Environment

Animals
9:32 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

To Save Endangered Tortoises, Conservationists Deface Their Shells

Out of the 330 species of turtles and tortoises, over half are threatened with extinction, says conservationist Eric Goode.
Gloria Hillard NPR

Originally published on Sat March 22, 2014 11:18 am

They're a quiet bunch, the hundreds of animals residing at the well-guarded botanical oasis in California's Ojai Valley. They've been brought to the Turtle Conservancy from countries around the world, like modern-day refugees escaping certain and persistent perils.

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The Salt
3:01 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

U.S. Lets 141 Trillion Calories Of Food Go To Waste Each Year

Nectarines are sorted at Eastern ProPak Farmers Cooperative in Glassboro, N.J.
Mel Evans AP

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 8:32 pm

The sheer volume of food wasted in the U.S. each year should cause us some shame, given how many people are hungry both in our own backyard and abroad.

Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided us with a way to understand our flagrant annual waste in terms of calories, too. It's pretty mind-boggling — 141 trillion calories down the drain, so to speak, or 1,249 calories per capita per day.

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Politics
3:26 am
Thu February 27, 2014

FEMA Flood Insurance Law Faces Partial Repeal Over Premiums

Levees, like this one in New Orleans, must be certified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before appearing on federal flood maps. This change has resulted in higher flood insurance premiums in some areas.
Mario Tama Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 10:38 am

The House is expected to vote as early as next week to partially repeal a 2012 law that overhauled the National Flood Insurance Program, which is tens of billions of dollars in debt.

The law was meant to make people living in flood-prone areas foot more of the insurance bill. But lawmakers didn't realize how many homeowners would be affected — or how hard they'd be hit.

You can find some of those homeowners in Bayou Gauche, about 30 miles west of New Orleans.

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The Far Reach Of The West's Drought
6:03 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

The Search For Drinking Water In California Has Led To The Ocean

Extreme drought conditions in California have state officials looking for alternative sources of water, including desalinated ocean water.
Richard Vogel AP

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:08 pm

California is getting some much needed rain this week, but more than two-thirds of the state is still in extreme drought conditions, and that has the state thinking about alternative ways of getting water.

On the coast in Carlsbad, Calif., construction workers are building what will be the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. When finished in early 2016, it is expected to provide up to 50 million gallons of fresh drinkable water every day.

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News
4:20 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Feeling The Fiscal Squeeze, EPA Seeks To Slim Down

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:08 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Environmental Protection Agency has a lot on its plate, now add to that budget concerns. The agency is hoping to trim its staff. Like a number of other government agencies, the EPA is offering buyouts to employees.

As NPR's Brian Naylor reports, it's all part of a shrinking federal workforce.

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Around the Nation
4:20 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Portable Potables: How To Fight Drought By Reusing Water

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:08 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Desalination is just one way of tackling the drought. Another technique to conserve water is quite simply to reuse it. David Sedlak is professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California Berkeley. David, welcome to the program.

DAVID SEDLAK: Thank you for having me, Audie.

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Krulwich Wonders...
8:03 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Is Planet Earth Under New Management?

Robert Krulwich NPR

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:31 pm

A hundred million years from now, when we're all dead and gone, a team of geologists will be digging in a field somewhere ...

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The Two-Way
6:02 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

California's Drought: A Shocking Photo And Other Updates

Images of Folsom Lake, a reservoir in Northern California, show the severity of the state's drought. The photo at left, taken on July 20, 2011, show the lake at 97 percent of total capacity and 130 percent of its historical average for that date. The photo at right shows the lake on Jan. 16, 2014, when it was at 17 percent of capacity and 35 percent of its historical average.
California Department of Water Resources

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 11:58 am

Farmers in California, where Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency last month, are facing hard choices as a drought threatens to ruin their crops. They must weigh the costs of paying for irrigation against the chance that their fields will never get enough water this season.

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The Two-Way
3:43 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Winter Blahs Got You Down? 'Crowboarding' Video Can Help

A video of a crow using a jar lid as a sled has been a recent hit on YouTube. But as winter storms continue, many of us are running out of ways to enjoy the snow.
YouTube

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 2:46 pm

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The Salt
1:10 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Why Farmers Can Prevent Global Warming Just As Well As Vegetarians

Cattle graze at a Brazilian Agricultural Research experimental farm in Planaltina in Goias state. To reduce emissions from deforestation, the Brazilian government is experimenting with grazing on integrated forest and pasture lands.
Evaristo Sa AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 11:31 am

We Americans are heavy consumers of meat, and we're increasingly reminded that eating less of it will shrink our carbon footprint. Growing the crops to feed all those animals releases lots of greenhouse gases.

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Environment
5:11 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Colorado Becomes First State To Restrict Methane Emissions

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 8:06 am

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas from oil and gas production. The rules require companies to find and repair equipment leaks. The rules also will reduce air pollution that contributes to smog.

Environment
5:05 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Steyer: Keystone XL Pipeline Would Get Canada Better Oil Price

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 7:34 am

David Greene talks to billionaire financier and liberal activist Tom Steyer about his position on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Environment
5:05 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Billionaire Steyer Puts Money Toward Climate, Energy Issues

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 7:34 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

OK. So in the words of that political scientist in Peter's piece, wealthy donors like Tom Steyer are putting a pistol to someone's head, forcing their pet issues on candidates. Steyer himself sees things very differently. He quit his hedge fund with $1.5 billion and now in his view he's fighting as hard as he can with money and passion to do something very noble - save the planet. When he sat down to speak with us he said his goal is to use his money to limit carbon emissions.

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Science
3:28 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Industry Challenges EPA's Greenhouse Gas Rules In High Court

Not all energy producers find fault with the EPA's rules. Calpine, which helped build the Delta Energy Center in Pittsburg, Calif., says the permitting regulations aren't overly cumbersome.
JAKUB MOSUR AP

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 10:35 am

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday about the Environmental Protection Agency's first-ever greenhouse gas regulations for the biggest polluting facilities.

The case focuses on a 3-year-old requirement that companies get permits anytime they construct new plants or modify existing ones that will emit a lot of greenhouse gases.

EPA's supporters and most of its challengers agree this case is narrow in scope; the court's ruling is not expected to threaten EPA's broader strategy to fight global warming.

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Science
5:12 pm
Sun February 23, 2014

Explorers' Aim For Perilous Polar Trek: 'Get Home In One Piece'

Ben Saunders and Tarka L'Herpiniere trek from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back, breaking the record for the longest polar journey on foot.
The Scott Expedition

Originally published on Sun February 23, 2014 7:00 pm

In 1911, explorer and British Royal Navy officer Robert Falcon Scott had big plans. He intended to be the first to reach the South Pole, that holy grail of exploration, and claim the distinction for the British Empire.

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Latin America
5:19 am
Sun February 23, 2014

Drought Could Drain More Than Brazil's Coffee Crop

The ground outside Sao Paulo is cracked and dry. It was the hottest January on record in parts of Brazil, and the heat plus a severe drought has fanned fears of water shortages and crop damage.
Nacho Doce Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 12:01 pm

Brazil, a country usually known for its rainforests, has been facing a severe drought in its breadbasket region, leaving people in the cities without water and farmers in the countryside with dying crops. Global prices for coffee, in particular, have been affected.

Scientists in Brazil say the worst is yet to come — yet no one in the government, it seems, is listening.

On a recent day, farmer Juliano Jose Polidor walks through the desiccated remains of his cornfields.

What's happened to this crop, he says, is a total loss.

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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

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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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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