Author Archives: Jane Adams

Climate Change Means Fewer Days of Perfect Weather

Mother Jones

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Picture the perfect picnic day: It’s neither too hot nor too cold, neither too humid nor too dry. The sun is shining, and there’s little chance of rain. For many of our outdoor activities, these are the days we care about and plan for. And yet, in the last few decades of climate research, scientists haven’t spent much time researching these “mild weather” days.

“In standard climate science research, we either focus on changes in the mean climate—what is the average annual temperature globally and how does that change in time, or what is the average annual rainfall amount and how does rainfall amount change in a region—or we look at extreme weather and storms, so hurricanes or floods or droughts,” says Sarah Kapnick, a climate scientist at the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). But today, Kapnick, along with two colleagues at NOAA and Princeton University, have released the very first study on global shifts in “mild weather” over the next century, and the results are not looking good.

Annual number of mild weather days right now.

Changes in annual mild weather days in years 2081-2100.

Using a climate simulation model to analyze mild weather days worldwide, the scientists found that today a person, on average, experiences 89 mild days—but by 2100 she will only experience 78. Moreover, though the latter half of the century will see the fastest decline in mild days, we will begin to see the effects within the next twenty years. The model projects that by 2035, our global average of mild days will fall by four. To put this into perspective, El Niño—one of the largest natural climate-changing events—only chips off one mild weather day per year from the global average.

Of course, these mild weather changes are not evenly distributed around the world. For example, the majority of Africa, as well as, parts of Asia, eastern Latin America, and northern Australia—regions most hard-hit by other studied climate change impacts—will also suffer the greatest losses in mild weather, upwards of 25 fewer days, over the next century. That isn’t to say that the US will ride through the upcoming decades unscathed. A table published along with the study shows exactly what key American cities should expect within the next twenty years. Take two examples: Miami, which currently experiences 97 mild weather days per year, will lose 16 of those days by 2035; DC, currently tallied at 81, will lose 7.

Changes in annual mild weather days for key cities in the US. Karin van der Wiel, lead author of the study

Ticking off a couple of days here and there doesn’t sound too bad when you’re planning for picnics or hikes. But, as Kapnick points out, mild weather days also affect critical economic activities, including construction, infrastructure projects, agriculture, and air and rail travel. Such shrinking and shifting of mild weather could lead to significant negative economic consequences, not to mention a threat to our global food supply. Even for the handful of regions around the world where mild weather is predicted to increase, there could be unexpected consequences. “People in sunny California know that just because you have sunny, lovely weather, mild weather, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a good thing for your water resources,” says Kapnick.

Now that a model exists for studying the everyday impacts of climate change, Kapnick hopes other scientists will build off of her team’s work. She says, “We have started with mild weather, but future work can look at other ranges of climate that interest people for specific purposes or activities.”

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Climate Change Means Fewer Days of Perfect Weather

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Millions of Women Now Pay Nothing for Birth Control. Thanks Obamacare!

Mother Jones

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The percentage of privately insured women who didn’t pay a dime for birth control pills almost tripled this year, rising from 15 percent in 2012 to 40 percent in 2013. That’s according to a new study from the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that backs abortion rights. The study, which was published in the journal Contraception, examined the effects of an Affordable Care Act rule requiring private insurers to cover contraceptive products and counseling with no co-pay.

This same rule has come under sustained, delirious assault by Republicans who paint it as an attack on employers’ religious beliefs. During the debt ceiling crisis this fall, some House Republicans were willing to let the government default if the final financial deal did not include a “conscience clause” allowing employers to sidestep the mandate if it violated their religious beliefs. (The Obama administration has already exempted a narrowly defined set of religious institutions.)

That battle will come to a head this spring, when the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Citing their Christian beliefs, owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores are refusing to provide their female employees with insurance that covers contraceptive services. A decision in favor of Hobby Lobby could blow a hole in the contraception mandate, allowing any private employer to withold birth control coverage simply by citing their religious beliefs.

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Millions of Women Now Pay Nothing for Birth Control. Thanks Obamacare!

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Thanks to climate change, the world is going to need a lot more firefighters

Thanks to climate change, the world is going to need a lot more firefighters

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Memo to adventurous career seekers: The planet is going to hell in a handbasket, but you can make the most of it by joining an industry that’s guaranteed to keep growing as the atmosphere keeps warming: firefighting.

As drought-parched forests and grasslands increasingly combust, the U.S. government is spending more than ever before on firefighting — $1.9 billion last year. That should be creating some job opportunities.

Not content to just hang out in your own country, idly battling blazes and risking your life for the protection of exurban McMansions? Well, then why not jet off to a fireswept pyromaniac’s paradise? Australia, the home of the bushfire, is going to need to double the number of firefighters it employs over the coming years as the already parched continent is ravaged by ever more droughts and heat waves. That’s according to a study just published by Australia’s Climate Council:

Australia is a fire prone country and has always experienced bushfires. All extreme weather events are now being influenced by climate change because they are occurring in a climate system that is hotter and moister than it was 50 years ago. …

The fire season will continue to lengthen into the future, further reducing the opportunities for safe hazard reduction burning. …

Fire frequency and intensity is expected to increase substantially in coming decades in many regions, especially in those regions currently most affected by bushfires, and where a substantial proportion of the Australian population lives. …

By 2030, it has been estimated that the number of professional firefighters will need to approximately double (compared to 2010) to keep pace with increased population, asset value, and fire danger weather.

The alarming trend shouldn’t be too hard to explain to an Australian prime minister who has long volunteered as a firefighter. Then again, the prime minister is Tony Abott, who also happens to be a climate denier. Maybe he’s the guy who really needs the career-change advice.

Be Prepared: Climate Change and the Australian Bushfire Threat, Climate Council

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

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Thanks to climate change, the world is going to need a lot more firefighters

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Did Super Typhoon Haiyan Just Shatter The Global Hurricane Intensity Record?

Mother Jones

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By at least one measurement, it appears that Super Typhoon Haiyan, which just slammed into the Philippine island of Samar, may be the strongest storm reliably recorded on Earth. Additional measurements and analysis will surely be necessary to confirm this, but for now, here’s what we know:

The U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center, which tracks typhoons and Super Typhoons—the most powerful storms on the planet—estimated Haiyan’s maximum 1-minute sustained winds at 170 knots, which translates into about 195 miles per hour.

According to meteorologist Jeff Masters, a number of Pacific storms prior to 1969 were measured with wind speeds equal to or above 170 knots, but these estimates are now considered unreliable. Since 1969, the three strongest storms on record by wind speed all had winds of 165 knots, or 190 miles per hour: 1979’s Super Typhoon Tip, 1969’s Atlantic Hurricane Camille, and 1980’s Atlantic Hurricane Allen. Haiyan just passed all three by this metric, though Masters notes that there is less confidence in Haiyan’s true intensity, since Tip, Camille, and Allen were all investigated by hurricane hunter aircraft. Haiyan’s intensity has only been estimated based on satellite images (you can read more about how these satellite measurements are done, and why Haiyan presented such a stunning satellite image, in this great New Republic article by Nate Cohn).

There are some additional caveats here: Wind speeds are only one way of determining a storm’s intensity. Another is measuring its minimum central pressure, and here Tip still reigns supreme, with a minimum central pressure of 870 millibars.

Most disturbing of all is another record: At landfall, Haiyan was more intense than any other landfalling storm.

Is it possible that Haiyan was a “Category 6” hurricane? Officially, the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale defines the category 5 range (the highest category) as beginning at 137 knots. But once you’re 33 knots above that, as Haiyan was, perhaps the scale has been superseded. After all, the entire Category 2 range only spans 12 knots.

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Did Super Typhoon Haiyan Just Shatter The Global Hurricane Intensity Record?

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Watch: Congressman Makes "Completely Wrong" Claim About Temperature

Mother Jones

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At a congressional hearing Wednesday on the Obama administration’s climate-change policy, most Republicans steered clear of global warming denial. But not David McKinley. The West Virginia Republican insisted that “over the last 40 years,” there has been “almost no increase in temperature, very slight.”

Scientists disagree. Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, called McKinley’s claim “completely wrong.” Michael Mann, the Meteorology Director at Penn State’s Earth System Science Center, called it a “flat-out falsehood.” Mann explained that “global mean temperatures have warmed at an average rate of roughly 2 degrees Fahrenheit per century over that time frame.”

Indeed, this NASA chart of annual global temperatures shows dramatic warming over the last 40 years:

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies

McKinley’s office didn’t respond to multiple requests for the source of his temperature claims.

During the hearing, McKinley also argued that Arctic sea ice has “actually increased by 60 percent.” That’s a reference to the fact less ice has disappeared this summer than during the record-setting 2012 melt. Skeptics have cited this in suggesting that the dangers of climate change are overstated, but the fact is that the current Arctic sea ice extent is well below the 30-year average.

National Snow & Ice Data Center

Moments after McKinley spoke, Democrat Henry Waxman called McKinley’s statements “incredibly inaccurate.”

“I think this illustrates why we need a committee where we bring in the scientists,” said Waxman. He added, “We need scientists to come in here and talk about science.”

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Watch: Congressman Makes "Completely Wrong" Claim About Temperature

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GOP Congressman Endorses Bogus Theory That Syria Got Its Chemical Weapons From Saddam

Mother Jones

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On Friday, the Obama administration released its assessment of last week’s chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians. The US government “assesses with high confidence” that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad carried out the attack, and that the Syrian government has a stockpile of sarin and other chemical agents. (UN chemical weapons experts are still working to confirm details regarding the attack.) This declassification was accompanied by Secretary of State John Kerry’s public statement, in which he called the attack a “crime against conscience” and “crime against humanity.”

Something of this magnitude will always provoke a stream of conspiracy theories, some wilder than others. In a radio interview on Thursday, Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) seemed to endorse one of them.

The Huffington Post reports:

“The theory then and the evidence was that Iraq was an enemy of the United States and had direct plans in either support of Al Qaeda and/or with other weapons that we found out weren’t there—which I still think they were moved to Syria,” said Terry. “And it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the chemical weapons that have been used by Syria actually came from Iraq.”

When Becka asked whether Terry’s claim about the transfer of weapons was based on information he had received as a member of Congress, Terry replied, “Gut feeling…”

This theory isn’t new. Senior Bush administration officials publicly flirted with the idea that Iraq transferred weapons to other nations. The claim has been promoted on conservative media and Fox News many times over the years. In 2007, Mitt Romney said that it was “entirely possible” that weapons of mass destruction were moved from Iraq to Syria during the run-up to the Iraq war. The thing is that there is absolutely zero credible evidence that this was ever the case. I called up the State Department to ask about the theory the congressman rehashed. The first spokesperson I talked to simply laughed. The second could only say that the State Department doesn’t “have any information on that.”

For a firmer rebuttal, here’s an AP report from January 2005:

Intelligence and congressional officials say they have not seen any information—never “a piece,” said one—indicating that WMD or significant amounts of components and equipment were transferred from Iraq to neighboring Syria, Jordan or elsewhere…The Bush administration acknowledged…that the search for banned weapons is largely over. The Iraq Survey Group’s chief, Charles Duelfer, is expected to submit the final installments of his report in February. A small number of the organization’s experts will remain on the job in case new intelligence on Iraqi WMD is unearthed.

But the officials familiar with the search say U.S. authorities have found no evidence that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein transferred WMD or related equipment out of Iraq.

A special adviser to the CIA director, Duelfer declined an interview request through an agency spokesman. In his last public statements, he told a Senate panel last October that it remained unclear whether banned weapons could have been moved from Iraq.

“What I can tell you is that I believe we know a lot of materials left Iraq and went to Syria. There was certainly a lot of traffic across the border points,” he said. “But whether in fact in any of these trucks there was WMD-related materials, I cannot say.”

Last week, a congressional official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said suggestions that weapons or components were sent from Iraq were based on speculation stemming from uncorroborated information.

After the subsequent report was released, Duelfer gave an interview to PBS NewsHour in which he expressed doubt that Iraq transferred WMDs to Syria prior to the US-led invasion. “Syria, we had some intelligence that perhaps some materials, suspicious materials, had been moved there,” he said. “We looked as closely as we could at that, there were a few leads which we were not able to fully run down, largely because of the security situation, but it’s my judgment that had substantial stocks, important stocks been moved to Syria, someone would have told something to us about that.”

And in the years since, no new evidence has come to light suggesting otherwise. This all seems to conflict with Rep. Terry’s “gut.”

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GOP Congressman Endorses Bogus Theory That Syria Got Its Chemical Weapons From Saddam

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Democrats will soon have a big, fat fight over fracking

Democrats will soon have a big, fat fight over fracking


Most Democratic politicians say nice things about renewable energy and less-nice things about coal and earnest things about the need for climate action. But when it comes to fracking for natural gas, Dems and enviros are increasingly at odds.

Exhibit A: President Obama. He’s provided unprecedented support for clean energy. He’s making moves to curb pollution from coal-fired power plants. He’s saying climate change is a top priority for his second term. But he’s just fine with fracking. His administration has yet to impose any regulations on the process; it’s only offered weak draft rules so far. It recently approved plans for a third project to export fracked natural gas. Obama thinks natural gas is part of the climate solution, a bridge fuel that will help us make the transition from coal and oil to renewables, as he made clear in his big climate speech in June:

We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions. …

The bottom line is natural gas is creating jobs. It’s lowering many families’ heat and power bills. And it’s the transition fuel that can power our economy with less carbon pollution even as our businesses work to develop and then deploy more of the technology required for the even cleaner energy economy of the future.

Even California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), a long-time booster of clean energy and climate action, is open to fracking.

But as anti-fracking activism heats up around the country, pro-fracking Dems might find themselves increasingly at odds with their base. As we near 2016, any Democrat who wants to replace Obama might have to start singing a different tune.

National Journal reports on the fracking fight shaping up within the Democratic Party:

Led by President Obama, most Democrats have tried to occupy a careful middle ground on the natural-gas industry that’s transforming the U.S. energy economy. But that balance might not last much longer, as environmentally conscious “fracktivists” look for ways to press their case that the potential for pollution outweighs the jobs created by the mushrooming shale-gas drilling industry. …

Some environmental leaders and so-called fracktivists are hopeful the party will turn against the industry. And they have some reason for optimism. Already, Democratic governors and presidential prospects Andrew Cuomo and Martin O’Malley have upheld moratoriums on the controversial process in New York and Maryland, suggesting the issue could emerge as a potent one in a presidential primary. And this summer, the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee passed a resolution calling for all drilling to temporarily halt in the Keystone State. The resolution was nonbinding, but it was nonetheless significant in a state seen as ground zero for the country’s natural-gas boom and where Democrats have been friendly to the industry.

However, any political shift within the Democratic Party won’t come easily. And many party insiders and operatives think it won’t come at all—because the booming industry offers too many economic benefits to too many groups, including members of the Democratic coalition. … Among them are unions that stand to benefit from building the pipelines. …

“For the first time in my memory, you have a real live issue where environmentalists are lined up on one side, and pretty much the entire rest of the Democratic coalition is lined up the other side,” said Matt McKenna, an energy lobbyist for MWR strategies.

As National Journal suggests, watch Cuomo and O’Malley for signs of which way the wind is blowing.

And, of course, watch Hillary Clinton. In a speech on energy last year, she noted approvingly that “natural gas production is surging” in the U.S., but she hasn’t said much else lately that would give us any clues into her thinking. We’ll tell you when she does.

Lisa Hymas is senior editor at Grist. You can follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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Democrats will soon have a big, fat fight over fracking

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How To Assess The Field Of Choices In Hiring Your Solar Panel Contractor

You have tasks that have to be completed even if you have an ailment so you need a solar panel installation contractor to complete it for you. You can be aided in choosing a great contractor with this list of guidelines.

Did you see a solar panel installation contractor on a billboard and think they must be great because they are on a big shiny billboard? Think again! Do not select a contractor based on flashy advertising. Only hire someone after you have reviewed them carefully.

Be cautious of solar panel installation contractors who try to solicit you in a door-to-door fashion. They usually unlicensed and don’t have the proper bonds or insurance. A warning sign of this is when a door-to-door soliciting contractor offers you an unrealistic discount.

When you agree to work with a solar panel installation contractor ask when an appropriate time to call would be. Since they are busy they might have different available hours than you. Agree on set times in which you are allowed to communicate so you are not disrupting each other.

Does the solar panel installation contractor require his workers to be drug tested? Hiring a contractor with untrustworthy workers can be devastating. These workers are going to be on your job on a daily basis so you need to know they are tested.

Always conduct a written agreement for you and your solar panel installation contractor to sign regarding each phase of improvement that needs to be met in your project. This prevents the contractor from purposely taking extra time on the project and unfairly charging you for it.

Enjoy your work. You won’t enjoy every aspect of your job, but if you are generally in a good mood and enjoy your work, your solar panel installation contractor will notice and will start to inherit this mind set. The end result is a good positive relationship.

It is important to hire someone who thinks like you, if they do something that you don’t like, you are stuck with it. Check their old jobs and references to see if their aesthetic standards are similar to yours.

Pressure and strain are inherent when embarking on a big project which requires a solar panel installation contractor. You should expect to encounter unfamiliar circumstances but always consult your contractor for possible assistance. This will warranty you a smoother navigation through the process without worn out by the situations.

Be cautious when hiring a solar panel installation contractor. Most contractors are upstanding people but, there are many people who have been caught portraying a contractor just to scam clients out of money.

Go to any large search engine and type in solar energy installation into search box. You can find a few interesting ideas about green energy options you can use soon.

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