In today’s On the News segment: For the first time since record-keeping began, two Category 4 hurricanes have developed in the Eastern Pacific Basin before July 1; the state of Illinois is working to protect their waterways; as global temperatures rise, more people around the world are switching on their air conditioners, and it turns out they’re creating a vicious cycle; and more.
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You need to know this. For the first time since record-keeping began, two Category 4 hurricanes have developed in the Eastern Pacific Basin before July 1st. Back in May, Hurricane Amanda was labeled the “strongest May hurricane on record,” and only a couple weeks later, Hurricane Cristina rocketed to a Category 4 in only 13 days. Although that area of the world is more prone to hurricanes during El Nino years, that pattern isn’t forecast to take effect until later this summer. These massive storms developed months earlier than normal, and warmer El Nino waters could bring even more hurricanes in the month ahead. While few people try to blame specific weather events on climate change, the fact that these storms are earlier, stronger, and more likely can only be the result of rising global temperatures. Hurricanes gain strength over warmer water, so two category 4 storms this early proves that ocean temperatures are already pretty hot. Thankfully these storms stayed away from land, but there’s no guarantee that the next storm with 150-mile-an-hour winds will stay off shore. These super storms can cause massive destruction, and leave areas struggling to recover for years. Are we willing to sit back and accept that storms and droughts and devastating floods are only going to get worse? We can’t undo the damage of Hurricane Sandy or magically end the drought in California, but we can do a heck of a lot more to keep these problems from getting more out of control. Fighting global warming isn’t only about rising temperatures, it’s about all of the things that warmer weather effects. We must do everything we can to fight global warming and prevent these super storms from getting even stronger.
The state of Illinois is working to protect their waterways. Last week, Governor Pat Quinn signed a new law banning plastic microbeads from beauty and cosmetic products sold in his state. Although the tiny particles added to scrubs and cleansers seem harmless, they can remain in waterways for centuries. On their own, these microbeads leave tons of plastic in our environment, but they also accumulate toxic chemicals on their surfaces, and pose a serious threat to public health. At the signing ceremony for the new law, Governor Quinn said, “Banning microbeads will help ensure clean waters across Illinois and set an example for our nation to follow.” There’s no reason why beauty and cosmetic products should contain plastic in the first place, and there are numerous natural products that can be used instead. By 2019, it will be illegal to sell products containing plastic microbeads in the state of Illinois, and hopefully more states will follow suit. We must do more as a nation to protect our waterways, and keeping plastic out of rivers and lakes is an important step.
As global temperatures rise, more people around the world are switching on their air conditioners, and it turns out they’re creating a vicious cycle. According to researchers at Arizona State University, city-dwellers are actually increasing nighttime temperatures by turning on their AC. The scientists conducted a 10-day study using computer models and detailed weather readings, and they found that city temperatures rise an average of one degree Celsius because of air conditioning units pumping out excess heat. The report’s lead author explained how this practice creates a cycle, saying, “This increase in outside air temperature in turn results in additional demands for air conditioning.” However, it’s unlikely that people will turn off the AC when it’s hot. Thankfully, the researchers also suggested a way we can break this cycle. If we could trap all of this wasted heat, we could turn it in to energy. That would cut down on electricity use, and stop heating up all of our cities. It appears that finding a solution to this problem is a business opportunity in the making.
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and a new study says strong coffee could keep you out of the dentist’s chair. According to research published in the journal “Applied Microbiology,” coffee that contains high levels of caffeine can destroy the harmful bacteria that causes dental plaque. The study explained that dental plaque is “the main culprit in tooth decay and gun disease.” However, there is one major caveat, if you drink your coffee with cream and sugar, it is probably harming your teeth more than helping. The scientists said that to get the dental benefit of coffee, drink it black, very strong, and unsweetened, and don’t over do it. Drinking too much coffee can leave stains, and the acidity can damage tooth enamel. If you’re not a coffee fan, eating grapes or drinking green tea can have the same positive effect on dental health. Of course, researchers are not claiming that coffee can replace the benefits of brushing and flossing, but it looks like we have more than one reason to smile about our morning cup of Joe.
And finally… The residents of Lafayette, Colorado are fighting hard to keep natural gas drilling out of their city. Last November, residents approved a measure to ban all hydraulic fracking within their city limits. However, only one month later, an oil and gas lobbying group filed a lawsuit to overturn that ban. Governor John Hickenlooper had planned a special legislative session with oil and gas representatives, but has since postponed that meeting in the wake of public outcry. Rather than sitting by while they lose local control over fracking, the Lafayette residents have filed a class action lawsuit against their state and governor. Thomas Linzey of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund helped craft the original ban, called the Lafayette Community Bill of Rights. Mr. Linzey said, “The people of Lafayette will not stand idly by as their rights are negotiated away by oil and gas corporations, their state government, and their own municipal government.” Hopefully, their right to protect themselves against Big Oil will be upheld, and inspire more cities to say “No” to natural gas fracking.
And that’s the way it is for the week of June 16, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.