Monday, April 28, 2014

Even in MA, Coastal Towns Completely Unprepared for Sea Level Rise

Here in Massachusetts, climate science denial may be politically toxic, but when it comes to accelerating sea level rise fueled by global warming, some local officials are just as in denial about as their science-denying counterparts in North Carolina.

Climate Central has an interactive sea level rise tool showing how even 5 feet of sea level rise - virtually guaranteed by the carbon pollution we've already put into the atmosphere - will put more than 10,000 homes under water on the Southcoast alone. As Ariel Wittenberg reports in the Standard-Times, many local officials are governing as though the threat doesn't exist:
Asked about the maps, most SouthCoast municipalities say they have dealt with flooding issues as they happen, and have not made plans to combat or adapt to climate change and sea level rise specifically.

In Dartmouth, for example, Town Administrator David Cressman said he and the police chief are "aware of the vulnerabilities" of the police station, which was renovated 10 years ago.

"At times I wondered why they were doing that if it is in a flood zone," he said.
In my town of Fairhaven, where Sconticut Neck is set to become an island, austerity means kicking the can down the beach for future generations to clean up:
[Fairhaven Chairman of the Selectmen Bob Espindola] added it's difficult to think about investing town money in mitigating climate change.

"It's something that is not right on our doorstep and we are thinking about balancing our budget and keeping from making significant cuts," he said.
Screw the grandkids, I want my property taxes cut now!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New Bedford May Buy Wind Energy for Less Than Many States Pay for Dirty Coal Power

Hingham (oops) 2/19/11UPDATE 4/25: The New Bedford City Council briefly threatened to turn an easy touchdown into a fumble, but they managed to approve the contract.

A proposed wind power contract for New Bedford isn't just feel-good - it's look-at-this-giant-pile-of-money-we're-saving-taxpayers.

As Ariel Wittenberg reports in the Standard-Times, the New Bedford City Council will soon consider a proposal to buy power from a planned wind farm in Plymouth after a subcommittee approved the plan that would save the city somewhere around 30 percent on energy costs:
The proposal, made by Mayor Jon Mitchell's office, would enter the city into a power purchase agreement with Future Generation Wind LLC to buy wind-generated electricity at 10.8 cents per kilowatt hour for the next 20 years. [...]

Scott Durkee, director of the city's energy office, noted that the power purchase agreement will also save the city money. Currently, he said, the city's lowest costing energy contracts are 11 to 13 cents per kilowatt hour, with the city paying closer to 15 to 17 cents per kilowatt hour on most contracts. Signing with Future Generation LLC is predicted to save New Bedford upwards of $20 million over the life of the contract.

Additionally, Future Generation LLC is offering to pay the city $250,000 in a sort of signing bonus meant to help further New Bedford's efforts to become a premier port for offshore wind. Future Generation owner Keith Mann said he is also considering using New Bedford as the receiving port for his turbines.
It's hard to overstate what a bargain this is - the best energy at the lowest price.

For some context, 28 states paid more than 10.8 cents is About per kilowatt hour for their electricity in February. And most of those states were sending the money out of state to buy coal and natural gas that polluted their air and added fuel to our climate crisis.

On top of all the benefits of cleaner air and climate protection, an extra million dollars a year is a huge deal in a city whose entire budget for FY2014 is $263 million. That's an extra dozen or more police officers or teachers or city bus drivers. And on top of that, New Bedford businesses would get the boost from turbine construction.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Apple's New Recycling Program is OK, But Its Clean Energy Program Deserves Headlines

Solar panels at an Apple data center in NC
Other than giving the world a better gadget, Apple icon Steve Jobs never had much interest in improving conditions for humans or our habitat. But this week, Apple is finally rolling out an Apple product recycling program. The question is, will it do much good that isn't being done already?

I was getting rid of an iPod Touch last year and found there are already plenty of trade-in and buyback programs through places like Amazon and Best Buy, and I got significantly more than either of those offered by wiping the data and selling it myself on Craigslist. It's good Apple is giving folks another option, but I'm assuming Apple plans to refurbish & resell what they're taking back from customers at a tidy profit.

Apple deserves much more credit for what it's doing on clean energy. A recent Greenpeace report gave Apple the top score on powering the internet with clean energy, edging out Amazon and Facebook. Meanwhile, Amazon and Twitter flunked for their heavy reliance on dirty coal and fracked natural gas.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Epic Failure of Helicopter Parenting

American parents have spent the last two generations trying to keep their children safer by keeping them closer to home and under constant protective watch. As The Atlantic reports, today kids are just as frequently injured in accidents and just as rarely victims of crime as they were when kids were allowed to run off and play in the woods by themselves.

Also, children are less confident and parents are more frazzled. What's not to like?

So why does helicopter parenting persist? Helicopter parenting makes parents FEEL constantly needed and important, even if the evidence shows their kids would be better off on their own sometimes.

It's also no coincidence that the rise of protective parenting overlaps almost perfectly with the rise of local television news. Every time there's an incident, local TV news breathlessly asks IS YOUR CHILD IN DANGER?? Meanwhile, the most common ways for children to die: Accidents involving guns and cars, neither of which your child will find in the woods.

Let your kids get muddy once in a while. It's good for them, and for you.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Recycling Saves Money. Recycling More Saves More Money.

fairhaven recyclingHere in Fairhaven, the town has to pay a company to collect trash and recycling. But while the town then has to pay $50 a ton to get rid of the trash, the company takes care of the recycling for free.

So what's the problem? Only 14% of the town recycles and many households still use those iconic, tiny blue bins. As Ariel Wittenberg reports, now Fairhaven is looking to invest in bigger recycling bins to encourage bigger savings:
Department of Public Works Superintendent Vincent Furtado said that his office recently came to an agreement with ABC Disposal to start using larger trash and recycling carts, much like those now being used in New Bedford.

Residents will be able to throw any recyclables, be they paper, plastic or something else, into the carts, which hold 96 gallons. The recycling carts are a third bigger than the 64-gallon trash carts, something Furtado said is meant to encourage more recycling in town.

"We will only pick up what fits in those containers," Furtado said. "The hope is that will make people think about what they put in each of them." [...]

"What's the difference between throwing a milk carton in one container or the other? Well, in one it costs the town money and in the other it won't," he said. "When the town saves money, the taxpayers save money."
Yes, recycling conserves precious resources like wood, metal, oil (plastic is made from petroleum), energy and water. Yes, recycling conserves space in our increasingly-crowded (and sometimes dangerous) landfills.

But even if you're some selfish jerk who doesn't care about any of that, recycle because it saves you money.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Raptormania: Snowy Owls vs. Osprey

With this winter's unusual flood of snowy owls, I'd been wondering if they'd stick around long enough to come into conflict with returning ospreys, which nest in many of the same spots the owls are using.

Sure enough, researcher with our local Manomet Center for Conservation Studies photographed this squabble between a snowy owl and an osprey at Angelica Point in Mattapoisett, home to several nesting pairs of osprey from April to October. The snowy owls literally can't take the heat, so they'll migrate north by May at the latest.

You can like the Manomet Center on Facebook and follow it on Twitter - or if you're feeling extra supportive, send them a small donation as a thank you.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Years of Living Dangerously: Watch Climate Change Documentary's First Episode Free

A new documentary series on climate change called Years of Living Dangerously premieres Sunday night on Showtime. Watch the first full episode for free & like the series on Facebook:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pro-Wind Winning Streak Continues as Fairhaven Candidates Sweep

View from the topLocal wind energy is on a year-long winning streak at the ballot box in Massachusetts, extended on Monday by the re-elections of pro-wind Fairhaven Selectman Charlie Murphy and Board of Health Member Jeannine Lopes:
With 19 percent voter turnout, Murphy had 1,391 votes and Riley had 607 according to a preliminary count. In the Board of Health race, Lopes had 1,287 votes and challenger Louise Barteau had 740.
Local elections held in spring are designed to be low-turnout - they're exactly the elections anti-wind NIMBYs should win if their absurd health claims were finding even the least bit of traction. Instead, "Windwise" anti-wind energy activist Louise Barteau got only a third of the vote - again, in an election in which only the hardcore activist base of voters turned out.

It's the latest in a string of victories for local wind energy:
The wins of DeTerra and Lopes were no accident - Friends of Fairhaven Wind rallied the pro-clean energy majority to turn out to support them.

Local elected officials shouldn't be scared of anti-wind NIMBYs - they should build as much clean energy as they can, then when it's time for re-election, aggressively run on that record.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

NBC News Climate Change Special Airs Sunday Night (UPDATED)

UPDATE 4/8/14: A few quick reactions to Ann Curry's "Our Year of Extremes":
  • Localizing impacts: Curry presented climate change as a current and concern for our communities. While it covered far-away melting glaciers, it spent much more time on the climate change-fueled wildfires, droughts, floods and superstorms threatening our homes, businesses and special places. 
  • Solutions: Curry covered carbon-cutting options, which instantly made her special superior to CNN's. 
  • Somber format: It told the story of climate change linearly, focusing on climate change impacts for most of the special, then closing with a segment on climate solutions. Starting with 50 minutes of constant crisis was a bit depressing - mixing impacts and solutions throughout might've made the mood more hopeful.
  • Contrarian co-host: It was bad enough when Curry allowed a political scientist, the discredited climate contrarian Roger Pielke, Jr., to attack climate scientists. But Curry then went back to Pielke a second time, giving him a stand-alone slot as her ONLY non-scientist voice on climate solutions. Why didn't we get to hear from a strong climate action voice like Bill McKibben or Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse? 
  • Ads suck: Watching documentaries on network TV is the worst. Just as you're starting to get into the flow of the program, everything comes to a screeching halt for a three-minute commercial break. But then again, it's good to see so many advertisers willing to support this kind of public service content.
UPDATE 4/7/14: You can watch the full special on Comcast on Demand or at Here's a clip:
  On Sunday at 7pm ET, NBC will air special by Ann Curry titled Our Year of Extremes - Did Climate Change just Hit Home?

One thing to watch for: A recent CNN special on climate change completely failed to mention the industrial carbon pollution that's causing climate change.

Considering that climate science deniers already have a bizarrely unhealthy hatred for Ann Curry, she might as well give America the whole story.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Walter Cronkite Warned of Climate Change 34 Years Ago Today

Walter Cronkite introduced this report on climate change on April 3, 1980 and with the benefit of hindsight the only thing that seems inaccurate is the time-frame. While the reporter warns a climate crisis could be upon us in "50 to 70 years," just 34 years later a new IPCC report documents how we're already seeing rapid climate changes threatening our water & food supplies and worsening extreme weather.

Via Climate CrocksD.R. Tucker

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fairhaven Wind Turbines Make NIMBYs, Not Kids, Play Dumb

Local anti-wind turbine agitator and non-bird decapitator Louise Barteau is running for Fairhaven Board of Health against incumbent and wind turbine supporter Jeannine Lopes. An op-ed in support of Lopes by Fairhaven resident Mary Fortin in the local Standard-Times turns one of the more common "health" lies about wind turbines on its head:
None of these claims have any proof to support them. There are no lab results, no doctor's findings, no dental records that show proof of sleep disturbances, teeth falling out, excruciating, debilitating headaches or any other ailments that are being claimed. She claims that the turbines are impeding our children's sleep and their learning abilities, when in fact, Wood School, which is within 2,000 feet of the turbines, has shown an increase in MCAS scores since the turbines have been erected.
Meanwhile, coal-fired power plants are scientifically proven to hurt children's development.

If you live in Fairhaven, like Jeannine Lopes for Fairhaven Board of Health on Facebook and be sure to vote for her on April 7.