Climate Change Comes Home To Roost In North Carolina

Breached swine lagoons. Overflowing coal waste ponds. Sewage in the streets. The hellish aftermath of climate-fueled Hurricane Florence.
This image provided by Greenpeace shows a damaged structure on a hog farm surrounded by floodwaters in White Oak, North

This image provided by Greenpeace shows a damaged structure on a hog farm surrounded by floodwaters in White Oak, North Carolina, after Hurricane Florence battered the area.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Florence’s rain came down in sheets ― unrelenting, and for days on end.

The water inundated homes, many still boarded up from Hurricane Matthew two years earlier. It swallowed farm operations, killing millions of chickens and turkeys and overflowing open pits full of hog feces. It flooded coal ash ponds, sending the toxic byproduct of burning coal into area waterways. The smell of human waste tainted neighborhoods; in the small town of Benson, 300,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into the streets.

On Friday, Charlotte-based Duke Energy reported that a dam containing a lake at one of its power plants in Wilmington had been breached by floodwaters, potentially spilling coal ash from a nearby dump into the Cape Fear River.

Many parts of North Carolina are still unnavigable, with entire stretches of highway turned to rivers. Rural roads have been washed out.

From a bridge in east Fayetteville on Monday afternoon, residents watched as a plastic barrel, basketballs, fishing gear and a decapitated duck decoy floated down the swollen Cape Fear River toward the Atlantic Ocean, some 80 miles away. Along the bank, mattresses, a dog kennel, a frying pan and scores of garbage bobbed among the trees.

Mitch Colvin, the mayor of this inland city of more than 200,000, spoke with members of the media and law enforcement officials on the bridge Tuesday and marveled at the height of the river. By that point it had reached the bottom of a railroad bridge, causing trees and debris to pile up behind it.

Colvin told HuffPost he’s no expert on climate change, but the frequency and magnitude of recent storms have made it clear that “something has happened.”

“You know, this is our second 500-year storm in two years,” the 45-year-old mayor said as he leaned against the bridge’s concrete railing. “We need to reassess the classification of these storms. But we also need to plan as a community and as a region for how to prepare for this.”

In Fayetteville, Mayor Mitch Colvin stands atop the Person Street bridge on Tuesday, which spans the Cape Fear River.<i></i><

In Fayetteville, Mayor Mitch Colvin stands atop the Person Street bridge on Tuesday, which spans the Cape Fear River.

Hurricanes like Florence aren’t simply natural disasters ― they’re catastrophic events made worse by anthropogenic climate change, events that threaten human health and safety long after the storm has passed.

As it happened, industries that are among the biggest contributors to the climate crisis were some of the hardest hit in Florence’s aftermath.

Livestock production accounts for 14.5 percent of global human greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the agricultural sector, including livestock and crop production, is responsible for 9 percent of all carbon emissions in the United States.

North Carolina is the second-largest pork producing state in the country, behind Iowa. Nearly 9 million hogs are raised for slaughter on the state’s 2,100 hog farms, where the animals’ waste is dumped into massive open-air cesspools called lagoons.

By Friday, flooding had caused structural damage to at least six of the state’s 3,300 hog waste lagoons. Three of these damaged pits were breached and another 30 had overflowed, causing swine fecal matter to spill into and potentially contaminate the surrounding waterways with toxic hydrogen sulfide and ammonia.

One hog farmer in Duplin County reported the flooding resulted in a “total loss” of at least 2.2 million gallons of waste from a single lagoon, according to North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality.

“It’s yet another problem that is posed by this industrial model of production,” Waterkeeper Alliance attorney Will Hendrick told HuffPost. “It should be the case that we can produce food without putting our people in jeopardy.”

The North Carolina Pork Council has downplayed the significance of the lagoon overflow.

“While we are dismayed by the release of some liquids from some lagoons, we also understand that what has been released from the farms is the result of a once-in-a-lifetime storm and that the contents are highly diluted with rainwater,” the hog farm advocacy group said in a statement Wednesday.

This Sept. 17, 2018, photo shows flood waters from Hurricane Florence surround two hog houses and it's lagoon near Kinston, N

This Sept. 17, 2018, photo shows flood waters from Hurricane Florence surround two hog houses and it’s lagoon near Kinston, North Carolina.

But the increasing frequency of severe weather events in the last few years due to climate change suggests Florence is in no way a “once-in-a-lifetime” storm. And since most of the state’s hog farms sit on coastal plains, and climate change is producing bigger, wetter storms, it’s likely these swirling cesspools of hog waste will continue to pose a threat to waterways and their surrounding communities for years to come.

“This industry has shown its vulnerabilities in terms of these weather events for decades and has still resisted the need for change,” Hendrick said. “They continue to prioritize profit over people who are affected by their operations.”

The storm has also wreaked havoc on North Carolina’s energy sector, causing coal ash containment ponds in at least two sites to swell. The ash, which is the residue left behind by burning coal, contains toxic elements like arsenic, mercury and lead and is often doused with water and left in containment ponds for years.

In 2017, coal accounted for 69 percent of all carbon emissions from the U.S. energy sector.

Duke Energy, one of the world’s largest utility companies, has 31 coal ash basins across North Carolina, holding 111 million tons of waste. It has decommissioned several of its coal power plants in the last few years, and earlier this month announced plans to shutter its remaining seven by 2048.

Many of those coal ash ponds are dangerously positioned next to rivers and lakes and are highly vulnerable to flooding in an event like Florence. Like hog waste lagoons, heavy rains can cause these coal ash landfills and ponds to overflow into waterways ― and Florence did just that, even as Duke downplayed the risk in advance of the storm.

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This image provided by Duke Energy shows Sutton Lake flowing into the Cape Fear River.&nbsp;

This image provided by Duke Energy shows Sutton Lake flowing into the Cape Fear River. 

Duke Energy reported last Saturday that 2,000 cubic yards of coal ash had poured into Sutton Lake from an adjacent coal ash pond. The lake, constructed by Duke Energy in 1972 as a cooling pond for its power plant, has also been designated as a recreational boating and fishing area by the state.

On Friday, the company said floodwaters breached a dam containing Sutton Lake and that it could not rule out that coal ash was flowing into the Cape Fear River.

Spillage from three inactive coal ash ponds was also reported at the H.F. Lee Plant in Goldsboro on Monday. Duke Energy said visual inspections suggested low-hanging vegetation allowed only “a small amount” of coal ash to be displaced. But Waterkeeper Alliance pushed back on the company’s assessment after visiting the site.

“Floating coal ash is clearly visible because flood waters have eroded the vegetative cover and are steadily washing ash downstream,” Donna Lisenby, global advocacy manager for Waterkeeper Alliance, shared in a Facebook post on Wednesday. “Duke Energy is falsely telling news reporters and the public that the tree cover on the ash ponds at Lee are preventing ash releases.”

Frank Holland, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said this was an entirely unnecessary catastrophe that could have been prevented by evacuating the coal ash ponds and moving its contents uphill.

“Duke could have greatly reduced the risk to North Carolina and its rivers during Hurricane Florence if it had spent years removing the ash from these sites rather than spending years spending money on lawyers and lobbyists,” Holland said.

In 2014, a drainage pipe burst at a Duke Energy coal ash pond in Eden, North Carolina, causing 39,000 tons of the contaminant to flow into the Dan River. It was the third-largest such spill in U.S. history and resulted in Duke Energy pleading guilty to criminal negligence. The company agreed to pay $102 million in fines and restitution, the largest federal criminal fine in state history.

But Holland said Duke Energy has continued to drag its feet in cleaning up other coal ash basins, pushing back on demands from the state and environmental activists to evacuate its toxic ponds and landfills.

“This is a danger nobody should have to worry about,” Holland told HuffPost. “The only reason this ash is sitting in these unlined pits next to these rivers is because Duke Energy … made a choice to flush this ash downhill and create water pollution and a public safety hazard purely for their own convenience and to save some marginal dollars.”

Hurricanes Matthew and Florence have highlighted the urgency of removing coal ash from Duke Energy’s ponds as quickly as possible, Lisa Evans, an attorney for environmental advocacy group Earthjustice, told HuffPost.

“If the water level rises sufficiently ― and it doesn’t have to rise very much in [Sutton Lake] ― it’s going to flood the ponds that hold 2.1 million cubic yards of coal ash,” she said. “It’s a huge danger.”

Floodwaters fill the wooded area near the Duke Energy Sutton Steam Plant near Wilmington, North Carolina.

Floodwaters fill the wooded area near the Duke Energy Sutton Steam Plant near Wilmington, North Carolina.

The scientific community — including experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — has long warned that anthropogenic climate change influences extreme weather events. The 2015 National Climate Assessment concluded that “hurricane intensity and rainfall are projected to increase as the climate continues to warm.” Rainfall rates near the center of hurricanes are expected to increase by an average of 20 percent by the end of the century, according to the report.

Scientists have also revealed there’s been a marked slowdown in hurricanes’ speed over both water and land, which increases the risk of heavy rain, flooding and storm surges. And a 2016 study found that climate change has caused hurricanes in the North Atlantic to migrate farther north ― a trend that is expected to continue as temperatures rise.

Most scientists are careful not to attribute any single storm to our changing climate. But Florence, in many ways, exemplified hurricane behavior in a warming world.

The storm slammed into Wilmington, North Carolina, last Friday as a Category 1 hurricane, pushing storm surge up Pamlico Sound and into connecting rivers where it devastated cities like New Bern and Washington. The damage could have certainly been less extensive if not for sea level rise brought on by climate change. (In 2012, conservative North Carolina lawmakers chose to ignore the threat of sea level risepassing a bill that barred policymakers and developers from using up-to-date climate science to plan for rising waters on the state’s coast.)

Then the storm stalled over the Carolinas, taking a slow-motion route that reminded many experts of Hurricane Harvey, which dumped an estimated 24.5 trillion gallons of rain over southern Texas and Louisiana last year. Over a four-day period, Florence dumped as much as 35 inches of rain in some areas, breaking the state’s tropical cyclone rainfall record.

“There is simply more water filling these rivers because of the duration of these storms,” Evans said. “What we’re seeing ― what we saw in 2016 with Matthew and what we’re seeing right now with Florence ― is that this is having a tremendous impact on the storage of toxic waste in basins.”

“The injustice is that climate change was, in part, caused by these industries ― but who pays? It’s the communities whose drinking waters are contaminated and harmed by these spills,” she added. “It’s an unjust situation when these communities bear all the risk and all the harm.”

Study suggests meat and dairy industry on track to surpass oil companies as biggest greenhouse gas emitters

July 20, 2018 by Bob Yirka, report
Study suggests meat and dairy industry on track to surpass oil companies as biggest greenhouse gas emitters
Estimated global greenhouse gas emission (GHG) targets to keep within a 1.5°C rise in temperature compared to emissions from global meat and dairy production based on business-as-usual growth projections. Credit: Emissions impossible

Researchers at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and GRAIN have released a report titled “Emissions impossible – How big meat and dairy are heating up the planet.” The report is a discussion regarding an analysis the groups did on the impact the meat and dairy industries have on global warming. One of their major findings is that large meat and dairy corporations are set to overtake large oil companies as the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. In the report, the researchers also suggest that it is time to expand the field of corporations that get the major share of attention surrounding global warming. They make the case that that meat and dairy producers have flown under the radar for years, and that now, the time has come to include them.

Researchers for the two groups report that they conducted an extensive review of production numbers released by the largest  and  and used those numbers to calculate greenhouse gas emissions. They note that very few of the largest meat and dairy corporations offer emissions data and that those that do fail to include data regarding the supply chain. They suggest further that the supply chain in the industry typically accounts for up to 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions—it typically includes emissions from activities related to growing crops as well as methane emitted directly from livestock.

The researchers also report that a very large share of meat and dairy production occurs in just a few regions: Argentina, Brazil, the U.S., the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. They also claim that five of the biggest meat and dairy corporations are already responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than BP, ExxonMobil or Shell. They further claim that their analysis of the industry showed that approximately 80 percent of the global allowable greenhouse gas emissions budget would be taken up by just the meat and dairy industry by 2050, if production is not reduced.

The researchers conclude their report by suggesting that soon there will be no choice—if we are to curb  to meet targets set by agreed upon protocols, meat and  production will have to be greatly reduced.

 Explore further: Meeting climate targets may require reducing meat and dairy consumption

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‘The World is On Fire:’ New NASA Satellite Photos Show Every Fire Burning on Earth

Andrew LaSane

Friday, 24 August 2018 – 1:40PM

'The World is On Fire:' New NASA Satellite Photos Show Every Fire Burning on Earth

Image Credit: screenshot
Satellite imagery of Earth is cool because it gives us a different perspective of our home, but it can also be quite disturbing. This week on Twitter, NASA shared an image that shows not only brown and green continents, vast oceans, and swirling white clouds, but also red dots that show a large number of fires currently burning over the world.

The red blobs are most concentrated in central Africa, but extend to parts of every other continent except for Antarctica. “The world is on fire,” read NASA’s tweet. In a blog post, the agency explained that the image was taken using the Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) Worldview, and that the areas that appear to be completely engulfed in flames were detected by thermal bands and are likely from agricultural burns. “The location, widespread nature, and number of fires suggest that these fires were deliberately set to manage land,” NASA writes. “Farmers often use fire to return nutrients to the soil and to clear the ground of unwanted plants. While fire helps enhance crops and grasses for pasture, the fires also produce smoke that degrades air quality.”

Other areas of red are likely wildfires, like the ones that continue to ravage parts of California. Northern Africa is largely untouched because there is not much to burn in the Sahara, and the poles are fine because of the low temperatures. NASA’s Worldview website allows users to go back in time to see how the burning areas have changed over the course of the summer, and there is even a feature that will animate a set period of time so that you can watch the red dots accumulate. The site also tracks major events like volcano eruptions, iceberg splits, and typhoons. The purpose is obviously not to revel in the destruction of the Earth as seen from above, but there is something cool about seeing the planet from this perspective and being able to witness its changes over time while tracking their natural and human causes.

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Marineland Doesn’t Seem to Want to See Us; Here’s How They Can Keep Us Away

by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate

Born Free USA’s Canadian Representative

Published 08/17/18

Top: Small bucket is the only water source for numerous large animals in enclosure at Marineland.
Bottom: Animals at Marineland struggle to find shade from the blazing hot sun during heatwave.

My last two blogs were accompanied by photographs of animals I saw imprisoned at Marineland, Niagara Falls, Ontario, when I went there with Zoocheck’s Rob Laidlaw last July 5th, during a blistering heat wave. The harbor seals were not affected by record temperatures, being in a small pool in a cool interior, but at no time when we observed them did they open their eyes, an unnatural condition as verified by an expert on seal eyes, not to mention all memories I have of wild harbor seals with their soulfully bulbous eyes wide open. There have been concerns raised about the effects of chlorine on eyes and I thought I could smell chlorine, but whatever the reason, seeing the animals so confined, eyes tightly shut, certainly depressed me.

But, no more so than conditions out in open paddocks where there waslittle or no shade for numbers of large, hoofed herbivores, and water only appearing to be available in containers about the size of a bucket or pail.

On August 8, I received an email from Stephanie Littlejohn, Law Clerk, Hunt Partners LLP, a Toronto-based law firm calling itself “a unique blend of corporate and civil advocacy” consisting of “recognized litigation leaders and trusted advisors.” Ms. Littlejohn wrote: “Please find attached a Notice of Trespass for Marineland of Canada (Inc.), which is being served upon you.”

The notice prohibited me from entering Marineland’s property “At any time for any reason whatsoever” under the Trespass to Property Act. “I got one too,” laughed Rob, when I called to tell him.

Doubtless, Ms. Littlejohn and her colleagues are very professional corporate and civil advocates. Their opinions on animal welfare may differ from their client’s. Ms. Littlejohn might never even have been to Marineland or know much about animal husbandry. But, Rob’s and my expertise includes animal welfare and we both passionately care about animals. Whether any others care about animals with only pots of water and little or no shade in searing heat, or seals with eyes tightly shut, Rob and I do care how animals are treated.

Ironically, I actually don’t want to ever visit Marineland. I was so depressed by my first time there that I avoided the place for 37 years, only returning to see an exhibit that had been falsely advertised; it wasn’t there. Having paid admission, Rob and I looked at the other animals. I’m happy to wait another 37 years, by which time Ms. Littlejohn will probably be a retired lawyer and I’ll be long gone.

For now, I would gladly pay the maximum trespass fine of two thousand bucks if I thought it would eliminate my concerns, or better yet, that Marineland simply had no animals for me to worry about. If Ms. Littlejohn, Hunt Partners LLP, and Marineland want to keep me out, just eliminate the concerns I addressed &ndahs; or better yet, stop imprisoning animals – and I promise to never again cross Marineland’s doorstep. Honest.

Unexpected future boost of methane possible from Arctic permafrost


New NASA-funded research has discovered that Arctic permafrost’s expected gradual thawing and the associated release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere may actually be sped up by instances of a relatively little known process called abrupt thawing. Abrupt thawing takes place under a certain type of Arctic lake, known as a thermokarst lake that forms as permafrost thaws.

The impact on the climate may mean an influx of permafrost-derived methane into the atmosphere in the mid-21st century, which is not currently accounted for in climate projections.

The Arctic landscape stores one of the largest natural reservoirs of organic carbon in the world in its frozen soils. But once thawed, soil microbes in the permafrost can turn that carbon into the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, which then enter into the atmosphere and contribute to climate warming.

“The mechanism of abrupt thaw and thermokarst lake formation matters a lot for the permafrost-carbon feedback this century,” said first author Katey Walter Anthony at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, who led the project that was part of NASA’s Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE), a ten-year program to understand climate change effects on the Arctic. “We don’t have to wait 200 or 300 years to get these large releases of permafrost carbon. Within my lifetime, my children’s lifetime, it should be ramping up. It’s already happening but it’s not happening at a really fast rate right now, but within a few decades, it should peak.”

The results were published in Nature Communications.

Using a combination of computer models and field measurements, Walter Anthony and an international team of U.S. and German researchers found that abrupt thawing more than doubles previous estimates of permafrost-derived greenhouse warming. They found that the abrupt thaw process increases the release of ancient carbon stored in the soil 125 to 190 percent compared to gradual thawing alone. What’s more, they found that in future warming scenarios defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, abrupt thawing was as important under the moderate reduction of emissions scenario as it was under the extreme business-as-usual scenario. This means that even in the scenario where humans reduced their global carbon emissions, large methane releases from abrupt thawing are still likely to occur.

Permafrost is ground that is frozen year-round. In the Arctic, ice-rich permafrost soils can be up to 260 feet (80 meters) thick. Due to human-caused warming of the atmosphere from greenhouse gas emissions, a gradual thawing of the permafrost is currently taking place where the upper layer of seasonally thawed soil is gradually getting thicker and reaching deeper into the ground. This process wakes up microbes in the soil that decompose soil organic matter and as a result release carbon dioxide and methane back into the atmosphere. This gradual thaw process is accounted for in climate models and is thought to have minimal effect as thawed ground also stimulates the growth of plants, which counterbalance the carbon released into the atmosphere by consuming it during photosynthesis.

However, in the presence of thermokarst lakes, permafrost thaws deeper and more quickly. Thermokarst lakes form when substantial amounts of ice in the deep soil melts to liquid water. Because the same amount of ice takes up more volume than water, the land surface slumps and subsides, creating a small depression that then fills with water from rain, snow melt and ground ice melt. The water in the lakes speeds up the thawing of the frozen soil along their shores and expands the lake size and depth at a much faster pace than gradual thawing.

“Within decades you can get very deep thaw-holes, meters to tens of meters of vertical thaw,” Walter Anthony said. “So you’re flash thawing the permafrost under these lakes. And we have very easily measured ancient greenhouse gases coming out.”

These ancient greenhouse gases, produced from microbes chewing through ancient carbon stored in the soil, range from 2,000 to 43,000 years old. Walter Anthony and her colleagues captured methane bubbling out of 72 locations in 11 thermokarst lakes in Alaska and Siberia to measure the amount of gas released from the permafrost below the lakes, as well as used radiocarbon dating on captured samples to determine their age. They compared the emissions from lakes to five locations where gradual thawing occurs. In addition, they used the field measurements to evaluate how well their model simulated the natural field conditions.

Team members with the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) for Polar and Marine Research in Germany then used U.S. Geological Survey-NASA Landsat satellite imagery from 1999 to 2014 to determine the speed of lake expansion across a large region of Alaska. From this data they were able to estimate the amount of permafrost converted to thawed soil in lake bottoms.

“While lake change has been studied for many regions, the understanding that lake loss and lake gain have a very different outcome for carbon fluxes is new,” said co-author Guido Grosse of AWI. “Over a few decades, thermokarst lake growth releases substantially more carbon than lake loss can lock in permafrost again [when the lake bottoms refreeze].”

Because the thermokarst lakes are relatively small and scattered throughout the Arctic landscapes, computer models of their behavior are not currently incorporated into global climate models. However, Walter Anthony believes including them in future models is important for understanding the role of permafrost in the global carbon budget. Human fossil fuel emissions are the number one source of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, and in comparison, methane emissions from thawing permafrost make up only one percent of the global methane budget, Walter Anthony said. “But by the middle to end of the century the permafrost-carbon feedback should be about equivalent to the second strongest anthropogenic source of greenhouse gases, which is land use change,” she said.


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Bear that attacked cruise worker was skeletal, expert says; signs of its presence on beach should have been obvious, researchers who saw it the day before say


The cruise ship wasn’t trying to bring tourists ashore to look at a polar bear. The uneven landscape of the beach meant the animal could have been out of sight a short distance away – but a whale carcass and lots of bear tracks should have been a dead giveaway. The crew tried to scare the bear away before being forced to kill it. An expert researcher says it appears the bear was very thin.

A few more details were released Monday by officials and a lot more criticism was expressed –including from celebrities and other prominent people worldwide – about a polar bear that was fatally shot after attacking a cruise ship crew member in northern Svalbard on Saturday.

Twelve crew members from the MS Bremen cruise ship went ashore in two dinghies at Sjuøyane, a group of islands at the northernmost part of the archipelago, at about 8:30 a.m. to prepare for a shore excursion by tourists on the vessel, according to a press release issued by The Governor of Svalbard. Four of the crew were polar bear guards, according to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, a German company which operated the ship.

“The attack happened on shore,” Police Chief Lt. Ole Jakob Malmo said in the governor’s press release. “The victim, a 42-year old man from Germany, was wounded in the head. Two of the others in the group opened fire on the bear and killed it.”

Although the crew received widespread criticism from commenters wondering why sedation or other non-lethal means were used against the bear, Malmo said such attempts were indeed made.

“Initially, the group attempted to scare away the bear by shouting and making loud noises as well as firing a signal pistol, but to no effect,” he said.

A polar bear – almost certainly the one that was shot – was spotted the day before the attack eating a whale carcass by research expedition participants aboard the M/S Clione vessel from the Czech Republic.

“He just ate and then slept and then enjoyed being there,” said Josef Elster, director of the Czech Centre for Polar Ecology.

Jan Pechar, captain of the Clione, said an uneven surface on the beach meant the bear could have been a short distance from the cruise ship crew without being seen, but the whale carcass and bear footprints were clearly visible through a telephoto lens from the ship.

“There definitely was some proof” of the bear’s very recent presence, he said.

Pechar said he reported the bear sighting, as well as others spotted in the area during the expedition, to the governor’s office. Officials at the governor’s office did not immediately respond to questions about whether such reports would have been available to others traveling in the area.

Although the bear was able to eat a large last meal, photos of its carcass suggest it was “quite emaciated,” Jon Aars, a polar bear expert with the Norwegian Polar Institute, told NRK.

“Polar bears can attack people, regardless of whether it is hungry or not, but there is a greater risk that it attacks people when it’s hungry,” he said.

The vast majority of criticism by outside commenters toward the cruise line was for causing the bear’s death by invading the bear’s natural turf.

“Let’s get too close to a polar bear in its natural environment and then kill it if it gets too close. Morons,” wrote British actor-comedian Ricky Gervais in a Twitter message.

An abundance of other accusatory Tweets – not all of them entirely consistent with the facts of the incident – were posted, forwarded and reported in a rapidly growing number of media outlets worldwide.

Extinction Symbol@extinctsymbol

Polar bear killed for acting like a wild animal: 

Polar bear killed after attack on Arctic cruise ship guard

Norwegian authorities said a polar bear on Saturday attacked and injured a polar bear guard who was leading tourists off a cruise ship on an Arctic archipelago. The polar bear was shot dead by…

Among the more common apparent misperceptions was the cruise line was deliberately attempting to allow passengers to view the polar bear from land (although such suspicions have been expressed by a few locals and observers at Sjuøyane noted there were bears in the area since a large amount of whale fat was on the beach where the attack occurred).

“Maybe cruise sightseeing tours shouldn’t take place then polar bear guards wouldn’t be needed to protect gawking tourists & polar bears would be left in peace & not shot dead merely to satisfy a photo-op?” wrote Jane Roberts, a British genealogist.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, in a statement, stated they do not intentionally bring passengers ashore to watch polar bears.

“Polar bears are only observed on board ships from safe distance,” the statement notes. “In order to prepare a shore leave, the polar bear guards will go to land as a group and without passengers to land, set up a land station and secure the area to make sure there are no polar bears. Once such an animal approaches, the shore leave would be stopped immediately.”

The cruise line stated it is working “intensively and cooperative with the Norwegian authorities for the reconstruction and enlightenment of the incident.” The governor’s office is investigating to determine if negligence or other wrongdoing was a factor in the attack.

“We expect that it will take some time to complete the investigation,” Malmo said.

Animals Need, but Don’t Get, Shade and Adequate Water during Record Heat

Canadian Blog

by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate

Born Free USA’s Canadian Representative

Published 08/02/18

Bison at MarinelandPhoto: Born Free USA

As I mentioned in my last blog, after a 37 year hiatus, not ever wanting to return because I had been so disturbed by the terrible care animals were receiving during my first visit, I finally made my second visit to Marineland, and the horror of the place remains for me. I had been lured by advertisements for “Aviary Safari,” a new attraction featuring 100 acres of “free-roaming” birds. I’m a bird expert; I should take a look. But it was false advertising. The attraction does not exist.

Rob Laidlaw and I were there on July 5, the last day of a brutal, record-breaking heat wave filled with government-issued heat warnings, so not surprisingly our first stop was in the cool confines of an indoor exhibit featuring harbor seals. The seals, as reported previously, all had their eyes tightly shut due to the chlorine in their tank.

Then, we went in search of the aviary that did not exist. After being told by an employee that there was no such display (for which, given how animals are cared for in Marineland, I’m grateful), we wandered off in search of other animal displays in what is, to my eyes, just a grubby theme park that happens to be located in Niagara Falls, Ontario, near Horseshoe Falls, a world-famous tourist attraction.

What we were horrified to find huge pens with no trees and very little, if any, shade, housing various hoofed ungulates, such as bison, red deer, and the closely related American wapiti. There were some improvements over the last 37 years. There were fewer bears and they were in a larger, cleaner compound, and I was pleased that the petting compound, filled with fallow deer, was not open, presumably because of the intense heat. The animals were forced to huddle in a few square feet of shade cast by the fencing.

But, what I saw in the other compounds left me sick with sorrow for the animals. Above are two photos taken of the bison compound. It was just an open, sun-blasted expanse, with but a single source of water, about the size of a pail. I’ve included a photo of a bison calf, about the size of a cow calf, so you can see the size of this water source. No place for the herd to drink; no place for them to wallow in the mud; no shade for them to cool off.

Please don’t tell me to complain. Animal protectionists have been complaining, for decades, and The Ontario SPCA once laid charges, but somehow missed what to my eyes – and those of various experts who have written reports on what they found – are the most concerning situations. And, for our troubles we are labeled, of course, as extremists. Here are the photos. Judge for yourself.

Keep Wildlife in the Wild,

Baseball-Size Hail Kills Zoo Animals In Colorado

The massive Colorado Springs hailstorm injured more than a dozen people and damaged hundreds of cars.

A powerful hailstorm swept through parts of Colorado on Monday, injuring 14 people, killing two zoo animals and damaging hundreds of cars.

The massive storm, which produced baseball-sized hail in some parts, prompted an evacuation at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs as the area was pummeled with chunks of ice.

By the time the storm had passed, the zoo, which remained closed on Tuesday due to the destruction, estimated that nearly 400 cars in its parking lot were severely damaged. Two birds on exhibit died from trauma.

One of two bears (left) is seen attempting to dodge hail as it pounded the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs on Monda

One of two bears (left) is seen attempting to dodge hail as it pounded the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs on Monday.

“One animal was Daisy, a 4-year-old muscovy duck. The other animal was 13-year-old cape vulture, Motswari,” the zoo said in a Facebook post.

Colorado Springs police reported that five people were transported from the zoo to hospitals for injuries. Nine others were treated at the scene and released.

“It was crazy. The zoo, when we came out of there, literally it looked like a tornado came through,” Danielle Fillis, 47, who was visiting the zoo with her husband, told the Colorado Springs Gazette. Their car was totalled, she said, and their legs were slashed by glass broken by the hail.

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“There were trees down, the whole walkway was covered in debris and animals were making a lot of noise,” Fillis added.

Brandon Sneide, who said he was a member of Colorado’s National Guard who had been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, said he saw one woman at the zoo covered in blood.

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an idea of some of damage to vehicles at the zoo today.

The back window of a car that was smashed by hail on Monday in the Broadmoor area of&nbsp;Colorado Springs is seen.

The back window of a car that was smashed by hail on Monday in the Broadmoor area of Colorado Springs is seen.

“It was traumatic. It sounded like being in a war zone, like being in Iraq. It was scary,” Sneide told the paper.

Hailstorms are not unusual in this part of the country in the summer, according to weather experts.

“Colorado, you get hit all the time with hail, but it was a little bit larger than most hailstorms,” Pamela Evenson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo, Colorado, told HuffPost on Tuesday. “Colorado has one of the highest hail rates in the country, unfortunately.”

NWS Pueblo


GOES-16 visible satellite imagery shows the evolution of the severe thunderstorm that produced very large hail across El Paso and Pueblo counties on August 6.

In June, areas in and around Colorado Springs and Fountain were pounded by another hailstorm that caused an estimated $169 million in insured damages, according to Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. 

That storm was reported as the worst overnight storm in El Paso County in more than 20 years.

Sara Pilot, left, looks at the hail damage to her father's car outside of her home in Louisville, Colorado, on June 19.

Sara Pilot, left, looks at the hail damage to her father’s car outside of her home in Louisville, Colorado, on June 19.

“A bunch of people had already gotten their homes fixed, got new cars after their cars were totaled and then had the same thing happen again,” Evenson said of those residents. “It’s terrible.”

In late June, areas in and around Boulder saw baseball-sized hail that destroyed cars, rooftops and solar panels.

Heavy thunderstorms and possible severe hail were forecast for the area of Boulder again on Tuesday. Pueblo was also forecast to see thunderstorms and potential flash floods, according to the National Weather Service.

Study warns of looming potential for runaway global warming

Study warns of looming potential for runaway global warming
© Getty Images

A new study out Monday warns of the possibility of out-of-control global warming if humans fail to band together to fight the worst effects of climate change.

The analysis, conducted by researchers at the Australian National University and the Stockholm Resilience Center, among other institutions, outlines the potential for a “threshold” that, if crossed, would lead to runaway warming patterns and the advent of a “Hothouse Earth.”

If such a threshold is crossed, the study warns, global average temperatures could climb as much as 8 degrees Fahrenheit above current temperatures and sea levels could rise 30 to 200 feet.

“Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene,” the study says.The report is based on a review of past research of thresholds for climate change, according to USA Today.

Even if every country that signed on to the Paris climate agreement meets its obligations under the pact and limits the global temperature increase to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, runaway global warming could still be a threat, the newspaper reports.

The study says that mitigating that risk would require collective global action, including a drastic transformation of “social values” and the pursuit of new technology.

“Such action entails stewardship of the entire Earth System – biosphere, climate, and societies – and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values,” the study says.

President Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement last year, arguing that it placed unfair burdens on the U.S. to curb carbon emissions and would ultimately hurt American businesses and industry.

Donald Trump has some thoughts on fighting wildfires. They’re nonsense.

Humans are increasing wildfire risks, but “bad environmental laws” aren’t the problem.

A C-130 air tanker drops flame retardant on part of the Mendocino Complex Fire in California on August 5, 2018.
 Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images

The 2018 wildfire year has been devastating. As of Monday, the National Interagency Fire Center reports that there are 60 uncontained large fires across the country, with a total of 5.1 million acres ravaged by fire so far this year.

These deadly infernos have killed several firefighters, forced hundreds of people to flee, and destroyed hundreds of homes and thousands of acres of wilderness.

The Carr Fire in Northern California is now the state’s fifth-largest fire on record after igniting more than 160,0000 acres and killing seven people. But it’s been bested in size by the Mendocino Complex fire, which, at 273,000 acres, is the second-largest in state history.

Late last month, President Trump signed a federal emergency declaration for the state of California, allowing the federal government to assist with firefighting efforts.

So it’s not surprising that Trump would weigh in on the California blazes. But on Sunday night, he used them to bash environmental regulations:

Donald J. Trump


California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!

And then on Monday, he took it up again, this time blaming California Gov. Jerry Brown.

Donald J. Trump


Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water – Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals.

There are a few reasons these statements are bewildering. First, human activity is definitely making these fires worse: People are building in vulnerable areas, they are igniting most of these fires, and humans are driving climate change, which makes fire conditions more severe.

But environmental laws about water that would be used to put the fires out?

Even wildfire scientists have no idea what the president was referring to here. California has been parched from drought for years, so there isn’t a “massive amount of readily available water,” and what little moisture is available is closely tracked.

“We do manage all of our rivers in California, and all the water is allocated many times over. So I’m not sure what he was recommending,” LeRoy Westerling, a professor at the University of California Merced studying wildfires, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Even if we eliminated all habitat for riparian species and fish, and allowed saltwater intrusion into the delta and set up a sprinkler system over the state, that wouldn’t compensate for greater moisture loss from climate change.”

That means if California hoarded every raindrop, as Trump recommended, it still wouldn’t completely offset evaporation from rising average temperatures and years of drought.

Peter Gleick


Trump doubles down on his previous ignorant tweet about California and fires. The only water that reaches the ocean these days is what’s left AFTER the massive diversions OUT of our rivers for cities and farms. And there’s no shortage of fire-fighting water. Nuts.

Donald J. Trump


Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water – Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals.

This water also wouldn’t be all that useful for firefighters. Wildfires are a natural part of the ecosystem, so the goal is to allow these fires to burn without threatening lives and property, and spraying water isn’t the main method for containing them.

For wildland firefighters, the tools of the trade are Pulaskis, rakes, shovels, and flamethrowers that burn clearings ahead of towering infernos. Instead of fire engines, they use bulldozers. Since these firefighters aren’t usually using pump trucks and fire hoses, they aren’t limited by water. When they need to snuff out an area, they often do it by air.

These methods help firefighters clear a perimeter of potential fuel to control the spread of flames. But as Westerling added on Twitter, the president’s suggestion of “tree clear” only goes so far.

A. LeRoy Westerling@LeroyWesterling

‘Tree clearing’ isn’t goint to help with the fires burning in grass and shrub fuels. But California is investing millions in fuels treatments funded by our carbon permit auction revenue. It would be wonderful if the Federal gov emulated us, since it owns most of the trees here

Donald J. Trump


California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!

There were indeed regulations that prevented firefighting equipment from being used, but officials say water rules are not hampering firefighting efforts. In fact, the largest fires in California right now have plenty of water nearby.

Scott McLean, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, pointed out to me that the Carr Fire burned around Shasta Lake and Whiskeytown Lake, while the Mendocino Complex Fire is roaring near Clear Lake.

For a state like California that’s facing increasing heat and more frequent weather whiplashbetween extreme rain and drought, the real “bad environmental laws” worsening the situation are actually Trump’s attempts to roll back policies — like California’s Clean Air Act waiver — that would help mitigate climate change and the threat of more wildfires.

Why is Trump suddenly so interested in California water policy anyway?

For one, it appears to be an opportunity to take a swing at the state’s governor, Jerry Brown, a vociferous critic of the president.

But Trump may also be hearing about it from Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), a confidant who has long fought California’s water restrictions. As the New York Times reported in February:

In this district, Mr. Nunes is more closely associated with campaigning for farmers on water issues than anything to do with Russia — pushing for more dams and trying to get more water from Northern California in the face of a shortage that many fear could turn into another drought.

His efforts have largely failed to solve the problem, which his Republican constituents here blame on environmentalists and Democrats in Sacramento, California’s capital, who they say are more interested in saving the smelt from extinction than serving the region’s farmers with enough water, an issue that President Trump took up during his campaign.

The fires may have given Nunes a reason to broach the topic to Trump, who turned to Twitter to vent and jab a political opponent at the same time.