Tag Archives: smog

Our air is worse than the EPA says.

The EPA administrator has racked up more than 40 scandals and 10 federal investigations since he took office last February. Nonetheless, Scott Pruitt was smiling when he walked in to testify in front of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Thursday.

Prior to the hearing, the New York Times reported that Pruitt had a plan to deal with tough questions: Blame his staff instead.

He stuck to it. When New York Democratic Representative Paul Tonko confronted him about raises given to two aides without White House approval, Pruitt said, “I was not aware of the amount, nor was I aware of the bypassing, or the PPO process not being respected.”

And Pruitt’s $43,000 soundproof phone booth? Again, not his fault. As Pruitt told California Democratic Representative Antonio Cárdenas: “I was not involved in the approval of the $43,000, and if I had known about it, Congressman, I would have refused it.”

“That seems a bit odd,” Cárdenas commented. “If something happened in my office, especially to the degree of $43,000, I know about it before, during, and after.”

Democratic Representative from New Mexico Ben Ray Luján pointed out that Pruitt was repeatedly blaming others during the hearing. “Yes or no: Are you responsible for the many, many scandals plaguing the EPA?” he asked.

Pruitt dodged the question: “I’ve responded to many of those questions here today with facts and information.” When Luján pressed him futher, Pruitt replied, “That’s not a yes or no answer, congressman.”

Well … it wasn’t a “no.”

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Our air is worse than the EPA says.

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Ditch the deodorant, save the planet?

When Monsanto introduced a new kind of seed that wouldn’t die when exposed to the herbicide dicamba, it triggered a crisis in the southeastern United States. Farmers planted the seed and started spraying dicamba, and it worked great! Except that it drifted onto other farmers’ fields and killed their crops.

And the dramatic plot twists keep coming. One farmer gunned down another in a confrontation over his withered crops. Then, states began to restrict the use of dicamba, with Arkansas completely banning it last summer.

Monsanto wasn’t happy about that. In the latest development, the agribusiness company sued the Arkansas State Plant Board, which regulates pesticides. It also sued each of the individual board members — who, for the record, are just local, agriculture-minded folks who volunteer their time.

One board member, Terry Fuller, told NPR’s Dan Charles: “I didn’t feel like I was leading the charge. I felt like I was just trying to do my duty.”

But farmers on the other side of the debate, who think the ban is way too strict, are demanding at least limited access to dicamba. What a mess.

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Ditch the deodorant, save the planet?

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Who wins from L.A.’s bid to go 100 percent renewable? The kids.

Or so says Lyft’s cofounder and president in a manifesto published on Sunday. John Zimmer writes that he has loved cars ever since getting introduced to Hot Wheels as a 3-year old. But then college ruined all the fun.

“Next time you walk outside, pay really close attention to the space around you,” Zimmer writes, referring to an uncomfortable realization picked up in a city-planning class. “Look at how much land is devoted to cars  — and nothing else.”

For decades now, those with similar epiphanies have concluded that we just need to take that space away from cars, period.

Zimmer proposes something else: a Lyft-branded car subscription service. Composed of both self-driving and people-driven automobiles, it would eliminate the need for private ownership of cars, Zimmer argues. And as this goal gets within reach, the space formerly occupied by parking spots will gradually return to public space.

Zimmer doesn’t have a particular date that this subscription service will be rolled out, which is sensible, because it would have to take a very long time. For now, though, Zimmer’s proposal should be read for what it is — high-quality futurism.

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Who wins from L.A.’s bid to go 100 percent renewable? The kids.

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Terrifying video shows smog taking over the earth

desolation of smog

Terrifying video shows smog taking over the earth

By on 30 Jan 2015commentsShare

If you lived your entire life on NASA’s International Space Station, watching the earth like some sort of space-age Rapunzel, you’d probably imagine that life on the blue planet looks a little like this — and only partly because Harry Potter has been your only companion all those lonely years in space. Mostly, it’s that the earth’s atmosphere actually does resemble a powerful wizard fire battle right now.

Spoiler: It’s not actually magic. The video above, produced by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center between September 2006 and April 2007, shows the paths of air pollution particles (called aerosols) traveling across the globe and, scientists believe, strengthening storms and cyclones.

Since Asia has some of the worst air pollution on the planet, scientists are starting their hunt for an aerosol-weather connection there. Jonathan Jiang and Yuan Wang from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory found that China’s extreme smog leads to worse weather patterns outside of tropical regions. Here’s Quartz with an explanation:

They found that the current pollution patterns, such as heavy pollution from China, lead to stronger cyclones outside of tropical regions. That’s because when storms form across the Pacific, more water condenses onto the increased aerosols. This condensation releases energy, making the storms even more powerful.

OK, China may be particularly grimy right now, but that’s just where the scientists started their research. If you sit down for three minutes and actually watch the globe turn (take this as poetically as you please, but I’m talking about the above vid), you’ll notice aerosol hot spots on almost every continent save the poles. Unfortunately, we can’t holler “stupefy” to halt these dueling forces — well, I dunno, has anyone tried yet?

Watch Asia’s air pollution spread across the globe

, Quartz.



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China Is So Smoggy You Can’t Even See Beijing From Space

Can you find Beijing in this photo? Or anything, really? Photo: NASA Earth Observatory / Jeff Schmaltz / LANCE MODIS Rapid Response

China’s smog problems have been all over the news, with the air pollution to blame for bringing massive cities to a snarlforcing the shutdown of factories and transportation, and wreaking havoc on people’s health. But a new photo captured by NASA’s Terra satellite really puts China’s smog problems into perspective: the smog over Beijing is so thick that it obscures the view of the city from space.

On December 7th, says NASA’s Earth Observatory, the day this photo was captured, “ground-based sensors at U.S. embassies in Beijing and Shanghai reported PM2.5 measurements as high as 480 and 355 micrograms per cubic meter of air respectively. The World Health Organization considers PM2.5 levels to be safe when they are below 25.”

PM2.5 refers to particles of air pollution that have a diameter below 2.5 micrometers.

“Fine, airborne particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 microns (about one thirtieth the width of a human hair) is considered dangerous because it is small enough to enter the passages of the human lungs. Most PM2.5 aerosol particles come from the burning of fossil fuels and of biomass (wood fires and agricultural burning).”

For reference, here’s what the region is supposed to look like from space, a snap captured by Terra in January of last year. Beijing is the city in the top left, nestled among the mountains. The port city in the bottom right is Tianjin.

A smog-free look at the region, taken January 3, 2013. Photo: NASA Earth Observatory / Jeff Schmaltz / LANCE MODIS Response Team

More from Smithsonian.com:

Most of China’s Infamous Black Carbon Smog Comes From Cars And Cook Fires
Air Pollution Closed Schools in China

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China Is So Smoggy You Can’t Even See Beijing From Space

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