Journalist • Photographer

Bobby Magill is a senior science writer for Climate Central in New York and a journalist who has covered fracking and the environment in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001. 

One of the Best Places for Climate Info Could Disappear Under Trump

Google “climate change” and the top two hits are websites that are part of NASA’s online climate portal, followed by a Wikipedia entry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s climate website.

Websites maintained by the federal government are among the first online stops for the general public — from students, local policymakers and everyone else — to learn about climate change. There is rising concern among scientists and climate communications experts that those websites may be among the first to be deleted, politicized or degraded with inaccurate climate information after President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January, all of which would impact the public’s understanding of the science and urgency of climate change.

Continue reading here.

America's Offshore Wind Industry Goes Live

In a few days, the water-bound wind turbines off of Rhode Island’s Block Island are expected to generate electricity commercially for the first time, and New Englanders are set to become the first in U.S. history to use electric power generated from an offshore wind turbine.  

The Block Island Wind Project is the first commercial offshore wind farm ever built in the U.S., and the start of its operation marks the the beginning of a brand new clean energy industry in the United States.

Continue reading here.


Trump, GOP Threaten Public Land Protections

Donald Trump’s election portends a major shift in how one of America’s greatest bulwarks against the impacts of climate change will be protected and used for fossil fuel development.

Scientists and conservationists are just beginning to grasp what may lay ahead for more than 600 million acres of national forests, monuments, parks, conservation areas and other federal public lands. But, they say Trump’s statements promoting fossil fuels development on public lands make it clear that the days of managing these lands with renewable energy, conservation and climate change in mind may soon be over.

Continue reading here. 

Is Removing CO2 from the Atmosphere a Moral Hazard?

Removing carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere to prevent global warming from becoming catastrophic may be a fool’s game amounting to a “moral hazard par excellence,” according to a paper published Thursday in the journal Science.

Nobody knows if atmospheric carbon removal — known as negative emissions — will work, and it could delay critical cuts to emissions while tacitly giving people license to pollute, the paper says.

Continue reading here. 

2016 Election Critical to Success of Paris Climate Agreement

The 2016 presidential election is likely to be enormously consequential to the success of the Paris climate agreement, due to be signed Friday at the United Nations, and the ability of the United States to lead the world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming to “well below” 2°C (3.6°F).

Climate Central asked more than a dozen climate and political scientists and other experts how the outcome of that election will affect the climate pact.

The consensus was clear: If a Republican administration is elected in November, the Paris agreement would be severely undermined and any efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale will be cast into doubt. If a Democratic administration is elected, the Paris agreement will remain intact.

Friday’s signing comes at a time when world leaders are nervously watching the U.S. election unfold, with the president of the UN General Assembly telling Reuters that he worries that the Paris agreement could be sabotaged by U.S. politicians who deny climate change and are opposed to the Obama administration’s emissions-cutting Clean Power Plan.

“The outcome of the U.S. presidential election is critically important for the future of the Paris Agreement,” said Henrik Selin, associate professor of international relations at the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University. “Like many Americans, political leaders and people outside the United States are scratching their heads at what is currently happening in Washington, D.C., and on the campaign trail.”

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Are Oil Leasing Protests A New Front in the Climate Policy Fight?

Federal oil and gas lease sales are often dour bureaucratic affairs, but 100 climate protesters hope their actions at a sale in Salt Lake City this week represent the growth of a new front in the national policy fight over global warming.

Climate activists, part of what’s known as the “Keep It in the Ground” movement, have pivoted from their successful fight against the Keystone XL Pipeline last year to protesting oil and gas leasing on public lands.

Continue reading at Climate Central here.

The U.S. Could Be Responsible for Up To 60 Percent of Global Methane Emissions Growth

There was a huge global spike in one of the most potent greenhouse gases driving climate change over the last decade, and the U.S. may be the biggest culprit, according a new Harvard University study.

The United States alone could be responsible for between 30 percent and 60 percent of the global growth in human-caused atmospheric methane emissions since 2002 because of a 30 percent spike in methane emissions across the country, the study says.

Continue reading at Climate Central here.

Low Oil Prices Force Slowdown of U.S. Tar Sands Project

A Canadian company’s efforts to produce oil sands in the United States are not dead, but thanks to crude oil prices that have dipped below $30 per barrel, they may be in critical condition.

U.S. Oil Sands, the Alberta-based company working on a project slated to produce crude oil from oil sands on public lands in Utah, is slowing its PR Spring oil sands project to nearly a halt amid a lack of labor and low oil prices.

“We’re just slowing the project down to focus on critical path items,” U.S. Oil Sands President and CFO Glen Snarr said. A contractor providing most of the project’s labor decided to close its operations in Utah, leaving U.S. Oil Sands without many of its workers, he said.

“Our focus is to reduce manpower at the site,” he said.

Oil sands, known as tar sands in the U.S., are a thick and clay-like substance composed of a hydrocarbon called bitumen. Found mostly in eastern Alberta, Canada, tar sands’ climate impacts are significant. Oil production from tar sands is about 17 percent more carbon intensive than production of an average barrel of oil.

In November, citing climate concerns, the Obama administration killed the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which was slated to pipe tar sands bitumen from Canada to refineries in Texas. Last June, a group of 100 scientists called for a moratorium on tar sands development in Canada, saying it is incompatible with meeting greenhouse gas reductions targets.

Tar sands are rare in the U.S., but companies have been trying for decades to produce tar sands oil in eastern Utah, where the country’s largest deposits are locked deep beneath the desert. With oil prices dropping to below $30 per barrel, however, the outlook for U.S. Tar Sands’ operations is uncertain.

Continue reading at Climate Central here. 

What to Look for in Energy and Climate in 2016

2016 will kick off with a sense of optimism about climate change after the success of the Paris climate talks in December. In the U.S., that may mean more enthusiasm for commitments to renewables and other lower-carbon energy sources as low oil prices make the future of fossil fuels production in the U.S. and Canada less certain. 2016 stands to be critical for greenhouse gas emissions cuts in the U.S. as the country finds ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet its long-term climate pledge made in 2015.

Read about the four key energy and climate issues to watch in 2016 here.

Climate Change Complicates Oil Leasing on Public Lands

Take a drive through the vast landscapes of the West anywhere between the Great Plains and the Pacific Ocean and much of the land you see, whether it’s the Grand Canyon or a Wyoming oil field, will be owned by the public and managed by the federal government.

Many of the 582 million acres governed by four federal agencies in 11 western states and Alaska are as rich in fossil fuels and renewable energy as they are biologically diverse and scenic, and that presents a challenge to the Obama administration as the planet warms.

Read the full Climate Central story here or in Scientific American here

How Do We Reconcile Gap Between Climate Policy and Coal Leasing?

At a time when climate scientists are warning with increasing urgency that many fossil fuel resources must be left in the ground, the federal government is leasing publicly-owned land and minerals for coal mining at an increasing rate, especially in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. It’s happening even as the White House finalizes the Clean Power Plan, which will regulate coal-fired power plant emissions, and the president prepares to travel to Paris, where he will pledge to slash the United States’ carbon emissions to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

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Boston’s Got Gas as Methane Seeps from City

The stink gives it away. Spend half a day walking the streets of New York, Los Angeles or Boston and the occasional whiff of rotten eggs makes it clear that natural gas is leaking from somewhere.

Just as oil and natural gas fields have been found to be emitting more methane than official government estimates suggest, a new study shows that more methane than previously thought may be leaking from the other end of that system — cities, where people actually use natural gas for heating and cooking.

Continue reading at Climate Central. 

7 Things to Know about the EPA's Methane Limits

The Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan featured three major measures to tackle climate change: Reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, prepare the nation for the effects of climate change and work with other countries to address global warming. Calling for sweeping reductions in methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, the Obama administration announced the next step in making good on the Climate Action Plan on Jan. 14.

The oil and gas industry is a major source of methane emissions, and calling for regulations placing caps on them is the administration’s biggest effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the industry. Click here to learn about the seven most important things to know about the EPA's proposed emissions reductions. 

Evidence Mounts that Fossil Fuels Extraction Causes Earthquakes

The list of environmental challenges fossil fuels development poses is a long one: Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, has been found leaking from oil and gas operations all over the country. Trains that carry crude oil from fields in North Dakota are prone to dangerous derailments. Fracking uses a lot of water in arid regions, and water contamination from fracking has long been a concern of people living near energy development.

The Stanford study, published in August in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources, also addresses another shaky issue about fossil fuels development that comes amid a flurry of new research connecting the same dots: Oil and gas operations, including fracking, can cause earthquakes. Some of themcan destroy homes and injure people.

Read more at Climate Central here

Satellite Spies Methane Emissions Hot Spot Over Four Corners Gas Field

The largest concentration of methane emissions seen in the U.S. over the past decade has been detected by satellite over the the most active coal-bed methane production area in the country — the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona, according to a new study published Thursday.

The hotspot, which predates the current hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, boom in the region, is over the San Juan Basin, where energy companies have been drilling and producing natural gas from methane deposits found in underground coal seams for many years. The natural gas is composed of more than 95 percent methane. 

Read more here at Climate Central. 

The Drought Is Drying Up California's Hydropower

As California’s historic drought dries up the state’s water supplies and withers its crops, it’s also shaking up the way electricity is produced there.

There’s so little water available in the state’s reservoirs that California’s ability to produce hydropower has been cut in half, while its use of renewables and natural gas power has spiked, a U.S. Energy Information Administration report published Monday shows.

Read the full story at Climate Central here. 

Is Bike Sharing As Climate Friendly As It Seems? It's Complicated.

In Oklahoma, where modern bike sharing began, they’re called Tulsa Townies. In New York, they’re CitiBikes. In Denver, bike sharing is called B-Cycle. In Washington, D.C., the program is Capital Bikeshare.

These brightly colored bikes and their riders, often seen braving a gauntlet of impatient taxis, city buses and delivery trucks in dense urban areas, are nearly ubiquitous in these cities, granting commuters the freedom to leave their cars behind and get to their destination on their own schedule without having to walk far or take a bus or train.

Read the full story here at Climate Central.