Other stories below: Much to worry about amid winter’s early blooms; Keystone fight unites Tea Partiers with environmentalists
Republicans on the campaign trail have long bashed President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations. This week the battle moves to the courtroom, where several industries and GOP lawmakers are trying to overturn the administration’s rules for reducing greenhouse gases.
Industry groups, including those representing chemical, energy, farming and mining interests, have brought several challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s first-ever rules limiting carbon-dioxide emissions.
In the lead case, the plaintiffs are challenging the EPA’s finding that such greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. That finding formed the basis for agency rules that imposed greenhouse-gas-emissions standards on cars beginning with the 2012 model year and set initial rules on permits for power plants and factories.
Beginning Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear two days of arguments on that case and three others involving challenges to those rules. The court often is considered the second most influential in the U.S. after the Supreme Court.
At the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, an experimental plot was in full flower on a recent February afternoon, as the thermometer edged toward 60.
The Japanese camellias, which typically bloom in early spring, have displayed their rose-hued flowers continuously since December. Honeybees, a rarity before late March, were nursing the tiny pink clusters on a Dawn viburnum, while the Adonis amurensis, a ground-hugging spring ephemeral, was a profusion of yellow.
“This is the earliest I’ve seen all of these things in flower,” said Todd Forrest, the garden’s vice president for horticulture and living collections. “The ground isn’t even frozen. That’s shocking.”
Farm workers swing their sickles through red branches, bundling them up before laying them out in the sunshine to dry.
The annual harvest at Groenkol Rooibos tea estate, in South Africa’s Western Cape helps quench the world’s growing thirst for “red bush” tea, but farmers fear that climate change could destroy the delicate eco-system that their crop depends on.
Annual exports of rooibos have quadrupled in the last 13 years. The tea is popular for its perceived health benefits as well as its refreshing taste and has become a trendy drink in many countries. It contains no caffeine and just a tiny amount of tannin.
But rooibos tea only grows in this Western Cape region — nowhere else in the world.
“Rooibos is endemic to this area, it grows wild here and only here,” said Chris Du Plessis, who runs Elandsberg Eco Tourism.
Hear the sound of chewing out in our vast forests of lodgepole pine, spruce and fir, the chewing that’s already destroyed half the commercial timber in important regions like British Columbia? That’s the sound of climate change, says biologist Reese Halter. Global warming in the form of a bark beetle.
Halter’s short but disturbing new book, “The Insatiable Bark Beetle,” addresses one of the biggest and most visible issues facing global forests, and particularly the relatively large forests left in the U.S. and Canada. As winters grow warmer and summers drier, the West’s evergreen forests are being eaten alive. And the infestation is not showing any signs of slowing.
The most disturbing part? Halter puts the blame squarely on climate change, of which the infestations are not only a symptom but a cause – a feedback loop. “The beetles have taken a crucial terrestrial system that absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) – what’s known in biological parlance as a ‘carbon sink’ – and turned it into a ‘carbon source,’” Halter writes. “Over the next decade, the beetle-killed BC forests will emit 250 million metric tons of CO2 – the equivalent of five years of car and light truck emissions in Canada.”
In Washington, DC, the fight over the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline mostly divides common enemies: Republicans and Democrats; environmentalists and fossil fuel interests; big business and the federal bureaucracy.
But though the project exists in a state of suspended animation, TransCanada — the company that wants to connect the tar sands in Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico — is preparing to build anyhow. In particular, on the portion of the pipeline that would link Nebraska to Texas, TransCanada has threatened to use disputed eminent domain powers to condemn privately held land, over the owners’ objections. And that’s creating unusual allies — Occupiers, Tea Partiers, environmentalists, individualists — united to stop TransCanada from threatening water supplies, ancient artifacts, and people’s basic property rights.
In 2007 TransCanada’s agents at Universal Field Services approached Randy Thompson, 64, of Martell, NE, asking to survey his farm land. Thompson assented at first, under the assumption that he’d have final say over whether a Canadian company would be allowed to build anything on his property.
Rising temperatures, triggered by climate change, are forcing birds to alter their migration patterns.
The finding is based on data from eBird, a database containing 10 years’ worth of observations from amateur birdwatchers. Since 2002, eBird has collected more than 48 million bird observations from roughly 35,000 contributors.
Billions of pounds’ worth of investment in Britain’s energy infrastructure is on hold or uncertain because of concerns over the government’s commitment to wind energy.
In an exclusive survey, the heads of some of the world’s biggest wind companies, which have been considering setting up factories, research facilities and other developments in the UK, have told the Guardian they are reviewing their investments or seeking clarification and reassurances from ministers on future energy policy in the wake of growing political opposition to wind energy that culminated in this month’s unprecedented attack on the government’s policies in a letter signed by more than 100 Tory MPs.
General Electric (GE) Energy’s managing director, Magued Eldaief, told the Guardian his company’s proposed wind manufacturing investment – amounting to at least £100m directly but worth much more in its knock-on effect to the economy – was “on hold” pending ministers’ decisions on future reforms to the energy market.