Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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Urban Heat Islands: Their Effects and Solutions

the heat island effect

Heat Island prevent heat from escaping cities.

“As urban areas grow a person’s health will be connected to the build up of heat and pollution in the city…..it will become essential to build green.”

By Linn Smith

April 20, 2017—–If you live in a city you probably have noticed how much cooler it is in the summertime when you take a drive in the country. Drive back toward the city, with its concrete buildings, and you feel the great intensiveness of a hot summer day. There’s a name for this city heat….the urban heat island effect.

What is a Heat Island?

An urban heat island describes a large area of buildings and concrete (cities) that has temperatures which are higher than the countryside surrounding them. According to http://www.epa.gov, “The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C).” With global warming the temperatures of the heat islands will continue to increase.

Urban heat profile

Urban areas hold heat.

What Causes the Build Up of Heat?

As you enter a city you may notice concrete and asphalt surrounding you—-buildings, parking lots, streets and side walks. The concrete and asphalt absorb the sun’s heat rather than reflecting it, causing surface temperatures to rise. The rise in temperature also causes a depletion of vegetation resulting in less shade and moisture in the air. The resulting heat requires an increase in energy consumption—air conditioning which results in greater electrical use. This  cycle  keeps revolving—a catch 22 in which there is no escape from the merry-go-round of negative conditions from heat build-up.

Smog and Heat Islands

Cities can also cause “hotspots” of pollution. This smog can trap heat over a city, holding in the gases from coal burning facilities and vehicle emissions, not allowing them to escape into the atmosphere (the greenhouse effect). In addition, the closely built structures resist air flow, keeping the air trapped in the city, unlike the countryside which cools off as the air flows more freely.

Health Effects of Heat Islands

Some of the more obvious effects of heat islands are discomfort, breathing problems, heat stroke and exhaustion. But they can also be related to cardiovascular disease, sleep deprivation, depression and many more!

urban heat island

Build Green

Minimizing the Heat Island Effect

New technologies for minimizing heat islands are rapidly being developed. Several techniques currently in use for developing green urban areas are:

*Cut down on heat absorbing materials, such as asphalt and cement, by using more reflective surfaces for paved areas.The pavement can be enhanced by using reflective aggregate, a reflective or clear binder or a reflective surface coating.
*Plant trees that shade streets and paved areas.
*Use white roof membranes instead of black.
*Create a green roof–rooftop gardens.
*Create rooftop decks made from wood.
*Increase shade around buildings.
*Use energy efficient appliances and equipment which cut down on electrical use.

As National Geographic summarized, “Urban heat islands can have worse air and water quality than their rural neighbors. They often have lower air quality because there are more pollutants (waste products from vehicles, industry, and people) being pumped into the air. These pollutants are blocked from scattering and becoming less toxic by the urban landscape: buildings, roads, sidewalks, and parking lots.”

As urban areas grow a person’s health will be connected to the build up of heat and pollution in the city…..it will become essential to build green. The planning stage for this is now!

Urban Heat Islands

building green

build green

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The Trump Administration and the Clean Power Plan

Clean Power Plan

What kind of planet will we leave our children?

“Repealing the Clean Power Plan will not bring back jobs in the coal mines!”

By Linn Smith

March 9, 2017—-Mike Pence, now Vice President of the U.S. under the Trump administration, has had a long history of denying climate change. In 2001, Pence wrote in an article titled, Global Warming Disaster, “global warming is a myth, the earth is actually cooler today than it was 50 years ago,” and in 2009 he stated it was not clear whether our changing climate was due to human activity, saying there was a growing skepticism in the scientific community about global warming.

Pence and the Clean Power Plan

In 2009 Pence led 27 states, along with Indiana, where he governed between 2013-2017, in a fight against Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was a “commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, while maintaining an affordable, reliable energy system, which would cut pollution and protect our health and environment now and for future generations.” In a 2014 speech Pence stated that Indiana is a pro-coal state which will continue to fight “overreaching schemes” of the EPA until the war on coal comes to an end.

Letter to Pence from Scientists

Indiana scientists sent a letter to Governor Pence in 2015, pleading with him to call on their expertise, a letter which went unanswered. Part of the letter states:

“Dear Governor Pence, Our understanding of the Earth’s climate has come a long way in the past 100 yrs. and the role of greenhouse gases is now well documented. The Earth’s atmosphere contains greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that trap heat from the Sun that would otherwise be transmitted back out to space. Changes in the carbon dioxide concentration strongly influence Earth’s climate. In the past century, the carbon dioxide concentration of the atmosphere has increased by 30%. This increase, in large measure, is the result of human use of fossil fuels for energy. This carbon transfer has increased global temperatures in our lifetimes, with a set of secondary effects such as weather patterns that are more erratic and extreme. Like the overwhelming majority of scientists, we project that this human-produced effect will continue to grow into the foreseeable future…….Our challenge today is to explore opportunities to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies in Indiana that reflect our interests to protect energy and transportation infrastructure, the health of the public economic development. We would be privileged to help you in this effect……..” Again, this letter has remained unanswered.

clean power plan

Is Trump good for the environment?

Clean Power Plan and the Lawsuit

The Trump administration is currently attempting to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, which was part of Obama’s effort to fight global warming. The lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan is currently in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, waiting a decision. The court decision could be made anytime between now and several years down the road.

The clean power plan

The Clean Power Plan for the health of our planet!

According to an article by Brad Plumer on http://www.Vox.com, the court process could take years as the EPA will have to write a new coal power plant rule, along with a legal explanation of why it’s changing its mind, followed by responses from the public. Because of regulations regarding the court battle, the Clean Power Plan is currently not in effect while the decision is being made. The court could rule: A) that the EPA does have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide from existing power plants under Section 111(d), B) It does not have the authority, or C) the law is ambiguous and its up for interpretation. Matt Pilon says in, “Clean Power Plan Repeal could have Mixed Impacts”, the short-term impact of a Clean Power Plan delay would be that utilities would be able to lower emissions more gradually, relieving them of some potential costs.

Clean Power Plan

Keeping our nation clean.

Repealing the Clean Power Plan will not bring back jobs in the coal mines! The jobs have been lost to natural gas, renewable resources, open pit mining and mountaintop mining, which is less expensive and requires less manpower—even though it is environmentally devastating. The answer? Retraining coal miners and rebuilding the infrastructure of coal mining country.

Retraining Coal Miners

Wind technician is one of the fastest growing fields in today’s job market. President Obama allotted $14.5 million in federal funding for programs to retrain out of work coal miners and to develop the economy of coal country.

Change must be accepted! It was also devastating for small farmers in the midwest to lose their family farms to large corporations. But all the Willie Nelson farm aide concerts that took place couldn’t save the small farmer. Change happens!

Clean Power Plan


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Our Throw-Away Culture

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

“We must act like responsible citizens, even if our government does not!”

Linn Smith

December 29, 2016—Well, Christmas is over and garbage cans and dumpsters are loaded with boxes, wrapping paper, bows and various discards from the holidays. “Take, Make, Waste” is what Annie Leonard calls it in “The Story of Stuff”.

I grew up in a rural farming community. Our yearly garden produced the vegetables we ate. Our trees produced the fruit we would enjoy until the following year’s vegetables and fruits were harvested. What our garden and fruit trees didn’t produce, my grandmother’s house did. Grapes were turned into jelly and so sweet, I have never tasted anything like it since! My parents canned…….and canned some more. The walls in the basement had shelves full of glass jars filled with the beautiful colors of vegetables and fruits. The taste……well, nothing you can buy in a grocery store today! After the fruits and vegetables were consumed the jars were washed and stored back on the shelves for next season’s crop.

Our milk came from our dairy herd, strained through a cheese cloth to get the black floaty things out…never pasteurized! Our meat came from pasture grazed cattle, raised either on our farm or my uncle’s farm and eggs were just a short walk to the hen house.

The Barefoot College

Gandhi’s Philosophy: The small villages must be empowered.

Family Farms Today

Today the family farms where I grew up have all but died, replaced by corporations raising corn for ethanol. Meat and poultry products are mass produced for the consumer in feed lots or small confined cages. How often I walk past fruit trees and the fruit is laying on the ground rotting. Is the art of preserving our food being lost for the next generation?

And what about all the things we Americans tear down or throw away because we’re tired of it and it’s time for something new?

How to be a More Mindful Consumer

Annie Leonard states in “How to be a More than Mindful Consumer, “Let me say it clearly. I’m neither for nor against stuff. I like stuff if it’s well-made, honestly marketed, used for a long time, and at the end of its life, recycled in a way that doesn’t trash the planet, poison people, or exploit workers. Our stuff should not be artifacts of indulgence and disposability, like toys that are forgotten 15 minutes after the wrapping comes off, but things that are both practical and meaningful. British philosopher William Morris said it best: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Save Planet Earth

Sweden: Creating a Sustainable Community

Sweden is a leader in being an environmentally conscious country. In 2017, they will reduce the sales tax when citizens repair things like bicycles, shoes and cloths. And when people choose to fix white goods, such as washing machines and dishwashers instead of carting them off to the dump, they will receive tax refunds….a reward for being less wasteful. They believe that changing the economic incentives will change people’s thinking toward creating a healthier environment.

Colin Beavan: A Year of Deprivation?

Colin Beavan spent a year trying to live with the least impact on the environment. He tried creating no waste, eating no pre-processed meals, no t.v., no car, and bought no new stuff. Here’s what he had to say about that year, “”They assumed I just finished a year of deprivation,” Colin said. “But I realized that it was the prior 35 years that I had been deprived when I use to workaround the clock, rush home late and exhausted, eat take-out food, and plop down to watch TV until it was time to take out the trash, go to sleep, and start all over again. That was deprivation!”

Take Action

With a new administration entering power in the U.S. it’s time to take responsibility for leaving a healthy planet for future generations….because our government is not going to do it for us! The incoming administration does not support the scientific facts that state our planet is warming and our weather is changing. So it’s time to do what we can, when we can, where we can! We must act like responsible citizens, even if our government does not make a healthy planet a priority–or worse, works for the reversal of steps taken to reduce CO2 in our atmosphere. We are free to choose our actions, but we are not free from the consequence of those actions!

Take Action to Create a Sustainable Future


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A Trump Presidency: Can Our Environment Survive?

Climate Change and Mass Extinction

Mass extinction could happen again-do we care?

“Utilities companies will buy from sources based on economics, not politics, and its difficult to see how utilities would suddenly start buying coal.”

By Linn Smith

November 18, 2016—The big question on my mind the past several weeks concerns the effects of a Trump presidency on our environment. Will the years of effort towards clean energy, both locally and globally, survive under the new administration? I must admit to feeling more than a little worried! Trump has no clean energy plan and appears to have very little knowledge or interest in the environment, denying scientific facts of our rapidly warming planet!

Clean Energy Speaks Loudest

According to an article in Computerworld, “Trump’s Coal Revival Plan Won’t Work”, analysts say clean energy will be difficult to reverse because, “clean energy has become so cheap it will continue to increase its domination of the energy industry.”—the pocketbook speaks the loudest!

Trump and Energy Plan

Will it remain?

But Trump still may undo the tax credit for solar, the Clean Energy Plan and our support for the Paris Agreement (see planetearth5.com, “The Historic Paris Climate Conference-Cop21”). Raj Prabhu, CEO for a clean energy firm, commented on the tax credit roll back that may happen under the Trump administration, “It could happen, but it’s unlikely, due to the bipartisan nature of how the bill was passed in Congress and the momentum solar has right now. Solar has gone mainstream with utilities companies, businesses, and home owners, not to mention that solar jobs exceed over 200,000.” Last year 31,000 new solar jobs were added to the industry, 20 times the national average for job creation. Plus, solar power systems prices are constantly declining–30% in 2016.

Prabhu also states “Contrary to election rhetoric, it’s not regulation or renewable subsidies that are killing coal; it’s actually natural gas, which is cheap and abundant. Utilities companies will buy from sources based on economics, not politics, and its difficult to see how utilities would suddenly start buying coal.” Added to this is the fact that, although environmentally devastating, many coal mining jobs have been lost due to table top mining, which requires less labor.

Earth Day

Clean Energy: Make It a Priority!

Countering the Trump Administration

William Yardley of the Los Angeles Times, states in his article, “Will Paris Climate Accord and Other Environmental Pacts Survive a Trump Presidency?” that Trump will be the only world leader to question whether climate change is real. ” Many activists have long argued that government cannot be counted on to lead on climate issues. Some say a blend of global market forces affecting fossil fuels, the declining cost of solar and wind energy, grass-roots activism, legal action in U.S. courts and international pressure could help counter whatever efforts a Trump administration might make to undo existing policies.”

Lack of Leadership Won’t Stop Transition To Clean Energy

And K.C. Golden chairman of 350.org, “This is obviously a setback, in part because we started so damn late and there’s already quite a bit of damage, but this transition (renewable energy) is underway and it’s driven by a whole lot of things–human will, local policy, state policy, international policy, and technology development. There will be more of a price to pay and more climate damage will accumulate and be inflicted on people, because we’ll go slower than we would go if we had concerted American leadership, but the lack of American leadership won’t stop the transition.”

Maybe I have searched for the more positive aspects concerning predictions about our future under a new administration with no clean energy plan, but that’s ok. Me, and maybe a few of you, needed it! We, as individuals, must embrace the responsibility to create a cleaner environment, while supporting local, state and international efforts towards saving our planet.

Clean Energy and the Trump Administration


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Forecasting Global Change

Elections 3016

Predicting the future


Dr. John J. Hidore

November 16, 2016—–The desire to know the future is deeply ingrained in the human species. The future is extremely important to contemporary society, but it is probably no more so than it was to people at any other time in history. Forecasting is the process of predicting some event or the status of some phenomenon in the future. Forecasts can be useful for planning purposes, humorous, or even dangerous. In the past when a demand for knowledge of the future existed, mystical forms of prophecy came into existence. Priests, witches, prophets, crystal balls, astrology, palmistry, and oracles all played a part.

Climate change

Nothing is Permanent

The Great Pyramid of Cheops

There exist sites and remains of structures which have played important roles in predicting the future in ages past. One of the earliest is the Great Pyramid of Cheops (ca. 2650 B.C.) in Egypt. The size and finesse of construction of this pyramid, more than 4000 years ago, has led to speculation of every kind about its construction and what it means.

The pyramid is a monument to Pharaoh Cheops, founder of the fourth dynasty. Perhaps as many as l00,000 laborers built this monument. They moved more than two million stone blocks from a quarry down the Nile River to near Cairo. The blocks were then transported to the west side of the Nile valley and hoisted onto the escarpment. There they assembled the blocks into the structure which remains today. White limestone pieces were then fitted so as to provide a smooth surface to the structure. Most of the white facing is now gone. Only a few pieces still remain near the top. It was probably pirated over time for other structures.

All change is not growth

Moving Backwards

Inside the structure are a series of passageways which lead to two burial chambers, one for the pharaoh and the other for his wife. In 1864 a Scottish astronomer, Charles Piayyi Smyth, made accurate measurements of the direction and dimensions of the passageways. Based on his measurements he came up with a chronology covering 6000 years. He used one pyramid inch (25.25 mm) to represent one year. Downturns and restrictions in passageways represent hard times and world disasters. Upturns, broad passageways, and the burial chambers themselves represent good times and major advances for the human species.

Some of the structural chronology and significant world events coincide. However, either the human species did not heed the message, or there were mistakes made in construction because the system fails frequently. They built the passageways, as they are, for real reasons. Certainly, a people capable of the design and construction of the monument did not build the interior randomly. However, their reasons are now unknown. The end of the corridors implies a great new world by 2001, an optimistic prediction which unfortunately did not seem to be correct.

The Need for Forecasting

Today, as in the past, there are many questions about the future global system for which we need information. One whole group of question centers around the widespread and varied impact that climate change would have on other aspects of the environment. Among the many things that would change if climate changes are global temperatures, sea level, biological diversity both on land and in the ocean. Some notion of the difficulty of forecasting global environmental change is the complexity of the interaction and feedback between various parts of the global system.

For example, human induced increases in CO2 and other trace gasses are major elements in potential global warming. However, because CO2 is the primary raw material for photosynthesis, increased CO2 concentration is likely to have a direct biological impact on the extent and distribution of Earth’s vegetation.

Forecasting Today

As the human population grows, and the world enters further into a global economy, forecasting future events becomes ever more important. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing the future for certain. There are now forecasts being made from climate change to space travel. Some forecasts are being made out as far as the year 2100, 85 years from now. If we look back 85 years to 1930, it is worth noting what has transpired. Technological developments that have occurred since then include such things as hybrid cars, self-drive cars, drones, television, organ transplants, satellites, travel to the moon, nuclear weapons and artificial intelligence. None of these could have been included in forecasting today’s world.

Today forecasts are being made for conditions as far away as 2050 and 2100. The question is, how can forecasts for conditions this far out be made accurately, when so many technological and cultural changes can be expected to occur during this time. Some cultural elements, such as regional over-population, income imbalance, indigenous uprisings, and resource depletion, are individually and collectively important factors in defining our world in the future. There can be no doubt that in 2016 the rate of change is taking place faster than ever before and how it will change simply is unknown in many, if not most, cases.

The effective life of forecasts may be very short. For instance, climate forecasts by the IPCC have often underestimated the extent of future changes. These forecasts have been revised every seven years. Forecasts of global conditions to 2050 are at least questionable. Those for 2100 even more so. It must be recognized, that for some forecasts that are continually being made, the reliability decreases on almost a daily basis.

As an example of forecasts going bad is the presidential election in the United States in 2016. A seemingly endless number of forecasts predicted Hillary Clinton to win up to the day before the election. Sadly they were all wrong.

As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus is purported to have stated, “There is nothing permanent except change!”


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The Republican Plan to Eliminate the Clean Air Act

Smog  devastates the town

Donora, origination of the word “smog”.

“Why all the effort to eliminate the regulation of toxic emissions? Because pollution control costs money!”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

October 30, 2016—Anyone who watches national or international news often sees videos of Beijing or other Chinese cities, where the air pollution becomes unsafe to breath. The air often contains carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and lead. In the worst cases the authorities recommend people stay indoors. This is not a new phenomenon. The same problem exists in other places.

Historic Urban Pollution Episodes

On October 27, 1945, a thick mixture of smoke and fog formed over the town of Donora, Pennsylvania in the United States. Donora was a town of about 14,000 people, with two large industrial mills in the town. One was a steel and wire company and the other was a zinc plant. The next day, after the cloud formed, people started getting sick and dying. The hospitals were soon full and a temporary morgue was established in the community building. People could not easily leave town because the cloud was too thick to drive. Thousands of the town’s population became sick and 20 perished. Four days after the poisonous cloud formed a storm broke up the cloud. In spite of the fatal event in Donora, the two plants continued to operate for years. The cloud was a mixture of smoke and industrial chemicals. It was this event which gave birth to the term smog. Just four years after the Donora, Pennsylvania event, a week long smog hit London, England. It was largely the result of burning coal and was estimated to have killed 4,000 people.

smog

Factories send chemicals into the atmosphere.

Encounters With Brown Clouds

Smog and brown clouds of pollutants became global and remain so today, if not quite as pronounced. I remember several decades ago when two personal experiences shocked me as to how extensive and serious the air pollution was in some American cities. I flew into Denver, Colorado one clear and sunny morning to attend a conference. As we approached Denver all I could see was a brown smudge. The only evidence there was a city was a revolving restaurant atop a tower, which rose above the brown cloud. The other experience was being on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater in east Africa and seeing a brown layer of pollution in the lower atmosphere that spanned the entire horizon.

Smog

Clean Air Act cleans up Manhattan.

Enactment of the Clean Air Act

In 1963, largely due to the events in Donora and London, the US Congress passed an initial piece of legislation to control air pollution. The Clean Air Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. This forced the closing of the plants in Donora several years later. President Richard Nixon signed a tougher version in 1970. The Clean Air Act put a limit on the concentration of sulfur dioxide in industrial emissions and power plants. In the Donora event, the concentration of sulfur dioxide in the air was more than 200 times the limit set by the law. As a result of the Clean Air Act, lead has been virtually eliminated from emissions and poisonous gases greatly reduced. Worldwide attention to air pollution and greenhouse gases resulted in the historic climate conference in Paris last year. It brought worldwide agreement to reduce greenhouse gases.

Federal Efforts to Turn Back the Clean Air Act

In spite of the international response to harmful emissions, the Republican party is working to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act. They would return us all to breathing unhealthy air! Corporate lobbyists continually encourage legislation to attack the Environmental Protection Agency’s right to set emission standards. Both houses of congress have introduced bills to eliminate or reduce emission standards of harmful substances. Senator Imhofe introduced a bill that would eliminate regulation of mercury, lead, zinc and other toxic substances from power plants. These are some of the very substances that created the disaster in Donora!

Republican Controlled Legislatures Play Follow the Leader

Many state governments have followed the lead of the federal government. Beginning in 2011, after the election of the Governor McCrory, the state of North Carolina began passing legislation to protect polluters. In response to pressure by major companies, they rescinded previously enacted laws protecting the people from atmospheric pollutants. They also took the step to eliminate nearly half of the air quality monitors in the state. Along with these steps, they made it difficult to deny applications from corporations that would allow them to be exempt from emission regulations.

a vote for trump would devastate the Clean Air Act

Clinton supports renewable energy.

Profits Trump all Else

Why all the effort to eliminate regulation of toxic emissions? Because pollution control costs money! In the current congress, corporate profit trumps all else. Profits to them are more important than human health!


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When Fracking Takes Precedence Over People

Fracking, Earthquakes and Greenhouse gases

Fracking Contributes to Greenhouse Gases

“The essence of what the legislature and government have done is to give energy corporations a license to drill, wherever and whenever, they want!”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

October 12, 2016—Fracking, as a mining tool, continues to spread! It has long been known by geologists that shale deposits deep underground often contain natural gas. In recent decades there has been a growing fracking industry, based on mining oil and natural gas from these deposits.

The Process of Fracking

The process if fracking involves drilling vertically into a deep shale deposit. Once in the shale, the drill is turned to work horizontally. A variety of chemicals and other ingredients are sent down the well under high pressure. This breaks up the shale and releases the oil or natural gas. This form of well drilling is called hydraulic fracturing or fracking. There are thousands of such wells in the United States and the number is growing rapidly. In the U.S. most of these wells are concentrated in the Southwest.

Fracking Increases Methane Emissions

While fracking produces large amounts of natural gas, there are a number of problems which result from this technique. In the drilling stage, there is often a flow back up the well that sends a mixture of methane and drilling material to the earth’s surface and into the atmosphere.

Methane is 20 times more effective, weight to weight, in absorbing earth radiation than is carbon dioxide. It is second only to carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas emitted by industries in the U.S. The combination of carbon dioxide and methane combined account for 93% of greenhouse gas emissions at present! A survey of fracking sites in Pennsylvania revealed drilling operations emitting plumes of methane, up to 1000 times greater than the standards the EPA are in the process of finalizing.

Fracking is now the largest source of methane emission in the United States! It contributes to the concentration of methane in the atmosphere and, thus, to global warming. Fracking is associated with increasing earthquakes and a methane cloud above the earth. The concentration of these wells in some regions has also led to other problems. In the Great Plains, swarms of earthquakes have recently occurred which are associated with fracking. Earthquakes have always occurred in Oklahoma, but they have increased rapidly in the past few years. In September of this year, about 250 earthquakes were recorded and there have been more than 2500 in the past year.

Fracking and local water sources

Fracking can contaminate drinking water.

Fracking and Earthquakes

These earthquakes have been attributed to the injection of waste water which results from the drilling of wells based on fracking. The volume of waste water injection has increased nearly 80% in just the past six years. To reduce the hazard the government ordered several dozen waste water wells in one area shut down. In addition to the increasing number of earthquakes, a long lasting methane cloud has also appeared over parts of the great plains. The cloud covers more than 2500 square miles and is centered over New Mexico. At last report the cloud was still growing and adding to global warming problems.

In spite of the problems associated with fracking some states actively encourage the mining process. Among these is North Carolina. For years horizontal drilling for oil and gas was banned in order to protect the ground water supply upon which so many depended for fresh water. That protection was totally abandoned in 2012. In that year the Republicans controlled the legislature, passing a bill that legalized horizontal drilling and making fracking legal. The next year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offered North Carolina $500,000 in grants to fund water quality monitoring in areas most likely to be affected by fracking. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources rejected the grant. The state now protects the mining company’s right to drill.

Fracking and earthquakes

Fracking is contributing to earthquakes in the U.S.

Fracking and Lack of Regulation

In 2014 the legislature of North Carolina passed legislation which hastened the prospects for fracking in North Carolina. The legislation prohibits any local government, such as cities or counties, from attempting to regulate fracking in any manner. It also protects energy companies from any legal actions taken by individuals. The legislation permits mining companies to keep secret the chemicals it uses in the fracking process. It makes it a crime for any citizen to reveal the contents of the fracking chemicals under any circumstances.

The essence of what the legislature and governor have done is to give energy corporations a license to drill, wherever and whenever, they want!


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Climate Change: This is What a Vote for Trump Will Cost You!

Climate Change 2016 Elections

Climate Change-Trump has NO plan!

“Climate Change Calls for Action! Don’t opt for hopelessness!”

By Linn Smith

July 31, 2016—-We currently have a presidential candidate that wants to repeal the Climate Action Plan, renew the permit application for the Keystone Pipeline, lift the moratoriums on energy production on federal lands, cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to the U.N. global warming programs. Yes, that would be Donald Trump!

Climate Change: Saving Our Planet

Andy Barowitz wrote an article for the New Yorker magazine using polls conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute. In this article he explained that most people are very frustrated with trying to explain the crises we are headed for to people who don’t want to listen. “Of the many obvious things that people are sick and tired of trying to get through the skulls of deniers, is the fact that climate change will cause catastrophic habitat destruction and devastating extinctions–this tops the list for people trying to explain our earth’s future catastrophes, with a majority saying they will no longer try to explain this to deniers!”

Carbon Emissions and Global Warming

Carbon Emissions by Country.

A Vote for Donald Trump is a Vote Against Saving Our Planet

But I’m going to say it again! A vote for Trump will result in destruction to our planet. If you really and truly don’t care about the mess we leave our children and grandchildren, or you opt to melt into a useless puddle of hopelessness, which I have often seen lately, you can quit reading now. (And for the Bernie supporters, the world is full of flaws and imperfections–we all gotta deal with it on a regular basis!)

Here are some facts which your children and grandchildren will have to endure during his or her lifetime. This information, from the United Nations and EPA websites, is a result of computer models which have allowed scientists to average all possible scenarios for our planet:

* By 2100, the average U.S. temperature is projected to increase by about 3-12 degrees F, depending on the scenarios and climate model used.
* There will be reduced ice and snow cover.
* Sea levels are on the rise and will continue to do so.
* There will be an increased frequency and duration of extreme weather events.
* The number of days with high temperatures above 90 degrees is expected to increase throughout the U.S., and globally, especially toward the end of century.
* Ground level air temperatures are expected to continue to warm more rapidly over land.
* The combination of crops yielding less, due to climate change and overpopulation of our earth, is going to lead to starvation of many.

Climate change and crop yields

Climate Change will effect crop yields.

* There will be more heat related deaths.
* Winter weather patterns will move northward with southern areas having more rain than snow.
* There will be an increase in the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes.
* Forest fires are on the rise and will continue at an accelerated pace.
* An increase in diseases, which is on the rise today.
* An increase in civil disorder due to disease and food shortages.
* There will be an extinction of many animals (including eventually ourselves)……..and this list could go on!

Species Extinction and climate change

Spec!ies Extinction will happen has the temperatures rise

These changes will impact our food supply, water resources, infrastructure, ecosystems, and our own health!

El Nino’s Impact

Don Paul of the Buffalo News states, “We have now experienced our 14th consecutive record warm month globally, far beyond the range of El Nino’s impact. These are broad climate trends not short term weather trends. There are uncertainties about how fast global warming will continue to take place in the future but scientists agree, it will take place, with peaks and valleys in daily local weather patterns.”

If we stabilize greenhouse gases today, surface air temperatures will continue to warm because greenhouse gases can stay in our atmosphere for hundreds of years. But it is still possible to limit the increase in global mean temperatures to two degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, when the earth’s temperature began to increase. We need to act now!

When you vote in the 2016 election vote for a healthy planet!

Do the Next Right Thing!


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The Indian Subcontinent Again Sets Record Temperatures

India Droiught

Record breaking temperatures and little rain.

“As the planet warms it can be expected that there will be more severe heat waves and they will become hotter, more frequent, last longer, and occur in more varied places.”

Dr. John Hidore

July 22, 2016—Global warming is occurring over the entire planet and record high temperatures have become common. The Indian subcontinent is no exception. Early written history documents heat waves and droughts.While temperature records were not available prior to the late 19th century, written descriptions indicate the severity of some earlier events.

Drought and Famine in 1768-1770

In the mid-eighteenth century the people of India were largely subsistence farmers. It was primitive crop agriculture subject to the vagaries of the monsoon. The country was under the control of the British East India Company, which kept the farmers on the verge of starvation under the best of conditions. Because of the general poverty of the mass of the population, and the marginal food supply, only a small shortfall in rain produced scattered starvation.

India is a large country, and at the time only a ponderous transportation system existed. There was no means of moving large quantities of food, or of moving people to more productive areas. Therefore, when drought set in, the alternatives were few. The beginnings of a prolonged drought and massive famine began in India in the fall months of l768. Rainfall was below normal and the crops were poor in December. The summer monsoons did not produce the usual rain in l769 and again the crop yields were scanty. By April of l770, over 30 million people in West Bengal and Bihar were directly affected. Estimates of deaths ranged upward to l0 million. The deaths were due to a combination of starvation and disease. Smallpox became epidemic in association with the drought. The death toll was exacerbated by the flood of people that fled the countryside and moved into the cities looking for sustenance. There was little to be found.

Drought in India

Indian drought causes famine.

Drought and Famine in Asia, 1875-1879

It was just a little more than a century later that drought and famine struck India with even more lethal results. The atmospheric circulation began to shift as early as 1873 in central Asia. Summer monsoons weakened for a number of years. By August 1877 the Indian government was well aware that a major famine was in progress and was going to get worse. Since rainfall was low there was insufficient feed for livestock. Wells, ponds and streams dried up. The lack of feed and water resulted in extensive loss of animals. Rainfall was so low that there was no measurable summer crop harvested in many districts. Human mortality was high.

Following the poor summer harvest, dysentery, smallpox, and cholera flared up into epidemic proportions taking a heavy toll of the population. In Bombay Presidency (Providence), the excess mortality from the famine of 1876-1877 reached 800,000 lives over the normal death rate. The Famine Commission estimated that by the end of 1878 the loss of life in the Providence totaled 3.5 million.

Indian drought

Global warming raises temperatures around the world.

The Asian Heat Wave of 2015

In May 2015, a heat wave in India claimed at least 2,500 lives. Extremely high temperatures were reached in cities scattered over the country. Power outages were wide spread. The city of Khammam recorded the highest temperature ever recorded there at 48 degrees C (118.4 degrees F). Other high temperatures were:Allahabad 47.8 degrees C (118.0 degrees F) Delhi 45.5 degrees C (113.9 degrees F)Hyderabad 46 degrees C (115 degrees F) Jharsuguda 45.4 degrees C (113.7 degrees F).

In June 2015, the deadliest heat wave known to have occurred in Pakistan took place in the southern part of the country near Karachi. The death toll is unknown for certain but may have reached more than 1000. It was followed by several weeks of the most severe heat wave to strike India. The heat wave struck during the month of Ramadan which made the impact of the event more severe than it might have been. Unfortunately, city services could not cope with the heat.

Indian drought

Millions effected by the drought

The Indian Heat Wave of 2016

India experienced even higher temperatures this year than in 2015. Temperatures were above normal most of the spring. Normally, the hottest months of the year are April, May, and June, before the summer monsoon rains begin. In May a severe heat wave alert was issued for several states. A severe heat wave is one in which temperatures of at least 117°F (47.2°C) occur. In the city of Philodi, in western India, unofficial temperatures reached 124°F (51°C). This is the highest temperature on record in India. Temperatures averaged above 104 degrees F (40°C) over large areas. Some urban high temperatures were New Delhi 47 °C (117 degrees F) Churu 50 °C (122 ºF)Philodi 51.°(124 degrees F).

The impact in India was immense. More than 300 million people have been been adversely affected. Crops failed or were below average in 13 states in the last growing season. Thousands of farmers abandoned their farms. In places the asphalt on the streets partially melted. At Bikaner, the streets were being sprinkled with water to reduce the heat. 17,000 villages had, or were facing water shortages. Several Indian states shut down schools to reduce risk to students. Heatstroke was a widespread problem and many deaths were reported across the region.

Fortunately, the government responded in a variety of ways to reduce the suffering and mortality. Forecasts for the summer monsoons are far above average precipitation. The first monsoon rains began in the south in the second week of June. Only time will tell if the monsoons will be enough to break the drought.

As the planet warms it can be expected that: (1) there will be more severe heat waves and they will become hotter, more frequent, last longer, and occur in more varied places. As cities grow larger in area and population, they will experience increasing heat waves. (2) new record high temperatures will be set across the planet.


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From Coal Mining to Renewables

Loss of jobs in underground mining

Underground Mining

By Linn Smith

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” Niccolow Machiavelli (1532)

June 18, 2016—-Much has been publicized in the past year concerning the loss of coal mining jobs, often blaming the loss on the move toward renewable energy. Recently on NPR, coal mining families stated this transition would lead to losing a “tradition,” saying the coal mining culture has been part of their families for generations.

Change is a Fact of Life

It’s true that for generations coal mining has been the only job available in many parts of the U.S., such as West Virginia. But change is a fact of life, as farmers in the Midwest experienced, losing many of the small family farms to giant agribusinesses.

I grew up on one of these small family farms, baling hay and milking cows. “Gone, for the most part, are the times when farmers would work together with wives and kids to feed the cows or harvest the year’s crop.” And that’s how it was for our family. If we were still short handed my dad would hire a cousin or two.

Ranchers on the BLM land in the west are also being forced to change. They have grazed on BLM land for generations, often claiming the land as their own, but in fact, it’s land that belongs to the citizens of the U.S. I have had many discussions about the BLM land with people in the Southwest and I have ridden horseback among the grazing cattle, which sometimes look healthy, but often look so thin you can count their ribs, and often riding past fresh carcasses of the not so fortunate cattle.

Underground mining

Today mountaintop mining is replacing underground mining.

Maintaining Traditions: At What Cost?

My point? People don’t always get what they want just because it’s been the tradition of their families for generations! Their way of life can attempt to be saved, as Willie did with the Farm Aid concerts, but often change will happen in spite of our hard work to keep things as they always have been. Today, for the most part, the small farmers are gone and ranchers are sometimes getting challenged by environmentalists and the Bureau of Land Management.

The same is happening to the coal miners! When change happens we all have to be flexible, it’s part of life. And our planet needs everyone to pitch in!

Mountaintop mining

Mountaintop mining blasts away the mountains!

The move toward renewable resources is not the only reason for the decline in underground coal mining. According to http://www.greenbiz.com, coal jobs have been trending down for decades partially because of mountaintop mining (see Planet Earth Weekly article “Mountaintop Coal Mining: The Destruction of Appalachia” http://www.planetearth5.com). Mountaintop mining has taken the place of underground mining and it requires fewer workers, cutting jobs by the thousands.

Mountain top mining in itself is an abuse to our environment, using dynamite to blast the top of the mountains to get to the coal seams–explosives and heavy machinery replacing jobs! In Kentucky, mountaintop mining has caused the decline in over 60% of coal mine workers from 1979 to 2006—over 60,000 workers! Mountain top mining has not only caused the loss of jobs, but it has destroyed the environment, causing erosion and leakage of metals and byproducts into nearby streams which provide drinking water for the local communities. Even mitigation isn’t addressing the environmental problems!.

The Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce Grants

In 2014 the U.S. Dept of Labor began giving grants to help train coal miners for clean economy jobs. The following year $35 million went to the POWER program (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization Initiative). These grants included retraining workers on down the coal production chain, from manufacturing to transportation. In 2016, the coal communities were provided with $55 million more in grants to “assist communities that were negatively affected by changes in the coal industry and help communities plan their economic future and develop a workforce based on plans.” Their goal is to “diversify economies, create jobs in new and existing industries, attract new sources of jobs, create investments and provide a range of workforce services and skills training, resulting in training for high quality, in demand jobs.”

Now is the time to accept change and meet the needs of the planet!

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” Niccolow Machiavelli (1532)