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Lawson becomes chancellor - attacks miners, sells coal, oil and gas

Ecologist - Tue, 08/13/2019 - 23:00
Lawson becomes chancellor - attacks miners, sells coal, oil and gas Channel Comment Louise Gill 14th August 2019 Teaser Media
Categories: H. Green News

Latest: Trump’s BLM approves a massive California solar plant

High Country News - 1 hour 9 min ago
Opponents cite potential harm to desert wildlife, views and sand dunes.
Categories: H. Green News

Trump Wants Coal-Friendly Wheeler to Run the EPA Permanently

EcoWatch - 2 hours 6 min ago

President Donald Trump announced Friday that he would nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to permanently run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CNN reported.

Wheeler has served as acting administrator since July, when Scott Pruitt, Trump's original pick to head the agency, resigned following a buildup of scandals. In the four or so months since he took over, Wheeler has remained relatively free of personal scandals while continuing the agenda Pruitt started of rolling back environmental regulations and sidelining career agency scientists.

"Acting administrator—who, I will tell you, is going to be made permanent," Trump said at a Medal of Freedom ceremony Friday during which he announced his decision, CNN reported. "He's done a fantastic job. And I want to congratulate him. EPA, Andrew Wheeler."

Environmentalists disagreed with the President's assessment of his job performance.

"Putting a coal lobbyist like Andrew Wheeler in charge of the EPA is like giving a thief the keys to a bank vault. There shouldn't be a single day when the Administrator of the EPA schemes with corporate polluters to attack public health, but Wheeler has made it a regular habit because he is unable to give up his corporate polluter ties. As Acting EPA Administrator, Wheeler has kept his door open to coal, gas, oil and toxic chemical corporations, prioritizing their profits over the health and safety of our families. He should be swiftly rejected by any Senator who cares about protecting the health of their constituents," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement.

Some of the policies Wheeler has overseen at the EPA have included:

1. Rolling Back Fuel Efficiency Standards: Pruitt started the push to freeze the nation's fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks at around 37 miles per gallon as of 2021, instead of increasing them to around 54 miles per gallon by 2025, as was planned during the Obama administration. But Wheeler followed through, announcing the new standards in August and going so far as to take comments on a proposal revoking California's waiver to set its own, tougher standards.

2. Putting More Mercury in the Environment: Wheeler himself drafted a proposal that would lift restrictions on how much toxic mercury and other pollutants coal plants can release.

3. Climate Inaction and Climate Denial: Wheeler was the one to unveil the Trump administration replacement for former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan. He touted the plan even though the EPA's own calculations found it would increase the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere and could lead to the deaths of more than 1,000 Americans each year. During Wheeler's tenure, the EPA's "climate change" page disappeared entirely.

4. Sidelining Scientists: Since Wheeler took over, changes made to the agency have reduced the voice and authority of career scientists. The head of the Office of Children's Health Protection was placed on unexplained administrative leave in late September. Then, a day later, the agency announced it was reshuffling its science offices by combining the Office of Science Policy and the Office of the Science Advisor into a single Office of Science Integration and Policy, a move that effectively demotes the agency's top scientist.

Wheeler was confirmed by the Senate to act as Deputy Administrator, but will have to be confirmed again in order to permanently take Pruitt's place. While the Senate remains in Republican control, a hearing could still be tense, as Democrats are likely to question Wheeler aggressively on his performance so far, CNN reported.

"Mr. Wheeler must come before our committee so that members can look at his record as acting administrator objectively to see if any improvements have been made at the agency since he took the helm," Delaware Senator Tom Carper, lead Democrat on the committee that oversees the EPA, told CNN.

Categories: H. Green News

6,000 Climate Activists Block 5 London Bridges, Demand Urgent Action

EcoWatch - 3 hours 21 min ago

On Saturday, More than 6,000 climate activists shut down five bridges in Central London. The protest, organized under the banner of Extinction Rebellion to call for urgent action on climate change, was the first to intentionally block the bridges "in living memory," the group reported.

The mood was festive as demonstrators from around London held the bridges—Waterloo, Blackfriars, Southwark, Lambeth and Westminster—from around 10 a.m. to well into the afternoon. Extinction Rebellion had been building to Saturday's "Rebellion Day" since it launched itself into the public consciousness a little over two weeks ago by blocking traffic outside London's Parliament Square. The group hopes to pressure the government into increased climate action by using non-violent civil disobedience. Eighty-two were arrested during Saturday's demonstration, BBC News confirmed.

"Because the last two governments have rolled back significant policies which would have helped the UK reduce its carbon dioxide emissions," Margot Gibbs, a 30-year-old journalist from North London, told EcoWatch when asked why she was there. "And because a massive change is required."

Specifically, the group is calling for the UK government to institute policies that will allow the country to reach carbon neutrality by 2025, and to create a "Citizens' Assembly" to oversee those radical changes.

Saturday's protest wrapped up at 5:30 p.m. with a tree-planting ceremony in Parliament Square, according to Extinction Rebellion. A crowd of around 3,000 watched as an apple, plum and evergreen tree were planted just outside where the UK government meets. But that isn't the end for the growing movement. Organizers are calling for people to join them back at the square next Saturday for "Rebellion Day 2."

EcoWatch spoke with some of the thousands who traveled from across England to "rebel for life," as one of the movement's slogans reads. They came from a variety of places and had a range of professions, but were united in their commitment to get their government to act now.

Hannah Van Den BrulOlivia Rosane

Hannah Van Den Brul (30), North London

Van Den Brul is a musician and a Suzuki violin teacher. She said simply that she was there "because we need change now." She added she was also there "for the children." As a music teacher, she works with children ages two and up.

Pedro Pereira (left) and Maria Rosa (right)Olivia Rosane

Maria Rosa (38) and Pedro Pereira (40), Oxfordshire

Maria and Pedro are both scientists, a biologist and a civil engineer respectively.

"Time is running out for us," Maria said. "The government needs to wake up and realize that we need to change or else everything is going to go down the toilet. And because economic [factors] are more important for the government, we need to start acting, we need to show that we care about our future and our planet."

Pereira added that, as a scientist, he was "shocked" by the fact that people didn't pay more attention to the vast scientific consensus documenting that human-caused climate change is happening. "A lot of people think that it's still an opinion when it's not," he said.

David HalliganOlivia Rosane

David Halligan (27), Manchester

Halligan, who works at a bank, said that he came to the march "basically because time is running out, and the havoc that climate change is going to wreak is unimaginable in many ways, so we have to make sure we act now."

Dee RiggsOlivia Rosane

Dee Riggs (38), Somerset

Riggs is a full-time mom who had come to London with her children, aged two and five, a day before the protest to fit in a visit to the Natural History Museum.

"I'm here for my children," she said, "marching in the hope of saving their future." She added that the fact of the "Rebellion Day" gave her hope, instilling "a feeling of relief that there might be something we could do after so long."

Categories: H. Green News

Will New York City sink into the sea? A play imagines its future.

Grist - 4 hours 17 min ago

Like most humans, I’m full of self-deceptive coping mechanisms. New York City residents like me sometimes forget that we live on an island surrounded by rising water. Climate change will likely bring extreme flooding to New York City every five years, and extreme heat is anticipated to become increasingly fatal. But some artists are taking steps to remind NYC that climate change is personal, as I recently learned on a trip to Sherman Creek Park.

The park, one of Manhattan’s only natural shorelines, runs along the Harlem River in my neighborhood of Washington Heights. When I visited this past Halloween, it was teeming with life and imitations of death. Miniature vampires and ghosts scuttled about the low-lying peninsula in search of candy. Picnic tables were clustered with pumpkins and wholesomely spooky crafts to celebrate Fall Fest, put on by the New York Restoration Project.

There was not much at the event that was genuinely haunting, apart from one table: a display of what the city will look like in the future due to climate change.

A blown-up map of New York City was overlain with blue paint showing where flooding will threaten the area’s shores in 2050. The park itself was partially covered in blue. It’s been submerged before, like when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012.

Melissa Moschitto, a resident of Washington Heights who lived through Hurricane Sandy, explains the flood hazard map to curious passersby. It’s an invitation to engage in conversation about climate change, or to walk just slightly farther to a small peninsula where The Sinking Island, a play directed by Moschitto, is being performed.

The play is the 35-minute brainchild of The Anthropologists, a local theater company that explores social issues through the lens of research and community engagement. They’ve put it on in several locations throughout New York City, including a senior center, library, and children’s museum. Each performance is followed by a conversation with the audience to grapple with how climate change may impact their home.

Jim Anness

The second half of the play is set in a world warmed by 2 degrees C, a benchmark that the recent U.N. report on climate change warns could be the end of coral reefs, Arctic summer ice, and society as we know it. The play follows three sisters who were displaced from their Harlem home in a flood. As they navigate the watery deluge of Manhattan, they meet another refugee who’s covered in plastic. Their first instinct is suspicion — one of the sisters asks, “Are you the one who caused all the plastic straws and bottle caps to wash up on our shore?” (It’s a reminder of the history of xenophobic scapegoating in environmentalism). The sisters realize their own culpability in contributing to the pollution and join the newcomer to try to find safety among the rising waters.

If The Sinking Island offers guidance on how to survive the coming decades, it’s to remind viewers to trust each other and remember each other’s stories. In one scene, the actors try to fend off the encroaching tide, which is symbolized by a long, blue ribbon of fabric. There’s a small sliver of hope in this scene: The actors collectively control the movement of the fabric. So if they work together, they might just fend off the tide.

As the end of the Halloween performance neared, the sun dipped lower over the Harlem River, and the actors sang a final lullaby. They told the parable of a dog who is crying because it is sitting on a nail. A passerby asked, why does the owner not move the dog? The owner replied that when it hurts enough the dog will move on its own.

It’s too late to catch the play if you haven’t seen it already — the performance I went to was the last one scheduled by the troupe. Moshitto says the larger message is that it’s not too late to do something about climate change. But first, despite our fears, we need to work it into our daily awareness.

“It’s always been even difficult just talking about this show,” Moschitto told me in a coffee shop a couple of days after the play. “We’re making a show about climate change and refugees and the irreversible damage that we’re doing to the planet. And bring your kids.” She laughed. “I’m still working on the one-liner.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Will New York City sink into the sea? A play imagines its future. on Nov 19, 2018.

Categories: H. Green News

Climate action in a climate of job insecurity

Ecologist - 7 hours 41 min ago
Climate action in a climate of job insecurity Channel Comment brendan 19th November 2018 Teaser Media
Categories: H. Green News

Power, families and social workers

Ecologist - 7 hours 49 min ago
Power, families and social workers Channel Comment brendan 19th November 2018 Teaser Media
Categories: H. Green News

Extinction Rebellion: embracing direct action

Ecologist - 7 hours 52 min ago
Extinction Rebellion: embracing direct action Channel Comment brendan 19th November 2018 Teaser Media
Categories: H. Green News

Fracking boom, ecological bust

Ecologist - 7 hours 57 min ago
Fracking boom, ecological bust Channel News Louise Gill 19th November 2018 Teaser Media
Categories: H. Green News

Bolsonaro’s deforestation has begun

Ecologist - 8 hours 4 min ago
Bolsonaro’s deforestation has begun Channel News Jeanette Gill 19th November 2018 Teaser Media
Categories: H. Green News

Heavy rains and blocked drains: Nairobi’s recipe for floods

Climate Change News - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 11:00

The authorities have bulldozed 2,000 buildings in a bid to prevent flooding, but garbage-choked rivers still overflow each rainy season, putting citizens at risk

The post Heavy rains and blocked drains: Nairobi’s recipe for floods appeared first on Climate Home News.

Categories: H. Green News

The science of self-care: How climate researchers are coping with the U.N. report

Grist - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 05:00

The phrase “point of no return” may sound hyperbolic. But one month after the IPCC’s blockbuster report awakened the world to the urgency of climate change, the mood among top climate scientists has become increasingly restless.

I spoke with more than a dozen scientists about how their lives have changed since the release of the report in October. That report, assembled with input from thousands of scientists and signed off by representatives of every nation on Earth, reached a stark conclusion: We have to cut emissions in half by 2030 or risk a Mad Max-esque planet.

Their responses reflect the same internal tensions many of us have felt: relief that the true stakes of climate change are finally out there, grief and fear over our lack of action, impatience with leaders who continue to shirk their responsibilities, and excitement to get to work on a problem that affects us all.

Take Georgia Tech’s Kim Cobb, a climate scientist who studies corals near small island states. The IPCC report found that without a radical shift, those nations could disappear beneath the waves in our lifetimes. Cobb sees the findings putting into stark terms how much we need to step up: “Isn’t it so wonderful that science isn’t giving us a pass?”

Earlier this year, she pledged to sharply reduce her air travel. Cobb bikes to work in all kinds of weather, and recently trekked to Atlanta City Hall to advocate for bike and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. Before the midterm elections, she spent a weekend campaigning for environmentally friendly politicians. Cobb is a testament to what she calls an “all-of-the-above” approach to bring about radical change.

Climate scientists like Cobb live in a world that’s still caught between where we are and where we need to be. Watching how they’re responding to the IPCC report is a good barometer for how thinking, feeling people with full knowledge of our society’s existential problem are coping with being alive at a moment when we’ve got 12 years to remake everything.

Ryan Jacobson

The scientists I talked to are doing more biking, meditating, wine drinking, and worrying about their children’s futures. They’ve tuned out the news, they’ve tweeted, and they’ve campaigned. They’ve purchased electric cars and talked from the heart about the stakes our civilization finds itself in. In short, they’re handling this new reality a lot like the rest of us.

Here are some of the (lightly edited and condensed) email responses I got:

Diana Liverman, University of Arizona (and a co-author of the IPCC report)

I’m still in full IPCC outreach mode, giving talks locally and in Europe as well. Things won’t wind down until Thanksgiving. I am refining my message and getting better at talking about the report and making its findings relevant for where I live.

Teaching my large undergrad class (160 students) is helpful at keeping things positive as they seem engaged and interested. I feel the need to give them hope.

Kate Marvel, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

I don’t think we should give in to despair. There’s no scientific support for the notion that we’re inevitably doomed and should just give up. There’s a lot of bad news, but look at the good news, too: new congresspeople who take climate change seriously, a very engaged and well-informed youth, new ways to talk about climate that link it to other issues people care deeply about.

I’m not saying this to minimize the terrifying reality. I miss California like I miss a person, and it’s devastating to see my beloved home burning.

Andrea Dutton, University of Florida

It is easier to ignore the problem than to take on the emotional burden of accepting something that seems quite scary at times.

The fundamental message has remained the same. The reason why it sounded so much more urgent this time is three-fold: (1) We are now several years further along, and each year makes a significant difference in calculating how much we would need to decrease our emissions to reach any target; (2) the 1.5 C target is lower than 2 C, so obviously trying to reach it means even more rapid and deep cuts to our emissions; and (3) the backwards progress on policies to address this in the U.S. makes the outlook even worse now.

So, what has changed for me? If anything I am working even more frantically than before. I devote even more time to public engagement on this issue.

I hope that we (meaning both scientists and journalists) can encourage others not to get stuck in despair, but to use their concern over climate change as fuel to take us to the next step on this journey to adapt, mitigate, and create a more sustainable and resilient society.

Kerry Emanuel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

When things started going downhill a few years ago, I started planning for a temporary escape from the U.S. and am now happily in Paris for the fall. One cannot, of course, escape from all the bad news so easily, and it is hard to develop a positive outlook when almost nothing is actually happening to combat all the problems we face, including especially climate change.

Devaraju Narayanappa, Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin (France)

I certainly think the report is shouting out loud across the Earth; more and more people are getting alerted. I hope the transformations, discussed in the IPCC report, might at least start to happen in some part of the world. Personally I’m trying my best to be eco-friendly and balancing the time for research, exercise, and for the family and friends.

Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, University of New South Wales (Australia)

The stakes are very different for me. I’m expecting my second daughter in three short months and the latest report is sobering about the future my children will have. I find myself constantly thinking about what the planet will look like in 50 or 100 years’ time when we haven’t curbed our emissions, at least enough to limit global warming to 1.5-2 C. And I don’t like what I see. However, I cannot (and will not) give up hope that changes will be made, at least in my lifetime, and if not that of my children. I’d be drinking (more) wine too if I could, but that’s not advised at 28 weeks pregnant ;)

Jeremy Shakun, Boston College

Everything climate is a long-term story, so I tend/try not to get too worked up/down by any particular moment. I increasingly think the public isn’t going to push for much action, at least on the scale needed, until they see a bunch more climate disruption/impacts. It’s just too theoretical otherwise and can’t compete with other issues.

I haven’t had much hope for 1.5 or 2 C for a while. I tend to think of this in 3 vs 6 C terms. So, bad news in some ways is good news, as it perhaps helps move public perception forward and increase chances of less than 3 C. I’ve been struck by how many people in my everyday life have been commenting this year on how bizarre the weather is. They don’t necessarily connect it to climate change yet, but I think it’s an important step.

Adam Sobel, Columbia University

At this point, I am most terrified by the failure of the United States’ system of democratic government. Of course that is not an entirely separate issue from global warming and the various other environmental catastrophes.

Since the 2016 election, I have had to limit my intake of news to a lower level than before.

Deke Arndt, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information

I’m trying to talk with as many people as I can about climate. The solutions lay in the people who haven’t yet acted.

Abigail Swann, University of Washington

The Brazilian election has left a much more unexpected pit in my stomach because it wasn’t really on my radar until this fall. I’d also add to your list of difficult-to-stomach news the ongoing revelations about various academic and STEM #MeToo incidents, and some extremely disappointing responses to them.

The everyday of being a professor is hard, but also involves a lot of busy tasks with deadlines this time of year, so some of my coping is just to keep making sure that I don’t let other people down. I also have a toddler. The mundane sometimes feels like a respite, but with both students and family, it also feels really important, and therefore restorative (at least most of the time when dinner doesn’t get thrown all over the room).

Maskot / Getty Images Valerie Trouet, University of Arizona

I admit that in the context of what we know, at times I find it hard to keep motivated to do my job. I focus more and more on aspects that seem more achievable and that I feel have a bigger chance of getting solved, such as diversity and equality in STEM fields and in academia.

I make more time to meditate, and make sure that I exercise and spend time with the people that I love. I also find that trying to find ways to further reduce my footprint, even in little ways, helps to give me a feeling of being in control.

Sara Vicca, University of Antwerp (Belgium)

Moments like these, when we are strongly reminded that a turbulent future may be ahead of us, do upset me and make me angry. When I put my kids in bed at night, I often catch myself thinking: “Oh dear, what will their life be like when they are adults?” (They are 6 and 9 now.)

On the other hand, news like this also stimulates me to contribute (more) to the solutions where I can. I think it’s really important not to lose hope and to keep on doing all we can to move to a sustainable future in a still friendly climate.

Mark Eakin, NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch

The years 2014-2017 have all been among the warmest years on record, and along with the high temperatures came the longest, most widespread global coral bleaching event on record. At NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch, we’re right at the center of these events and received frequent reports from scientists and resource managers all over the world who reported coral bleaching as it was happening. There were many days I’d just walk away from the computer and look out the window when an especially devastating report of reef damage came in. I think it led to more self-medication as the bad news would literally drive me to drink (fortunately, not too much).

Terry Hughes, James Cook University (Australia)

The IPCC report singled out coral reefs as a vulnerable ecosystem. My worst fear is the growing likelihood of another extreme summer in Australia early next year that could damage the Reef again. Yet, Australian governments still promote the expansion of coal and gas. My personal response – publish our data as quickly as we can, to inform the voting public.

Eric Rignot, University of California-Irvine

Sea-level rise and flooding is one thing, people get wet, immigrate, and create huge problems. Loss of biodiversity means the human species as a whole is threatened to disappear. No joke. This is not discussed enough in the media. My uttermost concern goes to biodiversity more than ice sheets.

Now a lot of countries are pointing the finger at the U.S. but we are doing more in California than in any other country that signed the Paris agreement. I see an increasing concern from the public to do the right thing, so I am more hopeful now than 10 years ago when only visionary people cared and the rest did not.

skynesher / Getty Images Richard Alley, Pennsylvania State University

Next week, if the rains hold off, I should hit 2,500 miles for the year on my bicycle. A lot of those miles have been down the Spring Creek Canyon, watching the eagles and osprey and mink as the seasons turn, enjoying the beauty that still surrounds us.

In my public presentations, I now generally start with cellphones. Many of our fellow citizens do accuse scientists of not knowing what we’re doing. But, they do so by using cellphones, which are just a little sand, a little oil, and the right rocks, plus science and engineering, design and marketing. The cellphones rely on relativity and quantum mechanics. I think most of our fellow citizens really do know that they couldn’t build a cellphone from the sand, oil, and rocks, and that scientists really do have useful insights, including discovering medicines and medical procedures and devices that save lives and ease suffering. And that knowledge really does mean that there are ways back to using our knowledge more broadly to help us.

If we use our knowledge on energy and environment more efficiently, we will get a larger economy with more jobs, improved health, and greater national security in a cleaner environment more consistent with the Golden Rule.

Not a bad goal, is it?

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline The science of self-care: How climate researchers are coping with the U.N. report on Nov 18, 2018.

Categories: H. Green News

Closing nuclear plants risks rise in greenhouse gas emissions, report warns

Grist - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 05:00

This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Looming climate breakdown is opening fresh divisions among environmentalists over nuclear energy, with a major advocacy group calling for struggling nuclear plants to be propped up to avoid losing their low-carbon power.

Nuclear is the single largest source of low-carbon electricity in the U.S. But a third of nuclear plants are unprofitable or scheduled to close, risking a rise in greenhouse gas emissions if they are replaced by coal or natural gas, a major Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report has found.

U.S. emissions could increase by as much as 6 percent if struggling plants are shuttered early, the report warns. This scenario has put pressure on many environmental groups to reevaluate their intrinsic opposition to nuclear energy as a dangerous blight that must be eradicated.

“We are running out of time to make the emissions reductions needed to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis,” said Steve Clemmer, director of energy research for the UCS climate and energy program. “Losing a low-carbon source of electricity like nuclear power is going to make decarbonization even harder than it already is. Nuclear has risks, it’s not a perfect technology, but there have to be trade-offs.”

The U.S., like the rest of the world, faces a steep challenge to avoid the worst ravages of heatwaves, drought, extreme weather, and flooding. The IPCC report states emissions must reach net zero by 2050 to avoid the most punishing climate change impacts, whereas the Trump administration is currently dismantling every major policy aimed at lowering emissions in the U.S.

The U.S. has an aging fleet of nearly 100 reactors at 60 nuclear plants, with many nearing the ends of their expected lifetimes. Five plants have shut down since 2013, with a further five set to shutter over the next eight years.

In total, a third of U.S. nuclear power plants are set to close down or are unprofitable largely due to a major shift to cheaper natural gas. As nuclear provides more than half of the United States’ low-carbon energy, this situation “raises serious concerns about our ability to achieve the deep cuts in carbon emissions needed to limit the worst impacts of climate change,” the UCS report states.

Replacements for nuclear will vary across the country. The huge Diablo Canyon plant in California, for example, will probably spawn a surge in renewable energy when it shuts in 2025. But in other states, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, weak clean energy policies and the abundance of natural gas mean the closure of nuclear plants will probably raise emissions.

“Renewables can fill a lot of the gap but it’s a timing issue,” Clemmer said. “Over a long timeframe, we can ramp up renewables and phase out coal, gas, and nuclear generation, but we don’t have that time. We have to cut half of all emissions by 2030, according to the IPCC. We can’t physically ramp up renewables fast enough.”

Anti-nuclear campaigning has been a foundational shibboleth for groups such as Greenpeace, which has pointed to disasters such as Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011 as evidence that the sector should be shut down.

While the UCS have never been militant opponents of nuclear power, Clemmer said “we are getting a bit more vocal” about the benefits of keeping plants open as the scale of the climate crisis has become clearer.

Many opponents remain implacable, however.

“Nuclear reactors are a bad bet for a climate strategy,” said Gregory Jaczko, who was chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission during the Obama administration. “The Union of Concerned Scientist models don’t reflect the reality of the United States electricity market. Renewables are getting cheaper faster than expected and are in some cases the least expensive source of electricity.”

Jaczko said new nuclear is a “financial boondoggle,” with investments better placed in solar or wind. “Employing nuclear for climate change is like Dorothy seeking the Wizard of Oz to get home,” he added. “It’s an expensive enticing mirage.”

Clemmer said he agreed that new nuclear plants are enormously expensive, but said there was a case for the U.S. government to invest around $814 million a year to keep existing unprofitable plants online, given the cleaner energy they provide. “Environmental groups may come round to this, but I’m just not sure,” he said.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Closing nuclear plants risks rise in greenhouse gas emissions, report warns on Nov 18, 2018.

Categories: H. Green News

Drain the Swamp: As one Trump deregulator is indicted, another is nominated to one step below the Supreme Court

Red, Green, and Blue - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 11:15

On Tuesday, an Alabama grand jury indicted Trey Glenn, the man Trump chose to lead the Southeast region’s EPA office, on charges of violating state ethics laws concerning public officials taking gifts from lobbyists.   By Climate Denier Roundup Glenn is charged with breaking Alabama’s Ethics Act on multiple counts, stemming from his time as a lobbyist […]

The post Drain the Swamp: As one Trump deregulator is indicted, another is nominated to one step below the Supreme Court appeared first on Red, Green, and Blue.

Categories: H. Green News

California’s wildfire destruction – an aerial view (video)

Red, Green, and Blue - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 09:15

On my last flight to San Jose, California, on Thursday the 15th from Los Angeles, a 45-minute flight, I finally understood the extent of the current California fires. A bird eye’s view stretching from LA to San Francisco reveals what no TV or news can convey, the desolation of the land and the lingering pollution.   […]

The post California’s wildfire destruction – an aerial view (video) appeared first on Red, Green, and Blue.

Categories: H. Green News

Tackling Climate Change Requires Healing the Divide

EcoWatch - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 06:00

Canadian climate change opinion is polarized, and research shows the divide is widening. The greatest predictor of people's outlook is political affiliation. This means people's climate change perceptions are being increasingly driven by divisive political agendas rather than science and concern for our collective welfare.

Over the past year, the Alberta Narratives Project gathered input from a broad range of Albertans (teachers, faith groups, health professionals, farmers, artists, industry, environmentalists, etc.) to better understand how they feel about public discourse on global warming. Participants said they want less blame and a more open, balanced and respectful conversation. Many don't see themselves in the conversation at all. No one is speaking to them, using language that reflects their values and identity.

Albertans are deeply divided in their climate change perceptions. In 2017, just over half the population was doubtful or dismissive. When an issue is highly polarized, people find it difficult to discuss. The Alberta Narratives Project found people rarely, if ever, speak to others about climate change.

Climate disruption is a collective threat, not just an environmental issue. We must all see ourselves as part of the effort to prevent extreme impacts and ensure sustainable, resilient communities. But how can we take shared action when we can't even talk to each other about the problem?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's most recent report calls for action to limit warming to 1.5 C to reduce the risk of increasing extreme weather events, prevent catastrophic species loss, decrease numbers of climate refugees and protect human health and resilience.

It's an urgent warning. After examining more than 6,000 scientific studies, the IPCC was clear: We must cut harmful carbon emissions by at least 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reduce them to net zero by 2050 by cutting emissions and removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

Rising populist politics are weaponizing climate action as a wedge issue for political advantage—with tragic implications.

How can we reverse this?

Cities are responsible for 70 percent of global emissions. According to C40 Cities research, they can lead the way by acting across four key areas: energy supply, buildings, mobility and waste.

Recently, Regina's council unanimously passed a motion to run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, a meaningful target in line with the international Paris Agreement and the most recent IPCC report. Victoria has adopted the same target.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps wrote that "to solve the climate challenge, we have to weave a strong social fabric, to build on the gifts, assets and talents of our friends, neighbors and colleagues. It means we have to shift our thinking from me to we, from now to the long term."

In March, Edmonton partnered with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy for the Change for Climate Global Mayors Summit. They developed the Edmonton Declaration, asking signatories to recognize the urgent need for action that will limit global warming to 1.5 C.

The city's video says, "Let's come together and lead the charge against climate change. Let's show the world how much we love our city and our planet. Let's change our neighbors' minds. Change our habits. Change the world. Each of us needs to do whatever we can. Whatever we do, we have to do it now. Because if we don't change anything, climate will change everything."

Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples is also crucial.

Dene elder François Paulette said, "First Nations are in a unique position to be leaders in climate change initiatives because of our knowledge of the sacred teachings of the land. We must not be situated as passive recipients of climate change impacts. We must be agents of change in climate action."

To tackle climate change, we must heal the divide and act—as individuals, families, neighbors, communities and societies.

Wherever you see yourself on the political spectrum, whether you identify as rural or urban, youth or elder, the time for foot-dragging is over. Each of us must join together with others to address climate change, and demand meaningful action from political representatives. All parties must commit. We must call out those who stall or prevent solutions to serve their own self-interest and political agendas.

We can't afford to wait.

Categories: H. Green News

10 Chefs Bringing Forgotten Grains Back to Life

EcoWatch - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 05:00

Millets are a staple crop for tens of millions of people throughout Asia and Africa. Known as Smart Food, millets are gluten-free, and an excellent source of protein, calcium, iron, zinc and dietary fiber. They can also be a better choice for farmers and the planet, requiring 30 percent less water than maize, 70 percent less water than rice, and can be grown with fewer expensive inputs, demanding little or no fertilizers and pesticides.

Despite these benefits, millets have fallen out of favor in recent decades, often being perceived as a low-value crop for the poor. Research and development money has mostly been dedicated to rice, maize and wheat, and consequently, those crops became symbols of socio-economic improvement. Markets and supply chains developed to support them, consumers sought to eat them, and farmers were encouraged to grow them.

This perception is beginning to shift, however. In India, the federal government has declared 2018 as the National Year of Millets. Leading the way in shifting public perception are innovative chefs who recognize the nutritional and environmental benefits of millets, and are incorporating them into their menus to champion local agricultural diversity, experiment with new ingredients, and celebrate culinary traditions.

Food Tank is highlighting 10 chefs who are drawing from these traditional grains to inspire culinary innovations, transforming "old-fashioned" millets into foods for the future.

1. Sri Ram, Ahaar Kuteer

Ahaar Kuteer is an all-millet restaurant in Begumpet, Hyderabad. After 10 years in the IT industry, Sri Ram made a dramatic career change, founding the city's first eatery to focus primarily on millets, and is passionate about inspiring healthy diets by promoting millets as a better grain choice. Ahaar Kuteer is now a popular spot with vegans and health-conscious eaters, serving up millet-centric breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

2. Sabyasachi Gorai, Lavaash by Chef Saby

For chef and culinary entrepreneur Sabyasachi Gorai, the resurgence of millets will be more than just another trend. Gorai believes that their nutritional advantages and role in preserving India's agricultural biodiversity will cement millets in the culinary mainstream as flavorful and versatile ingredients. Signature Chef Saby dishes, like black olive millet risotto and millet cranberry laddoo are popularizing millets as a healthy and delicious grain alternative.

3. Prateek Sadhu, Masque

Prateek Sadhu is head chef at Masque, a Mumbai farm-to-fork restaurant that has made waves in the city's culinary scene since opening in 2016. Chef Sadhu's talent and creativity in the kitchen is apparent as he utilizes a dizzying variety of unusual, but always in-season ingredients for Masque's menu, which changes every two weeks. He believes in promoting the variety and versatility of local crops like millets, showing how they are suitable for nearly any setting, from traditional home-cooking to experimental fine-dining.

4. Surendra Gandharva and Manoj Prajapat, Millets of Mewar

Surendra (Sunny) Gandharva and Manoj (Manu) Prajapat, are big fans of millets—the pair founded Millets of Mewar in 2011, in their hometown of Udaipur after years of cooking and promoting local, nutritious food. Millets of Mewar was a natural progression of this work, with millets being the centerpiece of a menu promoting healthy and environmentally conscious eating. The cafe also serves as a community hub, hosting artistic performances, book exchanges, and sustainability initiatives.

5. Pierre Thiam, Pierre Thiam Catering

Pierre Thiam is arguably Senegal's best-known chef. But more than just a chef, he has been sharing Senegalese culinary traditions with the world. Among his priorities has been to popularize fonio, a variety of millet with over 5,000 years of history in Senegalese cuisine. Thiam is currently working to bring high profile New York City chefs to Senegal, in an effort to popularize the country's food in the West, which he hopes will result in a revitalization of native cuisine in Senegal, and preserve the diversity of traditional crops like fonio and other millet varieties with strong roots in African cultures.

6. N.S. Krishnamoorthi, Prems Graama Bhojanam

N.S. Krishnamoorthi's restaurant Prems Graama Bhojanam (PGB) is based on a simple premise: traditional, rural dishes based around millets, brought to the city of Chennai. Krishnamoorthi has decades of cooking experience, traveling through much of India for work. During his travels, he fell for the village food he often enjoyed in homes and family-run hotels, coming from food cultures still steeped in tradition and local ingredients, including millets. He brought this approach to the big city. Millets are found in every dish on the menu at PGB, and Krishnamoorthi is happy his traditional approachis catching on with the next generation, with urban young adults forming the majority of his customer base.

7. Jonathan Bethony, SEYLOU Bakery Mill

Millets won over baker Jonathan Bethony during a tour of an organic grain farm, just outside his hometown of Washington D.C. Bethony had come to the farm looking to source wheat for his D.C. based bakery and mill, SEYLOU, but he left with another idea in mind. Inspired by how farmer Heinz Thomet managed his land by minimizing inputs, rotating crops, and growing a variety of cereal grains, he sought to support farmers like Thomet by incorporating other local grains into his baking. He immediately challenged his pastry chef to bake with only millets for a week. They were both impressed with the results, and creations including a millet canelé and a millet chocolate chip cookie have made it permanently onto their menu. Following his millet revelation, Bethony traveled to Africa to learn more about the Millet Business Services Project, an initiative working to improve the value chain of millets in Senegal.

8. Manu Chandra, Toast and Tonic

When renowned chef Manu Chandra opened his 13th restaurant in Mumbai in 2017, he emphasized sustainability and utilizing local, seasonal ingredients as focal points of the new venture. Millets feature front and center in Chandra's food philosophy. He is a major proponent of the grains in India, citing their nutritional and environmental benefits, along with their versatility as an ingredient. Chandra has utilized millets in desserts, pancakes, salads, croquettes, and even featured a millet risotto bar at a large catering event.

9. Thomas Zacharias, The Bombay Canteen

The Bombay Canteen, located in Mumbai, has been listed as one of the world's 50 best restaurants, known for its high-quality menu emphasizing local ingredients. Executive chef Thomas Zacharias showcases regional Indian cuisine through the use of a variety of millets. Jowar, kodo, foxtail, and proso millets all make appearances on his ever-evolving menu. Zacharias sees the variety and versatility of millets as an enormous source of inspiration and culinary innovation. Given their nutritional benefits and cultural significance in Indian cuisine, he is hopeful that many more chefs will follow suit.

10. Ramasamy Selvaraju, Vivanta by Taj

Chef Ramasamy Selvaraju is turning the preconception of millets as a food for the rural poor on its head at the upscale Vivanta, in Bangalore. Six months after introducing the grains onto his menu, customers were asking for even more millet-based options. Selvaraju sees this as an indication of the shifting perceptions of the urban middle class, who are beginning to seek out millets for their nutritional advantages. The breakfast buffet at Vivanta features a sorghum millet congee, proso millet banana loaf, and kodo millet muffins, among many other millet-based options. Selvaraju has even begun conducting workshops on cooking with the traditional grains.

Categories: H. Green News

Protecting public lands was a winning platform in elections out West

Grist - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 05:00

This story was originally published by HuffPost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Democrats notched wins in a number of key midterm races out West after running on platforms of protecting public lands and maintaining them under federal control — victories that conservation groups are celebrating as a repudiation of the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda.

The administration’s “deeply unpopular” rollbacks of protected national monuments and its sweeping proposal to open up nearly all U.S. waters to offshore oil and gas development “fueled pro-conservation wins” in states like Nevada, New Mexico, and even South Carolina, Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said in a statement.

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“We are seeing an unmistakable pattern of pro-conservation election outcomes in states and districts that are bearing the brunt of the Trump Administration’s attacks on parks, wildlife, and oceans,” he said.

Public lands were front and center in the contentious Montana Senate race between incumbent Jon Tester, a Democrat, and state auditor Matt Rosendale, a Republican. Though President Donald Trump traveled to Montana four times to campaign for Rosendale, Tester — a frequent critic of the president — defeated the self-proclaimed “Trump conservative.” And he did it in a state that Trump carried by 20 percentage points in the 2016 election.

In campaign advertisements featuring sportsmen and women with shotguns and fly-fishing rods, Tester’s team touted his record of voting to protect public lands, and pegged Rosendale as an East Coast developer who threatened the state’s wild spaces and way of life.

Rosendale, on the other hand, supported transferring federal lands to states during his 2014 bid for the U.S. House of Representatives. That year he told The Billings Gazette that “public lands were never intended to remain in control of the feds.” It’s clear Rosendale recognized that was not a winning stance in Big Sky Country, and promptly reversed course during the campaign to say the exact opposite.

Tracy Stone-Manning, the associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation and former chief of staff of Montana Governor Steve Bullock, said Tester won in part because “voters didn’t buy Rosendale’s late and politically convenient conversion.”

While Tester has an 86 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters, the nonprofit advocacy group named Rosendale to its 2018 Senate “Dirty Dozen” list of candidates it calls anti-environment. And LCV spent just shy of $1 million on an ad campaign highlighting Rosendale’s support for rolling back federal land protections and his ties to fossil fuel billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks.

In New Mexico, Democratic incumbent Senator Martin Heinrich, a fierce critic of Trump’s national monument rollbacks who championed the creation of monuments and wilderness areas in the state, walloped Republican opponent Mick Rich, a commercial contractor who described Heinrich as the “foremost proponent of turning New Mexico into an environmentalists’ Disneyland.” In Nevada, Republican Senator Dean Heller, who called the Obama administration’s 2016 designation of Gold Butte National Monument an “extreme overreach” and urged the Trump administration to modify the boundary, lost his re-election bid to Democratic Representative Jacky Rosen. Rosen, who has a 97 percent lifetime score from LCV, campaigned on protecting public lands, including Gold Butte and Basin and Range national monuments, and pushing forward on renewable energy.

Strong support for public lands and environmental protection also appears to have helped boost several candidates in U.S. House races. In Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, incumbent Representative Tom O’Halleran, a Democrat, defeated Republican Wendy Rogers, who praised Trump’s decision to open offshore waters and the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. In Nevada, Democrat Steven Horsford defeated Republican Cresent Hardy, and Democrat Susie Lee beat Republican Danny Tarkanian in the state’s 4th and 3rd Congressional Districts. Both Hardy and Tarkanian support transferring control of federal lands to the state. And in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, Democrat Joe Cunningham, an ocean engineer, upset Republican Katie Arrington by standing firmly against Trump’s offshore drilling plans.

Conservation groups, including CAP and Colorado-based Center for Western Priorities, also celebrated wins in a number of state races. Those included the victory by Colorado’s Jared Polis, the first openly gay man elected governor in the U.S., who during the campaign connected his opponent, Republican Walker Stapleton, to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the administration’s efforts to roll back public lands protections.

“Voters across the West voted with their values and their wallets when they elected representatives that support public lands, access to them and the wise management of them,” Stone-Manning said.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Protecting public lands was a winning platform in elections out West on Nov 17, 2018.

Categories: H. Green News

The Essential Guide to Eco-Friendly Travel

EcoWatch - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 13:24

By Meredith Rosenberg

Between gas-guzzling flights, high-pollution cruise ships and energy-consuming hotels, travel takes a huge toll on the environment. Whether for business or vacation, for many people it's not realistic to simply stop traveling. So what's the solution? There are actually numerous ways to become more eco-conscious while traveling, which can be implemented with these expert tips.


Buy Carbon Credits

We Are Neutral is a Florida-based non-profit that works with organizations to reduce their carbon footprint. Geared toward businesses, the site offers a helpful carbon footprint calculator for flights, cars and even hotels. Just enter a few basic details, and the handy tool estimates the amount of carbon your trip produces. It even suggests how much you should donate to offset that amount, and allows you to donate directly to We Are Neutral, which uses the funds to plant trees.

Fly Environmentally-Friendly Airlines

Kelley Louise, the executive director of Impact Travel Alliance, says that JetBlue has started using a sustainable jet fuel blend, while the International Council on Clean Transportation has named Norwegian Air the most fuel-efficient transatlantic airline. Meanwhile, the Atmosfair Airline Index 2017 is a helpful tool for discovering the most fuel-efficient airlines, plus it offers a carbon footprint calculator and the ability to donate through its site. Also useful, the International Air Transport Association counts more than 30 airlines with carbon offset programs, like Delta, United and Emirates.

Book Non-Stop Flights

Bret Love and Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel recommend flying non-stop: "It's the takeoffs and landings that create most of an airplane's carbon emissions."

Consider Trains Over Planes

Steve Long, co-founder of The Travel Brief, advises using trains whenever possible. "From London to Paris, trains emit almost 90 percent less carbon than a flight," he says, based on using a carbon calculator from EcoPassenger. Long adds, "Excellent railway infrastructure makes trains a viable alternative to flights, including most of Europe and East Asia, and some countries in Southeast Asia." And rail lines like Eurostar have a dedicated eco-friendly program to reduce carbon emissions, plastic and more.

Use Public Transportation

Long says that many major cities around the world offer easy downtown train access. "The historic city centers in Europe and Asia tend to be compact and pedestrian friendly (unlike North American cities), and their metro systems are extremely developed, making it very easy to get to anywhere in the cities quickly."


Stay in Eco-Friendly Hotels

Green Global Travel suggests checking if U.S. hotels hold a LEED Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. "The program judges hotels on sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, material selection, indoor environmental quality and innovation in design." For international hotels, Green Global Travel adds, "Look for seals of approval from other certification programs, such as EarthCheck (Australia), Green Globe, Rainforest Alliance (Latin America, Caribbean) and Green Tourism (UK). Some countries, including Costa Rica, have their own certification programs to rate sustainability initiatives."

If your heart is set on a hotel that doesn't hold one of those designations, consider booking it through B'n'Tree. The site will plant a tree whenever you book a stay via one of their partners, including popular hotel booking sites like TripAdvisor, and

Opt Out of Housekeeping

Steve Long of The Travel Brief notes that many Marriott brands (Westin, Sheraton) are among the hotels offering incentives to guests who decline housekeeping services. For example, Marriott will credit accounts up to 500 bonus points a day. "Skipping housekeeping services means less energy used, less water used, and less waste generated," says Long. "Even if a hotel doesn't offer incentives, you can always request to skip housekeeping."


Eat Locally

Kelley Louise of Impact Travel Alliance cautions against dining at familiar restaurants while abroad. "Often these global chains import food from far away, which translates to more carbon emissions," she says. "Instead, seek out local businesses that use native ingredients. Even better, choose places that grow their own produce or head to a local farmers market."

Try Going Vegan
Menghan Wang, co-founder of, notes that a recent study found that the meat and dairy industry is predicted to contribute more greenhouse gas than the fossil fuel industry unless changes are made. Reducing meat consumption helps. Wang acknowledges that going vegan isn't an easy change, but traveling is a great time to experiment. And, she believes, "It gives you less risk of getting sick."


Join an Environmentally-Responsible Tour Group

Not all organized tour groups identify themselves as eco-friendly, so Green Global Travel says to consider the following when choosing: "Find out how the tour operator gives back to the local community. Do they lease the land from locals? Do they hire local guides? Do they take a leading role in preserving the area's natural resources? Community-based tourism is the most sustainable." They add, "And don't take any tour that promises hands-on encounters with wild animals, such as riding elephants or walking with lions. If you do, you're supporting an industry that illegally captures, transports and abuses millions of animals each year."

That said, small tour groups tend to be more eco-conscious than large ones, and those affiliated with an environmental group like the Rainforest Alliance are good places to start.

Reconsider Taking a Cruise

In 2017, German environmental group NABU released a study determining that the average cruise ship released the fuel emission equivalent to a million cars—a day. But lines like Hurtigruten have taken steps to reduce emissions with hybrid ships. Hurtigruten has also eliminated single-use plastic, recycles its waste and uses local food suppliers, detailed here.


Support Local Businesses

Like food, imported souvenirs geared toward tourists carry a higher carbon footprint than locally made items. Plus, says Green Global Travel, "When you buy directly from an artist, you're not only helping them feed their family, but in many cases you're helping to preserve their culture."

Seek Practical Gifts

Especially when buying souvenirs for others, it makes more sense to return home with items that can be consumed, worn or otherwise used in daily life, as opposed to items that are likely to wind up in the back of someone's closet or in the trash.

Of course, don't feel bad if you return home empty-handed. Simply sharing your vacation photos and stories can prove more meaningful than a quick gift grabbed at the airport. Plus, putting the planet first is a valid reason.

Categories: H. Green News

Firenado? Bambi Bucket? A guide to wildfire vocabulary

Grist - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 13:22

Amid a hellscape of glowing coals, a fiery column recently took flight in Northern California, spinning against a red sky. The name for it? Firenado.

“I had never heard of a fire tornado until today and I really kind of hope I never see a firenado again in my life,” music video producer Robby Starbuck said in a tweet that went viral.

Yes, a firenado is a real thing. Same with Pyrocumulus, Wildland-Urban Interface, and Bambi Buckets. This month’s rash of fires brought the wildfire jargon to the masses, and the masses (myself included) were pretty confused. I wondered what other fire words and concepts people were encountering for the first time as they read about the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history.

What does it mean, for instance, when a wildfire is 45 percent “contained”? What the heck are the “Santa Ana winds,” other than a frequent crossword answer? And is there a difference between a “firenado” and a “fire whirl”?

To understand these bewildering terms, I turned to Andrea Thode, a fire ecologist at Northern Arizona University. She acknowledged that these new words could be daunting for outsiders. “Terminology in the fire world is … there is a lot,” she told me. To illustrate, she asked if I’d seen the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s 183-page glossary of wildfire terminology — yes, that’s 183 pages, not 183 words.

With climate change making wildfires worse, you’re sure to be hearing these pyro-specific words for the rest of your life. You might as well learn them now.

Bambi Bucket

No, it’s not an oversized pail to rescue lost fawns. A Bambi Bucket is a collapsible bucket that hangs from a helicopter to collect water and dump it on wildfires. What’s with the name? The inventor, Don Arney, made it up as a joke name for the bucket he planned to planned to call SEI-Flex after his company, SEI Industries. Then a friend pressured him into making it the real name. End of story.

A helicopter pours water on fires. aapsky / Getty Images


The Camp Fire was 45 percent “contained” as of Friday, according to Cal Fire. That doesn’t mean 45 percent of the fire has been extinguished. It means that firefighters have surrounded 45 percent of the perimeter around the fire with “containment lines” — rivers, trenches, and other physical barriers that prevent fire from creeping past. The percentage is a judgment call on the part of the fire teams, Thode says. Generally, they underreport the figure until the very end, because it would be embarrassing to call it contained and then have the fire run wild again.

Defensible space

If you live in a fire-prone area, it’s a good idea to take precautions to protect yourself. You want the area around your house, called “defensible space,” to be free of dead plants, wood piles, and anything that could turn into tinder so that wildfires bearing down on your belongings don’t get any help.

Jan van Rooyen


A fire tornado — a spinning column of whirling, red-hot air — is nothing new. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the term to 1871, shortly after the Great Chicago Fire. It’s also known as a “fire whirl,” though some experts maintain there’s a difference between the two, reserving “firenado” for a vortex so big and strong that it’s comparable to a typical, fire-free tornado. During the Carr Fire in California this summer, one of these twisters packed 143-mph winds — the equivalent of an EF-3 rating on the tornado-damage scale. Thode, for one, doesn’t make a distinction: “I wouldn’t say a fire tornado is different from a fire whirl.”


Will it burn? If the answer is yes, it’s fuel. Anything flammable counts. So not just gasoline and trees, but also houses, hand towels, and non-dairy creamer.


An inversion is an atmospheric imbalance that occurs when a belt of warm air sits over cold air. That’s the reverse of normal, stable conditions, in which it gets colder as you go up in elevation. Like a lid on a pan, an inversion can trap smoke. “It can make it really smoky for people underneath the inversion, because the smoke can’t punch out and get away,” Thode says.

Rising smoke is stopped by an overlying layer of warmer air due to a temperature inversion. S / V Moonrise

Prescribed fires

It’s a common forest-management practice to set fires on purpose — in a careful, planned way, of course. Indigenous groups did this for thousands of years. But until recently (like 1995), the U.S. actively suppressed any and all wildfires, leading to a buildup of fuel in our forests. Prescribed burns take out overgrown brush, encourage the growth of native plants, and reduce the risk of catastrophic fires.


Evil-looking mushroom clouds sometimes form over a really hot wildfire. The name says it all. Cumulus clouds are those puffy, cotton-like clouds that people lying in the grass like to imagine are animals floating in the sky. Add fire (pyro) and you get the sinister name. As flames burn the moisture out of vegetation, they release water vapor and hot air that rise up and form a cumulus cloud. On rare occasions, rain falls from these clouds, snuffing out the flames below. Also known by the name “flammagenitus,” pyrocumulous clouds sometimes form over volcanic eruptions too.

A pyrocumulus cloud forms above a wildfire. Skyhobo / Getty Images

Red flag warning

Growing up near the Great Lakes, I thought red flags warned of dangerous currents in the water. But no. It’s fire lingo for when warm temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds lead to a high risk of fire.

Santa Ana winds

Speaking of strong winds … the infamous Santa Ana winds fanned the flames of the Camp Fire. These hot, dry winds roll from the Great Basin into Southern California in the fall, gusting over already-dry terrain and getting warmer as they go. They’re part of a larger category of pressure-based winds called “foehn” winds, which flow from high-pressure areas in the mountains down into low-pressure areas. “Typically you would see these Santa Ana winds, but you wouldn’t see fuels this dry,” Thode says. “Climate is definitely playing a role in this.”

Wildland-urban interface

This is the zone where the natural environment meets the built environment. Wherever you have homes, corrals, and powerlines butting up against undeveloped forests or grasslands, it could mean trouble for nearby towns and cities. That’s because fire can easily spread from vegetation to grandma’s house.

One final fire-tangential term to keep in mind: the “new abnormal.” A few months ago, California Governor Jerry Brown called the increase in destructive fires ‘the new normal,’ but he recently tweaked the term.

“This is the new abnormal,” he said at a press conference on Sunday. “Unfortunately, the best science is telling us that dryness, warmth, drought, all those things, they’re going to intensify.”

Seven of the 10 biggest wildfires in California history have occurred in the last decade. If we want to escape a future filled with firenadoes and pyrocumlous clouds, we’ve gotta get our act together on climate change.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Firenado? Bambi Bucket? A guide to wildfire vocabulary on Nov 16, 2018.

Categories: H. Green News