Hurricane Sandy to Play Important Role in Presidential Election?

Written By Jessica Nichols

Hurricane Sandy has been declared the highest costing and the largest hurricane on record. Scientists cite global warming and its effects to the recent spike in ‘super storms,’ which then begs the question of how Sandy is going to effect the upcoming presidential election.

Whether one is a democrat, republican or a third party supporter, a natural disaster transcends party lines. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which experts are saying was so severe partially due to global warming, how the candidates respond to these very real issues may be a decisive point in the minds of voters.

After breaking ground in the United States on October 29, Sandy has become the second-most costly hurricane in US recorded history, racking up an estimated $50 billion in economic losses, and is second only to Hurricane Katrina. Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, recently tweeted this in regards to the strength and severity of Sandy, “Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.”

Global warming is not necessarily the most widely accepted notion, however, especially outside of the scientific community. There are still many political and religious figures that do not believe in climate change as well as our role in it, and responsibility that humans have on this planet.

President Obama supports Donna Vanzant, the owner of the North Point Marina, which was damaged in the hurricane, during a tour through Brigantine, NJ this October 31, 2012

But how can global warming alter weather patterns or the severity of storms? Scientists look to indicators like sea level to determine this. This past summer heralded a large loss on the level of sea ice. Climate Central had this to say, “The loss of sea ice opens large expanses of open water, which then absorbs more of the incoming solar radiation and adds heat and moisture to the atmosphere, thereby helping to alter weather patterns.”

Romney has been unclear on the subject at best, citing an unclear scientific stance as the source for his measured view on the topic. He told donors at the Consol Energy Center, “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

Obama, on the other hand, may be taking a much more active role in the wake of Sandy. While Obama has never before had a problem mentioning global warming, he has of yet has not brought to the table the seriousness of the issue at hand, though he did say in a speech in Charlottesville, Va. last week, “Denying climate change doesn’t make it stop.”

As coverage of Sandy spreads and the clean-up effort is put into place, the pressure is on for this presidential election. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are on the ropes to ensure that they are sending their message to the public, assuring them that they, too, take this issue very seriously.

Maldives Drives Innovation to Stay Afloat

Male, the capitol city of Maldives

A picturesque view of Male, the capitol city of Maldives.

Written by: Nick Mingay

MALDIVES – The small island chain set a goal to offset its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, but if the rest of the world does not follow and world carbon emissions fall Maldives could be completely underwater by the end of the century.

The archipelago of 1,190 islands is the lowest elevated county in the world. The average elevation is just one and  a half meters above sea level, leaving it susceptible if the sea levels continue to rise.

Maldives spends approximately 15 percent of its GDP on Diesel fuel to provide power to the inhabitants of the islands. They are beginning to wane from that source of energy though. Wind turbines are starting to be completed on many of the southern islands.

Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Maldives, said he wants to be the example for the rest of the world to try and save his country from going underwater. Although creating clean energy is the only way to save his country, that is not the only reason to do it.

“For us this is an economic issue. It’s a financial issue. We are becoming carbon neutral because it is cheaper than fossil fuels,” Nasheed said.

Moving to cleaner energy is not an easy step to take. It takes investments over long periods of time and possible cuts to other areas of the budget. This may be the biggest reason why other countries have not been as forward about using cleaner energy, the cost is just too high at the moment.

Maldives’ economy thrives on tourism, which has been hit hard because of the state of the economy. It is not easy for the country to delve deep into its pockets for investment in clean energy, but it is necessary. The cost is especially hard for developing countries like Maldives.

“When cities, people and countries  develop, you have to pay a higher price. We’re trying to adjust these prices to very minimal,” Utility Chairman Ahmed Zareer said.

Other hindrances are effecting the construction of certain clean energy projects. The climate is not conducive to solar panels because of the corrosive nature of the salty environment, parts of the island chain receive hardly enough wind for turbines to be effective and there is little land mass for solar panels to have a particularly large impact.

These disadvantages come with the territory of living in paradise. But, they will not stop  Nasheed and the rest of the Maldives from trying anything they can to keep their country afloat.

Polar-Grizzly Bear Hybrids Now Found in the Wild

Polar-Grizzly Bear Hybrids Now Found in the Wild

A polar-grizzly bear hybrid walking on the shore.

Written by Erin Marty

Polar-grizzly bear hybrids – also known as grolar bears – were once thought to be found only in zoos. Now they are being discovered in the wild.

On Banks Island in 2006, a strange creature was shot: a grolar bear. The DNA of the animal was tested by scientists, who discovered that the shot bear was the offspring of a polar bear and grizzly bear. In 2010, a second-generation hybrid was also found and shot in the wild of Canada’s Northwest Territories by David Kuptana.

Both of these events prove that polar-grizzly hybrids are not only surviving, but thriving in the wild. They are successfully passing on their genes to newer generations. Once believe to be reproducing solely in captivity, researchers are finding out that polar-grizzly hybrid bears are now being discovered beyond the containing walls of zoos.

So what does this mean? Why are these bears – usually so far from each other in their natural environments – interbreeding? According to National Geographic, researchers have concluded that each species is being forced into closer proximity with one another. Unfortunately, much of their natural habitat is lost is due to human intervention and impacts. On top of that, there are even some scientists who believe that global warming is to blame.

Marine biology of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska, Brendan Kelly, suggests that these polar-grizzly hybrids are, if anything, going to become a rather popular addition to the animal kingdom. This is primarily because of the melting sea ice, and without sea ice for them to hunt and live on, the polar bears will be forced further inland near grizzly bears, thus resulting in an increase of polar-grizzly hybrids.

In the end, there may be even more mixed creatures than just polar-grizzly hybrids. Kelly states: “We’re taking this continent-sized barrier to animal movement, and in a few generations, it’s going to disappear, at least in summer months. That’s going to give a lot of organisms-a lot of marine mammals in particular-who’ve been separated for at least 10,000 years the opportunity to interbreed again, and we’re predicting we’re going to see a lot of that.”

Along with other animals that may possibly interbreed, if Kelly is correct, then the near future is sure to find more polar-grizzly bear hybrids. That being said, if you ever find yourself in one of those rare and heart-pounding situations in which you spy a bear in the wild, you may be looking at a grolar bear if it has the following attributes: lengthy necks, broad shoulders and humps, oh and of course the combination of coarse polar and grizzly hairs. But, to be on the safe side, you may want to keep your hybrid tacking skills solely at the zoo.

Environmental Protection Agency on the Ropes In 2012

 

Written by: Anatole Ashraf

The Environmental Protection Agency continues to face challenges as another election year begins with 2012. On Dec. 29, Texas filed a motion in federal appeals court to block the Obama Administration’s attempts to regulate the emissions of greenhouse gases. Another federal court rejected the state’s petition one day before on Dec. 28.

The move by Texas is merely the latest in what continues to be a difficult period for the Environmental Protection Agency. The Jan. 1 implementation of the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which places stricter federal limits on pollution from coal-fired plants was delayed at the last minute by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit on Dec. 31.

“Texas law does not currently deem greenhouse gases to be pollutants,” said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has previously claimed that the state was determined to fight the EPA’s intentions. “Once again, the federal government is overreaching, and improperly intruding upon the state of Texas and its legal rights.”

Greg Abbott’s comments reflect one of the greatest challenges facing the EPA—climate change denial. With the 2012 presidential election, doubts and gaps in the science regarding global warming and rising temperatures stand to be frequently highlighted by candidates and politicians to gain favor with deniers.

The increasing fervor of charges against climate change can be traced back to a 2009 incident regarding personal emails circulating between researchers at the Climatic Research Unit of the U.K.’s University of East Anglia, the leading institution focused on climate change. Dubbed a scandal called “Climategate,” the emails revealed increasing frustration on the part of climate scientists, with one admitting that he was “tempted to beat” a skeptic at the libertarian Cato institute. The impact on public opinion was almost immediate, with a poll conducted five weeks later by Yale and George Mason University finding 57 percent of respondents believing that the planet is warming. A similar poll conducted in 2008 found 71 percent believers.

Some say climate change denial stems from negative reactions to new findings. According to political scientist Charles Taber of Stony Brook University, a person hearing about a discovery that challenges deeply held beliefs will have a negative subconscious response which in turn will guide the type of conscious memories and associations. “They retrieve thoughts that are consistent with their previous beliefs, and that will lead them to build an argument and challenge what they’re hearing,” Taber said. (On a humorous note, Mother Jones has compiled a “Field Guide to Climate Change Skeptics”.)

In the face of opposition from climate change deniers and a complicated relationship with lawmakers and politicians, the EPA’s mandate to regulate environmental crime and enforce environmental justice seems to be a challenge. Current administrator Lisa P. Jackson, however, announced at a speech at Power Shift 2011, an annual conference on climate change policy, that she was more energized than ever to “keep America on a path towards a more green and environmentally sustainable future.”

Jon Stewart Debates Global Warming and the Snow Storm

The Daily Show Crew

Heating up the debate about global warming, the best news team on the face of this planet – at least, according to their anchorman – reported on the two faces of the monster. While fox news confronted Al Gore‘s assertions with 18 inches of snow, Jon Stewart and the Daily Show poked fun at one fundamentally inconvenient truth: global warming swings both ways. A rare weather segment covered the snowpocalypse/ snowmageddon/ snowtorious B.I.G. dumping flurries all over the north-eastern United States.

In other news, Jon Stewart investigated the child-taker investigation, where ten American missionaries face life in prison for attempting to escort children out of the tumult of their native home: Haiti. After they were warned about rescuing young lives without the necessary documentation, the group went ahead with their plans to take them all to America.

Willie Mays was the guest of the evening. He told the crowd that he would have surpassed Babe Ruth’s home run record if he’d played the game instead of going into the service for two years. He mentioned that he gave himself a handicap while on the Trenton Giants, in order to appease the touchy members of the all white league.  Willie Mays explained how the hate of the crowd fueled his talent during the black and white days, when only two colors showed up on the television set.

By the end of the episode, Jon Stewart expresses his fascination with a baseball legend, and receives a heart-felt compliment from  his good friend at the Colbert Report.