By Alan Heathcock
22 September 2014
(Matter) – I speed along highway 99, the asphalt bleary under the high scorching sun. I’m heading to Kingsburg to speak with farmers about one of the worst recorded droughts in California history. I’m running late, a little lost. My GPS screen flickers. The electric-lady-voice instructs me to turn right, but there’s nothing on the right except for ditch weeds and fallow fields. Flats brown to the horizon. Dust devils swirl out there, disappear, rise again in another spot.
Miles later I exit. I think I’ve driven too far. I turn right and then right again and find myself at a four-way stop. I take out my phone, hoping for a cell signal.
It’s then I hear the dirt bike. A young and shirtless man coasts in from the west. His eyes turn to my silver Nissan with the out-of-state rental plates. He revs his engine, lurches into a wheelie then speeds in front of me, his middle finger thrust in my direction.
Welcome to the Central Valley, ground zero of the water war. Outsiders take heed for this is a troubled land.
Before we get to what this drought means — the anger and paranoia, the heartbreak and bitterness — it’s important to remember the Central Valley isn’t just any valley. It’s one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. Our country’s breadbasket. Our primary source for tomatoes, almonds, grapes, cotton, and dozens of other products. I’m scheduled to see all of it, on what I’m told will be a “tour of destruction.” My first stop is a beer with a man named “Mule.”
Mule is the patriarch of Olson Family Farms. On hot summer evenings, locals congregate on a spit of riverside land deep in the Olsons’ stone-fruit orchards. Guinea fowl wander the edges of the lot. The riverbanks shoulder a Lakota tepee, a cabin, a smokehouse, a bungalow on stilts they call the “inner sanctum,” and a deck where a group of men drink beer and watch the river’s brown water roll.
Mule has a long gray beard, wears a military jacket and a leather tricorne hat. He looks like a prospector straight from the gold-pan era, and chastises me when I call him “sir.” As I find a spot on the deck, Mule says, “We’re family down here. Down here we look after each other.” He glances around at the farmers gathered. “This here’s my family.”
He says it like a warning — battle lines are clearly drawn around this drought, every outsider a potential spy—and I know he’s telling me to watch my intentions.
“Yes, sir,” I say, and Mule cracks the slightest grin and rears a hand as if he just might hit me.
Two of my main expectations are immediately dispelled. One, I expect the farmers I meet on this trip to be blighted and sorrowful, a bunch of Tom Joads just trying to make ends meet. But these guys are irreverent and cocksure. Tired, maybe. Clearly they listen to a lot of talk radio. I also expect ceaseless talk of the weather. Having grown up in farm country, I know every farmer looks helplessly to the sky hoping the weather gods will be kind. Even in the best of years, the weather is a weight. But in this current catastrophic cycle — three years of near-record rainfall deficits putting most of California at least one full year of normal rainfall behind recovery, some areas closer to two years, all while record breaking heat has currently left 58% of the state in “exceptional drought” conditions — I’m thinking I’ll hear nothing short of the lament of the forsaken.
Instead, a man named Jeff Yarbro hammers on about who they see as enemy #1: environmentalists. As Yarbro has it, these particular environmentalists have fought to make sure whatever precious water is released from the state’s reservoirs goes first to facilitating salmon runs. The problem is that most of this water heads out into the ocean with no attempt to reuse it. “They want this valley all jackrabbits and sage brush,” he says, meaning the environmentalists. “They don’t believe we should be here. They’d like to turn the valley like it was a hundred years ago. And for us to go elsewhere.”
Andy Vidak, cherry farmer and senator for the 16th district, piggybacks Yarbro’s passion, and for the next 20 minutes goes deeply and conspiratorially political. He educates me on a long series of decisions made by a “small percentage of politicians who also hold the most power” in collaboration with radical environmentalists who have worked to destroy the farmers of the Central Valley. “This is perfect politics,” Vidak says. “The perfect war. This valley is conservative.” He contends big-city liberals are aware they can save the salmon, don the hero’s crown for environmentalists, all while eliminating conservative political opposition.
I respectfully suggest that one of the most productive agricultural valleys in the world couldn’t possibly be sacrificed in the name of politics — there’s a population base, functioning towns.
“No,” Vidak counters. “People in New York or Boise, Idaho, don’t care where their produce comes from.” The valley of farmers could go away, and so long as the product came from elsewhere no one would care. [more]
Summer 2014 was record warmest on Earth – Temperature was above the 20th century average of 15.6°C (60.1°F), topping the previous record set in 19981 comments Posted by Jim at Friday, September 26, 2014
By Angela Fritz
18 September 2014
(Washington Post) – It was the warmest summer on Earth since records began in 1880, according to a monthly climate report by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. In addition, August 2014 was the warmest August on record for the globe, according to all three major organizations that track the earth’s temperature.
Over land and ocean, NOAA reports that August ended 0.75 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average, while the summer months, June through August, were 0.71 degrees warmer than normal.
NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency agree that August was the warmest on record. NASA puts August’s global temperature at 0.7 degrees Celsius above the 1951-1980 average, while the JMA, which compares temperatures to a more recent period, reports August was 0.32 degrees Celsius above the 1981-2010 average.
Oceans were particularly warm in August, driving up the thermometer. The world’s oceans were running 0.65 degrees Celsius above average in August, according to NOAA, which is a record high anomaly for all months. This record was just previously set in June of this year.
The western equatorial Pacific remained much warmer than normal in August, though the warm ocean anomaly El Nino has not yet developed as expected this year. In addition, a large swath of the Indian Ocean was also anomalously warm.
Over land, the high latitudes were incredibly warm compared to normal, in Siberia in particular. The sizzling heat in the western U.S. and Mexico drove up the temperature for the JMA analysis, while the eastern U.S. was cooler than average in all three analyses. [more]
- The combined average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces for August 2014 was record high for the month, at 0.75°C (1.35°F) above the 20th century average of 15.6°C (60.1°F), topping the previous record set in 1998.
- The global land surface temperature was 0.99°C (1.78°F) above the 20th century average of 13.8°C (56.9°F), the second highest on record for August, behind 1998.
- For the ocean, the August global sea surface temperature was 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.4°F). This record high departure from average not only beats the previous August record set in 2005 by 0.08°C (0.14°F), but also beats the previous all-time record set just two months ago in June 2014 by 0.03°C (0.05°F).
- The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for the June–August period was also record high for this period, at 0.71°C (1.28°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.5°F), beating the previous record set in 1998.
- The June–August worldwide land surface temperature was 0.91°C (1.64°F) above the 20th century average, the fifth highest on record for this period. The global ocean surface temperature for the same period was 0.63°C (1.13°F) above the 20th century average, the highest on record for June–August. This beats the previous record set in 2009 by 0.04°C (0.07°F).
- The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for January–August (year-to-date) was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.3°F), the third highest for this eight-month period on record.
Temperature anomalies and percentiles are shown on the gridded maps below. The anomaly map on the left is a product of a merged land surface temperature (Global Historical Climatology Network, GHCN) and sea surface temperature (ERSST.v3b) anomaly analysis developed by Smith et al. (2008). Temperature anomalies for land and ocean are analyzed separately and then merged to form the global analysis. For more information, please visit NCDC's Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page. The maps on the right are percentile maps that complement the information provided by the anomaly maps. These provide additional information by placing the temperature anomaly observed for a specific place and time period into historical perspective, showing how the most current month, season, or year compares with the past.
The most current data may be accessed via the Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page.
In the atmosphere, 500-millibar height pressure anomalies correlate well with temperatures at the Earth's surface. The average position of the upper-level ridges of high pressure and troughs of low pressure—depicted by positive and negative 500-millibar height anomalies on the August 2014 and June 2014–August 2014 maps—is generally reflected by areas of positive and negative temperature anomalies at the surface, respectively.
With records dating back to 1880, the global temperature across the world's land and ocean surfaces for August 2014 was 0.75°C (1.35°F) higher than the 20th century average of 15.6°C (60.1°F). This makes August 2014 the warmest August on record for the globe since records began in 1880, beating the previous record set in 1998. Nine of the 10 warmest Augusts on record have occurred during the 21st century. Additionally, August 2014 marked the 38th consecutive August with a temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average global temperature for August occurred in 1976. The departure from average for the month was also record high for the Northern Hemisphere, at 0.92°C (1.66°F) above average. The Southern Hemisphere temperature was 0.56°C (1.01°F) above average, the fourth highest on record for this part of the world.
Globally, the average land surface temperature was the second highest on record for August behind only 1998, at 0.99°C (1.78°F) above the 20th century average. Warmer than average temperatures were evident over most of the global land surfaces, except for parts of the United States and western Europe, northern Siberia, parts of eastern Asia and much of central Australia stretching north. Overall, 26 countries across every continent except Antarctica had at least one station reporting a record high temperature for August. The United States and the Russian Federation each had stations that reported record warm temperatures as well as at least one station with a record cold temperature for the month. One station in Antarctica also reported a record cold August temperature for its 30-year period of record. The period of record varies by station.
Select national information is highlighted below. (Please note that different countries report anomalies with respect to different base periods. The information provided here is based directly upon these data):
- Averaged across the country, Australia was only 0.06°C (0.11°F) above its 1961–1990 average; however, there were some large variations between regions. Western Australia had its fifth highest maximum August temperature on record (10th highest average temperature) while the Northern Territory had its fourth lowest minimum August temperature on record (also fourth lowest average temperature).
- Following a record warm July, August was a bit more temperate in Norway, although still warm compared to normal, with a monthly temperature that was 1.0°C (1.8°F) higher than the 1961–1990 long-term average for the country.
- The United Kingdom had its coolest August since 1993, with a temperature 1.0°C (1.8°F) below its 1981–2010 average. This ended a streak of eight consecutive warmer-than average months.
- August was 1.1°C (2.0°F) cooler than the 1981–2010 average in Austria, marking the country's coolest August since 2006. The high alpine regions were 1.5°C (2.7°F) cooler than average.
The average August temperature for the global oceans was record high for the month, at 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th century average, beating the previous record set in 2005 by 0.08°C (0.14°F). It was also the highest departure from average for any month in the 135-year record, beating the previous record set just two months ago in June 2014 by 0.03°C (0.05°F). Record warmth was observed across much of the central and western equatorial Pacific along with sections scattered across the eastern Pacific and regions of the western Indian Ocean, particularly notable in the waters east of Madagascar. After cooling briefly in July, ocean temperatures in the Niño 3.4 region—the area where ENSO conditions are monitored—began warming once again. NOAA's Climate Prediction Center estimates that there is a 60–65 percent chance that El Niño conditions will develop during the Northern Hemisphere fall and winter. This forecast focuses on the ocean surface temperatures between 5°N and 5°S latitude and 170°W to 120°W longitude.
June–August 2014, at 0.71°C (1.28°F) higher than the 20th century average, was the warmest such period across global land and ocean surfaces since record keeping began in 1880, edging out the previous record set in 1998. The global ocean temperature was a major contributor to the global average, as its departure from average for the period was also highest on record, at 0.63°C (1.13°F) above average. The average temperature across land surfaces was not far behind, at fifth highest for June–August. Regionally, the Northern Hemisphere temperature across land and oceans combined was also record high for its summer season, while the Southern Hemisphere temperature was fourth highest for its winter season.
Select national information is highlighted below. (Please note that different countries report anomalies with respect to different base periods. The information provided here is based directly upon these data):
- Winter (June–August) was warmer than average for Australia; however, while the maximum temperature was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above average, the minimum temperature was 0.14°C (0.25°F) below average, making for a greater-than-average daily temperature range. The highest maximum temperature anomalies were observed in the states of Tasmania (second highest on record) and Western Australia (tied for third highest on record). The Northern Territory had below-average winter maximum and minimum temperatures, with the average temperature tying as the 33rd coolest winter temperature in its 105-year period of record.
- Summer 2014 was 0.2°C (0.4°F) higher than the 1981–2010 average for Austria, but it also marked the coolest June–August for the country since 2005. The north and east were 0.4–0.7°C (0.7–1.3°F) above average while most other regions were near average.
- The summer temperature for Norway was 1.9°C (3.4°F) above its 1961–1990 average. Western Norway, Trøndelag, and Nordland saw temperatues 2–3°C (4–5°F) above their long-term averages.
- Summer in Denmark was 1.6°C (2.9°F) warmer than its 1961–1990 average and 0.4°C (0.7°F) warmer than the more recent 2001–2010 average. The second highest July temperature on record contributed to the summer warmth.
The first eight months of 2014 (January–August) were the third warmest such period on record across the world's land and ocean surfaces, with an average temperature that was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 57.3°F (14.0°C). If 2014 maintains this temperature departure from average for the remainder of the year, it will be the warmest year on record.
The average global sea surface temperature tied with 2010 as the second highest for January–August in the 135-year period of record, behind 1998, while the average land surface temperature was the fifth highest. [more]
International lawyers’ group calls for international court on the environment – ‘Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our times, and it is the one that we are most inadequately prepared for’2 comments Posted by Jim at Thursday, September 25, 2014
By Raveena Aulakh
22 September 2014
(The Star) – An increasing number of extreme weather events are wreaking havoc on the world’s most vulnerable people and bulldozing economies, but climate laws are woefully inadequate to deal with human rights, says a groundbreaking new report by an influential lawyers’ group.
The group also calls for the creation of an international court on the environment that would deal with climate change disputes, much like the United Nation’s International Court of Justice.
The 240-page report, Climate Change Justice and Human Rights Task Force report - Achieving Justice and Human Rights in an Era of Climate Disruption [pdf], has been put together by the International Bar Association, which comprises 200 bar associations worldwide and has more than 55,000 members. It is the first time that a legal organization of this size has studied climate justice and the role of human rights law in addressing climate challenge.
The report was released Monday.
“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our times,” said David Estrin, co-chair of the panel that put the report together. “And it is the one that we are most inadequately prepared for.”
Estrin works for Gowlings law firm in Toronto and was one of the first Canadian lawyers to specialize in environmental law more than four decades ago. […]
The IBA, said Estrin, completely agrees with the scientific consensus on climate change. When working on the report, the panel studied assessments by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The report says that even though climate change affects everyone, it impacts those people the most who have contributed to it the least; they also lack the resources to respond.
It assesses the challenges facing countries poorly suited to provide legal remedies to those most affected, and recommends reforms that help protect and preserve environmental and human rights.
One key recommendation is “recognition for a new universal human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.”
(More than 90 countries have included the “right to live in a healthy environment” in their constitutions; the U.S., Canada, Australia and Britain are not among them.)
Climate change is often framed as an issue of science, economics, policy and politics, “but more than anything else, it is an issue of ethics and justice,” said Michael E. Mann, a well-known climatologist and director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University.
“This report stresses the key point that those who are most likely to feel the worst impacts of climate change had the least role in creating the problem,” he said.
What particularly struck Mann about the IBA report was the recommendation that every human has the right to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment. That provides a framework for bringing to justice “those who infringe on that right, particularly those fossil fuel interests who continue to deny the existence or danger of climate change as they continue to pollute,” he said. [more]
Big Oil’s heirs join call for action as climate summit opens – ‘There is a moral imperative to preserve a healthy planet’3 comments Posted by Jim at Wednesday, September 24, 2014
(Washington Post) – For 140 years, the Rockefellers were the oil industry’s first family, scions of a business empire that spawned companies called Exxon, Mobil, Amoco, and Chevron. So it was no trivial matter when a group of Rockefeller heirs decided recently to begin severing financial ties to fossil fuels.
“There is a moral imperative to preserve a healthy planet,” said Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, a great-great-granddaughter of oil magnate John D. Rockefeller Sr. and a trustee of the largest charitable foundation in which the family still plays the leading role.
On Monday, the foundation, known as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, will formally announce plans to begin divesting itself of fossil-fuel stocks, citing concerns about climate change. The symbolic cutting of ties to a key part of the family’s heritage is being timed with the start of another symbolism-laden event: a gathering of world leaders to grapple with the environmental consequences of decades of fossil-fuel burning.
President Obama will join heads of state from more than 120 countries Tuesday at an unusual climate summit convened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The meeting in New York is aimed at persuading governments to do more to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in the face of new evidence of an accelerating buildup of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The high-level gathering — the biggest since a troubled round of international climate negotiations in Copenhagen five years ago — is likely to underscore the diplomatic and political difficulties ahead as the governments seek to hammer out a treaty limiting global greenhouse-gas emissions by late next year. The Obama administration separately faces tough negotiations with overseas trading partners China and India over proposed cuts in fossil-fuel burning, while also defending its climate policies against attacks from Republican opponents in Washington.
But the perception of halting progress on climate politics stands in sharp contrast with an increasingly energetic movement that will be on display on the summit’s periphery. An unlikely coalition of groups — including corporate executives, philanthropists and urban planners — are in New York this week to showcase practical steps being implemented to address the causes of climate change and mitigate its effects.
Entrepreneurs and businesses will promote technology breakthroughs that are making wind and solar power competitive with more traditional energy sources in some parts of the country. And investors and foundations with collective holdings in the tens of billions of dollars will formally join a global “divest-invest” movement that seeks to shift capital from fossil-fuel extraction to renewable energy.
New participants in the movement, such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, say their decision reflects not only concerns about the environment but also a belief that renewables are becoming an increasingly sound investment at a time of growing uncertainty about the future of fossil fuels such as coal.
“The action we’re taking is symbolism, but it is important symbolism,” said Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which controls nearly $900 million in assets. “We’re making a moral case, but also, increasingly, an economic case.” [more]
By Clare Foran
15 September 2014
(National Journal) – Texas Board of Education member David Bradley wants to set the record straight on global warming.
"Whether global warming is a myth or whether it's actually happening, that's very much up for debate," Bradley said. "Don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise."
Bradley is not a climate scientist, but he's about to make big decisions governing what Texas students learn about climate change.
In November, Bradley and the rest of the state's 15-member board will vote to adopt new social-studies textbooks for public schools from kindergarten to 12th grade. When he does, he says that part of his mission will be to shield Lone Star schoolchildren from green propaganda.
Instead, Bradley plans to push for textbooks that teach climate-science doubt—presenting the link between greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity and global warming as an unsubstantiated and controversial theory.
For people who do study the climate for a living, that mission is infuriating, as such a posture misrepresents the state of climate science: Surveys of peer-reviewed academic studies show that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that human activity is the primary driver of global warming. That's not universal agreement, but it's a far cry from the "some-say-yes-some-say-no" treatment of the topic that Bradley hopes to see in Texas classrooms.
Yet when it comes time to review the textbooks, Bradley will have plenty of instructional materials created by some of the publishing industry's major players to back his viewpoint. […]
"It's really an insult to science," said Minda Berbeco, the National Center for Science Education's programs and policy director. "The old line was that global warming didn't exist. Now we're starting to see more people say it exists but human activity isn't responsible. That's just denial by another name." [more]
21 September 2014 (Science Daily) – Carbon dioxide emissions continue to track the high end of emission scenarios, eroding the chances to keep global warming below 2°C, and placing increased pressure on world leaders ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit on the 23rd September.
Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production grew 2.3 per cent to a record high of 36.1 billion tonnes CO2 in 2013. In 2014 emissions are set to increase a further 2.5%, 65 per cent above the level of 1990.
In its annual analysis of trends in global carbon dioxide emissions, the Global Carbon Project (GCP) published three peer-reviewed articles identifying the challenges for society to keep global average warming less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
The top-four emitters of CO2 have a critical role in global emissions growth:
- Chinese emissions grew at 4.2%, due to slower economic growth and faster improvements in carbon intensity of the economy compared to the previous decade
- USA emissions increased 2.9%, due to a rebound in coal consumption potentially reversing the downward trend since the start of the shale-gas boom in 2007
- Indian emissions grew at 5.1%, due to robust economic growth and a continued increase in the carbon intensity of the economy
- EU28 emissions decreased 1.8%, due to a weak economy and emission decreases in some countries offsetting a return to coal led by Poland, Germany, Finland
"China now emits more than the US and EU combined and has CO2 emissions per person 45% higher than the global average, exceeding even the EU average," said Robbie Andrew, a co-author of the studies based at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research -- Oslo (CICERO) in Norway.
"China continues to reshape the global distribution of emissions, and as politics impedes significant progress in the US and other key countries, observers increasingly look to China to provide a breakthrough in climate negotiations," said Glen Peters, another CICERO-based co-author.
With current emission rates (2014), the remaining 'quota' to surpass 2°C of global warming will be used up in around 30 years (one generation).
"Globally emissions would need sustained and unprecedented reductions of around 7%/yr for a likely chance to stay within the quota," said Peters.
"Furthermore," added Peters, "because of differentiated capabilities some countries would need even higher rates of emissions reductions. These rates have not been seen in any individual country outside of severe economic crises."
"Depending on technology, the remaining available 'quota' implies that two-thirds of proven fossil reserves might have to remain in the ground," said Andrew.
The ability to keep temperatures below 2°C depends on three things: uncertainties in the climate system, when deep and sustained mitigation starts, and rapid development of new technologies.
"Most scenarios consistent with 2°C used in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report largely depend on carbon capture and storage (CCS), both from fossil-fuel combustion and, particularly, bioenergy," said Andrew.
But the development and deployment of CCS technologies has not lived up to expectations.
"Today's emission-reduction targets need to incorporate the risk that society is unable to commercially develop and rapidly deploy a technology that is so far largely unproven at the required scale," said Peters.
"If carbon capture and storage technologies are not realised, it may not be possible to keep the temperature increase below 2°C," said Peters.
Given a remaining emissions 'quota' it is inevitable that this quota will be shared between countries either by design or default.
"We found that given the very small remaining 'quota', population-based sharing is no longer feasible," said Peters. "Yet, basing emission reduction on current emission distribution is unfair to many countries."
"We found that with rapid growth in Chinese emissions and those 'locked into' fossil-fuel based infrastructure, China has already exceeded its 'quota' under population-based sharing," said Andrew.
"The mitigation efforts put forward by individual countries should be both feasible and fair, where an equitable balance is struck that is acceptable to all countries," said Andrew.
Video: This poet from a tiny island nation just shamed the world’s leaders – ‘We’ve seen waves crashing into our homes’1 comments Posted by Jim at Wednesday, September 24, 2014
By Jeremy Schulman
23 September 2014
(Mother Jones) – Presidents and diplomats aren't the only ones calling for climate action at the United Nations. During the opening ceremony of today's climate summit, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner—a 26-year-old poet from the Marshall Islands—spoke eloquently about the threat that rising seas pose to her country.
Jetnil-Kijiner warned delegates of the high price of inaction and described the current challenge as a "race to save humanity."
"Those of us from Oceania are already experiencing it first hand," she said. "We've seen waves crashing into our homes … We look at our children and wonder how they will know themselves or their culture should we lose our islands."
"We need a radical change of course," she added. "It means ending carbon pollution within my lifetime. It means supporting those of us most affected to prepare for unavoidable climate impacts. And it means taking responsibility for irreversible loss and damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions."
You can read more about Jetnil-Kijiner here.
Video via TckTckTck.
By Ari Phillips
19 September 2014
(ThinkProgress) -- This week, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 6-1 to potentially allow part of a state wildlife area to be strip-mined for coal. The ruling, which settles a dispute involving an esoteric land contract from 1944, could open up $2 million of coal to be dug out of a 651-acre section of the Brush Creek Wildlife Area owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Appellants Ronald Snyder and Steven Neeley appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court after an appeals court and common pleas court ruled in favor of the state’s claim that the land could not be strip mined unless it was explicitly permitted in the contract. They argued that the only way to get at the coal was to surface mine.
When the 1944 contract was transferred from the landowners to the ODNR the seller “reserve[d] all mineral rights, including rights of ingress and egress and reasonable surface right privilege.” The court found this to be the “ultimate issue” on Wednesday, with Justice Paul E. Pfeifer writing that “some areas of the property at issue were strip-mined before ODNR acquired it:
Thus, there is reason to believe that the signatories to the original contract understood that ‘reasonable surface right privileges’ included the right to strip mine, and there is no reason to believe that the signatories intended to exclude strip-mining.
Bethany McCorkle, spokesperson for the ODNR, disagrees with Pfeifer’s interpretation.
“ODNR is disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision, which ignored substantial precedent as to this issue,” she told ThinkProgress. “Based on this decision ODNR intends to review all of its deeds to confirm what other surface disturbances, if any, are possible as a result of this outcome.”
In its summary judgment, the common pleas court had found that although the reservation of mineral rights implies the right to remove the minerals, it does not imply the right to remove them by strip mining because “strip mining does not merely use the surface, it destroys the surface.” [more]
California water infrastructure on verge of historic collapse – ‘We’re acting like the super rich who have so much money they don’t need to balance their checkbook’0 comments Posted by Jim at Wednesday, September 24, 2014
By Jonathan Benson
1 September 2014
(Natural News) – Water is increasingly hard to come by in drought-stricken California, where many farmers are struggling to get enough water just to pay the bills. But the situation in the Golden State is far worse than many people realize, according to new reports, as underground aquifers that take decades to recharge are being sucked dry, and water infrastructure that has long sustained the agricultural growing regions of the state continue their collapse.
Writing for The Washington Post, journalist Joby Warrick draws attention to what many scientists say is an unprecedented collapse of California's vast water infrastructure, which is marked by an elaborate system of canals, reservoirs, and wells that transfer water from the mountains and other areas to the Central Valley. Altogether, the state contains some 27 million acres of cropland. This system is now failing, say experts, and the consequences will more than likely be unparalleled in California's history.
According to the report, many of California's underground aquifers, which are typically drawn upon as a last resort when all else fails, are now the go-to for watering food crops throughout the state. In some areas, these aquifers have dropped by as much as 100 feet, an unprecedented decline that, even if the drought suddenly ended, would likely take several decades or longer to fully recharge.
"A well-managed basin is used like a reserve bank account," stated Richard Howitt, a professor emeritus of resource economics from the University of California at Davis, to WP. Howitt co-authored a study published in July that estimates a 5.1 million acre-feet loss of water this year from California's underground reserves, a volume the size of Lake Shasta, the state's largest water reservoir.
"We're acting like the super rich who have so much money they don't need to balance their checkbook."
But many farmers have no choice. They either have to pull the water now to save their crops or face potential bankruptcy and the loss of their farms. Because of the immense scarcity of water this year -- some 60 percent of California is now recorded as being at the highest level of drought, dubbed "exceptional" -- many farmers didn't even receive a share from the infrastructure.
One such farmer is Joe Carrancho, who grows rice in Willows, California. The 71-year-old lost 25 percent of his usual water allotment this year -- and he is considered lucky, since some farmers received no water at all -- and is now struggling to make payroll. He is also having to make payments on a $500,000 rice harvester that, despite the water losses, still costs the same every month.
"I have 25 percent less production, but no one is giving me a 25 percent break in my bills," he told WP. [more]