e360 digest
Climate


Clinton vs. Trump: A Sharp Divide
Over Energy and the Environment

Environmental and energy issues have received relatively little attention from the two major-party candidates in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. But when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have spoken out on these issues, the differences — like just about everything else about this campaign — have been stark. In a chart, Yale Environment 360 compares what Clinton and Trump have said on topics ranging from climate change to coal. See the graphic.
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07 Sep 2016: Costa Rica Runs on Renewable
Energy For More Than Two Months Straight

Costa Rica has generated 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy 150 days so far this year, including all of the past two months, according to the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity, the nation’s main power provider. The country’s main source of renewable energy is hydropower, which accounted for 80 percent of Costa Rica’s electricity generation in August, according to Mashable. Another massive hydroelectric power plant, the Reventazón dam, is scheduled to come online in September, further boosting the nation’s hydroelectric production. Geothermal, powered by Costa Rica’s many volcanoes, generated another 12.6 percent of electricity. Wind and solar make up roughly 7 percent of generation. Experts say Costa Rica is on track to meet, if not beat, last year’s record 299 days of 100 percent renewable energy.
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Thousands of Homes Keep Flooding,
Yet They Keep Being Rebuilt Again

More than 2,100 properties across the U.S. enrolled in the National Flood Insurance Program have flooded and been rebuilt more than 10 times since 1978, according to a

Flooding in Denham Springs, Louisiana.
new analysis of insurance data by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). One home in Batchelor, Louisiana has flooded 40 times over the past four decades, receiving $428,379 in insurance payments. More than 30,000 properties in the program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have flooded multiple times over the years. Those homes, known as “severe repetitive loss properties,” make up just 0.6 percent of federal flood insurance policies. But they account for 10.6 percent of the program’s claims — totaling $5.5 billion in payments.
Read more.
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26 Aug 2016: Ragweed Allergies Could Double
In Europe as Global Temperatures Rise

The number of people suffering from ragweed allergies in Europe could more than double by mid-century due to climate change, according to a new study published in the journal

Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)
Environmental Health Prospectives. Warming global temperatures, the research found, will help increase the distribution of ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) by making more areas of the continent suitable for its growth. Higher temperatures will also make growing seasons longer and increase pollen concentration in the air. Ragweed allergies, popularly known as hay fever, could impact 77 million people in Europe by 2041 to 2060, up from 33 million today, said the new study, led by scientists at the University of East Anglia. Allergies cost Europe $62 billion a year in lost productivity and are responsible for four million sick days worldwide, according to the news site Quartz.
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25 Aug 2016: Scientists Find New Way
To Convert Carbon Dioxide into Energy

Scientists have discovered a way to convert greenhouse gas emissions into a fuel in a single step using a light-driven bacterium, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A team of U.S. scientists, led by biochemists at Utah State University, used a modified version of the phototrophic bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris as a catalyst to break apart carbon dioxide and turn it into hydrogen and methane, the latter of which can be burned to generate electricity. "It's a baby step, but it's also a big step," said Utah State biochemist Lance Seefeldt, a co-author of the study. "Imagine the far-reaching benefits of large-scale capture of environmentally damaging byproducts from burning fossils fuels and converting them to alternative fuels using light, which is abundant and clean."
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For China’s Massive Data Centers,
A Push to Cut Energy and Water Use

China’s 1.37 billion people, many of them fully connected to the Internet, use an enormous amount of energy as they email, search the Web, or stream video.

Solar panels atop a green data center in Hangzhou.
Indeed, the Chinese government estimates that the country’s data centers alone consume more electricity than all of Hungary and Greece combined. But as Chinese technology and internet businesses look to burnish their environmental credentials and lower costs of operation, many are working to run their massive computing facilities more sustainably. Globally, tech giants such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are making rapid progress in this field, as they boost energy efficiency at data centers and seek to completely power their operations using renewable energy.
Read more.
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17 Aug 2016: NASA Graphic Shows Severity of
Rainstorm That Caused Louisiana Flooding

A new graphic created by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency illustrates the severity of a recent rainstorm that caused widespread flooding in Louisiana this week,

Rainfall totals in the southeastern U.S.
killing 11 people and forcing tens of thousands of residents from their homes. As much as 31 inches of rain fell in the southeastern U.S., much of it over a period of just three days, in what forecasters classified a 500-year storm event. An international team of scientists called the flooding “a classic signal of climate change,” and warned that heavy rain events are becoming more frequent as the oceans and atmosphere warm up, feeding more moisture-laden storm systems. The New York Times reports that five others states have experienced deadly flooding in the last 15 months, including Oklahoma, Texas, and South Carolina.
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16 Aug 2016: July Was the Hottest Month on
Record, Continuing Steak of High Temps

July was the world’s hottest month since modern temperature record keeping began in 1880, according to new NASA data released this week.

July 2016 temperatures compared to average.
July measured 1.27 degrees F above the 1951-1980 average, and 0.2 degrees F above July 2015, the previous record. This year has seen a streak of record-breaking monthly temperatures, fueled by a strong El Niño and climate change. Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, said on Twitter that 2016 now has a 99 percent chance of being the hottest year on record. If that happens, it will be the third such year in a row, reported Climate Central. Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred since the start of the 21st century.
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12 Aug 2016: July Electric Car Sales in China
Rose by 188 Percent Over Last Year

Chinese consumers bought 34,000 new electric cars in July, a 188 percent jump over the same period last year, according to CleanTechnica, an energy and technology news organization. The monthly total puts China on track to sell 400,000 electrical vehicles in 2016, accounting for 1.5 percent of the total auto sales market — larger than annual EV sales in Europe, or the U.S., Canada, and Mexico combined. By the end of the year, China is projected to have 700,000 electric cars on its streets; the vast majority of EV sales, 96 percent, are for Chinese-made cars, including from manufacturers BYD Auto, Zhidou, and SAIC Motor. Tesla accounts for just 2 percent of EV sales in the country, and Porsche just 1 percent.
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09 Aug 2016: Climate Change Has Caused
World's Second Largest Lake To Stop Mixing

Global warming is reducing fish stocks and disrupting circulation in Lake Tanganyika, one of the world’s oldest and largest lakes and a vital source of food and economic activity for East and Central Africa,

Fishermen on Lake Tanganyika.
according to new research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Under normal conditions, lakes mix a few times a year as seasons change. Decreasing air temperatures cool oxygen-rich surface waters, making them more dense so they sink to the bottom. Nutrient-rich water from deep within the lake then gets pushed to the surface. But rising temperatures, the new study finds, is disrupting this mixing. Without the circulation, fish and other marine life aren’t getting the nutrients they need. Suitable fish habitat near the lakebed has decreased 38 percent since the mid-1900s, the study found. Lake Tanganyika provides an estimated 60 percent of animal protein in the diets of local people, according to The Washington Post.
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08 Aug 2016: Ending U.S. Oil Subsidies
Would Have Minimal Impact, Study Says

Eliminating the U.S. government’s $4 billion in annual petroleum industry subsidies would have only a minor impact on American oil and natural gas production and consumption, but would strengthen the country’s influence in pushing for global action to slow climate change, according to a report by the Council on Foreign Relations. The report said that ending the three major federal petroleum subsidies would cut domestic production by 5 percent by 2030, which would increase international oil processing by just one percent. U.S. natural gas prices could go up by as much as 10 percent, and natural gas consumption and production would likely fall about 4 percent, the study found. Petroleum industry subsidies are a political flashpoint, with many Democrats arguing for their elimination and Republicans saying they are vital to U.S. energy security. But the study’s author concluded that “U.S. energy security would neither increase nor decrease substantially” if the subsidies are ended.
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05 Aug 2016: Melting Ice Sheet Could Expose
Abandoned U.S. Arctic Military Base

The rapidly melting Greenland ice sheet could unearth a secret, Cold War-era military base as early as next century, according to a new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Camp Century was built in 1959 to

Entrance to Camp Century.
explore whether the U.S. could covertly deploy ballistic missiles from within the ice sheet, a mission known as Project Iceworm. By 1967, the military had abandoned the base with little clean up, expecting it would be naturally entombed as snow and ice continued to accumulate on the Greenland ice cap. But warming global temperatures mean that ice loss in this frigid area of northwestern Greenland could exceed gains from new snowfall within 75 years, the study found. The hidden base could be exposed just a few decades later, along with all of the “physical, chemical, biological, and radiological wastes abandoned at the site,” the authors wrote.
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03 Aug 2016: Roughly 2 Percent of U.S. Homes
At Risk from Sea Level Rise, Report Finds

Almost 1.9 million homes in the U.S. — roughly 2 percent of the nation’s housing stock, worth $882 billion — could be underwater by 2100 with six feet of sea level rise,

Boston homes at risk of flooding.
according to a new report by Zillow, an online real estate database. One in eight Florida homes, representing $413 billion in property value, could flood by the end of the century. In Hawaii, one in 10 homes are at risk and in New Jersey, one in 13. The new analysis is based on climate projections and mapping from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as Zillow’s database of 100 million U.S. properties. It found coastal cities, such as Miami and Honolulu, are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. More than 1 in 6 Boston homes could be underwater by 2100. These estimates don’t include commercial buildings or government properties.
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02 Aug 2016: Anthrax Outbreak in Northern
Russia Linked to Rising Global Temperatures

Soaring Arctic temperatures have released anthrax long frozen in the Russian tundra, sickening scores of nomadic herders, including 50 children, and killing one 12-year-old boy, according to news reports. More than 2,300 reindeer have also died from the disease, known locally as the “Siberian plague.” Anthrax spores can lie dormant in frozen permafrost, animals, and human remains for hundreds of years, and eventually seep into groundwater during a thaw. The last anthrax outbreak in northern Russian happened 75 years ago, in 1941. Temperatures in the Yamal Peninsula, located 1,200 northeast of Moscow, reached 95 degrees F this past month. “Such anomalous heat is rare for Yamal, and that’s probably a manifestation of climate change,” Alexei Kokorin, head of WWF Russia’s climate and energy program, told The Guardian.
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29 Jul 2016: Changing Arctic Tundra Could
Radically Alter Shorebird Breeding Grounds

A new study projects that global warming could dramatically affect the tundra breeding habitat of 24 shorebird species, with 66 percent to 83 percent losing most of their suitable nesting territories.

Shifts in Arctic shorebirds.
Researchers modeled breeding conditions for these migratory shorebird species — some of which travel more than 10,000 miles from Antarctica or southern South America to breed in the Arctic — and compared projected 21st century conditions to the last major warming event more than 6,000 years ago. The study, published in Global Change Biology, concluded that a warming and drying tundra could force many species to shift their breeding territories to the Arctic coastline by 2070, causing some birds to completely change their migration routes. “Climate change is also opening up the Arctic to threats such as mining and tourism, and we must make sure we protect key places for all Arctic species, including these amazing migratory birds,” lead author Hannah Wauchope said in a University of Queensland press release.
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25 Jul 2016: Global Economy Has Reduced
Its Energy Intensity By One-Third Since 1990

The global economy is becoming less energy intensive, using fewer fossil fuels to power productivity and economic growth, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Rooftop solar panels
Global energy intensity — a measure of energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) — has decreased nearly one-third since 1990, the agency said. The U.S., for example, burned 5,900 British thermal units per dollar of GDP in 2015, compared to 6,600 BTUs in 2010. China burned 7,200 BTUs per dollar in 2015 versus 8,300 BTUs in 2010. The Department of Energy says the decrease is the result of the growth in low-carbon energy sources, such as wind and solar, and improved energy efficiency. “This is excellent news,” Penn State University climatologist Michael Mann told Climate Central. “The dramatic drop we are seeing in global energy intensity is a direct indication that energy efficiency measures are having a very direct impact on global carbon emissions.”
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22 Jul 2016: Ford is Developing Car Parts
Made Out of Captured Carbon Dioxide

Ford Motor Company is developing car parts made out of captured CO2 to help reduce the environmental footprint of their vehicles. The automaker is working with Novomer, a Massachusetts-based chemistry company, to convert CO2 emissions from sources like power plants into foams and plastics for use in everything from headrests, seat cushions, and instrument panels, according to The Washington Post. Most foams and plastics in Ford cars today are made out of petroleum, the Post reported, meaning that not only do the cars use fossil fuels as they drive, but also in their construction. So far, Novomer has been able to replace about half of the petroleum in foam with CO2-based materials — at least in the lab. It could be years before the technology finds its way into commercially available Ford vehicles. The company claims to be the first automaker developing CO2-based car parts.
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20 Jul 2016: Global Temperatures Continue
To Shatter Heat and Arctic Ice Records

June marked the 14th consecutive month of record-breaking heat, with global temperatures measuring 1.62 degrees F above the 20th-century average, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week.

Global 2016 temperatures.
The first half of 2016 was 1.89 degrees F above last century’s average, breaking the previous January-June record set in 2015 of 0.36 degrees F above average. “2016 has really blown [2015] out of the water,” Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told reporters. Five of the first six months of this year have also set records for the smallest Arctic sea ice extent since satellite records began in 1979. Scientists said the recent record-breaking heat could be partly attributed to last year’s strong El Nino, but not entirely. “While the El Niño event… this winter gave a boost to global temperatures from October onwards, it is the underlying trend which is producing these record numbers,” Schmidt said.
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18 Jul 2016: Following El Nino, Amazon
At Risk of Intense Wildfire Season

As a result of the recent El Nino, the Amazon rainforest is the driest it has been at the start of a dry season since 2002 — setting “the stage for extreme fire risk in 2016” in the region,

The Amazon rainforest.
NASA warned in a new fire forecast for South America. The risk for wildfire this year now exceeds the risk in 2005 and 2010, years when wildfires burned large swaths of the forest, the scientists found. Terrestrial water storage, or soil moisture, is also lower than previous years, NASA said. “When trees have less moisture to draw upon at the beginning of the dry season, they become more vulnerable to fire and evaporate less water into the atmosphere,” said UC-Irvine scientist Jim Randerson, who helped create the forecast. “This puts millions of trees under stress and lowers humidity across the region, allowing fires to grow bigger than they normally would.”
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15 Jul 2016: India Plants Nearly 50 Million
Trees to Fight Air Pollution, Climate Change

India planted 49.3 million trees in just 24 hours earlier this week in an effort to raise awareness of forest conservation, air pollution, and the fight against climate change — shattering the previous world record of 847,275, set in Pakistan in 2013. Officials said more than 800,000 people in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state, turned out to help, including students, government officials, and volunteers from nonprofit groups. As part of its climate commitments in Paris last December, India has pledged to increase its forest cover to 235 million acres by 2030. So the government officials has designated more than $6.2 billion for the nation's states to host tree planting drives. “The world has realized that serious efforts are needed to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate the effect of global climate change. Uttar Pradesh has made a beginning in this regard,” the state’s chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said .
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At Ground Zero for Rising Seas,
A TV Weatherman Talks Climate

John Morales is part of a new breed of TV weather forecasters seeking to educate viewers on climate change and the threat it poses.
John Morales

John Morales
In South Florida, where porous limestone geology and sea level rise are already causing periodic flooding, he has a rapt audience. The chief meteorologist of the NBC affiliate station in Miami, Morales uses his broadcasts and Twitter feed to tie weather trends in South Florida to the broader influences of climate change. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Morales discusses a heartening shift away from climate change skepticism among the nation’s television weather forecasters, the positive public reaction to his discussion of climate change, and the daunting threats facing the Miami area, ranked as one of the regions in the world most vulnerable to sea level rise.
Read the interview.
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12 Jul 2016: Climate Change Has Shifted
The World’s Cloud Cover Over Past 30 Years

Warming global temperatures have altered the distribution of clouds across the Earth in recent decades, according to new research published in the journal Nature.

Global cloud cover.
Mid-latitude storm clouds have shifted polewards, dry subtropical zones have expanded in size, and the tops of clouds have gotten higher as a result of a warmer troposphere and cooler stratosphere, according to the study, which relied on satellite images taken between 1983 and 2009. Researchers said these shifts in cloud cover could further exacerbate climate change. As cloud systems shift toward the poles, where there’s less solar radiation, more sunlight will reach the Earth’s surface near the equator, boosting temperatures. Also, taller, thicker clouds trap more heat. “We now have a thicker blanket, which is also a warming effect,” said Joel Norris, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego who helped lead the study.
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08 Jul 2016: Hundreds of Deaths in 2003
Heat Wave Linked to Climate Change

A new study suggests that human-caused climate change could be responsible for a significant portion of the 70,000 deaths that occurred during the record-breaking 2003 European heat wave. The research, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, combined climate modeling with health data for hundreds of fatalities that summer. Climate change, the study found, increased the likelihood of heat-related losses by nearly 70 percent in Paris and 20 percent in London. Out of 735 heat-related deaths in Paris, 506 were attributable to global warming, as were 64 out of 315 deaths in London. "Until recently, whenever we talked about climate change we talked about the globally averaged increase in temperature of 1 degree and people just don't really know or frankly care about that," lead study author and Oxford University scientist Daniel Mitchell told InsideClimate News. "But now… people can really start to understand that these are impacts we're seeing now, not in the future."
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07 Jul 2016: California’s Redwood Trees
Are Best in the World at Storing CO2

California’s ancient redwood trees store more carbon dioxide per acre than any other forest in the world, including tropical rain forests like the Amazon, according to new research published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management.

California redwood trees.
The findings are the result of a seven-year study by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington. Redwoods store 2,600 metric tons of carbon per hectare (2.4 acres), more than double the absorption rate of the Pacific Northwest’s conifer trees or Australia’s eucalyptus forests, the study found. The main reason redwoods surpass all others in CO2 storage is their longevity, the scientists said. "The story of carbon is huge," Robert Van Pelt, a scientist at Humboldt State University and co-author of the research, told The Mercury News. "The carbon part of a redwood may be more important than the lumber part in the coming decades."
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06 Jul 2016: As Oceans Become More Acidic,
Mussels Could Lose Ability to Hang On

Rising carbon dioxide emissions have caused the world’s oceans to become 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution, affecting everything from marine life’s ability to build shells

Trossulus byssus mussels.
to the pH level of fishes’ blood. Now, scientists have discovered that more acidic water also prevents mussels from attaching to rocks and other surfaces, which could have ramifications on the global food chain, the economy, and ecosystem health. Oceans today have a pH of about 8.1. When the pH drops below 7.6, the adhesive plaque that cements mussels to hard surfaces becomes weaker, according to the new research by scientists at the University of Washington. Unattached mussels are easy prey for predators like crabs, fish, and sea stars. Mussels play an important role in filtering pollutants from waterways. They are also a critical food source for coastal communities, with the industry worth an estimated $1.4 billion.
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05 Jul 2016: Paris Bans All Pre-1997
Cars During Weekdays to Fight Pollution

Starting this month, Paris is banning all cars built before 1997 from driving within city limits Monday through Friday in an effort to lower air pollution levels.

Commuter traffic in Paris.
Paris has been struggling with smog for years and its pollution levels have briefly topped those in Beijing. Similar to Mexico City and New Delhi, Paris banned even- and odd-numbered license plates on alternating days to fight smog earlier this year. It has also championed cleaner transit options, such as bike- and electric car-sharing programs. Not everyone is enthused, however: The French consumer group 40 Million Drivers said the ban could impact up to 500,000 vehicle owners in and around Paris, particularly low-income families. "When you have an old car in France, it's because you don't have the money to buy a new one," Pierre Chasseray, the executive director of 40 Million Drivers, told NPR. "Public transport is a solution, but it's not the solution for everybody."
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29 Jun 2016: U.S. Solar Energy Market
Experiencing an Unprecedented Boom

Thanks to a renewal of federal tax credits and a continuing steep drop in the price of photovoltaic panels, U.S. solar energy production is surging to record highs. New market reports show that the U.S. solar industry is expected to install 14.5 gigawatts of solar power in 2016, nearly double the record 7.5 gigawatts installed last year. (Less than 1 gigawatt of solar power was installed in 2010.) Revenues from solar installations increased 21 percent from 2014 to 2015, surpassing $22 billion. In terms of megawatts of electricity produced, new solar installations are expected in 2016 to surpass all other new sources, including natural gas-fired power plants. The extension of a 30-percent federal tax credit and a sharp drop in prices — the wholesale price of solar panels has fallen from $4 per watt in 2008 to $0.65 per watt today — are contributing to the boom. U.S.-based Solar World is building a giant solar panel factory in Buffalo, New York that is expected to employ 3,500 people.
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28 Jun 2016: U.S., Canada, and Mexico to
Set 50 Percent Renewable Power Goal by 2025

The United States, Canada, and Mexico will pledge on Wednesday to generate 50 percent of their electricity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2025, according to U.S. officials. The three nations are expected to set the ambitious goal at a North American Leaders Summit in Ottawa. The commitment includes not just renewable sources of power such as energy and wind, but also hydropower, nuclear power, carbon capture and storage at coal-fired power plants, and gains in energy efficiency. Under that definition, the three nations now produce 37 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. Canada is leading the way in non-fossil fuel power generation, with 59 percent of its electricity coming from hydropower and 16 percent from nuclear plants. Continent-wide cooperation on clean energy issues has improved since the election last year of Justin Trudeau as Canada’s Prime Minister.
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27 Jun 2016: Abandoned Coal Mines Emit
As Much CO2 as a Small Power Plant

Thousands of abandoned coal mines dot the U.S. landscape, vestiges of old fossil fuel boomtowns and industrial hubs.

An abandoned coal mine in Ashland, Penn.
But despite no longer producing coal, these sites are still contributing to climate change by leaking carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to a recent study by scientists at West Virginia University. The total amount of CO2 released annually by 140 abandoned sites in Pennsylvania is equal to that “of a small coal-fired power plant,” says the study, published in Environmental Earth Sciences. CO2 is created when sulfuric acid generated during the mining process interacts with carbonate rocks. It is then carried to the surface in runoff water. “Although considerable research has been conducted regarding the environmental legacy of abandoned mine lands, their role in carbon cycling is poorly [understood],” wrote the scientists. The findings “suggest that these waters may be important to carbon cycling on a regional scale.”
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24 Jun 2016: Cities on Six Continents
Join Forces to Combat Climate Change

Mayors from more than 7,100 cities on six continents announced this week that they are creating a new alliance to fight climate change at the local level.

New York City
The new group — a merger of the European Union-based Covenant of Mayors and the United Nations-backed Compact of Mayors — represents a combined 600 million people in 119 countries. The initiative aims to set city-based CO2 emissions cuts, build sustainable communities, and foster the sharing of resiliency policies and technologies. “Cities are key to solving the climate change challenge,” former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the European Commission, wrote in The Guardian. “They account for most of the world’s carbon emissions, and mayors often have control over the largest sources. Cities can also act quickly to confront climate change, without the political and bureaucratic hurdles that often hold back national governments.”
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