Barack Obama paid his first-ever presidential visit to Oklahoma this past week to make a speech announcing that his administration would "fast-track" a TransCanada pipeline from Cushing, OK, to the Gulf Coast. Although he said the purpose was to reduce an oil "glut" in the Midwest, it's no secret this is the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline that TransCanada wants to build so it can transport tar-sands oil to Gulf refineries.
The president also touted his "all of the above" energy strategy, leading off with statistics that should have been enough to make the American Petroleum Institute swoon: millions of acres opened for gas and oil exploration, 75 percent of our potential offshore resources opened to drilling, quadruple the number of operating rigs in the U.S.—"enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth."
Spring is in the air—but has the president really fallen madly in love with dirty energy? As usual, the answer is complicated.
From a certain perspective, it can be easy to understand why Obama is so eager to take credit for the increase in domestic oil and gas drilling. Gas prices are going up, people are hurting, and a Greek chorus of Republican candidates, politicians and pundits is doing everything it can to pin the blame on him. That's neither fair nor accurate, but fair and accurate aren't the way the game is played. Politics and reality parted ways long ago.
The president, though, is supposed to lead. At several times, both as a candidate and as president, Obama has been able to transcend partisan bickering and gamesmanship and unite Americans around a higher purpose. Whether it was his race relations speech in Philadelphia, his moving remarks after the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and 18 others in Arizona, or even his more recent proposal last fall of a commonsense jobs package, the president has shown a unique gift for capturing what’s important, for showing that Americans of all political persuasions share common values and for inspiring people to work together to solve complex problems. On his best days, the president can do this better than anyone in public life. But at the moment, when it comes to oil drilling and gas prices, it feels like we've got more of a politician than a leader.
Earlier this year, the president said that his administration was going to "double down" on clean energy, and in Oklahoma he did include some lines on how wind, solar and efficiency are part of "all of the above." But what's the rest of that plan? What does "doubling down" really mean? What's the goal? How will we get there? Recently, most of the emphasis has been on Obama's policies in support of developing dirty energy—oil in the Arctic (and the Gulf), coal in the northern Plains and natural gas in the Northeast, at the expense of clean energy solutions that will actually get us out of this mess. (One of the administration's biggest energy achievements—doubling fuel economy standards to 54.5 miles per gallon—received just a sentence in his Oklahoma speech.)
As a strategy, "all of the above" has a fatal flaw, and it's encapsulated in something else President Obama said in Oklahoma: "As long as I'm president, we're going to keep on encouraging oil development and infrastructure, and we're going to do it in a way that protects the health and safety of the American people."
Again, that's politics, not reality. In the real world, anything we do that encourages and prolongs our national addiction to fossil fuels comes at a cost to the health and safety of the American people. The longer we go on doing it, the longer we'll pay that price. And we won't stop paying until the day we no longer need fossil fuels.
No one expects that day to come during President Obama's presidency. What we can't afford, though, is to see it pushed even further into the future on his watch. If President Obama is going to boast about drilling "all over the place," then he also needs to show us that he understands that one day the drilling must stop—and the sooner, the better. The best way to do that? By putting some meat on the bones of his support for clean, renewable energy. The fossil fuel industries and their supporters won't thank him for it, but they've never thanked him for anything—including boosting domestic oil production during every year of his presidency.
Bottom line: If President Obama is really committed to more drilling, mining or fracking, then he had better deliver an even stronger commitment to the clean, renewable energy resources that will put fossil fuels behind us once and for all. That would be leadership. Declaring triumphantly "we are drilling all over the place" a week after reminding us that "we can't drill our way to lower gas prices"? That's not strong leadership. It's not even good politics.
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The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.
By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
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If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Interviews With Contact Tracers<p>Contact tracing is a public health strategy that involves identifying everyone who may have been in contact with a person who has the coronavirus. Contact tracers collect information and provide guidance to help contain the transmission of disease.</p><p>It's been used during outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Ebola, measles, and now the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.</p><p>It starts when the local department of health gets a report of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in its community and gives that person a call. The contact tracer usually provides information on how to isolate and when to get treatment, then tries to figure out who else the person may have exposed.</p><p>"We ask who they've been in contact with in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don't have symptoms," said <a href="https://case.edu/medicine/healthintegration/people/heidi-gullett" target="_blank">Dr. Heidi Gullett</a>, associate director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio.</p>
“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
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NASA scientists say that warmer than average surface sea temperatures in the North Atlantic raise the concern for a more active hurricane season, as well as for wildfires in the Amazon thousands of miles away, according to Newsweek.
By Andrea Germanos
Oxfam International warned Thursday that up to 12,000 people could die each day by the end of the year as a result of hunger linked to the coronavirus pandemic—a daily death toll surpassing the daily mortality rate from Covid-19 itself.
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By Jun N. Aguirre
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