Drought emergency status extended in Adams, Grant and Okanogan counties

  • By Joe Utter
  • May 26, 2022 Updated May 26, 2022
  • Comments
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SPOKANE — Despite a cool and wet spring, the state Department of Ecology on Thursday has extended a drought emergency declaration for watersheds in eight eastern Washington counties.

Under the declaration, five watersheds spanning parts of Spokane, Lincoln, Grant, Adams, Whitman, Stevens, Okanogan and Pend Oreille counties will remain in “drought emergency” status that was first declared last year.

All other counties east of the Cascade Range will be downgraded to “drought advisory” status. Counties west of the Cascades no longer fall under drought conditions.

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The spring of 2021 was the second-driest on record, and then an unprecedented late June heatwave smashed temperature records across the state. In response, Ecology issued an emergency drought declaration in July 2021 covering 96 percent of the state. Only Seattle, Everett and Tacoma avoided the designation.

“2021 saw extreme temperatures and near record-low precipitation across much of the state,” said Ecology drought coordinator Jeff Marti. “In 2022, conditions have been much more normal, but we’re still trying to make up a deficit in some places. Extending the drought declaration for these areas will give us more tools to manage water supplies and respond to changing conditions.”

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That declaration was set to expire June 1 of this year. Ecology’s new amended declaration extends that to June 1, 2023 – but only for about 9% of the state.

Under state law, a drought can be declared when the water supply in an area is below 75% of normal and there is an expectation of undue hardship.

Declaring a drought emergency allows Ecology to process emergency water rights permits and expedite requests for emergency water right transfers.

Impacts from last year’s drought are expected to continue through this summer including low soil moisture, dried-out ponds, earlier-than-normal curtailments of irrigators in Colville, the Little Spokane River and Hangman Creek, and low reservoir storage in Okanogan County.

WA investigating 4 dead wolves found in Stevens County

Exposing the Big Game


by Associated PressFriday, May 27th 2022

https://komonews.com/news/local/wa-investigating-4-dead-wolves-found-in-stevens-county

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FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2014, file photo, released by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, a wolf from the Snake River Pack passes by a remote camera in eastern Wallowa County, Ore.   Government attorneys are due before a federal judge to defend a decision from the waning days of the Trump administration to lift protections for gray wolves across most of the U.S. Friday's hearing before U.S.  (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife via AP, File)

FILE – In this Dec. 4, 2014, file photo, released by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, a wolf from the Snake River Pack passes by a remote camera in eastern Wallowa County, Ore. Government attorneys are due before a federal judge to defend a decision from the waning days of the Trump administration to lift protections for gray wolves across most of the U.S. Friday’s hearing before U.S. (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife via AP, File)

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A poaching investigation has been launched after two Stevens County deputies stumbled upon four dead wolves in northeast Washington while on snowmobile patrol near the Canadian border on Feb. 8, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

Some environmental groups contend the animals were poisoned, although they haven’t offered any evidence to support that allegation.

The Spokesman-Review reported Thursday the…

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New data reveals climate change might be more rapid than predicted

by Weizmann Institute of Science

https://phys.org/news/2022-05-reveals-climate-rapid.html

New data reveals climate change might be more rapid than predicted
Winter storms in the Southern Hemisphere. Credit: NASA Worldview

About 30 massive, intricate computer networks serve the scientists who stand at the forefront of climate change research. Each network runs a software program comprised of millions of lines of code. These programs are computational models that combine the myriads of physical, chemical and biological phenomena that together form the climate of our planet. The models calculate the state of Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and ice, capturing past and present climate variability and using the data to predict future climate change. These results are analyzed by leading research institutes across the globe, including the Weizmann Institute of Science, and then incorporated into the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report. Policymakers rely on the IPCC report when they form adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change, one of our generation’s greatest crises.

A new study, published today in Nature Climate Change, will certainly make the IPCC—and other environmental bodies—take notice. A team of scientists led by Dr. Rei Chemke of Weizmann’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Department revealed a considerable intensification of winter storms in the Southern Hemisphere. The study, conducted in collaboration with Dr. Yi Ming of Princeton University and Dr. Janni Yuval of MIT, is sure to make waves in the climate conversation. Until now, climate models have projected a human-caused intensification of winter storms only toward the end of this century. In the new study, Chemke and his team compared climate model simulations with current storm observations. Their discovery was bleak: It became clear that storm intensification over recent decades has already reached levels projected to occur in the year 2080.

“A winter storm is a weather phenomenon that lasts only a few days. Individually, each storm doesn’t carry much climatic weight. However, the long-term effect of winter storms becomes evident when assessing cumulative data collected over long periods of time,” Chemke explains. Cumulatively, these storms have a significant impact, affecting the transfer of heat, moisture and momentum within the atmosphere, which consequently affects the various climate zones on Earth. “One example of this is the role the storms play in regulating the temperature at the Earth’s poles. Winter storms are responsible for the majority of the heat transport away from tropical regions toward the poles. Without their contribution, the average pole temperatures would be about 30°C lower.” Similarly, the collective intensification of these storms yields a real and significant threat to societies in the Southern Hemisphere in the next decades.

“We chose to focus on the Southern Hemisphere because the intensification registered there has been stronger than in the Northern Hemisphere,” Chemke says. “We didn’t examine the Northern Hemisphere, but it seems that the intensification of storms in this hemisphere is slower compared to that in the Southern Hemisphere. If the trend persists,” Chemke adds, “we will be observing more significant winter storm intensification here in the upcoming years and decades.”

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In his lab at the Weizmann Institute, Chemke researches the physical mechanisms underlying large-scale climate change. In this study, he and his research partners sought to understand whether these changes in climate patterns were caused by external factors (such as human activity), or whether they have resulted from the internal fluctuations of the global climate system. They analyzed climate models that simulated storm intensification patterns under the isolated influence of internal climatic causes, without external impact. They showed that over the past 20 years, storms have been intensifying faster than can be explained by internal climatic behavior alone.

In addition, the researchers discovered the physical process behind the storm intensification. An analysis of the growth rate of the storms showed that changes in atmospheric jet streams over the past few decades have caused these escalations, and current climate models are unable to reflect these changes accurately.

Chemke, Ming and Yuval’s study has two immediate, considerable implications. First, it shows that not only climate projections for the coming decades are graver than previous assessments, but it also suggests that human activity might have a greater impact on the Southern Hemisphere than previously estimated. This means that rapid and decisive intervention is required in order to halt the climate damage in this region. Second, a correction of the bias in climate models is in order, so that these can provide a more accurate climate projection in the future.

Could the climate models be inaccurately predicting other important phenomena? “The models are doing a very good job at forecasting nearly all the parameters,” Chemke says. “We’ve discovered one parameter for which the sensitivity of the models needs to be adjusted. Changes in temperature, precipitation, sea ice, and summer storm patterns, for example, are all being simulated accurately.”

The study’s findings are expected to help climate researchers around the world correct the bias in the models and create a more accurate prediction of future climate patterns. In addition, the updated understanding of the intensification of winter storms over the past several decades will help us gain a better understanding of the state of the Earth’s climate. Climate scientists will now be able to estimate more accurately the extent of the damage that climate change is expected to wreak—damage that will only be mitigated if humanity intervenes and takes responsibility for the future of the planet.


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Jet stream that brought storm Eunice has been getting faster over last century

Roadkill Literally ‘Drives’ Some Species to Extinction

Citizen scientists have stepped up to reveal just how much fauna is flattened on the world’s roads

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/roadkill-literally-drives-some-species-to-extinction/?fbclid=IwAR0nPHv4kiTMrn_zJbZpUkiQt8FpsietGMiHGrKgnhk51tv26oje7UZOFSg

Roadkill Literally 'Drives' Some Species to Extinction
Brown hyena. Credit: Shams/Getty Images

On May 8, 2021, at the crack of dawn, shreds of mist crept from the chilly fields onto Ziendeweg, a country road south of Amsterdam. The rush hour traffic caused by commuters using the road to bypass jams on the highway had not yet picked up. But another activity was taking place. All along the four-kilometer-long road, small groups of people were carrying bundles of white crosses and quietly beginning to erect them on the roadside. When the sun came up, the first motorists were greeted by an eerie spectacle: 642 crosses marked the precise spots where dozens of animals had been killed by vehicles during the past few years. Each cross displayed the common name of each animal, a drawing of the animal and a QR code that linked to the roadkill incident logged on the citizen science platform Observation International.

This guerilla campaign was the brainchild of biologist Bram Koese, who was frustrated by the large numbers of otter and waterfowl deaths from speeding traffic and the lack of response from local authorities. Koese decided to take matters into his own hands, and by midmorning, his parade of crosses was featured on local and national news, suitably embarrassing the municipality.

While they do not all share this intensity of activism, community roadkill monitoring programs such as Koese’s are ongoing worldwide. In fact, because road authorities themselves do not routinely keep track of animals killed by traffic—and if they do, it is only because such collisions pose a risk to human road-users—most of the data come from citizen scientists. These amateur investigators have turned up evidence revealing that some species are being driven toward extinction because of traffic.

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An early effort along these lines was started in 1992 by Brewster Bartlett, aka “Dr. Splatt,” then a science teacher at Pinkerton Academy, a high school in New Hampshire. He used the school’s very first e-mail server to exchange students’ sightings and post them to a bulletin board. Since then technology has improved, and roadkill monitoring is now conducted through the use of dedicated apps or online citizen science platforms.

In Belgium, which has Europe’s densest road network, drivers can use speech recognition on the app ObsMapp to report and log roadkill. In Israel, a roadkill mapping project relies on a feature in the navigation app Waze. Motorists can tap an icon depicting the face of a porcupine that has crosses for eyes and its tongue sticking out whenever they spot a dead animal.

In 2020 Clara Grilo of the University of Aveiro in Portugal and her colleagues pulled together data from 90 European roadkill surveys and concluded that, on Europe’s roads, 194 million birds and 29 million mammals die annually. Similar calculations suggest that, each year, more than 350 million vertebrate animals are killed by traffic in the U.S.

Astronomical as those numbers for larger animals may be, they pale in comparison with the amounts of insects and other smaller creatures that perish on the road. To get a handle on that, Arnold van Vliet of Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands and his colleagues devised a citizen science project specifically focused on insect mortality. Drivers were asked to take a daily photograph of all the insects squished on their license plates, record their car’s mileage and then scrub the license plate to start with a clean slate the next day. By extrapolating from the nearly 18,000 dead insects thus tallied, the group came up with estimates that, if extended globally, would mean that 228 trillion insects are killed each year on the world’s 36 million kilometers of roads.

Community scientists are not just mapping roadkill; they are also mapping the roads themselves. They do so because that figure of 36 million kilometers is little more than a crude estimate—and it is rapidly becoming outdated. The world’s road networks are, in fact, expected to increase by 25 million kilometers by midcentury. The open license project OpenStreetMap aims to create a world map made by the general public for the general public. In 2016, a team of researchers used it to calculate that roads carve up the world’s land into no fewer than 600,000 roadless parcels. Half of them are less than one square kilometer, and only 7 percent or so are more than 100 square kilometers. In other words, we live in a world that is completely shattered into tiny road-encircled fragments.

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And that, Grilo says, is bad news for the world’s species. She and her team combined information from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species and the existing data on roadkill and worked out the risk that roadkill poses for specific species. While some, such as the Eurasian blackbird (Turdus merula), suffer huge losses—a whopping 35 million become roadkill per year—populations are able to absorb the losses without noticeable traffic-induced declines in numbers. Other species are not so lucky. The hazel grouse (Tetrastes bonasia) in Eurasia, the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) in South America and the brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea) in southern Africa are likely to be literally driven to extinction by road traffic in the next few decades.

So roadkill is not just the unavoidable but inconsequential collateral damage that inspires the crude humor of books such as the faux field guide Flattened Fauna, The Roadkill U.S.A. Coloring and Activity Book or the lyrics of Loudon Wainwright III’s song “Dead Skunk,” “You got your dead skunk in the middle of the road stinkin’ to high heaven.” Vehicles continue to be overlooked environmental forces that are likely to decimate more and more animal populations. While mitigation measures such as “ecoducts,” underpasses and fencing are helpful, they usually protect just one or a few species.

Perhaps more powerful are community awareness projects such as the one started by Koese. The scientific data the researchers gathered are just statistics, but hundreds of shrines erected for the killed stoats, weasels, swallows, owls, frogs and geese produce a visual impact that drives home the message to road users and builders that roadkill is not a laughing matter. Unfortunately, some members of a local community that Ziendeweg runs through were not impressed by the white crosses last year, Koese says with regret. “Two days after we erected them, they had run down each and every one of the crosses,” he says.

Physicists predict Earth will become a chaotic world, with dire consequences

Exposing the Big Game

ByPaul Sutterpublished1 day ago

“If the Earth System gets into the region of chaotic behavior, we will lose all hope of somehow fixing the problem.”

Climate change is pushing hurricanes to their extremes. In 2018, Hurricane Michael (shown here in this digitally enhanced image) became the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall on the Florida Panhandle.

Climate change is pushing hurricanes to their extremes. In 2018, Hurricane Michael (shown here in this digitally enhanced image) became the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall on the Florida Panhandle.(Image credit: Roberto Machado Noa/Getty Images)

Humans aren’t just makingEarthwarmer, they are making the climate chaotic, a stark new study suggests.

The new research, which was posted April 21 to the preprint databasearXiv(opens in new tab), draws a broad and general picture of the full potential impact of human activity on the climate. And the picture isn’t pretty.

While the study doesn’t present a complete simulation of…

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A Forecasting Model Used by the CIA Predicts a Surprising Turn in U.S.-China Relations

Exposing the Big Game

The administration could soon lower tariffs if some power plays in Washington and Beijing take flight.

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/05/26/game-theory-predicts-biden-tariffs-china-cia-00035104

Photo illustration of U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping with outline of game pawns behind them.

Politico Illustration / Getty Images

ByBOB DAVIS

05/26/2022 04:30 AM EDT

Bob Davis recently retired from the Wall Street Journal where he covered U.S.-China relations and is the co-author ofSuperpower Showdown, a history of the two nations’ economic battles.

Here’s some good news on the gloomy international scene: Tensions will ease significantly between the U.S. and China soon, as the Biden administration slashes consumer tariffs and Beijing welcomes the move, at least privately. Expect a new round of trade negotiations too. The thaw comes after U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen makes a big push for change, and as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, long dismissed as an also-ran, becomes a key player. President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping reluctantly go along.

At least that’s the surprising outcome of a forecasting model…

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Biden Is Breaking His Climate Promises. What Are the Consequences?

President Joe Biden speaks on Earth Day at Seward Park in Seattle, Washington, on April 22, 2022.
President Joe Biden speaks on Earth Day at Seward Park in Seattle, Washington, on April 22, 2022.

BYC.J. PolychroniouTruthoutPUBLISHEDMay 24, 2022

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Although the war in Ukraine has put climate action on the back burner for many policy makers, the global climate crisis is spinning out of control. Various climate records were smashed in 2021, and greenhouse gas emissions are on course to hit record levels in 2023. In the face of such dramatic developments, political inaction on the climate front could portend an imminent environmental catastrophe.

In the interview that follows, world-renowned progressive economist Robert Pollin discusses the latest developments on the climate crisis, starting with Biden’s broken promises to provide leadership in the fight against the climate emergency, and the problems of soaring energy costs and inflation. He also refutes the arguments in favor of nuclear energy, as well as the claims that there is very little we can do to stop the burning of fossil fuels. Pollin is distinguished professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he has authored many climate stabilization projects for different U.S. states. He is also the author of many books, including Climate Crisis and the Global Green New DealThe Political Economy of Saving the Planet (co-authored with Noam Chomsky).

C.J. Polychroniou: Bob, why did Biden break his promise on no new leasing on federal lands? Aren’t there other ways to fight soaring energy costs besides a “drill, baby, drill” policy? And will record high gas prices actually be solved by drilling more?

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Robert Pollin: The Biden administration announced last April 15 that it would lift the executive order it had established in January 2020 that imposed a temporary ban on auctioning off federal lands for oil and gas leasing. This is despite the fact that, as a presidential candidate, Biden pledged, “And by the way, no more drilling on federal lands, period. Period, period, period.” So much for even Biden’s most emphatic campaign promises.

One excuse that the administration has given for Biden’s flip-flop is that a federal judge in Louisiana had struck down the January 2020 executive order. However, Biden could have easily delayed the awarding of new drilling permits indefinitely by fighting the judge’s order in court. Biden chose not to do this. The administration’s excuse here is that, in the immediate, Biden has had to focus on pushing down energy prices and overall inflation. The administration claims that opening up federal lands for drilling will increase oil and gas supply and thereby counteract the sharp oil and gas price increases that have prevailed since over the past year.

Specifically, the average retail price of gasoline has risen nearly 150 percent over the past year, from an average of $1.77 per gallon over May 2021 to $4.23 from May 1–23 this year. This spike in gasoline prices, along with rise in heating oil prices, has, in turn, been the single biggest driver causing overall U.S. inflation to rise by 8.3 percent over the past year, the highest U.S. inflation rate in 40 years.

Without question, we face serious problems with surging oil and gas prices and overall U.S. inflation. But it is also obvious that expanding drilling on public lands will have precisely zero impact on oil prices over the next year or two, if at all. This is because any supplies that could be produced through new drilling on federal lands will not become available in the retail energy market for at least 1 to 2 years. In addition, the amount of new oil and gas supplies that could ever come onstream from these projects would be minuscule as a share of the overall global energy market.

The Biden administration certainly must know all this. Their policy reversal is therefore all about optics — they want to convey the impression that they are taking strong measures to fight high gas prices, even while, in fact, they are doing no such thing. This Biden strategy is especially damaging since, rather than straining now so ineptly to manipulate public opinion, they could instead get serious to enact effective measures that can both fight climate change and protect people’s living standards against the vagaries of the global oil market.Expanding drilling on public lands will have precisely zero impact on oil prices over the next year or two, if at all.

Getting serious has to begin with the recognition that if we are going to have any chance of meeting the goals of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for climate stabilization — i.e., a 50 percent reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030 and zero CO2 emissions by 2050 — then we have to maintain a hard commitment to phasing out fossil fuel consumption every year, with no backsliding permitted — i.e., “period, period, period.” This is because burning oil, coal and natural gas to produce energy is by far the largest source of CO2 emissions globally and therefore the biggest driver of climate change. At the same time, the world now depends on fossil fuels to meet 80 percent of global energy demand. We should therefore assume that short-term crises will regularly emerge in which, similar to the current situation, the imperatives of climate stabilization will appear less pressing than keeping energy supplies abundant and prices low. We need to be prepared to meet these inevitable short-term crises without ending up, each time, clinging to our current dependency on fossil fuels.

Within this context, any measure now to push fossil fuel prices back down would be moving us in the wrong direction, since lower fossil fuel prices will encourage greater fossil fuel consumption. Rather, on behalf of saving the planet, we actually need all fossil fuel prices to remain high, and indeed, if anything, to increase still further. This is because high prices for oil, natural gas and coal will discourage consumers from buying fossil fuels to meet their energy needs. High fossil fuel prices will also incentivize efforts to build a new energy infrastructure, whose two pillars will be high efficiency and renewable energy, in particular solar and wind power. A high-efficiency renewable energy-dominant infrastructure will, among other things, deliver cheaper energy than our current fossil fuel-dominant system. But that cannot happen in an instant. In the meantime, we cannot allow working class and middle-class people to experience cuts in their living standards right now through high fossil fuel prices while oil companies’ profits explode. How can we effectively address these equally valid, though competing, considerations?

For the immediate, the federal government should provide people with energy tax rebates to compensate them against the impacts of any temporary spikes in energy prices. One specific proposal along these lines that has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives is a “windfall profits tax” on the oil companies’ current levels of outsized profits resulting from the price spikes. Under the Senate version of this measure introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the oil companies would be taxed at half the difference between the current retail oil prices and the average pre-pandemic price between 2015 and 2019.

The average price of gasoline between 2015 and 2019 was $2.37 per gallon. Based on the average market price of $4.23 per gallon between May 1-23, the Senate version of the tax would amount to 93 cents per gallon (i.e. ($4.23 – $2.37)/2 = $0.93. This calculation assumes no further adjustment for inflation). Over a year, the tax would generate a total of roughly $130 billion based on current gasoline consumption levels, according to my calculations. These revenues would then be channeled into compensating consumers for the spike in their energy bills. Every U.S. resident would receive nearly $400 if revenues from the tax were distributed equally to everyone. A family of four, including, for example, an infant and a grandma, would therefore receive almost $1,600 in rebates.

A still more basic solution here would be for the government to take over the U.S. fossil fuel industry. Under a nationalized fossil fuel industry, the necessary phaseout of fossil fuels as an energy source can proceed in an orderly fashion. The government could then set fossil fuel energy prices to reflect the needs of both consumers and the imperatives of the clean energy transition. At present, the U.S. government could purchase controlling interest in the three dominant U.S. oil and gas companies — Exxon/Mobil, Chevron and Conoco — for about $350 billion. This would be less than 10 percent of the $4 trillion that the Federal Reserve pumped into Wall Street during the COVID crisis. More generally, these costs should be understood as trivial because nationalization would end these corporations’ relentless campaign of sabotaging the clean energy transition.

The economic and ecological logic of oil nationalization are straightforward. But clearly, the politics of actually pulling this off now are nearly impossible. By contrast, the windfall profit tax approach is within the outer reaches of current political feasibility.

The war in Ukraine has generated interest in nuclear energy. In fact, the EU has opted to label nuclear, as well as gas, as green energy investments. While it takes a bizarre leap to label an energy source associated with risks as sustainable, what about nuclear energy’s economic aspects? Are there economic benefits?

In terms of advancing a viable climate stabilization project, nuclear energy does provide the important benefit that it can produce electricity in abundance without generating CO2 emissions or air pollution of any kind. But even allowing for this benefit, we need to first consider the risks you mention with nuclear energy. Because these risks are so severe, addressing them must supersede any economic considerations.There is no viable economic case in support of nuclear energy as an alternative to building a new global energy system.

These risks were brought into sharp focus in the early phases of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That is, in one of its first offensive operations on February 24, the Russian military seized control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which is located about 60 miles north of Kyiv in Ukraine. In 1986, when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union, Chernobyl was the site of the most severe nuclear power plant accident in history. An explosion blew the lid off of one of the plant’s four operating nuclear reactors. This released radioactive materials into the atmosphere that spread throughout the region. Despite this disaster, the other three reactors at Chernobyl continued operating until 2000.

The other three reactors did cease operating in 2000. But the site still houses more than 20,000 spent fuel rods. These rods must be constantly cooled, with the cooling system operating on electricity. If the system’s electrical power source were to malfunction, the spent fuel rods could become exposed to the air and catch fire. This would release radioactive materials into the atmosphere. Once released, the radioactive materials could again spread throughout the region and beyond, as they did in 1986. This is low-probability but by no means a zero-probability scenario.

On March 3, the Russian miliary also took control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the largest in Europe. According to a March 11 report on NPR, “Russian forces repeatedly fired heavy weapons in the direction of the plant’s massive reactor buildings, which housed dangerous nuclear fuel.” All military actions at or near the plant create further danger of the plant’s operations becoming compromised. As with Chernobyl, this could then lead to radioactive materials being released into the atmosphere.

Nuclear disasters at both Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia are therefore active threats right now. In addition, the war is compromising the security systems that operate to protect both sites. The fact that both sites have become combat zones means that they are more vulnerable to attacks from non-state actors, including terrorist organizations of any variety. The aim of such organizations in breaching security at Chernobyl or Zaporizhzhia would almost certainly include gaining access to materials that would enable them to produce homemade nuclear weapons. At the least, they would be positioned to threaten the release of radioactive materials.

Even given these unavoidable dangers, we still might want to prioritize nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels if the economic benefits were overwhelming. In fact, according to the U.S. Energy Department, the costs of generating a kilowatt hour of electricity from nuclear energy are now more than twice as high as those from solar panels or onshore wind. Moreover, the costs of renewables, especially solar, have been falling sharply over the past decade, with further large cost reductions likely. By contrast, nuclear is on a “negative learning curve” — i.e., the costs of nuclear energy have been rising over time. This is mostly because minimizing the risks with nuclear as much as possible requires spending billions of dollars on safety provisions for a single average-sized reactor. This is why the huge multinational firm Westinghouse, which, for decades, had been the global leader in building nuclear plants, was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2017.

In short, there is no viable economic case in support of nuclear energy as an alternative to building a new global energy system whose foundations are high efficiency and renewables. There are significant challenges to address in creating a high-efficiency and renewable-dominant system, starting with the problems created by solar and wind intermittency — i.e., the fact that wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine all day at any given location. But none of these problems are insurmountable, and certainly none of them create anything like the existential risks that we inevitably face with nuclear energy.

There are certain scientists out there who contend that it is unrealistic for the world to expect to halve emissions by 2030, as the latest UN climate report states that we must do if we are to avert catastrophic global heating. Is this really an unrealistic goal, as someone like Vaclav Smil claims it is? And what about the argument, made by Smil and others, that if we abandoned the use of fossil fuels, we would end up with a global energy crisis?We can eliminate fossil fuels entirely within 20 to 25 years through the global Green New Deal.

The New York Times recently published an extensive interview with the environmental scientist Vaclav Smil titled “This Eminent Scientist Says Climate Activists Need to Get Real.” By “getting real,” Smil argues that climate activists, and everyone else, need to face the fact that we will never hit the IPCC’s emission reduction targets — the 50 percent CO2 emissions cut by 2030 and reaching zero emissions by 2050. This is because, as Smil puts it, “People will eat pork bellies and drink a liter of alcohol every day because the joy of eating pork belly and drinking surpasses the possible bad payoff 30 years down the road.” And further: “There are billions of people who want to burn more fossil fuel. There is very little you can do about that. They will burn it unless you give them something different. But who will give them something different?”

Smil’s perspective gives no credence to at least two huge and obvious points, which makes it especially odd that the Times would give his views such prominence. The first is that the IPCC’s emissions reduction targets can hardly be considered as in any way analogous to lifestyle choices like eating pork bellies and drinking alcohol. The IPCC established these targets based on the body of scientific evidence, which concludes that the targets must be achieved for us, the human race, to have any chance of avoiding the most severe consequences of climate change. With daytime temperatures in parts of India and Pakistan currently reaching 120-1240 Fahrenheit, do we need any more reminders of what we are facing right now with climate change?

The second point is that advancing a global clean energy transformation is certainly technically and economically feasible, as we have discussed at length many times.

It can be accomplished within a viable global Green New Deal project that can also deliver expanding decent work opportunities, rising mass living standards, and dramatic reductions in poverty in all regions of the world. It is true that we cannot eliminate fossil fuels immediately, given that they currently supply 80 percent of all global energy needs. But we can eliminate fossil fuels entirely within 20 to 25 years through the global Green New Deal. It is simply a matter of political will. To build that political will, we cannot be distracted by empty pronouncements from the likes of Vaclav Smil, just as we cannot permit politicians, starting with Joe Biden, to toss aside their promises on climate action whenever such promises become temporarily inconvenient.

Bird flu spreads across US, killing poultry and wild birds

Exposing the Big Game

Veterinarians, farmers endure difficult work in response to deadly epizootic

ByGreg Cima

May 24, 2022

This year’s epizootic of highly pathogenic avian influenza has killed tens of millions of poultry as well as unknown numbers of wild waterfowl and raptors.

As of May 23, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials had recorded about 350 outbreaks among domestic birds in 35 states, with about 40 million birds dead from disease or from depopulation to control spread of the virus to more flocks and reduce the risk to humans. The highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza strain circulating in the U.S.—and much of the world—is unusual for also causing disease and deaths among a range of wild birds such as ducks, crows, and eagles, with crows and eagles likely becoming infected from eating remains of infected birds.

Federal and state agencies have recorded infections in 67 species, about triple the number found during…

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WA zoos remove birds from public exhibits to reduce risk of avian flu

May 23—With cases of bird flu confirmed in Washington state, several Washington zoos are taking precautions to reduce risk to certain birds by removing them from public exhibits.

The latest outbreak of avian flu hit North America in December and has led to the culling of about 37 million chickens and turkeys in U.S. farms since February. More than 35 million birds in flocks across 30 states have been affected.

The first case in Washington was detected in an backyard poultry flock in Pacific County on May 6. Since then, the highly pathogenic disease has been detected in nine backyard flocks in seven counties, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

https://cb5598edc48c49d4f4d9054ef0d76a25.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Most recently, it was confirmed in a flock in Thurston County on May 17. WSDA has recommended that live market poultry sales pause for 30 days until the end of June.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk avian flu spreading from birds to people is low and most often occurs after people contact infected birds while not wearing protective equipment.

However it is often fatal among birds, and is primarily spread through wild migratory birds and their feces, leading some local zoos to move birds to covered off-exhibit areas where the public is not available to view them.

“Our veterinarians and keepers will continue to assess this rapidly evolving situation,” Alan Varsik, director of the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park said in a news release. “They

are closely monitoring all birds in our care for any signs of sickness.”

At Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Eatonville, staff moved all birds, including four bald eagles, a golden eagle, snowy and barn owls and a trumpeter swans to covered areas.

At the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, the “most highly susceptible birds” including a peacock, penguins, puffins and murres were moved to off-exhibit areas.

The Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle has also moved “highly susceptible avian species” to indoor or protected housing. That includes peacocks, penguins, flamingos, cranes and waterfowl like ducks, geese and swans. In some instances, tarps and temporary roofing has been installed at enclosures.

The Tropical Rain Forest building, which recently reopened after a two year closure, will be closed again since it has a walk-through aviary. Programs at the Wildlife Theater will also no longer include free flying birds.

“We know many of our visitors will be disappointed they won’t be able to see birds that are most at risk of avian flu, especially our popular penguins and flamingos,” Woodland Park Zoo Chief Operations Officer Sheri Horiszny said.

Some birds at the Point Defiance Zoo are still available for viewing including birds like the king vulture and a macaw participating in the Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater show, that already live indoors and do not have contact with wild birds.

The Budgie Buddies Aviary at the zoo will also remain open because budgies are not considered high-risk for developing infections.

Staff at the two Pierce County zoos are required to disinfect their shoes before entering animal areas, and those who have backyard poultry are required to shower and change their clothes and shoes before coming to work.


(c)2022 The Seattle Times

Visit The Seattle Times at www.seattletimes.com

Two weeks of bullets and death in America

Exposing the Big Game

The wave of violence this month has been relentless, deepening a gnawing sense that shootings are now just a deplorably consistent fact of American life.

https://www.nbcnews.com/data-graphics/shootings-two-weeks-bullets-death-america-rcna30489

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May 25, 2022, 9:24 AM PDT

ByDaniel Arkin,Jiachuan WuandNigel Chiwaya

In the last 14 days, America has been shattered again and again and again by the horror of gun violence.

At least 40 people across the U.S. have been shot dead since May 11, when a man walked into aDallas hair salonand shot three women.

The lethal tally, compiled bythe Gun Violence Archive,has only deepened a gnawing sense that such shootings are now just a deplorably consistent fact of American life in the 21st century.

In the absence of any meaningful legislative action, many see bullets and bloodshed as grim inevitabilities. In a…

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