The limited research on climate change and mental health points to a sense of despair, accompanied by an enthusiasm for reconnecting with the land, according to a psychiatric epidemiologist at the University of Canberra. Grist’s Joanne Silberner found Helen Berry’s 27 papers and book chapters after searching a variety of other sources, but finding nothing on how climate change affects our mental health. “When you think about what climate change does, it basically increases the risk of weather-related disasters of one sort or another,” Berry told Silberner. “What happens from a psychological point of view is people get knocked down. Whenever people are knocked down, they have to get up again and start over. And the more that happens, the more difficult it is to keep getting up.”
The Delaware City Refining Company, a division of PBG Energy, is asking taxpayers to help it adapt to “tidal encroachment” (a.k.a. sea level rise) after more than 50 years of pumping carbon pollution into the atmosphere. “The extent of the shoreline erosion has reached a point where facility infrastructure is at risk,” states the company’s permit application under the Coastal Zone Management Act. “The refinery is on the waterfront, and rising tides and extreme storms could threaten it,” Adler reports, citing the Sierra Club blog. The company’s adaptation plan “could direct more storm surges toward Delaware City, the adjacent town.”
Everything may be awesome in the theme music for the new Lego® movie, but not so much when Shell gets to brand its own line of Lego® toys. Greenpeace produced this two-minute video to push the iconic Danish toy company to drop its advertising partnership with a company that plans to drill for oil in environmentally sensitive Arctic waters.
Climate hawks in the United States have formed a new Super PAC (Political Action Committee) to endorse Congressional candidates who support strong action on climate change. “Every big legislative victory requires lawmakers who will publicly argue for an issue and aggressively push legislation,” Adler explains. Formed to counter Democrats’ timidity on climate change, Climate Hawks Vote developed a scoring system to measure Democratic legislators’ commitment, said founder and Executive Director R.L. Miller. “We’re trusting them to vote as a bloc but they’re not leading on this issue,” he told Grist. “We need to measure public engagement.”
The new carbon pollution rule in the U.S. will inevitably face a series of lawsuits. Grist’s Ben Adler lists five likely legal strategies for the regulation’s opponents: attacking a previous EPA rule on emissions from new power plants, challenging the “outside the fence” approach that allows states to factor in a wider range of emission reductions, criticizing a set of variable targets that recognizes current energy use patterns in different states, opposing state compliance plans, and critiquing any compliance plans the EPA produces on states’ behalf. Ironically, the “outside the fence” strategy and flexible targets are designed to make the rule easier and more realistic for states to implement. “EPA is doing industry a favour by taking into account the prevalence of coal versus other resources,” David Doniger, senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate and clean air program, told Grist.
The Pacific Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council have identified water efficiency improvements in California that could deliver 10.8 to 13.7 million acre-feet of water per year, more than all the cities in the state currently consume. “The good news is that solutions to our water problem exist,” the two non-profits report. “They are being implemented to varying degrees around the state with good results, but a lot more can be done.”
Life cycle analysis by the Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, IL shows that Chinese solar panels have twice the carbon footprint when their production process is fueled by coal plants, compared to equivalent units produced in Europe. “Life cycle analysis tallies up all the energy used to make a product—energy to mine raw materials, fuel to transport the materials and products, electricity to power the processing factory,” explains Argonne’s Louise Lerner. “Assuming that a solar panel is made of silicon—by far the most common solar panel material—and is installed in sunny southern Europe, a solar panel made in China would take about 20 to 30% longer to produce enough energy to cancel out the energy used to make it. The carbon footprint is about twice as high.” The analysis pointed to lower environmental and efficiency standards in China, as well as its high dependency on fossil fuels to generate electricity.
A review by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs) in 29 states raised electricity rates by an average of less than 2%, while adding 46,000 megawatts of renewable capacity through 2012, Grist reports. The RPSs also brought economic development benefits and helped stabilize electricity prices. “As there’s more to life than electricity prices and economic development,” Upton writes, “it’s worth noting that RPSs also contribute to water savings, cleaner air, and a more stable climate.”
While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new greenhouse gas regulation is a good first step, “environmental activists are not overwhelmed with joy at the news,” Adler reports. “Environmental experts generally agree that more ambitious targets are possible, especially if the EPA is going to make the rules extend all the way to 2030.” David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen both called for a tougher standard, even though the EPA’s state-by-state approach follows the broad strategy in a 2013 NRDC proposal.
Syria’s long-running civil war is one of the bloodiest in recent memory, and this comic strip points to climate change as a root cause. “Legend has it, the spark of Syria’s civil war came from a few cans of spray paint,” the comic states. But “between 2006 and 2011, over half of the country had suffered under the worst drought on record.” Nearly a million villagers lost their farms and “crowded into overcrowded cities,” where there weren’t enough jobs and water scarcity “became even more dire.” Those were the conditions that sparked protests leading to the civil war. The original drought “was more intense and lasted longer than could be explained by natural variations in weather. This was climate change.”
The world’s top 10 food companies have a carbon footprint equal to Scandinavia’s, according to a new Oxfam report, and those businesses could help pave the way to serious controls on carbon pollution. “The authors take pains to demonstrate that there’s not just a moral obligation for these corporations to act against climate change,” Johnson wrote. “It’s also the right — intelligently selfish — business decision.” Oxfam singles out Kellogg and General Mills as two companies that are highly vulnerable to climate change and well-positioned to lead change in their industry.
Urban affairs writer Ben Adler has an interesting take on the mix of new and old buildings that creates a vibrant, successful city. “It’s all about balance,” Adler writes. “A city with nothing but modern skyscrapers would surely lose its aesthetic charm, its creative energy, and its urban vitality. But a city with no new construction risks turning into a museum…frequented only by the rich and tourists.” In a low-carbon energy scenario, both forms of construction play an important part: existing buildings will have to be much more energy-efficient by mid-century, while new structures can and should be at least net-zero, meaning that they produce as much energy as they consume.
Julie and Scott Brusaw of Sandpoint, Idaho have a plan to cover America’s roadways with solar-electric cells. They started with the 12 x 36’ driveway outside their office, then turned to crowdfunding in the hope of ramping up production. Firm cost figures are still a few months away, but the Brusaws expect lifetime energy savings to offset the extra cost of the systems.
On May 6, the U.S. released its third National Climate Assessment, giving it much more prominence than the previous report. The Assessment identified five ways in which climate disruptions lead to injury, illness, and death, according to Adler’s analysis of the 800+-page report: Extreme heat, extreme drought and rainfall, agriculture and food security, insects, and air pollution. “Climate change is not a distant threat; it’s already affecting the U.S.,” said John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “This is the largest alarm bell to date.”