L.A.’s coast was once a DDT dumping ground. No one could see it — until now

L.A.’s coast was once a DDT dumping ground. No one could see it — until now

SOURCE: LA Times DATE; October 25, 2020 SNIP: Not far from Santa Catalina Island, in an ocean shared by divers and fishermen, kelp forests and whales, David Valentine decoded unusual signals underwater that gave him chills. The UC Santa Barbara scientist was supposed to be studying methane seeps that day, but with a deep-sea robot on loan and a few hours to spare, now was the chance to confirm an environmental abuse that others in the past could not. He was chasing a hunch, and sure enough, initial sonar scans pinged back a pattern of dots that popped up on the map like a trail of breadcrumbs. The robot made its way 3,000 feet down to the bottom, beaming bright lights and a camera as it slowly skimmed the seafloor. At this depth and darkness, the uncharted topography felt as eerie as driving through a vast desert at night. And that’s when the barrels came into view. Barrels filled with toxic chemicals banned decades ago. Leaking. And littered across the ocean floor. “Holy crap. This is real,” Valentine said. “This stuff really is down there. “It has been sitting here this whole time, right off our shore.” Tales of this buried secret bubbling under the sea had haunted Valentine for years: a largely unknown chapter in the most infamous case of environmental destruction off the coast of Los Angeles — one lasting decades, costing tens of millions of dollars, frustrating generations of scientists. The fouling of the ocean was so reckless, some said, it seemed unimaginable. As many as half a million of these barrels could still be underwater...
4 months of tear gas in Portland raises concerns for environment

4 months of tear gas in Portland raises concerns for environment

SOURCE: OPB DATE: October 23, 2020 SNIP: Portland has entered a fifth straight month of street protests, often met with a barrage of police-deployed crowd-control munitions, making Portland the most tear-gassed city in America. This has environmental groups, public health and human rights advocates questioning the short- and long-term effects of tear gas — not just on those demonstrating for racial justice, but also on the environment. There is no shortage of information and research about what tear gas exposure does to the human body. The Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Environmental Quality share information on their website from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where the agency lists health effects from riot control agents or tear gas. But the answers become much murkier when it comes to what those chemical agents do to the environment. The lack of such information is at the heart of a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by environmental and civil rights groups. They’re seeking an end to the use of tear gas and other chemical munitions by the Department of Homeland Security, alleging it failed to assess the environmental impact and to take other steps required under the National Environmental Policy Act. On the west bank of the Willamette River near the ICE building, aquatic ecologist Juniper Simonis secured himself to a rope tied to a nearby tree and climbed down a steep bushy hill full of thorns. Simonis navigated sharp, slippery and steep rocks to get close enough to a culvert to collect water samples. “I know from my background, a lot of the chemicals that are included in...
Indonesia readies its green diesel. These are the likely social and environmental impacts

Indonesia readies its green diesel. These are the likely social and environmental impacts

SOURCE: Phys.org DATE: October 23, 2020 SNIP: In July, Indonesia’s state-owned oil company, Pertamina, produced its first batch of biofuel made entirely from palm oil. Called D100, this “green diesel” is part of Indonesia’s strategy to promote what is claimed to be environmentally friendly fuel. Indonesia began mandating a 30% mix of biofuel in gasoline in January 2020. The plan is to increase the amount of biofuel used in the country. The policy will increase demand for palm oil—the country’s number one agricultural export. The government has positioned the program as a way to lower fossil fuel imports and greenhouse gas emissions. But it will worsen deforestation, increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to a loss of biodiversity. It will also lead to more social conflicts. Research shows the palm oil industry is a major driver of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and loss of biodiversity. Palm oil plantations produce more oil per unit of land than alternative crops. A report by the European Union concluded palm oil is associated with higher levels of deforestation than other biofuels. In any event, the biodiesel policies aim to replace fossil fuels. Thus, the comparison should be with fossil fuels, not other kinds of vegetable oil. Studies have found palm oil-based biodiesel creates more carbon emissions than fossil fuels. Indonesia’s 94.1 million hectares of forests are particularly rich in both biodiversity and carbon content. Peatlands are also very rich in carbon. When land is converted to palm oil plantations, carbon is released into the air. In 2014, more than half of Indonesia’s carbon emissions came from forest and land-use changes. As production of...
Alarm as Arctic sea ice not yet freezing at latest date on record

Alarm as Arctic sea ice not yet freezing at latest date on record

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: October 22, 2020 SNIP: For the first time since records began, the main nursery of Arctic sea ice in Siberia has yet to start freezing in late October. The delayed annual freeze in the Laptev Sea has been caused by freakishly protracted warmth in northern Russia and the intrusion of Atlantic waters, say climate scientists who warn of possible knock-on effects across the polar region. Ocean temperatures in the area recently climbed to more than 5C above average, following a record breaking heatwave and the unusually early decline of last winter’s sea ice. The trapped heat takes a long time to dissipate into the atmosphere, even at this time of the year when the sun creeps above the horizon for little more than an hour or two each day. Graphs of sea-ice extent in the Laptev Sea, which usually show a healthy seasonal pulse, appear to have flat-lined. As a result, there is a record amount of open sea in the Arctic. “The lack of freeze-up so far this fall is unprecedented in the Siberian Arctic region,” said Zachary Labe, a postdoctoral researcher at Colorado State University. He says this is in line with the expected impact of human-driven climate change. This year’s Siberian heatwave was made at least 600 times more likely by industrial and agricultural emissions, according to an earlier study. The warmer air temperature is not the only factor slowing the formation of ice. Climate change is also pushing more balmy Atlantic currents into the Arctic and breaking up the usual stratification between warm deep waters and the cool surface. This also...
Indigenous People Confront 350 and Sierra Club

Indigenous People Confront 350 and Sierra Club

SOURCE: DGR News Service DATE: October 20, 2020 SNIP: On October 12th, 2020, Indigenous People’s Day, a group of indigenous people and allies gathered in Illahee (Portland, Oregon) to confront the Sierra Club and 350.org for their corporate ties and advocacy of false solutions as outlined in the film Planet of the Humans. These groups were informed that they had breached trust with the grassroots environmental movement and local indigenous people, and had betrayed their own stated goals. Sierra Club was informed that their promotion of “green investments” in massive multinational corporations via their “sustainable investing funds” represent a fundamental opposition to life on the planet. 350.org was informed that even their name and stated goal, 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide, is incompatible with life for the small island nations. As the Association of Small Island States write in their 2009 briefing as part of the Copenhagen climate conference, “350 ppm is a death sentence. . . . The safe level of CO2 for SIDS (Small Island Developing States) is around 260 parts per million. . . . CO2 buildup must be reversed, not allowed to increase or even be stabilized at 350 ppm, which would amount to a death sentence for coral reefs, small island developing states, and billions of people living along low lying coastlines.” Both of these groups have and continue to advocate for false solutions, including “green” technology, “green” investments, and other greenwashing schemes. Both groups failed to sign the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth created at the 2010 Cochabamba World People’s Conference on Climate Change, despite the opportunity to...
Big oil’s answer to melting Arctic: cooling the ground so it can keep drilling

Big oil’s answer to melting Arctic: cooling the ground so it can keep drilling

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: October 19, 2020 SNIP: The oil company ConocoPhillips had a problem. It wanted to pump 160,000 more barrels of oil each day from a new project on Alaska’s North Slope. But the fossil fuels it and others produce are leading to global heating, and the Arctic is melting. The firm’s drilling infrastructure could be at risk atop thawing and unstable permafrost. A recent environmental review of the project describes the company’s solution: cooling devices that will chill the ground beneath its structures, insulating them from the effects of the climate crisis. The oil development that is fueling climate change continues to expand in the far north, with companies moving into new areas even as they are paying for special measures to protect equipment from the dangers of thawing permafrost and increasing rainfall – both expected outcomes as Arctic temperatures rise three times as fast as those elsewhere. Countries from Norway to Russia are advancing new Arctic oil developments. But under Donald Trump’s administration, Alaska has emerged as a hotbed of Arctic oil extraction, with big projects moving forward and millions of acres proposed to be opened to leasing. The administration recently finalized its plan to open a piece of the Arctic national wildlife refuge to the oil industry. And drilling is expanding at an Indiana-sized region next door: the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, which, despite its name, also contains treasured subsistence areas for locals. The North Slope is already warming at disconcerting speed. Utqiagvik, the region’s hub town, is one of the fastest-warming communities in the nation, with its five record warmest winters all...