Science and Environment

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

President Obama says the U.S. will sharply cut its emissions of greenhouse gases, announcing a new approach to climate change alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping. The plan also includes China's agreement to cap its emissions.

The two leaders' pledges are being called dramatic and ambitious — for the U.S., because Obama's earlier plans had called for a smaller cut in emissions, and for China, because the country had previously resisted calls for it to consider capping its emissions as it grows and modernizes.

Disasters are causing more and more damage, and the federal government is spending more and more money to rebuild afterwards.

But before the construction crew can begin repairs, homeowners face months-long delays and poor customer service in the preliminary stages of the application process. Some homeowners even complain that the rebuilding process has become as traumatic as the storm itself.

The Kissimmee: A River Re-Curved

Oct 19, 2014

It sounds almost superhuman to try straighten a river and then recarve the curves.

That's what federal and state officials did to the Kissimmee River in Central Florida. They straightened the river in the 1960s into a canal to drain swampland and make way for the state's explosive growth. It worked — and it created an ecological disaster. So officials decided to restore the river's slow-flowing, meandering path.

Forget Nessie: there's another insidious creature living in the waters of Scotland.

The story starts in the streams and lakes of the northwestern United States, where North American signal crayfish are a familiar sight. Turn over a rock and you may well encounter one.

But in Scottish streams and lochs, these creatures are intruders.

In the United States, we often hear about invasive Asian carp, zebra mussels or snakehead fish from China that take over American waterways. It's a two-way street: American species are causing chaos in other parts of the world, too.

Nowadays, when there's a killer heat wave or serious drought somewhere, people wonder: Is this climate change at work? It's a question scientists have struggled with for years. And now there's a new field of research that's providing some answers. It's called "attribution science" — a set of principles that allow scientists to determine when it's a change in climate that's altering weather events ... and when it isn't.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're going to find out now more about the Obama administration's climate plans from U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Secretary Moniz, welcome to the program.

U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY ERNEST MONIZ: Thank you very much, Audie.

Imagine a job where about half of all the work is being done by people who are in training. That's, in fact, what happens in the world of biological and medical research.

In the United States, more than 40,000 temporary employees known as postdoctoral research fellows are doing science at a bargain price. And most postdocs are being trained for jobs that don't actually exist.

All is not well with the nation's birds. The most comprehensive study ever of birds in America is out today, and it says many populations are in steep decline, even as others are doing well.

The report, called "The State of the Birds," comes from the federal government, universities and conservation groups — 23 organizations that have spent years examining bird populations, as well as habitats where the various species live.

Thousands of miles of Louisiana's coastline have been disappearing over the last century. NPR's Lynn Neary talks to fishing guide Ryan Lambert about what's happening to his community.

 

Dawn Gioia lives just two blocks away from City Hall in Brighton, Colo., just north of Denver. She never expected to receive a thick envelope from Mid-Continent Energy in the mail, proposing she sell mineral rights for oil and gas drilling.

At first, she thought it was a scam.

"One of these forms asks you for all your tax information and Social Security numbers, so that was something that sort of caught me off guard," she says.

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