that this issue is still up for debate, even though it’s not. This difficulty with “false equivalence” creates all sorts of problems, not least of which is that the public is misled into believing that climate change (and who’s causing it) is not, in fact, a scientific certainty. Kudos to NPR for finally tackling this issue, which was also recently raised by NYT’s Public Editor, who recently asked, “Should the Times Be a Truth Vigilante?” Considering that people rely on the news as a source of truth on current events, I’d say that the answer is a resounding “Yes!”