Will climate change disasters really lead to more conflict? Maybe.

naval station pensacola

The US military has devoted a considerable amount of attention to climate change, which makes sense given the various risks it poses to military operations. These risks include potential increased demand for humanitarian responses to climatic disasters and the threat of climatic changes, such as stronger tropical storms and sea level rise, to existing military installations. For instance, Hurricane Ivan knocked one of the Navy’s key bases, Naval Air Station Pensacola, out of commission for a year. Climate change’s most severe potential military threat – increasing the risk of violent conflicts – is also its least likely, by far. Yet, unsurprisingly, this has gotten the lion’s share of attention from the media. Last week, Eric Holthaus at Slate published an interview with retired Navy Rear Admiral David Titley. The piece is worth a read. I would say the Rear Admiral’s comments accurately reflect the views of many military officials who are concerned … Continue reading

Why peace & international engagement may threaten Burma’s fragile ecosystems

cyclone nargis damage

This article is cross-posted from New Security Beat. Political and economic changes in Burma have been as rapid as they are surprising. In just three years, the country has gone from an isolated military dictatorship to a largely open country that is at least semi-democratic and has formally adopted a market economy. Both the European Union and the United States have eased economic sanctions, and dozens of foreign firms have moved in. Foreign direct investment increased by 160 percent in 2013 alone. But the transition to an open and free state is far from finished and continued progress far from inevitable, as the country’s tattered ecosystems show. Conflict and conservation Nearly from the moment of its birth as a country, Burma has been beset by violence. Since 1948, the government has faced armed rebellions from no fewer than 30 ethnic minority groups. This constant warfare directly contributed to the military coup in 1962 and has helped drive corruption, structural … Continue reading

Ohio lawmaker compares clean energy to the Bataan death march

Senator Bill Seitz

When the Ohio GOP leadership introduced SB 310 last month, they intentionally tried to sideline Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) from the process. We know that Sen. Seitz has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth. He has previously likened the clean energy standards to “Joseph Stalin’s five-year plan,” and he routinely labels his opponents as “enviro-socialist rent-seekers.” But this time he outdid even himself. Last Wednesday, April 9, Sen. Seitz turned a Senate Public Utilities Committee hearing on SB 310 into a three-ring circus. First, during the middle of testimony from Aaron Jewell, a US Army veteran who fought in Iraq, Sen. Seitz reportedly got up, pulled out a pack of cigarettes, and walked out of the room to take a smoke break. He came back into the session halfway through the testimony of Dan Sawmiller, a Senior Campaign Representative for the Ohio Beyond Coal Campaign with the Sierra Club. Mr. Sawmiller also served … Continue reading

GOP beware: Ohio overwhelmingly supports clean energy

ohio statehouse

Well, the Ohio GOP is at it again. After Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) failed to even get the support of his own caucus for SB 58, his bill to mangle Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, the GOP leadership has decided to pursue a new course – just letting FirstEnergy decide what to do. On Friday, Senator Troy Balderson (R-Zainesville) introduced SB 310, a bill to immediately and indefinitely freeze the efficiency and renewables standards at 2014 levels, which would cap them at roughly one-tenth and one-fifth of the final numbers, respectively. The bill looks an awful lot like one that FirstEnergy tried to sneak through the lame-duck legislature under the cover of night in November 2012. I won’t dive too deeply into the details of the bill or the parade of horribles it will unleash on Ohio, as it has been covered pretty effectively by other outlets; I … Continue reading

If you care about water, you need to worry about energy production

lakeshore power plant

This article is cross-posted from Drink Local. Drink Tap., Inc. Saturday was World Water Day 2014. This year’s theme centered on the water-energy nexus, a topic which has become increasingly important in recent years. According to the United Nations, energy production currently accounts for 15% of global water use, a number which is projected to grow to 20% within the next two decades. In the US, this number is significantly higher; the US Geological Survey estimates that electricity production alone makes up 49% of all water use. Unfortunately, people tend too often to overlook the water-energy nexus until a catastrophic event happens. Water plays a vital role in the entire lifecycle of energy production, and it remains extremely vulnerable to the deleterious consequences that may arise from each step in the process – from extraction to refining to generation to distribution and beyond. We know, for instance, than at least 20% of streams in … Continue reading

How global warming will cause more lake-effect snow

lake erie ice

Today may be the first day of spring, but winter’s icy grip continues to linger for most of us in the Midwest. But as we move – we hope – into warmer weather, NOAA has provided an overview of the winter from which we have emerged. It released its latest monthly state of the climate data last week, which also included the data for this year’s meteorological winter (December-January). Unsurprisingly, the report reveals that this winter was cold, but far from historically so. It was just the 34th coldest on record, and no state recorded its coldest winter ever. In contrast, California had its warmest winter ever, and Arizona had its fourth warmest. As the AP’s Seth Borenstein put it, this winter demonstrated a “bi-polar winter vortex.” One climatological variable that did reach near-record levels was the extent of lake ice on the Great Lakes. Due to the spate of below-freezing temperatures … Continue reading

Watch this year’s crazy winter unfold in 64 seconds

polar vortex image

The vernal equinox, which marks the official start of Spring for the Northern Hemisphere, may not come until the middle of next Thursday (March 20), but according to meteorologists, this year’s winter ended on February 28. While you may not agree if you live in the Midwest or Northeast and look outside today, meteorological winter occurs from December-February, the three coldest and snowiest months of the year for the contiguous United States. Thanks to this new handy video from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), you can now watch the crazy winter weather from the last two months unfold in just 64 seconds: As you can see, there was a stark difference between surface air temperatures in the eastern and western US. While persistent influxes of frigid Arctic air have made it bitterly cold in the eastern US, the western US has experienced a remarkably mild winter, reflected by … Continue reading

Maintaining road quality is good for the climate & the budget

cleveland potholes

It’s not exactly a secret that Cleveland’s roads are in rough shape right now. The city’s streets are pockmarked with potholes of all shapes and sizes, most of them enormous. The Scene recently parodied the issue, writing After driving into a massive pothole at Clifton Boulevard and West 117th Street last week, Lakewood resident Harold Dreifer has now begun to live there. He tells Scene, “There was just nowhere else to go. It was a long fall down here; I decided that I may as well set up shop.” While the City claims that this year has been relatively average, it does seem to be admitting it has been overwhelmed by the problem, as evinced by the fact that it is paying a private “pothole killer” $225 per hour to patch city streets. I have no doubt that I had to repair two flat tires last week in large part because of the … Continue reading

Climate hawks should focus more on the persuadable, less on the trolls

tea party global warming sign

For years, climate hawks have devoted considerable time and energy to refuting arguments proffered by those who deny the basic tenets of climate change. This focus on countering climate deniers is evinced by the prevalence of handy lists of counter-arguments, including those from Skeptical Science, Grist, and Scientific American. But, as I emphasized in a recent post, outright denial of the science is no longer the most potent weapon that “skeptics” have at their disposal. Instead, many of these actors have turned to denier 2.0 arguments, which frequently center on what Young and Coutinho term (paywall) the “acceptance-rejection approach.” This rhetorical acceptance that climate change is occurring opens up new pathways to forestall action on the issue by lulling the average observer into a false sense of security. And, according to a recent article in the journal Global Environmental Change, this form of climate “skepticism” is exactly where we should be focusing our energies. … Continue reading

Could climate change actually increase winter mortality?

great lakes ice cover

If you already thought that the impacts of climate change were incredibly complicated and, often, downright confusing, I’ve got bad news for you – things just got even more complex. For years, researchers focusing on climate change concluded that increases in heat-related mortality would, by and large, be accompanied by decreasing cold-related mortality. As winter temperatures warm – which they have at an extremely fast rate – the health risk posed by extreme cold is assumed to decrease in a nearly inverse proportion. In its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), for instance, the IPCC highlighted research that projected cold weather deaths would decrease by 25.3% in the United Kingdom from the 1990s to the 2050s. But a new study in Nature Climate Change calls this assumption into question (paywall). As the study’s authors note: An extensive literature attests to the fact that changes in daily temperature influence health outcomes at the local levels … Continue reading