Increasingly frequent wildfires threaten California’s shrublands

Increasingly frequent wildfires threaten California’s shrublands

California’s chaparral ecosystem is the state’s iconic shrub-dominant vegetation that covers broad areas of foothills stretching across the state but particularly southern California. Chaparral wilderness occupies more than 8.5 million acres and the drought-resistant and woody shrubs and as the California Chaparral Institute explained, provides essential protection against erosion, allows underground water supplies to recharge, moderates local climates, provides important habitat for an interesting assortment of animals. Yet because of the increasing frequency of major wildfires in California, these shrublands are coming further under threat.

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Nurdles: they sound cute, they’re anything but 

Nurdles: they sound cute, they’re anything but 

Science is continually discovering the extent of the damage microplastics wreak on our planet and especially the world’s oceans. These tiny (sometimes even microscopic) plastic fragments can become so small that they are absorbed by all sorts of marine organisms–from coral to the fish we eventually end up eating. While a lot of microplastic is a result of larger pieces of plastic breaking down, evidence shows that the second-largest source of marine plastic comes from nurdles.

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Oceans Warming Much Faster Than Previously Thought

Oceans Warming Much Faster Than Previously Thought

Oceans are heating up at a rate as much as 40% faster than the global consensus of scientists studying climate change had previously predicted.  A team of scientists looking at the numerous recent studies which made that claim have now validated those studies’ conclusions based on ocean heat content (OHC) observations (actual ocean temperature data), according to a new report published in the journal Science on Friday.  It also validates (as if we needed more proof) that the planet is clearly warming.  

Why This Matters:  Science matters.  The more data scientists have to work with, the better they can understand the changes that are wreaking havoc with our planet.  With more ocean observing sensors, which could be much more beneficial if we expanded the network of buoys and added sensors to more ships, we would not have to fill in nearly so many gaps and could do a much better job of forecasting risks and impacts, such as sea level rise, coral bleaching, and ocean acidification.  As the experts who conducted the review said, “There is a clear need to continue to improve the ocean observation and analysis system to provide better estimates of OHC, because it will enable more refined regional projections of the future.” 

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One Just Thing: Fiat Chrysler To Pay $800M

One Just Thing: Fiat Chrysler To Pay $800M

Late last week, auto giant Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay out $800M to settle an enforcement action with the U.S. government and private lawsuits with car owners, after admitting that they installed emissions test-cheating devices on diesel Jeeps and trucks resulting in an additional 35,000 tons of pollution.  The company is also required to recall […]

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Shutdown Not Slowing Down Trump Administration Energy Priorities

Shutdown Not Slowing Down Trump Administration Energy Priorities

While most of the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency are in a seemingly endless shutdown limbo, the priorities of the Trump Administration go on without a hitch.  Two high profile examples came to light over the weekend — the preparation for newly nominated Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s confirmation hearing and the busiest […]

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Gov shutdown freezes vital research and training programs

Gov shutdown freezes vital research and training programs

As of the morning, the federal government shutdown has entered into its 24th day, making it the longest shutdown in US history. While 800,000 federal workers are caught in the crosshairs of the shutdown (and most of them missed a paycheck last Friday), countless amounts of scientists and other workers have had their research work frozen as well.

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Bioengineering may save America’s forests

Bioengineering may save America’s forests

Scientific American recently reported that U.S. forests are among the most vulnerable in the world to predators and disease, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The report also explained that biotechnology has the potential to be a part of the solution in protecting forest trees against destructive pest and disease outbreaks,

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Breaking:  Winter Storm Gia Expected to Bring Weekend Snow To Wide Swath of U.S.

Breaking:  Winter Storm Gia Expected to Bring Weekend Snow To Wide Swath of U.S.

A big snowstorm will barrel across the middle of the country over the weekend — following a 1500 mile pathway from Denver to Baltimore.  The storm will begin on Friday and last through late Sunday before it blows out to sea.  According to the National Weather Service, 20 million people are in the storm’s path, including the cities of Kansas […]

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Heroes of the Week: Coasties Risking Their Lives To Keep Us Safe — Even Without Pay

Heroes of the Week: Coasties Risking Their Lives To Keep Us Safe — Even Without Pay

Unlike the other branches, there is one military service whose members are about to miss a paycheck.  The U.S. Coast Guard is the only military service that is “deployed” all over the nation every day 24/7.  And the brave Coasties who are working without pay are risking their lives to protect us.  According to a Coast Guard spokeswoman, they are continuing to provide essential operations “for national security or that protect life and property during partial government shutdowns,” such as search-and-rescue, securing the nation’s ports and coastlines, other law enforcement duties and environmental response. And for that, you are our heroes — this week and every week.

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Cities Saying Bye-Bye to Styrofoam

Cities Saying Bye-Bye to Styrofoam

On Tuesday, the City of San Diego became the latest U.S. city to ban the use of styrofoam within city limits.  The ban covers the use and distribution some very common products like egg cartons, food containers, coolers, ice chests, pool or beach toys, mooring buoys and navigation markers made fully or partially of polystyrene foam, commonly known as styrofoam.  Other major cities like New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. also now have styrofoam bans in effect. 

Why This Matters:  Styrofoam needs to go.  The new replacements are better for the planet and completely recyclable.  For example, TemperPack’s  “ClimaCell” packaging produces 97% less carbon emissions in the manufacturing process than styrofoam and will replace tens of millions of pounds of plastic foam that would otherwise be dumped in landfills and never biodegrade.  Good for the economy and good for mother earth.  Good for these cities for taking this bold action.  

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Already High Food Contamination Risk Is Increasing Due To Gov’t Shutdown

Already High Food Contamination Risk Is Increasing Due To Gov’t Shutdown

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has spent the better part of the last two days trying to reassure the public that food safety is not at risk during the shutdown.  Yesterday and into today, through a series of tweets, Dr. Gottlieb explained (1) that routine food safety inspections are not taking place now; (2) that he is trying to get them re-started by next week – though he is not sure how to do it because FDA guidance requires routine inspections to cease when there is no funding; and that (3) high-risk food safety inspections are continuing.  The key fact that most people don’t know is that there are very few food safety inspections in the U.S, which Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich pointed out in a story and in a devastating series of tweets.  

Why This Matters: The good news is that your food is almost as safe now as it ever was. The bad news is that our safety inspection system is woefully underfunded and inadequate.  But we should have already deduced that fact given the two deadly e-coli outbreaks in the last year.  The law on food inspections is relatively strong, but not being fully implemented.  And lax agricultural practices and health and safety regulations regarding pesticides and use of certain fertilizers create further loopholes that create more risk than most people realize.

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Rep. Ted Lieu’s march to 100% renewables

Rep. Ted Lieu’s march to 100% renewables

This week, California Congressman Ted Lieu introduced the first major climate bill of the 116th Congress. In a statement, Lieu said that: “There is no threat greater to our nation’s security than climate change. Failing to protect our planet will endanger the lives of millions, hurt our economy and jeopardize our children’s future. The wildfires […]

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