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Published: Tue, 12 Dec 2017 23:13:32 -0500

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US Nobel laureate fears US politics could undermine science

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 03:52:00 -0500

(image) An American researcher who shared this year's Nobel Prize for medicine has bluntly criticized political developments at home in his address at the awards' gala banquet in Sweden

Youth climate trial reaches federal appeals court, as judges signal it's going to trial

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 17:33:16 -0500

A landmark case involving a group of 21 young Americans who are suing the federal government for its failure to protect them from the adverse consequences of climate change is inching closer to a trial date.  The case, known as Juliana v. United States, was  scheduled to go to trial in Oregon beginning on Feb. 5. That court date has been postponed due to a rare request from the federal government to have an Appeals Court step in and halt the proceedings. On Monday, a panel of judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments regarding the Trump administration's move to squash the case using a little-used legal tactic known as a writ of mandamus. If granted, the writ would have the Appeals Court review a 2016 U.S. District Court decision not to dismiss the case. If the Appeals Court grants the writ, it could halt the case in its tracks, preventing a trial by declaring that the District Court made one or more errors in its consideration of the case. SEE ALSO: To obtain funding, scientists may be avoiding use of the term 'climate change' in research proposals However, questions from the three-judge Appeals Court panel to the Justice Department indicated they are skeptical of the need to review the District Court's decision. The Justice Department argued that this case, which seeks a remedy involving government action to address global warming, is "unprecedented" for its claims and broad scope, among other factors.    The case already broke new legal ground when a District Court judge declared the plaintiffs have a constitutional right to a stable climate. Among the issues to be determined at trial is whether the government's actions — including its use of federal lands for energy extraction over the past several decades (the years when scientists' understanding of global warming solidified) — violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights.  Global average temperature anomalies from 2012-2016, compared to the 20th-century average.The case asks the judicial branch to help determine the remedy to ensure the plaintiff's rights are no longer being violated. This could mean that the courts tell the government what its climate policy should be, which traditionally is the purview of the legislative and executive branches of government, not the courts. (That breach is one of the arguments put forward by the Justice Department to halt the case.) "This court is on a collision course with the Executive Branch," said Eric Grant, a deputy assistant attorney general.  However, Julia Olson, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs who works for Our Children's Trust, an advocacy group, rejected that argument. She was accompanied in the courtroom by her co-counsel, as well as 18 of the 21 plaintiffs. “Plaintiffs seek a judicial safeguard against the continued degradation of their rights," she said — but this safeguard could come from the appropriate branch of government, meaning that the plaintiffs are not asking the courts to set climate policy. Rather, a possible remedy would be for the court to demand that the government enact policies to cut global warming pollutants, leaving the specific details up to Congress and federal agencies.  “What the complaint alleges is that the federal defendants collectively and through the fossil fuel energy system are affirmatively depriving these young people of their rights to life, liberty, and property,” Olson said.  In response to judges' questions about whether the plaintiffs have legal standing to sue on the basis of being deprived of a stable climate, Olson said yes, because they will experience a rapidly deteriorating climate system for the rest of their lives unless action is taken soon.  “Children are disproportionately experiencing the impacts of climate change,” Olson said. She noted that children will bear the brunt of the impacts of global warming, giving them standing in their case. “Your honor, [...]

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The world's youngest island

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 09:58:01 -0500

(image) Scientists think Hunga Tunga Hunga Ha'apai might hold clues on where to look for life on Mars.

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Trump tells NASA to send astronauts back to the moon in new directive

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 16:15:01 -0500

(image) The president promised to "restore American leadership in space."

Photos and video show terrifying spread of California's Thomas Fire

(image) As wildfires continue to blaze throughout Southern California, displacing residents and destroying buildings, terrifying images and videos show firefighters struggling to battle the historically large Thomas Fire. SEE ALSO: How to help victims of the Southern California wildfires As of Monday morning, the fire had grown to 230,500 acres, and spread from Ventura County into Santa Barbara County. Ventura County's crisis center reports that the fire is 15 percent contained.  The fire's flames are being fed by strong Santa Ana winds and plenty of fuel in the form of dried out plant life that grew after a wet winter and subsequently dried out after a dry summer in the state. The fire has grown to over 230,000 acres, and threatens areas in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.Image: Ventura county fire department The #ThomasFire so far:–230,500 acres–15% contained–796 structures destroyed–18,000 buildings threatened–New evacuation orders issued Sunday night — Los Angeles Times (@latimes) December 11, 2017 Firefighters have made progress quenching the flames on the fire's southern side, and City of Ventura residents have been allowed to return to their homes.  However, the fire's latest drive north into Santa Barbara has triggered additional evacuations in Carpinteria and Montecito.  Flames come close to a house as the Thomas Fire advances toward Santa Barbara County seaside communities.Image: David McNew/Getty Images #ThomasFire - FF’s knock down flames as they advance on homes atop Shepherd Mesa Road in Carpinteria at 6 am Sunday morning. — SBCFireInfo (@EliasonMike) December 10, 2017 Massive imposing smoke from #ThomasFire today. Looking west from Newbury Park. — Greg Vit (@gvitty) December 10, 2017 A firefighter battling the Thomas Fire near Lake Casitas.Image: David McNew/Getty Images Firefighters use drip torches to set a backfire at night in an effort to make progress against the Thomas Fire.Image: David McNew/Getty ImagesAccording to the Los Angeles Times, 88,000 people have had to evacuate their homes, and the cost of fighting the fire is estimated at $25 million. The Thomas Fire continues to rage as firefighters also work to contain the Creek, Rye, Skirball, and Lilac fires in Los Angeles and San Diego counties. Firefighters watch after setting a backfire at night to make progress against the Thomas Fire,Image: David McNew/Getty Images The Thomas fire burns through Los Padres National Forest.Image: Noah Berger/AP/REX/Shutterstock Horses that were evacuated from the Thomas Fire are seen on December 10, 2017 in Ojai, California.Image: David McNew/Getty Images Firefighters monitor a section of the Thomas Fire along the 101 freeway.Image: Mario Tama/Getty ImagesCalifornia Governor Jerry Brown called the fires a "terrible tragedy," and also warned that, thanks to climate change, massive wildfire seasons could become the norm. “This could be something that happens every year or every few years,” Brown said. “We’re about to have a firefighting Christmas.” DEC 10: Christmas decorations illuminate a house as the growing Thomas Fire advances toward Santa Barbara County.Image: David McNew/Getty Images DEC 10:: People watch as the Thomas Fire advances toward Santa Barbara County.Image: David McNew/Getty ImagesCelebrities like Ellen Degeneres and Oprah Winfrey, who live in the area, have tweeted their support for those in the path of the fires. Everyone in the Montecito area is checking up on each other and helping to get people and animals to safety. I’m proud to be a part of this community. I’m sending lots of love and gratitude to the fire department and sheriffs. Thank you all. #ThomasFire — Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) December 10, 2017 Peace be Still, is my prayer tonight. For all the fir