Keystone XL Pipeline: Another Looming Cliff of Grave Consequence
The wake up call that Hurricane Sandy gave us was but one of many just in the last year. We can see that climate change is happening all around the country after the wildfires, droughts, floods and violent storms of 2012. So when President Obama said it was time to deal with global warming in his victory speech, that made perfect sense.
Why then would one of the first decisions after the election be to ignore the climate impacts of one of the dirtiest energy projects out there? That doesn't make any sense.
The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is winding its way through a State Department environmental review process. The State Department messed up last time around. They didn't include climate and a lot of other concerns that people along the pipeline path have. After the President rejected this pipeline earlier this year and TransCanada reapplied for a presidential permit for the northern section, the State Department got another chance to get it right.
It begs the question then, why does it look like they are going to get it wrong?
The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a disaster in the making. It will cause expansion of the expensive and dirty tar sands oil excavation up in Canada's Boreal forest. It threatens our own farms, and waters throughout our heartland. And it is going to make climate change worse as more tarry gunk is dug up, turned into gasoline and diesel and burned in cars and trucks.
All of this is for a pipeline that is meant to export tar sand oil overseas from America's Gulf Coast. Our heartland, aquifers and climate are meant to sustain us. Instead the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline means that we take all the risks—from pipeline leaks and blows to the aftermath of toxic pools of wastewater—and Big Oil reaps all the benefits. Canadians know better—they haven't let new tar sands pipeline be built yet to either of their own coasts. In fact, the proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline to the west coast is considered dead by many.
It only makes sense to get the environmental review right. And that means taking a hard look at the climate impacts.
This is a time for climate leadership. So, instead of a shoddy Keystone XL environmental review, the first major climate action for this Administration's second term should be to set limits on climate change pollution from power plants. That is the kind of action that makes sense.
And then it will make sense to reject this dirty energy project. With extreme weather taking its toll on communities all over America, we can't afford another major dirty energy project such as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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