Oceans’ oxygen starting to run low

Climate change is doing more than warming the world’s oceans. It’s also making it harder for marine life to breathe.

Curtis Deutsch, associate professor at the University of Washington’s School of Oceanography, studies how increasing global temperatures are altering the levels of dissolved oxygen in the world’s oceans…

Deutsch’s latest research is untangling how much oxygen loss is linked to climate change and how much is due to normal variation in oxygen levels…

Using an earth system modeling approach, Deutsch and scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Georgia Institute of Technology mapped out changing oxygen levels across the world’s oceans through the end of the 21st century.

Click to enlargeMatthew Long/NCAR

They found that it was possible to distinguish the impact of global warming from other sources of oxygen loss. As soon as 2030 to 2040, climate-driven declines in oxygen levels will be detectable in oceans all over the globe. In some places, like the southern Indian Ocean and parts of the eastern tropical Pacific and Atlantic basins, evidence of climate-linked deoxygenation is already apparent, while other regions won’t see changes by 2100.

RTFA for all the gory details. It’s serious science, eligible for peer review; so, the politicians, know-nothings and 19th Century fools who inhabit the corner bar on pay day won’t be reading it.

OTOH, you’re in good company with the intellectually curious, folks who understand what scientific advances mean to the progress of humankind – and activists interested in saving the whole planet, not just golf courses named after New York realtors.

Yes, I’m extra grumpy, tonight.

Contaminated “organic” food makes you just as sick as contaminated”conventional” food

…CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, Washington is expanding its voluntary recall of frozen organic and traditional fruits and vegetables…because these products have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The organism can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

This expanded recall of frozen vegetables includes all of the frozen organic and traditional fruit and vegetable products manufactured or processed in CRF Frozen Foods’ Pasco facility since May 1, 2014…These include approximately 358 consumer products sold under 42 separate brands, the details of which are listed below. Products include organic and non-organic broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, cauliflower, corn, edamame, green beans, Italian beans, kale, leeks, lima beans, onions, peas, pepper strips, potatoes, potato medley, root medley, spinach, sweet potatoes, various vegetable medleys, blends, and stir fry packages, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, peaches, raspberries, and strawberries. For a complete list of affected products, click through to the article. It goes on forever.

We apologize for any concern or inconvenience, blah, blah, blah…Consumers with questions may call the company’s consumer hotline at 844-483-3866, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.

Lots of frozen fruits and veggies under lots of brands – ranging from products sold at WalMart to Trader Joe’s and Wild Oats. I suggest you click that link above and check your freezer.

Independent Brazil prosecutors hit Vale, BHP with $44 billion civil lawsuit for dam collapse

Click to enlargeRicardo Moraes/Reuters

Mining companies Vale SA and BHP Billiton were hit with a $43.5 billion civil lawsuit for the collapse of a dam at a mine last year that killed 19 people and caused damage that prosecutors said was comparable to BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The 359-page lawsuit brought by independent federal prosecutors was the result of a six-month investigation and is also against state and federal governments. Prosecutors accused the state of Minas Gerais, where the dam collapsed in November 2015, of negligence in its monitoring of the build up of waste and water sludge left over from the companies’ mining venture, Samarco…

The total damages, prosecutors said, were calculated on the basis of the cost of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the United States. BP’s total pre-tax charge for that accident, in 2010, reached $53.8 billion…

The new suit is over 7 times the tentative settlement reached between BHP and Brazilian federal and state governments.

Raising speed limits is irresponsible — states keep doing it, of course

Cars are America. America is freedom. It’s no accident that the country’s foundational myths are written in road trips. The Oregon Trail. Sal Paradise and his Cadillac. That time your stoner college roommate decided to drive his crap can from Jersey to LA.

And freedom is getting faster, at least in the West. In April 2015, South Dakota became the fifth state in three years to increase its daytime interstate speed limit to 80 miles per hour or more. On some sections of Texas road, 85 is de rigueur.

The economic and emotional justifications for the trend were neatly laid out by The Idaho Statesman editorial editor Robert Ehlert: “The 80 mph speed limit is an antidote to those high airline ticket prices and nickel-and-dime onboard fees,” he wrote….“The 80 mph speed limit is symbolic of my individuality and freedom … This is the West. This is the way we roll.”

But a raft of research shows that when speed limits go up, so do fatalities—along with financial costs and environmental hazards. A 2009 study published in the American Journal of Public Health estimates speed limit increases were responsible for 12,545 deaths and 36,583 injuries between 1995 and 2005. The number of rural interstate fatalities we can blame on higher speed limits jumped 9.1 percent during that time.

Why, then, have speed limits — and especially speed limits in rural areas — rocketed in recent years? Partly, it’s that speeding exists in a cultural gray area. Everybody does it, so why not change the rules to reflect that? More crucially, it’s a result of regional politics, where geography, ideology, and antipathy for regulation make higher limits a win. Especially for politicians.

…Higher maximums mean wider gaps in speed between individual cars. That’s less safe for everyone. A recent analysis led by Wayne State civil engineers found that fatality rates on roads with limits of 75 mph or higher are double those on interstates where things move more slowly.

Higher speed limits come with a financial cost, too. Changing the rules doesn’t just mean repainting the signs. State DOTs have to revamp the infrastructure, making road curves smoother and adding crash pads to medians, for example, to make driving faster safer. Faster driving means maintenance costs go up, too. In 2014, researchers working with Michigan’s DOT found that upping rural interstate speed limits from 70 to 80 mph would save 15.4 million passenger vehicle hours a year, but would also cost $163.88 million annually for the design’s estimated 25-year lifespan.

And of course, driving faster burn more fuel. That’s why Congress set the national speed limit at 55 mph in 1978….That same Michigan DOT report estimated raising freeway speeds would increase the state’s annual fuel consumption by 68.7 million gallons — about $257.5 million worth of the good stuff (at 2012 prices). And if the money part doesn’t get you, remember that 68.7 million gallons of gas is equal to 1.3 billion pounds of CO2 emissions.

None of that counts the economic and societal costs of crashes themselves — $836 billion in 2010, according to the feds.

Opportunism is practically a genetic trait in American politicians. It wanders from knee-jerk support for bigoted laws to stuff so stupid that only differences between the two parties keep them in place. Here in New Mexico our silly-ass rule allowing a “social pass” for students who can’t read up to their grade level – if mommy and daddy complain – is opposed by Republicans. So, Democrats still support it.

And so it remains on Freeway speeds. I admit I used those higher speeds to advantage when I was on the road. I have all the rationales, e.g., I drove a car engineered for cruising speeds higher than the average American car, I had the skills and experience to drive at those speeds. Last fender-bender I suffered was a guy making an illegal turn who drove into my rear fender – in 1978. And driving 700-1100 miles/week, the time savings were significant.

Still, I would have been in less danger and less dangerous to other drivers at a reduced pace. I would have complied.