“California governor orders country’s most aggressive emission cut goals” – The Washington Post, 29 April 2015

California is currently undergoing an overly aggressive, record-breaking drought. In order to combat that drought, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) has not only put a cap on how much water residents can use, but is also placing a cap on emissions levels.

For California, the worsening effects of climate change have directly led to its water shortage. Greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants are the major culprit for the state’s remarkable drought. To combat the drought and any further climate change damage, Brown has issued a new executive order that has created new carbon emission goals for his state.

Brown’s aim is to curb emissions by 40 percent less than emissions levels in 1990, and to do so by 2030. Not even Arnold Schwarzenegger, who held the term before Brown, had such expectations for the state: Schwarzenegger’s aim was to cut emissions so that they were equal to 1990 levels, and to do so by 2020. Schwarzenegger then wanted to cut emissions an additional 20 percent by 2050. According to Brown, California is well on its way to fulfilling Schwarzenegger’s goal.

Brown is committing his last term in office to climate change. During his inaugural speech, he pledged that half of the state’s electricity will come from renewable energies over the course of 15 years. He also intends to halve petroleum use in vehicles on state roads.

The state is now required to integrate the effects of climate change into its infrastructure and financial planning. Moreover, state agencies are obligated to place caps on emissions for any supplies of emissions that they oversee.

In addition to the executive order, California has also signed an accord with Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia that aims at restricting carbon emissions in the regional area. Brown has signed similar agreements with countries like Mexico, China, Japan, Israel, and Peru. The Governor is hoping his work will make an impact at the upcoming UN climate change conference in Paris.

Previously, California tried to enact a program called “cap and trade,” where they required companies to pay for greenhouse gas emissions. However, the state’s Senators and Representatives — particularly the Democrats — fought back, alleging that the program would directly impact the poorest Californians. Hopefully Brown’s latest endeavor into mollifying the effects of climate change will pan out. California’s voice is very influential and proactive, particularly on a global scale.

(From The Washington Post)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 30, 2015

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“2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics” – New York Times, 16 January 2015

Climate change skeptics might no longer have a leg to stand on, as it has now been reported that 2014 has been the hottest year since weather patterns were first recorded in 1880.

The previous warmest year was 2010; the 10 hottest years on record have taken place after 1997, generating intense heat waves across the western US coast and extreme cold fronts across the eastern US coast. This is further proof that climate change is spurred by human activity and will have a disastrous impact on the Earth.

Moreover, 2014 didn’t have a prominent El Niño — or the warming of the Pacific Ocean that sends excessive heat into the atmosphere — which is odd. It’s easy to imagine that now the effects of climate change have gotten to the point where the world doesn’t need an extra push to reach excessively hot temperatures.

Climate skeptics assert that global warming stopped in 1998, the year of the last extremely strong El Niño. That year was also the warmest year on record in the 20th century. The hottest years have occurred after 1998, in 2005, 2010, and 2014; climate skeptics’ insistence is unjustified at this point.

Human activity continues to take a toll on our environment, causing temperatures to increase, killing flora and fauna, and making sea levels increase. Records for 2014 have been released from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and a Japan-based agency. A British group is also slated to issue their findings in a few weeks.

Interestingly, satellite temperature readings indicate that 2014 wasn’t the hottest year, though they do reveal that last year was very close. Satellites study atmospheric temperatures and not temperatures on the surface of the earth, which accounts for the disparity.

Though climate change seems to be old news at this point, any headway on the matter has been recent. Last year, 300,000 marched in New York City in hopes to mobilize the issue; and last month, almost 200 nations met in Lima, Peru to discuss a global accord to combat the effects of climate change.

(From New York Times)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 19, 2015

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“Climate change isn’t for the birds” – Politico, 8 September 2014

In addition to affecting food supplies and increasing the likelihood of natural disasters, climate change is drastically impacting wildlife, especially our birds.

Earlier this month, the National Audubon Society published a study, which concluded that half of North America’s bird species will be endangered, and could go extinct, at the century’s end, due to the effects of climate change.

The bald eagle and Baltimore oriole are at a huge risk for endangerment, and Louisiana, Utah, Vermont, Nevada, Idaho, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Washington DC’s state birds are as well. The Audubon’s report comes after a draft of the UN’s climate change report was disclosed, which cautioned about the effects of climate change on people and ecosystems.

President Obama and the EPA are doing everything they can to stop climate change in its tracks, including introducing the Climate Action Plan and the Clean Power Plan Proposal, which are aimed at curbing power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions. Of course, there is pushback from Republicans, conservatives, and coal states, like Colorado, Kentucky, and Michigan where politicians contend that new climate regulations will deplete jobs and increase consumer’s expenses on energy.

For the report, the Audubon studied species prevalent to the US and Canada. Of the 588 species the Audubon chose, the Audubon found that by 2080, 314 of them will be in danger of extremely diminished populations because they will be without over half of their livable geographic range. The lives of these birds are indelibly linked to their physical environment.

Moreover, renewable energy — wind and solar power — also has a lasting impact on birds. Many conservatives and conservationists are calling this, “Obama’s war on birds.”

According to a report published last year by the journal Biological Conservation, around 140,000 to 328,000 birds are killed yearly through contact with wind turbines. In 2013, the Interior Department granted 30-year permits to wind farms that allowed for accidentally killing or injuring bald and golden eagles. There have also been reports of a California-based solar power plant that causes birds to catch on fire while flying.

Conservatives are using the repercussions of renewable energy on birds as more political fodder against Obama and his climate policy. Perhaps this is rightfully so, as Obama hasn’t specifically incorporated flora, fauna, and their ecosystems into his climate policy. At the same time, however, if conservative policymakers — any policymakers, at that — are concerned about the birds, then they should make efforts to integrate climate change into conservation planning. It works both ways.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

September 10, 2014

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“Climate Change and Infected Bushmeat Threaten Women on Frontlines of the Ebola Crisis” – Vice, 24 September 2014

The origin of the rapidly spreading Ebola virus in Sierra Leone has been linked to two cases: 1. From a woman in Kailahun, Sierra Leone who served wild game to herself and her husband — the animal was carrying the virus; and 2. From another Sierra Leonean woman, a traditional healer who was working in Guinea with Ebola victims.

Sierra Leone’s government has been emphasizing the fact that Ebola is mainly growing from human to human contact, however, many believe the Ebola outbreak in Guinea began with bats. Bats are hunted for food in the region and are called “bushmeat.”

In the region, women are expected to handle food for the family. This issue, coupled with the impact climate change has had on food supplies — where women are often forced to seek out infected bushmeat — shows that women are bearing the brunt of two crises in Africa: the Ebola virus and climate change.

Seasonal drought, larger storms, and landslides are beginning to have a lasting influence on agricultural production in the region, and are encouraging families to hunt for wild animals. The same has occurred in the past in Malaysia and Bangladesh, where climactic changes caused epidemics because humans and agriculture began encroaching on bat habitats. As the effects of climate change continue to set in, food will likely become more difficult to grow, especially in western equatorial Africa.

The governments of Guinea and Sierra Leone have reported that 55-60 perfect of the people who have died from Ebola are women, while the Liberian government have revealed that 75 percent have been women. According to the Liberian Health Ministry, Ebola has largely affected more women due to their duties as caregiver — they have more contact with both diseased meat and diseased people.

However, the World Health Organization and Imperial College London published a new report denying the women’s death tolls, stating that there is no large difference between the sexes. The fatality rate is estimated to be 71 percent. The WHO’s goal is for the virus to stop spreading within six to nine months; the CDC calculates that the virus can transmit to 1.4 million people within four months.

Many view the Sierra Leone government as mis-informative: while they stress that the virus is transmitted from person-to-person, they fail to educate families on where the virus originated from, and fail to inform these families about the existence of infected bushmeat.

Another strain of Ebola has broken out in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the WHO has tracked the source to a pregnant woman who was preparing infected bushmeat.

Across the world, and particularly in the US, climate change has become a hot button topic — even Leonardo DiCaprio addressed the budding issue in front of the UN. When speaking on climate change, we discuss the massive amounts of carbon dioxide emissions China and India release into the air; we discuss the growing number of natural disasters and the general climactic upheaval; and we discuss the effect that climate change will have on our food supplies, and on the economies of poorer nations. Now, we are actually seeing how the effects of climate change are reaching the world’s poorer, outlying nations. Moreover, we are seeing how climate change is affecting the caregivers of families and leaving many children as orphans.

This is an increasingly prevalent duality that deserves our attention. If the celebrity of Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t direct our attention to the worsening impact of climate change, then hopefully this situation will.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

September 24, 2014

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