Giant Methane Leak in California Won’t Be Capped For Months

Dec - 27 2015 | no comments | By

On December first reported about the major methane gas leak at Aliso Canyon that was first detected on Oct. 23rd. The methane gas leak has been compared to the 2010 BP oil spill environmental disaster and accounts for one forth of the state’s entire methane emission.

The head of Southern California Gas Co said it would take at least three more months to plug a massive underground leak of natural gas that has been seeping into the air since mid-October and now accounts for a quarter of the state’s entire methane emissions.


Yesterday reported further on the leak that is releasing 110,000 pounds of methane per hour.

An enormous amount of harmful methane gas is currently erupting from an energy facility in Aliso Canyon, California, at a startling rate of 110,000 pounds per hour. The gas, which carries with it the stench of rotting eggs, has led to the evacuation 1,700 homes so far. Many residents have already filed lawsuits against the company that owns the facility, the Southern California Gas Company. … Part of the problem in stopping the leak lies in the base of the well, which sits 8,000 feet underground. Pumping fluids down into the will, usually the normal recourse, just isn’t working, said [company[sic] spokesperson Anne] Silva. Workers have been “unable to establish a stable enough column of fluid to keep the force of gas coming up from the reservoir.” The company is now constructing a relief well that will connect to the leaking well, and hopefully provide a way to reduce pressure so the leak can be plugged.

The danger of this spill should be apparent to most of the readers of the site. However, here is what the EPA has to say about greenhouse gas. While methane spends less time in the atmosphere than does CO2, it is more effective at trapping heat. Globally, over 60% of total CH4 emissions come from human activities.

Taking the figures quoted in the articles we can get an idea of who much gas has the potential to escape into our environment.

3 months or 90 days x 24 hours = 2160 hours

110,000 pounds per hour x 2160 hours = 237,600,000 pounds or 118,800 tons of methane released into the environment.

2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference

Dec - 11 2015 | no comments | By

The 2015 UN Climate Change Conference ends today. What have we learned? What have we agreed to change and what will inevitably stay the same?

You can find this image in the Wikipedia page that I linked in if you would like a larger version of it. I think this one works good enough since the data isn’t too difficult to see.

The data itself comes from the EU Edgar database and it shows the top 40 CO2 producing countries in the world. The interesting thing about the chart is that it doesn’t just show the total emissions by country, it also covers the emissions on a per capita basis.

In case you were wondering the chart data is from 1990 and then again from 2013. Take special note to the per capita figures.

A number of think tanks, such as World Pensions Council (WPC), involved in research related to climate change agree that it is imperative to convince law makers both here in the United States as well as those in China to step up policies to reduce CO2 emissions.

…as long as policy makers in Washington and Beijing [don’t] put all their political capital behind the adoption of ambitious carbon-emission capping targets, the laudable efforts of other G20 governments remain in the realm of pious wishes. …

David Waltham, for the Conversation, part of the Guardian Comment Network, wrote an interesting piece on why climate change is very much a real part of our lives. And while the deniers among us have made every effort to pulls the wool, over not only our eyes, but their eyes as well it is very real. I republished David’s article recently, and I suggest giving it a read, or at least skim.

Since I have republished the article I won’t reiterate it here. But if you have a website or blog I would ask that you republish it.

More Info.

The twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) and the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) takes place from 30 November to 11 December 2015, in Paris, France.

Three simple reasons why climate change is real, and humans are causing it

Dec - 06 2015 | no comments | By

Originally published on June 23, 2014 3.10pm BST at

David Waltham does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Dire warnings of imminent human-induced climate disaster are constantly in the news but predictions of the end of the world have been made throughout history and have never yet come true. Even in the brief period of recorded history, natural climate change has always been with us – whether it is the volcanically induced crop failures that helped precipitate the French Revolution or the Medieval Warm Period that allowed Vikings to colonise Greenland. So how can we trust that the computer models scientists use to make predictions are reliable?

There is sometimes reluctance to take experts’ words for anything and so we would like to be shown the evidence. Unfortunately, that is difficult when the details are buried under hundreds of thousands of lines of computer code which implement mathematical algorithms of mind-numbing complexity. There is, however, one branch of science that can reliably give an answer that is easy to understand and hard not to believe.

1. Evidence written in stone

Paleoclimatology – the study of Earth’s past climates – has used fossils to show links between global temperatures and carbon-dioxide levels. This record is written in stone. There are fossil plant-leaves from 55m years ago that have a microscopic structure which can be accurately reproduced in modern plants only when grown in a carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere. Is it a coincidence that, at the time, it was so warm that crocodiles were living within the Arctic circle?

And this is not an isolated case. A sedimentary record covering half a billion years shows us exactly what we would expect to see if climate modellers have done their sums right. Fossil and chemical traces in rocks indicate that warm periods in Earth’s history are associated with higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and quantitative studies show that this correlation is, if anything, even stronger than predicted.

2. Simple calculations

Those 55m year-old leaves suggest that carbon dioxide concentrations were about four times the present-day levels and back-of-the-envelope calculations indicate that global mean temperatures were around 7°C higher. For comparison, the largely computer-based predictions published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change imply that quadrupling carbon-dioxide concentrations should increase temperatures by between 3°C and 9°C. The simple paleoclimate example may not nail the case for a worryingly strong link between carbon dioxide and temperature, but it is good supporting data. What is most important, however, is that this evidence is hard to refute

3. Counter arguments are unconvincing

There is little doubt that the recent rapid increase in carbon dioxide is linked to human activities such as burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. But does the paleoclimate evidence really tell us that increased carbon dioxide must mean increased temperatures?

One objection might be that ancient climate change is really evidence for varying solar brightness. Fluctuating carbon dioxide levels are then a response to climate variation rather than the cause. However, solar physics tells us that the sun was fainter 55m years ago rather than brighter, as would be needed for higher temperature.

Another concern is that some important processes, such as ice-sheet disintegration, only affect climate very slowly. Our warming ice sheets may take centuries to disappear completely but, when they do, the replacement of reflective-ice by heat-absorbing rock will warm our planet yet further. The existence of potential complications like these makes comparisons between paleoclimate change and modern climate change difficult but it is also one of the reasons why multiple approaches are needed. If different researchers using different methods nevertheless come up with more or less the same answer, perhaps they are onto something.

Climate change deniers also confuse the argument by suggesting there is nothing we can do anyway. China and other rapidly developing countries will dominate carbon dioxide output in the 21st century. But that is irrelevant if we are simply asking: “Will increased carbon dioxide levels change our climate?”

The fact that political and technical problems are massively more complex than anything in climatology is not a reason to stick our heads in the sand. Widespread agreement that man-made global warming is highly likely would be progress.

We believe in the free flow of information. We use a Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivatives licence, so you can republish our articles for free, online or in print.

Also worth your time: Establishing consensus is vital for climate action which is also found on

Mountain Ecosystems

Nov - 20 2015 | no comments | By

Mountain ecosystems are found throughout the world, from the equator almost to the poles, occupying approximately one-fifth of its land surface. Beyond their common characteristics of having high relative relief (or very marked topographic variation) and steep slopes, mountains are remarkably diverse (Ives. Messerli and Spiess, 1997). They are found on every continent, and at every altitude, from close to sea level to the highest place on the earth – the summit of Mount Everest (Sagarmatha or Qomolangma) on the border between Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. [1]

And mountains make up a large portion of our life. Even when we don’t proactively go looking for them or think about them they are there.

You’ll find reference to them in everything from country and rustic wedding invitations, to beer culture, and bottled water advertisement.

majestic mountains

But that is far from all of the impact they have on our lives.

Centers of Biodiversity

Mountain ranges are a center for biodiversity that starts on the planes and gradually changes as mountain ascend toward the clouds. The plant and wild life evolves up the slopes creating a distinct variety of life.

As the mountain rises, the climate decreases, this decrease in temperature is caused by a reduction in the greenhouse effect.

The characteristics of plant and animal vary strongly based on the mountains elevation. This is due to the change in climate, or the change in living conditions these plants and animals are faced with. When this happens a mutual dependency is created which traverses mountain ranges causing measurable bands for similar altitudes.

One of these bands that is typical is the montane forest. These life zones provide a temperate climate on the moderate elevation along with rainfall allow forests to grow and flurish. This gives way to animal life.

Holdridge set the definition for climate of a montane forest between 43 and 54 °F, or 6 and 12 °C. Beyond this range, higher up on the mountain, the trees begin to thin out and become less dense until they are no longer able to survive.

This zone, which exists beyond the tree line ecosystem is called the alpine zone, or alpine tundra. Grass and low growing bush and shrubs populate the face of the mountain, reducing erosion and provide a smaller ecosystem for animal life.

There are many different plants in this zone: mosses and lichens, as well as, perennial grasses, fords, sedges, and other small plants will be found on this line. These plants must adapt to the treacherous life on the mountain. Low temperatures, arid dry seasons, radiation from ultraviolet light, and a reduced growing season all make life in the alpine environment less than friendly.

Still, evolution has played a hand in making these plants adapt and change. Some of the characteristics found in the alpine environment are, rosette grow patterns, thick waxy exteriors and isolated leaves through a hair like structure.

Below 35°F, or 1.5 °C, is where these ecosystems become more barren, consisting mainly of rock formations and ice.

  • The world’s largest mountain ecosystem lies in The Himalayas.
  • “An estimated one-tenth of the human population derive their life-support directly from mountains.”[1]
  • “The greatest diversity of vascular plant species occurs in mountains: Costa Rica, the tropical eastern Andes, the Atlantic forest of Brazil, the eastern Himalaya-Yunnan region, northern Borneo and Papua New Guinea (Barthlott, Lauer and Placke, 1996)”[1]


The Mountains

Nov - 20 2015 | no comments | By

Are a part of your life whether you realize it or not. It doesn’t matter if you live on a mountain, under one or a long way away from one they impact your life. Fifty-percent of the world’s population is dependent on mountain water. Roughly ten-percent of the world’s population derives their existence directly from a mountain. They provide a source of energy for plain’s dwellers and they provide an ecosystems which is a globally important center for biological diversity.

half of the world's population drinks mountain water

If you didn’t realize the importance of mountains before you soon will.

The Mountain Institute (TMI)

The Mountain Institute (TMI)

Visit their Flickr page for more images of their work.

The Mountain Institute (TMI) is an international non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the world’s mountains by conserving mountain ecosystems and empowering the people in mountain communities. The Mountain Institute is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and operates regional field offices in the Andes, Appalachians, and Himalayas. Respectively, these are the longest, the oldest, and the tallest mountain ranges in the world.
Learn more on

Find them on social media:
FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube, or contact them directly.

Learn What They Do

To find out more about The Mountain Institute regional programs in the Andes, Appalachians, and Himalaya watch their video.

Mountain Wilderness

Mountain Wilderness<

Mountain Wilderness was founded in 1987 in Biella, Italy during an international conference convened by Ludovico Sella, scion of a prominent piedmontese family of financiers, statesmen and mountaineers, among which Quintino Sella, the 19th century founder of the Italian Alpine Club.

Mountain Wilderness is an international non-governmental organization dedicated to the preservation of mountain areas, in their natural and cultural aspects. The organization was founded in Europe and has a stronger presence in alpine and pyrenean regions. It has, however, a worldwide reach, with representatives and actions on all continents.
Learn more on

Find them on social media:
FaceBook, Twitter, and Google+, or contact them directly.

700 Mountains

Nov - 17 2015 | no comments | By

700 sounds like a lot, and it is when you realize this is the number of mountains a 2008 proposal suggested strip mining to access the seams of coal buried inside.

mountaintop removal coal mining

Burning the Future: Coal in America

The documentary “Burning the Future: Coal in America,” from director David Novack shows the impact of mountaintop removal coal mining on nearby communities in West Virginia.

This practice involves removing the top of a mountain, as much as 500 feet, to access the seams of coal. The unwanted portion of the mountain, the waste, is discarded into the neighboring valleys. Mountaintop removal is an evolution of strip mining techniques that began in Appalachia in the 1970s.

Mountaintop removal/valley fill is a mining practice where the tops of mountains are removed, exposing the seams of coal. Mountaintop removal can involve removing 500 feet or more of the summit to get at buried seams of coal. The earth from the mountaintop is then dumped in the neighboring valleys.

Source US Environmental Protection Agency

More Information

  • In April 2005, a group of Kentucky writers traveled together to see the devastation from mountaintop removal mining, and Wind Publishing produced the resulting collection of poems, essays and photographs, co-edited by Kristin Johannesen, Bobbie Ann Mason, and Mary Ann Taylor-Hall in Missing Mountains: We went to the mountaintop, but it wasn’t there.
  • Dr. Shirley Stewart Burns, a West Virginia coalfield native, wrote the first academic work on mountaintop removal, titled Bringing Down The Mountains (2007), which is loosely based on her internationally award-winning 2005 Ph.D. dissertation of the same name.
  • Dr. Burns was also a co-editor, with Kentucky author Silas House and filmmaker Mari-Lynn Evans, of Coal Country (2009), a companion book for the nationally recognized feature-length film of the same name.
  • House, Silas & Howard, Jason (2009). Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-2546-6.
  • Howard, Jason (Editor) (2009). We All Live Downstream: Writings about Mountaintop Removal. Louisville, KY: Motes Books. ISBN 978-1-934894-07-1.
  • Dr. Rebecca Scott, another native West Virginian, examined the sociological relationship of identity and natural resource extraction in central Appalachia in her book, Removing Mountains (2010).
  • Hedges, Chris & Sacco, Joe (2012). Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. Nation Books. ISBN 1568586434.
  • Cultural historian Jeff Biggers published The United States of Appalachia, which examined the cultural and human costs of mountaintop removal.

Additionally, you may find interest in the stories of coalfield residents, in which case these books would be appropriate:

Please note that I linked to Amazon as a source for these books, however, does not receive revenue if you choose to purchase these books. It was merely for convenience on my part.

Not a local problem

In 2012 Chinese developers made plans to level some 700 mountains.

Stuart Clark reported in June 2104 about experts warning on the impact of China’s continued plans to level 700 mountains (Big Wave Gully, Lanzhou, China) in the Gansu province to make way for Lanzhou city. And while he was

Work had to be halted, however, due to air pollution caused by the dust.

Mountain Conservation Resources

If you would like to take part in environmental conservation I have put together a list of environmental agencies. This list contains both local and international.