There were some genuinely great pieces of environmental news this month, but that’s not the whole story. Planet Experts published at least 10 articles that revealed some truly troubling truths about the state of our ecosystems, our oceans, our wildlife and our health. Get your righteous indignation or your punching bag ready (whichever helps you cope better), because here they are:

#10 The Planet Got Much, Much Warmer

This month, three of the planet’s top four weather measurement agencies confirmed that 2014 was the hottest year on record. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, global average temperatures over land and sea surfaces rose 0.69℃ above the 20th century average last year – a seemingly minuscule amount that had major consequences on every continent. Europe, North Africa, China and Australia all experienced major heat waves while the rest of the planet suffered through droughts, monsoons and extreme storms.

“We have a clear signal that our climate changing, and when you look at the evidence it’s because of human activities,” said Don Wuebbles, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois. “The evidence is so strong I don’t know why we are arguing any more. It’s just crazy.” Read More…

#9 Boston Got Twice as Gassy

backbayA new study from Harvard University revealed that 2.7 percent of Boston’s natural gas is escaping into the atmosphere – more than twice as much as the 1.1 percent estimate from state officials. This is a problem because methane is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide at absorbing solar energy, meaning Boston’s contribution to global warming is twice as great as first believed. This problem – due to aging infrastructure and faulty appliances – is likely shared by major cities in the U.S. and possibly worldwide. Read More…

#8 Congress Filled Up on Big Oil

Despite – or perhaps because of – the lowest voter turnout since World War II, Republicans swept the 2014 mid-term elections. Republicans have stated that they will use this victory to deregulate the fossil fuel industry and put more pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency. Which isn’t surprising, given that fossil fuel interests spent at least $721 million on the midterm election campaign. Read More…

#7 And the Majority of Republicans Dispute or Deny Climate Science

capitolbuildingThis one goes hand-in-hand with #8. This month, the Center for American Progress released an analysis that reveals 56 percent of Congressional Republicans dispute or question climate science. That includes 72 percent of the Senatorial GOP. This would be less disturbing if 97.1 percent of climate scientists didn’t say man-made emissions are causing climate change – but they do. Meanwhile, the new head of the Senate’s Environment Committee is Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who famously said that global warming is “the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state.” Read More…

#6 More Rhinos Were Killed in South Africa Than Ever Before

Initial government figures for the number of rhinos killed by poachers in South Africa in 2014 puts the total at a record-breaking 1,020. However, experts say that the official count could rise as high as 1,200. Read More…

#5 Sea Level Rise Sped Up

wavesThis news came with an interesting caveat. It seems that for the majority of the 20th century, sea level rise has been overestimated due to incomplete datasets from the Southern Hemisphere and events like tectonic activity and land subsidence. However, the more accurate models of sea level rise published this month in the journal Nature show that current sea level rise is accelerating 2.5 times faster than it did between 1900 and 1990. Seas are now rising about 1.2 inches per decade. Read More…

#4 Mass Animal Die Offs Became More Frequent

A study published this month in PNAS found that mass mortality events for animals has increased since 1940. Species of birds, marine invertebrates and fish showed the highest mortality rates, with the three primary factors being disease, biotoxins and man-made disturbances such as overfishing. Read More…

#3 The Oceans Got Warmer

Ocean SurfaceWe know that 2014 was the hottest year on record, but Dr. John Abraham, professor of thermal sciences at the University of St. Thomas, says this overlooks a more disturbing statistic: That the oceans are warming so quickly they’re “breaking scientists’ charts.” Accelerating winds have pushed global heat down into the subsurface ocean, and since the ocean absorbs 90 percent of the planet’s heat, global warming on the surface has been relatively mild. But that heat is building, and once the winds change, it’s going to be very bad news for the planet. Read More…

#2 Farm Workers Exposed to Pesticides Exhibit Genetic Damage

A study that’s really not getting enough attention is the one that appeared in the journal Mutation Research. Brazilian farm workers exposed to pesticides in the soybean industry show genotoxic and mutagenic effects, such as elevated cell death in blood cells, DNA damage and higher concentration of inorganic elements in their bodies compared to non-exposed individuals. Read More…

#1 There Were Five Fossil Fuel Disasters in the United States

Oil SeepThis didn’t happen in a faraway developing country. This didn’t happen over the course of several years. In January 2015, no less than five fossil fuel-related disasters occurred on American soil – poisoning rivers, destroying land and endangering lives.

On January 14, a natural gas pipeline in Mississippi exploded on Three Prong Road. The explosion was massive enough to rattle the windows of houses and the smoke plume was visible from satellites.

pipeOn January 17, a pipeline in Montana ruptured and spilled 50,400 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River, contaminating the Glendive drinking water with cancer-causing benzene.

On January 22 the media was alerted to a spill in Williams County, North Dakota that actually began on January 6. A pipeline was breached and spilled some three million gallons of brine – the super-salty wastewater byproduct of hydraulic fracking – into two creeks outside Williston.

On January 23, a tanker truck overturned on West Virginia’s Route 92 and spilled 3,975 gallons of diesel into Anthony Creek, leaving the 12,000 residents of Lewisburg without drinking water.

And on January 26, a gas pipeline in Brooke County, West Virginia exploded into a ball of flame. Read More…

Image: WTRF 7 / Screenshot

Image: WTRF 7 / Screenshot

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