Climate Change

Asha Paudel

Donald Trump's victory in the presidential election has put many environmentalists and scientists on edge about U.S. commitments to fight climate change, since the president-elect has previously called climate change a "hoax" and vowed to "cancel" the Paris climate agreement.

Among the nervous scientists is Missouri Botanical Garden ethnobotanist Jan Salick, who has studied the effects of climate change on indigenous peoples since the early 2000s. Earlier this month, Salick attended the United Nations annual climate change meeting in Marrakech, Morocco. 

She spoke to St. Louis Public Radio's Eli Chen about her research and the challenges scientists face in the current political climate. Here is the conversation:

Amy Harmon covers science and society for the New York Times.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amy Harmon has been a national correspondent for The New York Times, covering the intersection of science and society, since 1997. On Thursday, she joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss the divide between public opinion and scientific data. She will address audiences on similar subject matter at the Danforth Plant Science Center on Thursday evening as well.

A member of Washington University engineering professor Rajan Chakrabarty's laboratory lights up forest material in a combustion chamber.
Provided by Washington University in St. Louis

Recent studies have indicated that wildfires such as the ones that have raged in the western United States could have a cooling effect on our climate. But early findings by engineers at Washington University suggest that wildfire smoke could have a warming effect on the atmosphere. 

Using material from forests in the west, Wash U scientists have been recreating wildfires in the laboratory to understand the effects such events have on climate and public health. Research predicts that wildfires could occur more frequently and for longer periods of time. A 2012 study suggests that the area burned by wildfires in the United States could double by 2050.

(via Flickr/KOMUnews)

In Missouri, 27 percent of  carbon emissions are caused by the transportation sector, according to a national report. 

Local environmental advocates are using the findings by the nonprofit think tank, Frontier Group, to argue that providing more carbon-neutral transportation options could improve public health and safety. The report includes multiple policy recommendations to reduce transportation's impact on the environment, including incentives for consumers to purchase electric cars and creating more paths for pedestrians and bikers. 

Oceanographer Sylvia Earle will recieve the World Ecology Award from the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center on Oct. 16.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

It took hundreds of millions of years to populate oceans with its vast array of wildlife from plankton up to Coral Reefs and blue whales. It only took a few decades for humans to extract 90 percent of the big fish in the ocean and cut the number of Coral Reefs in half, said Dr. Sylvia Earle, a famous oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence.

This combined sewer overflow (archway in channel) discharges sewage and rain water into the upper River Des Peres, on Ferguson Ave. just south of Melrose Ave. in University City.
Veronique LaCapra

St. Louis is among the U.S. cities where millions of gallons of sewage has flowed into rivers and streams, according to a new study.

The St. Louis region saw as much as 200 million gallons of sewage overflow due to the December floods, according to research released today by Climate Central, a science and news organization. It concludes that St. Louis and other cities that have trouble handling heavy rains need to do more to address the problem.

John Burroughs seniors Garrett Moore and Hunter Wilkins plant milkweed at Bellerive Park on Wednesday, May 4, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Plants such as milkweed, blazing star, goldenrods, turtleheads, and the aster and cardinal flowers are just a few that are native to the St. Louis area. And, planting them is not only aesthetically pleasing but they are environmentally beneficial, especially to pollinators such as butterflies and honeybees.

Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

Scientists say frogs are one of the first "canaries in the coal mine" for climate change. That’s because they absorb a lot of what’s in the environment through their skin.

Scott Schliebe | Wikimedia Commons

Climate change is causing the Earth to change in drastic ways. Global temperatures are rising, oceans are warming, ice sheets are shrinking and the implications are vast for flora and fauna.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says “scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”

Moose Winan, "Rolling Thunder & Hills," Ozark Mountains
Moose Winans | Flickr, Creative Commons | http://bit.ly/1YyPCLb

One word comes to mind when we think about the environmental news that’s been a conversation starter in St. Louis in 2015: landfills. Specifically, what is going on at the Bridgeton and West Lake landfills north St. Louis County. On Wednesday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” St. Louis Public Radio’s science reporter Véronique LaCapra joined the show to discuss the evolution of the landfill situation and other big science, environmental and wildlife news of the year.

Some of the topics we discussed:

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

You may have heard of the local group of nuns who go to Bridgeton to pray for and protest over the West Lake and Bridgeton landfills, which have been the subject of much controversy in recent years.

The drought of 2012 took its toll on agriculture across the Midwest, including this soybean field near Dayton, Indiana.
Tom Campbell | Purdue Agricultural Communications

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference wrapped up in Paris over the weekend. While talking heads analyze the merits of the plan that came out of the meeting, farmers in the Midwest are thinking about the very real impact climate change is having on them.

Agriculture could be among the sectors hardest hit by a warming global climate, and farmers here already are having to adapt to changing weather patterns.

Monsanto, a global agricultural company headquartered in St. Louis, says it is taking a leadership role as the sector deals with climate change.

Monsanto plans to make all operations carbon neutral by 2021.

Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant says essentially the company wants all of its systems to store, offset or sequester as much carbon as they release.

“When the beginning and the end match up and you are at net-neutrality, that’s the definition of a good day, I think.”

St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis-based Peabody Energy is revising how it anticipates efforts to address climate change could affect the company's bottom line.

The United Soybean Board | Flickr

St. Louis-based Monsanto is joining 80 other U.S. companies in pledging to back a White House campaign to build support for climate talks this December in Paris, France, where the Obama administration says it hopes to see a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Air pollution from coal-fired power plants, industrial activities, and cars contributes to asthma and other health problems in the St. Louis area.
Syracuse University News Services

In December, government representatives from all over the world will meet in Paris for another conference on climate change aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and curbing rising global temperatures.

In advance of that meeting, some scientists and environmental leaders are gathering at Washington University to discuss one particular consequence of climate change: widespread species extinctions.

St. Louis pediatrician, Dr. Alison Nash.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Sure, climate change means average temperatures are getting higher and sea levels are rising. But here are some repercussions that hit closer to home, affecting public health.

Peter Raven at work in China
Provided by the Missouri Botanical Garden

Director Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden, Peter Raven, is one of the minds behind the latest papal letter from Pope Francis. He issued the sweeping encyclical Thursday that calls for immediate societal changes to preserve the environment.  

The historic entrance arch to the Lewis Place neighborhood, which will receive state aid nearly a year after a tornado damaged 91 homes in the area.
Adam Allington | St. Louis Public Radio

When natural disasters hit, neighborhoods where many residents live in poverty often have a harder time rebuilding than their more affluent neighbors.  

The Metro St. Louis Coalition for Inclusion and Equity (M-SLICE) is hosting a panel discussion Wednesday evening to brainstorm the future efforts to build infrastructure resiliency on the city's north side.

Missouri currently gets more than 80 percent of its electricity from coal-fired power plants like Ameren's Labadie power plant, pictured here.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Update 1/7/15

The EPA has delayed their schedule to release carbon dioxide emissions rules until ‘midsummer,’ a top EPA official announced Wednesday.

The final rule for new power plants had been scheduled to be published January 8, with the rules for existing and modified power plants due June 2. Now, all will be released at the same time.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

--Upton Sinclair

The quote  was cited in Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” to explain opposition from the energy industry to the theory of human-induced global warming. People who profit from fossil fuels are understandably reluctant to embrace arguments for the abolition of their use. Fair enough. A recent Associated Press article, however, indicates that Sinclair’s observation may be a blade that cuts both ways.

Credit Syracuse University News Services

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first-ever rule to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.

Under the new limits, Missouri would need to reduce its emissions by about 21 percent over the next 15 years.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Véronique LaCapra spoke with EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks about the plan, which Brooks said is designed to give states maximum flexibility.

Missourians are joining people from across the country in New York City Sunday for the People’s Climate March. Tens of thousands are expected to demonstrate in a call to halt global warming in advance of the United Nations Climate Summit, which begins Tuesday.

Dave Inman, Flickr Creative Commons

A recent report finds climate change is threatening dozens of birds that call Missouri home.

The National Audubon Society says more than half of the 588 North American bird species studied over the course of seven years are at risk. About 50 species common to Missouri are identified in the report as being threatened.

Mikhail Berezin, Washington University

Updated 8/6/14:

The National Science Foundation has awarded $20 million to academic and research institutions across Missouri to study climate change.

Five states, plus the U.S. Virgin Islands, have received one of the NSF’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grants.

Michael Allen / Preservation Research Office

A five-day symposium with a funny name wants to promote environmental and sustainability awareness in the Midwest.

The Marfa Dialogues, which ends Sunday at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, includes several activities to highlight creative approaches to addressing environmental issues.

Architectural historian Michael Allen and installation artist Carlie Trosclair are creating an installation today that highlights urban demolition in St. Louis, “30 Days of Demolition.”

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

The local NAACP says air pollution from coal-fired power plants is having a disproportionate impact on the health of African Americans in the St. Louis area.

The civil rights organization joined the Sierra Club, Missouri State Senator Jamilah Nasheed and others on Wednesday to rally in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed limits on carbon dioxide emissions.

Air pollution from coal-fired power plants, industrial activities, and cars contributes to asthma and other health problems in the St. Louis area.
Syracuse University News Services

Cutting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants would also reduce other types of air pollution, both here in Missouri and nationally.

That's according to a recent analysis by researchers at Harvard and Syracuse Universities.

Along with carbon dioxide, coal-fired power plants emit other pollutants, like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Those in turn can contribute to forming particle pollution, ozone, and smog.

Missouri currently gets more than 80 percent of its electricity from coal-fired power plants like Ameren's Labadie power plant, pictured here.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first-ever rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. The proposal sparked immediate debate over the impact, especially in states such as Missouri that depend heavily on coal.

The new regulations would reduce carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide by 2030, compared to 2005 emissions levels.

media photo

In “Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth,” author Alan Weisman explored what it would take to bring the world’s population down to a sustainable level. The book is a sequel of sorts to Weisman’s bestselling “The World Without Us.”

The idea of “The World Without Us,” said Weisman, was to see how nature could recover from the effects of climate change without humans around to get in the way. But his hope in writing the book was to inspire the discovery of a way to add humans back into the equation.

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