TIME natural disaster

The Odds of a Massive Earthquake Hitting California Just Went Up

The Marina district disaster zone after an earthquake, measuring 7.1 on the richter scale on Oct. 17, 1989 in San Francisco.
Otto Greule Jr—Getty Images The Marina district disaster zone after an earthquake, measuring 7.1 on the richter scale on Oct. 17, 1989 in San Francisco.

But the chances of a moderate earthquake went down

The chances of earthquake magnitude 8.0 or greater hitting California in the next 30 years have been increased from about 4.7% to 7%, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said in a statement Tuesday.

The revised forecast was calculated by the Third California Earthquake Rupture Forecast (UCERF3), a follow-up to 2008’s UCERF2 conducted by USGS and its partners, who modeled the latest geological data.

While UCERF3 increased the odds of a massive California earthquake, the study lowered the chance of an earthquake around magnitude 6.7—like the 1994 Northridge earthquake—by about 30%, from one every 4.8 years to one every 6.3 years.

“The new likelihoods are due to the inclusion of possible multi-fault ruptures, where earthquakes are no longer confined to separate, individual faults, but can occasionally rupture multiple faults simultaneously,” said the study’s lead author Ned Field.

Read next: A Village in Italy Just Got 8 Feet of Snow in 1 Day

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 10

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. How do we convince Americans that justice isn’t for sale — when in 39 states, it is?

By Sue Bell Cobb in Politico

2. It took pressure from customers and investors to make corporations environmentally sustainable. It’s time to do the same for gender equity.

By Marissa Wesely in Stanford Social Innovation Review

3. London’s congestion pricing plan is saving lives.

By Alex Davies in Wired

4. Libraries should be the next great start-up incubators.

By Emily Badger in CityLab

5. Annual replanting has a devastating impact. Could perennial rice be the solution?

By Winifred Bird in Yale Environment 360

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME climate change

Florida Reportedly Bans Environment Officials From Mentioning Climate Change

Climate Change Impacts South Florida Ecosystems
Joe Raedle—Getty Images Phillip Hughes, an ecologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, walks through an area of buttonwood trees killed by a saltwater incursion in Big Pine Key, Florida. Hughes says over the past 50 years, as sea levels rise, the Florida Keys upland vegetation has been dying off and replaced by salt-tolerant vegetation

An investigative report claims that global warming and sustainability are also prohibited terms

Underscoring the divisiveness of climate change in American politics, government officials at Florida’s main environment agency have reportedly been asked to refrain from mentioning it.

Officials from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) were given an unwritten order not to use the words climate change or global warming in any official communication or reports, the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) claimed on Sunday.

“We were told not to use the terms climate change, global warming or sustainability,” Christopher Byrd, an attorney in DEP’s Office of General Counsel from 2008 to 2013, told FCIR in an interview. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”

Other former DEP employees claimed to FCIR that the unwritten rule was implemented after Rick Scott, who has repeatedly denied climate change is the result of human activity, became governor of Florida in 2011.

The DEP denies that it has a policy on the matter.

Read more at the FCIR.

TIME Environment

The First Solar-Powered Round-the-World Flight Has Begun

Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered airplane, takes flight as it begins its historic round-the-world journey from Al Bateen Airport in Abu Dhabi on March 9, 2015.
Jean Revillard—Getty Images Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered airplane, takes flight as it begins its historic round-the-world journey from Al Bateen Airport in Abu Dhabi on March 9, 2015.

The two pilots aim to circumnavigate the globe without using any conventional fuel

The world’s first round-the-world trip on a solar-powered plane got under way Monday with the initial leg from Abu Dhabi to the Omani capital, Muscat.

Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will pursue a record-shattering five-month journey, spanning 21,750 miles across several continents and two oceans, while using zero conventional fuel.

The Solar Impulse-2’s lightweight construction — weighing a mere 4,600 lb. — combined with its 236-ft. wingspan lined with 17,000 solar cells, makes it the first solar-powered aircraft capable of flying during both day and night.

“I am confident we have a very special airplane, and it will have to be to get us across the big oceans,” Borschberg told the BBC.

The pilots have undergone rigorous preparation drills, and will forgo all sleep longer than 20 minutes while airborne, practicing yoga and self-hypnosis to cope with their airborne ordeal. (Some stints will involve flying continuously for five days.) Rest stops will be spent advocating for their clean-technology campaign.

“I had this dream 16 years ago of flying around the world without fuel, just on solar power,” said Piccard. “Now we’re about to do it.”

[BBC]

TIME Military

Climate Security Pits U.S. Military Against Congress

naval-station-norfolk-virginia
Getty Images

The results of a new study underscore the security threats that climate change can exacerbate

A new study concludes that climate change played a role in sparking the civil war in Syria, adding to the body of research showing a climate link to the unrest in the Middle East.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on March 2, finds that a multi-year drought between 2007 and 2010 led to “widespread crop failure,” forcing rural communities to migrate to urban centers en masse. As a result, Syrian cities became a tinderbox, and the subsequent political instability ignited into violence in 2011 at the onset of the Arab Spring. The Syrian civil war has raged since then.

Syria suffered through the worst drought on record leading up to the outbreak of violence, a drought that was made twice as likely because of climate change, the study says. Rising temperatures and increasingly dry weather will also make such conditions worse and more likely in the future.

The results of this study underscore the security threats that climate change can exacerbate. But climate denying politicians – who often position themselves as the biggest supporters of the military and guardians of America’s national security – are willfully ignoring these threats.

Read more: Can We Fix Climate Change With Technology?

“Democrats tell us they understand the world, but then they call climate change, not radical Islamic terrorism, the greatest threat to national security,” Republican Chairman Reince Priebus told a friendly audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “Look, I think we all care about our planet, but melting icebergs aren’t beheading Christians in the Middle East.” While Priebus’ comments won some plaudits, he is at odds with the assertions of the Pentagon.

The U.S. military has been acutely aware of the “climate security” threat for quite some time. Military planners have consistently referred to climate change as a “threat multiplier” – it can make existing problems worse, and can present new conflicts as well.

Admiral Samuel Locklear, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, told the Boston Globe in 2013 that climate change presented the biggest long-term national security threat. That earned him some pushback from Congress’ leading climate denier Senator James Inhofe during a committee hearing.

Jeff Goodell wrote an excellent article for Rolling Stone in February on how climate deniers undermine national security in multiple ways.

As he notes, it isn’t just foreign threats that will affect the military. Major military bases around the world are also at risk because of the effects of climate change. The Naval base in Norfolk, VA is dealing with frequent floods and hurricanes, and its ultimate long-term survival is in question because of rising sea levels. The same is true for the strategically important military base on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Goodell reported that military officials are reluctant to discuss how they are dealing with the effects of climate change (even though they must) out in the open for fear that Congress will slash funding for climate-specific activities.

Read more: Anti-Fossil Fuel Movement Grows

And that fear is not unjustified. The Department of Defense has also prioritized reducing its demand for liquid fuels because of the human costs that stem from such a dependence. The need to refuel tanks, trucks, and planes puts soldiers at risk. When fuel convoys are sent out, soldiers must accompany those trucks to safeguard them, putting lives in danger. A 2009 Deloitte study found that one U.S. soldier was killed in Iraq and Afghanistan for every 24 fuel resupply convoys sent out. In response, the Pentagon has sought to develop biofuels to reduce its need for petroleum-based fuels, but climate deniers in Congress have repeatedly tried to ban such a pursuit. The fight is ostensibly over dollars, but no doubt the program has come under heightened scrutiny because it also fits neatly under the administration’s climate change agenda.

The threat of climate change will come from a variety of different directions, many of which will only grow worse with time. Droughts, floods, migration, disease, and severe storms will stretch the military’s resources, and strain its ability to deal with new missions.

The Pentagon continues to make the case however. The Navy’s Task Force on Energy posted the Rolling Stone article on its Facebook page, which no doubt irked the climate deniers in Congress.

This article originally appeared on Oilprice.com.

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TIME Environment

El Niño Arrival Too Late for California Drought

"Too little, too late and too weak to provide much relief for drought-stricken California"

El Niño has finally arrived, but the precipitation brought by the weather event is unlikely to alleviate California’s severe drought, officials said Thursday.

“After many months of watching, El Niño has formed,” said Mike Halpert, an official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. “Unfortunately, this El Niño is likely too little, too late and too weak to provide much relief for drought-stricken California as California’s rainy season is winding down.”

El Niño, a cyclical phenomenon that lasts several years, begins with warming in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and eventually affects weather around the world. In the United States, it can lead to storms along the West Coast and affect hurricanes and other tropical storms. Tropical storm activity could be reduced due to El Niño, but it’s too soon to know for certain, the NOAA said.

Forecasters have been waiting to declare the start of El Niño for nearly a year. The late arrival may make El Niño-related storms “weak in strength” with “fairly low influence on weather inclement,” Halpert said.

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: Human Waste on Mount Everest Creates an Environmental Issue

Nature's call maybe not be good for nature

Climbers are leaving more than just their footprints when they traverse Mount Everest, especially when they need to “use the bathroom.” People leave behind large amounts of fecal matter and urine every year.

Watch the Know Right Now above to find out more, and read more here.

TIME europe

Huge Numbers of Europeans Will Die From Air Pollution in the Next 20 Years

Eiffel Tower in a thick smog in Paris, France on January 6, 2015.
Apaydin Alain—Sipa USA/AP Eiffel Tower in a thick smog in Paris, France on January 6, 2015.

Europe is failing on a range of environmental indicators from air to water and biodiversity

Hundreds of thousands of people in the E.U. — perhaps millions, if present trends continue — will suffer premature death in the next two decades because of toxic air, a new report says.

Tuesday’s State of the Environment Report for 2015, from the European Environment Agency (EEA) blames governments for inaction and says that in 2011 alone — the most recent year for which there is a reliable tally — over 400,000 Europeans died prematurely from air pollution.

Europe’s environmental performance also lags behind in areas like urbanization, biodiversity loss, intensive farming and maintenance of inland freshwater systems, the Guardian reports.

“Our analysis shows that European policies have successfully tackled many environmental challenges over the years. But it also shows that we continue to harm the natural systems that sustain our prosperity,” EEA’s executive director Hans Bruyninckx told the Guardian.

[The Guardian]

TIME Environment

Can We Fix Climate Change With Technology?

ice-melting
Getty Images

Geoengineering could remain the only option to combat catastrophic effects of climate change

A report from the National Academy of Sciences concluded that experiments in blotting out the sun in order to reduce the amount of the sun’s rays that hit the Earth would be too risky.

Spraying aerosols into the atmosphere – one leading approaching to “geoengineering” – would be a massive science experiment that would have unknown environmental side effects. The fallout on precipitation patterns, agricultural productivity, and the global climate cannot be fully known until it is unleashed. If the United States seeded the atmosphere with aerosols that produced more drought in, say, sub-Saharan Africa, that would potentially raise indefensible ethical questions.

Lowering global temperatures by reducing sun exposure – euphemistically known as “albedo modification” – would also merely treat the symptom of climate change, rather than the cause. The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would remain unchanged. As such, sending aerosols up into the sky would be a process that would need to be maintained for many hundreds of years. It would also do nothing to address ocean acidification, another extraordinary problem facing humanity, which could lead to the collapse of fisheries around the world and alter global climate patterns.

Read more: The $17.6 Trillion Solution To Climate Change

“No reputable scientist I know thinks placing tiny reflecting particles in the stratosphere is a good idea, although some support studying it,” argues Philip Duffy, President the Woods Hole Research Center. Other geoengineering strategies include dumping iron into the oceans to suck up carbon.

The panel stated unequivocally that reducing carbon emissions was indeed the preferred method to address climate change. Transitioning to clean energy and replanting forests would offer much safer options, the latter of which is an age-old and well-understood method of carbon capture and storage.

Still, despite the National Academy concluding that albedo modification is unacceptably risky at this time, the panel called for more research into the subject.

What is disconcerting about such geoengineering schemes is that they could probably be attempted using today’s technology and not require significant breakthrough advances. They are likely to be significantly cheaper than carbon capture and sequestration, the other major approach to geoengineering explored by the National Academy report.

Moreover, unilateral “albedo modification” could spark geopolitical conflict, especially in the absence of international laws put in place. The Daily Mail reported that the CIA is possibly looking into how geoengineering might be used to “weaponize” the weather.

Read more: Strategic Thinking: How to Think About the Future

A separate study published in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science found that people who are ideologically attracted to individualism and free markets are much more likely to accept climate change on its face if it is presented in conjunction with a geoengineering solution. However, if the problem of climate change is broached along with a call for strict limits on emissions instead of geoengineering, people with an individualistic outlook are more likely to reject the science of climate change altogether.

Such findings could boost momentum for geoengineering research to the detriment of carbon mitigation (although that is perhaps up for debate). And for climate-skeptic politicians, for whom denying climate change science is becoming a growing liability, geoengineering could provide a way out of their predicament. It offers the option of “having our cake and eating it too,” as Clive Hamilton, an Australian public ethics professor, phrased it in an interview with The Guardian.

Even worse, the longer the world waits to reduce the rate at which it burns fossil fuels, the more likely that governments will view geoengineering as the only option remaining to combat catastrophic effects of climate change.

This article originally appeared on Oilprice.com.

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TIME Innovation

Watch How Dust Makes an Amazing Journey From Africa to South America

This NASA footage shows show dust from the Sahara winds up in the Amazon rainforest

The Amazon rainforest might be a little less green if not for a massive plume of Saharan dust that drifts across the Atlantic Ocean each year, according to a new, multi-year study by NASA scientists.

NASA used light pulses from its CALIPSO satellite to measure the transatlantic dust cloud in three dimensions. They found that wind carries roughly 182 million tons of Saharan dust out to sea each year. The cloud sheds roughly 50 million en route to South America, but the remainder fans out over the Amazonian basin and the Caribbean Sea, dusting the soil with 22,000 tons of phosphorus, a nutrient commonly found in commercial grade fertilizer.

Amazingly, the special delivery of plant food almost perfectly matches the amount of phosphorous the Amazonian jungle loses through heavy rains and run-off water.

“This is a small world,” said study author Hongbin Yu, “and we’re all connected together.”

 

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