China Government Report: Brace for Impact

Shanghai slowly strangles in the exhaust of its prosperity. Seven years after this photo was taken, China sees a problem. (Photo by thraxil/Flickr)

While the American president doesn’t discuss it, and the candidates vying to replace him swear it doesn’t exist, scientists working for, and under the supervision of, the government of China are warning their people in an official report that “China faces extremely grim ecological and environmental conditions under the impact of continued global warming.” This is the judgment of the “Second National Assessment Report on Climate Change” released for public consumption this week. Continue reading

“One Simple Trick” for Global Warming

Industry doesn’t even have to bait the hook any more, we and our journalists take it with the line and the sinker. (Photo by ToastyKen/Flickr)

If you’re on the Internet — and of course you are — the ads are all around you: “One simple trick” for losing belly fat; “one weird trick” drops your car insurance costs to near zero; “housewife discovers simple trick for white teeth;” and on, and on. If you respond to those ads, and buy whatever it is they’re selling, then you will also buy the new kind of headlines we’re seeing about climate change. Just one simple trick, they suggest (perhaps discovered by a housewife!), and the problem is solved.

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Global Warming’s Evil Twin

We may admire the first person ever to eat an oyster, like this one from the Pacific Northwest. We may soon meet the last, because of rapid ocean acidification. (Photo by adactio/Flickr).

To the extent that we talk, think or do anything about the threat of the industrial age’s rampant and accelerating pollution of air, water and land, we focus these days on climate change. It is a serious effect (serious enough to induce blindness and deafness in nine out of ten candidates for the Republican presidential nomination), but far from the only serious effect of industrial pollution. The same stuff that’s making our atmosphere warmer is turning our oceans to acid — and, little noticed outside the shellfish industry, has very nearly removed oysters from the national menu. Continue reading

Losing the War on Pond Scum

A satellite view released by NASA shows a blue-green algae bloom (the green part) taking over western Lake Erie (the blue part). And that's not all.

A legacy of industrial agriculture, energized by climate change, a continent-sized explosion of toxic algae blooms is besieging the freshwater lakes of North America, sickening people, killing animals and wrecking tourist- and recreation-based local economies. Although each eruption is big news in local papers, the unprecedented extent and severity of the epidemic has drawn no attention from national news media or political figurines. Continue reading

Industrial Food: Hazardous to your Species

Mm, mmm -- wait a minute! That's not just soup. (Photo by turtlemom4bacon/flickr)

It wasn’t a scientific study, just an exercise to test methods for a possible future study, yet its findings were so stunning and conclusive they have become the subject of widespread discussion and a major industrial damage-control effort. The sample, by common research standards, was infinitesimally small: five families, comprising ten adults and ten children. The duration was similarly minute: three days. And the methodology was hardly complex: don’t eat any packaged food. The results were amazing. Continue reading

Ohio Lake “Dying”: Governor Applies Lipstick

Algae scum in the waves of Grand Lake St. Marys, Ohio, last June -- the symptom of a fatal illness. Last week, the governor applied a Band-Aid. (Photo by St. Marys Lake Improvement Association)

The government of the great state of Ohio demonstrated last week, with laser-like precision, exactly why we do not have a chance of avoiding the multiple catastrophes bearing down on our supplies of food, energy and water. In unveiling what was universally described as a “plan” to deal with one of the state’s biggest pollution problems, the governor and his fellow polititicans also demonstrated the new first principle of government: it is far, far better to appear to be doing something than to actually do something. Continue reading

Oil Spill? What Oil Spill?

"I don't see any oil on me. Do you see any oil on you?" Now that the pelicans have been whitewashed, the BP-oil-spill apologists are at work on the rest of the story. (Photo by MindfulWalker/Flickr)

Scientists working for the government (hence the people) of the United States made the declaration in August, a scant month after BP had managed to stop a five-month gusher of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Like cops at an accident scene littered with crushed cars and dead bodies, they intoned “Nothing to see here. Move on.” Three quarters of the spilled oil, they said, was gone. Nearly five million barrels of oil and two million barrels of chemical dispersant had been processed by the Gulf, no problem. In the words of Energy Secretary Carol Browner, “the vast majority of the oil is gone.” Nothing to see here. Move on. Continue reading

China: World Leader in Self Destruction

air pollution over Suzhou, China

The Chinese may not be able to keep the lights on over a wide section of the country, but they sure can snuff out the sun. This air is over Suzhou, in Jiangsu Province, in 2008. (Photo by orangeandmilk/Flickr)

There is something in our nature that draws comfort from the knowledge that there are people like us who are much worse off. It’s not a pretty attribute, but it’s there, especially when the people are a lot like us, and are worse off for the same reasons that make us fear our own future. So let us take a moment’s respite from our knowledge of the impending consequences of squandering our natural resources, as we contemplate the same fate, bearing down on our supposed enemies. Even faster. (Admit it. You feel better already. Happy Holidays.) Continue reading

Sea Water Rising at Norfolk, Va.

The harbor at Norfolk Virginia

Norfolk, Virginia, on one of the world's great harbors in the world's largest estuary, has long prospered because of its proximity to the sea. That tide is changing. (US Navy photo)

While the rising oceans of a warming world eat away at, among many other places, the city of Norfolk Virginia, the state’s wingnut attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, spends his days suing the federal government to prevent it from regulating greenhouse gases, and trying to convict a University of Virginia scientist of fraud for having the temerity to conclude that the world’s climate is being changed by pollution. Continue reading

Burn, Baby, (Cough) Burn

Beijing pollution

The Beijing skyline, as seen three years ago, is unlikely to look this good again. Photo by Kevin Dooley/Flickr

The good news is that the worldwide recession is easing. The bad news is that the pollution of the world is resuming. (Although the word “pollution” seems retro in a time dominated by trendy references to greenhouse gases and carbon footprints, it might be useful to remind ourselves from time to time that climate change is not the only consequence of unrestrained pollution. It’s killing people in many other ways as well.) Continue reading