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Rick Santorum Thinks Carbon Dioxide Isn't Harmful to Plants? Tell That to a Plant

In reality, high carbon levels are life-threatening to plants.


Rick Santorum, who could be the Republican nominee for president, doesn’t believe in climate change. On Monday, he scoffed at the idea: “The dangers of carbon dioxide? Tell that to a plant, how dangerous carbon dioxide is,” he said in a speech.

But if Santorum did sit down for a heart-to-heart with a plant or (more practically) the scientists who study them, they would tell him that carbon dioxide is not only dangerous to many plants, it’s life-threatening. Plants do need carbon dioxide to breathe, as Santorum implied, and increased concentrations can help them thrive—until the negative effects of climate change set in. Then they must deal with rising temperatures, thriving insects and fungi, and water shortages. For plants, these aren’t inconveniences, but hazards that could kill off huge swaths of the world's flora in a matter of years.


These scourges already are contributing to massive forest die-offs. In Alaska, almost 500,000 acres of yellow cedar trees—which generally live for more than 1,000 years—have died. In the western United States, so many huge swaths of aspens have shriveled up that scientists coined a name for the condition, Sudden Aspen Decline. (Yes, that’s SAD.) Researchers have predicted that up to 85 percent of the Amazon rainforest could disappear.

In the areas where yellow cedars live, for instance, the snow pack has been declining for years. Snow acts as an insulator for soil: Once it’s down on the ground, it traps heat underneath it, like a blanket spread over a bed. When snow melts, the ground can grow colder than it would otherwise, as it’s exposed for longer to lower winter temperatures. The roots of yellow cedars are sensitive to the cold, and without a blanket of snow to protect them, they freeze and die.

The aspens have succumbed to a plague of mountain pine beetles. The beetles have feasted on trees for decades, but their life span was short and the damage to the forest manageable. Warmer temperatures have extended their lifespans and made it possible for more than one generation of beetles to attack trees each year. Meanwhile, drought weakened the tree’s resilience.

A carbon-filled atmosphere will help insects like these multiply in numbers and destructiveness. One of the most chilling descriptions I’ve come across about what rising temperatures could mean is this passage from A Great Aridness, William deBuys’ book on climate change in the Southwest. Describing a bark beetle population taking over during a particularly warm year, deBuys writes, “You could walk among the piñons and hear a faint mechanical drone, as of a thousand tiny chisels rhythmically chipping away. It was hordes of beetles, tunneling and feeding.”

These are the dangers of carbon dioxide—for plants, and for the people who depend on them to survive. Forests provide timber. Plants provide food. Climate change will mean that the places we’ve come to depend on to grow corn, potatoes, and cassava won’t be able to support those crops anymore. The rainforest will melt into savannah. But try telling that to Rick Santorum—or Mitt Romney, or Newt Gingrich, or any politician who's downplayed climate change—how dangerous carbon dioxide can be.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

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Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

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Politics
Pixabay

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

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Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Cocostation

Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger

Dizaul

Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head

Speakman

Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor

Zomchi

Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

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