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A roundup of news, views and ideas from the main stream press and the blogosphere.  Click on the headline link to see the full article.

California gas well blowout caused nation’s largest methane release, study finds News
The Aliso Canyon natural gas well blowout released more than 100,000 tons of the powerful greenhouse gas methane before the well was finally plugged Feb. 11, according to the first study of the event, to be published Feb. 26 in the journal Science. The results confirm that it was the largest methane leak in U.S. history.

The University of California, Irvine joined the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, UC Davis and others to show that during the peak of the Aliso Canyon disaster, enough methane poured into the air every day to fill a balloon the size of the Rose Bowl.

"The methane releases were extraordinarily high, the highest we’ve seen," said UCI atmospheric chemist Donald Blake, who has measured air pollutants across the globe for over 30 years. A co-author of the study, he also collected surface air samples near homes in the adjacent Porter Ranch residential area…

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The Planet Just Shattered Another Heat Record

Phil Plait, Mother Jones
Hot enough for ya? It should be: January 2016 was the hottest January globally since records began in 1880. And it didn’t just edge out the previous record holder for January, it destroyed it.

The temperatures used here are land and ocean measurements analyzed by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, using NOAA temperature measuring stations across the world. These are extremely high quality and reliable datasets of global temperature measurements—despite the fallacious cries of a few…

New Data Reveal Stunning Acceleration of Sea Level Rise

John Upton, Scientific American
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The oceans have heaved up and down as world temperatures have waxed and waned, but as new research tracking the past 2,800 years shows, never during that time did the seas rise as sharply or as suddenly as has been the case during the last century.

The new study, the culmination of a decade of work by three teams of farflung scientists, has charted what they called an “acceleration” in sea level rise that’s triggering and worsening flooding in coastlines around the world.

Cover Crops, a Farming Revolution With Deep Roots in the Past

Stephanie Strom, New York Times
When Mark Anson came home with his hair on fire after a seminar on the seemingly soporific topic of soil health, his younger brother, Doug, was skeptical.

What had Mark lit up was cover crops: fields of noncash crops like hairy vetch and cereal rye that act on soil like a nourishing facial after the harvest.

Mark, 60, and his two brothers, together with assorted sons and sons-in-law, run Anson Farms, a big commercial soybean and corn operation in Indiana and Illinois. Concern about the soil quality of the family’s fields had nagged at him for some time. “Our corn was wilting when temperatures hit 103 degrees,” he said, and such heat isn’t so unusual in the summer. “I felt like I had a gorilla on my shoulder.” What he learned about the benefits of cover crops gave him hope.

But to Doug, planting some noncommercial crops seemed an antiquated practice, like using a horse-drawn plow. Cover crops had long been replaced by fertilizers. Still, he shared his brother’s concern about their soil. Its texture was different, not as loamy as it had once been, and a lot of it was running off into ditches and other waterways when it rained…

Mapped: The sensitivity of the world’s ecosystems to climate

Robert McSweeney, Carbon Brief
The Earth is covered by a huge variety of ecosystems, from the lush rainforests of the hot and humid tropics to the rugged tundra of the cold and windswept Arctic.

Research out today, published in Nature, maps how sensitive these different types of vegetation are to the ups and downs of the climate from one year to the next.

The map below illustrates the study’s new “vegetation sensitivity index”, which indicates to what extent plant growth is affected by fluctuations in the climate. Ecosystems that are most sensitive to climate variability are shaded red, while those with low sensitivity are shaded green…

Europe’s climate change goals ‘need profound lifestyle changes’

Arthur Neslen, The Guardian
European countries should prepare for a far-reaching debate on the “profound lifestyle changes” required to limit climate change, according to a leaked European commission document.

The commission will tell foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday that a Europe-wide debate is needed on how to limit global warming to 1.5C, according to a staff working document for ministers seen by the Guardian.

It was written in response to last December’s Paris climate summit, which agreed a plan for cutting emissions to net zero after mid-century, and an intent to peg global warming to 1.5C…

Peak Oil Returns: Why Demand Will Likely Peak By 2030

Joe Romm, Climate Progress
Will global oil demand peak by 2030? Is peak oil demand the new peak oil supply? Many trends now point in the direction of this remarkable possibility:

• In December the nations of the world agreed unanimously in Paris to leave most of the world fossil fuels in the ground.
• Oil demand has been declining in developed countries for over a decade.
• Electric vehicle sales are exploding around the world, especially China.
•Battery prices are continuing their unexpectedly rapid price drop.
• Tesla and Chevy now say their new 200-mile-range EV could cost Americans $30,000 — a game-changing price…

Is it possible that the world is actually going to follow the path of the “Transport Transformation Scenario” and peak in oil demand by 2030 or so? At this point I think is not only possible, but likely.

Oil investment is weakest in 30 years

Ivana Kottasova, CNN
The oil price crash has squeezed investment in the industry to the weakest levels in 30 years.

Capital expenditure on global oil exploration and production is expected to fall 17% in 2016, following a 24% drop in 2015, according to the International Energy Agency’s medium term outlook.

That will be the first time since 1986 that upstream investment has fallen for two consecutive years, the agency said, warning that the collapse could be storing up problems for consumers further down the track.

"It is easy for consumers to be lulled into complacency by ample stocks and low prices today, but they should heed the writing on the wall: the historic investment cuts we are seeing raise the odds of unpleasant oil-security surprises in the not too distant future," said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol on Monday…

The US coal industry is falling apart. Here’s the surprising reason why.

David Roberts, Vox
The US coal mining industry is collapsing.

Consider this remarkable fact, from a new report by the Rhodium Group:

The four largest US miners by output (Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, Cloud Peak Energy, and Alpha Natural Resources), which account for nearly half of US production, were worth a combined $34 billion at their peak in 2011. Today they are worth $150 million.

Dozens of US mining companies have declared bankruptcy in the past few years. More are on the verge.

What’s going on? What is killing US coal?

The conventional answer to that question is that less coal is being burned for electricity in the US, thanks to cheap natural gas, renewables, and federal regulations.

And that’s part of it. But not the only part, or even the biggest. The biggest driver of US coal’s decline isn’t happening in the US at all.

To see what it is, let’s look at the latest company to go under…

In Florida, an Unlikely Battle Over Fracking Intensifies

Lizette Alvarez, New York Times
With geology akin to a wet sponge and fragile underground aquifers that supply almost all its drinking water, Florida has never been considered part of the agitated battle over fracking as a technology for extracting oil and gas.

But that began to change two years ago when a Texas-based oil and gas company was found to have been using hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, and matrix acidizing, a fracking-like method that dissolves rocks with acid instead of fracturing them with pressurized liquid. Neither residents nor local governments knew about it because well stimulation, the catchall term for both techniques, does not require a separate permit and is not regulated…

Carbon budget is only half as big as thought

Tim Radford, Climate News Network
Climate scientists have bad news for governments, energy companies, motorists, passengers and citizens everywhere in the world: to contain global warming to the limits agreed by 195 nations in Paris last December, they will have to cut fossil fuel combustion at an even faster rate than anybody had predicted.

Joeri Rogelj, research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, and European and Canadian colleagues propose in Nature Climate Change that all previous estimates of the quantities of carbon dioxide that can be released into the atmosphere before the thermometer rises to potentially catastrophic levels are too generous.

Instead of a range of permissible emissions estimates that ranged up to 2,390 billion tons from 2015 onwards, the very most humans could release would be 1,240 billion tons…

Revealed: How the gas industry spent tens of millions of pounds lobbying UK & EU policymakers

Joe Sandler Clarke and Maeve McClenaghan and Lawrence Carter, Greenpeace Energy Desk
Oil and gas giants spent tens of millions of pounds lobbying key decision makers ahead of global climate talks and big changes to UK energy policy, according to a Greenpeace investigation.

The analysis of accounts, LinkedIn and other data also revealed that oil and gas firms held more than 143 meetings with ministers between October 2013 and March 2015…

Bronx Farm Helps Refugees Put Down Roots

Kathleen McTigue, Urban Omnibus
Jonathan Tarleton: Tell me about the work of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in New York and how New Roots fits into it. Kathleen McTigue: Our refugee resettlement work includes everything from meeting refugee clients at the airport, setting them up with housing, helping them look for employment, and getting them enrolled in school and other programs. Then we have English language tutoring, college and career readiness programs, residency and citizenship services, and cultural orientation classes. Those teach all the tools for success in New York City.

New Roots started in San Diego in 2007 when a group of Somali Bantu women who were struggling in traditional employment told the local office that they were farmers and could best be supported with land. That was an eye-opening moment for the IRC. Many of our refugee clients have agricultural backgrounds, even if they weren’t farmers. We recognized food as something that can be understood and connected to, regardless of language. Everybody eats. You also can’t advance in anything if you don’t have your basic nutritional needs met. During the growing season, people are taking home a considerable amount of high quality food, but there’s so much more to the farm than that production…

A New Advocacy Group Is Lobbying for the Right to Repair Everything

Jason Koebler, Vice Magazine
Last summer, when the Copyright Office asked if anyone wanted to defend the right for video game console jailbreakers to mod or repair their systems, no one had a formal legal argument prepared. A new association representing repairmen and women across all industries was just formed to make sure nothing like that ever happens again.

Repair groups from across the industry announced that they have formed The Repair Coalition, a lobbying and advocacy group that will focus on reforming the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to preserve the “right to repair” anything from cell phones and computers to tractors, watches, refrigerators, and cars. It will also focus on passing state-level legislation that will require manufacturers to sell repair parts to independent repair shops and to consumers and will prevent them from artificially locking down their products to would-be repairers.


News clippings image via shutterstock. Reproduced at with permission.