Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /var/www/wp-content/plugins/convertplug/convertplug.php on line 220

Deprecated: Function get_magic_quotes_gpc() is deprecated in /var/www/wp-content/plugins/convertplug/convertplug.php on line 1470

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /var/www/wp-content/themes/Divi/includes/builder/functions.php on line 2421
Our Daily Planet: ANWR Permits, Pilot whale ingests 17 lbs of plastic and how climate change isn't heating the planet equally
View this email in your browser
By: Monica Medina and Miro Korenha

Sign Up for Our Daily Planet 
Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

Forward ODP to a friend!


Musk Ox Graze in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge    Photo: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 
Initial Arctic Refuge Drilling Exploration Plan Rejected

The Trump Administration's efforts to permit oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) are moving ahead, but the initial request for a permit to study the area to determine where to drill has been rejected for inadequacy.   A consortium of Alaskan native corporations and a small oil services firm wanted to begin seismic (explosive) testing but their request did not contain sufficient information about the environmental impacts of the seismic work and equipment on wildlife, the soil, and the wetlands and rivers in the refuge.  The permit application was to conduct seismic testing over a huge swath of the refuge and included a heavy industrial footprint to search for and map underground oil or natural gas reserves, including:
  • two 150-strong teams of workers,
  • airstrips and roads -- paved surfaces
  • giant sleds and special vehicles that create powerful vibrations that are similar to dynamite.
The Interior Department found the plan lacked the basic analyses necessary to withstand the expected legal challenge.  But Congress passed a law requiring that two leases be granted for drilling in the next ten years, so unless we elect a new Congress to change the law, it is only a matter of time before a permit is granted.  

Why This Matters: ANWR is one of the last intact wild landscapes on the planet, much less in the U.S. Once it is developed, even just for exploration much less actual oil and gas drilling, it will never be the same again.  It is home to some of our most endangered and beloved wildlife species -- the polar bear and caribou and musk oxen -- in all 37 species of land mammals, 8 marine mammals, more than 200 species of migratory birds, and 42 species of fishesSeventy percent of the U.S. public opposes drilling for oil and gas in ANWR according to a poll taken last December.  This is one promise that most people in the U.S. don't want the President to keep.

To Go Deeper:  If you want to read the permit application and judge its insufficiency for yourself, just click here.  To read more about the public opinion survey on ANWR, click here

For Stunning Photos:  Check out ANWR's amazing beauty and iconic wildlife in the June issue of National Geographic here.  


Volunteers in Thailand Assist Pilot Whale    Photo: ThaiWhales via BBC 
Pilot Whale in Thailand Perishes From Plastic 

Another horrific photo of a dead whale made news yesterday all over the world when a male pilot whale in Thailand perished with 17 pounds of plastic bags and other plastic debris in its stomach.  CNN and other news outlets reported that veterinarians conducted an autopsy on the whale and removed more than 80 plastic bags from its stomach, said Jatuporn Burutpat, Director-General to Thailand's Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.  Volunteers worked for five days to try to save the whale, which vomited up plastic bags during its struggled to live.  The plastic bags and other debris created a blockage in the whale's digestive system making it impossible for him to eat.  The whale was discovered when it washed up onto the shore of a canal a week ago unable to swim.  

Experts believe the whale ingested the plastic thinking it was food.  Pilot whales feed on squid for the most part, but also eat other, smaller marine species when they cannot find squid, all of which could resemble the plastic ingested by the whale.  Thailand is considering a tax on plastic bags, which may help curb their use. Thailand is one of the five countries that account for 60% of the plastic pollution in the oceans, according to a 2015 report by the Ocean Conservancy.  According to the BBC, scientists in Thailand believe that plastic pollution kills hundreds of marine mammals there each year.  

Why This Matters:  The U.K. Government recently reported that the amount of plastic in the ocean could triple in the next ten years if left unchecked.  The report, entitled "Foresight Future of the Sea" argues that the ocean is undergoing an "unprecedented change as a result of direct human activity and climate change."  The Thai authorities hope to use this sad story as a way to educate the public about the harm that comes from plastic pollution and litter.  Mission accomplished.


The Temple tree, a 400-year-old chinquapin oak on property owned by Jason Weaver, who's involved with preserving Indy green spaces. Photo: Robert Scheer/Indy Star
Indy Hugs Its Trees

Forest advocates in the state of Indiana have often faced challenges when working to protect trees and wooded areas but a new project may be giving them hope to bring more tree cover to Indianapolis. As the Indy Star reportedForests for Indy, coordinated by the Indiana Forest Alliance and launched in May, is a three-year plan to catalog and rank trees and urban forestland across Indianapolis. The project's partners will focus not on parks and public lands, but rather the private acres of green space most under threat. 

"We're making the case that, for Indianapolis to continue to be attractive to current and future residents, access to green space is going to be as critical as smart development," said Jerome Delbridge, the Forest Alliance's urban forest preservation director. 

Urban forest experts also recommend cities in Indianapolis' climate zone have a 40 percent to 60 percent tree canopy, currently, the county is falling short at just 33 percent. Forests for Indy will work to educate the city and community on the importance of maintaining the tree canopy and will also work to ensure that residents from income levels have access to green space. 

Why This Matters: Forested areas as well as urban planning techniques known as “green infrastructure” will be crucial to helping urban areas withstand the intense heat and increased flooding caused by climate change, experts say. Urban forests help absorb water from storms that would otherwise run off of impermeable surfaces such as pavement and cause flooding, a problem that will only get worse as the climate gets wetter. Forests for Indy will also help protect heritage and landmark trees for the span of their lifetimes so that Indianapolis residents can continue to enjoy them. 

 Climate Change

Climate Change Won't Heat Earth Equally

A new study published in Geophysical Research Letters showed the drastic disparity in how parts of the world will be affected by climate change. As the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists explained,  by mapping economic and social development to  climate models’ “signal-to-noise ratio”—which compares normal local temperature fluctuation (noise) to overall increases to average local temperatures (signal)—the authors determined that the poorest populations on the planet will experience more perceptible climate change than the richest. In other words, in places with already fragile social and ecological systems, climate change won’t just be harder to deal with, it will actually be more noticeable, and worse. This could have drastic geopolitical reverberations as nations work to ensure the survival of their citizens. 

Even in America, climate change will affect poorer regions of the country more and continue to widen income inequality. Environmental justice is going to have to be part of our broader climate mitigation and adaptation plan to ensure that we don't leave our fellow Americans behind (a heartbreaking lesson that we are learning in Puerto Rico). 

Why This Matters: In many places, poorer communities are built in low-lying areas that constantly flood or where city planning has failed to adequately protect vulnerable citizens. Additionally, when climate change alters parts of the world, the rich are able to pick up and move while poor people are often stuck with no means to improve their situation. When people are able to move, it can create mass migrations and experts predict that climate change will ultimately create the world's biggest refugee crisis

Go Deeper: Could rocks found in Oman that react with CO2 in the atmosphere and turn it into stone help us abate climate change? (h/t to loyal reader Vanessa Dumont for sending us this story)


Black Lung Fund In Jeopardy 

We reported in ODP yesterday about the Trump Administration's efforts to prop up the coal mining industry and "bring back" coal jobs. One of the ways they plan to help the coal companies will have a direct negative impact on coal miners. Coal companies are required to pay into a fund to help support coal miners with black lung disease, but that tax is scheduled to go down by 55% at the end of this year.   The Trump Administration supports this reduction.  And according to CNN, it is worse because in the past even with the full tax in place, the fund has had shortfalls.  Now Congressional auditors predict shortfalls are going to grow -- to as much as $15M in 2050

Why This Matters:  If the Trump Administration has its way, the coal industry will be kept going with corporate welfare.  At the same time, an increasing number of coal miners will potentially be stricken with black lung disease and won't have the fund to help cover medical expenses and provide other assistance needed because they are no longer able to work.  With these policies, our country continues to dig itself into a deeper hole with coal mining.  And sick coal miners will be much worse off as a result.  


Pluto’s Dunes  Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University APL/Southwest Research Institute
The Dunes of Pluto

Who knew?  Pluto was supposed to be the frozen plant -- ice and nothing else, but it turns out that Pluto also has dunes that are shaped by winds According to a new study published last week in the journal Science of the results of NASA's mission to "fly by" Pluto, scientists were surprised to discover that it has dunes made up of tiny methane crystals that resemble grains of sand.  Particularly surprising to the researchers was the topography of the crystal mounds -- for dunes to form there must be wind -- which is something scientists did not think was possible on Pluto.   These dunes are up to 100 feet in height and resemble the dunes scientists have seen on Mars.  Scientists also now hypothesize that Pluto was formed by the aggregation of Ice comets that they liken to "dirty snowballs."   

Why This Matters:  Our space program is one of the things that makes America truly great.  Even as Elon Musk is pioneering a new commercial wave of space exploration, and private commercial satellites keep us communicating across the globe, only the government has the resources to embark on something as ambitious as exploring Mars and Pluto.  Your tax dollars make this research possible and help us to better understand our own planet and how our solar system was created.  
Copyright © Our Daily Planet 2018, All rights reserved.

We're committed to bringing you the best stories about people and planet, have a tip or feedback? Send it our way! 

Like what you see? Make ODP part of your morning and sign up.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.