John Upton is a freelance journalist specializing in science, climate, and the environment. He studied ecology and environmental science at James Cook University, Australia, and has a master’s degree in business. In California until 2012 he was a staff writer at the San Francisco Examiner and at the Bay Citizen, when the then-independent startup produced content for its own website and for the local pages of the New York Times.
Currently based in Delhi, Upton is a Panos South Asia Climate Change Award media fellow who files daily green news posts and occasional enterprise articles for Grist. He has contributed recently to the New York Times India Ink, Slate, Nautilus, Vice, 7×7 San Francisco, Modern Farmer and other outlets.
Upton’s main skills are reporting and writing, but he also has training and professional experience in photography, multimedia production and online video. He specializes in reporting on the environment and enjoys nothing more than writing about ecology (which is why this wonky wildlife blog exists). He has also reported extensively on politics, government and public infrastructure.
Apowerful but unpredictable force is rising in the battle over the future of the climate. It’s the type of powerful force that’s felt when 1.2 billion people clamor for more electricity—many of them trying to light, heat, and refrigerate their ways out of poverty; others throwing rupees at excessive air conditioning and other newfound luxuries. And it’s the type of unpredictable force that’s felt when the government of those 1.2 billion is in election mode, clamoring for votes by brazenly blocking progress at international climate talks.
Hundreds of millions of Indians live in poverty, wielding a tiny per-person carbon footprint when compared with residents of the West and coming out on top of environmental sustainability surveys. But the country is home to so many people that steady economic growth is turning it into a climate-changing powerhouse. It has developed a gluttonous appetite for coal, one of the most climate-changing fuels and the source of nearly two-thirds of the country’s power. India recently overtook Russia to become the world’s third-biggest greenhouse gas polluter, behind China and the United States. (If you count the European Union as a single carbon-belching bloc, then India comes in fourth).
India has been obstructing progress on international climate talks, culminating during the two weeks of U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations that ended Saturday in Warsaw. The Warsaw talks were the latest annual get-together for nearly 200 countries trying to thrash out a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Continue reading …
WTF is the IPCC? — Grist
You’re going to be hearing a lot about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change during the next couple of weeks. And then again in spurts during the coming year. The IPCC is the world’s foremost authority on — you guessed it — climate change. It’s the top cat, the big cheese, the heavyweight champion of the world community of climate experts.
So, WTF is it?
It’s a scientific group set up in 1988 by two divisions of the United Nations. The goal was to form a body that would provide policymakers with trusted, cutting-edge information about climate change.
Thousands of climate scientists from around the world volunteer their time to analyze and summarize the latest and best science. The result: Big, fat reports.
And now the IPCC is dropping its first big report in six years — a scientific inventory of the combined knowledge of all the brightest minds in climate science. Needless to say, climate skeptics are not too pleased at such a robust body of science coalescing before the world’s eyes. Continue reading …
I wake up and suck a bowl of charred asbestos through a dirty bong.
Well, that’s what it feels like most winter mornings when I open the door of the fourth-floor New Delhi apartment that I currently call home. Fog-drenched clumps of soot, ozone molecules, and microscopic bundles of nitrogen oxides flow down my trachea and into my chest, where some become lodged. Some of these particles might give me lung cancer. Others will enter my bloodstream, further inflaming old ankle and finger injuries. The airborne detritus puts me in danger of contracting bronchitis, asthma, a lung infection, even hypertension and dementia.
China’s appalling air quality made headlines around the world this winter. But people living in New Delhi and in dozens of other cities throughout the developing world consistently endure air with heavier loads of soot than do the residents of Beijing. While most Americans and Europeans now enjoy cleaner air than they did for much of the last century, air pollution is worsening in Asia, claiming millions of lives every year. Continue reading…
A Bold Plan to Reshape the Central Valley Flood Plain -- New York Times Bay Area
Jacob Katz stood shin-deep in a flooded rice paddy that is often dried out at this time of year. He thrust his hand into a writhing mass of baby salmon in his net and plucked three of the silver fry from the wind-whipped water’s surface.
In late January, five acres of this farmland in Yolo County was flooded and stocked with thousands of weeks-old Chinook salmon. It was the beginning of a three-year experiment that conservationists and government officials hope will provide scientific data to help guide a sweeping transformation of riverfront lands throughout the Central Valley, California’s prolific farming region. Continue reading…
Fear the Fungus -- Slate
Our single-celled ancestors darted around the world’s vast ocean a billion years ago, propelling themselves with tiny flagella tails and feeding on primitive plants, algae, and one another. Around this time, two groups of these ancient creatures branched into what would become two of life’s most successful kingdoms. One group developed into animals. The other became fungi. Animals and fungi both breathe oxygen and replenish their energy by eating food. Their cells are similar. The two closely akin kingdoms have occupied the Earth through most of their histories in an awkward fraternal tussle. When environmental conditions change quickly, fungi turn into opportunistic parricides, attacking and feasting on their enfeebled animal kin. Deadly fungi are thriving today amid environmental tumult, wiping out nests of bumblebees, colonies of bats, and hundreds of species of frogs.
And they are coming for us. Continue reading …
When Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest 60 years ago Wednesday, the mountaineers gazed over a view from the top of the world that had never been seen before.
The view has changed since that historic day. Pollution and rising mountain temperatures are relentlessly shearing away at the Himalayas’ frozen façade. Photographs taken around the time of the 1953 expedition show hulking ridges of ice that have since shrunk or disappeared.
Glaciers and snow are melting throughout the sprawling mountain range, which stretches across India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibetan China. The waning glaciers are leaving precarious mountainside lakes of cyan blue water in their wake. Continue reading …
Prisoners of the Cosco Busan – East Bay Express
When Liang Xian Zheng took a job working as the boatswain on the Cosco Busan, the seasoned seaman knew the $29.50-a-day gig would send him out to sea for six to ten months. He also knew it meant undertaking a wearisome 1,000-mile journey from his home in Beijing, China to the port of Busan in South Korea, where the container ship was based. But what Zheng couldn’t have known was that, two weeks after boarding the cargo ship and ably performing his duties as a lookout during a crisis, he would be trapped in a foreign land on an exotic legal warrant, in misery and legal purgatory, until months after his seafaring expedition was supposed to have ended. Continue reading…