Climate Point: Oil spills happen every day, and the public never knows

Welcome to Climate Point, your weekly guide to climate, energy and the environment. I'm Janet Wilson from Palm Springs, California.

As you've likely heard, a major oil spill despoiled Southern California's famed beaches this week. What's unnerving is even though a report of a plume 2 nautical miles long was called in by a ship in the area Friday evening, and satellites tracked its spread through the night, nothing was done in response until Saturday morning. Even then, throngs of beachgoers on a blazing hot day weren't told about it until that evening. And it turns out there are as many as a dozen spills reported just in California every day. I reported it out, along with the health risks, for USA Today.

Federal and state agencies are exploring potential criminal and civil charges, and the Department of Transportation's pipeline safety regulators already want to know why it took three hours for the company that owns the ruptured pipeline to shut it down. Amplify Energy's CEO was grilled by media Wednesday, but insisted no one there knew about the burgeoning spill until hours after many others did. USA Today's Christal Hayes and colleagues report on that, and much more. 

Baby with pacifier. New research showed infants have far higher levels of microplastics in their bodies than adults, possibly from pacifiers and other plastic products.


Oh baby.  Worrying research finds that babies have 15 times more microplastics in their bodies than adults. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic less than 5 millimeters in size, about the thickness of a coin. Scientists think the infants might be ingesting the plastic from pacifiers and other products designed especially for them, Jonny Walfisz reports for

Catastrophic. The world's coral reefs are dying fast, with more lost since 2009 than all the living coral in Australia, a major report released Tuesday shows. Some 14% of the planet's reefs have vanished, due primarily to climate change. While overfishing and pollution are also reasons for the decline, USA Today's Doyle Rice writes, it's the warmer ocean waters that are the deadliest hazard to coral. 

Skyscrapers. There's a new list out of the 50 cities emitting the most carbon dioxide across the planet. Topping them all? Tokyo, Japan, which emitted 70.13 million tons of CO2 equivalent, most of it from imported electricity. New York City, Seoul and other densely populated metropolitan areas also are in the top five, though to be fair, the review doesn't rank them per capita. Even so, others like Washington, D.C.; Hiroshima, Japan; and Denver, Colorado; emit far less, Liz Blossom reports for 24Wallst.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.


Inch by inch. Centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.,  on Tuesday signaled he's open to a budget reconciliation bill between $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion above the limit he set last week of $1.5 trillion. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema , D-Ariz., are still far apart from liberals such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who thought they had a deal to spend $3.5 trillion on President Biden’s human infrastructure package, but the two sides are inching closer.

As The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports, one major difference is Manchin’s insistence that natural gas be eligible for $150 billion in grants under a clean electricity program that is a core piece of the bill’s attempt to combat climate change. Power from natural gas still emits greenhouse gases, though less than coal. Enviros and other congressional Dems have slammed natural gas energy without carbon-capture technology as wholly unproductive to stopping global warming.

Do over.  The Biden administration plans to restore major provisions to a bedrock environmental law that were rolled back under President Donald Trump. The White House Council on Environmental Quality announced Wednesday that it plans to restore the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impact of projects such as the construction of mines, highways, water infrastructure and gas pipelines, Ella Nilsen reports for CNN.

Italian theoretical physicist Giorgio Parisi speaks to journalists as he arrives at the Accademia dei Lincei, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, in Rome, after being awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize for Physics, together with Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann, by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm.


Noble work. Nobel Prizes in physics and in chemistry were awarded this week for work with environmental implications, per AP's David Keyton and Frank Jordans. The physicists helped decipher chaotic climate models, and the chemists figured out a way to produce molecules used in medicines, pesticides and other products more cheaply, safely and with far less hazardous waste. 

“It’s already benefiting humankind greatly,”Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, a member of the Nobel panel, said of the molecule design. She called it a “truly elegant tool.”

Nelson Cruz, 41, a slugger for the Tampa Bay Rays who took part in a 2019 cleanup, is one of many baseball players increasingly concerned about climate and the environment.


Batting clean up. As climate change heats up outdoor baseball and thousands of plastic water bottles pile up at games, players on several teams are forming alliances and initiatives to tackle emissions, plastic waste and more. Sometimes it comes down to chiding a fellow player for not using a refillable bottle — gently. The New York Times' James Wagner keeps score. 

That's all for this week. May your favorite baseball team win the playoffs, and for more climate, energy and environment news, follow me @janetwilson66. You can sign up to get Climate Point in your inbox for free here.