Climate Change

Courtesy of Louis Vest,

Officials from countries around the word have met for the last two weeks in Lima, Peru to talk global climate change.   At the heart of those talks is how to limit billions of tons of CO2 that are pumped into the atmosphere every year from coal burning power plants.  

But how do we keep track of the CO2 we’re releasing? And just how do we weigh something that floats in the first place? 

It turns out there is a venerable history to the science of weighing smoke.

Jonathan Warner/Flickr

The deal that the U.S. and China have struck to curb carbon emissions has been hailed as a breakthrough by many concerned with climate change, and panned by politicians opposed to President Obama. But it's also captured the interest of a group of researchers -- some in Texas -- who specialize in carbon capture and sequestration technology.

The deal is short on specifics. But it commits the U.S. and China to continue investing in carbon capture, use and storage. That’s technology that filters CO2 from coal power plants and then pumps the carbon underground. Texas has been doing it for decades to get oil out of the ground in a process called enhanced oil recovery.

“It’s always poor form for Texas to do too much boasting, but the source of expertise for injecting CO2 for enhanced oil recovery lies mostly in Texas," says Susan Hovorka, a senior researcher scientist at UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology, who works on carbon sequestration.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Hundreds of activists marched down Congress Avenue yesterday for the Shield the People Climate Change March.

The event was one of hundreds of rallies held across the country in support of climate change ahead of a United Nations summit this week that will discuss the impact of rising global temperatures.

You can view a photo gallery of the march above.

Huma Munir/KUT News

Earlier this year Lower Colorado River Authority meteorologist Bob Rose, liked what he was seeing in the forecast.  

“I’m optimistic that we will get into a pattern of above normal rainfall this fall continuing into next winter and possibly into next spring as well,” he said in April.

Bur since this April things changed.

After much ado, the El Nino predicted by many meteorologists hasn’t quite showed itself in the form rainfall yet. While there’s still a chance it could strengthen before the summer’s end, it’s not likely it will meet its initial forecasted fury. 

Courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife

From StateImpact Texas:

Over three hundred species of birds are at risk from climate change in North America, according to a report from the National Audubon Society. Many of them can be found in Texas.

Brian Trusty, Executive Director of Audubon Texas, says the study has identified over one hundred Texas species that run the risk of losing significant habitat due to climate change (see below for details on this list).

Ashley Rodgers, Texas Tech University

Time Magazine just released its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. This year the list includes Texas Tech climate scientist and evangelical Christian Katharine Hayhoe.

For Time, actor Don Cheadle wrote "There’s something fascinating about a smart person who defies stereotype. That’s what makes my friend Katharine Hayhoe – a Texas Tech climatologist and an evangelical Christian – so interesting."

The Texas Standard's David Brown recently spoke with Hayhoe about science, her faith, and making TIME's list.

Photo by Michael Hooper courtesy of USGS.

From the Asian Carp to the Zebra Mussel, Texas has its fair share of invasive species. Some of them get a lot of attention (I'm looking at you, voracious feral hog). Others tend to sneak under the radar even when they damage ecosystems.

Take Golden Algae. Originally from Europe, the microscopic plant was discovered on the Pecos River in 1985 when an algae bloom killed hundreds of thousands of fish. Since then, it has colonized other Texas river basins and killed millions more fish. Unlike deadly algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico that kill fish by taking all the oxygen, golden algae is, itself, toxic. Under the right circumstances, it produces a poison that kills fish and bivalves in the affected waters.

College is a time for classes, house parties and questionable dorm food. But as some students at UT and across the country are demonstrating, it’s also a time for activism.

Journalist and activist Bill McKibben and his environmentally-minded group are promoting a “Fossil Free Divestment Movement” to encourage American universities to withdraw their stock holdings from the top 200 coal, oil and gas companies. The group first gained notoriety when it held an International Day of Climate Action in 2009.

Update: PolitiFact Texas received a barrage of emails accusing the fact-checkers of being misleading in their fact check of Rep. Wayne Smith.

Readers asserted that Rep. Smith’s claim was not untrue because there has yet to be a scientific consensus on the correlation of carbon emissions and climate change. Because the representative’s claim was not false, readers claim that labeling Smith with the “Pants on Fire” ranking and urge that PolitiFact Texas’s pants are aflame.

Original Post: A state representative recently claimed that science has yet to confirm that greenhouse gasses, like carbon dioxide, have a hazardous effect on the environment.

In an Austin American-Statesman article last month Rep. Wayne Smith of Baytown said that “science has not shown greenhouse gases to be a problem,” which caught the eye of Gardner Selby and the PolitiFact Texas fact checkers. Click the player above to hear our conversation about it. 

The Earth's wettest regions are likely to get wetter while the most arid will get drier due to warming of the atmosphere caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, according to a new NASA analysis of more than a dozen climate models.

When it comes to climate change, Americans place great trust in their local TV weathercaster, which has led climate experts to see huge potential for public education.

The only problem? Polls show most weather presenters don't know much about climate science, and many who do are fearful of talking about something so polarizing.

A new peer-reviewed study by climate scientists finds the rise in sea level during the past two decades has been 60 percent faster than predictions from the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The scientists also found that IPCC's estimates for warming temperatures was just right.

NBC News explains:

Daniel Reese for KUT News

After the brutal drought of 2011, welcome rains this year put minds at ease in many parts of Texas. But any respite may be short-lived.

The best hope Texas had for a full recovery from its long drought was a wet upcoming winter. But recent weather models show that’s growing less and less likely. The reason? The El Niño weather pattern meteorologists expected is not forming in the Atlantic.

State Climatologist John Neilsen-Gammon tell StateImpact Texas the bad news doesn’t end there.

U.S. Drought Monitor

The new U.S. Drought Monitor map shows Central Texas is getting drier. In just a little over a month, parts of Travis and Williamson Counties have moved from “abnormally dry” to “extreme drought.”

It’s been more than six weeks since the Austin area's seen a good rain.

"For the period from May 16 to July 5, a period of almost 7 weeks, the Austin area has seen only 0.44 of an inch," Victor Murphy, National Weather Service Regional Climate Service program manager, writes via email. "This is the driest such period on record there in Austin in over 100 years (since 1911).  Normal for this period should be about six inches.  Thus, Austin has received less than 10 percent of normal rainfall during what should be one of the wettest time of the year." 

U.S. Drought Monitor

The U.S. Drought Monitor released a new map today – and the news is mixed.

For the first time since March of last year, no part of Texas is under the worst stage of drought. But parts of Central Texas are actually drier than they’ve been in the last few months.

The map shows parts of Travis, Williamson, and Milam counties have been elevated from moderate to severe drought.

That’s because June, which is usually the state’s wettest month, has been abnormally dry. In fact, the last five weeks have been the second driest late May to mid-June on record.

Most Americans believe that global warming has played a role in a series of unusual weather events during the past year.

A poll released today by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication found that 72 percent of Americas believe global warming played a role in the very warm winter the United States just experienced.

Photo by Justin Fain at Flickr

Austin's skyline will be noticeably darker from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm as the city participates in Earth Hour, an annual event held across the globe to raise awareness about energy conservation and climate change. 

Mayor Lee Leffingwell held a press conference yesterday to announce the list of buildings that will be going dark tonight (security lights excluded):