Category Archives: Monterey

Sustainable Road Trip: a Green Getaway to Carmel, California

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Some people feel that 3D movies offer the ultimate adventure. I beg to differ. A road trip up the Big Sur Coast of California? Now, there’s an actual reality that can put any virtual reality to multi-sensory shame.

While heading north along U.S. Highway 101 through the central California coast, many words come to mind, such as charming, nature, balance, and beauty. But adjectives are one thing and experiencing these qualities firsthand is truly another. There’s nothing quite like navigating the scenic stretch of California from Cambria to Carmel-by-the-Sea. Encompassing a winding, 100-mile span of jaw-dropping chartreuse-colored cliffs, sweeping ocean views, and lush, Cypress tree silhouettes, the voyage along Pacific Coast Highway will leave you breathless.

Since my husband, Ron, and I typically choose the road less traveled, I highly recommend traversing along Highway 101 versus Interstate 5 out of Los Angeles. Yes, this decision will cost you about 30 minutes of extra drive time, depending on traffic, but the memories will be timeless.

Healthy Eats

Just a few of the delicious offerings at the Hummus Bar and Grill in Tarzana, California. Photo: Lisa Beres

We departed Orange County, California, on Friday morning with full intentions to beat the LA traffic. It worked.

But hunger kicked in soon after the 101 merger, so we exited in Tarzana, where we stopped at Hummus Bar and Grill. This Israeli-inspired Middle Eastern-eatery was bustling at lunchtime. And it was quickly clear why. The vast menu offered a variety of vegan and non-vegan entrees and appetizers.

We devoured everything from marinated mushroom hummus, fresh Israeli salad, and tahini-drizzled falafel to fried cauliflower, babaganoush, and Baladi eggplant. Ron didn’t waste any time in ordering the very vegan donut holes with a creamy dipping sauce for dessert. Carnivorous friends, fret not — they offer fish, filet mignon, Kosher food, and kabobs, too.

Green Local Lodging With a German Touch

The Hofsas House hotel offers elegance, charm, and earth-friendly practices in Carmel, California. Photo: Lisa Beres

After we rolled back into our Jeep, bellies stuffed like two Greek grape rolls; we proceeded along our journey to the Big Sur Coast. The six-hour drive had us entering the charming town of Carmel-by-the-Sea at dusk, my favorite time of day; the azure-colored sky coupled with wood-burning fireplace aromas can soothe any soul. We checked into the Hofsas House, a Bavarian-inspired boutique hotel that offers European elegance with the charm of family-owned-and-operated hospitality.

The Hofsas House isn’t just another picturesque hotel in Carmel; the owners take sustainability seriously. The Hofsas House incorporates a rainwater catchment system and provides recycling bins in every room. The city of Carmel is also on the green bandwagon with a ban on Styrofoam, and being the first city on the Monterey Peninsula to ban plastic straws and plastic eating utensils (unless they are biodegradable or recyclable).

Everything about the Hofsas House is cloaked in warmth, including general manager and owner, Carrie Theis. Her family has served up comfort, style, and views of the Pacific Ocean for over 70 years. The Hofsas House is nestled smack dab in the center of town, making this a sustainable choice for lodging. From art galleries, pubs, restaurants, and coffee shops to wine and olive oil tastings, activities are a just a cobblestone’s throw from your room’s Dutch door. The Hofsas House offers 38 uniquely designed, spacious rooms that include fresh ocean air, sweeping views of the pines, free wi-fi, and wood-burning fireplaces in every room. Our room was well-appointed and donned with a king-sized bed, ocean view, and wet bar. You’ll instantly feel welcome and so will your four-legged friends.

Saturday morning, we met with third-generation owner Carrie, to hear tales of how her grandmother founded the Hofsas House and how she has checked in weary travelers since she was a teenager. While we chatted by the lobby’s copper-lined fireplace, we enjoyed a complimentary breakfast of French roast coffee and fresh fruit and muffins from the neighborhood bakery.

The village of Carmel-by-the-Sea offers a wide selection of restaurants and shopping, and quaint, “storybook” architecture. Photo: Lisa Beres

Eco-Friendly Shopping in Carmel

Next, we strolled to the quaint village of Carmel, which boasts a rich history and spectacular beauty. We wandered in and out of shops, including a visit to Eco Carmel, a self-proclaimed “general store for all things earth and people friendly!” We couldn’t agree more. Next, was a visit to Trio Carmel for some truffle oil tasting. (Yes, we left with a bottle of black truffle oil and let’s just say, plain popcorn will never be the same.)

After the oil indulgence, we hit the 5th Avenue Deli to grab a vegan picnic lunch: a salad for myself and veggie wrap for Ron. We proceed to the nearby gates to embark on 17-Mile Drive — a must if you are in the area. Everywhere you turn is a sight for sore eyes, from tranquil deer grazing on the Pebble Beach golf course to seagulls perched on rugged, ocean-lined rocks. The air is fresh, the grass green, and the ocean as blue as nature intended. The untouched beauty and respect for the environment are nowhere more apparent.

View of the Pacific Ocean from the side of 17-Mile Drive on California’s Monterey Peninsula. Photo: Lisa Beres

We proceeded to the at the Inn at Spanish Bay and walked out to the fire pits to enjoy our picnic. Carrie informed us a bagpipe player arrives on the lawn each evening to entertain, but in this case, the early birds did not catch the plaid-skirted worm.

Sustainable Wine Tasting

Author Lisa Beres and her husband Ron sample the wines of Scheid Vineyards.

Late afternoon, we headed back to downtown Carmel to do as any smart tourist would do in wine country — sniff, swish, sip, and savor. First up was the tasting room for Blair Wines, located on the lower level of Carmel Plaza. We met owner, Jeffrey Blair, who made us feel right at home. Jeffrey shared so much knowledge and enthusiasm about wines, and we both agreed that Blair Estate offers some of the best tasting wines we’ve ever had.

Next, we proceeded to the Scheid Vineyards tasting room. While neither of us was familiar with Scheid, it was hard to ignore the vast vineyards on the drive up. But what we didn’t know was that Scheid is a sustainable winery whose eco-efforts include:

The use of screw caps

Maintain the integrity of the wine and prevents loss of product
More consistent seal than cork

Reusable wine bags

Versatile, great for multiple uses
They return bags for new wine orders
Fabric bags reduce the need for paper products

Locally sourced products

Make efforts to sell locally sourced products


Transaction receipts and wine club signups are all paperless


The environmentally friendly pulp wine shippers are recyclable and biodegradable


All empty wine bottles and cardboard cases are recycled

Ocean-Front Dining

The Beach House Restaurant at Lovers Point offers a romantic setting for an excellent meal. Photo courtesy of Beach House at Lovers Point

Saturday night arrived, and so did a romantic visit to nearby Pacific Grove to dine at one of the most picturesque spots you’ll ever witness, The Beach House Restaurant at Lovers Point. If you don’t feel the romance here, candles and chocolates won’t help. The food was superb, the energy lively, and the views — spectacular. While the California-inspired cuisine offers something for everyone, we chose our standard vegan fare by sticking with the starters and proceeded to feast on chilled Castroville artichoke, charred Brussels sprouts (sans the chorizo), and arancini.

The Beach House Restaurant’s chilled Castroville artichoke. Photo courtesy of Beach House at Lovers Point

The night was not-so-young, so we waltzed a block from our hotel to the nearby Hog’s Breath Inn, formerly owned by actor, Clint Eastwood (who also happens to be a former mayor of Carmel). The Hog’s Breath Inn is rich in brick, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, and history. We sat by a cozy indoor fireplace (and tried to ignore the hog mounted on the wall above us). We enjoyed a nightcap, heard stories from the bartender, and reminisced about the day’s adventures.

Lisa and Ron enjoy the fire at Hog’s Breath Inn, Carmel, California

Local Artists

Sunday arrived much too soon, and we had one last stop: the Testerosa Winery tasting room in Carmel Valley Village to meet with local artist, Katrina Kacandes. We met Katrina on a past trip and loved her passion for all things creative, colorful, and Carmel. Her abstract, etheric, and vibrant art incorporates recycled pieces from old gloves to matchboxes and is inspired by the local landscape and ocean. From fairies, fireflies, and fish, Katrina wants you to interpret her pieces the way you see them with your mind’s eye. You can find her work online or locally at the Patricia Qualls Art Gallery in Carmel Valley.

Heading Home

The charming dining room at Café Rustica in Carmel Valley Village. Photo courtesy of Cafe Rustica

We enjoyed a farewell lunch at the oh-so-enchanting Café Rustica in Carmel Valley Village. The beet salad was superb, but the company and ambiance were the true icing on the cake.

It was time to head home and leave this dreamy adventure as a distant memory and sweet reminder. Life is beautiful. Nature is perfect. Beauty is everywhere. No matter what stresses or challenges life throws at you, don’t forget, there is a world of wonder right under your steering wheel ready to be explored, enjoyed, and experienced.

If you haven’t headed outside looking for adventure recently, it may be time to get your motor running. Even if you weren’t born to be wild, it’s time, my friend, to channel your inner nature’s child.

Author Lisa Beres

Feature photo courtesy of Lisa Beres

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Sustainable Road Trip: a Green Getaway to Carmel, California

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This map shows you what your city will feel like in 2080 and boy, are we in for a treat

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What will your city feel like in the year 2080? If you’re a frequent traveler in these United States, you might already know. A study out Tuesday in the science journal Nature Communications breaks down future warming by drawing parallels for 540 North American urban areas.

In 60 years, New York could feel like today’s Arkansas. Chicago is on a crash course for Kansas City. San Francisco’s blustery weather is destined to warm to Southern California temperatures. Raleigh, North Carolina, will feel like Tallahassee, Florida. You get the picture. The study used the highest warming scenario, an outcome where we don’t mitigate emissions and the planet warms around 8.8 degrees F, to map it out.

As a New Yorker, I’m tempted to think a winter that’s 5 degrees warmer and around 20 percent drier wouldn’t be so bad. Fewer hours spent on a freezing subway platform? Sign me up. LA is supposed to feel like Cabo by 2080; does that mean residents of the City of Angels should be prepping for a permanent vacation? Hell no! If emissions stay on their current trajectory, the only vacation we’ll all be taking is a direct flight to purgatory.

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Late last year, Grist took the latest federal climate science data and used it to break down what we can expect climate change to do to different regions by the end of the century. It’s not pretty. If warming temperatures existed in a vacuum, sure, why not take a permanent trip to Arkansas or Cabo, but rising temperatures are accompanied by a host of plagues that rival the ones Moses brought upon the people of Egypt.

My neck of the woods, the Northeast, is looking at the “the largest temperature increase in the contiguous United States.” That means more ticks, fewer dragonflies, a maple syrup deficit, delayed ski seasons, and “anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder” following extreme weather events. Fun!

The Southeast can expect hot nights that turn hotter days into a living nightmare. And don’t even get me started on the lionfish, which is going to make it’s creepy way closer to the Atlantic coast as waters warm. And what of California, where Los Angelinos can expect destination-wedding temperatures? The state has mega-droughts and wildfires in store for it, among other horrors.

Now that you’re sad (sorry!), here’s the good news: If we reduce emissions and get on track for a lower emissions scenario where the planet warms 4.3 degrees F, the temperature forecast looks less scary. Case in point: in this lower scenario, New York feels like Lake Shore, Maryland, Raleigh feels like Louisiana, and LA feels like neighboring Monterey Park, California.

Originally posted here:  

This map shows you what your city will feel like in 2080 and boy, are we in for a treat

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A shellfish diet might be even better than going vegan

Not all fish are created equal when it comes to their impact on the climate. In the prophetic words of Dr. Seuss: “Some are glad. And some are sad. And some are very, very bad.”

A new study takes a rare look at the carbon emissions that come with your choice of seafood. And there are a lot of surprises. Farming catfish creates more emissions than farming chicken, while eating shellfish is even more climate-friendly than a purely vegan diet, according to the study.

This suggests that not all pescetarianism is created equal — and throws another loop into the complicated task of ranking fish sustainability. Take the aforementioned farmed catfish. The Monterey Bay Aquarium calls catfish raised in tanks a “best choice.” But when the researchers looked at the full lifecycle of resources needed to support catfish farms, they found that they were pretty dirty. The recirculating pumps needed to control conditions in catfish tanks require a significant amount of energy, and a lot of that energy comes from coal plants in Asia.

Your lobster bisque is almost as bad: The motors used to check lobster pots burn up a lot of gas. “Lobster has a terrible carbon footprint,” says Ray Hilborn, one of the researchers responsible for the study. On the other side of the scale were mollusk aquaculture — oysters, mussels, scallops, and clams — which are wonderfully efficient, and small wild fish, which don’t take much energy to gather up.

The methods used in the study were sound, and results line up with the findings of other studies, says Richard Waite, a food expert at the World Resources Institute, who was not involved in the research. However, this study didn’t consider the amount of land that different animals require, Waite notes.

About half the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture come from farmers clearing forests. If you include the land needed to feed the animals, it significantly increases the emissions released in livestock production — making fish look better by comparison. And if you consider the type of land being cleared for farms, it downgrades the sustainability of shrimp farms in Southeast Asia. (It is possible to do shrimp farming right, as Amelia Urry found when she visited this cool shrimpery in Hawaii.)

Percentage mangrove deforestation between 2000 and 2012, and dominant land uses of deforested areas in 2012.Richards and Friess

But Waite agreed with the study’s major conclusions. It’s just hard to beat a shellfish farm, he says: “There’s no land use at all, no freshwater use, no fertilizer use — in fact, they clean up the surrounding water.” Shellfish farms are usually in coastal waters, where there’s plenty of space. Consider those factors together, and it looks like it’s more environmentally friendly to get your calories from mussels than from veggies and beans.

The study was supported by a grant from the Seafood Industry Research Fund. Funding can often subtly (or not so subtly) influence science, but in this case it’s unlikely to have done so, given the study was comparing the relative merits of different sectors of the seafood industry.

“A real surprise to me was how low the impact of salmon farming was,” study author Hilborn says. “I’ve done a lot of work with Alaska fishers and they basically hate salmon farming, but it looks like it’s not so bad.”

For a long time, people have been saying that seafood could be a sustainable solution as we try to feed a more crowded planet. But it’s important to discriminate between the good and the “very, very bad.” This one has a little star — it’s basically carbon neutral. And this one has a little car — it’s a fossil-fueled fish. Stay away from the fossil-fueled fish.

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A shellfish diet might be even better than going vegan

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From wildfires to floods, climate change keeps coming for Montecito, California

This story was originally published by Wired and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Montecito came back to life on Friday. The 9,000-person town to the east of Santa Barbara had been empty since Tuesday, when mandatory evacuations forced residents out of their homes for the fifth time in four months.

This week, it was a channel of tropical moisture called the Pineapple Express, dumping bands of intense rain and triggering flash floods throughout Southern California. In January, it was a once-in-a-200-year storm that dropped half an inch of water in five minutes, unleashing massive mudslides that ripped houses from their foundations and killed 27. In December, it was the deadly Thomas Fire that incinerated 280,000 acres — the largest wildfire in California history.

To some, Montecito might just seem like a town hit by a string of superlatively bad luck. But to people crunching the numbers it looks less like an outlier and more like an inevitability of climate change. If you want to see what California looks like in the future, you don’t need a crystal ball. You just need to hop on the 101 and drive until you hit Montecito.

Of course, you’ll have to wait until the weather clears up. For the last few days, a plume of tropical moisture carrying as much water as the Mississippi River has been wringing out between 4 and 9 inches of water along the coast and in the foothills. According to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California Los Angeles, that’s nothing unusual. In fact, it’s what he would call a “textbook” atmospheric river. So why all the fuss? “It’s not the strongest atmospheric river we seen in a long time,” says Swain. “But it’s aimed directly at these burn scar regions which are incredibly vulnerable to flooding and debris flows.”

He’s not exaggerating. If you look at a satellite image of the plume, it’s pointing straight at the 280,000-acre bullseye left behind by the Thomas Fire. That’s bad because fires destabilize the landscape. Without vegetation to hold back the soil, even a little bit of rain on the hills can have huge consequences. A lot of rain can turn things deadly, like it did in January. Slabs of boulders, rocks, downed trees, even wrecked cars careened down the slopes, carried by waist-high mudflows. More than 100 homes were destroyed. Power was out for days.

When the new round of evacuation orders came, the town was still recovering. On Thursday, Montecito sent an excavator out to clear areas where debris was still piled up from the last flow, to prevent creeks and other outflows from sending it further downstream. With the National Weather Service predicting this storm to be even worse, local officials went door to door to make sure people got out and stayed out until the flash flood and mudslide risks subsided. But the question evacuees were asking each other Thursday night wasn’t “when can I go home?” But, “how many more times is this going to happen?”

Obviously no one can know for sure. But the science suggests that every aspect of California’s drought-to-deluge cycle is intensifying in the face of climate change. Even the Pineapple Express.

“In a future world you do see an expansion of this subtropical jet, which drives these southern atmospheric rivers, based on the models we’re using” says Christine Shields, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Sciences. “What that has meant in the projections is that these events become longer lived, carry more precipitation, and have a stronger impact.”

That’s because as the atmosphere warms up, it’s able to hold more and more water, known in weather-nerd circles as the Clausius-Clapeyron relationship. This doesn’t affect the total amount of rainfall, necessarily. That’s more a function of how long the storm sticks around, which can be affected by surface wind and other pressure dynamics. But more water in the atmosphere does mean more intense precipitation — higher rainfall rates. And that’s the one that matters in California. “In these areas decimated by wildfires you may only get 2 inches of rain, but those 2 inches fall in half an hour,” says Shields. “That could be devastating.”

Understanding climate change’s impacts on precipitation intensity is an area of active research, including by Swain’s group at UCLA. He couldn’t speak to their latest findings because they’ve already been accepted for upcoming publication. But he did note that as climate change deals out more extreme weather events, scientists have a stronger financial case for running the kind of computationally expensive models groups like his use to translate global scale dynamics into regional predictions. “The present event is a really good example of why details matter,” he says. “We got the strength right but if the position is off by even 100 miles, that’s a huge difference for who gets impacted.”

This time it might have been the people of Montecito, and this time the storm might have passed without turning the hillsides into a deathtrap. But that’s the thing about California; there’s always another drought and another fire and another flood around the corner. Which means in the Golden State, it’s always evacuation season.

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From wildfires to floods, climate change keeps coming for Montecito, California

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Native American tribes come together to protect Bears Ears from Trump

This story was originally published by HuffPost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Members of the Native American tribes that once came together to petition for the creation of Bears Ears National Monument gathered near the site Sunday to share stories about their connections to the sprawling landscape that the Trump administration recently stripped of certain federal protections.

Named after a pair of buttes, Bears Ears is home to thousands of Native American archeological and cultural sites and is considered sacred to many tribes. Tribal elders and other members of the Navajo Nation, Hopi, Zuni, and Ute Mountain Ute tribes made it clear at the gathering that they are focused on ensuring the area is given the protections they believe it deserves: nothing less than the 1.35 million acres set aside by President Barack Obama in 2016.

Malcolm Lehi, a member of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe who lives near White Mesa, said energy is building in indigenous communities, and lawmakers and government officials can’t turn a blind eye.

“It’s a really strong movement,” he said. “I like what I see.”

In December, on the recommendation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, President Donald Trump reduced Bears Ears by 85 percent, cutting it to 201,876 acres, and divided it into two disconnected areas. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, the group of tribes that petitioned for monument status, condemned the move — which opened the door for new mining claims — and filed a legal challenge.

That Trump decided to gut Bears Ears came as no surprise, given comments he and Zinke made early in their review of the area.

The national monument designation “should never have happened” and was made “over the profound objections” of Utah citizens, Trump said at an executive order signing ceremony. And in a summary report in August, Zinke said the overwhelming number of public comments in support of maintaining the size of Bears Ears and other monuments was simply due to “a well-orchestrated national campaign organized by multiple organizations.”

The last few months have only further confirmed critics’ fears about the administration’s motives. Uranium mining company Energy Fuels Resources, a U.S. subsidiary of a Canadian firm, lobbied the administration to dramatically reduce the monument’s size, the Washington Post reported in December. And the New York Times obtained emails via a public records request that show potential future oil extraction played a central role in the decision.

The storytelling event on Sunday was organized by Utah Diné Bikéyah, a nonprofit organization working to safeguard Bears Ears and other ancestral lands, and came a little more than a week ahead of public scoping meetings that the Bureau of Land Management is hosting as it plans for how to manage the new, smaller monument.

Tara Benally, of the Navajo Nation, said Bears Ears has sustained her people for generations, and that they still use the area for religious ceremonies and to collect food and traditional medicinal plants.

“Losing Bears Ears to a cloud of industrial smoke from extraction and mining does not keep that preservation of life for us,” she said.

Clark Tenakhongva, an artist and the vice chairman of the Hopi Tribe, echoed that message. The Hopi, he said, believe they were the first to occupy this area and feel a responsibility to protect it.

“We do not want or believe that mining is good for our people,” he said at the event. “It may bring revenue, but what are we doing to the Earth?”

The tribes say they were ignored throughout the administration’s months-long review — a claim the Interior Department has dismissed. Zinke did meet with representatives of the tribal coalition last year, but for just one hour. He also toured Bears Ears with several monument opponents, including Utah’s Republican Governor Gary Herbert and commissioners of San Juan County, where the monument is located.

Zinke sparred with Arizona’s Democratic Representative Ruben Gallego on this topic during a congressional budget hearing last week. Gallego, who has introduced legislation that would protect the monument’s original boundary, asked the former Montana congressman about how many times he had met with industry representatives versus coalition members. Zinke said “all sides were represented” in his recommendation to Trump.

Gallego toured Bears Ears over the weekend and ended his visit with a stop at Utah Diné Bikéyah’s event. He told HuffPost that meeting with tribal members and hearing stories about their connections to the area only reinforced for him that the area is worth preserving. Shrinking the monument is an attack on the United States’ public lands and is “stripping parts of, I would say, people’s souls, because the Native American population here is so connected with that,” he said.

Gallego added that he expects “a monumental fight” — one he sees the Trump administration ultimately losing, whether in court or via congressional action.

“People are excited about protecting Bears Ears,” he told tribal members. “It’s something we have to continue to work on. But what I see for the first time in a long time is that the movement to protect Bears Ears is on the offense.”

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Native American tribes come together to protect Bears Ears from Trump

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Climate science’s official text is outdated. Here’s what it’s missing.

The first-ever courtroom tutorial of climate science this week went about as you’d expect. The scientists representing Oakland and San Francisco had Powerpoint problems, and the oil industry’s lawyer cherry-picked his facts.

For all their differences, both sides drew from a common source: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the gold-standard for mainstream climate science. Problem is, the last IPCC report came out way back in 2013. As it turns out, we’ve learned a lot about our climate since then, and most of that new information paints an increasingly urgent picture of the need to slash fossil-fuel emissions as soon as possible.

It’s convenient that Chevron’s attorney relied on that aging five-year-old report. The next IPCC report isn’t planned for public release until the fall of 2019. Gathering consensus takes time, and the result is that IPCC reports are out of date before they’re published and necessarily conservative.

The climate models used in these reports grow old in a hurry. Since the 1970s, they’ve routinely underestimated the rate of global warming. Some of the most recent comprehensive assessments of climate science, including last year’s congressionally-mandated, White House-approved, Climate Science Special Report, include scary new sections on “climate surprises” like simultaneous droughts and hurricanes, that have wide-reaching consequences. The scientists representing the two cities knew this, and didn’t limit their talking points to the IPCC.

“Positive feedbacks (self-reinforcing cycles) within the climate system have the potential to accelerate human-induced climate change,” says a section from that Climate Science Special report, “and even shift the Earth’s climate system, in part or in whole, into new states that are very different from those experienced in the recent past.” None of this was included in the last IPCC report.

Actually, a helluva lot has changed in our understanding of the Earth’s climate system since the 2013 IPCC report. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Sea-level rise is going to be much worse than we thought. Like, potentially a lot worse. In the last IPCC assessment, the worst case scenario for sea-level rise this century was about three feet. That’s now about the midpoint of what’s expected; the worst-case has ballooned to about eight feet. That’s largely because …
  1. Antarctica’s massive ice sheets could collapse much more quickly than we thought. Newly discovered mechanisms of collapse in some of the planet’s largest and most vulnerable glaciers in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are beginning to capture the attention of the scientific community. Should these mechanisms kick in over the next few decades, they’d unleash enough meltwater to flood every coastal city on Earth.
  1. Extreme weather is here and can now be linked to climate change in real time. From the Arctic to the tropics, wildfires, intense storms and other extreme weather events have been increasingly fierce in recent years, and climate change has played a measurable role. A 2016 report from the National Academies of Sciences opened the floodgates, so to speak, of the burgeoning field of extreme weather attribution. From last year’s Hurricane Harvey to last month’s nor’easter-linked floods in Massachusetts, nearly every weather event now bares a traceable connection to human-caused climate change.
  1. Global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius is pretty much locked in. A forthcoming special report of the IPCC will say that meeting the 1.5 degree target — one of the most ambitious commitments of the Paris Agreement — looks “extremely unlikely.” Humanity’s shift to zero-carbon energy sources is moving about 10 times too slowly. At this point, it would probably take geoengineering to prevent it. Researchers have started testing ways to do that.
  1. We’ve already lost entire ecosystems, most notably coral reefs. During a record-breaking El Niño event in 2015, the world lost massive swaths of coral in a global bleaching event “unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.” More than 90 percent of the world’s coral will surely die by 2050 without rapid emissions reductions. That means one of the richest stores of biodiversity on the planet is already in jeopardy.

The climate system is moving much more quickly than we thought, and human action to curb climate change is moving much too slowly. Nasty surprises are increasingly possible, and hopeful surprises are more necessary than ever. But there’s some solace to take from this week’s events. The hearing this week is just one of the many courtrooms in which Big Oil has been forced to defend itself. Challenging polluters directly through the courts might result in one of those hopeful surprises people weren’t betting on five years ago.

Originally from:

Climate science’s official text is outdated. Here’s what it’s missing.

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Oil companies bid on just 1 percent of available plots at America’s largest offshore lease sale

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The largest offshore oil and gas lease sale in U.S. history, which included all available areas in the Gulf of Mexico, garnered only tepid interest from oil and gas companies on Wednesday. Industry and government representatives called the results encouraging and consistent. Critics deemed it an “embarrassing flop.”

The sale was in the spotlight amidst the Trump administration’s push to expand drilling in federal waters, and President Trump’s repeated commitments to “energy dominance.” It was considered a test of the industry’s appetite, and the modest bids that resulted are seen as a setback to the government’s plans of stimulating investment in the gulf. Trump’s efforts to cut environmental regulations and increase offshore oil drilling doesn’t just spell trouble for climate change: The fire sales are lowering the price, and taxpayers lose out as oil companies buy drilling leases at a fraction of the normal cost.

A 77.3 million acre patch of the ocean, about the size of New Mexico, was on the auction block, including plots offshore of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and a small part of Florida. (The majority of waters off the coast of Florida have been protected from drilling in the past, though it’s unclear if that will continue in the future.) The Bureau of Energy Ocean Management received 159 bids from 33 companies, with the top bids totaling $124.8 million.

Bids must be reviewed before they are finalized, but the preliminary results are similar to a slightly smaller region-wide sale in the Gulf of Mexico last year. That sale offered about 1 million fewer acres and generated about $121.1 million in winning bids. BOEM regional director Mike Celata pointed to the higher number of bids in this sale compared to the last (159 versus 99 bids) as a positive sign. “You are definitely seeing an increase in interest,” he said in a press call after the sale. “You see continued, consistent investment in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Earlier this month, Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Wednesday’s sale a “bellwether” for future offshore energy production. If that’s true, Wednesday’s sale might signal rough waters ahead.

Of the 77.3 million acres available Wednesday, just over 800,000 acres — or 1 percent — received bids. And when a tract of land did get bid on, the oil companies didn’t need to compete. More than 90 percent of the tracts of land leased on Wednesday had only one bid. Over the past 20 years, more than three-quarters of the leases awarded in the Gulf of Mexico — 76.6 percent — were awarded on the basis of single bids, the Project on Government Oversight reported earlier this year. Adjusting for inflation, the average price paid per acre in each Gulf of Mexico auction has declined by 95.7 percent, dropping from $9,068 to $391, the report also found.

While sales are not final, the average winning bid price from this week’s sale was $153 per acre, compared to $238 per acre in last year’s Gulf of Mexico sale. “The Trump Administration’s bargain basement fire sales of America’s oceans and public lands to the oil and gas industry are an embarrassing and fiscally irresponsible failure,” the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, said in a statement, calling the sale an “embarrassing flop.”

Major companies like BP, Chevron, and Shell all placed several bids. Money received from the leases are directed to the U.S. Treasury, Gulf Coast states, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Historic Preservation Fund. Lease terms stipulate that winning bidders explore and drill “in an environmentally sound and safe manner.” (If you want more details, check out BOEM’s flowchart of approval steps from sale to drilling.) “Once that process is done, then they can begin punching holes in the ground,” John Filostrat, BOEM director of public affairs, said in an interview with Mother Jones.

BOEM has imposed rental fees that escalate over time to encourage “faster exploration and development” of leases. The government also receives a royalty payment — a percent of production — once the companies start collecting oil or gas. Recently, BOEM cut the royalty rate for shallow water leases by a third (18.75 percent to 12.5 percent) to try to spark more interest. “They are reducing the return for the tax payer,” Raleigh Hoke, campaign director for the Gulf Restoration Network, says.

The Trump administration also has a new offshore energy plan in the works that would open up almost all of the continental shelf for drilling leases in 2019-2024. After a public comment period later this year, the final program is expected next year. Some analysts have predicted that oil companies’ response to the new plan will be slow.

Under pressure from energy companies, the administration recently rolled back offshore drilling safety measures established after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. “It’s crazy,” Hoke says, “to put all these lease blocks up for sale while simultaneously weakening safety regulations, putting workers at risk, and potential opening the door to another catastrophe.”


Oil companies bid on just 1 percent of available plots at America’s largest offshore lease sale

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Fossil fuels are the problem, say fossil fuel companies being sued

Big Oil and the cities suing them in federal court agreed on at least one thing on Wednesday: Human-made climate change is real.

In the country’s first court hearing on the science behind climate change, a lawyer for Chevron, Theodore Boutrous Jr., said the oil company accepts the scientific consensus. He quoted chapter and verse from the reports of the International Panel on Climate Change, the thousands of scientists assembled by the United Nations to figure out exactly what’s going on. “From Chevron’s perspective, there is no debate about the science of climate change,” Boutrous said.

Oil companies have recently started saying they’re on the side of science, but they’ve never said it so clearly in court.

San Francisco and Oakland are suing BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell, arguing that the corporations that profit from fossil fuels should pay for the seawalls and pumps needed to protect them from rising tides. But Boutrous, the only oil company lawyer to speak at the hearing, didn’t accept blame, pointing the finger instead at the people who burned the fossil fuels. In other words, oil doesn’t cause climate change. People burning oil cause climate change.

For five hours, the two sides tried to explain climate science, after U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup had asked for a tutorial. A gaggle of 100-some attorneys, climate advocates, and journalists packed the mid-century-modern courtroom. Alsup strode into the room dressed for science, wearing a smart-looking pair of browline glasses and a tie decorated with images of the solar system.

In the run up to this hearing, journalists compared it to the Scopes monkey trial in 1925, which found a teacher guilty of telling students about evolution, but Alsup shot down such comparisons. “We have these tutorials so the poor judge can learn some science — it helps to have science,” he said in a soft southern accent.

The big question going into the hearing: Would the oil companies try to cast doubt on the evidence that their business model is heating the earth? Climate skeptics have been trying to make their voices heard by sending in friend-of-the-court briefs with their own spin on the evidence, but Boutrous stuck to the scientific consensus unveiling a deft bit of legal jiu jitsu that could form the core of the oil company argument as the case moves forward. Alsup would occasionally raise some climate-skeptic argument, and both sides would explain why it didn’t make sense.

Big Oil’s POV

Boutrous started by citing reports from the IPCC as an unimpeachable authority. These reports are an “amazing resource” he said, before quoting them at length. Boutrous explained that the IPCC has found with increasing certainty over the years that humans fossil fuel use is the primary driver of climate change — but that’s not the only point Boutrous wanted Alsup to absorb. He twice read a quote from the IPCC that climate change is caused “largely by economic and population growth.”

Then, Boutrous added his interpretation. “It doesn’t say that it’s the production and extraction that’s driving the increase,” he said. “It’s the way people are living their lives.”

This appears to be the core of the oil companies’ strategy. First, believe everything the IPCC says. Second, the IPCC says the real problem is prosperity, economic growth! Therefore, blame the ones burning the oil — all we did was dig the stuff up.

To hammer it home, Boutrous showed an IPCC graph of emissions from the United States and China since 1970, with a scale that makes U.S. emissions look like a flat line.

“One thing that surprises me is that the U.S. has gone up, but not gone up much,” Alsup mused, leaning on folded hands. “But China has gone up dramatically.”

“Correct,” Boutrous responded. That’s because China’s population has grown, and its coal-burning economy has grown even more. The implication was clear: It is demand for energy driving carbon emissions, not the companies providing the fossil fuels.

Death by PowerPoint

While the oil companies just had one slick lawyer making a focused argument, the cities had three scientists scrolling through their very own PowerPoint presentations. The scientists hammered some simple points, aided by many graphs of temperature over time. They also skated quickly over some bewildering complexity.

Alsup didn’t let the tricky stuff fly over his head — he jumped in to make the presenters explain. At one point, he questioned Oxford scientist Myles Allen on the graph he was using: “Explain that graph there? I still don’t get it,” Alsup said.

Allen’s explanation only muddied the waters further. “I just don’t think your chart demonstrates what you’re telling me,” Alsup said. After a moment, Allen realized he must have grabbed the wrong figure. “You’re absolutely right,” he said.

At another point the court waited on tenterhooks as a scientist tried to get an animation of sea-level rise to work. It didn’t.

To be sure, the plaintiffs had a bogglingly complex task. There are hundreds of thousands of studies on climate change, and Alsup had asked them to boil it all down into a two-hour presentation, which just isn’t the way science works. Science advances through accumulation of evidence backed by piles of data, but law advances through argument.

After the final expert, University of Illinois scientist Don Wuebbles, had plowed through 20 minutes of facts and figures, Alsup tried to pull him from his PowerPoint. “Just in the last 10 minutes: You heard what the other side said right? What critique would you make?” But Wuebbles declined to respond and returned to his PowerPoint presentation.

The showdown that wasn’t

Alsup appeared to want to see some of the classic climate-skeptic arguments fought out, face to face, in his courtroom. But nothing doing. Each side agreed, for instance, that greenhouse gases are more important than water vapor in warming the planet. If nothing else, that seems like a victory for climate hawks: When all the Big Oil companies are willing to say, clearly and unambiguously, that humans burning fossil fuels are warming the planet, it means that the terms of debate have shifted.

Boutrous represents only Chevron, but Alsup held the feet of the other companies to the fire, too.

“You can’t just get away with sitting there in silence then saying, ‘He’s not speaking for us,’” Alsup told to the attorneys for the other companies. “You have two weeks to tell me if he said something you disagree with.”

This court tutorial was the first of its kind for climate science, but it’s not entirely out of the ordinary. Judges are frequently called on to serve as arbiters of scientific uncertainty, so it only makes sense that they sometimes ask for primers from scientists to get themselves up to speed. “In this age of science, we must build legal foundations that are sound in science as well as in law,” wrote Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. “Scientists have offered their help. We in the legal community should accept that offer.”

Even if this tutorial persuades Alsup, the cities could still lose. The oil companies seem poised to argue that those who bought petro-products are just as responsible as those who sold them. And they will almost certainly argue that those suffering the ravages of climate change should try to fix things by passing laws rather than suing businesses. That’s a position even the most liberal members of the Supreme Court have held in the past.

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Fossil fuels are the problem, say fossil fuel companies being sued

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A federal judge has climate science questions. Here are the answers.

Today’s courtroom drama unfolding in San Francisco will come in the form of a “tutorial” on climate science, not a debate.

Federal Judge William Alsup, a quirky, inquisitive man who previously taught himself the Java programming language for a 2012 lawsuit involving Oracle and Google, will be the only one asking questions. There will be no direct debate between lawyers representing the people of the State of California and those for the defendant oil companies.

In a court document, Judge Alsup narrowed his focus to eight specific questions regarding climate science (in bold below). In the two weeks since the questions were posted, climate scientists have attempted to crowdsource the best, most succinct answers. (I’ve further summed them up in just a few words, in parenthesis.):

  1. What caused the various ice ages (including the “little ice age” and prolonged cool periods) and what caused the ice to melt? When they melted, by how much did sea level rise? (Natural changes in the Earth’s orbit and the amount of greenhouse gases. Sea level rose a lot — more than 400 feet.)
  2. What is the molecular difference by which CO2 absorbs infrared radiation but oxygen and nitrogen do not? (Three-atom molecules vibrate more easily than two-atom molecules.)
  3. What is the mechanism by which infrared radiation trapped by CO2 in the atmosphere is turned into heat and finds its way back to sea level? (Greenhouse gases like CO2 emit extra trapped energy from the sun, warming the surface.)
  4. Does CO2 in the atmosphere reflect any sunlight back into space such that the reflected sunlight never penetrates the atmosphere in the first place? (Yes, but not enough to matter.)
  5. Apart from CO2, what happens to the collective heat from tail pipe exhausts, engine radiators, and all other heat from combustion of fossil fuels? How, if at all, does this collective heat contribute to warming of the atmosphere? (The amount of heat from the sun that’s trapped by greenhouse gases is 100 times more than direct heat from fossil fuel burning.)
  6. In grade school, many of us were taught that humans exhale CO2 but plants absorb CO2 and return oxygen to the air (keeping the carbon for fiber). Is this still valid? If so, why hasn’t plant life turned the higher levels of CO2 back into oxygen? Given the increase in human population on Earth (four billion), is human respiration a contributing factor to the buildup of CO2? (Yes, this is still valid – but this process is roughly carbon neutral, so there is no major impact on the climate. And human respiration of CO2 is 10,000 times too small to matter to the climate.)
  7. What are the main sources of CO2 that account for the incremental buildup of CO2in the atmosphere? (Fossil fuel burning and deforestation)
  8. What are the main sources of heat that account for the incremental rise in temperature on Earth? (Human activities are likely responsible for 93 to 123 percent of recent global warming. It can go over 100 percent because we’re canceling out what would be natural cooling.)

The crowd-sourcing effort (with references) was coordinated by NASA’s Gavin Schmidt, who in an email to Grist said he doesn’t actually expect there to be much disagreement over the science in today’s courtroom tutorial. Chevron, one of the defendants, is not planning to deny evidence at all in its explanations. In fact will refer Judge Alsup to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the gold standard of mainstream climate science.

“Despite the attempted interventions from the fringe,” Schmidt wrote, “ I doubt that the defendants or plaintiffs will be making much hay with the science.”

Even if disagreement is unlikely, Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist from Texas A&M University — who penned a Twitter thread of answers to Alsup’s questions — hailed the uniqueness of today’s court activities.

“Obviously, I wish these issues were not still being debated in court, since they’re not being debated in the scientific community, but I also appreciate the deliberate approach the judge seems to be taking,” he wrote to Grist.

No matter what the oil industry lawyers argue today, these facts are well established: Human activities are by far the dominant cause of modern climate change, and only a sharp reduction in our emissions — which means our use of oil — will help solve the problem.

Continued here:  

A federal judge has climate science questions. Here are the answers.

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A guide to talking about climate change like a Trump official

Imagine you are Brock Long, the man President Trump appointed to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency. You’ve got an interesting challenge on your hands: hammering out FEMA’s long-term strategy while avoiding all mention of “climate change” — an unwritten rule among your colleagues.

The problem is that last year’s pileup of hurricanes, wildfires, and floods completely overwhelmed your agency. And scientists say that these climate change disasters will only get worse. OK — but they’re scientists. Whatever! This is the Trump era.

Under Obama, FEMA’s strategic plan plainly stated that the climate is changing. In the Trump era, that 37-page plan is peppered with the obliquest references to climate change you could dream up: “Rising natural hazard risk. The emerging challenges of 21st century disasters. The changing nature of the risks we face.”

Under the Trump administration, which actively promotes coal and oil while repealing climate policies, “climate change” has systematically disappeared from government websites, social media accounts, and science research, resulting in a culture of censorship.

If you, like a typical Trump administration employee, can’t bring yourself to mention the-change-that-must-not-be-named, try these alternative phrases instead.

‘Pre-disaster mitigation’

FEMA’s new strategy seizes on a delightfully climate-free phrase that appeared just once in the Obama plan. “Pre-disaster mitigation” is employed a full 10 times.

“As the number of people that move to coastal areas increases, and natural and manmade hazards become increasingly complex and difficult to predict, the need for forward leaning action is greater than ever before,” the report reads. “Although the Nation must do more to assess and quantify these increasing risks, we do know that pre-disaster mitigation works.”

It’s like preparing for more extreme weather and rising seas, no climate change involved!

Could FEMA carry out climate policies without acknowledging climate change? It seems unlikely. But then again, the Trump administration has done it before.

Last August, Trump revoked an Obama-era climate policy that made federal building standards stricter in flood-prone places. But after hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria struck, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development brought back a nearly identical rule for states receiving relief.

“All of this is being done without mentioning the words ‘climate change,’ but clearly these are the same types of actions,” Rob Moore, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Bloomberg at the time.

So maybe there’s more hope for FEMA than you’d think. There’s money behind “pre-disaster mitigation,” after all: an entire FEMA grant program is devoted to it.

‘Weather extremes’

Last August, officials instructed staff at the U.S Department of Agriculture to avoid using “climate change” in their scientific work, suggesting “weather extremes” as a replacement.

The message projected far beyond the USDA. An NPR report found that National Science Foundation scientists, hoping to protect their research from funding cuts, had wiped climate change from summaries of their research grants. While climate change mentions were down 40 percent last year, references to “extreme weather” were on the rise.

“Scientists I know are increasingly using terms like ‘global change’, ‘environmental change’, and ‘extreme weather’, rather than explicitly saying ‘climate change,’” Jonathan Thompson, a senior ecologist at Harvard Forest, told NPR.

Sustainability’ and ‘resilience’

The Trump administration has made sweeping changes to federal government websites, systematically removing mentions of climate change. The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI), a group tracking these changes, found many instances where agencies shifted from straightforward language to wishy-washy terminology.

Across the Federal Highway Administration site, page banners that once read “Climate Change,” “Climate Adaptation,” and “Climate Mitigation” are now simply “Sustainability.” The “Sustainable Transport and Climate Change Team” became the “Sustainable Transportation and Resilience Team.”

Justin Schell, an EDGI archivist at the library of the University of Michigan, says that Trump officials may find these vague terms more palatable. “Sustainability and resilience can mean lots and lots of things,” he told Grist. “It could be that this gives them a little more flexibility to do the work that they’re trying to do” — which ostensibly has little to do climate change. Yet the words still come across as having a “green” vibe.

The fact that Trump administration officials are adopting words like “sustainability” and “resilience” could be a worrisome sign that those words aren’t as useful as environmentalists thought.

Excerpt from – 

A guide to talking about climate change like a Trump official

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