“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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The Washington Post’s “A Climate for Change”

The Washington Post announced that it is initiating a series of editorials, called “A Climate for Change,” urging a shift in the way climate change is spoken about and acted upon in the US.

In America, many still hold the paradoxical belief that climate change doesn’t exist, and/or there is nothing we can do about it, and use a number of reasons to justify their skepticism and distrust. While the general public often places the importance of the economy and jobs above the environment, Republicans contend that we can’t trust the science, curbing emissions will further injure our already-hurt economy, and the US won’t make an impact if China and India don’t also cut down on their emissions. Democrats who represent coal states don’t necessarily stand behind their party’s climate policy because it could damage their chances for reelection. Conversely, a number of environmentalists and Democrats push to win trivial conflicts, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Action on climate change has declined since President Obama arrived in the Oval Office in 2008. Obama has made climate change a key cornerstone of his agenda for both his terms, as did 2008 presidential hopeful John McCain. But when Obama took office in 2008, the Republicans simultaneously took a fierce opposition to his climate policy, forcing Obama to enact his Climate Action Plan through executive order.

Now the world desperately needs us to rethink how we deal with climate change. Sea levels, temperatures, and the likelihood of natural disasters are rapidly rising, all of which will impact every corner of the earth. As the Washington Post points out, Obama and the EPA might not even be doing enough to counteract the effects of climate change. The US should be a leader in introducing new climate change policy, which will hopefully spur other nations to follow suit.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

August 25, 2014

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“Climate change is here, action needed now, says new White House report” – CNN, 6 May 2014

The White House released a new climate change report in early May, as part of President Obama’s attempt to ready the US for the effects of climate change. Obama has made climate change awareness a cornerstone of his second-term, primarily by taking it upon himself by using executive action to implement his Climate Action Plan. The White House report details reasons why Obama wants the US to take precautionary measures against our growing sea levels and progressively unpredictable weather.

However, Obama has been butting heads with conservatives, the fossil fuel industry, and their allies over the debate of whether or not climate change is indeed real, and if carbon emissions from power plants, factories, and cars—or human activity—are the biggest culprits. Conservatives view the report as a means for Obama to push his own agenda, which they believe would damage the economy, and place the burden on middle-income families.

While polling shows that Americans believe that climate change is a result of human activities, they are less concerned about environmental issues than they are about the economy, for instance.

A Gallup poll from March produced interesting results: 34% of those surveyed believe climate change is a “serious threat” to the earth, while 64% didn’t believe that. Over 60% believed climate change is currently happening or going to happen.

The report clarifies the approach of counteracting climate change into two strategies: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation calls for curbing the effects of climate change by reducing the cause; adaptation calls for preparing for the consequences that are currently or likely to occur. The report also analyzes the US by region, pinpointing specific impacts to each region.

The report identifies three major concerns: rising sea levels, increased droughts, and a longer fire season. The report foresees sea levels growing by one to four feet by the end of the century. Those living on tropical islands and on the coast will be the hardest hit. Miami, for example, is spending hundred of millions of dollars to prevent massive flooding. The Great Plains, too, will suffer from prolonged droughts and heat waves, which is likely to cause more wildfires and endanger agricultural and residential areas.

The report upholds regulations that limit carbon emissions, and encourages investing in programs that stop climate change in its tracks.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

May 24, 2014

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“White House touts energy policies as rules loom” – Associated Press, 30 May 2014

With continued backlash, President Obama is still trying to sell the US on his new energy policy and attempting to showcase the regulations as economically advantageous through job creation, cleaner energy sources, and protection of the US against foreign turmoil. In a 42-page report to be released on Thursday, the White House contends that the US’s natural gas boon is both economically and environmentally beneficial.

The report’s purpose is to counteract the disapproval of the EPA‘s new regulations on coal-fired power plants, which many expect will inflate electricity costs, thwart job growth, and impede economic prosperity. Conservatives and their allies believe that reducing emissions won’t actually aid the environment, and only become a hinderance to the economy.

The White House reports argues that increased domestic energy production, wind and solar power, and decreased dependency on oil have largely bolstered the security of US energy and the economy, and speak directly to the impacts of climate change by reducing carbon emissions.

The US’s upswing in natural gas safeguards the economy, and everyone’s pockets, if oil-producing countries undergo turmoil and cause oil prices to skyrocket. If we continue to produce energy sources domestically, then the US reaps the benefits—that means more money and more jobs.

Regardless, the US is still the number one consumer and importer of oil. The advent of natural gas hasn’t been embraced by everyone—the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock presents some unease with many environmental groups. The decline in oil consumption started in 2006, though that fall is ascribed to the recession. At the same time, natural gas consumption has increased by 18% since 2005.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

May 30, 2014

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