People Care More About Beer Than Climate Change, And Scientists Are Using It To Their Advantage

Many media outlets seized on an opportunity to persuade people into caring about climate change… by relating it to beer.

News dropped that a study by researchers from UC Irvine and other institutions claimed that beer prices could double because of the price of a malted barley. The study, published on Monday in the journal Nature Plants, showed that barley yields would decrease by an average of 17 percent due to climate change. One of the scientists even posted the results to Twitter:

Of course, caring more about beer than the impact of climate change is a bad thing, but it is plainly obvious that people love beer so much that they’re worried about a price increase.

There was a wide variety of support for beer, paired with rage against climate change, ranging from political talking points to joking calls to ban all fossil fuels:

The subject was even covered by The Daily Show, in which Trevor Noah said, “If you tell American’s in 10 years the Marshall Islands will be underwater, no one cares, but tell them Corona will cost more? Now they’re marching in the streets.”

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The use of beer as a talking point on climate change has given the research more attention than it normally would have gotten. Steven J. Davis noted this fact:

Google analytics show that “beer” is a more common search term used in Google’s search engine than “climate change”. This could be a potential reason for the increased viewership.

 

 

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Search term interest over time comparison between ‘beer’ (in blue) and ‘climate change’ (in red). Credit: Google Trends

This opens up an abundance of new positions of attack scientists can use to get the general public to care about climate change, but there will always be skeptics:

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Hurricanes Are Becoming Stronger Than Ever, And The Government Isn’t Taking Combative Actions

Hurricanes have made U.S. news a lot recently. Whether it be the destruction they have caused, the location they are damaging, or criticism of the government’s response, they have undeniably been a big issue over the past two years.

The United States is currently in the middle of hurricane season, which starts in the Atlantic on June 1 and ends on Nov. 30. There have been five hurricanes so far this season, with Hurricane Michael being the most recent as it is currently impacting the U.S.

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Home destroyed by Hurricane Irma Credit: paulbr75 / Pixabay

In 2017, three major hurricanes, Irma, Harvey, and Maria, struck the United States. In 2018, there have been two major hurricanes, Florence and Michael.

Located below is a map that details where the hurricanes made landfall and the paths they traveled:

Hurricanes have gotten stronger, slower, and wetter in the past few decades than they have historically been. This is likely the result of climate change. The New York Times released an informative video on the issue:

The United Nations released a special report on Monday that laid out a path that all societies must take in order to combat the effects of man-made global warming. Currently, most societies aren’t close to meeting the requirements that have been set out.

Although the world is on the verge of an environmental crisis, the U.S. government isn’t changing its course.

When asked about the U.N. report, President Donald Trump responded with, “It was given to me, & I want to look at who drew it. You know, which group drew it, because I can give you reports that are fabulous & reports that aren’t so good.”

This response received a wide array of criticism, prompting the #DrewIt hashtag as an attempt to mock the terminology President Trump used to describe scientific data:

Although the situation is humorous to some, the response of the President to environmental concerns matters.

Former Trump adviser Myron Bell was asked if there was any way the U.S. administration could be persuaded to take climate change more seriously. He responded with a simple, “No, I can’t.”

We have yet to see the Trump administration take direct action to combat climate change and potentially reduce the occurrence of hurricanes.

The Latest Weapon Being Used Against Climate Change Science: Cynicism

Climate scientists have struggled to make their voices heard in the realm of politics. The past few weeks have demonstrated this struggle, leaving many scientists disheartened by the lack of progress. To add fire to the already warming world, the Trump administration displayed a cynical view of the environment that has rarely been seen before.

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Climate Change Graphic Credit: Pete Linforth / pixabay

Sometimes, climate science is stifled by bureaucracy and foreign relations that lead scientists to be disheartened by the lack of progress. This is best demonstrated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s governing body on climate change.

The job of the IPCC is to promote the climate goals set by the world’s governments, such as those that were set by the Paris climate agreement, but the panel has no direct control over the choices governments make. In order to help enforce the rules, the IPCC must be able to inform governments about why the rules are necessary, which can be a difficult task.

Drew Shindell, a climate expert at Duke University and one of the authors of the IPCC report, said, “The pledges countries made during the Paris climate accord don’t get us anywhere close to what we have to do. They haven’t really followed through with actions to reduce their emissions in any way commensurate with what they profess to be aiming for.”

At other times, important science is hidden in stacks of unnecessary paperwork. For example, the Trump administration’s EPA recently released a 500-page environmental impact statement in which it was projected that the planet would warm a disastrous 4 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.

The latest move of the Trump administration has been to use climate data as a way to argue against environmentally-friendly policies. The administration used the 500-page report to take an anti-environment stance. Instead of issuing the 4 degrees Celsius projection as a warning against climate change, the Trump administration used it to make the argument that the fate of the planet is unchangeable.

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration issued a draft statement that justified President Trump’s decision to freeze federal fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020, citing that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that the standards would cause isn’t enough to save the planet.

This “unstoppable” view of climate change is dangerous. NASA has stated that some of the effects that can be expected from climate change are the loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves.

Other organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have noted further effects of climate change on life. WWF noted that the impacts of climate change vary in different kinds of forests, with Sub-Arctic boreal forests being put in the most danger. The EDF took a different route, arguing that climate change can have a significant impact on human life: damaging agriculture, polluting the air and destroying transportation infrastructure.

The WWF has also released climate change ads focused on protecting wildlife from its impacts:

The IPCC states, “Taken as a whole, the range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time.”

People Are Angry About The Changes The EPA Announced This Week

On Thursday news broke that the Environmental Protection Agency is planning to remove its Office of the Science Advisor. The science advisor serves as a counsel to the EPA administrator to update them on scientific research focused on health and environmental regulations, and to make sure the highest quality science is integrated into the agency’s policies. The decision has not officially been made public.

President Trump took longer than usual to nominate a person to lead the Office of the Science Advisor, but eventually nominated meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier in August. Kelvin has already gone through the Senate Confirmation process, but the latest plans by the EPA put his position in limbo.

John Konkus, a spokesman for the EPA, emailed the New York Times a statement from the current science adviser, Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, in which she said that the decision to dissolve the office would “combine offices with similar functions” and “eliminate redundancies”.

Many people took to Twitter to disagree with the proposed plans:

On Tuesday the EPA placed Dr. Ruth Etzel, the head of the EPA’s Office of Children’s Health, on administrative leave. Etzel was asked to give up her badge, keys and cellphone. The EPA has declined to comment on personal matters.

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Ruth Etzel, the head of EPA’s Office of Children’s Health, speaking in Alaska in 2016. Alaska Community Action on Toxics via YouTube / Via youtube.com

In an email obtained by BuzzFeed, Etzel said, “I appear to be the ‘fall guy’ for their plan to ‘disappear’ the office of children’s health. It had been apparent for about 5 months that the top EPA leaders were conducting ‘guerrilla warfare’ against me as the leader of OCHP, but now it’s clearly official.”

Dr. Etzel has received an abundance of support, including calls to reinstate her to her position:

Experts, such as University of California at San Francisco professor Tracey Woodruff, are also worried about the future of the Office of Children’s Health following the removal of Etzel.

FEMA Chief Brock Long Is Facing Charges Detailing Misuse Of Government Vehicles, And People Are Mad

Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long has come under fire today for using government-issued vehicles and staff on 40 trips for personal reasons. An internal investigation on Long’s trips found that the trips included a family vacation to Hawaii.

Long was also said to have been involved in a crash when riding in a government-issued vehicle, but his name was excluded from the collision report, according to people familiar with the incident.

Many people were mad, calling the actions corrupt and crooked:

While others found time to poke humor:

Today’s revelations come after the initial announcement on September 13 that Long and Department of Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen clashed with each other over Long’s travel home to North Carolina. Long was the target of an ongoing DHS inspector general investigation into Long’s potential misuse of government vehicles when traveling to his home from Washington.

FEMA faced a lot of scrutiny in the days leading up to Hurricane Florence, and it is continuing to face it.

The US Has The Potential To Create A Carbon-Capture Network, But It Hinges On Funding By New Tax Credits

Researchers recently released an article that suggests the development of a pipeline network to enable the United States to capture, utilize, and store greater amounts of Carbon, reducing the amount of CO2 released into the environment. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper proposes a pipeline network that can transfer carbon dioxide from ethanol refineries across the American Midwest.

The article, written by Ryan W. J. Edwards and Michael A. Celia of the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Princeton University, focuses on the need for government financing of their proposed project. With the government financing 50% of the pipelines, they estimate that nearly 19 million tons of carbon dioxide per year could be captured and transported at a profit.

“Without government finance, we find that a network earning commercial rates of return would not be viable,” wrote Edwards and Celia.

 

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Figure of colocated sources of CO2, existing CO2 pipelines, and potential saline storage capacities. Image by Ryan Edwards, Princeton University

The tax credit that was recently passed by Congress in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 initially gave the authors the motivation to propose their pipeline network, and suggest that the new tax credits are one of the most significant policies incentivizing carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS).

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented computer-model-generated scenarios that suggested that reducing carbon emissions could reduce global temperatures from rising and maintain a goal of keeping the planet’s average temperature within 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This threshold was further established in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Edwards and Celia decided to focus on ethanol biorefineries, because the excess gas produced is 99 percent carbon dioxide, and ethanol refineries in the Midwest produce 43 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

However, the construction of new pipelines has been a controversial topic for years. Fatality statistics from 2005 through 2009 state that oil pipelines are roughly 70 times as safe as oil trucks, which are more likely to be involved in car accidents, but pipeline failure poses disastrous environmental consequences. It was estimated that more than 3.1 million gallons of hazardous liquid per year were spilled from pipelines between 2008 and 2012.

Tony Iallonardo of the National Wildlife Federation told ProRepublica, “It’s inevitable that as pipelines age, as they are exposed to the elements, eventually they are going to spill. They’re ticking time bombs.”

Most notably, an ExxonMobil pipeline carrying Canadian oil sands through Mayflower, Arkansas, broke and spilled an estimated 210,000 gallons of Canadian crude oil onto the homes of 29 people. Reporters who covered the incident were threatened with arrest because Exxon wanted to release the daily updates covering the spill.

 

 

Due To Recent Flood Events, Coal Ash Has Escaped Into The North Carolina Landscape — What Environmental Impact Has It Had?

On Friday, floodwaters busted the Sutton Lake Dam, which is connected to Duke Energy’s L.V. Sutton Plant in Wilmington, North Carolina. Environmentalists are concerned that the coal ash dump located behind the dam has escaped into the Cape Fear River.

Duke Energy had to shut down its Sutton plant on Sunday. The company claims that the coal ash hasn’t contaminated the Cape Fear River.

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Gray muck floats on the Cape Fear River near the L.V. Sutton Plant near Wiilmington N.C. Credit: Peter Harrison / Earthjustice via AP

The ash containment pit at the Sutton plant was built in 1974, and it held approximately 400,000 cubic yards of ash. The area received more than 30 inches of rain due to Hurricane Florence.

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and the Cape Fear River Watch have been skeptical of Duke Energy’s claim, and are currently working on collecting data for a third-party analysis.

“Keep in mind, Duke sent their samples to their in-house lab. Until you have a third-party analysis, any analysis should be taken with a grain of salt,” said Kemp Burdette of Cape Fear River Watch.

Earthjustice, an environmental advocacy group that had a boat on the river, took pictures of gray slicks in the water and they rinsed off a turtle they found caught in the muck.

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Turtle being removed from gray muck along the Cape Fear River near the L.V. Sutton Plant. Credit: Peter Harrison / Earthjustice via AP

Duke Energy recently reported that arsenic and metal concentrations in the Cape Fear River has been slightly elevated following the Sutton flooding, but noted that there was no indication of coal ash entering the river.

Arsenic is naturally present at high levels in groundwater, and it is highly toxic when in its inorganic form. Duke Energy’s study on the Cape Fear River gave a test result of 1.11 thousandths of a milligram per liter of water. Although this doesn’t come close to reaching the concentration limit set by the state, 50 thousandths of a milligram, it is still higher than normal.

The levels of metals found in the river were more manageable, at 2.2 milligrams per liter on Friday when the dam was breached. Other contaminants found in the river included selenium, chromium, oil and grease; however, Duke noted that the contamination of these chemicals was well below permitted regulatory limits.