Bump in corn grown for ethanol has polluted water and wiped out 5 million acres of conserved land, AP finds
Five million acres of land — more than in Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite national parks combined — have been pulled from conservation on Obama’s watch, according to Agriculture Department figures.
What’s more, from 2005 to 2010, corn farmers increased their use of nitrogen fertilizer by more than 1 billion pounds. More recent data isn’t available from the Agriculture Department, but because of the huge increase in corn planting, even conservative projections by the AP suggest another billion-pound fertilizer increase on corn farms since then.
Some of that fertilizer has seeped into drinking water, contaminating rivers and boosting the growth of enormous algae fields in the Gulf of Mexico; the algae eventually decompose, sucking oxygen from the water and leaving behind a huge dead zone, currently covering 5,800 square miles of sea floor where marine life can’t survive.
That dead zone is just one example of a peculiar ethanol side effect: As one government program encourages farmers to plant more corn, other programs pay millions to clean up the mess.
The oil sands industry is in the throes of a major expansion, powered by C$20 billion ($19 billion) a year in investments. Companies including Syncrude Canada Ltd., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp. affiliate Imperial Oil Ltd. are running out of room to store the contaminated water that is a byproduct of the process used to turn bitumen — a highly viscous form of petroleum — into diesel and other fuels.
By 2022 they will be producing so much of the stuff that a month’s output of wastewater could turn an area the size of New York’s Central Park into a toxic reservoir 11 feet (3.4 meters) deep, according to the Pembina Institute, a nonprofit in Calgary that promotes sustainable energy.
To tackle the problem, energy companies have drawn up plans that would transform northern Alberta into the largest man-made lake district on Earth. Several firms have obtained permission from provincial authorities to flood abandoned tar sand mines with a mix of tailings and fresh water.
One big concern surrounding end-pit lakes is that the contaminated water will spread through the boreal ecosystem, the tract of trees and marshland that stretches around the top of the world from Canada to Russia and Scandinavia. Boreal forests store almost twice as much carbon as tropical forests.
This huge algal bloom in Lake Erie (that’s Detroit up there) broke out during government shutdown was not being tracked. The federal shutdown closed NOAA monitoring of unexpected health hazard. Read more at Sandusky Register
Founded in 2007 by James Balog, the Extreme Ice Survey (eis) is an innovative, long-term photography project documenting climate change with 28 cameras deployed at 13 glaciers throughout the world.
Each camera takes about 8000 photos a year, which are edited into stunning time lapse videos that reveal the pace and effects of climate change. Balog and EIS were the focus of the 2012 documentary, Chasing Ice.
1. Columbia Glacier, Columbia Bay, Alaska - 2006 and 2012. The glacier has lost two miles of ice in six years, and the rate of its retreat is accelerating. since 1980 it has diminished vertically an amount equal to the height of New York’s Empire State Building, and has retreated 13 miles.
2. Stein Glacier, Switzerland - 2006 and 2012. If the trend of hotter and drier summers persists in the high country, many alpine glaciers could lose as much as 75 percent of their bulk by century’s end or even vanish, imperiling the region’s water supply.
3. Bridge Glacier, British Columbia - 2009 and 2012. Retreating roughly five feet a day during melt season, the 10.5 mile Bridge Glacier suffers both lower snowfall in winter and hotter temperatures in summer.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is moving to create a registry of climate change vulnerability to better protect wildlife, ecosystems and dams.
The registry will collect and display information on climate change adaptation projects underway across the country, Laura Thompson, a biologist with the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, told The Hill. It will pool from federal, state, local and tribal governments, she said.
It comes amid a second-term climate change push by President Obama. The president is leaning on federal agencies to address the issue, and part of his plan calls for greater collaboration with state and local governments.
The noticeto gather information for the registry will be filed in Wednesday’s Federal Register.
The intent of the registry, Thompson said, is to improve planning as governments embark on climate change mitigation efforts to protect species, habitats and water infrastructure.
The Bureau of Reclamation today announced it will reduce for the first time ever Colorado River water deliveries from the Lake Powell reservoir downstream to Lake Mead, which provides nearly all of Las Vegas’ water.
Worst drought on record impacting cities in the southwest, including millions in Las Vegas. Demand continues to rise. The Colorado River water wars have begun. Via
AP:More than 2,300 houses were evacuated in Idaho this week as strong winds stoked the nearby Beaver Creek Fire. The wildfire, reportedly ignited by lightning Aug. 7, is estimated to have grown to 144 square miles and is 6 percent contained.
More than 700 firefighters are battling the blaze near the Idaho ski town Ketchum.
An additional 7,500 homes are on evacuation alert as the fire continues to grow.
Photo: Helicopters battle the 64,000 acre Beaver Creek Fire on Friday, Aug., 16, 2013 north of Hailey, Idaho. A number of residential neighborhoods have been evacuated because of the blaze.(AP Photo/Times-News, Ashley Smith)
I completely missed the major flood in Calgary last month. City looks totally flooded my muddy river water. I’m not sure what happened at this point, but I suspect flash-storms, a fast river system (boxed in by old-school engineering), and poor drainage systems. I’ll investigate.