March 21 News: Climate Change May Cause $2 Trillion/yr In Damages To Oceans; Fracking May Boost Health Risks

Other stories below: Obama wants southern portion of Keystone XL expedited

Damage to oceans could cost $2tr by 2100

Damage to natural services provided by oceans could cost the world $2tr a year by the end of the century if steps to curtail climate change are not taken, a study by the respected Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) said today.

Researchers warned that without action global temperatures could rise by 4°C by 2100, leading to acidification, reduced oxygen content, stronger tropical storms and sea-level rises, all of which would in turn threaten fish stocks and other marine life.


Obama wants southern segment of Keystone XL expedited

President Obama on Thursday will call for expediting construction of the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, according to a White House official.

Obama will press for fast-tracking construction of only the southern segment of a pipeline that is part of the larger controversial proposal by TransCanada that would stretch from northwest Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. While the State Department blocked permitting of the entire project earlier this year, the White House late last month expressed support of TransCanada’s plan to move forward with building the southern segment from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf of Mexico.

Study: ‘Fracking’ may increase air pollution health risks

Air pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing, a controversial oil and gas drilling method, may contribute to “acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites,” according to a new study from the Colorado School of Public Health.

The study, based on three years of monitoring at Colorado sites, found a number of “potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near the wells including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene.” The Environmental Protection Agency has identified benzene as a known carcinogen.

It’s a Broken Record of Record-Breaking Heat

Another day, another slew of temperature records set, as the extraordinary March heat wave shows no signs of completely abating. Along with the record warmth, Monday brought a line of severe thunderstorms that stretched in a line from the Texas-Mexico border to the U.S.-Canadian border in Minnesota. Thunderstorm wind damage was reported near Minneapolis, a city more accustomed to March snowstorms than thunderstorms. The presence of warm, humid air so far north was extremely unusual for this time of year, but then again, so is nearly everything else about this heat wave.

In fact, the broad geographic scope of this heat event, along with the margins by which records are being broken, the time of year this is occurring, and the duration of the event are all indications that this may be an unprecedented event since modern U.S. weather records began in the late 19th century.

FACT CHECK: Does more US drilling ease gas pump pain? Math, history show that hasn’t happened

It’s the political cure-all for high gas prices: Drill here, drill now. But more U.S. drilling has not changed how deeply the gas pump drills into your wallet, math and history show.

A statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production by The Associated Press shows no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump.

If more domestic oil drilling worked as politicians say, you’d now be paying about $2 a gallon for gasoline. Instead, you’re paying the highest prices ever for March.

Political rhetoric about the blame over gas prices and the power to change them — whether Republican claims now or Democrats’ charges four years ago — is not supported by cold, hard figures. And that’s especially true about oil drilling in the U.S. More oil production in the United States does not mean consistently lower prices at the pump.

Army drafts RFP to attract renewable energy projects

The Army says it has a plan to entice the private sector into building billions of dollars in renewable energy projects on its bases. Private developers would pay to build new projects the Army has scoped out for feasibility ahead of time. In return, the Army would be a guaranteed buyer of the power it produces under a preliminary solicitation the service just issued. The release of the draft request for proposals marks six months since the Army stood up its Energy Initiatives Task Force, which focused on creating large renewable energy projects of 10 megawatts or more on Army bases.

Swiss soil reveals climate change in mountain ecosystems

The fresh snow covers the Aubonne valley overlooking Lake Geneva. Clumps of beech, maple and juniper trees cling to the slopes of the Jura highlands.

Scientists from Lausanne Polytechnic (EPFL) and Switzerland’s Forest, Snow and Landscape Research Institute (IFRFNP) cut more than 700 segments of earth, complete with vegetation, at an elevation of 1,400 metres. They then replanted the samples lower down the slope, in special cases fitted with sensors, enabling the researchers to study the impact of global warming on mountain ecosystems.

This original experiment shows much more accurately than any computer model the threat climate change poses to plant biodiversity. It may also reveal the capacity of the soil to capture carbon durably, thus mitigating greenhouse gases.