A round-up of the top climate and energy news.
The size of rainstorms hitting Los Angeles has been getting bigger over the past 60 years, according to a new report released today by the Environment California Research and Policy Center. The environmental advocacy group measured rainfall in the Los Angeles metro area since 1948 and found that a storm large enough to occur only once a year decades ago is now happening every 8.8 months. [Contra Costa Times]
Similar trends were seen throughout much of California and nationwide. Overall, California experienced a 13 percent increase in extreme rainstorms and snowstorms between 1948 and 2011, one of 43 states to see statistically significant increases.
The report “When It Rains, It Pours” attributed the nationwide rise in extreme storms to global warming, although some experts are still hesitant to link climate change to relatively short-term weather patterns. It’s also unclear what an increase in extreme storms means for Los Angeles’ water supply.
Travis Madsen, one of the report’s lead authors and a policy analyst at the Frontier Group, an environmental think tank, called extreme rainfall frequency “one of the clearest ways in which we can see the impact of the change in climate.”
The Obama administration was urged on Monday to stop diverting grain to gas amid warnings of an “imminent food crisis” caused by America’s drought.US government forecasts of a 4% rise in food prices for US consumers because of the drought have sharpened criticism of supports for producing fuel from corn-based ethanol. [Gaurdian]
The latest oil spill from Enbridge Inc.’s Mainline pipeline system is bad timing for Canadian pipeline companies, which are trying to gain public support for new oil projects in Canada and the U.S.The spill of some 1,200 barrels of oil in Wisconsin Friday occurred almost two years to the day after Enbridge spilled 20,000 barrels of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in the most costly onshore spill in U.S. history. [Wall Street Journal]
President Barack Obama on Monday signed a bill designed to expedite home building and energy development on tribal lands.The law, sponsored by Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., enables tribes to approve trust land leases directly, rather than waiting for approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Navajo Nation already has that authority. [Washington Post]
As polar bears become rarer, they may be forced to mate with brown bears, which this new study suggests has happened before in the distant past. Modern polar and brown bears can and do produce fertile offspring, but biologists classify them separate species because geographical distance usually prevents the two from ever meeting. Climate change is erasing the distance between the two species. Brown bears are moving north into polar bear territory, and polar bears are being forced off melting ice to spend more time on land, where they’re more likely to encounter brown bears. A Canadian hunter in 2006 shot a white bear with patches of brown fur and the humped claws of a grizzly—DNA tests confirmed this first modern report of a hybrid. [Mother Jones]
As the temperature keeps rising, so does the price of natural gas. Natural gas futures in New York have surged 69 percent since hitting a 10-year low this spring. Power plants are burning more natural gas for electricity as homes and businesses crank up the air conditioning. And natural gas companies are finally cutting back after a production boom that pushed supplies this winter to the highest level on record. [Washington Post]
Massachusetts lawmakers have approved a bill that would require utilities to purchase more of their electricity from renewable sources. The measure approved in the Senate and House on Monday would also require competitive bidding for long-term renewable energy contracts and reduce from 4 percent to 2.75 percent the guaranteed annual return that utilities would receive from those investments. [Boston]
General Electric scientists have developed a prototype electric motor designed to improve the performance and efficiency of hybrid and electric vehicles.The Interior Permanent Magnet traction motor improves on existing designs in several key areas, and would result in hybrids and electric vehicles with greater range, better performance and better cooling characteristics. [Boston]
Climate Change Minister Greg Barker will today cut the ribbon on Scotland’s first designated zone for the development of marine energy, delivering a major boost to the fledgling sector. [Gaurdian]