Environment

Around the Nation
5:00 pm
Sat February 22, 2014

Closing America's Largest Landfill, Without Taking Out The Trash

Trucks dump trash at the Puente Hill Landfill in Puente Hills, Calif., on October 31, 2013. The nation's largest landfill is now covered with soil and closed, and will one day be a park.
Nick Ut AP

Originally published on Sat February 22, 2014 7:18 pm

The covering of America's largest landfill — east of downtown Los Angeles — is underway.

The Puente Hills landfill took in trash from all over LA County, becoming the go-to repository for most of Los Angeles' garbage. Over its more than 50 years in operation, the landfill grew higher than 500 feet.

It stopped receiving new trash in October, but the old waste will actually stay. All those years' worth of garbage will be covered up and remain underneath the ground.

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Environment
5:50 am
Sat February 22, 2014

Amid California Drought, Migrating Birds Enjoy Pop-Up Cuisine

Rice farmer Douglas Thomas watches snow geese take flight over his rice fields in California's Central Valley.
Lauren Sommer KQED

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 9:37 am

Millions of birds migrate through California this time of year, but the waterways and wetlands they rely on for food and rest are largely dry due to the ongoing drought. So farmers are keeping their fields flooded to make temporary wetlands, providing a place for migrating birds to rest and eat.

Rice farmer Douglas Thomas is one of these farmers. On a recent morning some 3,000 snow geese float in his rice fields in California's Central Valley. He's watching a young bald eagle awkwardly dive at the flock.

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The Two-Way
4:24 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Forget The Local Cold: Worldwide, It Was Another Hot January

A chart showing average temperatures around the world for January 2014.
National Climate Data Center NOAA

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 5:07 pm

January will go down in the weather history books as the fourth-warmest on record.

That's right.

No matter how brutal the winter was in North America, especially the Eastern half, it was balanced by warm temperatures elsewhere on the planet.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climate Data Center says that last month marks the 38th consecutive January and the 347th consecutive month (almost 29 years) that global temperatures have been above the average for the 20th century.

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Environment
4:18 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Keystone Greens See Pipeline As Crucial Test For Obama

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 8:02 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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Science
4:18 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Scientists Fear Ecological Disaster In Nicaragua's Planned Canal

A channel big enough to handle global shipping would require deep dredging throughout Lake Nicaragua, the largest source of fresh water in Central America.
Esteban Felix AP

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 8:02 pm

Scientists are raising the alarm about the possible environmental consequences of a huge shipping canal that could cut across Nicaragua, from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

The government of this Central American nation has signed a deal with a Chinese company that is planning to build a maritime shortcut that would compete with the Panama Canal. Construction could begin next year — yet there's no official route for the canal and no assessment of its potential impacts on the environment.

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Environment
3:45 am
Thu February 20, 2014

Toxic Leak Taints North Carolina Coal Plants, And Regulators

North Carolina's Dan River was polluted with toxic coal ash that leaked from a coal plant earlier this month. The spill is under investigation.
Gerry Broome AP

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 9:29 am

A broken pipe funneled 30,000 tons of toxic coal ash into the Dan River in North Carolina earlier this month, turning it gray. The pipe has been plugged, but the spill has reignited a fight over storage of coal ash, and scrutiny of the state regulators responsible for monitoring it.

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The Two-Way
5:45 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

U.S. Government Will Back Loans For Nuclear Power

The containment vessel for a new nuclear reactor at the Vogtle nuclear power plant under construction near Augusta, Ga., in December 2012.
John Bazemore AP

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 6:05 am

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a multibillion-dollar loan guarantee Wednesday for building nuclear reactors in Georgia, underscoring the White House's plan for an "all of the above" energy strategy.

The two reactors will be the first built in this country in nearly three decades.

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Science
4:52 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

What Is The Psychological Effect Of Naming Storms?

Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 8:02 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Along with plenty of ice, sleet and snow, much of the country has also been blanketed this winter by an avalanche of names. When winter storms assault us, they now come with names like Hercules, Janus and, the most recent storm, Pax.

Here's NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam on why we name winter storms and how those names might affect us.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: We've been naming hurricanes for many years.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS CLIP)

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The Two-Way
3:39 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

If Yellowstone Could Talk, It Might Squeak. Blame The Helium

Sunset on the Firehole River, Yellowstone National Park.
Bill Young Flickr

Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 8:02 pm

A huge amount of ancient helium is rising up from the rocks beneath Yellowstone National Park — about enough to fill up a Goodyear blimp every week.

The gas comes from a vast store of helium that's accumulated in the Earth's crust for hundreds of millions of years, scientists report in the journal Nature this week.

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It's All Politics
12:47 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Calif. Billionaire Plans $100 Million Climate Change Campaign

Billionaire Tom Steyer discusses a proposed bill to fund energy efficiency projects at schools in California's poorest communities during a Dec. 2012 news conference in Sacramento.
Rich Pedroncelli AP

Tom Steyer, a billionaire retired hedge-fund investor, is aiming to spend $100 million to make climate change a priority issue in this year's midterm elections.

As the New York Times reported Tuesday, the Democrat is working to raise $50 million from donors to add to $50 million of his own money to bankroll his San Francisco-based political organization, NextGen Climate Action.

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Krulwich Wonders...
11:19 am
Wed February 19, 2014

Trees On The Move As Temperature Zones Shift 3.8 Feet A Day

Robert Krulwich NPR

Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 2:46 pm

You are a snail. You are a plant. You like where you are. The temperature's right. It suits you.

But then, gradually, over the years, it gets warmer. Not every day, of course, but on more and more days, the temperature climbs to uncomfortable highs, drying you out, making you tired, thirsty.

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Around the Nation
4:43 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Got Road Salt? Cities Across The Country Are Running Out Of It

Traffic on Staten Island during a winter storm earlier this month. New York is among the states affected by a shortage of rock salt.
Tom Checchi Staten Island Advance /Landov

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 8:48 am

You know you have a widespread problem when Milwaukee fights road ice with cheese brine, New Jersey breaks out the pickle juice, and New York, a major salt producer, declares a shortage.

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Around the Nation
5:18 pm
Sun February 16, 2014

Is It Really Safe? Testing West Virginia's Water

Originally published on Sun February 16, 2014 7:12 pm

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

The water has been contaminated for residents in nine counties. At a congressional hearing in West Virginia, their representatives demanded the answer to that simple question we asked earlier: Is the water safe?

Here's Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito questioning the state's commissioner of public health, Letitia Tierney.

REPRESENTATIVE SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO: Dr. Tierney, is the water safe to drink?

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Around the Nation
5:18 pm
Sun February 16, 2014

West Virginians Still Stocking Up On Water, Fearing Pollution

Originally published on Sun February 16, 2014 7:12 pm

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.

There are some basic things we take for granted, at least in the developed world, that the air we breathe or the water that flows into our homes won't make us sick. So imagine you turn on your local TV news to this.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS REPORT)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: State of emergency in several counties tonight after a chemical spills into the water supply. Good evening. I'm...

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The Two-Way
11:41 am
Sun February 16, 2014

Kerry Warns Indonesia: Climate Change Threatens 'Entire Way Of Life'

Secretary of State John Kerry gestures while speaking about climate change in Jakarta on Sunday.
POOL Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Sun February 16, 2014 12:11 pm

Secretary of State John Kerry is continuing a push to move climate change to the top of the global agenda, telling an audience in the archipelago nation of Indonesia that rising global temperatures and sea levels could threaten their "entire way of life."

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The Two-Way
10:12 am
Sun February 16, 2014

Warming Arctic May Be Causing Jet Stream To Lose Its Way

The jet stream that circles Earth's north pole travels west to east. But when the jet stream interacts with a Rossby wave, as shown here, the winds can wander far north and south, bringing frigid air to normally mild southern states.
NASA/GSFC

Originally published on Sun February 16, 2014 12:17 pm

Mark Twain once said: "If you don't like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes."

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Krulwich Wonders...
11:05 am
Sat February 15, 2014

'O Wind A-Blowing!'

Science
6:32 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Illegal, Remote Pot Farms In California Poisoning Rare Wildlife

Fishers are among the small carnivores threatened by rat poisons used to guard plants at illegal marijuana farms.
John Jacobson U.S Fish & Wildlife Service

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 7:58 pm

People who grow marijuana illegally in the backwoods of Northern California use large amounts of rat bait to protect their plants — and these chemicals are killing several species of wild animals, including rare ones, biologists say.

Here's what happens: The growers plant their marijuana in remote locations, hoping to elude detection. They irrigate their plants — with water from streams — which lures animals looking for water. Rodents chew the flourishing plants to get moisture, which kills the plants. Researchers believe that's the prime reason growers use the poisons.

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The Two-Way
2:24 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Even From Space, Near-Record Ice On Great Lakes Is Chilling

They're down there somewhere: The Great Lakes as seen from space on Wednesday. Lake Ontario, which has less ice than the others, is at the lower right. A bit of open water can be seen in Lake Superior, at the upper left.
CoastWatch.glerl.noaa.gov

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 8:45 pm

The satellite photo we posted last month of a partially frozen Lake Michigan sent shivers down our spines.

Then when we heard today that the ice cover on the Great Lakes is approaching a record, we went in search of other such images.

After looking through several dozen, we need some hot cocoa. See if you agree.

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The Two-Way
9:01 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Massive Volcanic Eruption In Indonesia Blankets Region In Ash

A residential area is covered with ash from the Mount Kelud volcano, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on Friday.
Bimo Satrio EPA/Landov

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 2:06 pm

The second major volcanic eruption in as many weeks in Indonesia has killed at least three people and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands on the island of Java, as Mount Kelud spewed ash and debris 12 miles into the sky.

Thursday night's eruption of the volcano, located 50 miles southwest of the country's second-largest city of Surabaya, could be heard up to 125 miles away, Indonesia's disaster agency says, according to The Associated Press.

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Environment
5:06 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Report: Burning Natural Gas Is Better Than Using Coal

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 7:28 am

Methane is both a fuel and a potent greenhouse gas. A study in Science magazine suggests that about 50 percent more methane is leaking into the atmosphere than official estimates suggest. Even so, they conclude that it's better for the environment to switch electricity generation from coal power plants to those that burn methane.

Parallels
2:51 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

In Damp Country, Record-Breaking Rains Flood Britain

Priscilla Smithers and her four children have arranged chairs around a few air mattresses to create a space for themselves, after fleeing their home.
Ari Shapiro NPR

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 9:15 am

Parts of England have been underwater for more than six weeks now, since storms began pummeling the west of Great Britain around Christmas. While many of those areas are still submerged, the situation keeps getting worse.

Now the floodwaters are lapping near Windsor Castle, as the Thames overflows its banks. Thousands of people have fled their homes, with more evacuating every day.

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Environment
4:29 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Risky Tech Fixes For Climate Becoming Likelier, Critic Warns

Clive Hamilton's new book Earthmasters.
Courtesy of Yale University Press

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 10:06 pm

Some strategists still see a small window of opportunity to address climate change before the effects become damaging and costly. At least one economist, for example, says we can make a lot of progress if at least half the world agrees to put a price tag on the carbon we dump into the atmosphere.

But some big thinkers also see a grim, potentially dangerous world ahead — one where nations, confronting a climate crisis, will instead reach for a risky technological fix.

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Animals
1:50 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

In The World's 'Sixth Extinction,' Are Humans The Asteroid?

Elizabeth Kolbert says the "taxicab yellow" Panamanian golden frog was nearly wiped out by a fungal disease. It's just one of the species affected by what scientists call the Sixth Extinction.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 10:25 am

The dinosaurs were killed during the Fifth Extinction — which scientists suspect was caused by an asteroid. Now, we are living through an epoch that many scientists describe as the Sixth Extinction, and this time, human activity is the culprit. As one scientist put it: We're the asteroid.

Elizabeth Kolbert is the author of the new book The Sixth Extinction. It begins with a history of the "big five" extinctions of the past, and goes on to explain how human behavior is creating a sixth one — including our use of fossil fuels and the effects of climate change.

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Krulwich Wonders...
12:16 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Parents With Noisy Babies Shouldn't Read This. They'll Be Too Jealous

Stacey Dunn University of Idaho

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 12:42 pm

If only ... if only, instead of that noisy, bawling, crying little person, you could have produced an antelope baby — and oh, the quiet! The blissful, total silence. When pronghorn antelopes have babies, nobody hears anything for weeks and weeks — which is the whole point.

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Environment
5:33 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

The Earth's 'Sixth Extinction' May Be One Of Our Own Making

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 10:15 am

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

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Science
5:33 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Economist Says Best Climate Fix A Tough Sell, But Worth It

The Climate Casino by William Nordhaus looks at the economics and politics of global warming.
Courtesy of Yale University Press

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 6:24 pm

We often talk about climate change as a matter of science. But the biggest questions are really about money. How much would it cost to fix the problem — and what price will we pay if we don't?

The man who invented the field of climate economics 40 years ago says there's actually a straightforward way to solve the problem. William Nordhaus has written a book that lays it out in simple terms.

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Politics
4:56 am
Tue February 11, 2014

Congressional Panel Probes W.Va. Chemical Spill

Originally published on Tue February 11, 2014 1:28 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

SENATOR JAY ROCKEFELLER: I wouldn't drink that water if you paid me.

INSKEEP: That's West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller yesterday, telling NPR he does not trust his own state's water. More than a month has passed since a chemical spill left 300,000 West Virginians without usable tap water. Specifically, residents were told not to drink or cook with the water.

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Environment
6:33 pm
Sun February 9, 2014

Kansas Mayor Says Sustainability Is About Community, Not Politics

The community of Greensburg, Kan., was hit hard by an F5 tornado in 2007. The event inspired one resident to run for mayor.
Charlie Riedel AP

Originally published on Mon February 10, 2014 1:36 pm

In Washington, the debate over what to do about climate change is split largely down party lines. But it hasn't always been that way.

Republican Sen. John McCain campaigned on the issue in his presidential runs. "Climate change is real," he said in 2007. "The Earth is warming, and it is the result of greenhouse gas emissions."

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Around the Nation
3:54 pm
Sun February 9, 2014

Prospectors See A Golden Lining In California's Drought

A man looks for gold in Woods Creek in Jamestown, Calif., in 2011.
David Paul Morris Getty Images

Originally published on Sun February 9, 2014 6:33 pm

Wayne Warren shakes wet dirt out of a plastic bucket and into a metal chute, tossing aside bigger rocks. For him, California's drought is golden.

Yes, golden. Warren is knee-deep in the San Gabriel River, an hour outside of Los Angeles. That chute next to him is a sluice box. The water washes away the dirt in a muddy cloud, and he leans over the box. Out of the creek, he taps his findings into a green, plastic gold pan and gives it a few swirls. What's left ...

"Sure is pretty in the sun, huh?" he says.

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