TIME Environment

New Study Links California Droughts to Ocean Temperatures

California Drought Dries Up Bay Area Reservoirs
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A pipe emerges from dried and cracked earth that used to be the bottom of the Almaden Reservoir on Jan. 28, 2014 in San Jose, California.

Researchers look seaward for early drought detection

A spate of winter droughts across California may have emerged from the sea, according to new research that links dry spells on land to temperatures on the surface of the ocean.

Researchers sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found a pattern of ocean temperatures that appears to predict the build up of a high pressure ridge off the coast of California. Climate scientists say the ridge has effectively blocked winter rainstorms from rolling inland over the past three winters, depriving the state of rain during the wet seasons.

“It’s important to note that California’s drought, while extreme, is not an uncommon occurrence for the state,” said the report’s lead author, Richard Seager of Columbia University.

Scientists say the temperature readings might be used to predict drought seasons before they develop.

“It’s paramount that we use our collective ability to provide communities and businesses with the environmental intelligence they need to make decisions concerning water resources, which are becoming increasingly strained,” Seager said.

TIME Environment

California’s Drought Is Now the Worst in 1,200 Years

California Drought Dries Up Bay Area Reservoirs
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A car sits in dried and cracked earth of what was the bottom of the Almaden Reservoir on Jan. 28, 2014 in San Jose, Calif.

And it might not be ending anytime soon

California’s three years of low rainfall is the region’s worst drought in 1,200 years, according to a new study.

Record high temperatures combined with unusually low levels of precipitation have been the primary causes of the dry conditions, according to the study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“It was a surprise,” study author Kevin Anchukaitis told the Los Angeles Times of the findings. “I don’t think we expected to see that at all.”

The drought has led to tremendous economic costs in the state, including an expected $2.2 billion and 17,000 farming jobs this year alone, according to a report from the University of California, Davis. It’s also expected to increase food prices across the country.

And the problem may not be going away soon. About 44% of three-year droughts last continue past their third year, according to the Times.

TIME Media

What Happened to the ‘Future Leaders’ of the 1990s?

Dec. 5, 1994, cover
Cover Credit: CRAIG FRAZIER The Dec. 5, 1994, cover of TIME

In 1994, TIME picked 50 people to keep an eye on

Exactly 20 years ago, the the Dec. 5, 1994, issue of TIME made a gamble, predicting the 50 people who were the most promising leaders for the future.

The magazine’s editors selected “50 for the Future”: 50 people under the age of 40, from the worlds of politics, science, activism, business, media and the arts, who seemed poised to take charge of America’s next steps. They had, David Van Biema wrote, “the requisite ambition, vision and community spirit to help guide us in the new millennium.” We decided to see just how well that group has turned out. Whatever happened to that Bill Gates guy, anyway?

 

Tundi Agardy, then 37 and a marine biologist

The World Wildlife Fund scientist made it to the original list for the way she used her hard-science chops to advocate for conservation. During the past two decades, she has continued that work, founding the marine conservation organization Sound Seas; leading the Marine Ecosystem Services Program at Forest Trends, a nonprofit that uses business ideas to protect the environment; and participating in the United Nations-led Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

Helen Alvaré, then 34 and an antiabortion leader

The self-described “pro-life feminist” lawyer was the U.S. spokesperson on the subject of abortion, on behalf of Catholic bishops. She left her job with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2000, after which she began teaching at the George Mason University School of Law. She has received several awards for her service to the Church, and continues to consult for the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Marc Andreessen, then 23 and co-creator of Mosaic

Andreessen’s Mosaic browser and the company he founded, Netscape, landed him on the cover of TIME in February 1996. In recent years Andreessen, 43, has become one of Silicon Valley’s most successful venture capitalists through his firm Andreessen Horowitz with payoffs from Twitter, Facebook and Skype. He is now one of the tech industry’s most visible leaders. He is on Twitter at @pmarca.

Evan Bayh, then 38 and Governor of Indiana

After two terms as Governor of Indiana, Bayh, 58, served in the Senate for twelve years until 2011. The Democratic lawmaker flirted with running for president in 2007, but ultimately endorsed then-Senator Hillary Clinton. He is now a partner at DC lobbying firm McGuireWoods.

Dr. Regina Benjamin, then 38 and a rural health-care provider

With an M.D. and an MBA, Benjamin took advantage of a federal program to fund her practice in coastal Alabama. After continuing to work in healthcare in the region during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, she was named Surgeon General of the United States by President Barack Obama in 2009. She resigned in 2013 and was appointed to an endowed chair in public health sciences at Xavier University.

Henry Bonilla, then 40 and a Texas Congressman

The Texan was a frequent surrogate for President George W. Bush, but redistricting made his seat more favorable for Democrats, and he lost re-election in 2006 after serving seven terms in the House. He is now a partner at the Washington government relations firm The Normandy Group.

John Bryant, then 28 and founder of Operation HOPE Inc.

Bryant continues to serve as the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Operation HOPE Inc. In 2008 he was appointed by President George W. Bush to be vice-chair of the President’s Council on Financial Literacy. President Barack Obama appointed him Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Underserved and Community Empowerment for the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, where he focused on forming local financial literacy councils in cities across the country.

William Burns, then 38 and a foreign-service officer

After 33 years at the State Department, Burns retired in November 2014 as Deputy Secretary of State, the department’s number two, under Secretary of State John Kerry. One of the most decorated diplomats of his time, Burns continues to play a role in the P5+1 Iran nuclear negotiations. In February of 2015 he will become the next president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Stephen Carter, then 40 and a law professor at Yale University

The William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale Law School, Carter is a renowned fiction and nonfiction author of titles like The Violence of Peace: America’s Wars in the Age of Obama and The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln. He has taught and written extensively about the law and ethics of war and is also a columnist for Bloomberg View.

Sean Carroll, then 33 and a molecular biologist and inventor

A co-founder of Ophidian Pharmaceuticals, Carroll (not to be confused with the CalTech theoretical physicist of the same name) also used his non-commercial side to study butterfly wings in order to investigate the relationship between genes and evolution. In addition to contributing to the Science section of the New York Times, Carroll has written several books about evolution for popular audiences. One of them was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award for non-fiction. His latest, Brave Genius, was released last year.

Christopher Chyba, then 35 and a planetary scientist

His research on comets and asteroids concluded that Earth was unlikely to be majorly damaged by a collision with one, and he worked with the White House to make sure that planetary damage wouldn’t come from unsecured nukes either. He received a MacArthur ‘Genius’ grant in 2001, and is now director of the Program on Science and Global Security at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

James Dimon, then 38 and president of Travelers Group

Back in 1994, about a decade after founding the New York Academy of Finance — a program that prepped underprivileged kids for Wall Street jobs — he was considered one of the stock world’s top 10 figures. Now, as CEO of JPMorgan Chase, “Jamie” Dimon has since become even more recognizable in the Wall Street world. Though the bank has not had a completely smooth run in recent years — the “London Whale” mess cost it billions — he is credited with helping JPMorgan Chase get through the financial crisis with minimal damage. He has been a frequent honoree on TIME’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and currently ranks at #18 on the Forbes list of the most powerful people in the world.

Chaka Fattah, then 38 and a Pennsylvania Congressman-elect

About to enter his 11th term representing parts of Philadelphia in the House of Representatives, Fattah is the ranking member of the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies and the Vice Chair on the House Gun and Violence Task Force.

Bill Gates, then 39 and co-founder of Microsoft Corp.

Gates was already America’s richest man in 1994 (TIME estimated his net worth at $9.35 billion) — but Forbes now estimates his net worth at a whopping $82.1 billion. And while Microsoft continues to chug along, he now dedicates much of his energy to the major philanthropic organization that is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which he and his wife launched in 2000.

Dr. Pedro Jose Greer Jr., then 38 and an advocate for the homeless

Not content to provide healthcare for the homeless by visiting them on the streets and in public parks, Greer had founded four free clinics to make sure they got the best care possible. Since 1994, he has continued to provide healthcare for underserved populations in Florida and teach at the Florida International University School of Medicine. His autobiography, Waking Up in America, was released in 1999, and in 2009 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

John Kaliski, then 38 and an urban architect

Kaliski used a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to research L.A.’s urban sprawl, to help avoid mistakes as the cities of the future were built. In 2000, he founded the architecture firm that carries his name, and he is a co-author of the book Everyday Urbanism. He continues to design award-winning projects throughout California.

John F. Kennedy Jr., then 34 and a health-care entrepreneur

In 1995, JFK, Jr. founded the short-lived political/fashion magazine George. He died in 1999 after losing control of his Piper Saratoga airplane in a crash that also killed his wife and sister-in-law.

Randall Kennedy, then 40 and a Harvard law professor

A nationally recognized expert on race issues, Kennedy is the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law at Harvard Law School where he continues to write about race, discrimination, and the law.

Alan Khazei, then 33 and co-director of City Year

By co-founding the “public-service entrepreneurship” that had, by 1994, helped hundreds of people find yearlong jobs, Khazei recruited corporations to help pick up the tab. City Year also inspired President Clinton to start AmeriCorps. Since then, Khazei also founded Be the Change, a nonprofit of which he’s now CEO, which promotes service among an even wider swath of the population. His runs for Senate in Massachusetts, however, have proved unsuccessful.

Ronald A. Klain, then 33 and chief of staff to Janet Reno

Klain was chief of staff to two vice presidents, Al Gore and Joe Biden. His role in the 2000 Florida recount was immortalized by Kevin Spacey in the HBO movie Recount. He is now serving as the White House’s Ebola Response Coordinator and is rumored to be next in line to be President Barack Obama’s chief of staff or senior advisor.

Wendy Kopp, then 27, Founder of Teach for America

In 1994, Teach for America was active in 17 districts and received a few thousand applications for 500 positions. Kopp’s organization has since become one the biggest movers in the education. In the 2013-14 school year, according to TFA’s numbers, 750,000 students nationwide were taught by 11,000 TFA teachers. The organization has also expanded to include Teach for All, a global education network, and Kopp has written two books.

Samuel LaBudde, then 38 and a biologist

A video LaBudde shot while undercover on a Panamanian tuna boat helped make dolphin-safe tuna a national issue. He has continued to work for environmental causes in the years since.

Winona LaDuke, then 35 and a Native American rights activist

A two-time vice presidential candidate on the Green Party ticket, LaDuke is the executive director of environmental non-profits the White Earth Land Recovery Project and Honor the Earth. She has worked extensively to raise the political awareness and clout of Native American tribes.

Maya Lin, then 35, a sculptor and architect

In the last two decades, Lin’s art and architecture projects have continued to make news. About five years ago, Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., announced that a new project called What Is Missing? would be her “last memorial”: the project memorializes environmental loss with a web site, art installations and a foundation. She will be working on it, she has said, for the rest of her life.

Roderick von Lipsey, then 35 and a Major in the U.S. Marine Corps

After 20 years as a Marine Corps Aviator, during which he served as director of the National Security Council and as a senior aide to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, von Lipsey is now a Managing Director at UBS Financial Services, Inc. in Washington in the firm’s private wealth practice.

Jonathan Lunine, then 35 and a planetary astronomer

Then head of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Committee, he was studying whether it would one day be possible to send a manned mission to Mars. (By 2030, maybe, he guessed.) He has continued to advise NASA — he worked on the 2011 Juno mission to Saturn — and he teaches at Cornell. (Manned missions to Mars remain an idea of the future — but Lunine may yet be proved right.)

Frank Luntz, then 32 and a Republican pollster and analyst

The GOP messaging guru who popularized terms like the “death tax” and “climate change” and the man behind Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America has worked extensively in American and international politics on behalf of conservative candidates. In 2010 he branded the Affordable Care Act a “government takeover” of healthcare, a talking-point used extensively by Republicans as they retook the House of Representatives. He is also a prominent commentator on Fox News.

Wynton Marsalis, then 33 and a Jazz musician

Not content to be a virtuoso trumpeter, Marsalis was also an ambassador of jazz, dedicating his time to visiting schools and introducing the music to a new generation. Since 1994, he has received the National Medal of the Arts and a Pulitzer Prize, and has been appointed a U.N. Messenger of Peace. Jazz at Lincoln Center, the program he helped found, is now one of New York City’s leading jazz venues, and Marsalis remains one of the genre’s most famous players.

Fred McClure, then 40 and a corporate consultant

Now the Chief Executive Officer of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation, McClure was an aide to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Then-Governor George W. Bush appointed him to the Board of Regents of the Texas A&M University. He was previously a managing partner of the international law firm, SNR Denton.

Cynthia McKinney, then 39 and a Congresswoman from Georgia

McKinney served six terms in the House of Representatives, become a vocal critic of the Bush administration and the Iraq War. She gained notoriety for accusing the Bush administration of having advance warning of the 9/11 attacks and allowing them to take place, and has since become a vocal critic of American interventions overseas. She was twice defeated by Democratic primary challengers before abandoning the party. She was the Green Party’s presidential nominee in 2008.

Wayne Meisel, then 35 and founder of COOL

After leaving the foundation he helped found, Meisel, who is a Presbyterian minister, served as Director of Faith and Service at the Cousins Foundation in Atlanta. Earlier this year, he became the founding director of a new center at the McCormick Theological Seminary, focusing on the intersection of religion and public service.

Nancy-Ann Min, then 37 and a White House budget official

Nancy-Ann Min DeParle served as President Barack Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy from January 2011 to January 2013 after a stint as director of the White House Office of Health Reform. She coordinated the administration’s efforts to pass and implement the landmark Affordable Care Act in 2010. She is currently a Partner & Co-Founder at Consonance Capital Partners, a healthcare-focused private equity firm.

Albert Mohler, 35, and president of the Southern Baptist Seminary

Only about two years after becoming president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he returned the school to older traditions, by forcing out the school’s first female theological professor—and he promised to spread his values throughout the Baptist community. He remains president of the Seminary to this day.

Susan Molinari, then 36 and a Congresswoman from New York

After three terms in the House, Molinari quit Congress to take a job at CBS News. She later became a Washington lobbyist and now runs Google’s Washington, D.C. office, where she is Vice President of Public Policy and Government Relations.

Charles Munn, then 39 and a conservationist-zoologist

Munn turned a love of birds into a career in conserving their tropical habits, particularly by encouraging ecotourism and promoting land-management by tribal communities from the areas in question. One of his more recent ecotourism ventures was a jaguar-focused photo-safari center in Brazil.

Jim Nussle, then 34 and a Congressman from Iowa

Now the president of the Credit Union National Association, Nussle served in the House from 1991-2007, where he was chairman of the House budget Committee. In 2007, President George W. Bush selected him to run the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Ralph Reed, then 33 and Executive director of the Christian Coalition

The conservative political activist became one of the leading evangelical powerbrokers in Republican politics, despite a brief fall from grace in the late 1990s and ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Reed now runs the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a nonprofit organization whose conferences are regularly attended by Republican presidential hopefuls.

Condoleezza Rice, then 40 and Provost of Stanford University

During the 2000 Bush campaign, Rice took a leave of absence from Stanford to serve as the then-Texas governor’s top foreign policy advisor. When he won the White House, she was selected as his first National Security Advisor, a position she held until 2005 when she was nominated to be the first black woman to serve as Secretary of State. After Bush left office, Rice returned to Stanford, where she is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. One of the first two women invited to join the Augusta National Golf Club, she also serves as a member of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee and is frequently mentioned as a possible successor as commissioner of the National Football League.

John Rogers, then 36 and a mutual-fund manager

Notable for his relatively frugal lifestyle, the stock savant was the first African American president of the Chicago Park District and helped put dozens of inner-city students through school. He remains Chairman and CEO of Ariel Investments, the company he founded, while serving as the chair of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, which councils the President on how to work toward future economic stability by educating young people about how money works.

Jeffrey Sachs, then 40 and an economist

The director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Sachs has put his economics background to use as an advisor on developing countries across the globe. The author of books like The End of Poverty, Sachs is one of the leading thinkers on sustainable economic development and has twice been named to the TIME 100.

Bret Schundler, then 35 and Mayor of Jersey City

As the Republican lawmaker of a Democratic city, Schundler drew acclaim as a reformer until he left office in 2001. He twice unsuccessfully ran for governor of New Jersey and briefly served as Commissioner of Education under New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in 2010.

Tavis Smiley, then 30 and a radio talk-show host

These days, Smiley does television too: his eponymous PBS talk show is in its tenth year. He’s written more than a dozen books and, in 1999, started a foundation focused on mentorship and leadership.

Lawrence Summers, then 40 and Treasury Under Secretary

The outspoken economist quickly rose to be President Bill Clinton’s final Treasury Secretary, where he led efforts to deregulate the financial sector. After leaving office, he became the 27th President of Harvard University, where he had a tumultuous tenure. After President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, he selected Summers to be Director of the National Economic Council, a post from which he helped lead the administration’s response to the global financial crisis. He left the White House in 2010.

Terri Swearingen, then 37 and an environmental activist

Concerned with a hazardous-waste processing incinerator too near her local elementary school, she devoted herself to the environment, went on a hunger strike and ended up influencing national environmental policy. In 1997, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize. She has stayed out of the news in recent years.

Urvashi Vaid, then 36 and a gay-rights advocate

She was the first woman of color to head up the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Her first book came out in 1996; she has written or edited two more since. In 2012, she helped launch the first lesbian political action committee, and since 2011 she has been the director of a Columbia University project that examines the role of tradition in the success or failure of gender justice advocacy.

Fidel Vargas, then 26 and Mayor of Baldwin Park, California

After a successful career in private equity, Vargas is now the President and CEO of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships for Latino students to succeed in college.

Kevin Vigilante, then 40 and Founder of Community Outreach Clinic

After a failed run for Congress, Vigilante returned to treating female HIV patients in Rhode Island. He now works at Booz Allen Hamilton, where he consults with government clients about public health topics.

Rebecca Walker, then 25 and co-founder of Third Wave

The Third Wave Foundation continues to be dedicated to encouraging female leaders of the future, registering female voters and making feminism work for women of color. In the last two decades, Walker has also written or edited more than a half-dozen books. She teaches memoir writing, and in 2009, she co-founded Write to Wellbeing, a business that helps writers improve their lives.

Oprah Winfrey, then 40 and a talk-show host

Her talk-show business was making her more than $50 million a year, and her openness about her own past had helped get the National Child Protection Act through Congress. Twenty years later, her earnings, her power and her media empire are even bigger. She remains, in short, Oprah.

Naomi Wolf, then 32 and a feminist author

The author of The Beauty Myth was credited with bringing feminism “back to life” when she accused the cosmetics industry of hobbling advancement for women. Wolf — who has also worked as a political consultant and in the nonprofit space — continues to inspire conversation with her writing, as with her 2013 book Vagina: A New Biography.

Read the full 1994 list of 50 future leaders here, in the TIME Vault: A New Generation of Leaders

Correction: Luntz coined the phrase “climate change” instead of “global warming.”

TIME Environment

The Real Wilderness of Wild: A Brief History of the Pacific Crest Trail

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Danita Delimont — Getty Images/Gallo Images Hikers cross Agnew Meadows on the Pacific Crest Trail in California.

The path that Reese Witherspoon walks in her latest film took 60 years to become a reality

Wild, a film based on Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling memoir, in theaters Dec. 5, tells the tale of a woman wandering over more than 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. And that means one of star Reese Witherspoon’s most important co-stars is the trail itself.

Today there are more than 1,000 official national trails that sprawl across America like a nervous system. But in the beginning there were just two: the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. The latter, spanning about 2,650 miles of America’s West Coast, from Mexico to Canada, was the dream of a fellow named Clinton Clarke. In 1932, the avid hiker formally proposed a border-to-border trail connecting the peaks of the Pacific Coast, to preserve and protect America’s “absolute wilderness” before it was overrun by “motor cars” and industry.

“In few regions of the world—certainly nowhere else in the United States,” he later wrote in 1945, “are found such a varied and priceless collection of the sculptured masterpieces of Nature as adorn, strung like pearls, the mountain ranges of Washington, Oregon and California.” The Pacific Crest Trail, he said, “is the cord that binds this necklace.”

Clarke’s hero, and cause, was the explorer who would pitch his or her tent in the mountains night after night, desperate to hear the snowfall and see nothing brighter than the stars, seeking a “simpler and more natural life.” He believed that the “PCT” wasn’t just some track of dirt, but a means of forging “sturdy bodies,” “sound minds,” “permanent endurance,” “moral stamina” and “patriotic citizenship.” (As if it needed to be mentioned, Clarke was a dedicated Boy Scout.)

Clarke wasn’t the only person to dream of such a trail, but he was the most organized. To further the cause, he put together a whole federation of hiking clubs and youth groups dedicated to the project, known the Pacific Crest Trail System Conference. For years, he oversaw the massive task of scouting and constructing a route through the wilderness, connecting existing trails by building new ones, all while avoiding as much settled area as possible. Clarke served as the president of the conference for 25 years, which included big-name members like the Sierra Club, YMCA and photographer Ansel Adams. For this, he earned his place in history as the “father” of the trail.

The Pacific Crest Trail officially became the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail in 1968, 11 years after Clarke died at the age of 84. The popularity of hiking had been growing and, as of 1963, America had a President and First Lady who were very interested in preserving the outdoors: Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. Johnson proposed the study of a national system of trails, which would give the federal government a way to establish and oversee footpaths that weren’t on federal land. The volunteers who oversaw the Appalachian Trail were anxious for that kind of mandate, worried that handshake agreements allowing hikers to pass through private lands might otherwise dry up.

People like the Department of the Interior’s Daniel M. Ogden, who recounts the political battle for establishing a national system of trails in a 40th anniversary newsletter, pushed Congress to pass a bill based on the study Johnson requested. And Oct. 2, 1968, Johnson signed a “conservation grand slam” of four environmental measures: the National Trails System Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Redwood National Park Act, and the North Cascades National Park Act. The only two national scenic trails at the time, which require an act of Congress to be designated, were the Appalachian and the Pacific Crest.

By 1972, a council created by the government had come up with a final route for the trail that Clarke had imagined 40 years earlier. After years of construction and negotiation with private property owners, the trail was completed in 1993 with a “golden spike” ceremony reminiscent of the transcontinental railroad. That was also the year that the non-profit Pacific Crest Trail Association forged a partnership with the federal government to oversee and keep up the trail.

Many people have since completed the whole-hog, end-to-end trek. Others, like Cheryl Strayed, have settled for three-month, 1,100-mile adventures. So long as the hikers come out a little different on the other side, they should all be satisfying Clarke’s wish for what the trail would be. “It is simply a ‘track worn through the wilderness,'” he wrote in 1945, “for hardy adventurers who can enjoy the experience and benefits of a friendly struggle with Mother Nature.”

TIME 2014 Election

Louisiana Senate Runoff Leads to Last-Minute Donations

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) speaks during a press conference to urge Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, on Capitol Hill on April 1, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Allison Shelley—Getty Images U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) speaks during a press conference to urge Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, on Capitol Hill on April 1, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Oil and gas industry among the big donors

The defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline bill in the Senate last month may have been viewed as a blow to Sen. Mary Landrieu‘s re-election bid, but her battle to get the bill passed was warmly received by members of the oil and gas industry, including Keystone’s parent company.

And not only have corporate PACs, top executives and lobbyists in the industry stepped up with large checks for the embattled Landrieu’s campaign in recent days, but so have many of her fellow Democrats, including a number of liberal New England senators who voted against the legislation.

It will be weeks before there’s a final tally of all the contributions to Landrieu and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who face each other in a runoff this Saturday (Dec. 6). But each campaign has filed several lengthy reports listing hundreds of donors in recent days. From Oct. 16 to Nov. 16, according to filings made today, Cassidy raised $2.1 million to Landrieu’s $1.5 million. Landrieu raised money quickly in the wake of the Nov. 18 Keystone vote, bringing in at least $807,900 since the day before the vote, but Cassidy gained and has raised at least $983,000 in the same time frame.

Landrieu’s last-minute drive for support has relied mainly on wealthy individuals from Louisiana — along with a smattering of New York high-society donors — and strong backing from oil companies and liberal Democratic politicians. Cassidy, on the other hand, picked up large checks only from a handful of ideologically driven PACs and reliable out-of-state partisan individuals until the last few days, when he disclosed receiving a flood of money from GOP establishment figures, like soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), and some prominent brand name corporate PACs, like Aetna,American Airlines and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

While full data on fundraising and spending by each campaign is only available through Nov. 16, FEC rules require that during the period within 20 days of an election, candidates report any donations of $1,000 or more within 48 hours of receiving them.

Landrieu’s Backers

The Nov. 18 Senate vote on a bill to approve the controversial Keystone project featured Landrieu front and center. Despite opposition elsewhere, the pipeline is popular in Louisiana, where oil and gas is a major industry and employer. The bill failed, and many pundits portrayed it as a defeat for Landrieu in her bid for re-election. But several big names in the oil and gas world seemed grateful.

According to filings made late last month, on the day before the vote, BP‘s corporate PAC gave Landrieu’s campaign $5,000. On Nov. 18, Martin Durbin, president of trade group America’s Natural Gas Alliance, personally gave her campaign $1,000, and the group’s PAC followed up with $5,000 more. Two days after the vote failed, the American Petroleum Institute‘s PAC contributed $5,000, as did ConocoPhilips‘ corporate PAC. The corporate PAC of Chevron, a company known for its conservative political leanings, and the PAC of natural gas giant Sempra also contributed following the vote, as did the Interstate Natural Gas Association. TransCanada, the parent company of the KeystoneXL project,reported giving Landrieu $2,500 on Nov. 24.

Landrieu has also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from other corporate PACs that represent major interests in Washington, particularly in natural resources and energy: American Electric Power, Exelon, Freeport-McMoran and Edison Electric.

Many of these companies tend to shy away from giving to Democratic candidates, and an endangered one in a race that conventional wisdom says may already be lost wouldn’t seem to be a great bet. The American Petroleum Institute’s PAC has given 85 percent of its money to Republicans this cycle; Chevron’s PAC has given 84 percent of its contributions to GOP candidates; and Freeport McMoran’s PAC has given 68 percent of its money to Republicans.

Adding to the unusual nature of Landrieu’s fundraising is the fact that at the same time oil and gas companies were shoveling money into her campaign, many of her Democratic Senate colleagues were voting down the very bill those companies supported — and then apparently leaving the floor to write large checks to support her.

In the days after the Keystone vote, Landrieu collected checks from the leadership PACs of Sens. Patrick Leahy (Vt.),Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Maria Cantwell(Wash.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and others — all Democrats who voted against the pipeline.

Most of Landrieu’s individual donations come from Louisiana addresses, with the notable exception of several dozen large checks from people in a very small geographic area of Manhattan — specifically the tony Upper East Side. Those society-name donors include William Lauder and heiresses Kate Whitney and Agnes Gund (who listed her occupation as “philanthropist”); their gifts may be linked to a fundraiser hosted by Hillary Clinton for Landrieu in New York shortly before Thanksgiving.

Cassidy’s Strong Finish

While Landrieu was raking in big checks from oil and gas companies as the Keystone bill went down in flames, Cassidy’s fundraising seemed stagnant. In a filing submitted on Nov. 19, covering the days just around the vote, Cassidy reported raising just $67,500 from large donors — compared to Landrieu’s filing on Nov. 20 listing $179,400. At that time, most of Cassidy’s donors were individuals and from out-of-state. In fact, his Nov. 19 filing is dominated by members of the DeVos clan — the conservative Michigan family led by Richard Devos, the founder of Amway. Richard Devos, his son Dick Devos and seven other members of the family each gave Cassidy checks for the maximum $2,600 for the runoff.

In contrast to Landrieu’s flood of support from her Senate colleagues, the only congressional leadership PAC giving to Cassidy then was the one sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). The next filing, on Nov. 21, was similarly lackluster, showing just $99,400 in large donations.

But Cassidy’s efforts got a sudden boost that showed up in his Nov. 24 report listing $254,900 in large contributions. The impetus may have been a donation from McConnell’s leadership PAC. Whatever led to the sudden outpouring of mainstream support for Cassidy, it was a turnabout.

In that filing, Cassidy reported donations from major corporate PACs like Aetna, Altria, American Airlines, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Devon Energy and Caterpillar. He also picked up donations from the corporate PAC of Oxbow Carbon — the company led by the “other” Koch brother, Bill Koch, who also donated personally. Additionally, Cassidy logged checks from GOP Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Mark Kirk (Ill.)

The flood of donations increased with two even larger filings made on Dec. 1, covering the days around Thanksgiving. Donors listed in those documents include more big corporate PACs, such as those of America’s Health Insurance Plans andHumana, as well as much more leadership PAC cash from the likes of Sens. Richard Shelby (Ala.) and Chuck Grassley(Iowa).

Saturday’s vote will finally decide how large the Republicans’ majority will be as they take control of the Senate in January — 53 votes or 54.

TIME Environment

Fastest-Melting Region of Antarctica Triples Rate in a Decade

Antarctica Ice Melt NASA
NASA/Michael Studinger Glaciers seen during NASA's Operation IceBridge research flight to West Antarctica on Oct. 29, 2014.

According to a new analysis by NASA and researchers in California

The fastest-melting region of Antarctica is doing so at a rate triple that of a decade ago, according to a new analysis, making it the largest area contributor to the rise in sea level.

The findings of the 21-year study by scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California, Irvine offer the most precise estimates yet of just how fast glaciers in West Antarctica’s Amundsen Sea Embayment are melting. Scientists determined the rate by taking several radar, laser and satellite measurements of the glaciers’ mass to measure changes over time; between 1992 and 2013, they lost an average of 91.5 billion U.S. tons per year, or what they calculated as the equivalent of losing the water weight of Mt. Everest every two years.

“We have an excellent observing network now,” Isabella Velicogna, a co-author of the study, said in the statement. “It’s critical that we maintain this network to continue monitoring the changes, because the changes are proceeding very fast.”

The findings will provide a greater understanding of glaciers and ice sheets, which the researchers labeled the biggest uncertainties in predicting future sea levels. Previous studies have also examined Greenland, where NASA scientists have witnessed for years “unprecedented” melting of its ice sheet surfaces.

TIME Infectious Disease

NYC Insects Can Eat An Astounding Amount of Human Food Waste

ants on leaf
Getty Images

Meet the tiny trash crew under your shoe

Here’s a relieving factoid to put your cravings in context: arthropods, the class of invertebrates including insects, millipedes and spiders, can scarf down way more junk food than you can.

So finds a new study from North Carolina State University and published in the journal Global Change Biology, which examined how arthropods act as tiny trash disposals in New York City’s public spaces.

The researchers wanted to see how these tiny city dwellers consume our littered food waste, so they imitated neglectful humans and dropped two sets of scraps of potato chips (Ruffles), cookies (Nilla Wafers) and hot dogs in 45 parks and street medians across the city. One set of food was placed in a cage so that only tiny arthropods could access it, and the other was an uncaged buffet for whatever animal happened to come along.

Our littered food waste can have real implications for our health, the researchers say. If city vertebrates—like rats, sparrows, raccoons, squirrels and pigeons—pick up most of our edible garbage, we’re feeding a population that can transmit diseases to humans. Most arthropod scavengers, on the other hand, don’t make us sick.

Lucky for us, arthropods are amazingly effective at removing our trash. While they’re no match for vertebrates, with whom they compete for access to our scraps, arthropods were able to remove most, and in some cases all, of the caged food in many spots around the city. Surprisingly, compared to insects in parks, insects in medians removed two to three times more food each day—thanks to the presence of pavement ants, highly efficient foragers.

In a year, the researchers estimated, arthropods could, all told, vacuum up the equivalent 60,000 hot dogs, 200,000 Nilla Wafers or 600,000 Ruffles potato chips.

“If left uneaten—or if eaten by animals that harbor human diseases—this littered food waste becomes a public health, environmental, and financial burden,” the study authors write. “Future work should further explore the conditions that favor the competitive advantage of arthropods as food removers in cities.”

So spare the next bug you see on the sidewalk. City life would be a lot less pleasant with crumbled food waste in your way.

TIME India

New Delhi, the World’s Most Polluted City, Is Even More Polluted Than We Realized

INDIA-POLUTION
ROBERTO SCHMIDT—AFP/Getty Images Smog envelops buildings on the outskirts of the Indian capital New Delhi on November 25, 2014.

Researchers have been measuring background pollution when they should have been doing roadside readings

New Delhi has already been ranked the world’s worst polluted city by the World Health Organization, but a new study by U.S. and Indian scientists shows that the city’s air quality is far worse than previously thought.

American scientist Joshua Apte, working with partners from the University of California, Berkeley and Delhi’s Indian Institute of Technology, roamed the streets of the Indian capital in an autorickshaw laden with air pollution monitors. He found that average pollution levels were up to eight times higher on city roads, the Associated Press reports.

Apte compared the readings from his road trips to readings at urban background sites, which he says are already extremely high. The levels of PM 2.5, the particle known to be most harmful to human health, were found to be 50 percent higher on Delhi’s roads during rush hour than during ambient air quality readings. Black carbon, a major pollutant, was found to be three times higher.

“Official air quality monitors tend to be located away from roads, on top of buildings, and that’s not where most people spend most of their time,” Apte said. “In fact, most people spend a lot of time in traffic in India. Sometimes one, two, three hours a day.”

India is the third largest polluting country in the world, after the United States and China — who both signed a major bilateral climate deal in Beijing earlier this month.

Its rapidly growing vehicle numbers, expected to hit 400 million by 2030, are posing a major threat that the government is well aware of.

Several steps have been taken to reduce the number of Indian automobiles running on diesel, and the country’s National Green Tribunal also announced on Thursday that it would ban any vehicles older than 15 years from New Delhi’s roads.

But far more drastic measures will be required to make a meaningful dent in Delhi’s air pollution levels, which, according to the latest WHO Ambient Air Pollution Database, are at just under 300 micrograms per cubic meter. The world’s second most polluted city, Karachi, clocks in at a little over 250, while the major Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai, internationally notorious for their pollution, clock in a relatively fresh 120 and 80 respectively.

TIME Environment

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon Is Easing Up

An aerial view of a tract of Amazon jungle recently cleared by loggers and farmers near the city of Novo Progresso
© Nacho Doce / Reuters—REUTERS An aerial view of a tract of the Amazon jungle recently cleared by loggers and farmers near the Brazilian city of Novo Progresso, Pará state, on Sept. 22, 2013

In fact, it just fell to its second lowest level in 25 years

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has fallen to its second lowest level in 25 years, according to the country’s Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Teixeira said 4,848 sq km of forest were cut down between August 2013 and July 2014, compared with 5,891 sq km during the same period a year earlier, the Associated Press reports.

The drop is a surprise, since environmental groups have been warning of an increase following the adoption of a controversial 2012 bill that eases clearing restrictions for small landowners.

“The major message is O.K., is good: Brazil has been advancing,” says Marco Lentini, coordinator of the Amazon program for WWF’s Brazil branch, while cautioning: “It doesn’t mean that the deforestation issue is over.”

The Amazon rainforest, considered an essential natural defense against global warming, is gradually being razed to make way for cattle grazing, soy plantations and logging. Sixty percent of the forest is found in Brazil, which has pledged to reduce deforestation to 3,900 sq km per year by 2020.

[AP]

TIME

EPA Poised to Announce Proposed Air Pollution Limits

A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant located 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on Sept. 24, 2013 in New Eagle, Pa.
Jeff Swensen—Getty Images A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant located 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on Sept. 24, 2013 in New Eagle, Pa.

Regulation will be aimed at smog from power plants and factories across the country, a report says

The Environmental Protection Agency is on Wednesday poised to announced federal air-pollution regulation that would limit ground-level smog, according to various media reports.

The regulation will be aimed at smog from power plants and factories across the country, according to a New York Times report, and would be the latest effort by the EPA to place regulations on air pollution.

Meanwhile, the proposal is expected to reignite a spat between businesses and environmental groups, Wall Street Journal reported. Back in 2011, the EPA estimated that the proposed standard — then set at the toughest level the agency had yet considered — could cost $90 billion a year to utilities and other businesses. President Barack Obama delayed issuing it, WSJ reports.

Ozone in the air is an oxidant that can irritate the air ways and cause coughing, a burning sensation, shortness of breath, and other lung diseases. Children, people with lung disease, older adults, and those who are active outdoors are most sensitive to ozone, according to the EPA. Ozone, or smog, is particularly likely to reach unhealthy levels on hot sunny days in cities.

The EPA will seek public comment on limiting ozone pollution between 65 to 70 parts per billion of ozone in the air, the WSJ reports, citing people familiar with the matter. That line is what an independent scientific advisory panel recommended earlier this year and is also below the current level — set at 75 parts per billion — which was set in 2008 under the then-President George W. Bush administration.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

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