Other stories below: Climate Change And Food Pressures Adding Challenges to World Water Supply; Use of Public Transit Grew in 2011
If Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) needs examples of official waste and abuse as he runs for governor, he could cite the harassment that he conducted against climate scientist Michael E. Mann, a costly episode of government overreach that is finally over.
This month, after nearly two years of legal proceedings, the Virginia Supreme Court halted the attorney general’s investigation of Mr. Mann, who used to teach at the University of Virginia. Twisting a law designed to root out embezzlement of state funds and the like, the attorney general had demanded oceans of documents — including Mr. Mann’s e-mail correspondence — from U-Va. But, along with some technical legal problems with his demand, Mr. Cuccinelli didn’t offer any reasonable suspicion that Mr. Mann had committed anything resembling fraud — even as the attorney general proposed violating scientists’ sacrosanct freedom to conduct research without political pressure. Multiple independent reviews of Mr. Mann’s record have found that the professor did little more than participate in the normal push-and-pull of scientific inquiry.
The world’s water supply is being strained by climate change and the growing food, energy and sanitary needs of a fast-growing population, according to a United Nations study that calls for a radical rethink of policies to manage competing claims.
“Freshwater is not being used sustainably,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement. “Accurate information remains disparate, and management is fragmented … the future is increasingly uncertain and risks are set to deepen.”
It says that demand from agriculture, which already sucks up around 70 percent of freshwater used globally, is likely to rise by at least 19 percent by 2050 as the world’s population swells an estimated 2 billion people to 9 billion.
Farmers will need to grow 70 percent more food by that time as rising living standards mean individuals demand more food, and meat in particular.
After many years in which evolution was the most contentious issue in science education, climate change is now the battle du jour in school districts across the country.
The fight could heat up further in April, when several national bodies are set to release a draft of new science standards that include detailed instruction on climate change.
The groups preparing the standards include the National Research Council, which is part of the congressionally chartered National Academies. They are working from a document they drew up last year that says climate change is caused in part by manmade events, such as the burning of fossil fuels. The document says rising temperatures could have “large consequences” for the planet.
Most climate experts accept those notions as settled science. But they are still debated by some scientists, helping to fuel conflicts between parents and teachers.
At a time when Congressional Republicans are scrambling to find ways to blame him for rising gas prices, President Barack Obama plans to spotlight the progress his administration has made in saving people money at the pump and reducing U.S. reliance on foreign oil.
The White House unveiled a new report early Monday that boasts of several successes by the administration in making America more energy independent over the past three years.
“During the last year alone, we established new incentives to increase safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production; proposed the toughest fuel economy standards for cars and trucks in history; provided millions of Americans with efficient and affordable transportation choices; launched new programs to improve energy efficiency in our homes, buildings, public transit, aviation and roadway systems; and took unprecedented steps to make the United States a leader in the clean energy race,” reads the cover letter to the report, titled “A Secure Energy Future: A Progress Report.” The letter is signed by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, among other Cabinet officials.
In another indication that more people are getting back to work, Americans took 200 million more rides last year on subways, commuter trains, light-rail systems and public buses than they did the year before, according to a new report by a leading transit association.
Americans took 10.4 billion rides on public transportation in 2011 — a billion more than they took in 2000, and the second most since 1957, according to a report being released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association, a nonprofit organization that represents transit systems. The increase in ridership came after the recession contributed to declines in the previous two years.
Unions may be united in working to re-elect President Barack Obama, but their leaders also are trying to repair bitter divisions over his rejection of an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas.
Trade unions representing workers who stand to benefit from thousands of new construction jobs from the Keystone XL pipeline are furious at other unions that joined environmentalists in opposing the project.
AFL-CIO leaders hope to smooth tensions at their executive council’s annual winter meeting, which starts Monday in Orlando, Fla.
The rift reflects a decades-old conflict between union leaders who believe creating jobs is paramount and others who are more strongly aligned with progressive groups on environmental and social causes.
The UK government wants nuclear power to be given parity with renewables in Europe, in a move that would significantly boost atomic energy in Britain but downgrade investment in renewable generation, according to a leaked document seen by the Guardian.
The move would in effect remove the most important prop from the beleaguered renewable energy sector — the Europe-wide targets stipulating that a proportion of each member state’s energy must come from renewable sources.
That target should be scrapped when its current phase — requiring member states to generate 20% of energy from renewables — runs out in 2020, according to a secret submission to the European commission.