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Category Archives:

environment

The New Normals: How U.S. Weather Has Changed Since 1900

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last week issued its latest “climate normals”: baseline data of temperature, rain, snow and other weather variables collected over three decades at thousands of locations across the country.

Updated every 10 years, the normals are used by TV meteorologists when they tell you that today’s blisteringly high temperature was 10 degrees above normal for that location and date, for instance, or that a single heavy downpour brought more rain than is typical for an entire month.

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Emissions Cuts Could Sharply Curb Sea Level Rise

Scientists on Wednesday reported another reason the world should sharply rein in global warming: doing so would likely cut in half the current projected amount of sea level rise from the melting of ice this century.

In a study that averaged results of hundreds of computer simulations from research teams around the world, the scientists said that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could reduce sea level rise from melting glaciers and the vast Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets from about 10 inches to about five by 2100.

That level of warming, equivalent to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, is the stricter of two targets set by the 2015 Paris agreement to combat climate change.

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NYC Schools Going Solar “From the Outside In”

Want an in-depth look at how Solar One is working with the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Sustainability to solarize our public schools? Check out this article from Solstice.us that includes a great interview with Amy Colorado, the Green Design Lab’s Program manager fro K-12 Curriculum & Instruction.

“Learning about buildings and how buildings use energy – that’s what sustainability looks like in the city of New York,” Amy said. “I’m incredibly thankful to have entered Solar One to be able to teach environmentalism that is relevant to NYC and its residents.”

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Paris Climate Agreement Image

U.S. rejoins the Paris Climate Agreement

Paris Climate Agreement ImageThe United States is rejoining the Paris climate agreement, fulfilling one of President Joe Biden’s earliest campaign promises and generating sighs of relief around the world as governments struggle to keep the planet’s temperature from surging to even more dangerous levels.

On Wednesday, just five hours after his inauguration and amid a flurry of other presidential actions, President Joe Biden signed an executive order returning the U.S. to the landmark accord to slash carbon emissions. The move will be official in 30 days.

Rejoining the agreement, however, is just the first step. To fulfill its obligations under the pact, the Biden administration will have to quickly throw together a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions before the next U.N. climate meeting, scheduled for December in Glasgow. Other countries will expect the U.S. to come with a goal to slash CO2 emissions by 45 to 50 percent by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels) and get overall emissions to zero by the middle of the century. And it won’t be enough for the United States just to set those targets. Biden will also have to show the country can reach them — and that it can be counted on not to back out for a second time.

You can more about this on Grist.org here.

Arctic Drilling Photo

Sales of Drilling Leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Attract Few Bidders

Arctic Drilling PhotoIn a blow to the outgoing administration’s efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to fossil fuel development, only half of the oil and gas leases offered for sale Wednesday received bids, and all but two of those came from the state of Alaska itself.

Only two companies, neither of them major oil producers, made bids to acquire 10-year rights to explore and drill for oil on two tracts totaling about 75,000 acres. A state-owned economic development corporation, offering the minimum of $25 an acre, was the sole bidder on the other tracts, totaling about half a million acres. The rights to another 400,000 acres remained unsold.

Once billed as a potential windfall that, over time, could bring in close to a billion dollars for the federal Treasury, in all the sale netted less than $15 million, with half of that going to the state.

Both the financial results, and the lack of interest from major companies, are quite likely a disappointment to the administration, and to Alaska officials who have long favored oil development for the jobs and revenue it could bring.

You can read more on the NY Times website here.

Linda Zall

“I Was A Spy for Planet Earth”: The CIA’s Dr. Linda Zall

Linda ZallLinda Zall played a starring role in American science that led to decades of major advances. But she never described her breakthroughs on television, or had books written about her, or received high scientific honors. One database of scientific publications lists her contributions as consisting of just three papers, with a conspicuous gap running from 1980 to 2020.

The reason is that Dr. Zall’s decades of service to science were done in the secretive warrens of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Now, at 70, she’s telling her story — at least the parts she’s allowed to talk about — and admirers are praising her highly classified struggle to put the nation’s spy satellites onto a radical new job: environmental sleuthing.

Dr. Zall’s program, established in 1992, was a kind of wayback machine that looked to as long ago as 1960. In so doing, it provided a new baseline for assessing the pace and scope of planetary change. Ultimately, it led to hundreds of papers, studies and reports — some classified top secret, some public, some by the National Academy of Sciences, the premier scientific advisory group to the federal government. The accumulated riches included up to six decades of prime data on planetary shifts in snowfall and blizzards, sea ice and glaciers.

“None of this would have happened without her,” said Jeffrey K. Harris, who worked with Dr. Zall as director of the National Reconnaissance Office, which runs the nation’s fleet of orbital spies. “You have to decide if you’re going to break down the wall or climb over it, and she did a little bit of both.”

You can read more on the NY Times website here.

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