Rising Sea Levels More Dangerous Than Thought

Read the full story in Scientific American.

The consequences of global sea level rise could be even scarier than the worst-case scenarios predicted by the dominant climate models, which don’t fully account for the fast breakup of ice sheets and glaciers, NASA scientists said today (Aug. 26) at a press briefing.

What’s more, sea level rise is already occurring. The open question, NASA scientists say, is just how quickly the seas will rise in the future.

Massive cleanup plan emerging for U.S. Steel site in Duluth

Read the full story in the Duluth News Tribune.

After years of neglect, the site of the long-closed U.S. Steel Duluth Works may be be on the verge of revitalization.

Following decades of steel and cement production, the industrial property along the St. Louis River in western Duluth has the unfortunate distinction of being the most widely contaminated site to be identified in all the Great Lakes Rust Belt, according to Erin Endsley of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Bees feel the squeeze as cropland consumes habitat

Read the full story from Minnesota Public Radio.

Corn and soybeans may be good for cattle and humans — but not bees.

The insects prefer plants with lots of pollen and nectar, and in this part of the country it’s become increasingly difficult for them to find what they need to stay healthy.

Good times in agriculture have led farmers to roll land out of conservation programs and into crops. It’s a shifting landscape that can be seen across eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota, and bees are paying the price.

Want your energy efficiency program to succeed? Aim it at poor people

Read the full post at Grist.

So, say you are a government, and you want to persuade people to conserve electricity — because using less energy is one of the easiest ways out there to fight climate change. You could institute something like a carbon tax, but that’s not going to happen in the U.S. Instead, you come up with a plan that’s a total crowd pleaser: Everyone who manages to reduce their electrical bill by 20 percent compared to the previous year will get an additional 20 percent off from the savings they just earned by consuming less. Everyone is enrolled automatically: rich, poor, hippies, yuppies, people who compulsively unplug appliances when they are done using them, people who leave the porch light on all night because they’re scared of an unlit porch.

This program actually happened, in California, in 2005, although it was designed to help with the state’s energy crisis, rather than to cut carbon emissions. It was called the 20/20 program, and it was popular — both with people who got discount power that summer and with scientists, because it provided a really good data set.

Most recently, Koichiro Ito, a researcher working with the Energy Policy Institute in Chicago, looked at the data and turned it into a paper that was published this July in the journal Economic Policy. The title of the paper — “Asymmetric Incentives in Subsidies: Evidence from a Large-Scale Electricity Rebate Program” — is sort of a mouthful, so I will summarize this way: If you offer people money to inconvenience themselves on behalf of the environment, Ito writes, it’s the poor people who are really going to take you seriously.

Why The EPA’s Clean Drinking Water Rule Is So Controversial

Read the full post at Grist.

Speaking generally, Americans really care about clean water. According to one Gallup poll, they care about it even more than clean air, and clean soil. And when it comes to water, Americans really care about clean drinking water — even more than clean rivers and lakes.

So it might be confusing that there’s been so much opposition to the EPA’s clean drinking water rule, known as the Waters of the United States rule, or WOTUS. Speaking privately, environmentalists generally agree that organized opposition to WOTUS has been more fierce and direct than it has been for other controversial Obama administration regulations — even the Clean Power Plan, which seeks to limit carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.

Under WOTUS, 2 million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands that provide drinking water would be designated as protected under the Clean Water Act. This is necessary, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers argue, because one-third of Americans get their drinking water from sources connected to these steams and wetlands.

But late last week, a federal judge halted the EPA from implementing it, just hours before it was scheduled to go into effect.

How Cities Can Beat the Heat

Read the full story in Scientific American.

As Earth’s climate changes over the coming decades, global warming will hit metropolitan areas especially hard because their buildings and pavements readily absorb sunlight and raise local temperatures, a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect. Cities, as a result, stand a greater chance of extreme hot spells that can kill.

What’s in all that e-cig vapor?

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Wander into a vape shop in the mall or online, and you can find a smorgasbord of flavors: cotton candy, vanilla custard, even Unicorn Milk or Katy Perry’s Cherry.

Flashy flavors have helped e-cigarettes, designed to vaporize a nicotine solution, grow into an industry with an estimated $3.5 billion in annual U.S. sales. Less than a decade after the battery-powered devices were introduced in the United States, an estimated 10 percent of American adults and 13 percent of high school students “vape,” according to recent surveys. While many users perceive e-cigs as safer than traditional cigarettes, some of the flavorings that make them so enticing may have their own toxic consequences.