Newsy - Environment The Latest Videos From <![CDATA[Low Water Levels At Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam Threaten Power Supply]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2022 11:45:03 -0500
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America's two largest reservoirs are in trouble. The Colorado River feeds Lake Powell and Lake Mead and both are at near-record lows, which is threatening the water and power supply for tens of millions of Americans.

"Between 2 and 4 million acre-feet of additional conservation is needed just to protect critical levels in 2023," Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton said.

The two-decade-long mega-drought is drying out the west.   

"Less of the precipitation that feeds the river actually makes it into the river," water policy researcher Jeff Lukas said. 

You don't have to tell Robert Gripentog. His family has owned the Las Vegas Boat Harbor since the 1950s.   

"It costs us a lot of money because we have to chase the water down," he said. "We have to move the marina."

He's stayed open as the water levels have dropped more than 40 feet in just the last two years and he's lost about 40% of his business.

SEE MORE: Officials Ask Californians To Limit Water Usage Amid Historic Drought

"We need to come up considerably from where we're at right now," Gripentog continued. 

In July, Lake Mead hit its lowest level since it was created — just 1,040 feet. 

There was some short-term good news this summer, though. A strong monsoon season in the southwest pushed the depth up four feet. However, that doesn't come close to solving the problem.  

As the water keeps dropping year after year, there's less drinking and irrigation water for 40 million people across the region. And there's concerns about the two dams' production of hydro-electric power.

When the water drops below 950 feet, the massive Hoover Dam can't generate any more power. But it doesnt' have to get that low to cause problems. Its power output is already down 36% due to the current water level and there's a chance it could drop too low to make power in the next three years. 

The Glen Canyon Dam on Lake Powell is facing the same problem. The Bureau of Reclamation expects it to be just 32 feet above the minimum pool power level by January 1. There's a 10% chance it could drop below the cut-off level by next year and a 30% change by 2024.  

The Hoover Dam powers the lives of more than 1.3 million people and more than half the power goes to Southern California.

SEE MORE: Why Is The U.S. West Experiencing A Megadrought?

Jim McCarthy is the president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Southern California. 

"We need to realize we're going to have less hydro power, at least in the near term," he said.

The state is home to almost half of all electric cars in the country.  

The heat wave earlier this month threatened the state's power grid. Officials asked electric car owners not to recharge their EVs.

If the state loses the Hoover Dam's hydro power, the drive for consistent clean energy to support clean energy cars becomes less clear.

"If we lose a lot of hydro power, it will be a problem," McCarthy continued. "We need to upgrade now. But if you drive an EV, at least you can power on your own."

The group responsible for grid integrity says the western grid is at risk of an energy emergency because of falling hydro-power levels.  

Last fall, the drought dried up Lake Orville in Northern California, forcing that hydro plant to shut-down for the first time since the 1960s. 

Hydro power is the "black-start" power used to jump-start the country's power grid after blackouts.

The Department of Energy says hydro is critical to grid reliability because it consistently flows, except when it doesn't.

<![CDATA[U.S. Rate of Recycling Decreases]]> Fri, 16 Sep 2022 07:46:02 -0500
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Americans generate a lot of waste — about five pounds per person per day — and a lot of it is plastic. Those flimsy grocery bags, shrink wrap packaging and of course, bottles — lots and lots of bottles.  

Every year, we toss out 2.5 million plastic bottles.  

"They are highly recyclable and its imperative they end up in your recycling bin," Republic Services External Communications Manager Jeremy Walters said.

Together, we create 400 million tons of plastic waste a year. Only two million tons of that gets recycled. We used to do better but during the pandemic, our recycling rate dropped because we started making more garbage.  

"It's how much trash is generated versus how much recycling is generated. And when that trash starts to go up, the recycling volumes start to dilute," Walters continued. 

SEE MORE: Why Can't We Quit Plastics?

Vegas—What happens here, gets recycled here. It's not the official slogan for the city, but it could be. 

This city is known for excess — huge hotels and big casinos. And it also has the largest residential recycling plant in the country.  

Republic Services recycles two million pounds every day, which is the equivalent weight of 500 cars. Workers at the massive plant sort the mixed recyclables, plastics, aluminum, glass and paper and remove the wish-cycle items, which are things we wish we could recycle but can't. 

"Bowling balls, shoes, engine blocks, steel security doors—I promise you, if you use your imagination, we've seen it here," Walters said.

SEE MORE: Is Hitting A 50% Recycling Rate Realistic?

Paper is easily the most recycled item — 50 million tons of it per year, and we also break down and recycle almost all of our cardboard boxes. More than 90% of those boxes get recycled.

There is plenty that doesn't get recycled, though. One hundred and ten million glass bottles get thrown away every year. Glass can be recycled indefinitely—same with aluminum— but we still don't recycle about seven million tons a year. And then there's all those plastic bottles.

All the trash that we create, which does not go through recycling plants like this one, ends up piling up in landfills.  

<![CDATA[President Biden Touts Electric Vehicles At Detroit Auto Show]]> Wed, 14 Sep 2022 14:05:00 -0500
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President Joe Biden, a gearhead with his own vintage Corvette, showcased his administration's efforts to promote electric vehicles during a visit Wednesday to the Detroit auto show.

President Biden traveled to the massive North American International Auto Show to plug the huge new climate, tax and health care law that offers tax incentives for buying electric vehicles. He toured a mix of American-manufactured hybrid, electric and combustion vehicles from Chevrolet, General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis on a closed-off convention center floor, and greeted union workers, CEOs, and local leaders.

The Democratic president, who recently took a spin in his pine-green 1967 Stingray with Jay Leno for a segment on CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage," hopped into the driver seat of a bright orange Chevrolet Corvette Z06 — not an EV —and fired up its engine, alongside GM CEO Mary Barra.

"He says he's driving home," she joked.

President Biden then toured the new electric Ford Mustang Mach-E, marveling with Ford executive chairman Bill Ford at the model's performance. "It's amazing the speed," President Biden said, adding, "Does it have a launch button?" He also explored less-flashy vehicles, like Ford's all-electric E-Transit van and F-150 truck.

SEE MORE: New Gas-Powered Cars Will Be A Thing Of The Past By 2035 In California

President Biden finally got behind the wheel of a Cadillac Lyriq all electric SUV, briefly driving it down an aisle in the blue-carpeted hall. It marked a rare occasion to drive — albeit at little more than a walking pace — for the president, who typically is transported in armored U.S. Secret Service vehicles when out in public.

"Jump in, I'll give you a ride to Washington," he joked to reporters. "It's a beautiful car," he added, "But I love the Corvette."

While President Biden has been taking credit for the recent boom in electric vehicle battery and assembly plant announcements, most were in the works long before the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law on Aug. 16. President Biden's 2021 infrastructure legislation could have something to do with it — it provides $5 billion over five years to help states create a network of EV charging stations.

In Detroit, President Biden was to announce approval of the first $900 million in infrastructure money to build EV chargers across 53,000 miles of the national highway system in 35 states.

SEE MORE: Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Boom Nationwide

Under the law, electric vehicles must be built in North America to be eligible for a new federal tax credit of up to $7,500. Batteries for qualifying vehicles also must be made in North America, and there are requirements for battery minerals to be produced or recycled on the continent. The credits are aimed at creating a U.S. electric vehicle supply chain and ending dependence on other countries, mainly China.

Passage of the measure set off a scramble by automakers to speed up efforts to find North American-made batteries and battery minerals from the U.S., Canada or Mexico to make sure EVs are eligible for the credit.

In April, Ford started building electric pickup trucks at a new Michigan factory. General Motors has revamped an older factory in Detroit to make electric Hummers and pickups.

Long before legislators reached a compromise on the legislation, each company announced three EV battery factories, all joint ventures with battery makers. A GM battery plant in Warren, Ohio, has already started manufacturing. A government loan announced in July will help GM build its battery factories.

Ford said last September it would build the next generation of electric pickups at a plant in Tennessee, and GM has announced EV assembly plants in Lansing, Michigan; Spring Hill, Tennessee; and Orion Township, Michigan. In May, Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, said it would build another joint venture battery factory in Indiana, and it has announced a battery plant in Canada.

Hyundai announced battery and assembly plants in May to be built in Georgia, and Vietnamese automaker VinFast announced factories in North Carolina in July. Honda and Toyota both announced U.S. battery plants after the act was passed, but they had been planned for months.

President Biden has been talking for a long time about the importance of building a domestic EV supply chain, and that may have prodded some of the companies to locate factories in the U.S. But it's also advantageous to build batteries near where EVs will be assembled because the batteries are heavy and costly to ship from overseas.

And auto companies are rolling out more affordable electric options despite battery costs. The latest came last week from General Motors, a Chevrolet Equinox small SUV. It has a starting price around $30,000 and a range-per-charge of 250 miles, or 400 kilometers. Buyers can get a range of 300 miles, or 500 kilometers, if they pay more.

The Equinox checks the North American assembly box. It will be made in Mexico. The company won't say where the battery will be made but it is working on meeting the other criteria for getting the tax credit.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

<![CDATA[Storms Expected To Continue Flooding Southern States For Days]]> Mon, 22 Aug 2022 19:44:00 -0500
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Across massive swaths of the South, heavy rains are prompting flooding and flash flooding.

From the high deserts of Arizona and New Mexico to the swamps of Louisiana, storms are dumping inches of rain, on ground in no shape to absorb all that water.

"We're going for periods of a long time without rainfall, and then bang — we'll get periods of very intense rainfall and flooding," said David Feldman, professor of urban planning and public policy at the University of California Irvine.

In Utah, a hiker was swept away after walking into the narrows of Zion National Park and apparently getting caught in a flash flood. A spokesman said the park received reports of multiple people being "swept off their feet" in a flash flood.

In Phoenix, Arizona, residents spent the weekend sandbagging their homes. And in Dallas, Texas, Brittany Taylor waded through her brand new apartment to find ruined belongings. 

The rains are expected to last for days as a high pressure system parks over the northern states, pushing storms into the South and Southwest.

"Monsoon rains are important, a very important part of the ecosystem in the American Southwest," said Brad Rippey, USDA meteorologist. "However, they tend not to greatly boost soil moisture or reservoir storage."

It’s just a taste of what’s coming.

Scientists already know a destabilizing atmosphere because of climate change means more widespread, intense flooding.

But now climatologists at UCLA have found an increasing risk of a California megastorm — one that would deluge cities and towns over the course of a month and test the state’s dams and runoff instrastructures.

The odds are already one in 50 every year, and getting worse as the amount of greenhouse gas humans put into the atmosphere increases.

That means dealing with this is just part of the new reality.

<![CDATA[Prince William Charity Invests With Bank Tied To Dirty Fuels]]> Fri, 19 Aug 2022 11:52:00 -0500
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The conservation charity founded by Prince William, second in line to the British throne and who launched the Earthshot Prize, keeps its investments in a bank that is one of the world's biggest backers of fossil fuels, The Associated Press has learned.

The Royal Foundation also places more than half of its investments in a fund advertised as green that owns shares in large food companies that buy palm oil from companies linked to deforestation.

"The earth is at a tipping point and we face a stark choice," the prince, a well-known environmentalist, is quoted saying on the websites of the Earthshot Prize and Royal Foundation.

Yet in 2021, the charity kept more than $1.3 million with JPMorgan Chase, according to the most recent filings, and still invests with the corporation today. The foundation also held $2 million in a fund run by British firm Cazenove Capital Management, according to the 2021 filing. As with JPMorgan, it still keeps funds with Cazenove, which in May had securities linked to deforestation through their use of palm oil. The foundation invested similar amounts in both funds in 2020, its older filings show. As of December 2021, the charity also held more than $12.1 million in cash.

The investments, which the Royal Foundation didn't dispute when contacted by the AP, come as top scientists repeatedly warn that the world must shift away from fossil fuels to sharply reduce emissions and avoid more and increasingly intense extreme weather events.

Financial experts say investments like those of the foundation can be blind spots for charities and philanthropies. As climate change is an increasing area of attention for foundations and others, organizations have sometimes struggled to recognize where their own investments lie and align them with more environmentally friendly choices, despite growing numbers of ways to steer clear of funds linked to fossil fuels.

Like the Royal Foundation, in recent years other foundations, including high profile British charities like the National Trust and Wellcome Trust, also have faced criticism for investments with strong connections to fossil fuels or environmentally harmful practices. Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates announced that he divested his foundation's direct oil and gas holdings in 2019.

Charities that are talking the talk "also need to walk the walk," said Andreas Hoepner, professor of Operational Risk, Banking and Finance at University College Dublin, who helped design several European Union climate benchmarks and has sat on its sustainable finance group.

"There are funds that are more sustainably oriented," Hoepner added, pointing to a dozen alternatives to the JPMorgan product that are marketed as sustainable.

There are also alternatives to Cazenove's sustainability fund. For example, funds manager CCLA caters to churches and charities and does not invest in businesses that get more than 10% of their revenue from oil and gas. Another option is Generation Investment Management, founded in part by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

The Royal Foundation said by email that it had followed Church of England guidelines on ethical investment since 2015, and goes beyond them.

"We take our investment policies extremely seriously and review them regularly," the statement said.

The foundation said management fees paid to JPMorgan were small, but declined to provide a figure.

It's not clear what role, if any, Prince William had in investment decisions, as he did not respond to AP requests for comment. JPMorgan Asset Management in an email declined to comment on questions about charities investing in their products despite its record of financing fossil fuels.

Bloomberg data show JPMorgan has underwritten more bonds and loans for the fossil fuel industry and earned greater fees than its competitors in the five years up to 2021.

Environmental NGO Rainforest Action Network looked at direct loans and stock ownership along with bonds and estimated that between 2016 and 2021, JPMorgan's banking arm financed fossil fuel companies with some $382 billion. This was more than any other bank.

"Major investors have their pick of companies to manage their assets, and mission-driven institutions have options well beyond the world's worst fossil fuel bank," said Jason Disterhoft, senior energy campaigner with Rainforest Action Network.

As one of the world's biggest banks, JPMorgan is also a leading financier of green projects, and has set a target of investing $1 trillion in these over the next decade. However, it made about $985 million in revenue from fossil fuels compared to $310 million from green projects since the Paris Agreement in 2015, about three times more, according to Bloomberg Data.

Compared to some other charities, the Royal Foundation's investments are small, with little impact on climate change. But they are not in line with the ethos of the foundation, which lists conservation and mental health as main points of emphasis, or Prince William's public statements. His Earthshot Prize, a "global search for solutions to save our planet," awards grants of up  to $1.2 million each year to projects confronting environmental challenges, according to the charity's website, which suggests banks as among potential recipients. In July, the Royal Foundation announced that the Earthshot Prize had become an independent charity and Prince William would be its president.

Through launching and awarding the prize and in other public appearances, Prince William has been outspoken on the environment for years. He has argued that entrepreneurs should focus their energies on saving the Earth before investing in space tourism, encouraged parents to consider how their children don't have the same outdoor opportunities they had and urged conservation.

"Today, in 2022, as the queen celebrates her Platinum Jubilee, the pressing need to protect and restore our planet has never been more urgent," the prince said in June during Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee.

The policies of the Royal Foundation do not allow ownership of stock in oil companies, tobacco or alcohol. But profits from the Royal Foundation's account could enable JPMorgan to loan more money to the many oil companies it backs, allowing their expansion. In the same way, investing in companies tied to problems with palm oil supply could help fund unsustainable practices.

While the Cazenove fund is marketed as "sustainable," as of May 31 the fund held almost $6 million of shares in Nestlé, and shares worth $8.1 million in Reckitt Benckiser, according to Morningstar Direct data. Both Nestlé and Reckitt Benckiser have faced controversy over their palm oil supply. Clearing rainforests to make way for palm oil plantations is one of Southeast Asia's biggest drivers of deforestation.

Nestlé is the world's largest food and beverage manufacturer, while Reckitt manufactures popular U.S. brands including Lysol and Woolite, and Vanish and Dettol, familiar in the U.K.

A 2021 investigation by the environmental NGO Global Witness said both companies were sourcing palm oil via intermediaries from illegally deforested areas in Papua New Guinea. The plantations responsible were also accused of corruption, use of child labor and paying police to attack protesters.

Another 2021 report, by sustainability analysts Chain Reaction Research, said both companies purchased palm oil from an Indonesian firm that has an affiliated mining project accused of deforestation in an orangutan habitat.

An investigation in 2020 by Chain Reaction Research found that more than 1,235 acres — over 1,000 American football fields — of rainforest in Indonesia's Papua province were felled by a supplier to Wilmar, a giant food and oils producer, from which both source their palm oil.

David Croft, head of sustainability at Reckitt, said no tainted palm oil entered its products from the Papua New Guinea properties, while conceding their mills were previously in its supplier list. An intermediary company linked Reckitt to the Indonesian mining conglomerate in its supply chain, he said, and it was investigating. Croft said they have had "active discussions" with Wilmar, which stopped sourcing from the Papua plantation in January 2022. In a public statement published in response to Chain Reaction's investigation, Wilmar disputed the cleared area was high conservation value forest.

Despite being a "relatively small user of palm oil," Reckitt knows there is more to do, said Croft, and is accelerating its progress. Croft said Reckitt could not get all the product it needs from certified producers before 2026.

Emma Keller, head of sustainability at Nestlé U.K. and Ireland, said the Wilmar case was to be investigated. Nestlé engages with suppliers that fall short to help them change and monitors performance, she said.

Sixty percent of Nestlé's palm oil supply was certified as sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an industry-organized effort, in 2021, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. For Reckitt, that figure was 15.3%.

Keller said that by winter 2021, more than 90% of Nestlé palm oil was deforestation-free and it will achieve zero-deforestation status by the end of 2022. It uses supply chain maps, on-the-ground verification and satellite monitoring for verification. Nestlé was moving toward "a model for conserving and restoring the world's forests," Keller said.

Lily Tomson, of the responsible investment charity ShareAction, said Cazenove had shown some leadership on sustainable investing, but there "remain areas charities such as the Royal Foundation can push them on."

Investors can vote on key environmental issues in companies where they hold shares, for example setting targets to align with the Paris Agreement, or on climate lobbying. Yet Cazenove's parent company, Schroders, voted against 22% of environmental resolutions last year, ShareAction research has found.

Kate Rogers, head of sustainability at Cazenove Capital, said the company engaged with Nestlé and Reckitt, and has seen progress on deforestation.

Environmental factors are ingrained in the company's decision-making, she said, every investment assessed for sustainability. Cazenove has committed to eliminating commodity-driven deforestation from its investments by 2025 and said a new voting policy meant that as of June 2022, the firm had voted against 60 directors of companies it invests in over a lack of climate action.

Dr. Raj Thamotheram, former head of responsible investing at both a $109 billion British university pension fund and AXA Investment Managers, said foundations should be better regulated, with annual reports made to detail how well their investment strategy aligns with their mission.

Thamotheram, now an independent adviser, called unsustainable investments a "cultural and governance blind spot of huge proportions," and said they were endemic in the charity sector.

"It's the status quo approach and it needs shaking up," he said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

<![CDATA[California Heat Wave Prompts Statewide Energy Conservation Push]]> Wed, 17 Aug 2022 19:56:00 -0500
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Triple-digit temperatures are scorching much of California. 

At a community center near Santa Rosa, organizers have set up a cooling center to get people out of the dangerous heat.

"We know that it’s hot," said Marlo Carreno, with the Sebastopol Community Center. "People are struggling out there.”

California’s Central Valley, including Fresno, Bakersfield and Sacramento, is the hottest place on the map for days to come. 

Some areas are barely escaping the heat even at night. The low in Bakersfield Wednesday was 81 degrees.

The spread and severity of the heat is prompting the state’s electrical grid operator to issue a statewide alert, urging energy conservation from 4 to 9 pm. — the time of day when energy demand is at its highest — to try to avoid power outages.

"Keep the dial at 78 or higher if health permits," PG&E Spokesperson Deanna Contreras said.

While certain regions of California are used to the alerts, it’s the first statewide alert this year. As the West faces a drought and dwindling water supply, it’s a reminder of how severe the region’s present and future can get.

"If you think that you are going to avoid this and do a rain dance or pray or whatever that we have a great winter, you are insane," said Pat Mulroy, former CEO of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

The heat is getting worse all over the country, too.

In Florida, forecasters are looking at record-hot summers that are only getting hotter.

"Our heat index in the summertime ranges between 100 to 105 most every day, but with our warming temperatures we’re going to see more of 105 to 110," said Daniel Noah, a Florida meteorologist.

Today in California, it’s a local symptom of a global problem challenging humans to adapt how we live. 

<![CDATA[China And U.S. Spar Over Climate On Twitter]]> Wed, 17 Aug 2022 09:58:41 -0500
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The world's two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases are sparring on Twitter over climate policy, with China questioning whether the U.S. can deliver on the landmark climate legislation signed into law by President Joe Biden this week.

"You can bet America will meet our commitments," U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns tweeted in response on Wednesday, using a national flag emoji for "America." He called on China to resume suspended climate talks, writing, "We're ready."

The punchy exchange, part of a longer back and forth on Twitter, is emblematic of a broader worry: U.S.-China cooperation is widely considered vital to the success of global efforts to curb rising temperatures. With the breakdown in relations over Taiwan and other issues, some question whether the two sides can cooperate.

After Congress passed the climate bill last Friday, Burns took to Twitter over the weekend to say the U.S. was acting on climate change with its largest investment ever — and that China should follow.

On Tuesday night, China's Foreign Ministry responded with its own tweet: "Good to hear. But what matters is: Can the U.S. deliver?"

The verbal skirmish grew out of China's suspension of talks with the U.S. on climate and several other issues earlier this month as part of its protest over a visit to Taiwan by a senior American lawmaker, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Climate has been one of the few areas of cooperation between the feuding countries. U.S. officials criticized China's move, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying it "doesn't punish the United States — it punishes the world."

Asked to respond, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian called on the U.S. last week to "deliver on its historical responsibilities and due obligations on climate change and stop looking around for excuses for its inaction."

The ministry later tweeted some of his answer, and Burns responded four days later with his tweet on the U.S. climate bill. Using the acronym for the People's Republic of China, he ended with, "The PRC should follow+reconsider its suspension of climate cooperation with the U.S."

China elaborated on its "Can the U.S. deliver?" message with a second tweet suggesting that the U.S. meet rich country pledges to help poorer countries cope financially with climate change and lift sanctions imposed last year on solar industry exports from China's Xinjiang region because of allegations of forced labor.

The Twitter battle highlights a perception divide between the longstanding superpower that wants to lead and the rising power that no longer wants to feel bound to follow anyone else's direction.

The decision by former President Donald Trump to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord — reversed by President Biden after he took office last year — dealt a blow to American credibility on the issue.

A Chinese expert praised parts of the U.S. legislation but said it is overdue and not enough.

"Although there are some breakthrough achievements in the bill, I am afraid it can't reestablish U.S. leadership on climate change," said Teng Fei, a professor at Tsinghua University's Institute of Energy Environment and Economy.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has been pressing China to set more ambitious climate goals. China has responded that its goals are realistic, given its development needs as a middle-income country, while the U.S. sets ambitious goals that it fails to achieve.

China's ruling Communist Party generally sets conservative targets at a national level because it doesn't want its performance to fall short. Those targets are sometimes exceeded, though, in the eager pursuit of those goals by local officials.

"China should be able to do better than its national targets indicate," said Cory Combs, a senior analyst with the Trivium China consultancy. "But of course, those local plans are all subject to failure and delays, so it's impossible to tell quite what they'll add up to."

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

<![CDATA[TV And Film Companies Are Working Toward A More Sustainable Industry]]> Tue, 16 Aug 2022 20:00:00 -0500
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From materials to labor and other equipment, TV and film production can often have a huge carbon footprint.

A recent report found that big-budget feature films had a carbon footprint of over 3,000 metric tons each, which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is equal to more than 7 million miles driven by a regular car. On the other end, small films have a carbon footprint of nearly 400 metric tons, equivalent to about 1 million miles driven.

That report comes from the Sustainable Production Alliance, a group of TV and film companies committed to making the industry more sustainable. Their report factors in housing, air travel, fuel and utilities to reach the overall carbon emissions total. For all sizes of films, the biggest contributor to emissions was fuel, mainly used for vehicles and generators.

This is true for TV series, too. It accounts for nearly 60% of emissions for one-hour scripted dramas and half hour single-camera scripted shows.

Since the Sustainable Production Alliance report was released, the organization has prioritized transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, including electric and hybrid cars and battery powered generator technology. There are some limitations though; it may be hard to find charging stations, for example, but it’s a work in progress.

Earth Angel is a company that helps make TV and film production more sustainable by providing a strategy and the staffing needed to help crews reach their environmental protection goals.

"There's a lot of different actions that you can take, and I think it can feel overwhelming to people," said Emellie O'Brien, Earth Angel CEO. "But really dialing in on: Okay for this project, we want to focus on eliminating single use plastics for this project. We want to focus on getting as many hybrid and [electric] vehicles as we can onto this project, like really zoning in on what's available to your project."

SEE MORE: Celebrities: The Climate Consequences Of Their Private Jet Use

Companies like Amazon studios, Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix and Sony Pictures Entertainment are part of the Sustainable Production Alliance, and they’re working on these efforts as they bring us more of our favorite content.

Netflix has set a goal to reduce internal emissions by 45% below 2019 levels by next year, NBCUniversal has a plan that will make them carbon neutral by 2035 and Sony is working to have no environmental footprint throughout the life cycle of their products and activities by 2050.

"We're guests in the communities that we're filming in, and I think that there's a real responsibility for our industry to leave these communities better than how we found them as well," O'Brien said. "So, not just a do less harm, but also a do more good component."

Production companies are also taking steps to cut back on travel by using virtual reality to create production studios and sound stages. They use LED walls and green screens to bring different locations to a set and help replace physical props.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a good example of a film that was applauded for its sustainability efforts. Earth Angel worked on that set, and the movie won a Green Seal award from the Environmental Media Association in 2014.

The movie’s production team had 49 tons of materials that could be donated or reused, avoided using plastic water bottles on set and gathered materials for the costumes from farmer’s markets — keeping 52% of production waste from going to the landfill. They were also able to give back to the community by donating nearly 6,000 meals to shelters.

All of this saved over $400,000, proving that sustainable productions don’t have to be expensive.

"I think that in terms of like barriers to acceleration here, there's a few different factors at play," O'Brien said. "One of which is that there are no fiscal incentives that are encouraging people to take these actions currently. The other thing is we don't have the consumer demand factor, unlike the fashion industry for example or food industry, where people are demanding more sustainable. And then I think lastly, it's just a conversation around like how is who whose job is this like? And that's always been something that I think the industry has really struggled with."

<![CDATA[Interior Department Restricts Water Supply To Multiple Western States]]> Tue, 16 Aug 2022 19:31:00 -0500
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In the West, drying lakebeds and shrinking rivers are reaching a breaking point. Now the Department of the Interior is slashing water supplies to several western states, as the Colorado River shrinks and the vital Lakes Powell and Mead which it feeds get lower and lower.

“I wish I had a crystal ball for what will happen in the Colorado River basin," said Simone Kjolsrud, water resource adviser to Chandler, Arizona. "When you live in the desert you have to have that conservation ethic of embracing that desert lifestyle."

In Arizona, cities are now planning around a coming cut of 21% of the state’s original water allocation. 

Part of a package of cuts was announced Tuesday. That also includes slashes to supply for Nevada and parts of Mexico. 

"We have known for decades that there’s a real possibility that our water supplies would be cut, and so for the most part the cities have planned very proactively," said Kathryn Sorensen, researcher at ASU Kyl Center for Water Policy.

Cities near Phoenix are now contending with some of the steepest cuts in the West, amid some of the most dire water conservation efforts ever.

The Interior Department is now looking to save some 2 to 4 million acre feet of water over the next four years under the right conservation conditions. One acre foot can supply three houses for a year.

"We have invested in infrastructure," Kjolsrud said. "We’ve been storing water underground that we can access during times of surface water shortages. We’re not anticipating that in the next few years.”

Still, the cuts aren’t good news for the millions who rely on the Colorado River and the $15 billion agricultural industry.

"If we got some good rains in here that would go ahead and green up," said Nancy Caywood, an Arizona farmer.

Lately, Caywood hasn't been doing much farming, though it's her job.

She's giving tours of her land instead to make up for the money she’s losing – without any crops to sell.

"I drive around, and I look at empty canals," Caywood said. "Literally I burst into tears over it a couple of times because I'm thinking it's just such a hopeless situation."

At a nearby farm, her son is leasing land to supplement income.

"I don’t know if there's going to be enough water to keep going, if he’s gonna run out, with his allocation," Caywood said.

Arizona is the hardest hit of the southwestern states that rely on the emptying Colorado River. Seven states — Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California — were told to come up with a plan to cut their overall water use by 15% next year.

But the ensuing fight, with upper basin states fighting to keep their allocations amid growing populations and lower basin states fighting to ward off the deepest cuts, left the state governments at an impasse, prompting the federal government to make the cuts for them.

"We will lose 10% of our water supply by 2040," California Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

California has no cuts under the plan, but it’s not lost on Gov. Newsom that the state still faces a dwindling water supply. He just unveiled a plan to invest billions in water recycling, storage and desalination. 

"What we are focusing on is creating more supply... creating more water," Gov. Newsom said.

The cuts announced Tuesday are just a teaser of what could be ahead, as the Interior Department looks to save far more water coming from the critical Colorado River. 

<![CDATA[Scientists Say New Climate Law Is Likely To Reduce Warming]]> Tue, 16 Aug 2022 17:58:57 -0500
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Massive incentives for clean energy in the U.S. law signed Tuesday by President Joe Biden should reduce future global warming “not a lot, but not insignificantly either,” according to a climate scientist who led an independent analysis of the package.

Even with nearly $375 billion in tax credits and other financial enticements for renewable energy in the law, the United States still isn’t doing its share to help the world stay within another few tenths of a degree of warming, a new analysis by Climate Action Tracker says. The group of scientists examines and rates each country’s climate goals and actions. It still rates American action as “insufficient" but hailed some progress.

“This is the biggest thing to happen to the U.S. on climate policy,” said Bill Hare, the Australia-based director of Climate Analytics which puts out the tracker. “When you think back over the last decades, you know, not wanting to be impolite, there’s a lot of talk, but not much action.”

This is action, he said. Not as much as Europe, and Americans still spew twice as much heat-trapping gases per person as Europeans, Hare said. The U.S. has also put more heat-trapping gas into the air over time than any other nation.

Before the law, Climate Action Tracker calculated that if every other nation made efforts similar to those of the U.S., it would lead to a world with catastrophic warming — 5.4 to 7.2 degrees (3 to 4 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial times. Now in the best case scenario, which Hare said is reasonable and likely, U.S. actions, if mimicked, would lead to only 3.6 degrees (2 degrees Celsius) of warming. If things don’t work quite as optimistically as Hare thinks, it would be 5.4 degrees (3 degrees Celsius) of warming, the analysis said.

Even that best case scenario falls short of the overarching internationally accepted goal of limiting warming to 2.7 degrees warming (1.5 degrees Celsius) since pre-industrial times. And the world has already warmed 2 degrees (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the mid-19th century.

Other nations “who we know have been holding back on coming forward with more ambitious policies and targets” are now more likely to take action in a “significant spillover effect globally,” Hare said. He said officials from Chile and a few Southeast Asian countries, which he would not name, told him this summer that they were waiting for U.S. action first.

And China “won’t say this out loud, but I think will see the U.S. move as something they need to match,” Hare said.

Scientists at the Climate Action Tracker calculated that without any other new climate policies, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2030 will shrink to 26% to 42% below 2005 levels, which is still short of the country’s goal of cutting emissions in half. Analysts at the think tank Rhodium Group calculated pollution cuts of 31% to 44% from the new law.

Other analysts and scientists said the Climate Action Tracker numbers makes sense.

“The contributions from the U.S. to greenhouse gas emissions are huge,” said Princeton University climate scientist Gabriel Vecchi. “So reducing that is definitely going to have a global impact.”

Samantha Gross, director of climate and energy at the Brookings Institution, called the new law a down payment on U.S. emission reductions.

“Now that this is done, the U.S. can celebrate a little, then focus on implementation and what needs to happen next,” Gross said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

<![CDATA[Biden To Sign Massive Climate And Health Care Legislation]]> Tue, 16 Aug 2022 06:42:19 -0500
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President Joe Biden will sign Democrats' landmark climate change and health care bill on Tuesday, delivering what he has called the "final piece" of his pared-down domestic agenda, as he aims to boost his party's standing with voters less than three months before the midterm elections.

The legislation includes the most substantial federal investment in history to fight climate change — some $375 billion over the decade — and would cap prescription drug costs at $2,000 out-of-pocket annually for Medicare recipients. It also would help an estimated 13 million Americans pay for health care insurance by extending subsidies provided during the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure is paid for by new taxes on large companies and stepped-up IRS enforcement of wealthy individuals and entities, with additional funds going to reduce the federal deficit.

The House on Friday approved the measure on a party-line 220-207 vote. It passed the Senate days earlier with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a 50-50 tie in that chamber.

President Biden is set to sign the bill during a small ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House, sandwiched between his return from a six-day beachside vacation in South Carolina and his departure for his home in Wilmington, Delaware. He plans to hold a larger "celebration" for the legislation on Sept. 6 once lawmakers return to Washington.

The signing caps a spurt of legislative productivity for President Biden and Congress, who in three months have approved legislation on veterans' benefits, the semiconductor industry and gun checks for young buyers. The president and lawmakers have also responded to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and supported NATO membership for Sweden and Finland.

With President Biden's approval rating lagging, Democrats are hoping that the string of successes will jump-start their chances of maintaining control in Washington in the November midterms. The 79-year-old president aims to restore his own standing with voters as he contemplates a reelection bid.

The White House announced Monday that it was going to deploy President Biden and members of his Cabinet on a "Building a Better America Tour" to promote the recent victories, though the administration has yet to announce specific travel by the president.

"In the coming weeks, the President will host a Cabinet meeting focused on implementing the Inflation Reduction Act, will travel across the country to highlight how the bill will help the American people, and will host an event to celebrate the enactment of the bill at the White House on September 6th," the White House said in a statement.

Republicans say the legislation's new business taxes will increase prices, worsening the nation's bout with its highest inflation since 1981. Though Democrats have labeled the measure the Inflation Reduction Act, nonpartisan analysts say it will have a barely perceptible impact on prices.

The measure is a slimmed-down version of the more ambitious plan to supercharge environment and social programs that President Biden and his party unveiled early last year.

President Biden's initial 10-year, $3.5 trillion proposal also envisioned free prekindergarten, paid family and medical leave, expanded Medicare benefits and eased immigration restrictions. That crashed after centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, said it was too costly, using the leverage every Democrat has in the evenly divided Senate.

Still, President Biden and Democrats are hailing the legislation as a once-in-a-generation investment in addressing the long-term effects of climate change, as well as drought in the nation's West.

The bill will direct spending, tax credits and loans to bolster technology like solar panels, consumer efforts to improve home energy efficiency, emission-reducing equipment for coal- and gas-powered power plants, and air pollution controls for farms, ports and low-income communities.

Another $64 billion would help 13 million people pay premiums over the next three years for privately bought health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Medicare would gain the power to negotiate its costs for pharmaceuticals, initially in 2026 for only 10 drugs. Medicare beneficiaries' out-of-pocket prescription costs would be limited to $2,000 annually starting in 2025, and beginning next year would pay no more than $35 monthly for insulin, the costly diabetes drug.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

<![CDATA[Celebrities: The Climate Consequences Of Their Private Jet Use]]> Sun, 14 Aug 2022 20:16:00 -0500
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There may be bad blood between environmentalists and pop princess Taylor Swift.

Yard, a sustainability marketing agency based out of the United Kingdom, found Swift to be the biggest celebrity polluter of the year based on her private jet usage in the first seven months of 2022.

After pulling data from Celebrity Jets, a source for tracking the use of private jets by celebrities, Yard found Swift's private jet flew 170 times out of the first 200 days this year.

A spokesperson for Swift released a statement after that report was released, saying, "Taylor's jet is loaned out regularly to other individuals. To attribute most or all of these trips to her is blatantly incorrect."

However, Swift isn't the only celebrity facing backlash for private jet usage.

Yard listed other top celebrity carbon dioxide offenders:

Boxing legend Floyd Mayweather comes in second on the list, emitting more than 7,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide this year.

Mayweather is followed by Jay-Z, whose jet has taken 136 flights.A-Rod with 106 flights.

Blake Shelton, with more flights than A-Rod at 111 but with longer flying times.

Steven Spielberg, Kim Kardashian, Mark Wahlberg, Oprah Winfrey and Travis Scott also made the list.

Additionally, Kylie Jenner and Drake garnered intense public criticism after it was revealed that their private jets logged trips as short as 17 minutes and 14 minutes.

Deputy Director of UNC Institute for the Environment Dr. Sarav Arunachalam joins Newsy to explain the environmental cost of owning and overusing a private jet.

<![CDATA[European Drought Dries Up Rivers, Kills Fish, Shrivels Crops]]> Fri, 12 Aug 2022 12:08:00 -0500
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Once, a river ran through it. Now, white dust and thousands of dead fish cover the wide trench that winds amid rows of trees in France’s Burgundy region in what was the Tille River in the village of Lux.

From dry and cracked reservoirs in Spain to falling water levels on major arteries like the Danube, the Rhine and the Po, an unprecedented drought is afflicting nearly half of Europe. It is damaging farm economies, forcing water restrictions, causing wildfires and threatening aquatic species.

SEE MORE: Firefighters Combat Major Wildfire In Southwestern France

There has been no significant rainfall for almost two months in the continent's western, central and southern regions. In typically rainy Britain, the government officially declared a drought across southern and central England on Friday amid one of the hottest and driest summers on record.

And Europe's dry period is expected to continue in what experts say could be the worst drought in 500 years.

Climate change is exacerbating conditions as hotter temperatures speed up evaporation, thirsty plants take in more moisture and reduced snowfall in the winter limits supplies of freshwater available for irrigation in the summer. Europe isn't alone in the crisis, with drought conditions also reported in East Africa, the western United States and northern Mexico.

The European Commission’s Joint Research Center warned this week that drought conditions will get worse and potentially affect 47% of the continent.

The current situation is the result of long periods of dry weather caused by changes in world weather systems, said meteorologist Peter Hoffmann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research near Berlin.

“It’s just that in summer we feel it the most,” he said. “But actually the drought builds up across the year.”

Climate change has lessened the temperature differences between regions, sapping the forces that drive the jet stream, which normally brings wet Atlantic weather to Europe, he said.

A weaker or unstable jet stream can result in unusually hot air coming to Europe from North Africa, leading to prolonged periods of heat. The reverse is also true, when a polar vortex of cold air from the Arctic can cause freezing conditions far south of where it would normally reach.

Hoffmann said observations in recent years have all been at the upper end of what the existing climate models predicted.

The drought has caused some European countries to impose restrictions on water usage, and shipping is endangered on the Rhine and the Danube rivers.

Millions in the U.K. were already barred from watering lawns and gardens under regional “hosepipe bans,” and 15 million more around London will face such a ban shortly.

The Rhine, Germany's biggest waterway, is forecast to reach critically low levels in the coming days. Authorities say it could become difficult for many large ships to safely navigate the river at the city of Kaub, roughly midway between Koblenz and Mainz.

The drought is also hitting U.K. farmers, who face running out of irrigation water and having to use winter feed for animals because of a lack of grass. The Rivers Trust charity said England’s chalk streams — which allow underground springs to bubble up through the spongy layer of rock — are drying up, endangering aquatic wildlife like kingfishers and trout.

Even countries like Spain and Portugal, which are used to long periods without rain, have seen major consequences. In the Spanish region of Andalucia, some avocado farmers have had to sacrifice hundreds of trees to save others from wilting as the Vinuela reservoir in Malaga province dropped to only 13% of capacity.

Some European farmers are using water from the tap for their livestock when ponds and streams go dry, using up to 26 gallons a day per cow.

EU corn production is expected to be 12.5 million tons below last year and sunflower production is projected to be 1.6 million tons lower, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

<![CDATA[Kentucky Deals With Effects Of Climate Crisis]]> Fri, 05 Aug 2022 14:04:00 -0500
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Piles of debris litter a town in Kentucky. No, it wasn't from the recent floods. The damage comes from eight months ago when a rare, powerful EF-4 tornado ripped through several states and destroyed the small town of Mayfield in Western Kentucky.

Every building downtown is damaged, destroyed, and collapsed.   

The tornado leveled the town with 190-mile per hour winds. It was the deadliest in state history. Eighty people died, 24 just in Graves County alone.   

Most inside a flattened Mayfield candle factory.  

At the time, temperatures in the area were above normal for mid-December — in the 70s in nearby Memphis, Tennessee.

"This type of event — and the fact that it happened here and not, say, farther south — that's not something that we typically expect," Western Kentucky University Meteorologist Joshua Durkee said.

Fast forward to last week across the state in Eastern Kentucky...

"We're currently experiencing one of the worst, most devastating flooding events in Kentucky's history," Gov. Andy Beshear said.

The historic floods devastated towns, washing away entire neighborhoods and people. At least three dozen are dead and hundreds more are still missing.  

"We know that climate change is in the DNA of today's extreme weather events,"  University of Georgia Atmospheric Sciences Program Director James Marshall Shepherd said.

In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency warned annual precipitation in Kentucky would keep increasing and floods would become more frequent.  

According to the EPA, the last time the Bluegrass State produced a climate change adaptation plan was in 2010, and it focused on the danger to the state's wildlife. 

Both Eastern and Western Kentucky are strewn with debris from climate change events.  

"It's gonna take years to rebuild," Gov. Beshear said — as the climate continues to change and disasters become more frequent.

<![CDATA[North Carolina Brewery Uses Wind Turbine To Make Beer]]> Fri, 05 Aug 2022 08:43:00 -0500
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Kill Devil Hills sits on North Carolina's outer banks. The island has constant strong winds, which is why Orville and Wilbur Wright traveled from Ohio to the small town to test and eventually fly the world's first airplane.

Just four blocks from that historic site is the Outer Banks Brewing Station.

Eric Reece and his business partner own it. It's one of the largest breweries in the area. He's proud of his homemade beer.    

He's also just as proud of his 10 kilowatt wind turbine that helps power the brewery.    

"This place sucks down a lot of power," Reece said. "Every time the wind blows, we start drawing that power."  

It's been one of his long-term plans since he opened the brewery more than 20 years ago. At first, local politicians were hesitant, so Reece educated them about beer and wind turbines.

"At the end of the day, we need alternative energy sources," he said. 

Opponents didn't think the wind was strong enough for it to create power. 

That's when he reminded everyone about the Wright brothers and the winds they used to power the world's first plane.

Once the turbine went up, it became a big tourist attraction. Not as big as the Wright brothers' memorial or the beaches, but it drew a crowd.  

"The school started bringing busloads of kids," Reece said. "People started parking in the parking lot when we were closed just to hear it."

Despite North Carolina's strong winds, there's only one commercial wind project in the state. 

Reece's private turbine provides about 10% of the power he needs to brew beer. But it's making a bigger impact educating neighbors, politicians and tourists on the power of the wind.

<![CDATA[How A Changing Climate Is Changing Our Summers]]> Thu, 04 Aug 2022 01:00:00 -0500
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Summer has traditionally been the season of freedom: school vacations, pool parties  and beach visits —  yet some scientists see it differently.  

The nonproft Union of Concerned Scientists describes summer as “danger season.” 

That’s because climate change is supercharging our summers.

Already, this summer’s temperatures are setting records. But this isn’t just a 2022 problem. 

Summer highs have been increasing for decades. 

<![CDATA[Illegal Logging Is Rampant. Can IKEA Help Slow It Down?]]> Wed, 03 Aug 2022 20:05:00 -0500
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IKEA is one of the largest furniture retailers in the world and a leader in a booming global furniture market. The market hit an estimated value of over $490 billion last year.

The IKEA brand in particular is known for its pretty affordable products, but there are a lot of unseen costs that go into supplying cheap, mass-produced wooden furniture to major retailers — namely costs from how and where that wood gets harvested.

Eastern Europe and Russia offer a huge supply of high-quality and high-value woods like spruce and beech, and countries like Ukraine and Romania are home to huge old-growth forests. Old growth forests are well sought after but also some of the most important to protect. They’re particularly crucial for biodiversity, and old trees absorb carbon dioxide at higher rates than younger ones.

Now, estimates vary, but one environmental watchdog group determined more than half of IKEA’s wood supply comes from that region. To be clear, IKEA is far from the only major furniture supplier here, but it is arguably the biggest: The company alone is the largest individual consumer of wood in the world and doubled its consumption in the last decade.

IKEA has said before that “under no circumstances” would they accept wood that doesn’t meet their sustainability requirements. They've also taken action against problematic suppliers before.

To balance the growing global demand for wood with conservation of these crucial forests, the EU and national governments have established massive protected areas, and quotas limiting how much of a certain wood gets harvested.

These protections, by the way, apply to both public and private land. That’s important to note because IKEA itself is the largest private landowner in Romania. It owns about 83,000 acres — that’s almost 63,000 football fields-worth of land. It made this massive purchase back in 2015, buying from the previous owner, the Harvard Endowment Fund.

But despite the legal limits and forest management, the woods of Eastern Europe are vanishing much faster than they should be, and it’s only ramping up.

Maps form Global Forest Watch show the total tree cover loss in Ukraine, Russia and Romania over the past two decades.  

Part of this is due to deforestation, legally or otherwise. In 2018, for example, the Romanian government licensed about 18.5 million cubic meters of wood to be harvested, but instead, about 38.6 million was taken — more than twice the legal limit. 

"It's also a breakdown of the sort of European laws meant to deal with this," said David Gehl, manager for traceability and technologies at the Environmental Investigation Agency. "Romania designated quite large amounts of its forest as protected areas. They never created the implementing regulations to actually implement those laws."

So, how is this happening right under regulators’ noses? 

The problems often start early in the supply chain. For example, loggers can use false documentation to hide the amount or quality of the wood they’re harvesting. Sometimes it’s as simple as submitting unclear or misleading photos to the local government’s tracking system, obscuring how much wood is really being harvested. Then, the illegal wood is taken to a log depot, where it often gets mixed in with legal wood. 

Enforcing rules on the ground becomes next to impossible thanks to what the press has dubbed the so-called “Timber Mafia,” which is a group well-ingrained in local communities.  

"There's many excellent Romanian news reports and investigative reports about this, and many interviews, for example, with police officers who are just admitting very clearly on camera that they cannot touch these people," Gehl said.

Standing up to illegal loggers is dangerous work. Like other hotspots for illegal logging in the world, a number of forest managers, rangers, activists and journalists have been attacked or even killed throughout Eastern Europe and Russia. In Romania alone, at least six forest rangers have been killed in recent years, with 650 incidents of people being beaten, shot at or attacked in relation to illegal logging.

So how can furniture retailers ensure the wood they’re using was safely and legally sourced? 

Furnishers often rely on something called the Forest Stewardship Certification, or FSC, to vet the sourcing for wood products. Third-party companies can be hired to conduct an audit along the supply chain — from the log depots to sawmills and more. They can award an FSC certification if the work there seems legit.

But critics have pointed out some central flaws to the audit process and warned FSC certifications may be giving a false sense of security.

"There's this kind of conflict of interest because IKEA is paying directly for an FSC certificate," said Tara Ganesh, head of investigations at Earthsight. "So this does not create much incentive for these auditors to independently look for problems because, in effect, these auditing companies within Russia are all competing for business from companies like IKEA."

"So we've talked to some certifying bodies that have said, you know, 'I was commissioned by this company. I spent three days in the forest. I gave them this list of 20 things that they would need to change to get their certification,'" Gehl said. "They said, 'Thank you very much,' and three days later, they got their certification from a different company."

There have been a number of separate investigations throughout Eastern Europe which found illegal timber processing at partners with IKEA, all of which were FSC-certified.

The U.K. watchdog group Earthsight published two reports showing illegal wood from forests in Ukraine and Russia has been widely used in popular IKEA furniture lines.

"It was a combination of looking at shipment records and undercover work calls to the suppliers concerned to try to get admissions from them about various practices and their links to IKEA," Ganesh said. "It was also in both cases in Ukraine and in Russia. There's actually a lot of information that's available publicly, which is fantastic. But also then begs the question that if we could find it, why did it take IKEA so long to find that, or FSC, for that matter?"

IKEA’s response was to defend its reliance on FSC certifications. The company insisted it was improving its system of “due diligence” checks. We reached out for a response on this. We didn’t hear back from IKEA, but the FSC drew our attention to other cases like in Ukraine, where they’re “working to prevent illegal logging” despite “the complexity of the situation.”

"I think IKEA is doing perhaps more than any other large wood processor in the world," Gehl said. "The problem is that the status quo, the bar of the status quo, is so low that even though they're doing better than that status quo, that's still very far from what is necessary to make sure that they're not getting illegal wood."

It’s hard to know where to start with a system like this: the danger for those working on the ground, the corruption along supply chains, the documented abuse of the FSC labels. What these problems really come down to is a lack of enforcement.

<![CDATA[Rain Is Helping Keep McKinney Fire Down, But Hotter Days Ahead Won't]]> Wed, 03 Aug 2022 19:29:00 -0500
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In northern California, growing fires have given way to dangerous mudslides, as heavy rains prompt flooding in evacuation zones.

"This area of the fire, the east side, some areas got up to three inches of rain in just over an hour," said Dennis Burns, a fire behavior analyst.

They're pouring on some of the fire while crews backed off firefighting.

"We actually had to have some crews shelter in place until they can get out today and assess the roads," Burns said.

The rains only helped some of the burn area, and forecasters expect temperatures to increase and rainfall to decrease in the days ahead.

"I've never seen such a wasteland," said Bill Simms, who lost his home. "There was no birds. There's nothing, nothing." 

He and other residents are now learning of destroyed homes and lost neighbors and friends.

"I didn't think I'd get emotional," Simms said. "I don't get emotional about stuff, but when you hear my next-door neighbors died, Chuck and his wife. They couldn't get out because they always locked their gate, and he couldn't get out. Then my other neighbor died, Uncle Johnny, and this is within a half a mile. They both died. That gets a little emotional when you see it going down there, because I care about people."

The McKinney Fire is one of the largest of 62 large fires burning across 15 states, forcing evacuations across the west. 

"I just try to take it in stride and make the best of it and figure it could be worse," said Miki Peterson, a Montana evacuee, said.

The Elmo 2 fire in Montana is burning more than 16,000 acres and threatening nearby communities.

The Moose Fire in Idaho is burning 58,000 acres and is just 20% contained. 

Two larger fires in Alaska and New Mexico are almost entirely contained but collectively burned nearly 550,000 acres.

The National Interagency Fire Center reports this fire season has the most active fires to this point in the year of any season in the last decade, and it’s burned more acres to this point than any season since 2015. Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier and expect wildfires to be more frequent and destructive.

"I'm sad," sad Harlene Schwander, who lost her home in a wildfire. "Everybody says it was just stuff, but it was all I had. I've been single for a long time, and I just I'm going to have to cope."

<![CDATA[Democrats On Verge Of Passing Significant Climate Measures]]> Sun, 31 Jul 2022 19:20:00 -0500
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A raging wildfire along the California-Oregon state line is forcing evacuations, as scorching hot temperatures, and vicious winds, continue to stoke the flames of the fast-moving McKinney fire.

And across the country, in Montana, the Elmo wildfire has exploded to more than 11 square miles, as the National Weather Service warns temperatures in the area could spike to near 100 degrees in the coming days.

And in Kentucky, at least 26 people have died in devastating flooding.

"Make sure you are in a safe place. I don't want to lose one more person," warned Gov. Andy Beshear.

These extreme weather events – possibly linked in part to climate change – continue to plague communities across the U.S., as Democrats in the senate reached a deal to pass the "Inflation Reduction Act."

A bill that would invest $369 billion in climate solutions and environmental justice.

Senate Democrats say the climate portion of the bill would reduce carbon emissions by around 40% by the year 2030 and put nearly $370 billion toward energy and climate change initiatives, including tax credits for people buying electric cars.

West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin almost killed the legislation off, but on Sunday he talked about the revised version that was agreed to last week.

"Now to have a piece of legislation—we have energy, and we have investments for new energy and basically, that's our responsibility. You can walk and chew gum—we have a balanced approach. These are solutions Americans want," said Sen. Manchin

Manchin told CBS' "Face the Nation" that the energy and climate deal he's now supporting will tackle inflation, while the majority of republicans fear the bill would add to inflation, which is currently running at a 40-year-high.

Senator Bill Cassidy also said Sunday on ABC, manufacturers would bear the brunt of the corporate minimum tax.

"Manufacturers can choose to set up in the United States or choose to move to Asia. I think what we're doing is inducing them to move to Asia," said Sen. Cassidy.

And when it comes to getting the new legislation passed, that hinges on a 'yes' vote from Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema—who has yet to commit, avoiding questions late last week – Manchin said Sunday he doesn't know if Sinema would vote for the bill, adding that "she should."

"I do think it will get the 10 Republicans we need to move forward," said Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

However, Republicans are expected to widely oppose the bill, but Democrats can still pass it through "reconciliation," which requires only a simple majority vote.

The legislation is expected to be voted on this week.

<![CDATA[California Not Counting Methane Leaks From Idle Wells]]> Sun, 31 Jul 2022 09:35:00 -0500
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California claims to know how much climate-warming gas is going into the air from within its borders. It's the law: California limits climate pollution and each year the limits get stricter.

The state has also been a major oil and gas producer for more than a century, and authorities are well aware some 35,000 old, inactive oil and gas wells perforate the landscape.

Yet officials with the agency responsible for regulating greenhouse gas emissions say they don't include methane that leaks from these idle wells in their inventory of the state's emissions.

Ira Leifer, a University of California Santa Barbara scientist said the lack of data on emissions pouring or seeping out of idle wells calls into question the state's ability to meet its ambitious goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

Residents and environmentalists from across the state have been voicing concern about the possibility of leaking idle or abandoned wells for years, but the concerns were heightened in May and June when 21 idle wells were discovered to be leaking methane in or near two Bakersfield neighborhoods. They say that the leaking wells are "an urgent public health issue," because when a well is leaking methane, other gases often escape too.

Leifer said these "ridealong" gases were his biggest concern with the wells.

"Those other gases have significant health impacts," Leifer said, yet we know even less about their quantities than we do about the methane.

In July, residents who live in the communities nearest the leaking wells protested at the California Geologic Management Division's field offices, calling for better oversight.

"It's clear that they are willing to ignore this public health emergency. Our communities are done waiting. CalGEM needs to do their job," Cesar Aguirre, a community organizer with the Central California Environmental Justice Network, said in a statement.

Robert Howarth, a Cornell University methane researcher, agreed with Leifer that the amount of methane emissions from leaking wells isn't well known and that it's not a major source of emissions when compared with methane emissions from across the oil and gas industry.

Still, he said, "it's adding something very clearly, and we shouldn't be allowing it to happen."

A ton of methane is 83 times worse for the climate than a ton of carbon dioxide, when compared over twenty years.

A 2020 study said emissions from idle wells are "more substantial" than from plugged wells in California, but recommended more data collection on inactive wells at the major oil and gas fields throughout the state.

Robert Jackson, a Stanford University climate scientist and co-author on that study, said they found high emissions from some of the idle wells they measured in the study.

In order to get a better idea of how much methane is leaking, the state of California is investing in projects on the ground and in the air. David Clegern, a spokesperson for CARB, said the agency is beginning a project to measure emissions from a sample of properly and improperly abandoned wells to estimate statewide emissions from them.

And in June, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a budget that includes participation in a global effort to slash emissions called the Methane Accountability Project. The state will spend $100 million to use satellites to track large methane leaks in order to help the state identify sources of the gas and cap leaks.

Some research has already been done, too, to find out how much methane is coming from oil and gas facilities. A 2019 Nature study found that 26% of state methane emissions is coming from oil and gas. A new investigation by the Associated Press found methane is billowing from oil and gas equipment in the Permian Basin in Texas and companies under report it.

Howarth said even if methane from idle oil and gas wells isn't a major pollution source, it should be a priority not just in California, but nationwide, to help the country meet its climate pledges.

"Methane dissipates pretty quickly in the atmosphere," he said, "so cutting the emissions is really one of the simplest ways we have to slow the rate of global warming and meet that Paris target."

A new Senate proposal would provide hundreds of millions dollars to plug wells and reduce pollution from them, especially in hard hit communities.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

<![CDATA[Oak Fire Continues To Blaze In Yosemite National Park]]> Tue, 26 Jul 2022 20:21:00 -0500
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Fire officials are calling it a mega-fire: The Oak Fire is raging through the drought-stricken, forest-covered mountains surrounding Yosemite National Park.

"The fire behavior we are seeing on this incident is really unprecedented," Said Jon Heggie, Battalion Chief of Cal Fire. 

The blaze exploded in size in just a few days, with fire crews driving through the forest with flames surrounding them engulfing the trees and filling the air with smoke. The sky was turned orange, and the fire turned the picturesque forest into a hellscape.

The flames incinerated one house in just minutes, leaving nothing but the foundations and scorched appliances.

Cars were torched where they were parked, with nothing left but burned out frames.

The smoke, ash and ambers billowed upwards, creating more problems by sparking smaller spot fires far away from the main blaze.

The fire raced through extremely dry fuel on the forest floor, giving little time for residents to escape.

Many are going to have to evacuate with just the shirts on their back.

Rodney Maguire had just moments to grab a few cherished items.

"I had just enough time to get birth certificates... the picture of my parents," Maguire said.

The fast-moving fire forced residents to make hard decisions, with some leaving missing pets behind.

Thousands of fire fighters are still battling the blaze, using planes to drop retardant along with hundreds of fire trucks and water tankers. While the crews are making some progress, they can’t fight the underlying problem.

"This is a direct result of climate change," Heggie said. "You can’t have a 10-year drought in California and expect things to be the same. We’re paying the price for that drought and climate change."

Almost 100% of the forest is in extreme or exceptional drought conditions.

<![CDATA[U.S. To Plant 1 Billion Trees As Climate Change Kills Forests]]> Tue, 26 Jul 2022 08:54:00 -0500
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The Biden administration on Monday said the government will plant more than 1 billion trees across millions of acres of burned and dead woodlands in the U.S. West, as officials struggle to counter the increasing toll on the nation's forests from wildfires, insects and other manifestations of climate change.

Destructive fires in recent years that burned too hot for forests to regrow naturally have far outpaced the government's capacity to plant new trees. That has created a backlog of 4.1 million acres in need of replanting, officials said.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said it will have to quadruple the number of tree seedlings produced by nurseries to get through the backlog and meet future needs. That comes after Congress last year passed bipartisan legislation directing the Forest Service to plant 1.2 billion trees over the next decade and after President Joe Biden in April ordered the agency to make the nation's forests more resilient as the globe gets hotter.

Much of the administration's broader agenda to tackle climate change remains stalled amid disagreement in Congress, where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority. That has left officials to pursue a more piecemeal approach with incremental measures such as Monday's announcement, while the administration considers whether to declare a climate emergency that could open the door to more aggressive executive branch actions.

To erase the backlog of decimated forest acreage, the Forest Service plans over the next couple years to scale up work from about 60,000 acres replanted last year to about 400,000 acres annually, officials said. Most of the work will be in Western states where wildfires now occur year round and the need is most pressing, said David Lytle, the agency's director of forest management.

Blazes have charred 5.6 million acres so far in the U.S. this year, putting 2022 on track to match or exceed the record-setting 2015 fire season, when 10.1 million acres burned.

Many forests regenerate naturally after fires, but if the blazes get too intense they can leave behind barren landscapes that linger for decades before trees come back.

"Our forests, rural communities, agriculture and economy are connected across a shared landscape and their existence is at stake," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement announcing the reforestation plan. "Only through bold, climate-smart actions ... can we ensure their future."

The Forest Service this year is spending more than $100 million on reforestation work. Spending is expected to further increase in coming years, to as much as $260 million annually, under the sweeping federal infrastructure bill approved last year, agency officials said.

Some timber industry supporters were critical of last year's reforesting legislation as insufficient to turn the tide on the scale of the wildfire problem. They want more aggressive logging to thin stands that have become overgrown from years of suppressing fires.

To prevent replanted areas from becoming similarly overgrown, practices are changing so reforested stands are less dense with trees and therefore less fire prone, said Joe Fargione, science director for North America at the Nature Conservancy.

But challenges to the Forest Service's goal remain, from finding enough seeds to hiring enough workers to plant them, Fargione said.

Many seedlings will die before reaching maturity due to drought and insects, both of which can be exacerbated by climate change.

"You've got to be smart about where you plant," Fargione said. "There are some places that the climate has already changed enough that it makes the probability of successfully reestablishing trees pretty low."

Living trees are a major "sink" for carbon dioxide that's driving climate change when it enters the atmosphere, Fargione said. That means replacing those that die is important to keep climate change from getting even worse.

Congress in 1980 created a reforestation trust that had previously capped funding — which came from tariffs on timber products — at $30 million annually. That was enough money when the most significant need for reforestation came from logging, but became insufficient as the number of large, high intensity fires increased, officials said.

Insects, disease and timber harvests also contribute to the amount of land that needs reforestation work, but the vast majority comes from fires. In the past five years alone more than 5 million acres were severely burned.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

<![CDATA[President Biden Announces Steps To Tackle Climate 'Emergency']]> Wed, 20 Jul 2022 15:21:00 -0500
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President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced modest new steps to combat climate change and promised more robust action to come, saying, "This is an emergency and I will look at it that way."

The president stopped short, though, of declaring a formal climate emergency, which Democrats and environmental groups have been seeking after an influential Democratic senator quashed hopes for sweeping legislation to address global warming. President Biden hinted such a step could be coming.

"Let me be clear," President Biden said. "Climate change is an emergency, and in the coming weeks I'm going to use the power I have as president to turn these words into formal, official government actions through the appropriate proclamations, executive orders and regulatory power that a president possesses."

President Biden delivered his pledge at a former coal-fired power plant in Massachusetts. The former Brayton Point power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, is shifting to offshore wind power manufacturing, and President Biden chose it as the embodiment of the transition to clean energy that he is seeking but has struggled to realize in the first 18 months of his presidency.

Executive actions announced Wednesday will bolster the domestic offshore wind industry in the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast, as well as expand efforts to help communities cope with soaring temperatures through programs administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies.

The trip comes as historic temperatures bake Europe and the United States. Temperatures reached 115 degrees in Portugal as wildfires raged in Spain and France, and Britain on Tuesday shattered its record for highest temperature ever registered. At least 60 million Americans could experience triple-digit temperatures over the next several days as cities around the U.S. sweat through more intense and longer-lasting heat waves that scientists blame on global warming.

Calls for a national emergency declaration to address the climate crisis have been rising among activists and Democratic lawmakers after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., last week scuttled talks on a long-delayed legislative package.

White House officials have said the option remains under consideration. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday declined to outline a timetable for a decision aside from saying no such order would be issued this week.

Gina McCarthy, President Biden's climate adviser, said President Biden is not "shying away" from treating climate as an emergency.

"The president wants to make sure that we're doing it right, that we're laying it out, and that we have the time we need to get this worked out,'' she told reporters on Air Force One.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said he was "confident that the president is ultimately ready to do whatever it takes in order to deal with this crisis."

"I think that he's made that clear in his statement last Friday, and I think coming to Massachusetts is a further articulation of that goal," Markey told reporters Tuesday.

An emergency declaration on climate would allow the president to redirect federal resources to bolster renewable energy programs that would help accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. The declaration also could be used as a legal basis to block oil and gas drilling or other projects, although such actions would likely be challenged in court by energy companies or Republican-led states.

Such a declaration would be similar to the one issued by President Biden's Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, who declared a national emergency to build a wall on the southern border when lawmakers refused to allocate money for that effort.

President Biden pledged last week to take significant executive actions on climate after monthslong discussions between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., came to a standstill. The West Virginia senator cited stubbornly high inflation as the reason for his hesitation, although he has long protected energy interests in his coal- and gas-producing state.

For now, Manchin has said he will only agree to a legislative package that shores up subsidies to help people buy insurance under the 2010 health care law and allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices that will ultimately lower the cost of pharmaceuticals for consumers.

The White House has indicated it wants Congress to take that deal, and President Biden will address the climate issue on his own.

The former Brayton Point power plant closed in 2017 after burning coal for more than five decades. The plant will now become an offshore wind energy site.

A new report says the U.S. and other major carbon-polluting nations are falling short on pledges to fight climate change. Among the 10 biggest carbon emitters, only the European Union has enacted polices close to or consistent with international goals of limiting warming to just a few more tenths of a degree, according to scientists and experts who track climate action in countries.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

<![CDATA[EU Lawmakers Back Gas, Nuclear Energy As Sustainable]]> Wed, 06 Jul 2022 11:17:00 -0500
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European Union lawmakers voted Wednesday to include natural gas and nuclear in the bloc's list of sustainable activities, backing a proposal from the EU's executive arm that has been drawing fierce criticism from environment groups and will likely trigger legal challenges.

As the EU wants to set the best global standards in the fight against climate change, the decision could tarnish the bloc's image and question the region's commitment to reaching climate neutrality by 2050.

The European Commission earlier this year made the proposal as part of its plans for building a climate-friendly future, dividing member countries and drawing outcry from environmentalists over what they criticize as "greenwashing."

EU legislators from the environment and economy committees objected last month to the plan, setting up Wednesday's decisive vote in Strasbourg, France. But MEPs rejected their resolution in a 328-278 vote, with 33 lawmakers abstaining. The result was announced to a salvo of applause.

An absolute majority of 353 was needed to veto the proposal. If the European Parliament and member countries don't object to it by July 11, the so-called Taxonomy delegated act will enter into force and apply as of next year.

Greenpeace immediately said it will submit a formal request for internal review to the European Commission, and then take legal action at the European Court of Justice if the result isn't conclusive.

"It's dirty politics and it's an outrageous outcome to label gas and nuclear as green and keep more money flowing to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's war chest, but now we will fight this in the courts," said Ariadna Rodrigo, Greenpeace's EU sustainable finance campaigner.

European Parliament rapporteur Bas Eickhout rued "a dark day for the climate and the energy transition."

The green labeling system from the European Commission defines what qualifies as an investment in sustainable energy. Under certain conditions, gas and nuclear energy will now be part of the mix, making it easier for private investors to inject money into both.

With the EU aiming to reach climate neutrality by 2050 and to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, the commission says the classification system is crucial to direct investments into sustainable energy. It estimates that about 350 billion euros of investment per year will be needed to meet the 2030 targets.

Introducing gas and nuclear into the equation has divided the 27 member countries amid Russia's war in Ukraine, and even the parliament's political groups.

Luxembourg's energy minister, Claude Turmes, said he deeply regretted the European Parliament's failure to bloc the commission's plan, adding that his country — together with Austria — would move ahead with legal efforts to block the labeling of nuclear and gas as sustainable.

Steffen Hebestreit, a spokesman for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said that "the German government stands by its position and considers nuclear energy as unsustainable."

"Nevertheless, the German government believes that the taxonomy is an important instrument for achieving climate protection targets, because it is clear that natural gas is an important bridging technology for us on the way to CO2 neutrality and the inclusion of the use of natural gas in the delegated act takes this into account," Hebestreit added.

Protests that had started on Tuesday continued Wednesday outside the EU legislature as lawmakers debated the issue.

Environmentalists warned the vote could set a precedent for lawmakers elsewhere to label polluting forms of energy as sustainable.

"We have now officially validated greenwashing by law," said Tsvetelina Kuzmanova of the campaign group E3G.

"The process and the decision have been entirely political, not scientific, to only benefit a small number of member states," she said. "This would not stand a chance in court and will only create more uncertainty for financial markets and jeopardize (the) EU's climate ambition."

The youth activist group Fridays for Future said billions of euros could be pumped into gas infrastructure and nuclear power plants as a result of the decision, diverting much-needed funds from renewable alternatives.

One argument for rejecting the proposal is that it will boost Russian gas sales at a time when it is invading neighboring Ukraine, but the European Commission said it had received a letter from the Ukrainian government backing its stance.

European Commissioner Mairead McGuinness quoted from the letter from Ukraine's energy minister Tuesday: "I strongly believe that the inclusion of gas and nuclear in the taxonomy is an important element of the energy security in Europe, especially with a view to replacing Russian gas."

"I don't think we should second-guess this letter," McGuinness said.

Russia's war in Ukraine has prompted the 27-nation bloc to sever ties with some Russian fossil fuels. Member countries have agreed to ban 90% of Russian oil by year-end in addition to a ban on imports of Russian coal that will start in August.

But the EU hasn't included gas — a fuel used to power factories and generate electricity — in its own sanctions for fear of seriously harming the European economy. Before the war in Ukraine, it relied on Russia for 25% of its oil and 40% of its natural gas.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

<![CDATA[How City Design Can Cool Down Your Neighborhood]]> Tue, 05 Jul 2022 20:00:00 -0500
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Data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that heat waves are becoming more frequent in the U.S. In the 60s, there was an average of two heat waves a year. During the 2010s, that went up to six per year.

The National Weather Service predicts July, August and September of this year will be hotter than normal. June has already set the stage for a scorcher. There was a record-breaking heat wave in the Midwest and the Southeast, impacting over 60 million Americans.

It’s not just happening in the U.S. Japan is experiencing the worst heatwave it’s seen since 1875. Officials told residents to use less electricity and to ration air conditioning to help combat power shortages. In Europe, Rome tied its hottest temperature on record and several other cities hit records as well.

So, how can we help ease the effects of extreme heat as it becomes something we deal with on the regular?

You might not realize it but heat waves can be shaped, in part, by things like urban planning and land use.

Ladd Keith, assistant professor of planning at the University of Arizona, co-wrote a report on different solutions that was published by the American Planning Association. He explained that designing cities to help combat heat is a fairly new concept. 

"We did a literature review of research on extreme heat that found that 60% of the research on heat planning and heat governance processes have all been written within the last five years," Keith said.

Keith says these planning solutions fall into two categories: heat mitigation and heat management.

On the heat mitigation front, the goal is to cool down cities, and if you live in a big one, you might have seen some of these efforts at work. 

Let’s start with ventilation corridors. This design helps increase wind speed to cool an area. A study presented at the International Conference on Urban Climate found that ventilation corridors can increase the average wind speed during the summer by about 6 to 9%, which can bring the temperature down a few degrees.

Buildings can also be arranged in a certain pattern to bring temperatures down. The different dimensions and amount of space between buildings can allow more air to flow through and cool things down a bit.

In addition to that, shade structures could be added throughout communities. The EPA says shaded surfaces can be up 45 degrees cooler.

Greenery is a good method for cooling too. Let’s look at Singapore: It started its “garden city” plan in 1967 with intensive tree-planting and adding new parks. As the city grew and the buildings were taller, they focused on creating “sky gardens,” adding greenery all over the buildings.

Singapore has 240 acres of skyrise greenery, and it plans to double that by 2030. The thing is, for new buildings, adding a certain amount of greenery is a required policy to help them reach their goals.

U.S. cities like Washington D.C., New York, Philadelphia and Chicago offer incentives for installing green roofs. Last year a bill was introduced in the House by Representative Nydia Velazquez that would make the Department of Energy establish a grant program to build green roofs on public schools.

Painting roofs and roads lighter colors can also help reflect more solar energy away from the cities. NASA research found that a white roof could be 42 degrees cooler than your normal black roof on the hottest day of summer in New York City.

Through New York’s Cool Roofs initiative, as of 2018, the city painted more than 5 million square feet of its roofs with a reflective coating.

Los Angeles had a similar idea in mind. They implemented a pilot program where they painted their roads with white paint, and it decreased the temperature by as much as 23 degrees.

"Those pilot projects when they're evaluated are incredibly helpful because they kind of point us in the right direction to understand where to put the public investments, the public money in the future, and how to really reduce the urban heat island effect," Keith said. "And so, I think we're in the early days of seeing cities really taking seriously the need to mitigate heat and in cities and towns."

One study found that the combination of adding more green space and reflective materials could offset the projected increase of heat-related deaths in Philadelphia Atlanta and Phoenix by 2050. Right now, heat is the number one weather-related killer in the U.S.

We’ve seen different cities try out these heat mitigation efforts but other cities are taking the heat management route, which is about preparing for and responding to extreme heat.

Heat management involves things like educating the public on the dangers of heat, creating a heat action plan that includes setting up cooling centers and assistance programs to help make indoor cooling accessible for everyone.  

"Formerly red lines neighborhoods or communities that have been disinvested in over time that are often lower income or minority population, are often much hotter than their richer counterparts," Keith said. "So that's something to consider, too, is that as we strategize how to address heat risk in communities as making sure that we're focusing on the communities that are most at risk."

Getting funding for these projects is still a work in progress, but planners say they hope to see a shift from using public investment to getting more funding from larger government agencies as heat continues to be a pressing issue.

<![CDATA[Supreme Court Limits EPA In Curbing Power Plant Emissions]]> Thu, 30 Jun 2022 09:19:55 -0500
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In a blow to the fight against climate change, the Supreme Court on Thursday limited how the nation's main anti-air pollution law can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

By a 6-3 vote, with conservatives in the majority, the court said that the Clean Air Act does not give the Environmental Protection Agency broad authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that contribute to global warming.

The court's ruling could complicate the administration's plans to combat climate change. Its proposal to regulate power plant emissions is expected by the end of the year.

President Joe Biden aims to cut the nation's greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade and to have an emissions-free power sector by 2035. Power plants account for roughly 30% of carbon dioxide output.

The justices heard arguments in the case on the same day that a United Nations panel's report warned that the effects of climate change are about to get much worse, likely making the world sicker, hungrier, poorer and more dangerous in the coming years.

The power plant case has a long and complicated history that begins with the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. That plan would have required states to reduce emissions from the generation of electricity, mainly by shifting away from coal-fired plants.

But that plan never took effect. Acting in a lawsuit filed by West Virginia and others, the Supreme Court blocked it in 2016 by a 5-4 vote, with conservatives in the majority.

With the plan on hold, the legal fight over it continued. But after President Donald Trump took office, the EPA repealed the Obama-era plan. The agency argued that its authority to reduce carbon emissions was limited and it devised a new plan that sharply reduced the federal government's role in the issue.

New York, 21 other mainly Democratic states, the District of Columbia and some of the nation's largest cities sued over the Trump plan. The federal appeals court in Washington ruled against both the repeal and the new plan, and its decision left nothing in effect while the new administration drafted a new policy.

Adding to the unusual nature of the high court's involvement, the reductions sought in the Obama plan by 2030 already have been achieved through the market-driven closure of hundreds of coal plants.

Power plant operators serving 40 million people called on the court to preserve the companies' flexibility to reduce emissions while maintaining reliable service. Prominent businesses that include Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Tesla also backed the administration.

Nineteen mostly Republican-led states and coal companies led the fight at the Supreme Court against broad EPA authority to regulate carbon output.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

<![CDATA[Why Can't We Quit Plastics?]]> Thu, 30 Jun 2022 01:00:00 -0500
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Plastic: It’s in our phones, wallets, beauty products, our food and air, and even our bodies.  

And if it feels like it’s nearly impossible to avoid, that’s because as of 2015, the world has produced nearly eight billion tons of plastic.  

That’s 2,000 pounds of plastic for every person on Earth, according to a study in Our World in Data. 

According to a study from the University of California, Santa Barbara -- of all the plastic that exists today, almost half has been manufactured just since 2000. 

Around the world, people buy one million plastic bottles every minute.  

Americans use an average of 365 plastic bags every year, collectively sip from half a billion plastic straws every day, and tossed 54 billion pounds of plastic into the garbage In 2018 alone. 

And scientist Molly Morse says every year, up to 23 million metric tons of waste makes its way into our water. 

Why can't we quit our plastic habit?



<![CDATA[Power Grids Across The U.S. Are Being Tested By High Heat]]> Mon, 20 Jun 2022 19:50:00 -0500
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A hot and humid Houston, TX day reaching 99 degrees has Texans looking for Texas sized ways to beat the heat.

Outside, splash time and water activities are cooling the nerves of parents and kids.

“There’s been days where it’s been above 100, 105 degrees heat index," said Soyeon Stewart, Houston resident.

Millions across the country are sweltering, preferring to stay out of the sun and turning on the air conditioning indoors instead.

But dialing down the temperature is cranking up the pressure on the power grid.

According to a summer reliability assessment by an organization that sets standards for the industry, the West and Midwest face possible grid failure in the months ahead.

Some of the reasons cited include lack of capacity and construction on key transmission lines. Drought in the West is also affecting hydro-generators, and high heat is driving up demand.

“That’s definitely a concern with it being so hot, not having AC inside would be really uncomfortable," Stewart said.

In Texas, high temps are putting strain on an electric grid that almost failed during demand from bitter cold in 2021. Now, there’s record power use in hot weather — more than 75,000 megawatts on June 16 alone.

"We need to see that the the regular generation fleet, the thermal fleet, what they call the dispatchable fleet, what the viewer knows is a generator we can turn on and off that they're ready to answer the call," said Ed Hirs, energy policy analyst at the University Of Houston. "We've had 10 years of disinvestment in this particular part of our fleet while the renewable fleet has grown."

Hirs says the state hasn't done enough to ensure all energy sources are resilient during weather extremes.

But, adding renewable energy has helped avoid blackouts so far..  

"25 to 30,000 could be wind and solar combined, which really relieves the strain on the natural gas, coal and nuclear units," Hirs said.

Yet it’s only June, and some leaders fear a repeat of the summer 11 years ago, when some Texas cities had 100 degree plus days for months.

Texas state Sen. Nathan Johnson oversees energy policy. He thinks the Texas grid remains vulnerable despite the governor’s vow to fix it the last legislative session. 

"We do not have enough generation in the ground that's dispatchable, and we're not going to this summer," Sen. Johnson said. "It takes more than a year to build out the kind of infrastructure you need to meet that kind of demand that we have. When will it kick out? I don't know. But we're flirting with a big problem if we aren't simultaneously doing more to incentivize this additional generation."

Weather-weary parents hope the power stays on.

“Right now it’s been a struggle just to get him to do something outside of the house, a water feature is one way but we also really need indoor playgrounds with all this heat right now," said Carl Stewart, Houston resident.

Otherwise, they’ll be outdoors on the splash pad a lot more.

“It does feel like summer is getting longer and longer and hotter and hotter," Soeyon Stewart said.

<![CDATA[Pres. Biden Hosts Climate Meeting Amid High Gas Price Pressure]]> Fri, 17 Jun 2022 13:23:00 -0500
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Equating the oil and gas industry to Big Tobacco, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday that "fossil fuel producers and financiers have humanity by the throat." But President Joe Biden wasn't quite itching for a fight.

With both soaring energy prices and a warming planet weighing on the world at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, President Biden talked about trying to ease the pain of high gas prices while pushing more long-term green policies.

Dismissing the idea of boosting gasoline production, the United Nations' top diplomat threw out traditional diplomatic niceties and bluntly vilified the fossil fuel industry at a virtual session that included oil rich Saudi Arabia, China, Europe and Egypt, which is hosting the next United Nations summit on climate change. It was the first time Guterres compared the energy industry to tobacco interests, saying they use "the same scandalous tactics" to delay action that is good for people and the planet.

President Biden reiterated his goal to lower gasoline prices that are averaging a record $5 a gallon in the U.S. while also shifting away from fossil fuels in order to limit climate change and the risks it presents.

"I'm using every lever available to me to bring down prices for the American people," President Biden said. "But the critical point is that these actions are part of our transition to a clean and secure and long-term energy future."

President Biden is also expected to visit Saudi Arabia next month. The White House recently praised the kingdom after OPEC+ announced that it would pump more oil to boost the global supply.

Guterres dismissed more drilling, saying "nothing could be more clear or present than the danger of fossil fuel expansion."

"Even in the short-term, fossil fuels don't make political or economic sense," Guterres said.

"Had we invested earlier and massively in renewable energy, we would not find ourselves once again at the mercy of unstable fossil fuel markets," Guterres said. "Let's make sure the war in Ukraine is not used to increase that dependency."

The secretary-general decided to amp up the rhetoric because of successful efforts by the industry to use the war in Ukraine as an excuse to start drilling projects, said a senior U.N. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to lack of authority to speak for the agency.

"It is very interesting to see the change in tone from the secretary-general. His language is blunter than any secretary general before him," said Niklas Hohne of the New Climate Institute in Germany. "This comes at a time when we indeed observe a goldrush to new fossil fuel infrastructure… Such expansion is counterproductive to climate policy as it would lock the world into a high greenhouse gas future."

In a statement, the American Petroleum Institute said governments and the industry need to work together: "Rising energy costs worldwide and current geopolitical tensions prove it is more important than ever to ensure continued access to affordable, reliable energy while reducing emissions. As populations grow and economies expand, the world will demand more energy, not less."

President Biden's priorities are slashing methane leaks and getting more zero-emission vehicles on the roads.

President Biden administration officials, insisting on anonymity to discuss the event, said they expect some of the countries to announce more ambitious climate targets as part of the landmark agreement reached in Paris in 2015.

President Biden sounded the alarm on extreme weather events in an Oval Office interview on Thursday with The Associated Press.

"We have more hurricanes and tornadoes and flooding," he said. "People saw what — I took my kids years ago to Yellowstone Park. They call me, 'Daddy did you see what happened at Yellowstone, right?' Well, it's unthinkable. These are 1,000-year kinds of events."

But the Russian invasion of Ukraine has scrambled President Biden's climate goals by driving up the cost of gas. Facing political pressure to get prices under control in a midterm election year, the Democratic president has urged U.S. oil refiners to produce more fuel even as companies say they lack the long-term incentives to do so because the administration is accelerating the move to clean energy.

"Well, I say in the short term, do the right thing," President Biden said Thursday, stressing his view that energy companies should increase production instead of trying to maximize their profits.

President Biden comes to the summit with foreign leaders with far less of the climate ambition and hope he declared at the outset of his presidency, when he vowed to make the United States a leader again on slashing fossil fuel emissions to stave off the worst scenarios of global warming. Republicans and some Democrats since then have stalled and all but killed President Biden's most ambitious climate legislation.

While President Biden has succeeded in securing funding to boost electric vehicles and some other climate measures, the setbacks have left President Biden focused on voluntary pledges and initiatives like those Friday, which can easily be abandoned or reversed by future leaders.

That leaves Guterres, who doesn't have the power or political limitations of President Biden, to aim directly at the fossil fuel industry, saying they've "invested heavily in pseudo-science and public relations – with a false narrative to minimize their responsibility for climate change and undermine ambitious climate policies."

Andrew Weaver, a University of Victoria climate scientist and former Canadian legislator, said Guterres' equating the fossil fuel and tobacco industry "is a straight out comparison... "People haven't been accountable for what I would are in some sense some very serious crimes against society."

But Stanford University climate scientist and environment program director Chris Field said Guterres' call to action "as exactly right" but said "we need to make sure that we don't let the focus on fossil fuel companies as bad guys slow progress on solutions."

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

<![CDATA[Growing Efforts To Name, Categorize Heat Waves Point To Their Danger]]> Fri, 10 Jun 2022 20:03:00 -0500
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There's a new effort to give heat waves the kind of labels they deserve, as they've become a dangerous new threat in the age of a changing climate. 

Major cities all over the world are considering plans to begin naming and categorizing heat waves like hurricanes.

Seville, Spain is set to become the first city to start naming heat waves this month.

Athens, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee and Kansas City are all piloting programs to categorize heat waves based on weather and public health data.

"I think right now the scientific evidence is overwhelming in concluding that this kind of event is becoming more and more frequent, more intense because of climate change," Arpita Mondal, climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Technology of Mumbai, said.

The effort is gaining momentum as India endures sweltering triple digits and as the heat fuels a fire in Spain. It's hurting Californians in the high desert, and dogs in the Texas humidity trying to stay cool.

Proponents of naming heat waves think it could come with increased attention and preparations from local leaders, like freeing up resources to respond to heat-related illness and opening cooling centers.

"We shifted a lot of our play time to before school, and we have a sanctuary where they can just go and sit in the shade,"  Brian Winsor, executive director and founder of Paideia Academies, said.

Schools in Phoenix are already trying to adapt, hoping to keep students healthy in the blistering sun.

"We've pretty much brought the percentage down a lot of heat related symptoms and sicknesses," Chelcee Pullam, Arizona school medical technician, said.

Meanwhile, governments all over the world are trying to keep new buildings cool and save energy by changing the color of roofs.

New construction is coming with green roofs that have plentiful benefits.

It's all a clear sign of the way our lives are changing to the contours of a warming planet, with the hopes a name and category will force people to treat heat waves like the dangerous events they are and keep us ready for what lies ahead.

<![CDATA[How City Planning Can Support Environmental Justice]]> Mon, 06 Jun 2022 20:20:00 -0500
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Clean air and access to clean water are obvious traits to better living conditions, but not everyone in the U.S. has the luxury of choosing to live in safer and healthier areas. In fact, many communities of color in particular are forced to deal with these kinds of environmental hazards, leading to negative health outcomes. The term for this is environmental racism.

For instance, a recent ProPublica analysis tracked hazardous air pollution across the country between 2014 and 2018 and found that in predominantly Black areas, the estimated cancer risk from toxic air pollution is more than double that of majority White areas.

While some states had some policies in place to protect against this, many of them became outdated years ago.

Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection established an environmental justice policy in 2004, and they went almost two decades without updating it. Now it’s being re-written to ensure a more equitable environment for minority and low-income neighborhoods.

Outdated plans are pretty common across the country, but recently, Pennsylvania decided to make some changes to make sure the policy meets the needs of its residents today.

Justin Dula, director of the Pennsylvania Office of Environmental Justice, gave Newsy more context on the updates.  

"We wanted to see where we might have opportunities to strengthen environmental justice in issues beyond the permitting process and beyond public participation," Dula said. "So, we're looking at our climate change action plan, our ways to prioritize environmental justice around grant programs that DEP administers. Looking at where we might have authority to consider environmental justice in enforcement, compliance and inspection efforts that we do."

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order in the fall of 2021 saying that the state must uphold the Environmental Rights Amendment. That says people have the right to clean air and water and that all Pennsylvanians are entitled to fair and equitable treatment and meaningful involvement in decision-making that affects their environment.

The executive order also made sure this is a group effort, with all state agencies working together through an Environmental Justice Interagency Council to look at ways they can all help, beyond the Department of Environmental Protection.

The department says it's been engaging in public participation; it's crucial to make sure the people impacted are a part of these discussions. The policy improvements aim to tackle some of the biggest issues these low-income minority communities face. 

"In urban communities a big issue that often comes up that relates to illegal dumping on abandoned lot, lots and sites, so that's something that we hear a lot from urban communities in rural communities," Dula said. "You know, one example of an issue there relates to the historic legacy of anthracite coal mining, where those communities are experienced. You know, there the industry is gone. The mining industry is gone, but the environmental effects of those facilities are still there."

In California, environmental justice is becoming a part of city planning efforts. In 2018, it was the first state to pass a law requiring local governments to add an environmental justice element if they update two or more aspects of their city plans.

Now, it's starting to take shape. This year, the Santa Ana City Council in Southern California voted to make updates to its nearly 40-year-old plan to address lead contamination and other land issues impacting low-income communities of color.

Patricia Flores Yrarrázaval is a Santa Ana resident who leads Orange County Environmental Justice. The group partnered with another local grassroots movement and through a study, found that the highest levels of lead contamination were in migrant communities.

They said it took mobilizing with other community members to get these changes approved, but that was all possible with the new law. Now the city has committed to working on the issue. 

"We have blood lead testing for residents as well as an assurance from the health care agency that all residents, regardless of immigration status, will be given access to health care for anything related to this side impact crisis," Flores Yrarrázaval said. "So, they've agreed to jobs being prioritized for our residents and to working with us in particular, also to remediate across the city."

Flores Yrarrázaval says if other states adopt a similar law, they could make it a little more specific.  

"While I think that SB1000 was helpful in providing the context of like, you know, you have a legal requirement to include an environmental justice component — there wasn't a lot of specific and binding language within the law already, and so, we really had to push for that from our perspective," Flores Yrarrázaval said.

Pennsylvania and California aren't alone in their efforts. In recent years, other states have introduced bills around environmental justice, created task forces and made updates to existing policies.  

On the federal level, President Biden signed an executive order last year creating the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

However, the only way to truly measure these effects long-term is to look at how these plans are enforced and data on health outcomes for minority communities down the road.

<![CDATA[Southern California Under New Water Restrictions Amid Drought]]> Thu, 02 Jun 2022 20:02:00 -0500
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Desperate times call for desperate measures as Southern California faces the driest conditions in 1,200 years. 

"This is a crisis," Metropolitan Water District of Southern California General Manager Adel Hagekhalil said. "This is unprecedented. We've never done anything like this before."

Starting this week, 6 million people across Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties are limited to watering outdoor plants once a week. 

The goal is to slash water use by 35% as California heads into its third straight year of drought. 

That's unheard of around here, especially with sweltering summer days on the horizon. 

But water authorities say it's a necessary evil and could be a prelude to more cuts. 

Outdoor water use may be banned entirely if conditions don't improve by September. 

Just last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom warned the parched state could be forced to enact mandatory water restrictions if residents didn't curb use on their own. 

A sharp turn from his previous stance, favoring a more localized approach to water conservation based on regional needs and water supplies. 

Last year, Newsom challenged Californians to curb water use by 15%. 

Instead, the state's average urban water use rose nearly "Since 800 A.D., we have never experienced — Since 800 A.D., we've never experienced in the west coast of the United States, consecutive years, dry years, like we have experienced," Gov. Newsom said.

Of course, California isn't the only state suffering at the hands of the megadrought. 

Bone dry conditions have become the norm in the intermountain west and parts of the plains. 

And there's no signs of relief any time soon, thanks to above average temperatures and below average rainfall. 

Drought, wildfire, electricity, summer fun — the implications reach further than dried-up lakes and streams. 

Parched conditions increase risks for wildfires, rolling blackouts, agricultural strains and poses issues for overall human health and safety. 

In California, officials are begging residents to do their part: Use recycled water for outside projects, take shorter showers, only run washing machines and dishwashers when they're completely full and switch to drought-tolerant landscaping. 

<![CDATA[FAA Delays Environmental Review Of SpaceX Starship Again]]> Tue, 31 May 2022 20:01:00 -0500
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A moonshot, delayed. 

The FAA is reviewing environmental impact at SpaceX's south Texas facility, its so-called 'Starbase' where it's building and testing the massive rocket that it hopes will one day make commercial trips to the moon. 

Regulators are looking at concerns the facility negatively impacts migratory birds and a nearby wildlife refuge. 

They're now saying it needs more time to get a final assessment ready as SpaceX waits for a green light. 

"I don't see this as particularly unusual or burdensome," aerospace industry analyst Phil Smith said.

The company's hopes of getting its massive starship into Earth orbit this year hinge on  an FAA assessment. 

It's a red-tape hurdle for the billionaire CEO, Elon Musk, who moved much of the company's operations to Texas to escape that sort of thing. 

"Rules and regulations build up, and they build up more in some places than others. And they didn't, you know — I think Texas has the right amount of rules and regulations," Musk said.

But even if the FAA requires a more extensive environmental impact statement, something that could cause a costly delay, Musk reportedly plans to shift SpaceX's starship operations to Florida, where Musk says the company has the approval it needs.

The red tape is a reminder of the balance between finding new frontiers for life and protecting the one we already have. 

"The interesting thing about spaceflight or our stepping into space is it forces us to address the fact that we live on spaceship Earth," Smith said. "In order for us to grow and expand outward, we do have to use our technology to do that. That does mean that there will be impacts on the environment. Whether they're severe or not is what we want to avoid."

It's a bit of an ironic hurdle before a man who is planning for Earth's demise and trying to put life's eggs in more than one basket. 

"For those who really care about, not just the humans, but all life on earth, it is very important — essential — that, over the long term, that we become a multi-planet species and ultimately even go beyond the solar-system and bring life with us," Musk said.

<![CDATA[Historic Site Of Jamestown, VA Threatened By Rising Sea Levels]]> Tue, 31 May 2022 12:54:59 -0500
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America's European history starts in Jamestown, Virginia, which is the first permanent settlement founded on May 13, 1607.

The 104 men and boys picked the site because it was surrounded by water on three sides. But 400 years later, that's what's destroying it.

It's "urgently threatened by a changing climate," said Katherine Malone-France, chief preservation officer at National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Jamestown is one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 11 most endangered historic places across the country.

The James River regularly overflows the historic seawall, and heavy rains flood the archaeological sites. Over the last century, the waters around the settlement have risen by more than a foot and a half, and they're going to keep rising an estimated three more feet by the end of the century.

"It's not simply the severity of single storms and coastal erosion, but the increasing frequency of storms," said Malone-France.

The Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation is trying to save it. The group plans to elevate the buildings and roads, repair the seawall and install flood berms — but this might not be enough.

"We are preparing to make decisions about what we may not be able to save," Malone-France said.

And it's not just Jamestown.

"We are going to see impacts of climate change on our historical resources all across this country," said Malone-France.

Other endangered sites on the list include Camp Naco in Arizona, home to the Black Buffalo soldiers who served in the segregated U.S. Army after the Civil War; the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama, a sanctuary for civil rights marchers in 1965 (extensive termite damage forced it to close); and the Minidoka World War II Interment Camps, where Japanese Americans were locked up. Developers want to build a wind farm on the site, which may destroy some building foundations — the National Trust says turbines can be built elsewhere.

"Renewable energy or Minidoka — we can have both," said Malone-France.

"Preservation is not about the past. Preservation is about the better future we are building together," Malone-France continued.

There's about five years left to save the Jamestown site before some of history will be lost.

<![CDATA[Mermaids Aren't Just Entertainers. Many Are Environmental Advocates]]> Mon, 30 May 2022 19:39:00 -0500
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Water, fins and a sense of adventure — the fantasy is real in Sacramento, California.  

"The community is great, but for me, it was kind of like an escape, you know?" merman Onyx said. "So, don a tail, and you can go anywhere."

Merfolk of all kinds gather from across the country at the California Mermaid Convention in Sacramento to swim and celebrate all things “under the sea.”

Mermaid Echo hails from the Great Lakes.

"All mermaids that you meet will love aquatic ecosystems and animals," Echo said.

Outside their mermaid form, Echo is a wildlife specialist and a communications assistant for Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources.

Echo’s other identity is as an edu-tainer, or educator and entertainer, who started her own business of professional "mermaiding."

"In Wisconsin, you have to have like a 20-minute conversation with somebody to explain like, 'No, it's not crazy. I'm not a crazy person. I don't actually think I'm a real mermaid. This is a tool I use to teach kids,'" Echo said. 

Being a mermaid can be pricey. A fabric tail can cost between $60 and $200. Silicon tails like Echo’s can cost between $1,300 and $5,000.

"I think anybody can be a mermaid," Echo said. "It's just a matter of mentality. Know you can just believe in the ocean and for caring for it, and you can be a mermaid."

The merfolk say what they do is more than playing dress-up. It's also advocating for clean water.

"Mermaids have a really unique opportunity as educators because we look approachable and friendly and fun and people want to ask questions," said mermaid Rachel, co-organizer of the California Mermaid Convention. "Then we have a platform to talk about all of these ongoing issues."

Some merfolk organize clean-up projects, raise money for environmental efforts and teach water conservation.

"The flashy costumes draw people's attention and make them think, 'Wow, what's going on over here, and how can I be a part of it?" said Teresa Henry, of Nerdtistic Park.

Echo teaches other educators fun ways to engage children and adults young at heart about the environment.

"A really easy thing that people can do is turn that water off when you're brushing your teeth, or you can also bring reusable bags to the grocery store," Echo said. "But more importantly than anything, remember that it's not an individual issue. It's a corporations issue."

Nearly two-thirds of global carbon emissions can be traced to 90 major companies, according to a 2017 study from the University of Oxford. The increase of carbon emissions has contributed to climate change and a rise in sea levels.

"Oceans are obviously very important, and we need to protect our coral reefs and all of our endangered animals," Echo said. "But the No. 1 most endangered aquatic system on the planet is freshwater ecosystems."

For Echo, who has a science background, mermaiding is about combining environmentalism and fun and inspiring future generations to keep swimming forward.

<![CDATA[Deaths Of 3 Women In Early Heat Wave Raise Questions, Fears]]> Sat, 28 May 2022 11:12:00 -0500
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Temperatures barely climbed into the 90s and only for a couple of days. But the discovery of the bodies of three women inside a Chicago senior housing facility this month left the city looking for answers to questions that were supposed to be addressed after a longer and hotter heat wave killed more than 700 people nearly three decades ago.

Now, the city — and the country — is facing the reality that because of climate change, deadly heat waves can strike just about anywhere, don't only fall in the height of summer and need not last long.

"Hotter and more dangerous heat waves are coming earlier, in May ... and the other thing is we are getting older and more people are living alone," said Eric Klinenberg, a New York University sociologist, who wrote "Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago." about the 1995 heat wave. "It's a formula for disaster."

The Cook County Medical Examiner's office has yet to determine the causes of death for the three women whose bodies were found in the James Sneider Apartments on May 14. But the victims' families have already filed or plan to file wrongful death lawsuits against the companies that own and manage the buildings.

The City Council member whose ward includes the neighborhood where the building is located said she experienced stifling temperatures in the complex when she visited, including in one unit where heat sensors hit 102 degrees.

"These are senior residents, residents with health conditions (and) they should not be in these conditions," Alderman Maria Hadden said in a Facebook video shot outside the apartments.

Part of the problem, experts say, is that communities nationwide are still learning how deadly heat can be. In Chicago, it took the sight of refrigerated trucks being filled with dead bodies after the 1995 heat wave to drive home the message that the city was woefully unprepared for a silent and invisible disaster that took more than twice as many lives as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

That realization led to a system in which city workers start calling the elderly and frail, and turn city buildings into 24-hour cooling centers when temperatures become oppressive.

What happened this month is a reminder that the safeguards in place to make sure people don't freeze to death because they have not paid their heating bills often do not exist to prevent people from overheating in their homes.

"We have nothing for air conditioning," Hadden said.

One expert isn't surprised.

"We recognize people need heating in cold weather and set up programs, financial assistance, to enable that but we don't do that for cooling," said Gregory Wellenius, a Boston University professor of environmental health who has studied heat-related deaths. "But subsidies for cooling are really controversial (because) for many people cooling is seen as a luxury item."

In Chicago, Hadden said the building's management company believed it was not allowed to turn off the heat and turn on the air conditioning until June 1, because of the city's heat ordinance. But while she said the ordinance has no such requirement, the explanation may at least be a signal that the ordinance should be amended to better protect vulnerable people from heat.

Wellenius said statistics show that while well over 80% of homes in cities such as Dallas and Phoenix have air conditioning, the percentage is far lower in cities like Boston and New York.

And in the Pacific Northwest, the percentage is even lower, something that came into stark relief in Oregon, Washington and western Canada last June, when temperatures climbed as high as 118 degrees Fahrenheit, killing 600 people or more.

There is encouraging news.

"More people have air conditioning and we are more aware of the health risks of heat waves," Klinenberg said.

Still, there is evidence that people don't appreciate or even know just how dangerous the heat can be.

In a study published in 2020, Wellenius and other researchers estimated that nationwide about 5,600 deaths a year could be attributed to high heat — eight times more than the 700 heat-related deaths that are study found were officially reported each year.

Wellenius said the reasons for what he called a "gross miscalculation" begin with the fact that official statistics are simply the result of counting death certificates that list heat as the cause of death.

In the county that includes Chicago, for example, the medical examiner's office reported two heat-related deaths last year, and seven the year before.

Just how many deaths in the U.S. are heat related today is unclear. Wellenius' study, published in 2020, is the result of research from 1997 to 2006. And Klinenberg said the issue has been complicated by the pandemic.

"It's hard to distinguish excess heat deaths from COVID deaths," he said.

Still, Hadden knows something must be done to deal with heat that can hit earlier and later in the year than it once did.

"We have to plan for this," she said.

Klinenberg wonders if cities will follow up on such talk.

"Heat never feels like the most important thing in cities and by the time it feels like the most important thing it is too late to do anything about it," he said.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

<![CDATA[Losing Bees Could Have Huge Implications For The Environment]]> Thu, 26 May 2022 20:17:00 -0500
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Worldwide, bees are vanishing, which could have huge implications for the environment.

Bees play an essential role in ecosystems humans rely on. They can produce honey and other products needed for food and health care products, but arguably their biggest role is as a pollinator.

Bees use pollen as protein to feed to their young: 13 bees travel from flower to flower trying to collect as much pollen as possible. It will leave a bit of pollen as it goes along, and by doing so, it helps the plants reproduce.

Pollinators like bees play a huge role in producing crops needed for our food. Their colleagues, like birds and bats, also help produce about one-third of the world’s food crop.

Penn State entomology professor and pollinator health specialist Margarita Lopez-Uribe says there could be dire consequences if the planet loses pollinators. 

"If that process doesn't take place, what happens is that the plants cannot reproduce," López-Uribe said. "As we know, plants are the basis of all the energetic change in ecosystems. Bee-pollinated crops are the ones that actually gives us the most vitamins and minerals and nutrients, so... they are very important for a balanced diet."

The U.N. says bees are declining in population around the globe, and there's been evidence of it in the U.S., too.

While there are about 4,000 different bee species native to the U.S., more bee species in the states are becoming endangered.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared a bee species endangered for the first time in 2017 and has since added more.

Beekeepers have lost roughly 40% of their managed honey bee colonies in each of the last four years, according to survey data from the nonprofit Bee Informed Partnership.  

The losses between 2020 and 2021 were the second highest since they began tracking it in 2006.

But there’s a difference between honey bees, who live in large colonies and are basically used as livestock, and wild bees, who tend to live on their own. 

"One of the main differences is that honey bees are the only species in North America that has those large colonies, and so 90% of all bees are solitary. There is only one female that is present in each of the nests of the bees. A lot of the pollination is actually done by wild bees, and this is something that has become more apparent in the past few decades. And then I think that the most worrisome picture of bee decline is it is coming from these wild bees."

Both types of bees are declining for the same reasons, and climate change is one of them. Research points to higher temperatures killing bees off or causing them to relocate.

But relocation can be tough for bees — the housing market is tough for them, too.

Both farming and urban-suburban development give bees fewer places to find pollen or places to build hives.

Rather, they’re exposed to pollution and pesticides.

"There is not enough forage for honeybees, so even though, you know, we have the same number of colonies, then that transformation of how we use land has changed and impacted bees significantly," López-Uribe said. "We are using a lot of acreage to grow things like corn and soybean that honeybees can use, but they are not nutritionally very good sources of pollen and nectar for the east. So they are basically malnourished."

The good news is some humans are stepping up to help fix the problem. Individuals and local groups are trying to save the bees in their communities, doing everything from planting more bee-friendly plants to limiting the use of pesticides and exterminations.

<![CDATA[Solving Clean Energy's Consistency Problem]]> Mon, 23 May 2022 12:53:00 -0500
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One of the biggest issues for the clean power industry to overcome has been consistency. The sun doesn't shine 24 hours per day and it's not always windy. But new technology at this year's American Clean Power Expo in San Antonio, Texas is helping overcome some of those issues.Two of the main categories are focused on artificial intelligence and  massive rechargeable batteries.2021 saw the construction of record amounts of new solar farms — 20% more than the previous year — which are helping to create enough clean energy to power 56 million homes. However, all of that renewable energy creates new problems as well.

SEE MORE: Summer Heat Expected To Strain Power Grid, Force Outages

Regulating the flow of old fossil fuel power and new clean power is one big challenge. One solution on display at the Clean Power Expo is the use of artificial intelligence.Veritone has developed software that's able to predict how much wind or solar power is going to be generated in a given area. It helps control the flow of the clean power across the grid.Daniel Friberg is the director of product and engineering at SunGrow. He says storage is critical for the industry to continue growing."The sun doesn't always shine," Friberg said. "With batteries, you're able to compensate for that by storing excess energy into the battery. Where there is less energy, you can bring it out from the battery."Those massive rechargeable battery storage units could help make clean energy more reliable.

<![CDATA[Renewed Hope For Action On Climate Change]]> Mon, 23 May 2022 01:00:00 -0500
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Burning fossil fuel has caused Earth to warm by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The most ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris Climate Accords was to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we’re likely not going to get there. 

Warming temperatures are affecting our skies, our oceans, our ecosystems, our health — and our anxiety.

A study of 10,000 young people from ten countries found that 59 per cent were “very worried” or “extremely worried” about where we're headed. 

but what if there are reasons to feel guarded optimism about tackling climate change? 

<![CDATA[Climate Change Is Threatening The Saguaro Cactus' Survival]]> Thu, 19 May 2022 21:35:00 -0500
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The iconic saguaro cactus looms across parts of Arizona. 

The prickly mysterious giant grows in the desolate Sonoran desert covering southern Arizona and northern Mexico, but it might be in jeopardy. 

Daniel Winkler, research ecologist with the United States Geological Survey, says he's concerned about the landscape’s future — a picture he fears will have fewer saguaros.

"The rate of climate change has already surpassed potentially ecological tipping points that we don't understand," Winkler said.

The National Weather Service recorded 2020 as the driest year in Tucson. That same year, August took the title as the warmest month on record at 92 degrees, and it’s expected to be hotter than normal this year.

Tucson is home to Saguaro National Park.

"Saguaros have evolved to deal with typical desert conditions or days over 100 degrees or more," Winkler said. "What we don't really understand is whether they can tolerate an abundance of 100 degree days as we're seeing."

Winkler says the severe long-term drought much of the southwest has been experiencing over the last couple of decades has also negatively impacted the saguaro population, especially in the national park. 

"What we're seeing is that the number of young, new individuals that are in the population is dramatically decreasing from historic levels," Winkler said.

The 2020 saguaro census found between 1990 and 2020 the number of saguaros at the national park nearly doubled to 2 million, but in 2010 the species began to hit a wall, and numbers only slightly increased.

Winkler says recent research shows stress is preventing the plants from surviving into adulthood.

Weather is just one component endangering the cactus species  

"As buffalo grass spreads across our national park, what we're seeing is an increased prevalence of wildfire," Winkler said.

In 2020, the Bighorn fire in Arizona charred nearly 120,00 acres and destroyed hundreds of saguaro cactuses.

"We know of at least 200 or more other species of plants and animals that entirely depend on the existence of saguaro for their own survival," Winkler said.

As it gets hotter and drier, fear is growing for the beloved staple across metro Phoenix.

A couple of years ago, Scott Bartelt says he began to notice the saguaros in his neighborhood were decaying and dying.

"I think that it’s bacteria, a necrosis, and you can see it just eats away at the plant," Bartelt said.

Bartelt snapped pictures of more than 200 saguaros, documenting his findings on the iNaturalist app for the first metro-Phoenix saguaro census, launched this month by the Desert Botanical Garden.

Hundreds of volunteers signed up to assess saguaros.

Tania Hernandez, a research scientist with the Desert Botanical Garden, says everything points to climate change, but she suspects disease and human pollution in the city may also play a role.  

"We don’t understand if it’s a natural process or not," Hernandez said. 

She hopes the census can help find answers before it’s too late, as they plan to make it an annual event every May.

Winkler says scientists like himself are conducting research and conservation efforts to help preserve the prickly giant for future generations.

"I see that the number of saguaros in our national park is declining, likely because of prolonged drought," Winkler said. "I'm disheartened because I know that the place that I love and the place that I love to study and to recreate on my time off might not like might not look like this for the foreseeable future."

The next saguaro census will be held in 2030, giving scientists a better idea if the iconic giant will survive the Arizona heat and potential fire threats.

<![CDATA[Study: Global Pollution Kills 9 Million People A Year]]> Wed, 18 May 2022 10:41:18 -0500
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A new study blames pollution of all types for 9 million deaths a year globally, with the death toll attributed to dirty air from cars, trucks and industry rising 55% since 2000.

That increase is offset by fewer pollution deaths from primitive indoor stoves and water contaminated with human and animal waste, so overall pollution deaths in 2019 are about the same as 2015.

The United States is the only fully industrialized country in the top 10 nations for total pollution deaths, ranking 7th with 142,883 deaths blamed on pollution in 2019, sandwiched between Bangladesh and Ethiopia, according to a new study in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health. Tuesday's pre-pandemic study is based on calculations derived from the Global Burden of Disease database and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle. India and China lead the world in pollution deaths with nearly 2.4 million and almost 2.2 million deaths a year, but the two nations also have the world's largest populations.

When deaths are put on a per population rate, the United States ranks 31st from the bottom at 43.6 pollution deaths per 100,000. Chad and the Central African Republic rank the highest with rates about 300 pollution deaths per 100,000, more than half of them due to tainted water, while Brunei, Qatar and Iceland have the lowest pollution death rates ranging from 15 to 23. The global average is 117 pollution deaths per 100,000 people.

Pollution kills about the same number of people a year around the world as cigarette smoking and second-hand smoke combined, the study said.

SEE MORE: What Makes The U.S. So Invested In Cars?

"9 million deaths is a lot of deaths," said Philip Landrigan, director of the Global Public Health Program and Global Pollution Observatory at Boston College.

"The bad news is that it's not decreasing," Landrigan said. "We're making gains in the easy stuff and we're seeing the more difficult stuff, which is the ambient (outdoor industrial) air pollution and the chemical pollution, still going up."

It doesn't have to be this way, researchers said.

"They are preventable deaths. Each and every one of them is a death that is unnecessary," said Dr. Lynn Goldman, dean of the George Washington University School of Public Health, who wasn't part of the study. She said the calculations made sense and if anything was so conservative about what it attributed to pollution, that the real death toll is likely higher.

The certificates for these deaths don't say pollution. They list heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, other lung issues and diabetes that are "tightly correlated" with pollution by numerous epidemiological studies, Landrigan said. To then put these together with actual deaths, researchers look at the number of deaths by cause, exposure to pollution weighted for various factors, and then complicated exposure response calculations derived by large epidemiological studies based on thousands of people over decades of study, he said. It's the same way scientists can say cigarettes cause cancer and heart disease deaths.

"That canon of information constitutes causality," Landrigan said. "That's how we do it."

Five outside experts in public health and air pollution, including Goldman, told The Associated Press the study follows mainstream scientific thought. Dr. Renee Salas, an emergency room doctor and Harvard professor who wasn't part of the study, said "the American Heart Association determined over a decade ago that exposure to (tiny pollution particles) like that generated from the burning of fossil fuels is causal for heart disease and death."

"While people focus on decreasing their blood pressure and cholesterol, few recognize that the removal of air pollution is an important prescription to improve their heart health," Salas said.

Three-quarters of the overall pollution deaths came from air pollution and the overwhelming part of that is "a combination of pollution from stationary sources like coal-fired power plants and steel mills on one hand and mobile sources like cars, trucks and buses. And it's just a big global problem," said Landrigan, a public health physician. "And it's getting worse around the world as countries develop and cities grow."

In New Delhi, India, air pollution peaks in the winter months, and last year the city saw just two days when the air wasn't considered polluted. It was the first time in four years that the city experienced a clean air day during the winter months.

That air pollution remains the leading cause of death in South Asia reconfirms what is already known, but the increase in these deaths means that toxic emissions from vehicles and energy generation is increasing, said Anumita Roychowdhury, a director at the advocacy group Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi.

"This data is a reminder of what is going wrong but also that it is an opportunity to fix it," Roychowdhury said.

Pollution deaths are soaring in the poorest areas, experts said.

"This problem is worst in areas of the world where population is most dense (e.g. Asia) and where financial and government resources to address the pollution problem are limited and stretched thin to address a host of challenges including health care availability and diet as well as pollution," said Dan Greenbaum, president of the Health Effects Institute, who wasn't part of the study.

In 2000, industrial air pollution killed about 2.9 million people a year globally. By 2015 it was up to 4.2 million and in 2019 it was 4.5 million, the study said. Toss in household air pollution, mostly from inefficient primitive stoves, and air pollution killed 6.7 million people in 2019, the study found.

Lead pollution — some from lead additive which has been banned from gasoline in every country in the world and also from old paint, recycling batteries and other manufacturing — kills 900,000 people a year, while water pollution is responsible for 1.4 million deaths a year. Occupational health pollution adds another 870,000 deaths, the study said.

In the United States, about 20,000 people a year die from lead pollution-induced hypertension, heart disease and kidney disease, mostly as occupational hazards, Landrigan said. Lead and asbestos are America's big chemical occupational hazards, and they kill about 65,000 people a year from pollution, he said. The study said the number of air pollution deaths in the United States in 2019 was 60,229, far more than deaths on American roads, which hit a 16-year peak of nearly 43,000 last year.

Modern types of pollution are rising in most countries, especially developing ones, but fell from 2000 to 2019 in the United States, the European Union and Ethiopia. Ethiopia's numbers can't quite be explained and may be a reporting issue, said study co-author Richard Fuller, founder of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution and president of Pure Earth, a non-profit that works on pollution clean-up programs in about a dozen countries.

The study authors came up with eight recommendations to reduce pollution deaths, highlighting the need for better monitoring, better reporting and stronger government systems regulating industry and cars.

"We absolutely know how to solve each one of those problems," Fuller said. "What's missing is political will."

Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

<![CDATA[Scientists Give Earth 50-50 Chance Of Hitting Key Warming Mark By 2026]]> Thu, 12 May 2022 10:48:00 -0500
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The world is creeping closer to the warming threshold international agreements are trying to prevent, with nearly a 50-50 chance that Earth will temporarily hit that temperature mark within the next five years, teams of meteorologists across the globe predicted.

With human-made climate change continuing, there’s a 48% chance that the globe will reach a yearly average of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels of the late 1800s at least once between now and 2026, a bright red signal in climate change negotiations and science, a team of 11 different forecast centers predicted for the World Meteorological Organization late Monday.

The odds are inching up along with the thermometer. Last year, the same forecasters put the odds at closer to 40% and a decade ago it was only 10%.

SEE MORE: U.S. West Continues To Face Record-Breaking Temperatures

The team, coordinated by the United Kingdom’s Meteorological Office, in their five-year general outlook said there is a 93% chance that the world will set a record for hottest year by the end of 2026. They also said there's a 93% chance that the five years from 2022 to 2026 will be the hottest on record. Forecasters also predict the devastating fire-prone megadrought in the U.S. Southwest will keep going.

These forecasts are big picture global and regional climate predictions on a yearly and seasonal time scale based on long term averages and state of the art computer simulations. They are different than increasingly accurate weather forecasts that predict how hot or wet a certain day will be in specific places.

But even if the world hits that mark of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times — the globe has already warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s — that’s not quite the same as the global threshold first set by international negotiators in the 2015 Paris agreement. In 2018, a major United Nations science report predicted dramatic and dangerous effects on people and the world if warming exceeds 1.5 degrees  Celsius.

The prediction makes sense given how warm the world already is and an additional tenth of a degree Celsius (nearly two-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit) is expected because of human-caused climate change in the next five years, said climate scientist Zeke Hausfather of the tech company Stripe and Berkeley Earth, who wasn’t part of the forecast teams. Add to that the likelihood of a strong El  Niño— the natural periodic warming of parts of the Pacific that alter world weather — which could toss another couple tenths of a degree on top temporarily and the world gets to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The world is in the second straight year of a La Niña, the opposite of El  Niño, which has a slight global cooling effect but isn’t enough to counter the overall warming of heat-trapping gases spewed by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, scientists said. The five-year forecast says that La Niña is likely to end late this year or in 2023.


Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

<![CDATA[Teaching Children About Conservation, How To Make A Difference]]> Wed, 11 May 2022 14:26:59 -0500
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Issues surrounding climate change can be a source of anxiety for everyone, but especially for children. Since many are already online at a very early age, they can read about some of the worst environmental problems and feel frightened. If these problems aren't put into context for them, they can suffer what environmental educators call eco-anxiety. 

The American Psychiatric Association recognizes that climate change is a growing threat to mental health. By learning about it and how to take action, it can help reduce the stress, according to activists like Kristy Drutman. Drutman is an environmental educator, who runs the website She has helped develop a conservation and climate justice curriculum to teach kids about the problems around climate change, conservation and possible solutions. 

"Basically, the goal of it is to talk about the importance of addressing climate change in a way that is accessible to middle school and high school students," Drutman said in an interview with Newsy's Evening Debrief. "So, it takes issues around ecology and conservation and connects it to issues around human rights and social justice." 

Drutman also said one of the biggest issues she's noticed when it comes to teaching children about conservation, ecology and social justice is they feel their opinions don't matter.    

"And they question that because they're so young that maybe their voice doesn't matter and I try to remind them, no, actually, your voice is so powerful, even more powerful than you can imagine," Drutman explained.  

She said one of her goals is "to keep inspiring younger kids to get involved and to take action." 

SEE MORE: How Can We Live A More Sustainable Lifestyle?

That's something Corina Newsome understands very well. Newsome is an associate conservation scientist at the National Wildlife Federation. The organization has a number of programs to help teach children about conservation and being good stewards of the environment. 

Some of the programs include the iconic raccoon character Ranger Rick and a number of programs tailored to different cities and regions. A program called "Earth Tomorrow Atlanta" for middle and high schoolers, for example, helps train young people to be effective leaders and advocates for the environment. 

Newsome said it's important for children everywhere, in urban, suburban and rural settings to understand that issues that relate to conservation are happening right outside their door.  

"We don't want people dumping harmful chemicals into their watersheds because they just didn't know that was a problem," Newsome said. "We want people to understand how the way that they interact with the world around them impacts living things in places that they may not even recognize, unless someone shows them." 

Newsome said when children are introduced to the world right where they live "it suddenly connects them in a way that, number one, makes their life better and spurs this incredible curiosity, but also helps them to be better stewards and to be able to then pass that on." 

There are many ways children can be proactive about climate change, which in turn helps alleviate anxiety. 

They can do simple things like address food waste at school, for example, by implementing a composting program. They can demand more plant-based foods at school.  

They can also engage in letter writing campaigns to their state representatives. Drutman says children are never too young to understand and engage in the civic process. 

Drutman says the bottom line is that parents and teachers should not be afraid to expose kids to some of the more serious climate and conservation issues — because it's their future on the line. 

She says phrasing the information in a way that doesn't scare them is what matters.

<![CDATA[Human Remains Surfacing As Lake Mead Water Levels Drop]]> Tue, 10 May 2022 20:16:00 -0500
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As Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border becomes more shallow, the mystery is deepening. 

In the last few days, the receding waters have exposed the remains of two people long hidden. 

One was discovered on May 1 in a rusted-out barrel. Las Vegas homicide detectives say the victim died of a gunshot wound. And based on their clothing and shoes, likely back in the 1970s or 80s. 

Then, last Saturday, two women spotted bones and a human skull sticking out of a sandbar. What's not a mystery is why it's happening now.  

"If the water level had not receded, we would never have found the person in the lake," Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Ray Spencer said. 

Thanks to a decades-long drought, Lake Mead is shrinking, exposing areas once underwater. The reservoir that 40 million people in six states depend on, is now only about 30 percent full. 

The water level has dropped more than 150 feet in about the last 20 years.  And it's left a ring around Lake Mead, kind of like a ring around your bathtub.  

Lake Mead is only about a half-hour from Vegas, fueling speculation the remains might belong to victims of casino mobsters. 

"It's weird," Michelle Oakley said. "You don't know what is there and as water levels are dropping, weird things are being discovered."

Lake Mead, formed by the Hoover Dam, has been around for nearly a century. The National Park Service says, potentially, there's lots of stuff waiting to be discovered.

Dave Alberg is the Chief of Resource Management & Compliance for Lake Mead Recreation Area.

"There have been a number of plane crashes that have taken place," he said. "This area was inhabited for thousands of years by Native American people who called this home. We expect, fully, as lake levels drop, there will be artifacts that are hundreds or thousands of years old."

<![CDATA[Natural Disasters Are Getting Worse, But So Is FEMA Aid For Survivors]]> Thu, 05 May 2022 20:41:00 -0500
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With the rise of climate change, more severe natural disasters are happening each year, and the stats show that many communities impacted aren't getting the help they need.

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, in 2021 there were 20 natural disasters exceeding $1 billion in damage each. Back in the 80s and 90s, there were only a handful of these each year.

To put this into perspective, Newsy conducted its own data analysis, comparing the two most recent decades on record.

We looked at 2000 to 2010 and 2011 to 2021. Between those two periods, we saw a 96% increase in billion-dollar spending for major disasters.

This is notable because Hurricane Katrina happened in 2005, which was the single most expensive disaster to date.

With this increase in disasters, government aid is needed now more than ever.

But a recent NBC analysis found that after these disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency often rejected aid to marginalized communities. The majority of the counties denied had poverty rates higher than the national average.

To understand why this is, let's walk through the aid application process.

Carlos Martín, a researcher at Brookings Institution who studies the cost of natural disasters, points out that after a disaster, the governor of the state has to request a disaster declaration from the president. That would allow residents to apply for FEMA's individual assistance program, which helps the uninsured or underinsured.

"When you're dealing with lower income people, people with lower resources and people who live in historically disinvested communities, they're going to have a harder time, and those are the people that are most likely to need the aid," Martín said.

But between fall 2018 and fall 2021, about 40% of declarations requested from governors were denied by FEMA, so people living in those areas were not eligible to apply for federal aid.

When FEMA denies governors' requests, they often say the disaster was not severe enough, even if dozens of residents are left without a roof over their heads.

The responsibility also falls on the states to help provide aid after disasters, but many states don't have sufficient funding either.

"People who were low income prior to the event, people who had low credit scores, for example, if they had a low credit score before the event, they're not applying for credit cards after the event, right?" Martín said. "They're not getting all the potential buffers that they could and whether they're good financial buffers or not."

With limited options, it can be difficult to meet basic needs. People have an even harder time if they don’t own the place they live and have to wait for their landlord or property manager to rebuild their home. They face challenges finding somewhere to go in the meantime.

"If you're a renter, you're out of an apartment and there aren't a whole lot of other apartments in your area because everything has been downed," Martín said.

On the flip side, FEMA's National Advisory Council stated in a 2020 report that their recovery programs "provide an additional boost to wealthy homeowners and others with less need, while lower-income individuals and others sink further into poverty after disasters."

That wouldn't be the first time they have been accused of that. A study from 2019 found that Hurricane Harvey survivors in Houston were less likely to receive grants if they lived in neighborhoods with more racial diversity compared to areas with more white residents and financial resources.

Newsy reached out to FEMA for their take on all of this. They responded with a statement, saying:

"Advancing equity for all survivors especially in those historically underserved and low-income communities is our primary goal... We’re leaving no stone unturned when it comes to helping socially vulnerable communities and survivors, and efforts that require statutory or regulatory changes are also on the table."

There have also been bills introduced to deal with this issue, like the Fairness in Federal Disaster Declarations Act by Sen. Dick Durbin, and Sen. Tammy Duckworth. It hasn't gained momentum, but its goal is to reform FEMA's disaster declaration process to make it more equitable to small and rural communities. Sen. Durbin first introduced the bill in 2012 after FEMA denied aid to two counties in his home state of Illinois after an outbreak of tornadoes.

There are many expenses to consider here, and it's not just after storms hit; it's also the cost of evacuation and how expensive that can be.

If you're displace and don’t have family or friends close by, you would have to get a hotel and pay for food. Several studies have shown that about half of Americans do not have enough saved in the case of an $1,000 emergency.

Some people have no choice but to stay. All of these costs associated with disasters can leave people with nowhere to turn.

"I think we have to think about all the opportunities and spend the money before an event in these communities and for these households other than wait until the crisis," Martín said.

<![CDATA[KNXV: Phoenix Approves New Plan To Combat Heat-Related Deaths]]> Mon, 02 May 2022 10:09:00 -0500
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Phoenix leaders are launching their new heat response plan to help keep people safe this summer. Part of the plan includes turning a vacant building into a cooling center for the homeless.

The number of heat-related deaths in Arizona hit a record high in 2021.

According to the Maricopa County Department of Health, there were 338 deaths associated with heat last year. That's a 400% increase compared to 2014.

Most of those deaths are taking place within Phoenix, and a lot of those involve people living on the street.

SEE MORE: The World United To Fix The Ozone Hole, So Why Not Climate Change?

Recently, Phoenix City Council members approved a comprehensive plan that included creating a new shelter.

"What we intend to do is provide a 200-bed shelter for individuals to get out of the heat and elements but also provide intense case management," said Scott Hall, an official with the city's human services department.

In addition to cooling centers and resources, the city will continue closing down hiking trails on extremely hot days. Officials said there's no start date for many of these initiatives but they're likely to start soon.

"Public cooling centers will generally come online May 1, and that's a regionally coordinated effort, and there are specific elements like when particular trailheads close that are limited to particular days when the National Weather Service has an excessive heat warning in effect," said David Hondula, the director of the city's office of heat response and mitigation.

<![CDATA[Vegas Water Intake Now Visible At Drought-Stricken Lake Mead]]> Sat, 30 Apr 2022 19:48:20 -0500
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A massive drought-starved reservoir on the Colorado River has become so depleted that Las Vegas now is pumping water from deeper within Lake Mead where other states downstream don't have access.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority announced this week that its Low Lake Level Pumping Station is operational, and released photos of the uppermost intake visible at 1,050 feet above sea level at the lake behind Hoover Dam.

"While this emphasizes the seriousness of the drought conditions, we have been preparing for this for more than a decade," said Bronson Mack, water authority spokesman. The low-level intake allows Las Vegas "to maintain access to its primary water supply in Lake Mead, even if water levels continue to decline due to ongoing drought and climate change conditions," he said.

The move to begin using what had been seen as an in-case-we-need-it hedge against taps running dry comes as water managers in several states that rely on the Colorado River take new steps to conserve water amid what has become perpetual drought.

"We don't have enough water supplies right now to meet normal demand. The water is not there," Metropolitan Water District of Southern California spokesperson Rebecca Kimitch said this week. The agency told some 6 million people in sprawling Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties to cut their outdoor watering to one day a week, effective June 1, or face stiff fines.

The surface level of another massive Colorado River reservoir, Lake Powell, dipped below a critical threshold in March — raising concerns about whether Glen Canyon Dam can continue generating power for some 5 million customers across the U.S. West.

Lake Mead and Lake Powell upstream are the largest human-made reservoirs in the U.S., part of a system that provides water to more than 40 million people, tribes, agriculture and industry in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and across the southern border in Mexico.

In Arizona, falling Colorado River levels have prompted an emphasis on conservation and raised fears of reduced water deliveries to desert areas that include metro Phoenix, Tucson, tribal lands and farms.

At Lake Mead, the new pumps are fed by an intake drilled nearer to the bottom of the lake and completed in 2020 to ensure the ability to continue to draw water for Las Vegas, its casinos, suburbs and 2.4 million residents and 40 million tourists per year.

The "third straw" draws drinking water at 895 feet above sea level — below a point at which water would not be released downstream from Hoover Dam.

Together, the pipeline and pump projects cost more than $1.3 billion. Drilling began in 2014, amid projections that the lake level would continue to fall due to drought. Increasingly dry conditions in the region are now attributed to long-term climate change.

Lake Mead, between Nevada and Arizona, reached its high-water mark in July 1983, at 1,225 feet above sea level. On Friday, the level was 1,055 feet — about 30% full. Some of the steepest cliffs bordering the lake show 170 feet of white mineral "bathtub ring."

"Without the third intake, Southern Nevada would be shutting its doors," said Pat Mulroy, former longtime chief of the Las Vegas-based water authority, who is now a consultant. "That's pretty obvious, since the first straw is out of the water."

A mid-level pipeline also can draw water from 1,000 feet.

The authority maintains that the Las Vegas water supply is not immediately threatened. It points to water conservation efforts that it says since 2002 have cut regional consumption of Colorado River water by 26% while the area population has increased 49%.

 Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

<![CDATA[Pressure Mounts On EU To Cut Its Dependence On Russian Energy]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2022 20:32:00 -0500
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Pretending to be dead in front of the German parliament — protesters say Germany and the EU have blood on their hands. 

"Every single day one billion of European money is going to Russia to kill Ukrainians," said Olha Sytnyk, protest organizer. 

The European Union has acted with unprecedented speed and unity in sanctioning Russia, but energy is the 27-country bloc's weak spot.

Before the war in Ukraine, Russia provided the EU with a huge percentage of its energy imports: 47% of its coal, 41% of its gas and 27% of its oil.

That means transportation, heat and electricity, not just for households, but also for big industries.

Large economies like Germany, Italy and the Netherlands are especially dependent.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced a momentous reckoning.

The EU is now phasing out Russian coal by this summer and aims to slash Russian gas by two thirds by the end of this year.  It set 2027 as a final deadline to entirely break off its dependence on Russian gas and oil. 

But for Ukraine, that’s way too late.

In a BBC interview earlier this month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused European countries of “making money out blood.”

According to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, the EU has paid more than 46 billion euros to Russia for its energy since the beginning of the war.

“They are using this money to pay mercenaries," said Georg Zachmann, a former desk officer for the German Ministry of Finance and a senior fellow at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels. "They are using this money to stabilize regimes outside Russia that are favorable to them. They are using that to buy weapons."

Europe is already under threat from Russia.

On Wednesday, the Kremlin stopped gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria.

Zachmann tells Newsy the EU should now quickly retaliate by targeting Russian oil.

“We should now go for the oil sanctions in order to regain initiative and essentially letting Putin play to our game and not play to Putin's game," Zachmann said.

But member states appear divided.

Germany and others fear going too far could hurt consumers and factories at home.

“At what point do the European publics rebel against high energy prices?" asked Randolph Bell, director of the Atlantic Council's Global Energy Center. "How many of them  can be brought along for this energy austerity ride?” 

Energy analysts says the perfect compromise, for now, is to impose tariffs.

“Tell them if you want to export oil to the EU: 20, 50 or whatever percentage point off of the value of the oil goes into a European taxpayer's pockets," Zachmann said.

As for Russian gas, a ban is not yet on the table because Europe — particularly Germany — is a lot more dependent on it.

Gas imports are also harder to replace because they run to Europe via pipelines coming from Russia.

“Then then they have to really start thinking about demand management, curtailing the use of gas, etc. and there's a real economic risk to European economies and therefore, to global economies, frankly," Bell said.

Still, there are alternatives.

Last month, President Biden promised to send more gas to Europe.

Internally, Europe can also increase its nuclear energy production to get by in the short-term.

But in the longer term, using less energy altogether and continuing to invest in renewables will be key.

“We should think about speeding up the deployment of renewables big time, because that will reduce the cost, the dependence and save the climate," Zachmann said.

<![CDATA[Officials Ask Californians To Limit Water Usage Amid Historic Drought]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2022 19:37:00 -0500
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In a rare move for Southern California, the region's biggest water supplier asked millions in and around Los Angeles to limit outdoor watering to one day a week. 

"This is all hands on deck effort by all of us, all managers, all operators, but also all Southern Californians. This is real. This is serious. This is unprecedented," said Adel Hagekhalil, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California General Manager.

The man in charge of So-Cal's water supplier says if they don't see water use come down headed into summer, they may ask Southern Californians to stop all outdoor use. 

"And if we don't see the change beyond that, and if conditions worsen, we will get to the specific allocation," Hagekhalil continued. "Everyone will get their budget of 88 gallons per person per day. And we all have to manage through that." 

It comes as critical water supplies to the American southwest dry up. 

Colby Pellegrino works for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. 

"The situation on the Colorado River is not good right now. Water levels are low, shortages are starting," Pellegrino said. "Climate change is expected to decrease our flows even more."

Water is being stockpiled in huge reservoirs, but Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at unprecedented lows. 

"The reservoirs are getting lower," Pellegrino continued. "They're working as they should, but we have to do more to drop our demands across all use sectors in order to be able to get through what the future is going to hold on the Colorado River." 

In Colorado, farmers are now getting access to federal help after the USDA leveled an unprecedented, statewide natural disaster area declaration amid the drought. 

"It's the changing climate that we cannot rely on anymore," Hagekhalil said.

In Southern California, for now that means a minor sacrifice — fewer green lawns — while state leaders figure out how to get usage in line with what mother nature provides and what we have on hand. 

"Storage is the future for us, for our resiliency, for the future of our region," Hagekhalil continued.

"We can fight about what each state needs to do and what each state does better, but at the end of the day we're citizens of our own community, of our own state, but we're also citizens of the Colorado River Basin, and it's really incumbent upon us to work together," Pellegrino said. 

<![CDATA[About 6M Californians Ordered To Cut Water Usage Amid Drought]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2022 08:15:00 -0500
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Southern California's gigantic water supplier has taken the unprecedented step of requiring about 6 million people to cut their outdoor watering to one day a week as an extended drought plagues the state following another dry winter.

The board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on Tuesday declared a water shortage emergency and is requiring certain cities and water agencies it supplies to implement the cutback on June 1 and enforce it or face hefty fines.

“We don’t have enough water supplies right now to meet normal demand. The water is not there,” district spokesperson Rebecca Kimitch said. “This is unprecedented territory. We've never done anything like this before."

The Metropolitan Water District restrictions apply to areas of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties that rely mostly on state water supplied through the district, including some parts of the city of Los Angeles. The affected areas are primarily urban.

The goal of the limitation on using water for grassy yards, plants and things such as cleaning cars is to save water now for indoor use later in the summer when water use increases, Adel Hagekhalil, the general manager of Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, said Wednesday.

SEE MORE: Some Of America's Largest And Most Important Rivers Are In Crisis

The Metropolitan Water District uses water from the Colorado River and the State Water Project — a vast storage and delivery system — to supply 26 public water agencies that provide water to 19 million people, or 40% of the state's population.

But record dry conditions have strained the system, lowering reservoir levels, and the State Water Project — which gets its water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta — has estimated it will be capable of delivering only about 5% of its usual allocation, for the second consecutive year.

January, February and March of this year were the driest three months in recorded state history in terms of rainfall and snowfall, Kimitch said.

The Metropolitan Water District said that the 2020 and 2021 water years had the least rainfall on record for two consecutive years. In addition, Lake Oroville, the State Water Project’s main reservoir, reached its lowest point last year since it was filled in the 1970s.

Several water districts have instituted water conservation measures. On Tuesday, the board of the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Northern California voted to reduce water usage by 10% and cap daily usage for some 1.4 million customers in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, including Oakland and Berkeley.

Households will be allowed to use 1,646 gallons (6,231 liters) per day — far above the average household usage of about 200 gallons (757 liters) daily — and the agency expected that only 1% to 2% of customers will exceed the limit, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

If the local agencies fail to meet the reduction goals they will be fined up to $2,000 per acre-foot of water, Metropolitan Water District Chief Executive Officer Deven Upadhyay said Wednesday. An acre-foot is about 325,850 gallons.

The Metropolitan Water District will monitor water use and if the restrictions don't work, it could order a total ban on outdoor watering in the affected areas as soon as September.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

<![CDATA[Multiple Studies Forecast Worsening Natural Disasters]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2022 18:05:06 -0500
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Three different studies from different organizations that were not working together all lead to the same conclusion: environmental destabilization is just years away. 

The United Nations' Office for Disaster Risk Reduction projects a dramatic rise in natural disasters in just the next eight years. The world is experiencing a growing number of disasters, many of which are exacerbated by climate change.

 The scientific study suggests the disasters will create economic meltdowns and widespread food shortages. 

The U.N. scientists predict the number of natural catastrophes will jump from an average of 400 a year to 560 by 2030. The study also suggests the number of extreme heat waves will triple, and droughts will increase by 30 percent. 

NASA agrees with the U.N. Its study also found the increasing number of heat waves, expanding droughts and excessive rainfall will lead to twice as many corn harvest failures. The study shows the U.S. midwest corn crops are the most at risk, followed by those in central Europe.

The computer models show heat waves tripling, and extreme rainfall events could grow by 50 percent.

The University of Oklahoma and NOAA also studied future rain events, and found there will be a dramatic increase in flash flooding across most of the

The hardest hit regions are going to be the southwest and the central U.S. along the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys. Overall, the flooding risk is moving towards the north. 

All of the studies find the only way to reduce the risk of disasters is to reduce climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions.

<![CDATA[Washington Changes Logging Plans To Generate Carbon Offset]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2022 20:08:00 -0500
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The Pacific northwest hills are carved with clearcuts, and forests are valued for the lumber they produce. But as Washington passes a grim milestone, with forests covering less than half the state for the first time in history, a changing climate is forcing land managers here to re-evaluate that calculus.  

"We’re the evergreen state," said Hilary Franz, Washington state commissioner of public lands. "It's our identity, and we're unbelievably blessed with millions of acres of forest land that are some of the highest carbon sequestering natural resource that we have in the country."

Franz recently announced a plan to pull 10,000 acres of state-owned forests from logging contracts, banking on the fact that in a warming world these trees are more valuable living than as lumber.

"These were highly ecologically valuable forests because of the size of the trees," Franz said. "The location, the carbon richness of it — and they were about to be cut and harvested."

Because of their imminent demise, the simple act of saving these trees can be sold as carbon offset credits — essentially quantifying how many tons of carbon the trees are storing in their trunks, branches and roots, and then selling that as credits on the voluntary carbon market. Companies can then buy those credits to offset, or cancel out, harder to achieve emissions reductions from things like air travel and trucking. The idea being an overall net reduction, or at least balancing out, of total greenhouse gas emissions.  

Franz says by selling carbon credits instead of lumber, the project will still generate tens of millions of dollars for schools, colleges and critical local services like libraries and hospitals. Services that are now funded by logging those same state trust lands.

"This is a new generation project," Franz said. "No public lands in the nation has done this right. We're pushing the needle on the value of that true preservation, and so we're going to learn."

The mature trees in the Pacific northwest forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their trunks. Until now, that hasn't been recognized economically, but it's only the beginning of a long list of benefits that come with preserving the forests.

Beverly Law, an expert in carbon sequestration dynamics and a professor emeritus at Oregon State University, says what’s happening in Washington is the beginning of what she hopes will become a larger movement. 

"They're doing a fantastic job," Law said. "I'm thrilled about it, and I hope Oregon takes notice."

Through her research, Law has proposed much wider protections for the temperate rainforests of the Pacific northwest still vulnerable to logging. She calls them "strategic forest preserves," for storing carbon and protecting species diversity. 

"You look at the Pacific northwest, and you look at the whole western U.S. map," Law said. "It just stands out as being — these are the forests to protect. And we've done the analysis, we've looked at how much carbon is in these forests and what is the biodiversity, the number of metrics of plant and animal species, and we could be doing so much more than what's happening right now."

She says protecting forests are essential for meeting global climate goals, and unlike other, often engineered, strategies for cooling the planet, there’s no complicated or costly technology involved.

"This is free," Law said. "You just let it grow. These trees are doing their job right now, and they have been for hundreds of years. So it only makes sense when you look at it from that kind of standpoint. Well, let them continue doing their job because it won't cost us very much to do that compared to developing technologies and getting them broadly distributed globally. That's decades. We don't have decades."

But the logging industry isn't buying it. 

"When you start removing forests and trees from the land base, it has ripple effects, and we need to understand those ripple effects," Travis Joseph said.

Joseph heads the American Forest Resource Council, which represents mills that purchase timber from public lands. He says even with carbon markets, the economic toll on local logging communities is too high. 

"Let me give you a really simple example, and let's just take one Douglas fir tree," Joseph said. "That's probably the best way to think about this. If you're thinking about the carbon benefits of one Douglas fir tree, you know, for every thousand board feet of lumber in a Douglas fir tree, just to use a round easy number, it has about four metric tons of carbon."

Sell that carbon in a market, Joseph says, and you’ll get maybe $40. But sell it as lumber and the value shoots up to $425. 

"So $40 for a community versus $425 for a community, and you're still getting the carbon benefit of growing the trees, harvesting the trees, replanting them again," Joseph said. "So those are the some of the questions that we're really getting at is, how have we done the financial calculations here? Do they really make sense for the hospitals, the schools, the ports, the counties that are getting that are getting this critical you know, public supply of financing? And I think just in that simple example that I'm explaining, you know, at least highlighting that we need to do some more work on this."

Joseph says with national forest all but removed from logging and almost half of the 2-million acres of state forest land set aside for protection, the industry is on its last breath.

In the meantime, public pressure to do even more to save these remaining forests is mounting, especially among young people.

"I'm really worried about the future, and there's so little action happening right now on climate change now that me and my generation will have to live with whatever is left behind," Matt Stevenson, a high school student with Sunrise Movement PDX, said. 

Stevenson led a recent protest in Portland, Oregon, rallying for more forest protections.

"Studies have found that if just 10% of the forests of the Pacific northwest were left unlogged, it would be the same as having no emissions from the entire region across eight years," Stevenson said. "So these forests have an amazing ability to sequester and store carbon."

In Washington state, Conservation Northwest's policy director, Paula Swedeen, says this kind of attention for forests represents a new era. 

"I've not seen sort of this level of interest and activism around forests in a long time, like since the old growth wars of the 90s," Swedeen said. "So that's really inspiring, but it is being driven by people's panic and people's fear about their future, especially young people, and I think it behooves all of us to try to act with due haste."

But she says ending logging altogether isn't the answer, especially when it can be done more sustainably. She hopes Washington’s Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, will go beyond the 10,000-acre carbon preserve, but the key, she says, is finding the right balance — not just for the communities who depend on logging but also for the planet. 

"If there's a message out there to the public and to DNR, it really is, I mean, thank you for taking this step, and please do more as soon as you can and there are a lot of people out here to help you," Swedeen said. "And we don't want to drive the timber industry out of business or, you know, leave the beneficiaries bereft, so let's sit down and be creative about coming up with solutions."

And, Swedeen says, lets make sure we do it in time.

<![CDATA[Farming's Next Frontier: Solar Energy]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2022 12:48:00 -0500
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For farmers across America, planting season is well under way.

"In this in this area, I've had some mint here, you know, peppermint, seed corn, commercial corn, soybeans," said Indiana landowner Norman Welker.

But rather than seeds, a group of farmers in Northwest Indiana are putting steel piles into their ground. The reason? To harvest something other than crops from these fields.

"We're collecting the sun's energy and turning it into, you know, into immediate use power," said Welker.

Norman Welker is one of roughly 60 landowners in Starke and Pulaski counties who are renting their land to Doral Renewables for the creation of one of the largest solar farms in the U.S.

"We're farming the sun, yep. Except we're able to harvest it every day of the year instead of just, you know, from that April to September timeframe," said Welker.

Known as the Mammoth Solar Project, the $1.5 billion effort is broken into three sections spanning 13,000 acres – with the actual solar panels being placed on roughly 20% of that land. Officials with Israeli-based Doral Renewables say when the farm is fully completed it will generate 1.6 gigawatts of energy annually -- that's enough to power more than 275,000 homes.

"When you look at the output of the entire project, it's on par with a nuclear power plant." "The first phase should be operational by the end of 2023," said Kevin Parzyck, Senior Vice President for Development at Doral Renewables.

So how does this all work? Think farm to table, but instead of food, it's electrons. Energy collected at panel sites, will be carried by transmission lines to the grid system, and then delivered into homes as far away as the East Coast.

Indiana's solar industry has been booming, it's projected to grow to be the 4th largest in the U.S. over the next five years. But the projects have seen some pushback across the Hoosier state, ranging from accusations of money grabs by local officials, to a fear of losing precious farmland and the lifestyle that goes along with it.

"A lot of people look at this as a red-blue kind of issue. What's interesting is most renewable projects are in red communities, are in agricultural areas," said Parzyck. 

 "I see it being the future," said Doug Podell, a landowner in Pulaski County.

For families like Doug and Cheryl Podell, the project is giving them a chance to build for the future and also preserve their past.

"We have a son, and he wasn't really interested in farming. I've since rented our farmland out and I thought it'd be a good way to keep the land and the family for the next generations," said Podell.

"In many cases, we're saving the family farm, because we're just leasing the property. They're getting it back after 30 years, and they're going to be in a much stronger financial position," said Nick Cohen, President and Co-Founder of Doral Renewables.

As for the impacts on the farmland?

"We don't have to do anything to the land. All we have to do is simply hammer the pilings in for the racks, that's it. And there's no bedrock, there is no land grading, it is simple," said Cohen. "So, we're not cutting down trees, we're not going into wetlands, we're putting very generous setbacks in so that people can't see them. The solar panels are recessed into the field."

Which farmers like Welker say will provide the land a much-needed break.

"We do a lot, you know, a lot of intensive activity. And, and we will now be able to, you know, give it a rest," said Welker.

"40 years from now, or 50 years from now, when we take all these things out, this land is going to be some of the most prime land because it's going to have been untouched for that amount of time. And so, it's actually going to help the ground," said Parzyck.

So, while the sun may not seem like a typical thing to harvest, the farmers say they're still business partners with nature.

"It's going to come from the same fields as the corn used to come from," said Welker.

"It's just another form of farming the sun. We're doing that with solar panels," said Cohen.

<![CDATA[How Climate Change Is Driving Innovation Toward More Sustainable Wines]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2022 12:45:00 -0500
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Rachel Signer knows a thing or two about wine, and her new memoir, “You Had Me At Pét-Nat," details her journey into the world of wine.

"I traveled to probably a dozen different countries as a wine journalist, meeting all sorts of different winemakers and writing about them," she said.

She now produces natural wine — with little to no preservatives — with her husband in Australia. It's all taught her how climate change impacts viticulture.

"It's become a scenario where winemakers can't count on anything," Signer said. "They can't count on all of their hard work paying off because the weather might step in and just do whatever it wants."

Athénaïs de Béru knows all about this, as she's been producing natural wine at Chateau de Béru in the renown Burgundy region of France since 2006.

"What happened is that in 2016, we had for the first time, very, very strong destruction of our crop due to a heavy black frost in the spring," she said. "We lost 99% of our possible crop."

Research shows climate change is impacting many vineyards across the globe in various ways, whether it be frosts, extreme droughts, or wildfires, as is the case for Jason Charles of Vinca Minor Winery in Berkeley, California.

"I didn't really feel like it [climate change] was all that close. It was always off in the distance or affected somebody else," Charles said. "Now Napa-Sonoma, all the way down to Santa Barbara, we're seeing this in real time."

Though these two winemakers are nearly 6,000 miles apart, the common thread is finding unique ways to salvage their crops. While they found short-term solutions to making things work for the best, it's pretty clear that more changes will need to be made.

In 2020, Business Wire estimated the global wine market to be nearly $327 billion, but Signer and other winemakers know they need to be part of permanent solutions to battle climate change and keep their businesses on track.

"I think we need to really reconsider the way that wine has become a product of mass consumption and ask people to think of win as an agricultural product, just like food," she said.

<![CDATA[Why Does The U.S. Produce So Much Waste?]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2022 01:00:00 -0500
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When you throw your trash out, do you know where it goes? The hope is it’s recycled. But the reality is not every piece thrown in the bins actually gets recycled.   

From grocery bags, to straws, and disposable utensils, plastics are an everyday staple in our culture. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. produced about 36 million tons of plastic waste in 2018.  The EPA says only 3 million of that was recycled, while nearly 27 million tons were sent to a landfill. 

Plastic makes up only a small portion of waste generated in the U.S. 

The nation produces more than 12% of the planet’s trash. Yet it is home to only 4% of the world’s population. And each year, the amount generated here keeps piling up.  

The EPA found the country was responsible for over 290 million tons of waste in 2018. 

That comes down to every American generating an average of nearly five pounds of waste, each day. Paper and cardboard were the items thrown out the most – followed by food.   

All the excessive waste production begins when you first gather your trash.  

There is no nationwide standard for which items are recyclable. States and cities are left to make their own rules. In Chicago, glass is allowed to be recycled. In Fairfax County, Virginia, it’s not.  

Materials become contaminated when items go in the incorrect bin, like when a dirty food container ends up in a recycling bin.  

Facilities are then unable to process the waste. 

Some items simply can’t be recycled. Think of plastic bags, straws, and eating utensils. When disposed of improperly, their polypropylene can be toxic and harmful to the environment, and when dumped in landfills, can take around 20-30 years to completely decompose.  

Most of these items are too small for conveyor belts, and can go undetected in the sorting process.  

Waste officials say other common mistakable items are takeout containers saturated in grease. 

EPA numbers showed in 2018, just under a quarter of the millions of tons of trash in the U.S. Was recycled. Most waste was sent to landfills. 

For decades, China brought in most of the world’s waste. That was until 2018.  China’s “national sword policy” banned the import of most plastics. Beijing’s intention was to improve environmental conditions and cut the flow of illegal goods into the country. 

This caused American companies to shift and send plastic scrap waste to smaller, developing nations like Indonesia and Malaysia. Other nations then began to change their own standards. 

Recycling costs shot up in the U.S., as existing infrastructure struggled to handle the influx. 

Before 2018, recycling companies were paid to sell off recyclable materials. Then, they were paying to have it taken away. The cost shifted down to cities, who had to pay more to get rid of the waste. 

The city of Bakersfield, California used to earn about $65 a ton from its recyclables. The impacts of china’s new policy forced them to pay $25 a ton to get rid of them. In 2017, Stamford, Connecticut made $95 thousand dollars by recycling its waste. The next year it paid $700,000 to have it removed. 

Some cities that couldn’t afford the increased cost, shut down their recyclable programs. 

America recycled less than 7 percent of items in 1960. Though recycling levels have increased, that rate is now around 32 percent. More counties and states are enforcing their own recycling practices.  

Yet advocates and conservationists say there is more work to be done on the federal level. Especially with food.  

The EPA says much of our food supply is never eaten. Most of it ends up in a landfill or incinerated. 

In 2015, the Department of Agriculture and EPA announced a new domestic goal to reduce food loss and waste in half by 2030. 

Senate Democrats reintroduced the “Break Free From Plastic Pollution act” last year. It aims to phase out single-use plastic products, prevent shipping plastic waste to developing countries, and make producers more responsible for their products. The effort has stalled.  

Advocates say change can begin now, with a call for Americans to utilize reusable items and reduce waste.  

<![CDATA[As Earth Day Approaches, The President's Climate Agenda Stalls]]> Thu, 21 Apr 2022 08:45:00 -0500
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One year ago, Joe Biden marked his first Earth Day as president by convening world leaders for a virtual summit on global warming that even Russian President Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping attended. The president used the moment to nearly double the United States' goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, vaulting the country to the front lines in the fight against climate change.

But the months since then have been marred by setbacks. President Biden's most sweeping proposals remain stalled on Capitol Hill despite renewed warnings from scientists that the world is hurtling toward a dangerous future marked by extreme heat, drought and weather.

SEE MORE: President Biden Tapping Oil Reserve For 6 Months To Control Gas Prices

In addition, Russia's war in Ukraine has reshuffled the politics of climate change, leading President Biden to release oil from the nation's strategic reserve and encourage more drilling in hopes of lowering sky-high gas prices that are emptying American wallets.

It's a far cry from the sprint toward clean energy that the president — and his supporters — envisioned when he took office. Although President Biden is raising fuel economy standards for vehicles and included green policies in last year's bipartisan infrastructure legislation, the lack of greater progress casts a shadow over his second Earth Day as president.

He will mark the moment on Friday in Seattle, where he'll be joined by Gov. Jay Inslee, a fellow Democrat with a national reputation for climate action. President Biden also is scheduled to visit Portland, Oregon, on Thursday as part of a swing through the Pacific Northwest, a region that has often been on the forefront of environmental efforts.

SEE MORE: The World United To Fix The Ozone Hole, So Why Not Climate Change?

Biden administration officials defend the president's record on global warming while saying that more work is needed.

“Two things can be true at the same time," said Ali Zaidi, the president's deputy national climate adviser. "We can have accomplished a lot, and have a long way to go.”

Zaidi acknowledged that “we have headwinds, we have challenges,” but also said the president has “a mandate to drive action forward on this.”

President Biden had hoped to pass a $1.75 trillion plan for expanding education programs, social services and environmental policies. But Republicans opposed the legislation, known as Build Back Better, and it failed to get the unanimous support necessary from Democrats holding a slim majority in the Senate.

The final blow came from Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who owes his personal fortune to coal and represents a state that defines itself in large part through mining that fossil fuel. Democrats hope to revive the bill in some form, but it's unclear exactly what Manchin would support, putting any possible deal in jeopardy.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week that negotiations were ongoing even though the president wasn’t publicizing them. “Just because he’s not talking about it doesn’t mean those conversations are not happening behind the scenes,” she said.

Administration officials are expected to speak Saturday at a rally outside the White House as climate, labor and social justice groups urge Congress to pass climate legislation before Memorial Day. Similar events are planned in dozens of cities as activists stress the need for major investments to boost clean energy and create jobs.

The White House wants to win approval for more than $300 billion in tax credits for clean energy that advocates describe as crucial for meeting President Biden's goal of reducing emissions by up to 52% from 2005 levels by 2030.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

<![CDATA[Weather Changes Have Americans Moving To Cooler Locales]]> Thu, 21 Apr 2022 08:13:22 -0500
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Upstate New York is home to some of the snowiest cities on the planet.

Heavy lake effect snow often blankets Buffalo, along the shore of Lake Erie.

"We're going to have much milder winters, and much more precipitation," said Brendan Mehaffy, executive director of the Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning.

It's not a marketing slogan, but a climate change reality.

"There is no escaping climate disruption. Everyone will feel the effects and is feeling the effects now," said Ryan McPherson, chief sustainability officer at the University at Buffalo.

Fast forward a few decades from now, and the Great Lakes region will be more temperate. Like current-day Tennessee, there will still be snow, just not as much.

"The science is very clear. Temperatures are going to increase, and our climate is going to destabilize further," said McPherson.

We're already living through some of the severe threats: Sea level rise, heat waves, floods, wildfires and droughts. And they are going to intensify.

"It could accelerate pretty quickly, and I don't think as a country we are prepared for those changes that we could see," said Nicholas Rajkovich, an architecture professor at the University at Buffalo.

Some parts of the United States will be difficult to live in, sparking a large-scale climate migration and pushing people north toward the potential climate havens of Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit and Duluth, Minnesota.

"In the next 25 to 50 years there will be a lot of people moving to these regions," said Rajkovich.

"Places that potentially are going to lose populations are along the coasts — areas that may be impacted by hurricanes, or like in California or Colorado, places that may have a lot of wildfires," said Rajkovich.

The havens will offer some refuge, providing ample fresh water, affordable housing and green infrastructure in cities with a desire to grow.

"It's not something in the future. It's already started. We've seen growth for the first time in 70 years and it was fairly significant," said Mehaffy.

Buffalo's leaders are already making plans to build infrastructure and to ensure current residents are not priced out of the place they've always called home.

"As you have more people move to regions, you're going to increase housing prices and potentially displace people from neighborhoods," said Rajkovich.

Students at the University at Buffalo are building a concept house future climate migrants could call home. The grow home is ultra-efficient, energy self-sufficient, heavily insulated, and would allow residents to grow most of their own food.

The university and city are both committing to being ready if and when climate migrants start to flow in.

"We only have about eight to 10 years to make a key difference with mitigation. That is an incredibly short period of time," said McPherson.

It's something professors who are also parents realize will impact their children.

"For my son, he probably doesn't want to plan on relocating to Florida anytime soon," said Rajkovich.

Or possibly any time ever.

<![CDATA[Is Hitting A 50% Recycling Rate Realistic?]]> Wed, 20 Apr 2022 20:17:00 -0500
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In 2018 — according to the latest data available — Americans generated more than 292.4 million tons of waste. That's all the packaging, clothing, bottles, food scraps, newspapers, batteries and more that gets tossed to the curb each week, averaging out to 4.9 pounds per person per day.

About a third of that waste was recycled and composted. The EPA estimates that up to three quarters of our waste is recyclable, with over 60% of the average landfill composed of paper, metals, glass, plastics and food waste.

That's why a few years ago, the EPA set a goal to get the National Recycling rate to 50% by 2030. As part of President Biden's $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal, $75 million is going toward supporting the Recycling Act, which will help provide grants through the EPA to "educate households and consumers about their residential and community recycling programs to improve participation and reduce contamination."

But when only a third of what is currently collected gets recycled, how exactly are they, meaning all of us, going to hit that 50% mark?

First, let's take a step back to look at how recycling has changed over the years.

SEE MORE: Why Does The U.S. Produce So Much Waste?

Recyclable paper first dates back to 9th century Japan. Almost as soon as the Japanese learned how to produce it, they figured out how to recycle it and use it again.

Cut to World War II — as part of the war effort, things like tin, rubber, steel and paper were recycled in order to save money and channel resources. Even cooking grease was sent to local meat dealers for use in explosives.

Even in the 1950s, there were things like the milkman, who would take your used milk containers to be sterilized and used again because it was cheaper than creating something new. Most plastic was a very durable product, like Tupperware, and was designed for long-lasting use.

Up until now, recycling was more about reusing the resources we could get our hands on and less about "saving the planet."

It was also around this time — in 1956 — that Lloyd Stouffer, editor of Modern Packaging Inc., famously declared, "The future of plastics is in the trash can," bringing the idea of single use plastics to life. Over the course of seven years, a culture shift happened led by these manufacturers, which encouraged a disposable mindset that has persisted to this day.

"Half of the world's plastic was only produced in the year 2000, so we often act like this is a system that's like old and very entrenched," said Kendra Pierre-Louis, senior reporter at Gimlet/Spotify with the How to Save a Planet podcast. "But plastic as a disposable... is very different from plastic as a durable good... I think it's important to sort of separate mindset from behaviors, which is we are being conditioned to throw things out. We are being conditioned to treat things as disposable, in part because there's such a barrier to it, like what is your alternative? If you want take-out, what are you going to do?"

SEE MORE: It's Tough To Recycle Plastic In The U.S.

The rise of single-use plastics has basically been the logjam in how we process waste, but who's at fault here?

Only 3% of waste is generated by consumers, while the remaining 97% is industrial/manufacturing.

"Definitely in the past, a lot of the blame has been sort of essentially just shifted onto the consumer, and I very much disagree with that," said Kieran White, chief operating officer at Lasso Loop Recycling. "I think it's definitely an all-around view and problem, and this legislation around extended producer responsibility coming in, which would basically mean that the original manufacturer of the container and will purely be responsible for getting that container back, and if they don't get it back from the tax, basically. So that's something that's really coming in, trying to push it back to the manufacturer.... Recycling companies will probably say that it's the manufacturer's fault for not making the product so they can recycle. The manufacturers will say if they recycle, it's because they can't recycle products they're making, and then both will say it's the consumers fault for buying it."

Lasso Loop has created the first in-home recycling device. To understand how their appliance works, let's first take a look at how our current recycling system works.

Take a plastic bottle. You finish the rest of your water and put it in that bright blue bin. It is then taken to what is known as a Material Recovery Facility, or MRF, where it is separated, cleaned, sterilized and palletized. That is what is ultimately sold back to manufacturers to make another plastic bottle. 

This looped process is the goal, but what happens more often than not is the bottle is contaminated with either food or other material, so it becomes cheaper for waste management to choose sending the trash to a landfill rather than to a recycling center.

But Lasso Loop is basically a small MRF in your kitchen that will ensure your stuff gets recycled, while essentially cutting out the middleman. 

"If you don't control the input, there's no way you can control the output," White said. "So there are three processing streams. If it's a water bottle, that stuff would go down the plastic ventilator, and if it's glass, it goes down into the crusher, and if it's metal, it goes into the shredder and all of these are kept separate."

Six to eight times per year they will pick up those recyclables and take them straight to the manufacturer, ensuring the product does indeed get recycled. But with a price tag of $5000 and first orders not shipping worldwide until 2025, change will not be immediate.  

"From my perspective, it's not possible," White said. "50% of the U.S. still doesn't have curbside recycling, and the U.S. average of 50% is a pretty daunting task. It's just tangibly not possible with current technology... I think there needs to be new infrastructure to achieve that and away from the current system... I think there's so much more innovation around recycling that can be done away from the traditional extremes."

SEE MORE: What Can We Do To Avoid Plastic?

Most metals and glass can be recycled nearly indefinitely. Plastic, however, cannot. Depending on the type of plastic, PET bottles versus clam shells, a typical plastic container can be recycled between three to 10 times before eventually ending up in a landfill or being incinerated. That's because every time a plastic bottle is recycled, it loses some of its chemical composition and new virgin material needs to be added to fill in the chemical gaps.   

"Usually when we recycle plastic products, they end up well known as down cycling, so they don't end up back as a plastic bottle or as a piece of cling wrap," Pierre-Louis said. "They end up as carpet or as insulation or astroturf, and so at some point in that life cycle, it generally will end up in the garbage."

So in this eternal struggle between consumer and manufacturer, what are we to do? Well, one company is taking it to the beach.  

Liquid Death, whose tagline is "Death to Plastic," has leaned into some wild advertising techniques, while promoting their "water in a can" approach that is infinitely recyclable.

Evian, the third largest water bottle manufacturer in the world, has committed to only producing plastic bottles made from 100% recycled materials by 2025. To do this, they are working to create a "circular model" across their business, and they have partnered with Loop Technologies to create a newer kind of plastic that can be recycled over and over.

McDonald’s has even announced plans to source all of its packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sustainable sources across their 39,000+ restaurants in over 100 countries by 2025. So, things do seem to be taking a turn in the right direction, but to loop back to the original question, is it going to be enough to hit that 50% goal?   

"I mean, it depends on what you're talking about," Pierre-Louis said. "If you're looking at aluminum and metals, we're already at 47%, so if you're talking about plastic, I seriously doubt it. It's just not. The only way you get to that kind of recycling rate for plastic is if we remove the financial support for fossil fuels that make them so cheap, such that it is cheaper to recycle plastic than it is to make it from virgin materials. The whole setup is pushing us towards disposability and really, if you want to push back against an injunction, to some extent it has to be regulatory... Metal recycling works, paper recycling works, glass works. And so, let's focus on plastic and more on the aspects of recycling that we know are effective. So there are systems that people are thinking of in a conceiving of it or trying to be more engaged in, and that's where I would sort of put it on whoever is listening or watching and ask them what do they think creatively could be implemented in their home community? Because really, it needs to be community, system wide. It's not something that you and I can do on an individual level."

<![CDATA[Arizona Wildfire Doubles In Size Overnight]]> Wed, 20 Apr 2022 11:47:00 -0500
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An Arizona wildfire doubled in size overnight into Wednesday, a day after heavy winds kicked up a towering wall of flames outside a northern Arizona tourist and college town, ripping through two-dozen structures and sending residents of more than 700 homes scrambling to flee.

Flames as high as 100 feet on Tuesday raced through an area of scattered homes, dry grass and Ponderosa pine trees in a rural area on the outskirts of Flagstaff as wind gusts of up to 50 mph pushed the blaze over a major highway.

Weather conditions were more favorable Wednesday with light breezes before a return to stronger winds Thursday "approaching a critical level," said Mark Stubblefield, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Flagstaff.

No significant precipitation is in the forecast into next week, Stubblefield said.

Coconino County officials said during a Tuesday evening news conference that 766 homes and 1,000 animals had been evacuated. About 250 structures remained threatened in the area popular with hikers and off-road vehicle users and where astronauts have trained amid volcanic cinder pits.

The county declared an emergency after the wildfire ballooned from 100 acres Tuesday morning to over 9 square miles by evening and to 26 square miles by Wednesday morning.

The fire was moving northeast away from the more heavily populated areas of Flagstaff, home to Northern Arizona University, and toward Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, said Coconino National Forest spokesman Brady Smith.

"It's good in that it's not headed toward a very populated area, and it's headed toward less fuel," Smith said. "But depending on the intensity of the fire, fire can still move across cinders."

Authorities won't be able to determine whether anyone was injured in the wildfire until the flames subside. Firefighters and law enforcement officers went door to door telling people to evacuate but had to pull out to avoid getting boxed in, said Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll.

He said his office got a call about a man who was trapped inside his house, but firefighters couldn't get to him.

"We don't know if he made it out or not," Driscoll said.

Various organizations worked to set up shelters for evacuees and animals, including goats and horses.

The scene was all too familiar for residents who recalled rushing to pack their bags and flee a dozen years ago when a much larger wildfire burned in the same area.

"This time was different, right there in your backyard," said Kathy Vollmer, a resident.

She said she and her husband grabbed their three dogs but left a couple of cats behind as they faced what she described as a "wall of fire."

"We just hope they are going to be OK," she said.

Earlier in the day, the wildfire shut down U.S. 89, the main route between Flagstaff and far northern Arizona, and communities on the Navajo Nation. The high winds grounded aircraft that could drop water and fire retardant on the blaze.

Arizona Public Service Co., the state's largest utility, shut off power to about 625 customers to keep firefighters safe, a spokeswoman said.

About 200 firefighters were battling the flames, but more are expected as a top-level national management team takes over later this week.

The fire started Sunday afternoon 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff. Investigators don't know yet what caused it and have yet to corral any part of the blaze.

Ali Taranto rushed to Flagstaff from Winslow, where she works at a hospital, on Tuesday to check on a property she owns that was threatened by the wildfire. She also was getting messages to check on a neighbor whom she found didn't have access to oxygen while the power was out and didn't have the strength to manually open her garage door to evacuate.

Taranto said the neighbor was "disoriented and gasping for air" when she reached her. Firefighters in the area helped get the garage door open and the neighbor to the hospital, she said. Taranto was looking for a shelter for the neighbor's two dogs.

By the time Taranto left the area, the highway into Flagstaff was shut down and she had to drive an extra two hours back home. At least two other neighbors didn't evacuate, she said.

"To see flames several yards away from your property line and to hear the propane tanks bursting in the background, it was very surreal," Taranto said. "Ash falling down. It was crazy."

Red flag warnings blanketed much of New Mexico on Wednesday, indicating conditions are ripe for wildfires. Residents in northern New Mexico's Mora and San Miguel counties were warned to be ready to evacuate as wildfires burned there amid dry, warm and windy conditions.

The National Interagency Fire Center reported Wednesday that over 2,300 wildland firefighters and support personnel were assigned to more than a dozen large wildfires in the Southwestern, Southern and Rocky Mountain areas. Scientists say climate change has made the U.S. West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

Elsewhere in Arizona, firefighters battled a wildfire in a sparsely populated area of the Prescott National Forest, about 10 miles south of Prescott.

Cory Carlson, the incident commander with the Prescott National Forest, said late Tuesday afternoon the high winds have been the biggest challenge, sending embers into the air that sparked new spot fires near State Route 261, along with the demand for crews at other fires.

"We do have a lack of resources," he said. "There's a lot of fires in the region."

 Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

<![CDATA[How City Planning, Biking Helps Reduce America's Emissions Problem]]> Tue, 19 Apr 2022 20:01:00 -0500
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Continuing the "In The Loop" Earth week series, Christian Bryant unpacks problems and potential solutions for the planet as part of "Operation: Earth."

One of the biggest environmental issues out there is emissions. The U.S. has a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, but where are most of our current emissions coming from?

EPA data from a 2021 study shows that transportation is the biggest source of pollution in the U.S., and regular cars are responsible for nearly 60% of those transportation emissions. That's for a few different reasons: Many American cities are built for drivers, they have limited or unreliable public transportation and they often don’t have a lot of bike lanes.

When looking at the design of cities, about 75% of the residential land in most U.S. cities is zoned for only single-family homes, but because of this set up, there are a lot of suburbs where everything is spread out, making a car a necessity to get around.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, 45% of Americans have no access to public transportation, but public transportation helps reduce the country’s overall carbon emissions by about 63 million metric tons a year.

But even without public transportation, there is one way to cut back on emissions and get around on your own: biking. Now, not every city has the best bike network, but we've seen more improvements over the last decade.

A report from the League of American Bicyclists shows that among seven cities that expanded their bike lane mileage by 50% between 2007 and 2014, the amount of bike riders doubled, and risk of death and serious injury was cut in half.

"It is not unusual to see cities jump very quickly in their cycling population at the moment that they cross that threshold from not having an effective comprehensive system to having a more comprehensive system," said Jeff Speck, a city planner.

Speck helps cities establish more effective bike systems. He says these improvements can start at a low cost rather than completely rebuilding the existing infrastructure, meaning it’s a practical way reduce our transportation emissions.

"Change the striping to make the lanes narrower so people go 15 or 20 instead of 25 or 30, which makes them, you know, five times less likely to kill a pedestrian," Speck said. "Reshape the lanes so that perhaps the parking comes off the curb and creates a zone between the parking in the curb, where bicyclists can bike protected. That's called a cycle track or a protected bike lane. Reduce the number of driving lanes."

Cities like Copenhagen, Oslo and Amsterdam have created models for best biking practices. A study from the European Commission looked at seven European cities and found that if someone switches one trip per day from driving to bike riding, they reduce their carbon footprint by 0.5 tons a year. Compared to EPA data, regular cars in the U.S. emit 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.

"The experience in Europe started earlier than ours, and so they've got a leg up on us, but there's no reason why we can't do the same thing," Speck said. "Often in cities, I talk about cycling and someone stands up and says, 'But we're not Amsterdam.' 40 years ago, Amsterdam was not Amsterdam. It was as car dependent and choking in traffic as the typical American city."

In the Netherlands, biking was popular before World War II, but there was a spike in car ownership in the 50s and 60s. Then, in the 70s after a sudden rise in car accidents involving children along with rising gas prices, citizens pushed to get cars off the road. This led to the bike-friendly cities they have today.

Here in the U.S. experts say there could be more incentives and less investment in road infrastructure to help get more people biking.

A few states are offering different incentive programs. California has dedicated $10 million to helping people purchase e-bikes starting in July. In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee proposed a $1,000 rebate for zero-emission motorcycles and e-bikes, and bills in the New York State Assembly and State Senate would offer up to $1,100 cash back on e-bike purchases.

Nationally, there was a tax credit for e-bikes proposed in the Build Back Better bill that didn't pass, but there are other bills going through Congress to support e-bikes.

In the infrastructure bill that passed last year, $110 billion was given to improving roads and bridges, which could lead to widening roads, while only $39 billion in new investment was given to public transit.

"When you have a congested system and you add lanes to it, you actually are removing the impediment that was keeping some people from driving in congested road networks," Speck said. "The principal constraint to driving is congestion, so you take the congestion away, you just generate more drivers, more people than make the choice to not take rail or bus or bike."

<![CDATA[Some Of America's Largest And Most Important Rivers Are In Crisis]]> Tue, 19 Apr 2022 07:45:10 -0500
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America's rivers connect the country, providing most Americans and businesses with a supply of fresh water.

"Unfortunately our rivers are facing a significant crisis," said Tom Kiernan, president of the American Rivers environmental group.

American Rivers unveiled its annual list of the most endangered rivers, and the trouble spans the entire country. Rivers from coast to coast and border to border are endangered.

This year's list includes: Tar Creek in Oklahoma, the Los Angeles River, Arizona's San Pedro River, the Lower Kern River in California, the mighty Mississippi River, the Coosa River in the Southeastern U.S., Maine's Atlantic salmon rivers, the Mobile River in Alabama, the Snake River in the Pacific Northwest, and the most endangered river, the Colorado River — which might not be that big of surprise.

The Colorado River provides water for 40 million Americans, or at least it's supposed to.

The "megadrought" gripping the Western United States has dramatically reduced the river's inflow, combined with the demands of people and farms.

"The situation on the Colorado River is not good right now. Water levels are low, shortages are starting," said Colby Pellegrino, deputy general manager of resources at Southern Nevada Water Authority.

The drought is the worst in 1,200 years. The group behind the list says that's a big part of the problem, but it also blames outdated water management.

"The Colorado does not make it to the end to the Gulf of Mexico — it dries up," said Kiernan.

The river feeds the Lake Powell Reservoir in Utah and Arizona, which is at historically low levels, and just a few feet away from shutting down the Glen Canyon Dam, which means less water for communities up and down the river.

"What we can do is change our management policies to acknowledge we have a river that doesn't have the flows it used to have," Kiernan said.

But it's not just climate change and drought threatening the rivers. Manmade dams, pollution and too much water withdrawals are all hurting the rivers. The common thread: They're all directly tied to human actions.

In the Northwest, the Snake River is on the list again this year.

"The four lower Snake dams are causing an ecological catastrophe for the salmon populations," Kiernan said

And to the Gulf Coast, coal plant waste is polluting the Mobile River in Alabama. American Rivers says the polluted rivers are overwhelmingly threatening minority communities.

"The dirtiest part of the river are communities that have diverse folks or tribal nations," Kiernan said.

While this all sounds dire, there is hope. Rivers are dynamic. Over time, the environment can heal itself, as long as humans don't interfere.

And for the Colorado River, Pellegrino says "it's going to take multiple successive years of average or above average inflow to get out of the situation we're in," which was caused by government policies and human-created climate change.

<![CDATA[The World United To Fix The Ozone Hole, So Why Not Climate Change?]]> Mon, 18 Apr 2022 20:00:00 -0500
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A recent report from the United Nations included some dire news about the fight against climate change. It said current pledges from countries to curb emission will probably not stop global warming from going over 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels in the next few decades – the point at which some damage may be irreversible, and tens of millions may face life-threatening effects of climate change. And all that’s assuming countries actually follow through on their current pledges.

In the first installment of Newsy's "Operation: Earth" series, we're looking at another global environmental crisis that was pretty much solved – a crisis that received a very different response.

In the mid 1980s, a team of scientists in Antarctica found evidence the ozone layer was thinning fast, and a research team led by Susan Solomon soon figured out which chemicals were most responsible for it. They’re called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, and they were everywhere. CFCs are found in everyday items like aerosol sprays, fridges and AC units.

The ozone functions like a natural sunscreen for the Earth, protecting us and our planet from harmful UV radiation. The chlorine in CFCs breaks down the molecules within the ozone layer and created a "hole" over Antarctica, where the layer was the thinnest.

Within just a couple of years, world leaders began to act. The U.N. coordinated a landmark treaty known as the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which banned CFCs and other chemicals. There was a huge investment in finding new technologies, and industries quickly found safer replacements. Consumer boycotts and political action seemingly rallied the world together. The U.S. Senate even ratified the Montreal Protocol 83 to 0.

The production of CFCs and other harmful chemicals plummeted. CFC consumption went from 800,000 metric tons in the 1980s to an estimated 156 metric tons in 2014. The EPA suggests that by 2050, the ozone layer will be back to where it was in 1980.  So today, the damage to the ozone from the last century has been reversed, and healing the ozone even bought the world valuable time in the fight against climate change.

Now you may be thinking, "But why has climate change been so much harder to fix, and is there a way to get back to this kind of global cooperation?"

One huge difference was that the solution then was much simpler: find less harmful chemicals to replace the CFCs. Climate change is a hugely multifaceted problem, with different factors and different responsibilities across countries.

"Climate change is just much more complicated in many ways," said Jennifer Marlon, research scientist at Yale School of the Environment. "Depending on where you live in the United States or anywhere in the world, climate change can have a very different face. If you are living in the tri-state area — New York, New Jersey, Connecticut — then it looks like larger and more intense hurricanes like Superstorm Sandy that hit. But if you're living in Tennessee or Kentucky, then it might look like more mosquitoes or it's more poison ivy or more tornadoes."

Another difference was the urgency: The threat of radiation and potential skin cancer from the Ozone hole was a much more immediate danger than something that, to many people, feels like it’s still decades away. 

"It's kind of like saving for retirement," Marlon said. "You have to start early to prevent cancer later in life. You have to quit smoking now because it takes your body time to heal. These are slow changes and they take time to unfold, and the difference is compound over time. There are these long sort of built-in lags like the ocean absorbing heat, and it takes a while for those impacts to be felt."

Lastly, efforts to face climate change have had to struggle against a massive misinformation campaign, led by ExxonMobil and other oil companies.

An investigation in 2015 revealed Exxon was aware of climate change as early as 1977 and even employed top scientists to conduct unprecedented research on the causes of climate change. But their findings largely weren't communicated with the public, which wouldn't become aware of human-caused climate change until a decade later. By 1989, the company created the Global Climate Coalition to publicly question the scientific basis for climate change – even as their own experts wrote internal memos about how the impact of human emissions "cannot be denied."

ExxonMobil is still battling court cases over their role here. They claim there is an “orchestrated campaign that seeks to delegitimize ExxonMobil by misrepresenting [their] position on climate change and related research to the public."

The decades of misinformation stalled efforts on climate change and sowed confusion that we are still reckoning with today.

"We know that right now, 72% of Americans say yes, climate change is happening," Marlon said. "It's real, the planet is warming... But the minute you go to causes, those numbers change. So only 57% of Americans understand that humans are the primary cause. Burning coal, oil and gas is responsible for virtually all of the warming that we're feeling right now."

In 2009 at COP 15, then-President Obama backed down from a stronger legally binding climate agreement. Only the U.S. Senate could officially ratify the deal, so it needed to be more politically popular. Representatives from low-lying and island countries, who were already facing the threat of climate change, did not take kindly to this.

"It appears that we’re waiting for some senators in U.S. Congress to conclude before we can consider this issue properly," said Ian Fry, Tuvalu delegate to the United Nations Climate Change Conference. "It’s an irony of the modern world that the fate of the world is being determined by some senators in the U.S. Congress."

So, these are the major reasons why the fight against climate change has become politically harder than the fight to fix the ozone, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. We may have lost valuable time, but some winds might be changing.  

"Through our survey research, we find it's much more complicated than just Democrats believe and Republicans don't," Marlon said. "Now the issue, however, is that that 9% who really think it's a hoax or not warming are overrepresented in Congress and in positions of power, so they're also very well funded. So they speak very loudly, and they're organized online and they're posting on websites. So it seems like it's much more than 9%. It's really only 9% in the public."

And the U.S. has rejoined the Paris Treaty, which sets a new goal of keeping global temperatures from rising over 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That benchmark has been used in legislation across countries and was a huge victory for the countries facing the effects of climate change. 

"This is already an all-hands-on-deck effort across our government and across our nation," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. "Our future depends on the choices we make today."

There are new challenges and a lot of lost time, but it’s worth looking back at history to remind ourselves we have solved a global crisis once before. And while we will continue to see worsening effects of climate change before it gets better, that doesn't mean all hope is lost yet.

"People in positions of power, corporations, are doing more," Marlon said. "They're greening their supply chains. We're talking about ESG now and companies trying to become more sustainable, and so it's starting to permeate all different parts of our lives and our work lives and our personal lives. That, to me, is where hope really comes in, because we know what so many of the solutions are, but we have to just keep pushing."

<![CDATA[The Hidden Life Of Trees]]> Sun, 17 Apr 2022 20:00:00 -0500
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Based on a bestselling book, forester Peter Wohlleben shows us how trees communicate with each other and the world in this enlightening documentary. 

<![CDATA[Multiple People Arrested During U.K. Climate Protest On Oil Tanker]]> Sat, 16 Apr 2022 11:58:00 -0500
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Six people have been arrested after climate change activists climbed onto an oil tanker in central London to protest investments in fossil fuel, British police said Saturday.

The Extinction Rebellion climate activism group said two Olympic athletes — gold medal-winning canoeist Etienne Stott and Laura Baldwin — were among those protesting Friday. The oil tanker protest was part of mass climate demonstrations Friday that saw hundreds of activists blocking four key bridges across the British capital, causing delays and disruption across central London.

Extinction Rebellion said thousands of people are expected at London’s Hyde Park on Saturday for more protests.

More than 600 people have been arrested over the past two weeks after environmental activists climbed atop oil tankers, padlocked themselves to structures and blocked roads at oil depots across the U.K. The group Just Stop Oil, which is affiliated with Extinction Rebellion, is demanding that Britain's Conservative government stop any new oil and gas projects.

The demonstrations are part of a growing climate action movement that has also seen the group Insulate Britain obstruct highways and roads to press its demands that the government fund more energy-efficient homes. The demands have become more urgent as energy prices are skyrocketing in the U.K. and elsewhere.

A spokesperson for Shell said the company respects “the right of everyone to express their point of view –- we only ask that they do so with their safety and the safety of others in mind.”

“We agree that society needs to take urgent action on climate change. Shell has a clear target to become a net-zero emissions business by 2050, in step with society," the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, police in central England said nine people were charged after Just Stop Oil held a demonstration Friday at an oil terminal in Kingsbury, near the city of Birmingham.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

<![CDATA[Why Some Volcanic Eruptions Don't Have Bigger Climate Impacts]]> Fri, 15 Apr 2022 01:00:00 -0500
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Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano has a major eruption once a millennium. Records show it happened both in the year 200 and in 1100 AD.  Just a few years ago, it spewed out enough lava to join the two original volcanic peaks together, forming the island.    

Here’s where its recent eruption was different. The volcano is about a mile tall. Almost all of it, including the vent that releases the erupting lava, is underwater.  

Normally, underwater volcanoes don’t make a big splash. The weight and pressure of the water keeps most of the lava and ash below the surface.  

But not this time. The vent was only 800 feet under water, and the gas-rich magma fueled the explosion when it hit water, boiling it into steam and sending a plume of smoke and ash from the vent, almost 19 miles high into the stratosphere. 

As quickly as it exploded, it ended, just 11 hours later.   

The relatively short duration may have helped limit the global damage..  

The short eruption time means it only ejected about 400,000 tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, which is not much compared to the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption, which sent 20 million tons into the air over the course of several days.  

 The sulfur dioxide reflects the sun's rays, which is why the global temperature normally drops after a big eruption.. But not this time. 

Scientists are not sure why the massive plume didn’t include much ash or sulfur dioxide, or why it stopped erupting so quickly. 

One clue: on the main island of Tonga, there was only a thin layer of ash. When scientists examined it, they discovered the magma was relatively young, which could explain why there was a relatively little sulfur dioxide or ash and why the eruption was pretty short. 

<![CDATA[U.N. Warns Earth 'Firmly On Track Toward An Unlivable World']]> Sat, 09 Apr 2022 19:39:09 -0500
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Temperatures on Earth will shoot past a key danger point unless greenhouse gas emissions fall faster than countries have committed, the world's top body of climate scientists said Monday, warning of the consequences of inaction but also noting hopeful signs of progress.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change revealed "a litany of broken climate promises" by governments and corporations, accusing them of stoking global warming by clinging to harmful fossil fuels.

"It is a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track toward an unlivable world," he said.

Governments agreed in the 2015 Paris accord to keep global warming well below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit this century, ideally no more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet temperatures have already increased by over 2F since pre-industrial times, resulting in measurable increases in disasters such flash floods, extreme heat, more intense hurricanes and longer-burning wildfires, putting human lives in danger and costing governments hundreds of billions of dollars to confront.

"Projected global emissions from (national pledges) place limiting global warming to 1.5C beyond reach and make it harder after 2030 to limit warming to 2C," the panel said.

In other words, the report's co-chair, James Skea of Imperial College London, told The Associated Press: "If we continue acting as we are now, we're not even going to limit warming to 2 degrees, never mind 1.5 degrees [Celsius]."

Ongoing investments in fossil fuel infrastructure and clearing large swaths of forest for agriculture undermine the massive curbs in emissions needed to meet the Paris goal, the report found.

SEE MORE: Tornado Alley Is Expanding, Hitting More Southern States Than Ever

Emissions in 2019 were about 12% higher than they were in 2010 and 54% higher than in 1990, said Skea.

The rate of growth has slowed from 2.1% per year in the early part of this century to 1.3% per year between 2010 and 2019, the report's authors said. But they voiced "high confidence" that unless countries step up their efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the planet will on average be 4.3 to 6.3F warmer by the end of the century — a level experts say is sure to cause severe impacts for much of the world's population.

"Limiting warming to 1.5C requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest and be reduced by 43% by 2030," he said.

Such cuts would be hard to achieve without without drastic, economy-wide measures, the panel acknowledged. It's more likely that the world will pass 1.5C and efforts will then need to be made to bring temperatures back down again, including by removing vast amounts of carbon dioxide — the main greenhouse gas — from the atmosphere.

Many experts say this is unfeasible with current technologies, and even if it could be done it would be far costlier than preventing the emissions in the first place.

The report, numbering thousands of pages, doesn't single out individual countries for blame. But the figures show much of the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere was released by rich countries that were the first to burn coal, oil and gas beginning with the industrial revolution.

The U.N. panel said 40% of emissions since then came from Europe and North America. Just over 12% can be attributed to East Asia, which includes China. But China took over the position as world's top emissions polluter from the United States in the mid-2000s.

Many countries and companies have used recent climate meetings to paint rosy pictures of their emissions-cutting efforts, while continuing to invest in fossil fuels and other polluting activities, Guterres charged.

"Some government and business leaders are saying one thing but doing another," he said. "Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic."

The report isn't without some hope, however.

Its authors highlight myriad ways in which the world can be brought back on track to 2C or even, with great effort, return to 1.5C after that threshold has been passed. This could require measures such as the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere with natural or artificial means, but also potentially risky technologies such as pumping aerosols into the sky to reflect sunlight.

Among the solutions recommended are a rapid shift away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy such as increasingly cheap solar and wind power, the electrification of transport, less meat consumption, more efficient use of resources and massive financial support for poor countries unable to pay for such measures without help.

The situation is as if humanity has "gone to the doctor in a very unhealthy condition," and the doctor is saying "you need to change, it's a radical change. If you don't you're in trouble," said report co-author Pete Smith, a professor of soils and global change at the University Aberdeen.

"It's not like a diet," Smith said. "It is a fundamental lifestyle change. It's changing what you eat, how much you eat and get on a more active lifestyle."

One move often described as "low-hanging fruit" by scientists is to plug methane leaks from mines, wells and landfills that release the potent but short-lived greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. A pact forged between the United States and China at last year's U.N. climate conference in Glasgow aims to do just that.

"The big message we've got (is that) human activities got us into this problem and human agency can actually get us out of it again," said Skea, the panel's co-chair.

The panel's reports have become increasingly blunt since the first one was published in 1990, and the latest may be the last before the planet passes 1.5C of warming, Skea told the AP.

Last August, it said climate change caused by humans was "an established fact" and warned that some effects of global warming are already inevitable. In late February, the panel published a report that outlined how further temperature increases will multiply the risk of floods, storms, drought and heat waves worldwide.

Still, the British government's former chief science adviser David King, who wasn't involved in writing the report, said there are too optimistic assumptions about how much CO2 the world can afford to emit.

"We don't actually have a remaining carbon budget to burn," said King, who now chairs the Climate Crisis Advisory Group.

"It's just the reverse. We've already done too much in the way of putting greenhouse gases up there," he said, arguing that the IPCC's calculation omits new risks and potentially self-reinforcing effects already happening, such as the increased absorption of heat into the oceans from sea ice loss and the release of methane as permafrost melts.

Such warnings were echoed by U.N. chief Guterres, citing scientists' warnings that the planet is moving "perilously close to tipping points that could lead to cascading and irreversible climate impacts."

"But high-emitting governments and corporations are not just turning a blind eye; they are adding fuel to the flames," he said, calling for an end to further coal, oil and gas extraction. "Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness."

Vulnerable nations said the report showed big polluters have to step up their efforts before the next U.N. climate summit in Egypt this fall.

"We are looking to the G-20, to the world's biggest emitters, to set ambitious targets ahead of COP27, and to reach those targets – by investing in renewables, cutting out coal and fossil fuel subsidies," said Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands. "It's long past time to deliver on promises made."

 Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

<![CDATA[The Unique Climate Change Implications Of Maritime Law]]> Thu, 07 Apr 2022 01:00:00 -0500
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Most countries have elected leaders. Some have dictators, others have monarchs.  No matter which one runs a country, they all make laws of the land. But those laws taper off offshore.

The first 12 nautical miles off the coast of a country are the territorial sea, and a country has full authority to enforce it laws there. But then it starts getting murky. Over the next 12 nautical miles is the contiguous zone. A country’s rules start to wane, but it has rights to protect itself.

This is also where we start measuring out 200 nautical miles to mark the exclusive economic zone, where a country has the rights to fishing and minerals.

Past this, it's no-man's land. No one owns it, because everyone owns it. And that’s why the United Nations created the International Maritime Organization, or IMO, which is responsible for safety and security on the high seas, and preventing ship pollution.

Those big cargo ships navigating the oceans are responsible for 90 percent of global trade, and they burn a lot of heavy oil to move the goods around the world.  

In 2019, less than one percent of the 60,000 cargo ships sailing the oceans used any type of alternative fuel.  

The IMO is working to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but the shipping industry, which generates as much carbon dioxide as all of America’s coal plants each year, works to  water down emission restrictions, block lower sailing speeds and fights to keep the worst polluting vessels sailing. 

But the IMO is moving ahead with finalizing its emissions reduction plan by next year.

The new goal: cut ship emissions in half by 2050.

That’s not enough. Or fast enough for climate activists who want a zero emissions target, which would cost shipping companies more than two trillion dollars to implement.  

The environmental group Ocean Conservancy accuses the IMO of delaying cuts to make the shipping industry happy, saying "The IMO has given shipping a clear greenlight to continue polluting for years to come.”  

The IMO denies the criticism and claims shipping is less damaging to the environment than land-based transportation.  

<![CDATA[Understanding The Fire Paradox: Why We Need Fire To Prevent Fire]]> Tue, 05 Apr 2022 20:47:00 -0500
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For many decades, the U.S. Forest Service ran on a policy of full suppression when it came to wildfires.

In 1911, the Forest Service stopped using ground fires to thin fuels, and in 1935, a new policy went into effect to put out all wildland fires within 24 hours of detection. They ditched that policy in the 70s, but now, a new bill introduced by two California Republicans aims to bring that strategy back.  

The problem is that scientists say it’s the exact opposite of what we need to do, and that’s because many don’t understand why fire does what it does and why that matters. 

One Missoula, Montana fire lab is the only one of its kind in the U.S.

Its workers work every day to answer other seemingly simple questions, like 'how does fire spread?' That’s one they thought they already knew.

"We started to realize that a lot of the basics that we thought were the foundation of fire behavior, science, were in fact quite wrong," said Mark Finney, Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory Research forester. "Not just a little wrong, but exactly wrong."

Not just wrong — it's counterintuitive.

"That's, I would say, the theme for most of our research here, is that we initially use intuition about fire, and to start experiments and design them, but often what we find is results that are exactly the opposite of what we thought we were going to find," Finney said.

Finney’s team disproved the entire theory about how fire spreads about a decade ago.

Scientists thought flames spread through radiation — the same energy transfer that allows you to feel warmth from the sun. Instead, they found it was convection —basically flame contact.  

"Convection is a very, very efficient process of heating fuel particles, especially if they're very small," Finney said.

So, why does that matter?

Many of the fuel particles in wildland fires are small and found on the ground level — think pine needles, twigs, and grasses.

The revelation led to an even simpler question: Why is fire shaped the way it is, with peaks and troughs?

"No one had ever figured out what those were, whether they were functionally meaningful for wildland fire or they're just something that was, you know, superfluous to the whole process," Finney said. "Well, it turns out that those are the reason that fire spreads."

These simulated fuels allow Finney’s team to burn the same fire over and over and take high speed video. That’s when they noticed that pattern in the structure.  

“It's the cold air coming down, counterintuitively, to replace the rising gases going up, that is actually pushing flames down into the bed, and making those flames touch the fuel particles out ahead of the fire," Finney said.

The more fuel in the forest, the larger the flames. It’s one part of why firefighters are seeing such a dramatic change on the lines.

“All that stuff is sitting there waiting to be burned, and it has to be removed, and it will be one way or another," Finney said.

“I would categorize the difference as radical," said Shawn Borgen, Flathead Hotshots superintendent. "If you took 1995 firefighter Shawn Borgen, to drop that same firefighter just overnight into today's environment... would be a head spin, right? Because things move way more, way more quickly. There are way more hazards on the landscape."

So how is fire behavior changing? That's what led Newsy to this lab, but it might be the wrong question. 

“Even though people are seeing fire behavior that surprises them, the physics of fire behavior hasn't changed, it's never changed," Finney said. "It's the same physics.” 

Basically, fire is doing what it’s expected to, but the conditions are different. Climate change combined with overgrown dense fuels creates a recipe for disaster.  

“The percentage of fires that are getting away and going from that initial attack mode to extended attack, large fire scenario — that is happening faster and with a higher frequency than we ever had," Borgen said. 

Finney says the solution is again counterintuitive — more fire. 

“The science shows us pretty clearly what we need to do, and often that is disappointing to people, because they don't want to see that fire is the solution," Finney said. "They just inherently don't understand it, and it scares them. If you say we need more fire on the landscape, well, they say, 'Well, that means more smoke, and that means more impact to me.' But it's not like we have a smoke-free environment right now. We would just have ownership of that smoke, and we take responsibility for it as part of our our necessary management approach."

“That's been termed and widely discussed in the science community as the fire paradox," researcher Phil Higuera said. "It’s this thing that can threaten us, yet if we don't allow it to exist, it threatens us more."

That’s why more planned fire will occur in the Forest Service’s new wildifre crisis strategy. In many cases, it will take thinning the trees before burning to prevent a disaster.

The plan includes treating more than 50 million acres across the U.S., and it will take maintenance.

“We have to mow our grass," Finney said. "You don’t mow it once, and then you know, 20 years later do it again. I mean, it's constant maintenance.” 

After decades of research, there are two messages Finney wishes he could get through to people: 

First — fire is our ally. 


“We don't have a choice about fire," Finney said. "Every year, we prove we do not have the power to choose not to have it; the only power we have is when to have it and what kind to have. And that's it. And when you realize that those are your only real choices, why wouldn't you choose to have beneficial kinds of fires that sustain rather than destroy the forest?”

This isn’t just about protecting communities and people from devastating fires; it’s also about protecting forests and their ecosystems from huge infernos that will destroy them, instead of revitalizing them. None of that is insurable.  

It's also important to mention this doesn’t mean you should be careless with fire — there’s a time and a place for experts to do these controlled burns when weather conditions are favorable.

<![CDATA[Tornado Alley Is Expanding, Hitting More Southern States Than Ever]]> Tue, 05 Apr 2022 20:00:00 -0500
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Lately, there have been many tornadoes in places where there normally haven't been.

This is because "Tornado Alley" is expanding, and millions of Americans in the a region of the Southeast known as "Dixie Alley" are now at a greater risk for tornadoes than those in the Midwest.

Tornado Alley has historically been known to stretch from Texas to South Dakota, but it's starting to broaden outside of its existing pattern.

According to USA Today reporting, 20 U.S. states saw an increase in tornado activity between 2000 and 2019, compared to data from 1980 to 1990. These states outside tornado alley include Alabama, Kentucky and Mississippi.

Scientists aren’t entirely sure why this shift is happening but point to climate change as a possible explanation.

Tornado season typically runs from March through June, but they can really happen anytime. They're most common here in the U.S. Most countries combined see 200 to 300 tornadoes per year on average. In the U.S., the number is over 1,200 a year, and that’s largely because of U.S. weather patterns.

When warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico mixes with dry air from the West, it creates the wind pattern for a tornado. It starts out spinning horizontally, but as the warm air from the gulf continues to rise, it tilts the tube vertically, causing twisters to form.

While it's not completely clear why the location of these storms is expanding, gulf waters are getting warmer all the time, which can intensify these storms. 

Tornadoes are measured on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. It has six categories ranging from weak to catastrophic. Between 1950 to 2019, more than 60,000 tornadoes were reported, and more than half were E1, moderate tornadoes, or stronger. 

An AccuWeather report predicts that this year we could see an even bigger number of tornadoes and severe storms.

As these storms increase, what can we do to prepare for them?

Recently, legislation was introduced to improve tornado forecasting and warnings. This bill has been in the works for awhile but has advanced by a Senate committee. It would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to evaluate its IT infrastructure to get information out to the public faster.

NOAA is working to simplify how alerts are communicated to make them easier to understand while also taking into account the socioeconomic factors that put people at risk. The goal of the new bill would make warning times go from 15 minutes to one hour, giving people more time to find shelter.

<![CDATA[Is Your Bottled Water Really That Much Different From Tap Water?]]> Mon, 04 Apr 2022 20:21:00 -0500
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How much have you thought about bottled water? It’s a simple product — probably an afterthought in the fridge at the convenience store, in your fridge at home or stockpiled in your trunk in case you get stuck on the side of the road.But where did it come from? How did that water get from wherever it was to the inside of the bottle? And why are we paying several dollars at a time for something that comes at a fraction of the cost straight from the tap?The answers to those questions reveal the true impact of bottled water, both environmentally and ethically, and that impact is worth considering the next time you buy a bottle.It's important to note tap water is not a universal luxury. CDC estimates suggest that more than 800 million people around the world don’t have safe drinking water, and even in the United States, cities have had to rely on bottled alternatives to tap water for weeks, months or even years at a time.Cities like Jackson, Mississippi, and Newark, New Jersey, as well as both Flint and Benton Harbor in Michigan, have needed to rely on bottled water in recent years due to aging infrastructure or toxic chemicals in their water supply.But if you’re just going to the supermarket and buying a water bottle, you’re getting a product that is far more expensive than what you can get via tap."When people are thirsty, it's a really appealing drink — that bottle of water that you buy in a cold case for $1.29," author Charles Fishman said. "It's cheap in terms of the fact that you can slide two dollar bills or six quarters on the counter and you're done. You could fill that bottle of water every day for 3,500 days, nine years from your tap before the tap water cost $1.29."Fishman is a contributing editor for the business magazine Fast Company and wrote a book about the economics of bottled water called “The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water.”"It's not better than tap water," Fishman said. "It's not cleaner than tap water. In fact, tap water is much more tightly regulated than bottled water by state, local, federal government."That bottle also has more costs than just what you pay for it at the store. Bottled water has a huge environmental impact.The water comes from a source — likely a lake, spring or underground aquifer. On average, the manufacturer will have to use three liters of water just to produce one liter — roughly 34 fluid ounces — of water that can be bottled.At the plant that makes plastic bottles for the water, they’ll have to use roughly 2,000 times the energy needed to produce tap water. Much of America’s plastic is made with energy from burned oil. Considering that bottled water is one of the most popular drinks in the U.S. and consumers drink tens of billions of bottles each year, we’re talking about tens of billions of gallons of oil used to just make water bottles each year.The bottle may have to go hundreds or thousands of miles on planes, trucks or ships to get to your local store, with brands like Evian and Fiji shipping their water from France and Fiji, respectively.That bottle also usually just gets used once, with most of them not getting recycled after use. Michael O’Heaney, executive director at the environmental nonprofit the Story of Stuff Project, says it can get even more costly when you factor how it got made."Plastics fundamentally are products derived from oil and gas," O'Heaney said. "So part of the reason you see this huge growth in single-use plastics is less about demand, is less about consumers saying, 'I really want more single-use plastics in my life,' and more about the sort of glut of hydrocarbons, and most specifically, the glut of fracked natural gas available in the United States."Put it all together, and your water has been through a lot before you drink it. Peter Gleick is the co-Founder and president emeritus of the Pacific Institute, an environmental nonprofit. He also wrote “Bottled and Sold,” a book about why we consume so much bottled water."Perhaps the biggest environmental challenge associated with bottled water, of course, is the plastics associated with the whole process, the making of the plastic bottle, which requires a huge amount of energy," Gleick said. "Fossil fuel energy plastics come from fossil fuels. Then, we buy the bottle after it's been moved to wherever we're picking it up, and there's an energy cost associated with that as well."Gleick notes that despite people's suspicions about tap water, bottled water generally isn’t any safer than tap water."We have federal laws, the federal standard, the Safe Drinking Water Act, that defines standards for our tap water that protect our tap water to a very high degree that require that water agencies test tap water on a constant basis," Gleick said. "I wouldn't argue that tap water is safer necessarily than bottled water, but it's certainly not any less safe than bottled water, which also has standards to bring it up to about the standard that our tap water has to meet."Then, there's the labeling of it all.Two of the largest water bottle brands — the Coca-Cola-owned Dasani and the PepsiCo-owned Aquafina — bottle purified water using what’s called “reverse osmosis filtration.”  That’s one way of saying that they literally just use the same source as tap water.The advocacy group Food and Water Watch estimates nearly two-thirds of bottled water sold in the United States comes from the same source as municipal tap water. "The vast majority of bottled water, the water that people buy in the store and bring home or buy on-the-go, is just purified tap water, is municipal water that the companies buy typically from municipalities," O'Heaney said. "There's a variety of processes they use and then sell back to consumers in plastic packaging."That’s gotten some folks really upset, and it’s led to efforts to block companies from taking water from the tap supply and bottling it for sale.Legislation in Michigan and Maine proposed restricting the bottling of tap water or taxing companies that do it, but the most significant effort to address the issue came in Washington state.Legislators proposed making it the first state to ban water bottlers from using water from springs and aquifers. The bill died in a state House committee, but legislators are hoping to address the issue in the future.Democratic Sen. Reuven Carlyle introduced the bill."For me, introducing this legislation was to recognize that bottled water companies were buying the rights to water, which in the West are a big deal," Carlyle said. "Purchasing up those rights to water to basically get in front of the queue, in front of tribes, in front of agriculture, in front of regular neighborhoods, to be able to purchase that water right so they can bottle it and then, in effect, ship it around the world."But there are criticisms of the idea of governing water too much or developing a free alternative. In Washington, a Republican legislator told residents that water law changes can take years to develop and should require broad discussions about the effects because of the potential for unintended consequences.But Carlyle points to another source of political pressure — the bottled water industry. "I think that the the industry reacted with such a vigorous lobbying opposition and such a fierce opposition because they saw this legislation as existential threat to their ability to supersede and jump in front of the line and get access to these water systems in order to to bottle it up and resell it," Carlyle said.There’s economic pressure, too. A lot of that comes down to what you’re actually buying when you buy a water bottle."Bottled water is a great convenience," Fishman said. "It's really appealing, you know, when you've been on a run, when you've been at the gym, when you're really thirsty, if you step into a convenience store and you look in the cold case and there's a bottle of water. They're sort of glistening. It's in its clear plastic bottle for $1.29. That seems really appealing."

<![CDATA[In California, Goats And Sheep Return To Firefighting Duty]]> Thu, 31 Mar 2022 19:15:00 -0500
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Hundreds of goats and sheep are working around the clock protecting Sacramento California from wildfires.

For the second year in a row, the city deployed the herd to clear out hundreds of acres of open fields in and around the city.

"The sustainability of it — the ability to do something without the use of mechanical equipment — that is lessening the carbon footprint," said Shawn Aylesworth, park maintenance manager for the city of Sacramento. "And its all geared toward the protection of the neighborhoods that border these open areas."

Extreme grazing is not new. Ranchers have been doing it for as long as there have been ranches. But cities are slowly adopting it as a climate friendly alternative to machinery.

"There really isn’t a cost savings. Its really the benefit of what were doing for the environment and our stewardship responsibilities," Aylesworth said.

The animals can clear cut a few acres in a few days.

The goal is to reduce the wildfire threat to the houses nearby.

100 percent of the state of California is in some level of drought, and the state’s capital city is in a severe drought.

Using the herd reduces the risk of an accidental spark from a lawnmower starting a fire.

The goats and sheep will finish their first tour of duty in a few weeks, but they’ll be back in the summer when the fields are really dried out.

<![CDATA[Annual Cherry Blossom Colors Show Mounting Effects Of Climate Change]]> Fri, 25 Mar 2022 19:06:00 -0500
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It’s what everyone in Washington D.C. is talking about — no, not those hearings.

It’s the peak bloom week for the cherry blossoms.

For 110 years, cherry blossoms have encircled the tidal basin. Japan gave them as a gift to the city.

There are 3,200 trees in the parks around the waterfronts in the city.

They are gorgeous to look at, but what you are looking at today is the impacts of climate change..

Here in D.C. the temperature has increased about two degrees over the last 50 years.

That might not seem like a lot, but it causes a change in environmental processes and causes the trees to bloom earlier.

It's throwing off the phenology of the environment, or the seasonal cycles of plants and animals. Nature and ecosystems run on these cycles. Plants bloom at the same time that bees and butterflies and other pollinators are flying around. The timing is exact so they can work together.

But earlier blooms can create a phenological mismatch. The trees and the insects are on different schedules, so there’s no pollination.

The National Park Service has been tracking the peak bloom dates for a few decades. you can see the migration to an earlier and earlier arrival. Just a few years ago the blossoms didn’t peak until the second week of April.

It's not happening just here in D.C., either. In Japan, the country that gave us these trees as a gift, the same thing is happening. Last year the cherry trees there had the earliest peak bloom in the last 1,200 years.

Climate change is not just the big events like glaciers melting, or species going extinct. It's also the small changes that we barely notice, that gradually add up to big changes in the environment all around us.

<![CDATA[Kuwait, Among World's Hottest Places, Lags On Climate Action]]> Mon, 21 Mar 2022 11:49:37 -0500
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It was so hot in Kuwait last summer that birds dropped dead from the sky.

Sea horses boiled to death in the bay. Dead clams coated the rocks, their shells popped open like they'd been steamed.

Kuwait reached a scorching temperature of 127.7 degrees Fahrenheit, making it among the hottest places on earth.

The extremes of climate change present existential perils all over the world. But the record heat waves that roast Kuwait each season have grown so severe that people increasingly find it unbearable.

By the end of the century, scientists say being outside in Kuwait City could be life-threatening — not only to birds. A recent study also linked 67% of heat-related deaths in the capital to climate change.

And yet, Kuwait remains among the world's top oil producers and exporters, and per capita is a significant polluter. Mired in political paralysis, it stayed silent as the region's petrostates joined a chorus of nations setting goals to eliminate emissions at home — though not curb oil exports — ahead of last fall's U.N. climate summit in Glasgow.

Instead, Kuwait's prime minister offered a years-old promise to cut emissions by 7.4% by 2035.

"We are severely under threat," said environmental consultant Samia Alduaij. "The response is so timid it doesn't make sense."

Racing to burnish their climate credentials and diversify their economies, Saudi Arabia pitches futuristic car-free cities and Dubai plans to ban plastic and multiply the emirate's green parks.

While the relatively small populations of oil-rich Gulf Arab states mean their pledges to cut emissions are minor in the grand scheme to limit global warming, they have symbolic significance.

Yet the gears of government in Kuwait, population 4.3 million, seem as stuck as ever — partly because of populist pressure in parliament, and partly because the same authorities that regulate Kuwait's emissions get nearly all of their revenue from pumping oil.

"The government has the money, the information and the manpower to make a difference," said lawmaker Hamad al-Matar, director of the parliamentary environmental committee. "It doesn't care about environmental issues."

The country continues to burn oil for electricity and ranks among the top global carbon emitters per capita, according to the World Resources Institute. As asphalt melts on highways, Kuwaitis bundle up for bone-chilling air-conditioning in malls. Renewable energy accounts for less than 1% of demand — far below Kuwait's target of 15% by 2030.

An hour drive outside the dingy suburbs of Jahra, wind turbines and solar panels rise from clouds of sand — the fruit of Kuwait's energy transition ambitions.

But nearly a decade after the government set up the solar field in the western desert, its empty lots are as glaring as its silicon and metal.

At first, the Shagaya Energy Park exceeded expectations, engineers said. The Persian Gulf's first plant to combine three different renewables — solar, wind and solar thermal — put Kuwait at the vanguard. The wind farm over-performed, generating 20% more power in the first year than anticipated, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research reported.

But optimism and momentum soon evaporated. The government gave up control of the project to attract private money, an unprecedented move that raised a tangle of legal questions over how developers would sell electricity to the nation's sole power provider.

Instead of pressing ahead with the successful hybrid energy model, investors devoted the rest of the park to the production of solar thermal power, the costliest kind. Years of delays and canceled tenders ensued. The project's fate remains uncertain.

"The people in charge made the wrong decisions," said Waleed al-Nassar, member of Kuwait's Supreme Councils for the Environment and Planning and Development. "There was no one who took action or wanted to understand. Everyone says, 'Let's just do what we've been doing for the last 70 years.'"

Disputes also have marred the natural gas industry. While natural gas causes sizable emissions of climate-warming gases, it burns more cleanly than coal and oil and could play a big role in a low-carbon future for Kuwait.

Kuwait's 63 trillion cubic feet meters of gas reserves, 1% of the world's total, remain largely untapped. Fields shared with Saudi Arabia in what's known as the neutral zone shut down for years as the countries sparred over land use.

The elected parliament, which views itself as a defender of Kuwait's natural resources against foreign companies and corrupt businessmen, frequently hampers gas exploration. Lawmakers long have sought to challenge the government's authority to award lucrative energy contracts, summoning oil ministers for interrogations on suspicion of mismanagement and stalling major projects.

The legislature similarly carries the mantle of preserving Kuwait's lavish welfare state, believing the government lacks accountability. Kuwaitis enjoy among the cheapest electricity rates and petrol prices in the world.

When ministers suggest the government stop spending so much on subsidies, lawmakers put up a fight — literally. Debates in the chamber can devolve into fisticuffs.

"This is one of the biggest challenges. It's seen as an engrained right for every Kuwaiti citizen," said urban development expert Sharifa Alshalfan.

With sumptuous subsidies even for the wealthiest, she added, Kuwaitis live wastefully, leaving home air-conditioners running for months-long vacations.

"We have no measures that cities have taken around the world to incentivize individuals to change their behavior," she said.

Stagnation has plunged the country into a historic financial crisis. Kuwait's budget deficit soared over $35.5 billion last year as oil prices plummeted.

While Saudi Arabia and the UAE compete for shares of a fast-growing renewable energy market, Kuwaiti environmentalists are taking on the role of town crier.

"Renewables make so much more financial sense," said Ahmed Taher, an energy consultant promoting a new economic model that cuts Kuwait's power subsidies by inviting homeowners to buy shares in a solar project. "(The government) needs to know how much more money Kuwait could save and how many more jobs it could have."

But for now, Kuwait keeps burning oil.

Layers of dense pollution blanket the streets. Sewage rushes into the steaming bay. Fish carcasses that wash ashore produce a lingering stench, what activists describe as a pungent manifestation of the country's politics.

"When you walk by the bay, you sometimes want to vomit," said Kuwaiti environmental advocate Bashar Al Huneidi. "The abusers are winning, and I get discouraged every day."

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

<![CDATA[In Real Life: Living With Wolves]]> Sun, 20 Mar 2022 19:30:00 -0500
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A century after they were nearly eradicated in the U.S., wolves are making a comeback across the American Northwest. To conservationists, it's a victory for wildlife. But to some communities on the front lines of the issue, it's a threat to their livelihoods. 

<![CDATA[New Infrastructure Package Could Help Reduce Damage To Wildlife]]> Thu, 10 Mar 2022 11:25:00 -0600
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From the air, the wildlife passage spanning Washington’s Interstate 90 looks like a bridge to nowhere. But conservation biologist Mitch Friedman says for animals, it’s a lifeline. 

"For our most sensitive wildlife like grizzly bears, but even fairly abundant ones like elk, roads are death," Friedman said.

Friedman is the executive director of Conservation Northwest, a key environmental partner for the project. 

"This 15-mile stretch, between Hyak and Easton, of Interstate 90 is the best in the continent or maybe the world for wildlife crossing," he said. "It's the avant garde."

In the United States, cars and trucks kill over a million large animals a year, threatening the survival of at least 21 species — from red wolves and lynx to the desert tortoise, and even two different species of salamander. 

NEWSY'S SAM EATON: I know this is a big issue right now with the infrastructure bill. What is it about the I-90 corridor that is so important?  

MITCH FRIEDMAN: Human infrastructure, particularly highways, divide populations. We’ve diced up the landscape and the critters with it.  

Those patterns are carved into the land as Interstate 90’s six lanes, connecting commerce in Seattle with the rest of the country and slicing through the Cascade Mountains at Snoqualmie Pass.  

"These animals still need to cross the landscape for migration, seasonal or generational, to move between habitats on a daily basis, to find mates," Friedman said. "They need to get around, and underpasses and overpasses put in the right places allow wildlife to do that without risk of collisions."

As part of the recently passed infrastructure package, the U.S. is about to invest $350 million — a mere .03% of the total bill — to undo some of the harm to wildlife caused by the nation’s network of roads.

On six-lane interstate highways like I-90, collisions with wildlife aren’t just deadly for animals. 

"We have a lot of elk here and elk don't necessarily travel alone, they usually are in a herd, and so that really does create a huge risk," said Patty Garvey-Darda, wildlife biologist with U.S. Forest Service.

Garvey-Darda and the Washington Department of Transportation’s Brian White are inter-agency partners on the I-90 wildlife corridor.  

"It's not good for the traveling public, and it's certainly not good for the wildlife when they have that collision," White said.

A stretch of the highway, once completed, will not only improve its safety by preventing closures from avalanches and flooding. It’ll also host a network of more than two dozen wildlife corridors. 

The fact that these investments protect both people and wildlife makes them one of those rare bipartisan issues.

"So there's the savings as far as people not getting in accidents, but also when there were accidents that also closes the interstate," Garvey-Darda said.

A single four-day closure from avalanches in 2008 cost the state nearly $40 million in lost revenue, and the annual price tag for collisions with wildlife in the U.S. is estimated at $8 billion, killing roughly 200 people a year and injuring thousands more.

On a side road, passers can see one of the underpasses — the Gold Creek bridges spanning the Gold Creek floodplain.

"You know, if you were here before we built the improvements, there is a little bridge right here that confined the Gold Creek and the rest of that was all embankment," White said.

That means it was impenetrable to wildlife. Garvey-Darda says studies looking at GPS collar data from migrating elk showed they would stop just south of the highway, isolating the genetics of the species on each side.  

"North of us is that Alpine Lakes wilderness, and on the south side is the North Peak wilderness, so this is tremendously important for the wildlife connectivity standpoint," Garvey-Darda said. "The hope is, and it surprises me — that it's working so well — the hope is that we're just mimicking the same habitat and animals just hardly notice. It seems seamless if they walk through."

The project’s timing couldn’t be better. In the U.S. only 13% of the nation’s lands and inland waters are permanently protected and managed for conservation. But biodiversity losses are accelerating due to continued habitat destruction and fragmentation, along with climate change. Four million miles of public roads in the U.S. divide those critical habitats even further, creating isolated pockets of biodiversity. 

"The number one thing that animals need to respond to climate change is the ability to move, and roads make that so much harder," Meade Krosby said. 

Krosby is a senior scientist with the University of Washington climate impacts group. She says the traditional model for conservation was to create protected areas, like islands of wildlife habitat off limits to human development and resource extraction. 

"Those islands have been more and more isolated from each other as cities have grown and highways have been placed between them, and with climate change, it's actually a disaster," Krosby said. "Species can’t respond to climate change in these islands, they have to be able to move."

Krosby says as the government begins to fund wildlife passages as part of the infrastructure plan, I-90, because it takes climate change into account, is the ideal the template to work from. 

"That should be the level of ambition that we're working towards nationally," Krosby said. "That's the direction we need to be heading in."

"Under rocks, sometimes you can find tail frogs. They’re in the stream and they attach to the bottom of the rock, and they graze on algae," Garvey-Darda said while looking under I-90.

A threatened species of trout has also begun to cross under the highway for the first time, not to mention bears, otters, fishers, and mountain lions. The list goes on, all documented by DOT trail cam footage. 

"It makes me really optimistic that we can solve some of these problems," Garvey-Darda said. "We can do infrastructure, we can have highways, and we don't have to sacrifice the environment to do that. So, yeah, it's win-win."

After 25 years working to make this project come to fruition, Garvey-Darda says she hopes it’s just the beginning.

<![CDATA[U.N. Climate Change Report Warns Of Mass Animal Extinctions]]> Tue, 08 Mar 2022 14:52:00 -0600
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One of the biggest concerns highlighted in the United Nation's recent climate report was the risk of mass extinction of animals. One of the animals most at risk — polar bears.

The report predicts if we meet our goal — keeping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius — then 14% of species on the planet will go extinct.

Predictions gradually get worse if we miss that goal. At two degrees Celsius, animals like polar bears, penguins and seals will be at serious threat of extinction.

SEE MORE: Climate Crisis Accelerates As Pres. Biden's Plans To Tackle It Stall

The sea ice these animals live and thrive on is melting very quickly with parts of ice buildup in the Arctic reaching record lows.

Scott Carter is the head of life sciences at the Detroit Zoological Society and he says without the ice, the future for these species is grim.

"The time when these land-locked bears have the chance to go out from the packed ice and hunt — which is the only time they get to eat — is getting shorter and shorter," he said. "Obviously that's keeping bears from getting to their food."

The U.N. climate report predicts most of that sea ice in the Arctic Ocean will melt by 2035 — leading to a complete lack of ice in the Summer season.

Since polar bears, penguins and other animals won't have places to hunt, they'll move inland into parts of Alaska and Canada. That could lead to fierce competition for food among tens of thousands of species of animals that could go extinct in the next 13 years.

<![CDATA[500,000 People In Australia Told To Evacuate Due To Historic Flooding]]> Thu, 03 Mar 2022 11:23:00 -0600
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Emergency officials in Sydney are warning hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate as heavy rains are flooding a large swath of Australia's east coast.

Rivers were rising in Australia’s most populous city, home to 5 million people, with New South Wales' State Emergency Services Minister Steph Cooke warning of “treacherous weather conditions” over the next 24 hours.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology warned of life-threatening flash flooding and damaging winds with peak gusts in excess of 56 miles an hour. The State Emergency Service issued evacuation orders to 200,000 residents and evacuation warnings had been sent to another 300,000. Minor flood warnings were also issued for coastal communities as far as 120 miles south of Sydney.

Floodwaters were also rising in Brisbane, Australia’s third-most populous city 450 miles north of Sydney, as severe thunder storms struck.

SEE MORE: United Nations Releases Dire New Climate Change Report

The La Niña weather pattern has intensified the power of this storm that's been dumping rain on the country for days. In Lismore — north of Sydney — the flooding was catastrophic, with more than 3 feet of rainfall in just four days.

Rescue crews throughout Sydney's northern suburbs have been rescuing residents trapped in their homes and cars. So far, the storm has claimed the lives of 15 people.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Laura Boekel said thunderstorms brought the chance of more flooding, extending 280 miles north from Brisbane to Bundaberg during the next day or two.

“This is a very dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation for southeast Queensland,” Boekel said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

<![CDATA[Coors Light To Ditch Plastic Rings For Cardboard Wrap]]> Wed, 02 Mar 2022 08:58:00 -0600
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<![CDATA[Climate Crisis Accelerates As Pres. Biden's Plans To Tackle It Stall]]> Tue, 01 Mar 2022 20:08:00 -0600
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While the effects of the climate crisis — like melting ice caps, rising sea levels and more wildfires — are accelerating, President Joe Biden's plans to tackle it are stalled. 

As a candidate, Biden said fighting climate change would create jobs and jump start clean energy industries like wind and solar. 

"There is no more urgent crisis facing this nation or the world than the threat posed by climate change," he said in a campaign video. "We can deal with this problem; we just have to act."

But as president, his proposals aimed at breaking America's fossil fuel habit ground to a halt. More than $500 billion in spending in the "Build Back Better" bill was opposed by Senate Republicans and Democrat Joe Manchin.

"I guess I'd like him to say we are going to deal with the climate crisis as the crisis that it is; it's an emergency," said Susan Joy Hassol, director of climate communication.

Climate advocates like Hassol want to see President Biden bring his proposals back to life, including putting a tax on carbon emissions.

"We need to do three things: We need to phase out fossil fuels, we need to deploy clean energy and we need to protect the forests," Hassol said. 

President Biden's address to Congress comes days after the release of a new United Nations report that paints a dire picture of a world approaching a point of no return. 

"With fact upon fact, this report reveals how people and the planet are getting clobbered by climate change," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said. "Nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone now. "

Climate legislation opponents often cite the price tag, but scientists and advocates warn the alternative could be much worse. 

"People always talk about the cost, but they don't talk about what it will cost if we don't take these actions," Hassol said.

Climate advocates know there are other national priorities — like the pandemic and the war in eastern Europe — but those, they say, will pass. Climate change, however, is not going anywhere.

<![CDATA[United Nations Releases Dire New Climate Change Report]]> Mon, 28 Feb 2022 08:56:00 -0600
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<![CDATA[Study: Greenland's Ice Is Melting Faster Than Previously Thought]]> Sun, 27 Feb 2022 20:11:00 -0600
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Scientists with the University of Cambridge say new research shows the ice sheet covering Greenland is melting rapidly at its base. 

The Greenland ice sheet is the second largest in the world, and some parts are losing 5 or 6 centimeters of ice a day.

It is already the biggest single contributor to global sea level rise.

Scientists say the water and ice currently going into the ocean could have serious ramifications for the sea level. 

Terry Tamminen, California's former Environmental Protection Agency secretary, who also consults a variety of clients on climate and energy policy, tells Newsy what to expect in a new climate change report the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is releasing Monday. 

<![CDATA[Quapaw Nation Aims To Clean Up One Oklahoma Town]]> Mon, 21 Feb 2022 21:12:00 -0600
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The northeastern part of Oklahoma is home to eight federally recognized tribal nations, including the Quapaw. It's also where one of the largest mining booms in the country took place.

That's where Picher sits — a once tight-knit community, including miners who were known as gorillas.

It was originally Quapaw land; they were forcibly removed from Arkansas to there in the early 1800s. Nearly six decades later, large deposits of zinc and lead were discovered, displacing many from their land.

Today, Picher has the distinction of being the site of one of the biggest cleanups of hazardous materials in the U.S. But it's still home to Henry Ellick. He and his wife raised their family there, and they didn't want to leave, even though it was polluted.

Ellick's ties to the land there run as deep as any Quapaw's, like secretary treasurer Guy Barker. His family's land in Picher is called Blue Goose. It used to be owned by Barker’s great-great-grandmother. Now it's in the middle of what’s known as the Tar Creek Superfund Site.

Barker’s family has a history here.

His great-grandfather, Victor Griffin, was the chief of the tribe at the height of the mining boom.

"You know, my great grandfather, who was Guy Barker the first, worked in the mines most of his life, died early from silicosis, which would be kind of in this area, would have been their version of black lung," Barker said.

Mines in Picher yielded materials for the tanks and machine guns for soldiers in both World Wars.

The mining boom ended in the 1970s. Families living there were forced to take a buyout because the town was deemed too dangerous to live in.

Henry Ellick and his wife were bought out after it was determined that their house was in danger of collapsing because of all the mining.

"We didn't know if it was going to be ongoing," Ellick said. "What if you didn't take the buyout? Could you live there?"

High levels of lead were found in the drinking water. In 1994, the Indian Health Service told the EPA that 34% of Quapaw children in the area had lead concentration levels in their bloodstream above the federal limit.

"I mean, trace amounts of lead within drinking water, groundwater, it's also on the air," Barker said. "It's blowing around, it's in the ground soils, in the sandbox that the kids are playing in, I mean, it's everywhere. And so I think in terms of federal government's response it was extraordinarily delayed."

Now, Barker and Quapaw Nation's environmental director Craig Kreman are managing the cleanup on the reservation.

In 2012, they were awarded a multi-million-dollar contract from the Environmental Protection Agency to remove the large piles of chat — the byproduct of mining waste that dots the landscape in Picher and the nearby towns of Cardin and Zincville — and rehabilitate some of the land.

Nearly a decade after that contract was awarded, Quapaw Nation has even more control over the cleanup. In July of 2020, a major decision by the U.S. Supreme Court came down in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which reaffirmed the Muscogee Nation's reservation. The ruling subsequently applied to five more tribal nations, including the Quapaw. The ruling was a win for tribal sovereignty, giving the Quapaw more control over their criminal justice system. The decision also has implications for the tribal nation's environmental regulations. 

"And with McGirt and you know, now Lawhorn with Quapaws, we're really looking at different programs the tribe can take on and take on that capacity," Kreman said. 

Kreman is talking about the tribal nation's ability to regulate companies that do cleanup work within their boundaries — companies like Flintrock.

Kreman points to some runoff from their site that empties in a nearby creek. It's enforcement that could fall under McGirt.

"I think that's coming into question with McGirt," Kreman said. "What capacity does our environmental office and the tribe have to take on and enforce regulations?"

The creek is full of zinc- and lead-tainted water because of the large underground reservoirs that seep up after heavy rainfalls. It oxidizes the trees growing near the creek and runs into the nearby Neosho River, then to Grand Lake.

Barker says McGirt is a win with the potential impact the decision has on environmental regulation and the tribal nation actively managing a superfund site.

"We have dedicated scientists, engineers, geologists that work on this day in and day out," Barker said. "We're in a position of real knowledge to be able to kind of help steer this going forward, and if there ever is another environmental impact of similar scope or nature really would be really helpful."

This is their backyard, he says.

"It's really best that we be able to be in a position there to hold individual actors accountable so that we're not chasing our tail wasting time creating environmental harm to not just the area, but to its inhabitants," Barker said.

Quapaw Nation manages the environmental cleanup in partnership with the EPA, and they say it's probably going to take decades to get the land there into some usable form and remove the large chat piles. Plus, he's not sure the state of Oklahoma should or could be trusted with this effort.

"Particularly whenever you look at jurisdictional authority over certain things, criminal aside ... come drive around Picher, come drive around Commerce and see exactly where state stewardship has gotten us."

Ultimately, Barker says it's about good stewardship of the land — something he says Quapaws are pretty familiar with.

<![CDATA[What Is The 'Winter Grab' Along The Great Lakes?]]> Thu, 17 Feb 2022 11:56:00 -0600
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<![CDATA[U.S. Could See 100 Years' Worth Of Sea Level Rise In Just 3 Decades]]> Wed, 16 Feb 2022 14:41:00 -0600
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America's coastline will see sea levels rise in the next 30 years by as much as they did in the entire 20th century, with major Eastern cities hit regularly with costly floods even on sunny days, a government report warns.

By 2050, seas lapping against the U.S. shore will be 10 to 12 inches higher, with parts of Louisiana and Texas projected to see waters a foot and a half higher, according to a 111-page report issued Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and six other federal agencies. 

"Make no mistake: Sea level rise is upon us," said Nicole LeBoeuf, director of NOAA's National Ocean Service.

The projected increase is especially alarming given that in the 20th century, seas along the Atlantic coast rose at the fastest clip in 2,000 years.

LeBoeuf warned that the cost will be high, pointing out that much of the American economy and 40% of the population are along the coast.

However, the worst of the long-term sea level rise from the melting of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland probably won't kick in until after 2100, said ocean service oceanographer William Sweet, the report's lead author.

Warmer water expands, and the melting ice sheets and glaciers adds more water to the worlds oceans.

The report "is the equivalent of NOAA sending a red flag up" about accelerating the rise in sea levels, said University of Wisconsin-Madison geoscientist Andrea Dutton, a specialist in sea level rise who wasn't part of the federal report. The coastal flooding the U.S. is seeing now "will get taken to a whole new level in just a couple of decades."

"We can see this freight train coming from more than a mile away," Dutton said in an email. "The question is whether we continue to let houses slide into the ocean."

Sea level rises more in some places than others because of sinking land, currents and water from ice melt. The U.S. will get slightly more sea level rise than the global average. And the greatest rise in the U.S. will be on the Gulf and East Coasts, while the West Coast and Hawaii will be hit less than average, Sweet said. 

For example, between now and 2060, expect almost 25 inches of sea level rise in Galveston, Texas, and just under 2 feet in St. Petersburg, Florida, while only 9 inches in Seattle and 14 inches in Los Angeles, the report said.

While higher seas cause much more damage when storms such as hurricanes hit the coast, they are becoming a problem even on sunny days.

Cities such as Miami Beach, Florida; Annapolis, Maryland; and Norfolk, Virginia, already get a few minor "nuisance" floods a year during high tides, but those will be replaced by several "moderate" floods a year by mid-century, ones that cause property damage, the researchers said.

"It's going to be areas that haven't been flooding that are starting to flood," Sweet said in an interview. "Many of our major metropolitan areas on the East Coast are going to be increasingly at risk." 

The western Gulf of Mexico coast, should get hit the most with the highest sea level rise — 16 to 18 inches — by 2050, the report said. And that means more than 10 moderate property-damaging sunny-day floods and one "major" high tide flood event a year.

The eastern Gulf of Mexico should expect 14 to 16 inches of sea level rise by 2050 and three moderate sunny-day floods a year. By mid-century, the Southeast coast should get a foot to 14 inches of sea level rise and four sunny-day moderate floods a year, while the Northeast coast should get 10 inches to a foot of sea level rise and six moderate sunny-day floods a year.

Both the Hawaiian Islands and Southwestern coast should expect 6 to 8 inches of sea level rise by mid-century, with the Northwest coast seeing only 4 to 6 inches. The Pacific coastline will get more than 10 minor nuisance sunny-day floods a year but only about one moderate one a year, with Hawaii getting even less than that.

And that's just until 2050. The report is projecting an average of about 2 feet of sea level rise in the United States — more in the East, less in the West — by the end of the century.

 Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

<![CDATA[Dry Winter Drains Reservoirs, Ruins Crops In Spain, Portugal]]> Sun, 13 Feb 2022 14:44:00 -0600
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Roofs peeking out of the water have become a common sight every summer at the Lindoso reservoir in northwestern Spain. In especially dry years, parts would appear of the old village of Aceredo, submerged three decades ago when a hydropower dam flooded the valley.

But never before has the skeleton of the village emerged in its entirety in the middle of the usually wet winter season. 

With almost no rain for two months and not much expected any time soon, the ruins of Aceredo are dredging up a mix of emotions for locals as they see the rusted carcass of a car, a stone fountain with water still spouting and the old road leading to what used to be the local bar.

"The whole place used to be all vineyards, orange trees. It was all green. It was beautiful," said 72-year-old José Luis Penín, who used to stop at the bar with pals at the end of a day's fishing.

"Look at it now," said Penín, who lives in the same county, pointing at the cracked, yellow bed of the reservoir. "It's so sad."

While the arid zones of the Iberian Peninsula have historically experienced periods of drought, experts say climate change has exacerbated the problem. This year, amid record levels of low or no rainfall at all, farmers in both Portugal and Spain, who are growing produce for all of Europe, are worried that their crops for this season will be ruined.

In the last three months of 2021, Spain recorded just 35% of the average rainfall it had seen during the same period from 1981 to 2010. But there has been almost no rain since then. 

According to the national weather agency AEMET, in this century, only in 2005 has there been a January with almost no rain. If clouds don't unleash in the next two weeks, emergency subsidies for farmers will be needed, authorities said.

But Rubén del Campo, a spokesman for the weather service, said the below-average rainfall over the last six months is likely to continue for several more weeks, with hopes that spring will bring much-needed relief.

While only 10% of Spain has officially been declared under a "prolonged drought," there are large areas, particularly in the south, which are facing extreme shortages that could impact the irrigation of crops.

The valley around the Guadalquivir River in Spain's southwest was declared under prolonged drought in November. It is now the focus of a fierce environmental dispute over water rights near Doñana National Park, a World Heritage wetland site. The government of the Andalusia region wants to grant water rights to farmers on land near the park, but critics say the move will further endanger a major wildlife refuge that is already drying up.

"The past two, three years have been dry, with the tendency toward less and less rain," said Andrés Góngora, a 46-year-old tomato farmer in southern Almería.

Góngora, who expects the water he uses from a desalinating plant to be rationed, is still better off than other farmers who specialize in wheat and grains for livestock feed.

"The cereal crops for this year have been lost," Góngora said.

Other areas in central and northeast Spain are also feeling the burn.

The leading association of farmers and livestock breeders in Spain, COAG, warns that half of Spain's farms are threatened by drought this year. It says if it does not rain heavily in the coming month, rain-fed crops including cereals, olives, nuts and vineyards could lose 60% to 80% of their production. 

But the association is also worried about crops that depend on irrigation, with reservoirs under 40% of capacity in most of the south.

Spain's left-wing government plans to dedicate over 570 million euros ($647 million) from the European Union's pandemic recovery fund to make its irrigation systems more efficient, including incorporating renewable energy systems.

Spanish Agriculture Minister Luis Planas said this week the government will take emergency measures if it doesn't rain in two weeks. Those would likely be limited to economic benefits to palliate the loss of crops and revenues for farmers.

Neighboring Portugal has also seen little rain since last October. By the end of January, 45% of the country was enduring "severe" or "extreme" drought conditions, according to the national weather agency IPMA.

Rainfall from Oct. 1 through January was less than half the annual average for that four-month period, alarming farmers who are short of grass for their livestock.

Unusually, even the north of Portugal is dry and forest fires have broken out there this winter. In the south, crickets are already singing at night and mosquitoes have appeared — traditional signs of summer.

The IPMA doesn't forecast any relief before the end of the month.

Portugal has witnessed an increase in the frequency of droughts over the past 20-30 years, according to IPMA climatologist Vanda Pires, with lower rainfall and higher temperatures.

"It's part of the context of climate change," Pires told The Associated Press.

And the outlook is bleak: Scientists estimate that Portugal will see a drop in average annual rainfall of 20% to 40% by the end of the century.

 Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

<![CDATA[U.S. Military Faces Crisis In Hawaii After Fuel Leak Poisons Water]]> Sat, 05 Feb 2022 13:22:00 -0600
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A giant U.S. government fuel storage installation hidden inside a mountain ridge overlooking Pearl Harbor has provided fuel to military ships and planes crisscrossing the Pacific Ocean since World War II.

Its very existence was a secret for years. Even after it was declassified, few people paid attention — until late last year, when jet fuel leaked into a drinking water well, showed up in tap water and sickened thousands in military housing.

Now the Navy is scrambling to contain what one U.S. lawmaker calls a "crisis of astronomical proportions." Native Hawaiians, veterans, liberals and conservatives across Hawaii are all pushing to shut down the tanks even though the Navy says they're vital to national security.

Military medical teams have examined more than 5,900 people complaining of symptoms including nausea, headaches and rashes. The military has moved about 4,000 mostly military families into hotels and has flown in water treatment systems from the U.S. mainland. 

In the first six weeks since the water crisis emerged, the Navy spent more than $250 million addressing the public health emergency.

"Frankly, it's been a nightmare and a disaster. A total disaster," said U.S. Rep. Kaiali'i Kahele.

Kahele, a combat pilot who still serves as an officer in the Hawaii National Guard, is the lawmaker who characterized the crisis as astronomical at a hearing in December. An admiral said that the Navy takes the blame.

"The Navy caused this problem, we own it and we're gonna fix it," Navy Rear Adm. Blake Converse, the deputy Pacific Fleet commander, told lawmakers last month.

The military built the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in the early 1940s by excavating caverns within the mountain ridge to protect 20 fuel tanks from aerial attacks. Each tank is about the height of a 25-story building and can hold 12.5 million gallons (47.32 million liters.) 

The tanks are connected to underground pipelines that send fuel about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) to Pearl Harbor and to ships and planes used by the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy.

The Navy hasn't determined how petroleum got in the water. Officials are investigating a theory that jet fuel spilled from a ruptured pipe last May and somehow entered a fire suppression system drain pipe. They suspect fuel then leaked from the second pipe on Nov. 20, sending it into the drinking water well.

Within a week, military families started complaining about health problems.

Lauren Wright remembers her skin peeling, feeling nauseous and vomiting. Her symptoms disappeared only when she stopped drinking, showering and washing dishes with her home's water.

"I'm a proud Navy spouse, but this is not right — to do this to your families," she said. 

Since early December, Wright, her sailor husband and their three children ages 7 to 17 have been among the thousands of military families living in Honolulu hotels paid for by the Navy so they can have clean water. 

The Navy has been trying to clear petroleum from the contaminated well and pump it out of the aquifer. Officials are also flushing clean water through the Navy's water system — which serves 93,000 people in military homes and offices in and around Pearl Harbor. Teams have separately visited homes and workplaces to flush individual water pipe systems.

But Wright said Marines sent to flush a neighbor's home received two days of training, failed to follow a checklist for the work and had to be taught how to do the job by a neighbor with expertise.

"We're all afraid that we are going to be forced into our toxic homes and go right back to it," she said. 

The first major complaints about the fuel complex came in 2014, when 27,000 gallons (123,000 liters) leaked from one tank but didn't get into the drinking water. 

The Navy blamed contractor error and ineffective oversight. The Sierra Club of Hawaii and Honolulu's water utility warned leaks could seep into one of Honolulu's most important drinking water aquifers, located just 100 feet (30 meters) below the tanks, but the Navy resisted calls to move the facility. 

The aquifer normally supplies more than 20% of the water consumed in the city. After the latest spill, Honolulu's water utility shut off three wells to prevent petroleum from migrating through the aquifer into the utility's drinking water. 

If the biggest of the three wells remains shut, about 400,000 people in neighborhoods including downtown and Waikiki could face rationing and outages during the summer when water demand increases. 

The Navy last month said it would comply with an order by Hawaii Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, to drain the tanks and not use them until it's safe to do so. But it reversed course this week and appealed to get more time to work on solutions. 

The Navy has said draining the tanks wouldn't affect short-term Pacific operations, but commanders said they would give congressional members a classified briefing on longer-term implications. 

Many Hawaii residents, including Republican state Rep. Bob McDermott, say the dangers posed by the tanks justify getting rid of the fuel complex forever. The Marine veteran has two sons in the Navy, one son who is a Marine veteran and another currently at Marine Corps boot camp.

"I'm very close to the military, but these things are too old. It's just that simple. And if they're going to look at infrastructure for the next century, they need to fill these things in with dirt," said McDermott.

Forty-eight of the 51 members of the state House of Representatives signed a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin calling for the tanks to be decommissioned. State senators are considering legislation to outlaw them. 

Hawaii's four-member congressional delegation has secured wording in recent legislation requiring the Navy to study fuel storage alternatives.

Esther Kiaʻāina, a Honolulu city council member, said public trust in the military in Hawaii could be scarred if the Navy doesn't close the tanks for good. 

"This is a watershed moment. This is a turning point for the military's relationship with Hawaii," said Kiaʻāina, who was an Interior Department assistant secretary during the Obama administration. 

She warned that failure to shut them down could jeopardize the military's ability to obtain lease extensions for state lands under sites like Pohakuloa Training Area, a Big Island site used by the Army and the Marines.

Converse, the deputy Pacific Fleet commander, said during the congressional hearing that the Navy is working to restore public trust. 

"We recognize how much these events impacted the lives of so many, and we are firmly committed to restoring safe drinking water in a manner that builds trust and protects the land and the waters of Hawaii," Converse said.

Hawaii has been a strategically important outpost for the U.S. military since the early 1900s, when it set up a coal refueling station for steam-powered warships at Pearl Harbor. Today defense spending accounts for 8.5% of Hawaii's gross domestic product.

Activist protests got the Navy to stop bombing Kahoolawe Island for target practice in 1990. This time, opposition to the military is broader because it involves water, something that everyone connects to, said Colin Moore, a University of Hawaii political science professor.

"I don't think they have any friends on the island at this point," he said.

 Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

<![CDATA[Study: Gas Stoves Worse For Climate Than Previously Thought]]> Fri, 28 Jan 2022 09:38:00 -0600
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<![CDATA[People On East Coast Warned To Prepare For Potential Nor'easter]]> Wed, 26 Jan 2022 10:14:00 -0600
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Upstate New York is digging out from another round of Lake Effect snow as the East Coast prepares for a potential Nor'easter.

Meteorologists are warning residents to prepare because the system is taking shape and it's zeroing in on the Atlantic coast.

SEE MORE: Rare Blast Of Snow, Ice Takes Aim At Southeast U.S. Coast

The storm is expected to form off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean but the jet stream will determine if any major cities — from Philadelphia to New York City — will get snow.

If the upstream flow current is inland, the heaviest snow will hit the Big Apple. However, if it slides closer to the coast, then the big snowfall will hit Boston.

The storm is expected to begin Friday and last through Saturday night.

<![CDATA[The Negative Impact Of Snowmaking Machines]]> Tue, 25 Jan 2022 08:21:00 -0600
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Ski vacation season is in full swing and the Rocky Mountains are covered with both real and artificial snow. But it's the fake stuff that's taking a negative toll on the climate.

The process is referred to as a scientific feedback loop. The machines use a lot of energy from power plants and fossil fuels to pump out manufactured snow. 

SEE MORE: How Global Cities Could Look Under 3 Degrees Of Warming

Snowpack in the Western U.S. has dropped 20% because of drought and climate change, which means even more artificial snow is needed to keep slopes open.

Snowmaking machines have become more environmentally friendly — like automatically shutting down when temperatures get too warm — but climatologists say the machines are just a bandage.

"Really it's just a shortstop and adaptation strategy," Utah State University hydrologist Patrick Belmont said. "In the end, what needs to happen is we have to get the fossil fuels turned off, and the quicker we get them turned off, the longer that snowmaking may be a viable adaptation strategy."

Even with environmentally friendly snow machines, climatologists predict Colorado's ski industry won't be viable beyond the year 2050 due to climate change.

There will also be a lot of fake snow in China as the country prepares for the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The China Meteorological Association Weather Modification Center regularly fires silver iodide rockets into the sky to seed clouds and create rain.

The communist country has done this in the past to generate more rain and push out air pollution just before major events. 

As for the snow on the ski slopes in China — almost all of it is manufactured. The country is turning millions of gallons of water into snow, requiring more power from coal plants, generating more air pollution and requiring more rockets to drive that pollution out. 

It's one big negative feedback loop.

<![CDATA[How Global Cities Could Look Under 3 Degrees Of Warming]]> Thu, 20 Jan 2022 22:00:00 -0600
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Researchers visualized the impacts of potential future sea level rise on global cities. Scientists say warming could cause significant flooding and inundation in the U.S. and around the world.

<![CDATA[2021 Ranks As Earth's 6th Hottest Year On Record]]> Thu, 13 Jan 2022 13:29:00 -0600
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Earth simmered to the sixth hottest year on record in 2021, according to several newly released temperature measurements. 

And scientists say the exceptionally hot year is part of a long-term warming trend that shows hints of accelerating.

Two U.S. science agencies — NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — and a private measuring group released their calculations for last year's global temperature on Thursday, and all said it wasn't far behind ultra-hot 2016 and 2020. 

Six different calculations found 2021 was between the fifth and seventh hottest year since the late 1800s. NASA said 2021 tied with 2018 for sixth warmest, while NOAA puts last year in sixth place by itself. 

Scientists say a La Nina  — natural cooling of parts of the central Pacific that changes weather patterns globally and brings chilly deep ocean water to the surface — dampened global temperatures just as its flip side, El Nino, boosted them in 2016. 

Still, they said 2021 was the hottest La Nina year on record and that the year did not represent a cooling off of human-caused climate change but provided more of the same heat.

"So it's not quite as headline-dominating as being the warmest on record, but give it another few years and we'll see another one of those" records, said climate scientist Zeke Hausfather of the Berkeley Earth monitoring group that also ranked 2021 the sixth hottest. "It's the long-term trend, and it's an indomitable march upward."

Gavin Schmidt, the climate scientist who heads NASA's temperature team, said "the long-term trend is very, very clear. And it's because of us. And it's not going to go away until we stop increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."

The last eight years have been the eight hottest on record, NASA and NOAA data agree. Global temperatures, averaged over a 10-year period to take out natural variability, are nearly 2 degrees warmer than 140 years ago, their data shows. 

The other 2021 measurements came from the Japanese Meteorological Agency and satellite measurements by Copernicus Climate Change Service i n Europe and the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

There was such a distinctive jump in temperatures about eight to 10 years ago that scientists have started looking at whether the rise in temperatures is speeding up. Both Schmidt and Hausfather said early signs point to that but it's hard to know for sure.

"If you just look at the last the last 10 years, how many of them are way above the trend line from the previous 10 years? Almost all of them," Schmidt said in an interview. 

There's a 99% chance that 2022 will be among the 10 warmest years on record and a 10% chance it will be the hottest on record, said NOAA climate analysis chief Russell Vose in a Thursday press conference.

Vose said chances are 50-50 that at least one year in the 2020s will hit 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit warming since pre-industrial times  — the level of warming nations agreed to try to avoid in the 2015 Paris climate accord. 

While that threshold is important, extreme weather from climate change is hurting people now in their daily lives with about 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit warming, Vose and Schmidt said. 

The global average temperature last year was 58.5 degrees, according to NOAA. In 1988, NASA's then-chief climate scientist James Hansen grabbed headlines when he testified to Congress about global warming in a year that was the hottest on record at the time. Now, the 57.7 degrees of 1988 ranks as the 28th hottest year on record. 

Last year, 1.8 billion people in 25 Asian, African and Middle Eastern nations had their hottest years on record, including China, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Iran, Myanmar and South Korea, according to Berkeley Earth.

The deep ocean, where most heat is stored in the seas, also set a record for warmth in 2021, according to a separate new study.

"Ocean warming, aside from causing coral bleaching and threatening sea life and fish populations, ... is destabilizing Antarctic ice shelves and threatens massive ... sea level rise if we don't act," said study co-author Michael Mann, a Pennsylvania State University climate scientist.

The last time Earth had a cooler than normal year by NOAA or NASA calculations was 1976. That means 69% of the people on the planet — more than 5 billion people under age 45 — have never experienced such a year, based on United Nations data.

North Carolina state climatologist Kathie Dello, 39, who wasn't part of the new reports but said they make sense, said, "I've only lived in a warming world and I wish that the younger generations did not have to say the same. It didn't have to be this way."

 Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

<![CDATA[Oyster Shells Recycled Back Into Coastal Waters To Restore Reefs]]> Thu, 13 Jan 2022 08:21:00 -0600
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When we go out to eat and have oysters, we see the shells just get tossed away. But the Galveston Bay Foundation in Texas is collecting those leftover shells to increase the number of oyster beds, which are being destroyed by extreme weather.

SEE MORE: New Strategies Being Implemented to Save Manatees

Oysters are a major component of Galveston Bay, but hurricanes, droughts and freshwater floods have nearly killed them off.

Executive chef Bobby Matos serves about 500,000 oysters every year at just one of his restaurants, La Lucha. For years his restaurants simply discarded the leftover shells — but now they recycle them.

"It was always a byproduct that made no sense to just put in a landfill," Matos said. "Now they can bring the oyster shells back and put them in [the bay] and it helps with the storm surge. It helps regrowing oyster populations, which is a good thing for us. It keeps us in business."

Last year the foundation collected 181 tons of leftover shells. Since they started they've picked up 1,200 tons.

The shells are dumped by the truckload at a lot near the bay where the shells sit out in the sun to cure for six months.

"We don't want to introduce the shells into the water and they be contaminated," said Shannon Batte, a habitat restoration technician for Galveston Bay Foundation. "So we make sure that they are fully clean before we put them back into the bay."

Eventually the shells will either be dumped in the bay or given to local residents to create small oyster gardens along the waterfront.

The new oyster reefs have not only increased the number of oysters in the water, but have also helped improve the health of Galveston Bay.

<![CDATA[Face Masks Are Hurting The Environment]]> Tue, 11 Jan 2022 20:02:00 -0600
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On sidewalks, subways and sewer grates, single-use mask litter is everywhere. 

In Chicago, it's not unusual to find discarded masks mixed in with snow. 

KN95 masks and N95 masks are the highest barrier of protection. They perform better than the surgical-type mask, which performs better than the traditional cloth mask.

Medical experts recommend high-quality single-use masks instead of reusable cloth masks, and while they better protect us from the Omicron variant, they also create a lot of trash. 

The environmental impacts from discarded masks are huge. "Just in 2020, it was estimated that approximately 1.6 billion of these types of masks ended up in our oceans," said Michele Okoh, senior lecturing fellow at Duke University's Environmental Law and Policy Clinic. "That's roughly 5,500 tons of plastic pollution."

Disposable masks are usually made of polypropylene, which can break into microplastics, which can block the digestive tracts of wildlife if eaten.

"It's estimated that one face mask can turn into 173,000 microfibers per day in our seas," Okoh said.

Globally, one study estimates 3.4 billion face masks are discarded every day. 

There are some ways to help protect the environment. A New Jersey company, TerraCycle, has been recycling disposable masks for 15 years, transforming them into flooring and park benches.

"The problem is most objects, packages and products that we interact with are not recyclable, not because they can't be, but because they cost more to collect and process than the results are worth," TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky said.

One way to help is to use masks more than once. 

"If you put the KN95 mask into a paper bag overnight, by the next day, it is appropriate to use this again," said Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, medical director of infectious diseases at OhioHealth. "But again, we want you to sanitize your hands before you put it on and do a visual inspection of the mask to make sure that it still fits you properly and it's not degraded."

Still, environmentalists like Michele Okoh say large manufacturing companies should step up when it comes to sustainability. 

"That's a huge burden on consumers, so there needs to be a shift away from that and actually putting the responsibility on companies," Okoh said.

<![CDATA[Lawmakers Discuss What We Can Do To Combat Climate Change]]> Thu, 06 Jan 2022 09:13:00 -0600
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<![CDATA[Composting Now Required By California Law]]> Wed, 05 Jan 2022 19:44:00 -0600
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About 40% of food is wasted in the United States, going from plate to trash can to garbage truck to landfill. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says wasted food has created about 15% of the nation's methane emissions. That contributes to global warming as methane from the rotting food helps trap heat in the atmosphere. 

Starting this month, there is a California effort to keep waste like banana peels, chicken bones and leftover veggies under a mandatory food recycling program where residents will have to separate compostables from the rest of the trash. 

"It takes a little education and a little bit of training for people to get used to anything new," Ned Spang with UC Davis said. "I think this is important. I think this is a good way we can really just tell the story of food and the fact that we really need to do what's called 'closing the loop.'" 

SEE MORE: How Can We Recycle Food Scraps Into Nutrient-Rich Soil?

By banning food waste from garbage bins, the idea is to turn food scraps into compost or energy rather than let them decay and emit methane. 

Residents will dump the separated kitchen waste into special bins along with yard waste. Then, the waste will be brought to a facility that can compost it or use a process called anaerobic digestion where bacteria breaks down organic matter and can be used to create fuel. 

Ramin Yazdani is the director at Yolo County Integrated Waste Management. He said the effort means something for new generations.

"It means that we just don't bury and forget about it," Yazdani said. "We're actually taking responsibility and not leaving it for a next generation to do something." 

Davis, California, has been recycling food since 2016. Residents like Joy Klineberg said it doesn't take much to get used to separating food waste from other recyclables. 

"It's really easy," she said. "I mean, all you're changing is where you're throwing things. It's just another bin." 

And to help the planet, Klineberg says it's a small inconvenience. 

"I appreciate that we can be making a change without really impacting our lives very much," she said. 

Setting the January goal has been easier than meeting it.  

Major cities like Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento didn't have their programs ready to go by the start of the year. But state officials promise the program will be rolled out gradually in the coming months. 

<![CDATA[Think Before You Return That Gift, It Might End Up In A Landfill]]> Wed, 05 Jan 2022 17:50:00 -0600
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January is the prime month for holiday gift returns. But before you take that gift back, here's a warning: Returns impact our environment. 

"This year alone, the U.S. would have returned products worth half a trillion dollars. In the holiday season alone, it would be about $120 to $150 billion," Arizona State University professor Hitendra Chaturvedi said. 

Many retailers acknowledge that 25% of returns end up being tossed out. But it's much more than that according to Chaturvedi, who is an expert on supply chain management.

He estimates more than 80% of returns end up in landfills or shipped to developing countries as garbage. While some returned products move through secondary markets after being bought from large retailers, more are discarded. In the end, a returned item can cost more to resell than throwing it away. 

"The cost to process it during COVID times — when you have to sanitize it and repackage — the cost to process it is more than the value of the product," Chaturvedi said.

So it ends up in the landfill. Returned inventory creates 5.8 billion pounds of waste each year according to Optoro, a logistics company that specializes in returned merchandise. 

"The returns problem is only going to continue increasing this year and in the coming years," Optoro director of sustainability Meagan Knowlton said. "And luckily, quite a number of retailers and brands in the market are recognizing it as a problem, but also as an opportunity."

An opportunity to address sustainability. Aside from more products ending up in landfills, trucks re-shipping the products back create greenhouse gas emissions. 

"Every item created about half a pound of greenhouse gases through the journey," Chaturvedi said. 

Companies like Optoro help companies manage product returns efficiently and resells returned goods in bulk so they don’t end up in a landfill. Chaturvedi says sustainable return processes can be profitable — it's great PR, it makes for good customer service and companies can efficiently resell and reuse products. 

And there are ways consumers can help. 

Knowlton says: "Really think about what you're buying and what you're consuming and in the context of gift giving, are you giving people a product that they are truly going to use?"

Other ways: return products as quickly as possible and don't wait until the end of the return window so it can get relisted. Lastly, buy from companies that spell out ways they use sustainable approaches to returns. 

<![CDATA[California Needs More Snow To Offset Drought, Diminished Runoff Levels]]> Thu, 30 Dec 2021 22:00:00 -0600
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Another snowstorm blanketed northern California on Wednesday, with

overnight rains on Thursday causing flooding near Malibu.   

Yet a new map, released Thursday by federal agencies, still shows most of California in either severe or extreme drought.

But it's a major improvement from over a week ago.

The snowpack was well above average in 2017, and now experts wonder if this winter could look the same.

It's only December, and even with snow this month at 158% of normal, the snowpack needs this winter to pack in more major storms.  

"We really need the upcoming months to perform just as well as this one if we want this to help us pull out of the drought at all, so this is a really promising start," Andrew Schwartz, Station Manager of Central Sierra Snow Lab at University of California Berkeley, said. "We're at about 68% of what we would expect for an entire average winter. We need to only make up the other 32% before the rest of the snow can go towards drought relief and replenishing our water supply."

And it's in dire need of replenishing.  

Spring and summer runoff supply 65% of California’s water.

Due to annual runoff declining through the past decade, nearly all of the state's major reservoirs are well below their historic averages.

Things are so bad that earlier this month, state officials told water agencies to not expect any water from reservoirs heading into the new year. The governor warning, three weeks ago, the drought emergency and water conservation mandates will continue.   

The hope is that massive snowstorms, however disruptive, will continue.  

A study released in October found that the snowpack could largely disappear in 25 years if global warming continues unchecked. Previous studies have shown that increasing temperatures from human-caused climate change are shrinking snowpacks around the world and altering precipitation patterns.

<![CDATA[Making U.S. Water Treatment More Resilient]]> Fri, 24 Dec 2021 14:07:00 -0600
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President Biden's historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will invest 55 billion dollars to expand access to clean drinking water to families, businesses, schools and child-care centers across the U.S., and eliminate the nation's lead pipes. But Riggs Eckleberry, CEO and founder of OriginClear, a company leading a self-reliant water revolution, says this all is just a band-aid. 

"We are falling behind by 55 billion dollars every single year in America's water infrastructure," he says. "So it's great that they're doing this, but it really doesn't solve the problem because what about next year?" 

Eckelberry says the long-term solution is taking a load off of our centralized water treatment systems. 

"Start doing more treatment at businesses and farms and industry and so forth, so that the central infrastructure's load is lightened. We still need the central infrastructure. But if we don't ask it to do quite so much, that is a way forward."

Eckleberry says this would allow businesses to recycle water, something that could help our fight against climate change. 

"If people are treating their own water, they can recycle their own water because they're right there with it. It's more adaptable. If there's a big failure, it doesn't affect the entire county or state for water."

<![CDATA[Climate Change Is Impacting Snow Sports]]> Wed, 01 Dec 2021 21:00:00 -0600
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Out of all the expeditions professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones has taken on, he says this is one that will weigh heaviest on his legacy.

"I want to be able to look at my kids and say, 'You know what, I really tried to get our society on the right path in terms of climate,' and if I don't do that, then it would be hard for me to just sleep at night," Jones said.

After decades of chasing untouched peaks and immaculate lines, Jones has his sights on tackling a summit unlike any other: climate change.

"I was seeing changes to the mountains and it coincided with what scientists were saying," Jones said. "That on this current track, the planet is warming."   

Jones became concerned with the changes he witnessed in the mountains, like rapidly melting glaciers, shrinking snowpacks and shortening ski seasons.  

He saw the droughts and wildfires wreaking havoc in his home state of California, so in 2007, Jones founded Protect Our Winters — a nonprofit dedicated to mobilizing the outdoor community to advocate for policy that addresses climate change. 

"From the start it was just like, you know what, I'm going to plant the seed, and either people are going to rally around it and help it grow, and if they don't, it's not going to grow," Jones said. "I can't do this on my own, so from the get-go, it's been about together, we can protect our winters." 

Nearly 15 years on, Protect Our Winters (POW) has grown into a network of hundreds of athletes, scientists and creatives from all areas of the outdoor industry, all speaking out with concern not just for their sport, but for the future of the planet.

"I'm much more concerned about the global populace and what climate change does to all of us as a humanity than I am about skiing perfect powder in my backyard because I know that later in life, younger generations are going to look to us and say, 'Why didn't you do more? Why didn't you try?'" professional ski mountaineer Jim Morrison said.

Morrison has built his life around mountains. He says athletes hold a unique role when it comes to addressing environmental concerns.

"I think athletes play a role that speaks from their heart," Morrison said. "You don't really have to be a scientist to see the actual change in our environment. I feel this sense of responsibility to do what we can and be fairly desperate about trying to make a difference and trying to convince other people to get involved and make a difference." 

But as many of these athletes, like professional skier Amie Engerbretson, will tell you, speaking out isn't always easy in a world of social media backlash. 

"You feel like your career is at risk, and you're putting these things on the line and you're really exposing yourself in a vulnerable way," Engerbretson said. "But it's my charge, and I love my sport, I love my community and I love outdoor spaces so much that I can't let that fear, that intimidation, hold me back." 

She says she's had to work hard to overcome that fear.

"I think sitting here and calling myself a climate activist is something that I would be super uncomfortable saying a few years ago," Engerbretson said. "I didn't think of myself as like a political person or a science-y person or even a particularly smart person, so I just felt like I wasn't qualified to care. Through POW I've been able to learn so much, which has then empowered me, which has then given me the confidence to use my voice." 

With their perspectives and passions in hand, Jones and the POW network have carried their climate concerns to Washington, D.C.

"Capitol Hill is so much like going and climbing a peak," Jones said. "You use local experts to help navigate your route and terrain traps and all that stuff. When we do go to Capitol Hill, we really do focus on not the extreme right, not the extreme left, but people that are on the fence."

The goal is to put the system to work to preserve a common love of the outdoors. 

"There's always been this thing with outdoors, like keep your politics off the trail, keep your politics off the chairlift," Jones said. "We come to the outdoors to escape the news and the politics and all the stuff, and I think we don't have that luxury anymore. If we still want to ski and we still want to have trails to run and bike and play on, we have to bring politics into it."

Economics is helping put weight behind these personal testimonies and the scientific data.

"We learned early to frame climate as an economic issue, which it is," Jones said.  "I talked about my town not having clean air, the millions of dollars that a weekend of bad air does. Our coal mine is our chairlifts, like when that thing stops, it's devastating to all facets of the community." 

According to a 2018 report by scientists with the University of New Hampshire and Colorado State University, in partnership with Protect Our Winters, more than 20 million people participated in downhill skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling during the 2015-2016 winter season. Their participation added an estimated $20.3 billion in economic value to the U.S. economy through their spending at ski resorts, hotels, restaurants, bars, grocery stores and gas stations. 

Dr. Elizabeth Burakowski is a climate scientist with the University of New Hampshire and helped conduct the 2018 report. 

"A lot of the folks that have a vested business interest are really recognizing the trends now and talking about solutions and talking about advocating for policies that are going to help curb this problem and just be part of the solution, instead of just standing by watching the snow melt," Dr. Burakowski said.

Dr. Burakowski says winter weather can be preserved if action is done now, but she says if the planet stays on the trajectory it's on right now, there could be a substantial change in the colder months. 

"I don't like the clock idea of saying as long as you do this within the next five years — like no, like now, and even not now, like yesterday this should have been done," Dr. Burakowski said. "Even when you talk about, you know, when we do act, New Hampshire's climate ends up being more like Pennsylvania is today." 

While she's an avid snowboarder herself, Burakowski says it's important to not lose sight of the bigger picture. 

"Honestly losing the ability to ski is probably one of our least concerns when it comes to climate change," Dr. Burakowski said. "It's a symptom of a much broader problem. The symptoms that other people are experiencing are much more severe — drought, fire, air quality concerns, flooding, hurricanes — I mean, these are things that take out your house, they take out your home, they force you to relocate, you can't go back. And I just want people to understand that that's the bigger issue, but the solutions to both problems are probably going to be linked." 

Engerbretson says the best shot at finding that solution is through tapping into the skills and experiences within: "Everybody has been in a situation, whether you're a daytime hiker, an avid climber, whatever it is, you like to do camping, you come up against some unknown, some adversity and you've got to push through, and that's exactly what this moment in advocacy an outdoor state is all about."

<![CDATA[Meteorological Winter Begins]]> Wed, 01 Dec 2021 16:30:00 -0600
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With falling snow and falling temperatures, winter has arrived — sort of.

In the United States we have two different definitions for winter — meteorological and astronomical winter.

SEE MORE: 2021 Hurricane Season Ends As Third Most Active On Record

Meteorological winter runs from Dec. 1 through the end of February. Meteorologists break the calendar up into four three-month seasons, and each season is based on the similarity of the weather.

Astronomical winter is based on equinoxes and solstices. They define the tilt of the planet and what part of the Earth is facing the sun. The winter solstice is Dec. 21. It's when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted the farthest away from the sun, creating the day with the least amount of sunlight.

NOAA's climate prediction center updated its winter outlook, and depending on where you live, you could be getting less or more winter. This is because La Niña pushes the jet stream northward into Canada.

It swoops down over the plains and heads back up toward the Northeast, creating areas of the country that are wetter and others drier. The higher jet stream allows atmospheric rivers to flow into The Pacific Northwest, bringing heavier rains.

For the next three months, the Northwest and the Great Lakes will be wetter with more snow, freezing rain and ice, while the Southeast and Southwest will be much drier than normal.

It's also going to be warmer in those same regions, which is not good news for the Western United States — still in the grips of a megadrought that could extend into next year if there's less snowpack and winter rain.

By the start of meteorological spring on March 1, we'll know if the winter weather will snap the drought.