An estimated 4.1 million people in the lower 48 states are potentially exposed to arsenic levels that exceed EPA’s drinking water standards A new USGS highlights the importance of homeowners testing their well water to ensure it is safe for consumption, particularly in drought-prone areas. The first-of-its-kind national-scale study of private well water, conducted in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that drought may lead to elevated levels of naturally occurring arsenic and that the longer a drought lasts, the higher the probability of arsenic concentrations exceeding U.S. EPA's standard for drinking water.- USGS
In a year characterized by extreme weather, avid handwashing, and increasingly remote interactions, access to electricity is more important than ever. But 12 months into the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a basic right on which thousands of Navajo Nation members are still waiting. “What it’s like to be without electricity? I don’t know how to describe it because we never had it before,” said Navajo elder and Black Mesa, Arizona, resident Percy Deal. “It’s always been this way, so we’re used to it. Until last year when this pandemic came in; that’s when we began to realize that these utilities are very important.” Electricity has long been a contentious issue for Navajo Nation residents. Of the roughly 55,000 Indigenous households located on Navajo lands, which stretch across large parts of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, ~15,000 do not have electricity. And yet the reservation is an energy-exporting hotspot, having until recently been home to the Navajo Generating Station, the largest coal-fired power plant in the western U.S, as well as many coal, uranium, oil, and fracking operations. - Grist
The coastal waters of Northern California are changing. A decade ago, hundreds of miles of the rugged seaside were flanked by thick, swaying underwater forests of amber-green bull kelp that were home to fish, abalone and a host of other species. Now, those forests have been nearly wiped out by a series of environmental events that have been falling like ill-fated dominos since 2013. A new study using satellite imagery and underwater surveys is the latest to confirm that these majestic marine ecosystems have all but disappeared, reports Tara Duggan for the San Francisco Chronicle. Satellite images dating back to 1985 show that bull kelp forests off Sonoma and Mendocino counties have declined by a devastating 95 percent since 2013, and, according to the Chronicle, researchers are concerned the kelp may not be able to bounce back anytime soon. - Smithsonian
A decade ago, NPR photographer David Gilkey documented the aftermath of the destruction caused by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. The earthquake triggered an explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant that ravaged the region. In an attempt to capture what happened, Gilkey said, "It's really hard to put any of this into a perspective that someone would understand at home. This town today was literally just ... gone." He was referring to the devastation in Rikuzentakata in the Iwate Prefecture. On the 10th anniversary of this catastrophe, we look back at Gilkey's photos. - NPR
Critics have long dismissed rooftop solar as a niche product for wealthy homeowners who want to feel good about going green or are looking for security against blackouts. And it is conventional wisdom among utilities and regulators that large solar farms have an inherent cost advantage over the rooftop alternative because they benefit from economies of scale. Chris Clack sees things differently. In a fascinating report released last month, Clack and his coauthors estimated that eliminating nearly all planet-warming pollution from electricity generation would be $473 billion cheaper with dramatic growth in rooftop solar and batteries.
That calculation is based on Clack’s exhaustively detailed model of the U.S. electric grid, which he says includes 10,000 times more data points than traditional models and allows for a better accounting of rooftop solar’s costs and benefits to the grid. The model is such a complex beast that Clack built his own computers to help run the simulations, which can take five days to complete.
Researchers...looked out to 2050 and projected how electricity costs would change under a national policy requiring emissions to fall by 95%. When they mimicked traditional models that favor large solar and wind farms, they found that consumers would collectively pay $385 billion more for power over the next 30 years. Not an unreasonable price tag for taking a huge bite out of climate change, but still not the preferred direction if we can help it.
When they optimized for smaller-scale solutions...they found the cheapest way to reduce emissions actually involves building 247 gigawatts of rooftop and local solar power (equal to about one-fifth of the country’s entire generating capacity today). In this scenario, consumers would save $473 billion, relative to what electricity would otherwise cost.
The results come down to simple dollars and cents. - LA Times
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