Science and Environment

Hurricanes, oil spills, and the latest efforts to manage them.

Pope Francis today issued a sweeping 184-page papal letter, writing that climate change is a global problem with far reaching environmental and social consequences — especially for the poor. He blamed apathy and greed and called on developing countries to limit the use of nonrenewable energy and to assist poorer nations.

In April this year, on Earth Day, Pope Francis urged everyone to see the world through the eyes of God, as a garden to cultivate.

"May the way people treat the Earth not be guided by greed, manipulation, and exploitation, but rather may it preserve the divine harmony between creatures and creation, also in the service of future generations," he said.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — has led to widespread pollution of drinking water. The oil industry and its backers welcome the long-awaited study, while environmental groups criticize it.

Incredible by Modern Standards— June 1

In Bonn, Germany, hundreds of people have gathered to work on a draft version of a major United Nations agreement to control greenhouse gas emissions that are changing the Earth's climate.

And when I found out that climate change negotiations basically all boil down to writing and editing a document, I was intrigued.

Even though its predictions call for a below-normal Atlantic hurricane season with six to 11 named storms this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says strong and devastating storms remain a possibility.

From NOAA:

The Atlantic hurricane season starts next month — a time when coastal states have their disaster plans at the ready. Now, the federal government wants states to consider the potential effects of climate change in those blueprints.

States lay out strategies for reducing harm from a whole host of calamities that might strike, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, or drought.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, gives states money to mitigate those risks — grants that might help pay for tornado safe rooms, or to elevate buildings in a flood zone, for instance.

President Obama used the backdrop of the Florida Everglades this Earth Day to highlight the dangers posed by a changing climate. He also took a swipe at Florida's Republican governor, who's been accused of discouraging state workers from discussing global warming.

"Climate change can no longer be denied," Obama said. "It can't be edited out. It can't be omitted from the conversation. And action can no longer be delayed."

At the Gulf State Park Pier in Orange Beach, Ala., Wetzel Wood casts his fishing line into the rough surf of the Gulf of Mexico. He pulls his bait, a cigar minnow, through the water just beyond where the waves break for the shore.

"On a good day you'd catch king mackerel, Spanish mackerel," he says. Wood first learned to fish at the pier with his grandfather in 1969. "I've seen a lot of different things out here. It's been wonderful."

Five years ago on April 20, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off the Louisiana coast. Scientists are still studying the effects of more than 3 million barrels of oil that a federal court determined gushed into the Gulf of Mexico. And those evaluating the effects on birds are still unsure what to expect.

Oil-covered pelicans became the icons of what happened when the oil seeped into the marshes on the Louisiana coast. That damage was clear.

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