U.S. clean coal program fails to deliver on promised smog cuts

Champions of coal say the superabundant fossil fuel can be made environmentally friendlier by refining it with chemicals – a “clean coal” technology backed by a billion dollars in U.S. government tax subsidies annually.

But refined coal has a dirty secret. It regularly fails to deliver on its environmental promises, as electric giant Duke Energy Corp found.

Duke began using refined coal at two of its North Carolina power plants in August 2012. The decision let the company tap a lucrative federal subsidy designed to help the American coal industry reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides – also known as NOx, the main contributor to smog and acid rain – along with other pollutants.

In nearly three years of burning the treated coal, the Duke power plants collected several million dollars in federal subsidies. But the plants also pumped out more NOx, not less, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency analyzed by Reuters.

Where can eastern Nebraska find more water during times of drought? 'There is no silver bullet.'

Back in 2012, when the rain stopped and the earth cracked open, cities across Nebraska cut back water use. In some, including Lincoln, watering your lawn on the wrong day could bring a knock on your door.

The strain on the Lower Platte River, which serves about 80 percent of the state’s population, including Lincoln and Omaha, was apparent.

Lincoln, far more vulnerable than Omaha, has boosted its water supplies by 30 percent since then. Both cities are collaborating with other water managers to find a way to replenish the Lower Platte during drought.

David Attenborough: collapse of civilisation is on the horizon

The collapse of civilisation and the natural world is on the horizon, Sir David Attenborough has told the UN climate change summit in Poland.

The naturalist was chosen to represent the world’s people in addressing delegates of almost 200 nations who are in Katowice to negotiate how to turn pledges made in the 2015 Paris climate deal into reality.

As part of the UN’s people’s seat initiative, messages were gathered from all over the world to inform Attenborough’s address on Monday. “Right now we are facing a manmade disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change,” he said. “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

LJS editorial board: Without action, Nebraska will be harmed by climate change

If you don’t think climate change will affect Nebraska, think again.

The National Climate Assessment, required to be presented to the president and Congress every four years, paints a grim picture of the climate in the Cornhusker State and country by the middle of the century, if our state and national elected officials fail to take action to combat our warming planet.

We can’t stop Nebraskans who want to bury their heads in the sand – or the Sandhills – and pretend this won’t affect them. But an ever-mounting body of evidence, including the federal government’s own research, indicates a warming environment will be felt acutely in the Midwest if left unchecked.

Opinion: OPPD falls short on environmental stewardship measure

On Nov. 15, the Omaha Public Power District board voted 6-2 in favor of SD-7 Environmental Stewardship Resolution No. 6289. While commendable, the measure imprudently fails to satisfy several widely accepted ethical standards that should guide public policy, and it should be revised accordingly.

The IPCC’s recommendations constitute prudence defined by St. Thomas Aquinas as “right reason applied to action.” In contrast, Resolution No. 6289 calls for “20 percent reduction in carbon intensity from 2010 through 2030” and would effectively allow OPPD to achieve the goal by simply increasing total power sales through additional renewable generation but without any actual decrease in OPPD’s carbon pollution. The resolution is thus by definition imprudent since it aspires to far less than what the world’s top scientists say is necessary to avoid the prospect of runaway climate change that threatens civilization.

Farmers will see more extreme weather, says climate report

A new federal report says Nebraska could see more drought, flooding, heat, and hail because of climate change, something Jim Knopik says he’s already seen.

“That's not the way natural weather patterns go, because they're so extreme,” he said. “You can't have a hundred year rain every year.”

What farmers like Knopik are experiencing will be more common, says State Climatologist Martha Shulski.

She said, “What it means for agriculture in particular, warmer during the growing season, more extreme heat events, and what sort of impacts will that have to crop production.”

Shulski says Nebraska's already known for its volatile weather, but she says the Fourth National Climate Assessment released by the Trump Administration further reinforces the work scientists have done, and she says a state like Nebraska is affected.

“These changes do translate into real impacts for animal agriculture, for row crop agriculture, grazing, and so forth,” she said.

Fewer tornadoes are hitting Nebraska as the deadly storms shift east

Tornadoes appear to be on the decline in Nebraska and other Plains states, but increasing farther east, recent studies have shown.

While that could lessen the risk in states like Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, it substantially raises the stakes overall because more tornadoes would be occurring in more densely populated states where the terrain makes tornadoes harder to see, and deadly nighttime tornadoes are more likely to occur.

Higher wind turbine noise limits get initial OK

Despite strong opposition from residents of southwestern Lancaster County, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission on Wednesday approved changes to the noise limits in its zoning code for wind farms.

The commission voted 8-1 in favor of a text amendment that would designate a higher noise standard for properties that choose to participate in a wind project than for those that don't.

Current noise regulations, which were adopted in 2015, set limits of 40 decibels during daytime hours and 37 at night. The newly proposed regulations would keep those limits for properties that don't wish to be part of a project but raise them to 50 decibels around the clock for property owners who want to be part of a project.

Even Republicans at odds with Trump's climate posture, poll finds

Americans, including Republicans, are becoming more convinced that climate change is causing extreme weather and sea-level rise, according to a new poll from Monmouth University.

Nearly two-thirds of Republicans, 64%, now think climate change is happening, compared to 49% three years ago. And more of the general population, 78% compared to 70% three years ago, acknowledge climate change.

But many people still don’t agree with the consensus science that shows humans are the dominant cause of climate change. Only 29% of people say climate change is more from human activity than natural changes in the environment or some mix of the two.

Past four years hottest on record, data shows

The warming trend is unmistakeable and shows we are running out of time to tackle climate change, according to the World Meteorological Organization, which on Thursday published its provisional statement on the State of the Climate in 2018. The WMO warned that, on current trends, warming could reach 3C to 5C by the end of this century.

“These are more than just numbers,” said Elena Manaenkova, the WMO deputy secretary general. “Every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference to human health and access to food and fresh water, to the extinction of animals and plants, to the survival of coral reefs and marine life.”