Notes from a Warming World

Temperature Gauge

graphic of a earth-globe with a thermometer rising from it

Feminine Mystique

More power for women means less bad gas in the air. Nations where women have higher political status tend to have lower carbon dioxide emissions, says a new study published in the journal Social Science Research. The study, by sociologists Christina Ergas and Richard York from the University of Oregon, also says “nations with higher proportions of women in parliament ratify a greater number of environmental treaties.”

Take, for instance, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, an international leader in sustainable development whose recommendations to the United Nations led to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, or German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is leading her nation’s ambitious push for renewable energy.

photo of a seaside power plant, apparently a flower farm in the foregroundphoto Flickr user Vegan Feast CateringRising waters could inundate coastal energy facilities in the US by 2030,
says a new report.

The researchers say they can’t quite explain why this correlation exists, but note that it could be because “women make different decisions than do men when placed in positions of power.” Other reasons Ergas and York cite include: women’s higher participation rate in the environmental movement (depending on the country, 60 to 80 percent of grassroots environmentalists are women); women’s tendency to perceive environmental risks as “more threatening;” and, perhaps most importantly, the fact that women have more at stake when it comes to climate change because the livelihood of rural women in many countries depends on environmental well-being.

“This finding suggests that efforts to improve women’s political status around the world, clearly worthy on their own merits, may work synergistically with efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and avert dramatic global climate change,” the study concludes. Americans, ye who are ruled largely by men, take note.

An Ill Wind?

Another looming problem for wind power: Apparently big wind farms have a warming effect on local climates. That wind can warm should come as no surprise, really. Many commercial orchards in the US routinely use tiny windmills to circulate air to keep trees warm and protect fruit from freezes. But what researchers are now discovering is wind farms can have that same effect on a much bigger scale.

Researchers at the State University of New York at Albany analyzed eight years of satellite data of areas around large wind farms in Texas, where four of the world’s largest farms are located, and concluded that the temperature changes, “if spatially large enough, may have noticeable impacts on local to regional weather and climate.”

The results of their study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, showed a warming trend of up to 0.72 degrees Celsius per decade in areas close to the wind farms, compared with nearby regions without the farms. The temperature change could be due to energy expelled by the wind farms and the turbulence generated by turbine rotors, the study said. The researchers say more studies are needed before any concrete conclusions can be drawn.

Global Warming Blowback

Talk about sinking your own ship – the dirty energy facilities that are fueling global warming could be threatened by sea level rise caused by that very same warming. Rising waters may soon be licking at the feet of oil refineries, natural gas processing plants, and power stations in coastal areas across the US, says a new report by research group Climate Central. Frequent deluges at least four feet above the high tide line will threaten the operations of nearly 300 coastal energy facilities in the lower 48 states by 2030, the report says. After that, as the sea continues to rise, energy facilities on slightly higher ground too, will be impacted.

Call it karma.

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We are standing at a pivotal moment in history, one in which education and advocacy around the climate emergency, public health, racial injustice, and economic inequity is imperative. At Earth Island Journal, we have doubled down on our commitment to uplifting stories that often go unheard, to centering the voices of frontline communities, and to always speak truth to power. We are nonprofit publication. We don’t have a paywall because our mission is to inform, educate and inspire action. Which is why we rely on readers like you for support. If you believe in the work we do, please consider making a tax-deductible year-end donation to our Green Journalism Fund.

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