Environment

Update at 11:30 a.m. ET: Oil giant BP has agreed to plead guilty to criminal misconduct related to the 2010 Gulf Oil spill and will pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties, the company just confirmed. And it will pay $525 million in civil penalties in a resolution with the Securities and Exchanges Commission. BP will make the payments over six years.

In Berlin, A Boar Of A Story

Nov 14, 2012

"PIGS" are a hot topic in Germany's capital.

Attend any press briefing about how German Chancellor Angela Merkel is going to solve the European debt crisis, and you're likely to hear that acronym, which stands for "Portugal, Ireland (or Italy), Greece and Spain."

But recently, pigs of an altogether different variety made headlines in Berlin.

Second of a two-part series. Read Part 1

California starts the ball rolling Wednesday on a controversial scheme to keep the planet from overheating. Businesses will have to get a permit if they emit greenhouse gases.

Some permits will be auctioned today; the rest are free. The big idea here is the state is putting a ceiling on emissions.

It's a gamble. And for this top-down climate plan to work, it has to usher in a greener, more efficient economy.

California begins a controversial experiment to curb climate change on Wednesday: The state will start rationing the amount of greenhouse gases companies can emit.

It's the most ambitious effort to control climate change in the country. Some say the plan will cost dearly; supporters say it's the route to a cleaner economy.

Here's how the climate deal works. Big companies must limit the greenhouse gases they emit — from smokestacks to tailpipes — and they have to get permits for those emissions. The clock starts Jan. 1.

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JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Jacki Lyden, in Washington. Neal Conan is away. Come hell or high water, these days, it can feel like the same thing. More than half of Americans live within 50 miles of the coast, and still more live by rivers and lakes. What is this primal human pull to the water's edge?

Among the difficult decisions facing President Obama is whether to give the go-ahead for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would bring oil from Canada down to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Environmentalists want it blocked. They are concerned about endangering the Nebraska sand hills, under which is the largest aquifer in the country. It provides drinking water and irrigation water for several states.

Sky-High Vegetables: Vertical Farming Sprouts In Singapore

Nov 9, 2012

Singapore is taking local farming to the next level, literally, with the opening of its first commercial vertical farm.

Entrepreneur Jack Ng says he can produce five times as many vegetables as regular farming looking up instead of out. Half a ton of his Sky Greens bok choy and Chinese cabbages, grown inside 120 slender 30-foot towers, are already finding their way into Singapore's grocery stores.

Climate Change Takes Flight in New Novel

Nov 9, 2012

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FLORA LICHTMAN, HOST:

Here's a big, giant question for you: Why do we believe what we believe? And how is it that two people can look at the exact same set of circumstances and see two completely different things? That philosophical question is at the center of a new book where, to put it another way, one person's beautiful miracle is another person's ecological crisis.

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FLORA LICHTMAN, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Flora Lichtman, filling in for Ira Flatow this week. Last week, when Hurricane Sandy sent a surge of salty water into cities and towns up and down the East Coast, among the casualties were thousands of research subjects: lab mice. A building at New York University's Medical Center flooded, and thousands of mice and rats that were being used to study cancer, heart disease and all kinds of other medical disorders died.

Did you know that Earth's solid exterior can move around over its core, causing the planet's poles to wander back and forth? Adam Maloof, associate professor of geosciences at Princeton University, discusses the consequences of these shifts, and what may be causing them.

Environmental officials in Canada are investigating what some have called a "rogue climate change experiment." Over the summer, a native village on the coast of British Columbia dumped more than 100 tons of iron sulfate into the ocean. The idea was to cause a bloom of plankton, which would then capture greenhouse gases.

That's the theory, anyway. The reality is a bit more complicated.

While New York City and other places along the Northeast coast are still recovering from Superstorm Sandy, they're also looking ahead to how they can prevent flooding in the future, when sea level rise will make the problem worse. They may be able to take some lessons from coastal Norfolk, Va., which is far ahead of most cities when it comes to flood protection.

Superstorm Sandy got officials in New York and New Jersey talking about how to prevent flooding in a time of global warming and sea level rise.

But the place on the East Coast that's most vulnerable to flooding is several hundred miles south, around Norfolk, Va. — and Norfolk has already spent many years studying how to survive the rising waters.

Scientists say what Norfolk has learned is especially important in light of new research showing that the coastline from North Carolina to Boston will experience even more sea level rise than other areas.

Sandy Recovery Effort Faces A New Storm

Nov 5, 2012

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Since this time last week, parts of the Northeast have been transformed. The lights are back on in many areas, the floodwaters retreated, most public transportation is up and running, and most New York City schools reopened this morning. But wreckage still blocks streets, hundreds of thousands still lack power, gas is still short in North Jersey and on Long Island.

There's been no shortage of before-and-after imagery portraying the coast in Sandy's wake. One of the more impressive ways to see the storm's impact is by exploring this map assembled by NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

We took a few screen grabs of the destruction around Seaside Heights, N.J., to create these sliding previews — but you can see much more if you zoom in on NOAA's interactive map.

Communities along the East Coast are reeling from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, dealing with electric outages, flooded streets, damaged sewage plants and fractured transportation lines. Can cities rebuild stronger, more resilient infrastructure to weather the storms of the future?

Seeing Sandy From Space

Nov 2, 2012

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IRA FLATOW, HOST:

Next stop, our Sandy coverage continues with the Video Pick of the Week. Hi, Flora. Flora Lichtman's here.

FLORA LICHTMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Ira. Yeah, how could we resist?

FLATOW: And how can we add something no one has ever seen?

LICHTMAN: I think we might be able to this week.

FLATOW: Yeah, yeah.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Climate change was a big part of the announcement Mayor Bloomberg made yesterday endorsing President Obama for reelection.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Residents of Moonachie and Little Ferry, N.J., are beginning to clear the damage after their communities were inundated by floodwaters. The flooding occurred when a system of levees and berms was unable to control the storm surge pushed ashore by Superstorm Sandy.

Geologist Jeffrey Mount of the University of California, Davis, isn't surprised. "There really are only two kinds of levees," he says, "those that have failed, and those that will fail."

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy wrapped up a post Hurricane Sandy news briefing earlier this week by talking about sewage discharges into Long Island Sound. "Suffice to say in the immediate time being, no one should eat the clams or oysters," he said.

That's right. Because of water quality issues, the state put a temporary stop to oyster farming, but that's usually a short-term thing and it happens fairly regularly after a big storm.

On Monday, Sandy brought heavy rain, winds and storm surges to the Northeast, causing widespread flooding and extensive damage to hundreds of communities, particularly in New Jersey and New York.

But the drenching from all that water varied greatly by region.

In areas south of Atlantic City, N.J., where the storm made landfall Monday night, the wind was pushing out toward the ocean. This prevented high storm tides along the Virginia, Maryland and Delaware coasts and in Chesapeake Bay. But the same arm of the storm that held the ocean at bay carried a lot of rain.

Is Climate Change Responsible For Sandy?

Oct 31, 2012

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

If you ask climate scientist Radley Horton, it's difficult to say that Hurricane Sandy was directly caused by climate change, but he sees strong connections between the two. Horton is a research scientist at The Earth Institute at Columbia University. He says that in New York City, the sea level has gone up about a foot over the past century and that researchers expect that rise to continue and even accelerate.

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. We've followed Sandy for more than a week now as the late-season storm developed in the Caribbean, pounded Cuba, Haiti and other islands, brushed past Florida and headed up the East Coast.

Unusually, it's taken a sharp turn to the west. Even more unusually, it's combined with a more winter-like system to become an enormous event that's already dumping snow in the Appalachians, surging water ashore in Lower Manhattan and slashing winds and rain from Virginia to Massachusetts.

Here are a few reasons government forecasters at the National Hurricane Center and emergency management officials are so concerned about Sandy:

1. Sandy is one of the largest hurricanes ever to strike the U.S. Sandy's winds cover an area of more than 1,000 miles in diameter. That's enormous by hurricane standards. So instead of affecting an area a couple of hundred miles across, Sandy will cut a huge swath. That means many millions of people are probably going to be exposed to high winds, heavy rains, and, for those on the coast, powerful storm surge.

It is autumn, and where I live the leaves are peaking; there is a riot of them everywhere, narrow ones, broad ones, droopy ones, crunchy ones. Leaves come in so many shapes, hues, textures — the closer you look, the more differences you see. Botanists have names for every leaf type, and clumped together, says writer Robert Dunn, they sound like free verse poetry ...

Sweden Wants Your Trash

Oct 28, 2012

Move over Abba, Sweden has found new fame. The small Nordic country is breaking records — in waste. Sweden's program of generating energy from garbage is wildly successful, but recently its success has also generated a surprising issue: There is simply not enough trash.

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