Archive for the ‘Global Warming’ Category

Earlier today Senators supporting the Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday came up one vote short of securing approval for the controversial project.

Fourteen Democrats joined all 45 Republican senators in voting for the pipeline, which needed 60 votes to pass. The finally tally was 59-41.

The House passed their version of the bill on Friday, 252-161-1, with 31 Democrats joining Republicans to pass it.

The Obama administration has said that it wants to wait for a full State Department review of the project’s effects – and it has been skeptical that the project would create the long-term job gains touted by the pipeline’s backers.  in fact, during an interview November 16, 2014 on ABC’s “ThisWeek”, Russ Girling, current CEO of TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL Pipeline, conceded a claim by Reuters last year that, once constructed, the Keystone XL would produce as few as “FIFTY permanent jobs” which seems to have played out in the construction of the Southern leg of the pipeline from Cushing, OK to the the Texas Gulf Coast.

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The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) released a report yesterday titled “ERCOT Analysis of the Impacts of the Clean Power Plan” regarding the costs, benefits, and concerns of Texas’ compliance with Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan, put forth by the EPA on June 2, 2014, would set new national carbon pollution standards, in an effort to combat the effects of climate change and air pollution. ERCOT, which operates the electric grid of Texas and manages the deregulated market for 75 percent of the state, concluded that there are reliability concerns and high costs associated with the changes necessary for the electric grid infrastructure and the shift to alternative low-carbon energy sources.

Environmental advocacy organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club, and Public Citizen have begun commenting on this report, which they claim overstates the costs of compliance while understating the benefits of solar and energy efficiency. Not only does ERCOT’s report fail to take into account the affordability of solar energy and energy efficiency, it also neglects the steps that electric utility companies have already taken towards clean energy. Various electric utilities in Texas have been retiring inefficient coal plants and gas units in favor of adopting solar and wind energy projects. ERCOT’s own monthly interconnection report shows that more than 30,000 MW of solar and wind projects are in development stages. Texas’ energy storage and demand response capacities are also missing in the report. These two resources provide real-time reactive power when there is turbulence in wind and solar inputs, which would maintain a reliable power grid as Texas transitions to renewable energies.

The Clean Power Plan is a crucial step in reducing climate pollution and our dependency on dirty coal and other fossil fuels. The benefits of clean and affordable energy in Texas cannot be overstated. ERCOT should take the time to reevaluate the role of renewable energies in Texas’ future.

Download our presentation on our view of the plan here update New ERCOT Cost Estimates 

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The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) says that wind-powered generation recently set another record – albeit by 5 MW at 10:39 a.m. on Nov. 2, when instantaneous output reached 10,301 MW, providing 33.4% of the power within ERCOT. The old record, set on March 26, totaled 10,296 MW.

Of the total generation at the time, 975 MW came from wind generators on the Gulf Coast, while 9,326 MW came from other regions. Most came from West Texas, where transmission projects in the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones were recently completed to transport more power from that region to more populated areas of the state.


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US and China announce carbon reductions

US and China announce carbon reductions

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping just announced a joint plan to reduce the carbon emissions that threaten our world with catastrophic climate change.

Now we have an opportunity to turn this historic announcement into real action.

Step one is making sure the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) knows the American people demand strong limits on climate-disrupting carbon pollution.

For a very limited time, the EPA is accepting public comments on its latest proposal to limit carbon emissions. Submit your comment in favor of the strongest possible rule before it’s too late.

The United States and China are the two countries with the highest carbon emissions.

This is the first time China has ever committed to reducing emissions. People worldwide are watching to see what the U.S. and China will do to back up this announcement and aggressively reduce emissions from power plants — the largest source of the carbon pollution that could doom our planet.

Here at home, the EPA’s proposed rule on carbon emissions is not strong enough, but the agency is giving everyday Americans a chance to weigh in before it finalizes the rules.

All eyes are on us. This announcement must be the catalyst for immediate, achievable action to prevent climate catastrophe.

Submit your comment to the EPA, right now, for stronger limits on carbon emissions.

Thank you for taking action today!

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Photo Credit: Tar Sands Blockade
Photo Credit: Tar Sands Blockade

Last month a major pipeline oil spill near Mooringsport, Louisiana sent oil into a tributary of Caddo Lake, which straddles the border between Texas and Louisiana. Despite assurances from officials that oil has not reached Caddo Lake, the findings from an investigation by a community organization contradicts officials’ statements.

Photo Credit: KSLA News
Photo Credit: KSLA News

Sunoco Logistics Partners’ Mid-Valley Pipeline ruptured on October 13th and sent thousands of barrels of crude oil onto acres of private property and into Tete Bayou, a waterway that feeds into Caddo Lake. The oil spill prompted the evacuation of three households. Officials say the oil sheen stretches 4.2 miles and stops less than a mile away from the mouth of Caddo Lake, which is the largest natural lake in Texas and a major source of drinking water for thousands that live in the surrounding area.

Sunoco Logistics initially estimated that about 4,000 barrels, or 168,000 gallons, of oil leaked from the 20-inch pipeline, but earlier this week Sunoco revised the amount of oil spilled to 4,500 barrels, or 189,000 gallons. The Mid-Valley Pipeline is 65-years-old and stretches 1,000 miles from Longview, TX to refiners in Ohio and Michigan.

On Monday evening , Sunoco’s spokesperson Jeff Shields put out a statement that doubled-down on the companies position that oil had not reached the lake.

“The US Environmental Protection Agency and Sunoco Logistics today inspected absorbent booms that were placed in Caddo Lake as a protective measure against the spread of oil into the lake. Inspection of the booms by the EPA has found that the absorbent material was stained naturally from lake water but there was no oil in, on or around the booms.”

Photo Credit: Tar Sands Blockade
Photo Credit: Tar Sands Blockade

This statement was a response to allegations by Tar Sands Blockade, an anti-Keystone XL community organization, who visited the area last week and posted photos and video on there website of what appears to be oil stained boom where Tete Bayou feeds into Caddo Lake.

Kathy DaSilva, a member of Tar Sands Blockade, and a colleague canoed to the site last Wednesday to see if Sunoco’s claims about oil not reaching the lake were true, and they were surprised by what they found.

“We paddled in a canoe for 30 minutes to the mouth of Tete Bayou,” said DaSilva. “When we were crossing the lake we didn’t smell oil, but when we got out to cross some boom and walked around in the muck we started smelling it really bad. It was burning our nostrils.”

At the entrance of Caddo Lake, along the tree line, DaSilva documented absorbent booms tied to trees, but she says water was still able to go underneath some of the booms.

Photo Credit: Tar Sands Blockade
Photo Credit: Tar Sands Blockade

“Whether oil is at the top or the bottom, it’s in the lake,” said DaSilva.  “The area we were in there were no water bugs, turtles, frogs, nothing. For four hours.”

Sunoco reports that nearly 500 dead animals have been collected. Most of which are fish, reptiles and crawfish. At least 41 animals have been cleaned and released.

“For them to say 500 dead animals, that’s only the one’s they’ve found,” said DaSilva. “The numbers are wildly inaccurate. The animals are not just dying in front of workers.”

One of the main concerns for DaSilva are catfish, because they are bottom feeders and a popular fish among anglers. If oil gets submerged and stuck on the bottom of the lake it could prove deadly for a variety of wildlife. So far, Sunoco has recovered about 3,500 barrels of oil from the bayou, but that number fluctuates because the oil is mixed with water.

The pair also brought a UV light with them that can detect hydrocarbons, DaSilva said, “and we saw bright purplish, blue dots that look like the oil has been broken up. Everything we are seeing is consistent with  the use of dispersants.”

Photo Credit: Tar Sands Blockade
Photo Credit: Tar Sands Blockade

I emailed Sunoco’s spokesperson Jeff Shields about whether or not chemical dispersants were used in the clean up process, but he still has yet to reply.

Remediation and restoration of the spill is expected to take months, if not years. Although the majority of the oil has been collected, there’s no doubt that some of the oil has sunk into the mud and crawfish holes, making it extremely difficult to clean.

This is the second major oil spill from the Mid-Valley Pipeline this year alone. A 20,000 gallon oil spill happened near Cincinnati, Ohio earlier this March in a nature preserve. Sunoco is still in the process of remediation for that spill.

Despite the fact that the cause of the spill remains unknown, the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, PHMSA, the federal agency that regulates pipelines, allowed Sunoco to restart the pipeline and resume operation at 80 percent of maximum operating pressure.

For DaSilva, Caddo Lake is special. She has been going there since the 1970’s when she was attending college at Stephen F. Austin University, and she says it is her favorite place to canoe.

“They’ve already restarted the pipeline although they don’t know how it leaked,” said DaSilva. “It’s frustrating because regular people like us shouldn’t have to be doing this. We don’t have an agenda other than not seeing a place we love destroyed.”

Click here to see some of the footage Max shot of the spill.

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The Texas Board of Education is scheduled to meet from November 18-21, 2014 to vote on the approval of the textbooks proposed by publishers for Texas schools. These Texas textbooks have drawn national criticism for providing blatantly incorrect information about climate change and environmental issues. This isn’t a first for the Texas Board of Education, which has come into the national spotlight multiple times in the past due to internal disagreements about creationism and the causes of the civil war, among others.

National Center for Science EducationThe National Center for Science Education (NCSE), in response to the proposed textbooks, released a report in September titled, “Analysis of Climate Change in Proposed Social Studies Textbooks for Texas Public Schools”.  In this report they cite multiple instances where the textbooks were misleading or blatantly false in regards to climate change.

Several of the textbooks say that “scientists disagree on what is causing climate change”.  The NCSE responds that, “Scientists  do  not  disagree  about  what  is  causing  climate  change,  the  vast  majority  (97% of  climate  papers  and  actively  publishing  climatologists  (again 97%) agree that  human activity  is responsible.”

In one instance the position of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that climate change is due to human activities is contrasted with the opposing opinion of two employees of The Heartland Institute, neither of whom are scientists, who claim that scientists disagree on the cause.  The Heartland Institute is a conservative think tank that denies climate change, is funded in part by the Koch brothers, and is considered a shill for the oil industries.

The IPCC is a highly regarded international science organization that won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”.  The IPCC recently released a comprehensive report linking climate change to greenhouse gas emissions, saying that it is “extremely likely” that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and other anthropogenic drivers are the dominant cause of the observed warming.

Besides environmental issues, the proposed social studies curricula are also regarded by some critics as promoting tea party ideology, downplaying segregation, and mocking affirmative action.  The chairwoman of the History department at the University of Texas at Austin, Jacqueline Jones, focused on the historical inaccuracies of the proposed textbooks, citing “omissions of facts” and saying that they revealed “ideological biases that are either outside the boundaries of established, mainstream scholarship, or just plain wrong.”

A spokesperson for the textbook company, McGraw-Hill Publishing, said that they were simply fulfilling the state education requirements.  The errors stem from curriculum standards set in 2010, meaning that they’re unlikely to be corrected.  But we should expect more from our Board of Education.

justeducate.ffinalFellow Texans, please contact your respective Board of Education member and ask them not to teach Texas children misinformation on climate change, as well as the many other inaccuracies in other issue areas.  To get involved, the Texas Freedom Network has a campaign to reform the State Board of Education.


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Amid big losses for the more progressive candidates on the Texas statewide ballot, Denton residents voted to ban fracking within city limits.  This is the first fracking ban in Texas.  The ballot language was:


Frack Free DentonClearly, the people of Denton were convinced that this is the best way to protect their health, safety and quality of life.  The science strongly supports this view.  The environmental and health impacts of fracking are numerous, severe and some are long lasting.  Releases of toxic pollutants into the air are making people sick in the short term and causing long-term health impactsWater pollution from fracking operations poses health risks and hardship on people whose water supply is destroyed.  Billions of gallons of water are removed from the hydrological cycle when Texas is already struggling to meet its water needs.  Ejection wells in some areas are causing earthquakes.  On top of all that, methane leakage from fracking, natural gas processing, and transportation of natural gas is contributing to climate change.

There will be legal challenges to the Denton fracking ban, and possibly legislative action to try to roll it back.  That’s where the rest of us who care about protecting human health and the environment come in.  We can’t leave Denton residents to fight alone.  This is not a problem that is unique to them, and it’s one that we all contribute to by using natural gas.  Our individual and community decisions are impacting real people in serious ways.  Natural gas is not a clean or harmless energy choice.  Its use should be minimized as much as possible.  That includes moving away from natural gas-fired power plants, not building more of them.

Even if Denton’s fracking ban stands up to legal challenges and avoids legislative destruction, many communities in Texas will continue to suffer the impacts of fracking.  Denton has the benefit of being an urban area with a significant student population.  The Eagle Ford area, on the other hand, is largely rural and less affluent and residents find themselves powerless against the rampant fracking around them.  The community advocates who worked to pass the fracking ban in Denton deserve an incredible amount of credit for their work, as do Denton residents for making the smart decision to protect themselves.  Now we must not forget about those left on the front lines of fracking who are less able to organize to protect their health, their land, our shared water resources, and the climate.  We need a Sharon Wilson for every fracked community.

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Around the country, citizens are demanding action on climate change policies.  Recently,  Florida’s Clean Energy Future — a coalition of clean energy, business, Hispanic, faith, community and academic leaders throughout the Sunshine State  –worked across the state to raise awareness about the threat of climate change and to urge elected officials like Governor Rick Scott “to develop a strong plan for Florida to meet the requirements of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.”  And, across the state concerned Floridians have responded. On Monday, that response reached a crescendo when they delivered 92,217 petitions to Governor Rick Scott.

The signatures were delivered to the governor’s office by school children pulling little red wagons filled with boxes of signed petitions and college students and parents — about 30 people in all. Holding signs like “Dirty Power Makes Me Sick,” “Protect Kids,” “Our Health is at Risk!” and “Clean Power Plan Saves Money,” the kids, college and adults made their concerns known and their voices heard on climate change.

Jordan Myatt, a young student from Tallahassee, said:  “We’re all citizens and we’re all people, and either way, it’s going to be affecting adults and kids, so I think it’s adults’ and kids’ problem. Global warming caused by pollution is something that is a big problem now and needs to be fixed. We’re just going to keep pushing it and pushing it…We need to stop it now. It’s already the glaciers melting and the sea level rising.”

Adi Chauhan, age 9, of Tallahassee, added: “The weather will be affected too. The summers will get warmer and the winters will get colder, so it’s time to fight against [climate change]…Climate change is happening and it’s real — it’s happening right now.”

Daniel Corbett, a 21-year-old senior majoring in environmental sciences at Florida State University said: “Today’s action, delivering these petitions to our state capitol and legislature made clear to our elected leaders that climate change and energy policy is no longer just an issue for tomorrow. It is an issue for today.” Corbett added: “It doesn’t matter whether you identify as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, what faith you follow, where you call home, what language you speak or how much money you make, because climate change, pollution, whether our energy is dirty or clean, that is all of us.”

Susan McLeod, a mother and pharmacist from Tallahassee, said: “We have now over 91,000 signatures from folks all around Florida who also see the effects of climate change in our state. We ask the governor today to jump on board and help Florida to develop a plan to reduce carbon pollution.”

Clearly, the folks, both young and not so young, quoted above “get it” on what the problem is and what needs to be done.

Make your voice heard, tell the EPA that you support a strong Carbon-Cutting Standard – The EPA recently announced the first-ever standard to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. Add your voice in support of cutting carbon from our largest source of climate change-causing pollution.


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EPA Workshop for Communities with Environmental Justice Concerns on Rule to Reduce Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants
(online participation available)

 October 30, 2014
8:30 am – 5:00 pm ET
7:30 am – 4 pm CT

Crystal Gateway Marriott
1700 Jefferson Davis Highwayz
Arlington, VA 22202

 On June 2, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency issued the proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP) Proposed rule. This rule proposes state-specific goals for reducing carbon dioxide from the power sector; states will then need to make plans to meet the goal. The proposed rule also promotes clean and renewable energy options. This is a federal rule that will have important implications for state air and energy policies. The EPA  welcomes stakeholders who have environmental justice concerns to participate and share perspectives about how the rule can be reflective and responsive to the needs of environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically distressed communities across the country.  Most of us cannot travel to Virginia to attend the workshop, but the EPA will make online participation available and registration information is listed below.

If you are interested in learning how you can help your state achieve cleaner air, reduce the impacts of climate change, and promote renewable energy sources, it is important that you understand the Clean Power Plan. You have an opportunity to help shape this rule…come learn how!

We encourage you to take advantage of this 1-day workshop, which will:

  • Provide an overview of the Clean Power Plan proposed rule.
  • Prepare participants to engage effectively in the public participation process.
  • Provide information about the elements of the CPP that are important to communities with environmental justice concerns.
  • Provide information about how to participate in the public comment process, which is open until December 1, 2014

To register for this event in-person or online via Adobe Connect, click here

Special Notes about Online Participation:
  • If you plan to participate in this workshop online, you must register in order to receive the information to participate in the workshop
    • In your registration, you must indicate that you are participating online “via Adobe Connect”
    • You will receive the information to participate in the workshop by October 29th, 2014
    • Only a limited number of webinar slots are available (130 slots) if several of you from your community want to participate, we recommend you gather at a single location and register just for your group.


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melting earthEarth is now on pace to tie for the hottest year ever recorded. The first nine months of 2014 have a global average temperature of 58.72 degrees, tying with 1998 for the warmest first nine months on record, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.  Last month the globe averaged 60.3 degrees Fahrenheit making September the hottest in 135 years of record keeping and the fourth monthly record set this year,that includes May, June and August.

So we are on track for  2014 to break the record for hottest year.  Earth hasn’t set a monthly record for cold since December 1916, but all monthly heat records (and there have been a few) have been set after 1997.

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satellite-image-of-the-methane-hotspot_1_NASA and University of Michigan scientists have discovered a massive cloud of methane that spans 2500 square miles (about the size of Delaware) located above the the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.

The atmospheric methane concentration of methane in that area is equivalent to 1.3 million pounds of emissions a year, which is 80% higher than EPA estimates.  This is the largest concentration of methane in the United States.  It was so large in fact that scientists “weren’t sure if it was a true signal or an instrument error,” but they recently verified the levels of methane in the affected area.

Eric Kort of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor attributed the dramatic methane emissions to leaks in natural gas production and processing equipment in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin.  The San Juan Basin is the most active coalbed methane production area in the US.  The coalbed methane covers the pores and cracks in coal.  As this methane seeps out from underground coal mines, it causes fatal explosions almost yearly.

While the methane concentrations in that area are not an immediate health risk to the local inhabitants, it has significant implications for climate change.  As a greenhouse gas, methane is 86 times more potent in its atmospheric effect than carbon dioxide in the first two decades after release.  25% of human-induced global warming is caused by methane emissions in the environment.

As the U.S. considers transitioning from coal to natural gas as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is critical that accurate assessments of leaking methane are accounted for in all calculations.  If leakage of natural gas isn’t greatly reduced, switching fuels may make little or no difference in combating climate change.  This methane hot spot should serve as a warning that other undiscovered leaks are probably out there and having a significant impact.

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China Heat Wave- US China Daily Australia experienced record-breaking temperatures and many other countries are experiencing uncharacteristically intense heat waves. Whether or not these events are related to climate change has been questioned in the past, but has recently come to light as something that is very probable.

Recently, researchers and scientists come up with the phrase “extreme event attribution” which acts as a unit of measure for the extent to which these weather events are human-caused. For instance, according to extreme event attribution, the heat wave in Korea was 10 times more likely due to human caused climate change. Scientists want extreme event attribution to be in real-time by the end of 2015.

The American Meteorological Society recently released a bulletin based off of 22 case studies. It concluded saying that high temperatures made heat waves more intense and more likely and that the emission of greenhouse gases is causing these extreme weather events. Recent heatwaves in Australia, Korea, Japan, China, and Western Europe are all judged to be due to climate change. The National Climate Assessment also made a connection between climate change and the drought in Australia.

The impact of climate change seems clear, with China experiencing its biggest heat wave in 140 years August of 2013, during which at least 40 people died. Health effects of heat waves range from heat strokes to aggravated chronic diseases. The heat also increases ground-level ozone levels, causing lung injury and increasing the severity of respiratory diseases.

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2014-09-29 Austin Mayoral Candiate Forum on AE Issues - YouTubeOn Monday, we concluded our series of Austin City Council and mayoral candidate forums.  Over the course of two and a half weeks, we heard a variety of views on Austin Energy issues from an astounding 54 candidates.  On top of that, 49 candidates submitted responses to our questionnaire on Austin Energy issues.

Many of our Austin supporters joined us in person for the forums, but for those of you who weren’t able to make it out to your district forum or the mayoral forum, we have posted all of the videos on a special Austin Elections page of our blog. Or you can view them directly on the Public Citizen’s Texas Office YouTube channel.

If you care about climate change, shutting down polluting power plants, expanding the use of solar energy, energy efficiency, preserving our water, or keeping electric bills affordable for low-income customers, you’ll want to check out the Austin Council candidate forum videos for your district and the mayoral race.  Get the information you need to make an educated vote on November 4.

Public Citizen didn’t host these forums on our own.  We were joined in this effort by the SEED Coalition (Sustainable Energy and Economic Development), Sierra Club, Solar Austin, Texas ROSE (Ratepayers’ Organization to Save Energy), Clean Water Action, Austin Climate Action Network, Texas Drought Project, First Unitarian Universalist Green Sanctuary Ministry, and the Wildflower Unitarian Universalist Church.  Many thanks to everyone who helped with the forums, especially former Austin Mayor Will Wynn for moderating the mayoral forum, Progress Texas deputy director Phillip Martin for moderating the districts 6 and 10 forum, and Treehouse for donating their space for the districts 5 & 8 forum.

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Wildlife Decline Graph - from The GuardianResearch published in a new report by the World Wildlife Foundation and the Zoological Society of London found that the population of wild animals on Earth is now half of what it was in 1970. Freshwater species have seen an even more dramatic decline of 75%.

The researchers concluded that the decline in wildlife populations is due to human activity: unsustainable hunting, pollution, habitat destruction, and climate change.

Though climate change in this report accounts for 7% of the loss of wildlife in the past 40 years, climate change’s impact on the Earth’s ecosystem is expected to dramatically increase.  Some experts estimate that a-fourth of the Earth’s species could be extinct by 2050 due to the effects of climate change.

Climate change will also have negative impacts on humans.  Global temperatures are projected to rise 4 degrees by 2100.  In the hotter months of the year we can expect exposure to temperatures above 38 degrees Celcius (100ºF) on a common basis, which can cause organ damage and death.  Crops and livestock will struggle with the rising temperatures and water shortages.  Humanity’s staple crops, corn, rice, wheat and soybeans have a temperature limit of 40 to 45 degrees Celcius (104ºF to 113ºF), “with temperature thresholds for key sowing stages near or below 35 ºC (95ºF).”

The current human consumption of natural resources is unsustainable.  Climate change exacerbated by human activities at this rate is detrimental to both wildlife and the human species.  At this rate, we can expect to see the collapse of ecosystems on which we depend for our survival.   The scientists behind these various reports hope that these statistics and projects will serve as a wake-up call to ramp up conservation efforts and mitigate the effects of climate change and our exploitation of the environment and its resources.

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Renewable RoundupThe Renewable Energy Roundup & Sustainable Living Expo is a full 3 day event on September 26th, 27th, & 28th at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton, TX.

Booths will feature products and information on:
• Renewable energy resources; solar, wind, biomass and other resources and services – The Public Citizen booth will offer information on solar energy.
• Smart Grid solutions available to homeowners now
• Green Building and remodeling
• Sustainable transportation solutions
• Tips for improving health and well-being
• Insights on organic gardening and cooking, tree care and soil care
• Climate Change innovation
• Texas water conservation and drought solutions

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