The Common Good

Quick Read - Creation Care

California to Polluters: Go Green or Pay Up

Mother Jones reports:

"Cap and trade" may be a dirty expression inside the DC Beltway, but as of today in California it's the law of the land. Gov. Jerry Brown has brushed aside dire warnings from the fossil fuel industry to forge ahead with the state's first-ever auction of emissions permits under its groundbreaking climate law, AB 32. This morning's auction marks the official launch of the world's second-largest carbon market.

At heart, the concept is elegantly simple. Suppose you wanted to persuade a group of 10 pack-a-day smokers to cut back, and you controlled the cigarette supply. In the beginning, you'd provide the group with 200 cigarettes (10 packs) a day, which they'd have to bid for. That's the "cap." Then, each month, you would reduce each person's daily allottment of smokes, gradually lowering the cap. The people who managed to smoke less could sell their extras to the more hard-core smokers for whatever they were willing to pay. That's the "trade" part.

Read more here.

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America's New Mandate on Climate Change

The Guardian reports:

For Americans concerned about the environment, disaster was avoided on Tuesday. President Obama – with his somewhat lackluster record, if decidedly more exalted rhetoric, on global warming – defeated the Republican challenger who had vowed to gut federal emissions standards, and kill loan programs and tax breaks for green energy companies.

But activists say that it would be wrong to read the election as a stamp of approval for four more years of business as usual. They argue that voters have sent a clear signal that they want more aggressive action on the environment during the president's second term.

Read more here.

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'Sun Come Up' Documents the Story of Climate Refugees

“Climate refugee” might be an unfamiliar term for many people, but a new film from the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change is trying to change that. Their 40-minute documentary Sun Come Up calls attention to the plight of displaced residents of the Carteret Islands, just north of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. 

Pope Benedict XVI called attention to this issue in his 2010 World Day of Peace message, saying, Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of ‘environmental refugees,’ people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement?”

Screenings of the film are happening across the country; groups of 50 or more can sign up to host the film and will receive a discussion guide and education kit.

Read more about the film on the Catholic Coalition for Climate Change website.

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New Software Tracks Carbon Emissions Close to Home

New tracking software developed by Kevin Gurney, an ecologist at Arizona State University is intended to help cities across the country keep their word on climate. Many mayors have pledged to reduce their carbon footprint, but they have no objective way to measure progress. The software will allow them to identify and target areas of the city that are releasing the most carbon, in order to address the real problem areas.

The idea of a personal carbon footprint is not new, but software that can follow our dirty tailpipes down the street is certainly revolutionary. Could the uncomfortable feeling of being watched be the encouragement city residents need to change their habits?

"Gurney collects piles of information about a city's energy diet — from utilities, transportation departments and air-pollution monitors. When he analyzed Indianapolis, Gurney and colleagues from Purdue University and other institutions could pinpoint emissions down to the level of a building or a street."

Read more on NPR.

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Report: Climate Change Linked to Costly Natural Disasters

It’s been a good week for getting real. After Tuesday’s revelation that the majority of Americans link increased natural disasters with climate change, a new report yesterday indicates that they may be right.

In their newly-published report, reinsurance company Munich Re claimed that global climate change has been driving natural disasters and extreme weather events, and that this trend will increase as the climate continues to change.

The monetary cost of climate change is obviously a hot topic for an insurance provider:

-- The intensities of certain weather events in North America are among the highest in the world, and the risks associated with them are changing faster than anywhere else.

-- The second costliest year of the study period, 2011, was dominated by strong storms. Insured losses in the U.S. due to thunderstorms alone was the highest on record at an estimated $26 billion, more than double the previous thunderstorm record set in 2010.

-- Insured losses from disasters averaged $9 billion a year in the 1980s. By the 2000s, the average soared to $36 billion per year.

Read the full report here.

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BREAKING: Massive Earthquake Hits Philippines This Morning

According to Reuters (via Chicago Tribune):

An earthquake of 7.9 magnitude struck off the Philippines on Friday and a tsunami warning has been issued for the region, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

The quake was centered off the east coast, 91 miles off the town of Guiuan in Samar province at a depth of about 20 miles, USGS said.

The tsunami warning was issued for the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea and other islands in the Pacific including the U.S. state of Hawaii.

CNN.com adds:

"An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines near the epicenter within minutes and more distant coastlines within hours," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

The quake struck just before 8:50 p.m. local time, the agency said.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

 

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July 2012: Hottest Month on Record for the U.S.

New results from the National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration show that July 2012 was the hottest summer on record for the United States, since accurate record keeping began in 1895. With an average temperature of 77.6 degrees Fahrenheit, last month's heat wave surpassed July 1936 (which recorded an average of 77.4) to become the steamiest summer around.

In a report on NBC, NOAA climate scientist Jake Crouch explains:

"These events are kind of what we'd expect with climate change, we'd expect expanding drought, we'd expect warm, record breaking temperatures… But it's kind of hard to pinpoint this month or past several months as a telltale sign that climate change is happening. The drought is more of a local factor and isn't necessarily driven by large scale climate change, but is impacting local temperatures. But we've also seen an increase in U.S. temperatures overall."

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Finding Common Ground on Climate Change

Fred Krupp writes in The Wall Street Journal:

One scorching summer doesn't confirm that climate change is real any more than a white Christmas proves it's a hoax. What matters is the trend—a decades-long march toward hotter and wilder weather. But with more than 26,000 heat records broken in the last 12 months and pervasive drought turning nearly half of all U.S. counties into federal disaster areas, many data-driven climate skeptics are reassessing the issue.

Respected Republican leaders like Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey have spoken out about the reality of climate change. Rupert Murdoch's recent tweet—"Climate change very slow but real. So far all cures worse than disease."—may reflect an emerging conservative view. Even Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, during public comments in June, conceded the reality of climate change while offering assurances that "there will be an engineering solution" and "we'll adapt."

Learn more here

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Global Warming 'Converted Skeptic' Explains the Switch

Last weekend the New York Times published an op-ed by University of California-Berkeley physics professor, Richard Muller, who said he has changed his professional opinion on the cause of global warming:

“Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”

Muller’s announcement sparked a media flurry throughout the week, and NPR’s Science Friday host, Ira Flatow, interviewed him today.  You can listen to the audio recording HERE.

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Legal Costs Continue to Burden BP

From The Guardian:

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill continues to plague BP more than two years after the disaster as the company has revealed another $847m (£538m) hit to cover rising legal costs.

The additional charge for the second quarter brings the total bill for the fatal Deepwater Horizon incident to $38bn, BP said.

BP is struggling to shake off the reputational blow of the April 2010 Macondo blow-out after recently coming under further fire in a report from a US government safety panel.

Learn more here

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Climate Change Has Dramatic Effect on Greenland's Ice Sheet

Writing for The Huffington Post, Joanna Zelman reports on a new NASA study:

Unprecedented melting of Greenland's ice sheet this month has stunned NASA scientists and has highlighted broader concerns that the region is losing a remarkable amount of ice overall.
 
According to a NASA press release, about half of Greenland's surface ice sheet naturally melts during an average summer. But the data from three independent satellites this July, analyzed by NASA and university scientists, showed that in less than a week, the amount of thawed ice sheet surface skyrocketed from 40 percent to 97 percent.
 
In over 30 years of observations, satellites have never measured this amount of melting, which reaches nearly all of Greenland's surface ice cover.
 
Learn more here
 
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Do Urban Farms Reduce Crime Rates?

 

Mother Jones examine the growing phenomenon of urban farms, and the effects that they are having on their communities:

"There's been a growing body of research that suggests that urban farming and greening not only strengthen community bonds but also reduce violence. In 2000, Philadelphia had 54,000 vacant lots, and so the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society reclaimed 4,400 of them, mowing lands, providing upkeep, planting trees and gardens, and erecting three-foot-high fences that served no purpose other than as a kind of statement that this land now belonged to someone.

The greening of these parcels (just 8 percent of the vacant land in the city) had an unexpected effect: Over the course of 10 years, it reduced shootings in the areas surrounding these renewed lots. Part of it was practical: The vacant lots had previously been hiding places for guns. But as Charles Branas, an epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania who released a study on the project late last year, says, 'People just became more in touch with their neighbors. People felt more connected to each other.'"

Learn more here

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Parents vs. Climate Change?

For The Daily Beast, Mark Hertsgaard asks why parents aren't taking the potential effects of climate change on their children's lives more seriously:

"Beyond the distress and discomfort, the record-breaking heat raises a puzzling question for anyone who cares about the future of our young people. The laws of physics and chemistry—the fact that carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for decades after being emitted—mean that man-made global warming is just getting started on this planet.  As a result, my Chiara and millions of other youth around the world are now fated to spend the rest of their lives coping with the hottest, most volatile climate in our civilization’s 10,000-year history. Think of them as Generation Hot.

Why, then, are so few parents taking action to try to protect their beloved children from this gathering catastrophe? And why has no one asked them to?"

Learn more here

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New Study Finds Fracking Can Pollute

Salon reports on a new study which suggests that "fracking" can pollute water sources:

"A new study, published in the formidable Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, upends that common-sense argument. It shows that fluids may have traveled from deep within Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, one of the formations at the center of the gas boom, into shallow aquifers hundreds of feet above. These fluids aren’t products of fracking, but if they can travel up through layers of rocks, close to the surface, it means that fracking fluids could, too."

Read more about the study here

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North Carolina Continues to Ignore Science

According to the Atlantic Cities, lawmakers in North Carolina have chosen to ignore studies that show sea levels are rising faster than previously expected in favor of developing new housing along the coast. 

According to the rerport, state Rep. Pat McElraft, a not-scientist, said in a floor debate that the state should assume sea levels will rise at the same rate they have in the past: 8 inches over the past century. 

From Kelly Henderson's Switchboard blog post

"The scientific findings that North Carolina coasts will likely experience a 39-inch sea-level rise created quite a stir and were challenged by NC-20, a coastal economic development group, who cited flaws in the research. The group fears losing dollars if coastal planning begins now to prepare for the 39-inch rise since over 2,000 coastal miles will become restricted to development."

And, from Mr. Colbert, on N.C.'s logic in only considering historical data: 

"If we consider only historical data, I've been alive my entire life. Therefore, I always will be."

 

Sandi Villarreal is Associate Web Editor for Sojourners. Follow her on Twitter @Sandi.

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