The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Displaying items by tag: climate change

 

Research from Kimberly Sheldon at the University of Tennessee suggests insect behavior is adjusting for climate change

The ConversationIf the TV series “Dirty Jobs” covered animals as well as humans, it would probably start with dung beetles. These hardworking critters are among the insect world’s most important recyclers. They eat and bury manure from many other species, recycling nutrients and improving soil as they go.

Dung beetles are found on every continent except Antarctica, in forests, grasslands, prairies and deserts. And now, like many other species, they are coping with the effects of climate change.

I am an ecologist who has spent nearly 20 years studying dung beetles. My research spans tropical and temperate ecosystems, and focuses on how these beneficial animals respond to temperature changes.

Published in News
Friday, 14 October 2022 13:40

5 big threats to the world’s rivers

fresh water Conservation FisheriesA biologist with Conservation Fisheries surveys a stretch of Little River near Walland, Tennessee to determine fish viability and identify rare species for transplantation. Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

Human activities have imperiled our waterways — along with a third of freshwater fish and other aquatic species

This story was originally published by The Revelator.

If we needed more motivation to save our ailing rivers, it could come with the findings of a recent study that determined the biodiversity crisis is most acute in freshwater ecosystems, which thread the Southern landscape like crucial veins and arteries.

Rivers, lakes and inland wetlands cover 1 percent of the Earth but provide homes for 10 percent of all its species, including one-third of all vertebrates. And many of those species are imperiled — some 27 percent of the nearly 30,000 freshwater species so far assessed by the IUCN Red List. This includes nearly one-third of all freshwater fish.

How did things get so bad? For some species it’s a single action — like building a dam. But for most, it’s a confluence of factors — an accumulation of harm — that builds for years or decades.

Published in News

VIENNA — Leonore Gewessler, Austria’s energy and climate minister announced that she would take the case to the European Court of Justice if the union’s executive proceeds with plans to include nuclear and natural gas in the EU taxonomy of sustainable finance.

About gas, Gewessler said that it releases unconscionable amounts of greenhouse gases. “Just because something is less bad than coal doesn’t make it good or sustainable.”

Regarding nuclear energy she said it has unpredictably high risks, referring to Chernobyl and Fukushima. She also mentioned as great concerns, the safe disposal of spent nuclear fuel and lack of a global solution for its final storage.

Published in Feedbag

overflight storm ianCatastrophic damage to the Sanibel Island Causeway is shown in this NOAA overflight after Hurricane Ian absolutely demolished most of Fort Myers Beach, Florida.

Evidence mounts that climate change is creating monster storms as death toll climbs in Ian’s wake

This story was originally published by The Conversation.

FORT MYERS BEACH — When Hurricane Ian hit Florida and killed at least 100 people, it was one of the United States’s most powerful hurricanes on record, and it followed a two-week string of massive, devastating storms around the world.

A few days earlier in the Philippines, Typhoon Noru gave new meaning to rapid intensification when it blew up from a tropical storm with 50 mph winds to a Category 5 monster with 155 mph winds the next day. Hurricane Fiona flooded Puerto Rico, then became Canada’s most intense storm on record. Typhoon Merbok gained strength over a warm Pacific Ocean and tore up over 1,000 miles of the Alaska coast.

Published in News

ELOlogoELO is a student-run organization at the University of Tennessee College of Law. It is not directly affiliated with the University of Tennesse or any particular non-profit organization. It is dedicated to providing students and attorneys with learning opportunities and leadership experiences.

Networking environmental leaders across Appalachia and the State of Tennessee

Knoxville — APIEL is a relative newcomer to the small circle of inclusive U.S. public interest environmental law conferences. Because it is organized by law school student volunteers, APIEL is affordable to attend for students as well as citizens from all walks of life.

APIEL is much loved and considered essential by regional nonprofit leaders and activists. It is also highly acclaimed by seasoned environmental lawyers. With just 12 conferences under its belt, APIEL has risen to rank among leading peer conferences with a much longer track record, such as the  Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) at the University of Oregon School of Law (39 events), the Red Clay Conference at the University of Georgia School of Law (34) and the Public Interest Environmental Conference (PIEC) at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law (28).

Published in News
Thursday, 22 September 2022 12:23

Enviros to TVA: Retire the fossil-fuel pacifier

Cumberland FPTVA’s Cumberland Fossil Plant near Clarksville is the subject of a suit filed by environmental groups, including Appalachian Voices and Southern Environmental Law Center.  Tennessee Valley Authority

SELC, others file suit in hopes of dissuading TVA from future fossil options

This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

CLARKSVILLE — On behalf of the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club and Appalachian Voices, the Southern Environmental Law Center asked TVA to prepare a supplemental environmental statement to address concerns with TVA’s draft environmental impact statement, which details the agency’s plans to retire the Cumberland Fossil Plant.

The Cumberland Fossil Plant, about 22 miles southwest of Clarksville, is TVA’s largest coal-fired power station and was built between 1968 and 1973. TVA plans to retire each unit of the two-unit, coal-fired steam-generation plant separately: one unit no later than 2030, and the second unit no later than 2033. But the plant will need to be replaced, and TVA is currently considering three alternatives to fossil fuel, including natural gas and solar energy, according to its draft EIS.

(Tennessee Valley Authority already plans to close down the Knoxville-area Bull Run fossil plant in Claxton next year).

Published in News
Dust bowl soilThe Dust Bowl of the 1930s resulted in the displacement of tons of soil in the midst of a drought similar to the one that grips the Southwest today. Library of Congress
 

Dirt is far from just dirt. It’s a foundation for life.

This story was originally published by The Revelator.

Look down. You may not see the soil beneath your feet as teeming with life, but it is.

Better scientific tools are helping us understand that dirt isn’t just dirt. Life in the soil includes microbes like bacteria and fungi; invertebrates such as earthworms and nematodes; plant roots; and even mammals like gophers and badgers who spend part of their time below ground.

It’s commonly said that a quarter of all the planet’s biodiversity lives in the soil, but that’s likely a vast understatement. Many species that reside there, particularly microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and protists, aren’t yet known to science.

Published in News

 Bales Monarch on coneflowerA monarch butterfly, recently declared endangered despite decades of conservation, is seen atop a coneflower. Stephen Lyn Bales

Dramatic monarch declines mean the bell tolls for we

KNOXVILLE — Monarch butterflies are ephemeral by nature. The orange and black dalliances that flitter through our lives, our yards, and our countryside like motes of dust are here one minute and gone the next. We pause for a few seconds to watch the “flutter-bys” and then move on.

For about all of the Lepidopteran family, where they come from, where they go, their raison d'être, we don’t ask. They are winged wisps that pass through our busy lives. But that is not true with this orange and black butterfly, named to honor King William III of England, the Prince of Orange. But two people did ask.

Norah and Fred Urquhart lived in Southern Canada and in the late 1930s they noticed that the monarch butterflies seemed to all be fluttering south this time of the year. Could they possibly be migrating and if so, where did they go? The notion that a butterfly might migrate south for the winter seemed hard to fathom. Yes, broad-winged hawks migrate. But a flimsy butterfly?

Published in News

5 July 2022 US Significant Climate Events Map

Record-setting bill will fund extensive efforts to address climate change, but the sausage-making deal is decried by some as a ‘suicide pact’

This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate, along party lines, passed a sweeping energy, health care, climate and tax package Sunday afternoon, following an overnight marathon of votes that resulted in just a handful of notable changes to the legislation.

The 755-page bill was passed after Vice President Kamala Harris broke a 50-50 tie in the evenly divided Senate. It now heads to the House, where Democratic leaders have announced they will take it up on Friday.

At last, we have arrived,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.  Democratic senators broke out into applause as Harris announced passage of the bill, expected to total more than $700 billion.

Schumer, a New York Democrat, said he dedicated the measure to young Americans who have pushed and protested for the Senate to take action on climate change. 

Published in News
NYT: Why should we care when you built your world with fossil fuels?

The government of Congo is recruiting fossil-fuel extractors to suck oil from beneath tropical forest and bog ecosystems that rival the Amazon in their role as carbon sinks.

Opponents say it’s another step in knocking over the dominoes of climate renewal as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to roil energy markets and threaten international commitments to addressing climate change.

Published in Feedbag

MOTHER EARTH — Scarcity of food, lack of safety nets and paucity of solidarity lead to famine. 12-minute video raises awareness of how global crises combine with intricate national and international issues to precipitate local predicament.

Published in News
Tuesday, 21 June 2022 11:31

The South’s hidden climate threat

Spreading avens in bloom 9406109069Spreading avens are seen in bloom in the Appalachians. The endangered long-stemmed perennials survive in higher mountain elevations but their lack of space to move higher in elevation in times of climate change and warming further threaten the plant.  USFWS

It’s not just the coastlines that are recording climate change. Even the mountains of North Carolina are feeling the heat — including some endangered plants

“Atlanta reporter Dan Chapman retraced John Muir’s 1867 trek through the South, including the naturalist’s troubling legacy, to reveal environmental damage and loss that’s been largely overlooked.” This is an excerpt published by The Revelator from his book, A Road Running Southward: Following John Muir’s Journey Through an Endangered Land.

BOONE — It’s a wonder anything survives the ice, snow, and winds that pummel the ridge, let alone the delicate-seeming yellow flowers known as spreading avens.

The lovely, long-stemmed perennials are exceedingly rare, officially listed as endangered, and found only in the intemperate highlands of North Carolina and Tennessee. They sprout from shallow acidic soils underlying craggy rock faces and grassy heath balds. At times blasted with full sun, but mostly shrouded in mist, the avens are survivors, Ice Age throwbacks that refuse to die. Geum radiatum is only known to exist in fourteen places, including hard-to-find alpine redoubts reached via deer trail or brambly bushwhacking.

Published in News

heat photoThomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

TVA sets record power day for June as region swelters and common sense degrades

This story was originally published by Hard Knox Wire.

KNOXVILLE — City residents this week joined scores of others around the world — from the Southwest United States to the Indian subcontinent — sweltering through late spring with eyes toward a summer that portends to be very hot.

Whether directly attributed to climate change or not, the heat waves are causing untold misery in locations across the Northern Hemisphere, straining power grids to the brink and causing a sharp rise in heat-related illnesses. 

Knoxville Utilities Board asked this week that consumers curtail their electricity use by setting their thermostats a little higher and holding off until night on energy-sucking tasks like doing laundry or running the dishwasher. That request was met in many cases with derision and unsubstantiated claims that charging electric vehicles had overburdened energy infrastructure.

So exactly how hot is it in East Tennessee and how bad is it going to get?

Published in News
Friday, 22 April 2022 14:58

Maybe we should call it Ocean Day

Best Earth Day feature: We still know so little about so much that is vital to life on our planet

CBS News — Stunning midwater creatures of the deep sea

You have to endure a half-minute commercial to see this 6-minute report on the fascinating footage captured by a high-tech marine science project of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Make sure to turn on full-screen viewing, if you can. Have you ever seen a bloody belly comb jelly?

We think you’ll agree it’s the most worthwile video you watched today.

Published in Water

Brian SohnCarson-Newman University Professor Brian Sohn is hosting a climate-oriented webinar on March 30.  Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

Local installment of worldwide virtual Climate Teach-In is set for 2:30 p.m. March 30

JEFFERSON CITY — Brian Sohn had “the closest thing to a panic attack” when his second daughter was born.

He had long been alarmed by climate change and its potentially disastrous effects, but her arrival brought home the need to address the environmental challenges of a rapidly changing planet.

So now the Carson-Newman University education professor is putting some final touches on a virtual climate-related “teach-in” he’ll host from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 30.

Published in Air
Thursday, 06 January 2022 15:35

New year. Old challenges.

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From plastic pollution to extreme weather and the extinction crisis, the year ahead promises tough fights, enormous challenges and critical opportunities

This story was originally published by The Revelator.

A new year brings with it new opportunities — and more of the same environmental threats from the previous 12 months.

Published in Voices
Thursday, 02 December 2021 11:41

You’ve got the whole world in your hands

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Personal climate-change remedies have a wide cumulative impact and are part of the solution, so don’t give up

Tom Ptak is assistant professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Texas State University. This story was originally published by The Conversation.

The average American’s everyday interactions with energy sources are limited. They range from turning appliances on or off, to commuting, to paying utility bills.

The connections between those acts and rising global temperatures may seem distant.

However, individuals hold many keys to unlocking solutions to climate change — the biggest challenge our species currently faces — which is perhaps why the fossil fuel industry spent decades misleading and misinforming the public about it.

I’m an assistant professor of geography and environmental studies at Texas State University. My research explores how geography affects the complex relationships between societies, energy and contemporary environmental challenges. I’ve found that the human element is critical for developing creative, effective and sustainable solutions to climate challenges.

There’s a large and growing body of evidence showing that individuals can have a major impact on climate change in a number of ways. Citizen action can compel utilities to increase renewable energy and governments to enact strong climate action laws. When enough individuals make changes that lower daily household energy consumption, huge emissions reductions can result. Consumer demand can compel businesses to pursue climate and environmental sustainability.

These actions combined could bridge the “emissions gap”: the significant difference between the greenhouse gas emissions expected globally and how much they need to drop in the next few decades to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Published in News

3D2A2F6C B919 4295 B244 36D48A4BF9BD 1 105 cProtestors chant and wave signs urging TVA to commit to a fossil fuel-free future during a protest in downtown Knoxville this summer. Courtesy Amy Rawe/Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Activists will demand TVA allow public comments during a protest planned for Wednesday morning outside TVA HQ in downtown Knoxville

Knoxville clean-air activists plan another protest  Wednesday outside of Tennessee Valley Authority headquarters to demand a return to public-comment periods and a commitment the huge utility won’t rely on fossil-fuel energy sources in the future.

“Public input is critical right now, while TVA is considering building new, large fossil gas power plants and pipelines, even though they would be contrary to our need to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030,” said protest organizer Brady Watson of Southern Alliance for Clean EnergyStatewide Organizing for Community Empowerment is also coordinating the protest.

Published in Air

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Scientists discuss climate challenges and solutions during 2021 One Health Day

As climate experts and scientists huddled in Glasgow in an international effort to stem potentially disastrous global environmental changes, a panel of doctors representing multiple disciplines at the University of Tennessee and beyond offered their assessments of climate challenges and solutions.

Their take on climate change? We have problems, but we also have solutions. Hopelessness will drive you crazy. Stay healthy, stay informed and do your part to mitigate the long-term environmental consequences of a changing Earth. 

Above all: Don’t despair and don’t lose hope.

The panel, held Nov. 3 at the UT Student Union and presented by the UT One Health Initiative, consisted of the following experts:

— Dr. Gus Engman, Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture 

— Dr. Kate Evans, Computational Sciences and Engineering Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

— Dr. Joshua Fu, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Tennesse

— Dr. Sindhu Jagadamma, Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

— Dr. Kristina Kintziger, Department of Public Health, University of Tennessee

Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity and don’t include the full response. Questions were submitted ahead of time or during the panel discussion. 

What do you see as the largest threats of climate change, especially related to your individual research interests?

Engman: Changing precipitation patterns are something I think about a lot.

Pretty much all the rivers in the world are expected to have changes to their flow regime.

These changes in droughts and floods are a really large issue.

I think a lot about aquatic communities. If we are scarce on drinking water, we are always going to prioritize people having that water, over the fish or the bugs in the streams. 

There are all kinds of impacts to life histories and interactions with communities in streams. 

When animals are stressed because of these changes in precipitation patterns and changes in flow patterns, they might become more susceptible to other stressors, like disease. 

Changes in algal community composition can impact the entire water quality of a stream, and that might happen because of these changes in precipitation patterns.

These places that are experiencing these extreme droughts really worry me. The Colorado River already doesn’t even flow all the way to the ocean anymore. That’s a huge change. Because we take up so much water for agriculture. 

If a stream runs out of water, it’s not a stream anymore.

Evans: From a meteorological perspective, the biggest event that hurts people's health is actually heat waves. A lot of press goes to tornadoes and hurricanes and storms but in fact these large domes of hot air (are deadly), which happen because of changes in the large-scale weather patterns.

The greenhouse effect insulates the earth, it makes it more uniform in temperature and so that changes the flow patterns that go around the earth. That changes those big weather systems that come in and how long they stick around. 

When you talk about these long droughts, we know that’s what's we have to understand: Will they last longer, be more humid, less humid, and that has huge impacts for human health as well as the food they eat and the plants that grow. 

Kintziger: Heat also has a bigger impact on a more indirect pathway to human health. Not just heat-related illness but also cardiovascular impacts, renal impacts and even mental health impacts.

Heat is the one that keeps me up at night. We are seeing increasing temperatures globally and we also have this urban heat island affect. 

Our vulnerable populations in the cities — inner cities with lower-income housing, homeless populations — they are going to experience heat very differently than people who live in newer buildings with better cooling and infrastructure and have better capabilities for adapting to heat. 

Published in News

Joe Manchin Official Senate Portrait

The Guardian: Manchin monkey-wrenches climate change legislation because he’s made millions off fossil fuels

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, the Democratic linchpin for game-changing climate legislation proposed in a budget bill as part of the Biden administration’s plan to provide aid to families as well as give a boost to efforts to reduce global warming, has thrown a now-infamous wrench in the works. 

He has vigorously opposed key parts of the climate legislation included in the 2022 budget bill. Per the Guardian, it’s simply because he and his family have made a fortune off coal extraction in the relatively impoverished state of West Virginia and elsewhere.

“Financial records detailed by reporter Alex Kotch for the Center for Media and Democracy and published in the Guardian show that Manchin makes roughly half a million dollars a year in dividends from millions of dollars of coal company stock he owns. The stock is held in Enersystems, Inc, a company Manchin started in 1988 and later gave to his son, Joseph, to run,” according to the Guardian.

“He has already effectively succeeded in stripping the bill of its most powerful climate change provision, a program that would have rapidly shut down coal and gas-fired power plants and replaced them with wind and solar power,” according to the New York Times.

Published in Feedbag
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