TIME Environment

4 Ways the New Top Environment Senator Disagrees With Science

Jim Inhofe
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. gives a victory speech at the Republican watch party in Oklahoma City on Nov. 4, 2014. Sue Ogrocki—AP

Meet Jim Inhofe

Sen. Jim Inhofe is widely expected to take over the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee now that Republicans have won control of the Senate, putting one of Washington’s most strident climate change deniers in charge of environmental policy.

In his 2012 book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, the Oklahoma Republican argued that climate change science has been manufactured by liberals to scare the American public, push through anti-business regulations and sell newspapers, and that humans should do nothing to regulate greenhouse gases.

Problem is, Inhofe’s opinions are deeply at odds with the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community, both in the U.S. and abroad. Here’s just a few ways how.

Human activity

Inhofe: The Senator says hundreds of scientists dispute the idea that global warming is the result of human activity.

Science: 97% of international scientists working in fields related to the environmental sciences agree that current global warming trends are the result of human activity. No U.S. or international scientific institutions of any caliber dispute the theory of anthropogenic climate change.

Consequences

Inhofe: He says global warming, if it’s happening at all, could be beneficial for humanity. “Thus far, no one has seriously demonstrated any scientific proof that increased global temperatures would lead to the catastrophes predicted by alarmists,” he said in a 2003 speech. “In fact, it appears that just the opposite is true: that increases in global temperatures may have a beneficial effect on how we live our lives.”

Science: The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found unequivocally that climate change will have a catastrophically negative effect on humans. In its fifth report, released Sunday, the panel compiled and analyzed hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies on climate change from all over the world and found that the consequences of inaction will lead, and already are leading, to flooding, diminished crop yields, destructive weather, and mass extinction.

Cycles

Inhofe: If global temperatures appear to be warming, that’s just because “[w]e go through these 30-year cycles,” he said on Mike Huckabee’s radio show in 2013.

Science: Dozens of peer-reviewed international studies, including the 2012 State of the Climate peer-reviewed report by the American Meteorological Society (AMS)—which was compiled by 384 scientists from 52 countries—underscored that current warming trends are happening much more rapidly than any natural warming process, and that it is unquestionably the result of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, released by humans burning fossil fuels.

History

Inhofe: Scientists can’t explain why, eight years ago, “we went into a leveling-out period” in which the earth did not continue to warm.

Science: No such “leveling out” occurred. While individual temperatures spike and plummet every year, climate change science asks a longer-term question: Is the earth warmer than it was fifty years ago? The answer is, again, unequivocally yes. Sea ice has reached a record low, the Arctic has continued to warm, sea temperatures have continued to increase, ocean heat has reached near record-levels and sea levels have reached an all-time high.

TIME Environment

Scientists Get a Little More Creative to Study Penguins Up-Close

Antarctica, Antarctic Peninsula, Paulet Island, Adelie
Penguins jump into the water on Paulet Island in Antarctica. Wolfgang Kaehler—LightRocket/Getty Images

They made four-wheel rovers look like baby emperor penguins

Scientists may have discovered a way to study animals without disturbing their natural behavior, according to a new study, and it involves dressing up.

Observing animals without disturbing their state of being has long been an issue, the researchers wrote in Nature Methods. So, in an effort to fix that, an international team of scientists made four-wheel rovers look like baby emperor penguins and drove them over to colonies of the animals to gauge their reactions and collect data.

The scientists implanted microchips in about 34 king penguins to monitor the animals’ heart rates when they were approached by the rovers, according to CNET. Turns out, they were slightly less stressed (and notably for shorter periods of time) when approached by the rovers than when near humans. The animals were so comfortable around the robotic penguin that adult ones sang to it and the babies huddled around it as if it were their own.

TIME Environment

U.N.: Phase Out Fossil Fuels By 2100 Or Face ‘Irreversible’ Climate Impact

Aerial view of a power station
Jason Hawkes—Getty Images

"Science has spoken," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said

Greenhouse gas emissions may have to cease by the end of the century to keep global temperatures from reaching levels many scientists consider dangerous, the United Nations’ latest climate assessment suggests.

“Science has spoken,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in Copenhagen at Sunday’s launch of the fourth and final report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), CBS News reports. “There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”

The IPCC assessment, which incorporated the findings of three other reports over the past 13 months, reaffirms with 95% certainty that global climate change is both real and a mostly man-made problem — a conclusion it shared in an earlier report. The entire project, which reviewed approximately 30,000 studies about climate, also suggests that if greenhouse gas emissions continue without intervention, there could be “irreversible” impacts, such as rising sea levels, more frequent heat waves and even a change in the human population’s male-female ratio.

To halt climate change, countries around the world will have to wean themselves off fossil fuels, which emit greenhouse gases when burned, in favor of more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy sources, the IPCC report concluded. Last month, leaders of 28 European nations agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 percent of 1990 levels by the year 2030.

“We have the means to limit climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC. “All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.”

Meteorologists already reported last month that 2014 could be the hottest year on record. If climate change continues, billions of dollars in seaside property could be destroyed, while some states could see crop yields drop by as much as 70%. Climate change could also likely cause a rise in various infectious diseases, world hunger, respiratory problems and heat-related illnesses, such as cardiac arrest and heat stroke.

The report’s findings contrast with the American public perception of climate change. Only 54 percent of people in the U.S. this summer reported that they believe current climate change is caused by human activity. In September, however, thousands of people took to the streets of New York City to put pressure on world leaders during the People’s Climate March, one of the largest environmental events ever.

In a statement about the latest report, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, “Those who choose to ignore or dispute the science so clearly laid out in this report do so at a great risk for all of us and for our kids and grandkids.”

[CBS]

TIME Disaster

Residents of Pahoa, Hawaii, Are Preparing to Flee a Frightening Lava Flow

The lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano is seen advancing across a pasture near the village of Pahoa, Hawaii
The lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano is seen advancing across a pasture between the Pahoa cemetery and Apa'a Street in this U.S. Geological Survey image taken near the village of Pahoa, Hawaii on Oct. 25, 2014. Reuters

Those living in the direct path of the molten mass have already begun to leave

Lava inched closer to homes in Pahoa, Hawaii, on Monday evening, spurring the evacuation of residents living in the direct path of the molten mass gushing from the Big Island’s most active volcano.

Authorities and Pahoa residents have been nervously watching the lava coming from the nearby volcano Kilauea for months, since a fresh flow started moving northeast toward the tiny town of 900 earlier this summer.

One official told TIME that locals were taking the necessary precautions in case widespread evacuations are ordered. Over the weekend, residents living in close proximity to the lava flow packed their possessions into trailers in preparation.

As of Monday evening, the lava flow was within 70 yards of the nearest home, according to a statement released by the County Civil Defense Agency.

“Residents in the flow path were placed on an evacuation advisory and notified of possible need for evacuation beginning last night,” read the report.

Local officials continued to fret over the possibility that the lava may eventually cut into nearby Highway 130. The road serves as the major transportation thoroughfare in and out of the town and is used by approximately 8,000 to 10,000 commuters a day. As a precaution, county authorities have opened two auxiliary roads in the area.

Earlier in the day, reports of small-scale looting in the remote community began to surface. “Crime is starting to pick up because a lot of people abandoned their houses. Two of my brother-in-laws’ houses got ripped off,” Matt Purvis, an owner of a local bakery, told CNN.

Late last week, Hawaii’s Governor Neil Abercrombie penned an official request for a presidential disaster declaration, which would provide the state with federal assistance to bolster local emergency services.

TIME Disaster

BP Oil Spill Left Rhode Island-Sized ‘Bathtub Ring’ on Seafloor

BP announced that it is ending its "active cleanup" on the Louisiana coast from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on April 19, 2014 in Grand Isle, Louisiana. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and spilling millions of gallons of oil.
BP announced that it is ending its "active cleanup" on the Louisiana coast from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on April 19, 2014 in Grand Isle, Louisiana. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and spilling millions of gallons of oil. Sean Gardner—Getty Images

The rig blew on April 20, 2010, and spewed 172 million gallons of oil into the Gulf

New research shows that the BP oil spill left an oily “bathtub ring” on the sea floor that’s about the size of Rhode Island. The study by UC Santa Barbara’s David Valentine, the chief scientist on the federal damage assessment research ships, estimates that about 10 million gallons of oil coagulated on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico around the damaged Deepwater Horizons oil rig. Valentine said the spill left other splotches containing even more oil. The rig blew on April 20, 2010, and spewed 172 million gallons of oil into the Gulf through the summer. Scientists are still trying to figure where…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME photography

See Breathtaking Aerial Views of Fall Foliage

Autumn is here, and photographers everywhere are capturing the changing colors of the season. Poland-based photographer Kacper Kowalski captured the most unique views of all, opting to shoot his country’s fall foliage by paraglider (and sometimes gyroplane), creating these magnificent images of the landscape.

“I fly alone as the pilot and photographer,” Kowalski told TIME. “I use a regular reportage camera in my hand. [In this] way I can have control over the image, I can decide by myself where, how and when I will fly to take the image.”

The pictures are part of a larger body of work by Kowalski where he has captured both rural and urban parts of Poland over several years. “I work and live in Gdynia in the northern part of Poland . . . very close to Gdansk at the Baltic sea. The landscape is very rich. And the nature. It is absolutley amazing. Because of the climate in this geographical location it is different each week.”

You can see more of Kowalski’s work and read more about his process here.

TIME weather

1934 Dust Bowl Drought Was North America’s Worst in a Millennium

More than 70% of western North America was affected

The 1934 drought that helped kick off the Dust Bowl era was the worst to hit North America for the past 1,000 years, according to a new study.

Scientists from NASA and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory reconstructed the history of droughts in the U.S. using modern practices and tree-ring records from the years 1000 to 2005.

They found that the 1934 drought covered more than 70% of western North America and was 30% severer than the next worst, which struck in 1580.

“It was the worst by a large margin, falling pretty far outside the normal range of variability that we see in the record,” said Ben Cook, a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and the study’s lead author.

Cook says a high-pressure system during the west coast’s winter that kept rains at bay, combined with poor land management practices, led to dust storms in the spring.

The study is due to be published in the Oct. 17 edition of Geophysical Research Letters.

TIME Retail

Whole Foods Will Now Tell You How Organic Their Veggies Are

Produce will be rated based on pesticide, water and soil use, and its impact on human health and farmworkers

The next time you find yourself in Whole Foods’ fresh produce aisles, you’ll find that much of the research you wanted to do on how your food is grown has already been done for you.

Whole Foods began implementing a program Wednesday that rates fresh produce in its grocery aisles based on pesticide, water and soil use, and its impact on human health and farmworkers. The upscale supermarket chain said it is rating fresh produce on a scale from “good” to “better” to “best” with the intention of informing shoppers about the way fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers are tended and grown.

In addition, Whole Foods said it was prohibiting some insecticides that can impair neurological development in children. “After three years of research and planning, Responsibly Grown is the result of our collaboration with suppliers, scientists and issue experts to continue our strong commitment to organic, while embracing additional important topics and growing practices in agriculture today,” said Matt Rogers, global produce coordinator at Whole Foods Market.

Farms that participate in the program have to take steps to protect air, soil, water and human health, and only use pesticides registered EPA in order to earn a “good” rating. The “better” and “best” ratings indicate improved performance in those categories.

Whole Foods says the program will encourage farmers to recycle plastics, install solar panels, plant wildflowers to restore natural bee habitats, and more efficiently irrigate their fields, for example. About half the produce sold in Whole Food’s stores will carry the labels, the New York Times reports.

Whole Foods has been struggling to compete with cheaper food sources like Walmart, which recently announced its own organic food program. The company’s stock has dropped more than 30% this year, though its earnings have been stable.

TIME 2014 Election

Paul Ryan Says Humans May Not Cause Climate Change

Paul Ryan
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., is interviewed by Maria Bartiromo during her "Opening Bell With Maria Bartiromo" program on the Fox Business Network, in New York City on Sept. 29, 2014. Richard Drew—AP

"We've had climate change forever"

The jury is still out on whether humans cause climate change, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan said at a debate Monday.

“I don’t know the answer to that question,” Ryan said, in response to a question about whether humans are responsible for the warming of the planet. “I don’t think science does, either.” His remarks were reported by the Associated Press.

Ryan, who is running for reelection in southern Wisconsin against Democrat Rob Zerban, argued that “we’ve had climate change forever” and that proposals to stem climate change are expensive and will not guarantee results. Zerban said humans are to blame for climate change and need to address the issue.

The exchange was a heated moment in a wide-ranging debate that included foreign affairs and the economy. Ryan is widely expected to hold his seat in the GOP-leaning district.

[AP]

TIME Environment

Garlic Is Being Used in the U.K. to Cure Trees of Deadly Diseases

Autumn Colours Begin To Show In The UK
Autumn colors begin to show on trees in Royal Victoria Park in Bath, England, on Oct. 7, 2014 Matt Cardy—Getty Images

The bulbs contain the compound allicin, which can fight bacterial and fungal infections

It might not be great for vampires, but it turns out garlic can be very good for trees.

Trees in the U.K. are being injected with a garlic extract to cure them of deadly diseases, the BBC reports.

“Over the last four years we have treated 60 trees suffering badly with bleeding canker of horse chestnut. All of the trees were cured,” said Jonathan Cocking, an arboreal specialist involved with the development and deployment of the treatment.

“This result has been broadly backed up by 350 trees we have treated all over the country, where we have had a 95% success rate,” Cocking told the BBC.

Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which has antibacterial properties and can fight fungal infections too.

The injection device, which is being deployed in forests in the English Midlands, is made up of a pressurized chamber with eight tubes that inject the allicin solution directly into a tree’s sap system. The needles are positioned to ensure the even spread of allicin all around the tree.

According to the BBC, scaling up this method of treatment is costly and impractical. However, it can be used to save trees of historic or sentimental value.

[BBC]

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