Emails Show Monsanto Orchestrated GOP Effort to Intimidate Cancer Researchers
Roundup weed killing products on May 14, 2019. Photo Illustration: Scott Olson/Getty Images
In 2015 the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, classified glyphosate, an active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, as a “probable carcinogen,” setting off a global debate about the world’s most popular weedkiller.
Over the last four years, Republicans in Congress have excoriated and pushed to defund the IARC, casting their defense of the chemical as a quest on behalf of small American farmers. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., has written that his outrage over the cancer research is on behalf of the “farmers and food manufacturers who rely on traditional farming methods to produce the food that fuels America — and the world.”
But according to a recent trove of documents, the ongoing political assault on the IARC has been scripted in part by Monsanto, the St. Louis-based chemical and seed conglomerate that produces Roundup and Roundup-resistant crops.
Roundup has been cash cow for the company since the 1970s, fueling billions of dollars in annual profits. Its use has skyrocketed in recent decades since the company developed genetically modified corn and other crops that are resistant to it; it is now the world’s leading herbicide. 08-23-19
As the climate warms up, cool summer evenings are becoming a distant memory.
Every summer until fifth grade, my family took the same vacation to the same town on the Jersey Shore. The days were about as idyllic as possible: lots of sunshine, elaborate sandcastles, afternoon pizza from a few blocks away. At bedtime, when the breeze came in off the ocean, we turned off the cranky AC unit in the living room and cracked the windows. I laid in the top bunk in the salt-clean air and listened. And I’m not sure if the sound I heard—a gentle whoosh that rose and fell—came from the ocean or the street. Half-remembered waves, it turns out, arrive and depart at the same pace as light-controlled traffic. Growing up in New Jersey, you learn that a very thin barrier separates the human world from the natural world.
Last summer, my family went back to the same shore town. Without giving it much thought, I looked forward to that old rhythm of hot days and cool evenings, of falling asleep with the windows open, with the Atlantic breeze sneaking in and the lulling patter of waves (or cars) outside. But we were there for two weeks, and we opened the windows at night only once. Even at midnight, temperatures hung in the high-70s Fahrenheit, and the humidity made it feel even hotter.
This wasn’t some fluke. It was happening across the entire Northeast.
Something odd happened in August 2018, the same month my family was down the shore. Five states—Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire—notched their hottest August ever measured. Three more states, including New Jersey, recorded their second-warmest August ever. And in fact, every state from Maryland to Maine had at least a top-10 warm August.
Yet there was no severe heat wave last August, nothing like the rash of searing 110-degree highs that helped turn this July into the hottest month ever measured. And if you went purely off the most memorable temperatures—the scorching midday highs that can prompt heat stroke—then last August may have seemed bad, but not entirely without precedent. Ranked just by their daytime high temperatures, August 1980, 1995, and 2001 would all come before August 2018. 08-21-19
Boston’s Eastie Farm Builds Community and Resilience on the Front Lines of Climate Change
Kannan Thiruvengadam checking the plants at Eastie Farm.
Sprouting from a 3100-square-foot lot, the urban farm brings people together, feeds neighbors, and focuses on being climate-ready.
On a hot afternoon, Kannan Thiruvengadam is checking the water level in rain barrels at the small community farm he helped create. He stops to chat with a visitor, Jessica Ventura, who grew up in the house next door, but has since moved away. As they reminisce, Thiruvengadam points to a hand-painted wooden sign (pictured above) that Ventura’s grandfather, a Salvadoran immigrant, had given him. It reads, in English and Spanish, “The only thing we all have in common is the earth.”
That message reflects one of Thiruvengadam’s core goals in founding Eastie Farm four years ago—using food as a vehicle for bringing together neighbors who might not otherwise know one another to hang out, do something productive, and build community resilience in a city vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal flooding. Thiruvengadam, who grew up in southern India outside of Chennai, says he hopes that people will get to know each other so well through Eastie that they’ll give each other a hand in times of emergency.
Already, hundreds of nearby residents face regular flooding, according to the neighborhood resilience plan produced as part of the Climate Ready Boston effort, and within 50 years, half of East Boston—which is built on five islands connected by landfill and surrounded on three sides by water—will be at risk for flooding during a major storm.
About 56 percent of East Boston residents are Latinx who followed the first immigrant wave to the neighborhood from Italy a century ago. East Boston community activist Chris Marti says the neighborhood needs environmental justice because its proximity to the airport and its industrial waterfront “block access to clean air and water.” 08-21-19
Study Finds Farm-Level Food Waste is Much Worse Than We Thought
Unharvested crops dramatically bump up estimates of U.S. food waste. But some farmers—who get demonized for working within a system they didn’t create—are seeking solutions to get that food to market.
Last year, Cannon Michael left over 100 acres of ripe cantaloupes unharvested. The sixth generation grower could not justify paying workers to pick them all because the cost of labor, packing, and, shipping would have been more than the price he could get for the fruit.
And so, he left about 30 percent of his perfectly edible cantaloupes to decompose and get churned back into the ground.
“It was very frustrating to grow a high-quality product and have to leave it in the fields,” said Michael, the president/CEO of Bowles Farming Company, which grows 300 to 400 acres of cantaloupes in Los Banos, California, every season, in addition to hundreds of acres of watermelon, tomatoes, and cotton. “If the pricing drops,” due to oversupply or other reasons, said Michael, “there’s a certain economic threshold that just doesn’t justify harvesting the crop.”
Michael’s experience, it turns out, is fairly typical. According to a new ground-breaking study about on-farm food loss from Santa Clara University, a whopping one third of edible produce—or 33.7 percent—remains unharvested in the fields and gets disked under. This is a much larger percentage than previously reported—and it may end up dramatically increasing the current estimate of overall food waste in the U.S.—which until now has been long tallied at 40 percent. 08-20-19
The Bruce Mansfield power plant near Shippingport, Pa., is a major carbon emitter that will be shuttered this year. Clarence Holmes/agefotostock/Newscom
When the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona shuts down later this year, it will be one of the largest carbon emitters to ever close in American history.
The giant coal plant on Arizona’s high desert emitted almost 135 million metric tons of carbon dioxide between 2010 and 2017, according to an E&E News review of federal figures.
Its average annual emissions over that period are roughly equivalent to what 3.3 million passenger cars would pump into the atmosphere in a single year. Of all the coal plants to be retired in the United States in recent years, none has emitted more.
The Navajo Generating Station isn’t alone. It’s among a new wave of super-polluters headed for the scrap heap. Bruce Mansfield, a massive coal plant in Pennsylvania, emitted nearly 123 million tons between 2010 and 2017. It, too, will be retired by year’s end (Energywire, Aug. 12).
And in western Kentucky, the Paradise plant emitted some 102 million tons of carbon over that period. The Tennessee Valley Authority closed two of Paradise’s three units in 2017. It will close the last one next year (Greenwire, Feb. 14).
“It’s just the economics keep moving in a direction that favors natural gas and renewables. Five years ago, it was about the older coal plants becoming uneconomic,” said Dan Bakal, senior director of electric power at Ceres, which works with businesses to transition to clean energy. “Now, it’s becoming about every coal unit, and it’s a question of how long they can survive.” 08-16-19
Coral Gables, a small city of 51,000 people just south of Miami, wants to ban polystyrene from restaurants and grocery stores. The Florida Retail Federation does not, and an appeals court ruling delivered yesterday says they can keep the plastic product, in part thanks to a 2016 state rule that prevents cities from regulating how polystyrene is used.
The court battle demonstrates how cities and states are increasingly clashing over whether it’s legal to ban plastic.
California, New York, and hundreds of municipalities in the U.S. ban or fine the use of plastic in some way. Seventeen other states, however, say it’s illegal to ban plastic items, effectively placing a ban on a ban. This kind of legal maneuvering is booming. Four states created preemptions this year alone with two only narrowly failing in South Carolina and Alabama.
Often, efforts to preempt plastic bans are aided by the plastics industry, which wants to ensure its products remain widely used.
“First and foremost, we represent the manufacturers of plastic retail bags,” says Matt Seaholm, executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a group affiliated with the plastics industry. “We engage at a local level to provide information to local officials on the merits of any type of an ordinance that is being proposed.”
Seaholm said the industry is also looking out for local retailers. He adds plastic bans drive up costs, impose confusing regulations, and put in the hands of the government a decision that should be made by consumers and business owners.
Often partnering with local retail and restaurant associations, the industry is at odds with environmental groups that say single-use plastic must be urgently addressed.
“The plastic industry is putting a lot of their money on preemption, and they’re winning,” says Jennie Romer, an attorney at the Surfrider Foundation, a group that advocates for pro-environment policies. 08-15-19
What Would a City-Level Green New Deal Look Like? Seattle’s About to Find Out
“Climate change is one of the gravest threats we face and the solutions to climate change must also be solutions that address income inequality and racial inequity,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said.
The next step is turning the City Council’s resolution into pro-climate policies and finding ways to pay for them. Seattle has a few big ideas.
City leaders launched Seattle on the path to a Green New Deal this week, passing a resolution that starts laying out an ambitious plan for how the city can cut its greenhouse gas emissions in ways that protect the climate and improve the lives of its residents.
It’s a nonbinding resolution, and like the national Green New Dealmanifesto that’s being promoted by Democrats in Congress, presidential hopefuls and the young activists in the Sunrise Movement, it’s still mostly aspirational.
But it begins to sketch out a roadmap for Seattle’s future as the city tries to both adapt to climate change and cut emissions in line with what the world’s scientists say is needed.
The resolution envisions free public transit, a limit on new fossil fuel construction, 100 percent electric vehicles for ride sharing, and an infrastructure plan that takes sea level rise into account, among other ideas.
The big question confronting city officials and environmentalists now is how to begin implementing—and paying for—many of these initiatives. There are hints within the resolution, which mentions a congestion pricing plan to support low-income transit, using proceeds from a soda tax to promote healthy foods, and developing “green zones” to provide financing in neighborhoods that have historically borne the brunt of pollution. 08-15-19
22 states sue the Trump administration over its climate ‘plan’
Raphye Alexius / via Getty Images
Twenty-two states and seven cities sued the Trump administration on Tuesday over the Environmental Protection Agency’s new plan for power plants. The lawsuit alleges that the so-called Affordable Clean Energy rule would accelerate the impacts of the climate crisis and impose health and safety risks on Americans.
The challenge — led by the states of New York, Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and the cities of Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia — comes two months after the EPA finalized the plan. The new rule replaced the Obama-era Clean Power Plan that set ambitious goals aimed at weakening carbon emissions coming from power plants. It gives a bit more elbow room to coal-powered stations and allows older ones to stay open longer.
“The science is indisputable; our climate is changing,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a tweet. “Ice caps are melting. Sea levels are rising. Weather is becoming more and more extreme. That’s why we are fighting back.” 08-13-19
The changes would make it easier to remove species from the list, end the blanket rule giving threatened species the same protections as endangered ones, allow regulators to assess the economic impacts of protecting a species and give the government major leeway in how it interprets the phrase “foreseeable future.” This last change is relevant to species threatened by the climate crisis, since many of its effects may be decades away.
Interior Secretary and former energy lobbyist David Bernhardt claimed the changes would increase transparency.
“The act’s effectiveness rests on clear, consistent and efficient implementation,” he said in a statement reported by The New York Times. 08-13-19
Trump Pushed for Mining Project That Could Destroy Alaska Salmon Ecosystems, Despite EPA Opposition
“Gold over life, literally.”
That was the succinct and critical reaction of Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein to reporting on Friday that President Donald Trump had personally intervened — after a meeting with Alaska‘s Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy on Air Force One in June — to withdraw the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA‘s) opposition to a gold mining project in the state that the federal government’s own scientists have acknowledged would destroy native fisheries and undermine the state’s fragile ecosystems.
Based on reporting by CNN that only emerged Friday evening, the key developments happened weeks ago after Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Dunleavy — who has supported the copper and gold Pebble Mine project in Bristol Bay despite the opposition of conservationists, Indigenous groups, salmon fisheries experts, and others.
In 2014, the project was halted because an EPA study found that it would cause “complete loss of fish habitat due to elimination, dewatering, and fragmentation of streams, wetlands, and other aquatic resources” in some areas of Bristol Bay. The agency invoked a rarely used provision of the Clean Water Act that works like a veto, effectively banning mining on the site.
“If that mine gets put in, it would … completely devastate our region,” Gayla Hoseth, second chief of the Curyung Tribal Council and a Bristol Bay Native Association director, told CNN. “It would not only kill our resources, but it would kill us culturally.” 08-12-19
Revealed: FBI and police monitoring Oregon anti-pipeline activists
Emails show the latest example of environmental groups facing increased surveillance by law enforcement
Dakota Access pipeline protesters in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photograph: Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Law enforcement groups, including the FBI, have been monitoring opponents of a natural gas infrastructure project in Oregon and circulated intelligence to an email list that included a Republican-aligned anti-environmental PR operative, emails obtained by the Guardian show.
The South Western Oregon Joint Task Force (SWOJTF) and its members were monitoring opponents of the Jordan Cove energy project, a proposal by the Canadian energy company Pembina to build the first-ever liquefied natural gas export terminal on the US west coast, as well as a new 232-mile pipeline that would carry fracked natural gas to the port of Coos Bay.
The Trump administration has named Jordan Cove as one of its highest-priority infrastructure projects. Jordan Cove opponents have raised concerns about the project’s significant environmental impacts, impacts on public lands, indigenous rights and climate change.
The emails, obtained via open records requests, reflect the increased scrutiny and surveillance to which law enforcement agencies are often subjecting indigenous and environmental groups, activists say. 08-08-19
Alarming Decline of Insect Population Linked to Toxic Pesticides in U.S. Agriculture
The rapid and dangerous decline of the insect population in the United States — often called an “insect apocalypse” by scientists — has largely been driven by an increase in the toxicity of U.S. agriculture caused by the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS One.
The study found that American agriculture has become 48 times more toxic to insects over the past 25 years and pinned 92 percent of the toxicity increase on neonicotinoids, which were banned by the European Union last year due to the threat they pose to bees and other pollinators.
Kendra Klein, Ph.D., study co-author and senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth, said the U.S. must follow Europe’s lead and ban the toxic pesticides before it is too late.
“It is alarming that U.S. agriculture has become so much more toxic to insect life in the past two decades,” Klein said in a statement. “We need to phase out neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bees and other insects that are critical to biodiversity and the farms that feed us.”
“Congress must pass the Saving America’s Pollinators Act to ban neonicotinoids,” Klein added. “In addition, we need to rapidly shift our food system away from dependence on harmful pesticides and toward organic farming methods that work with nature rather than against it.” 08-07-19
Low on water, California farmers turn to solar farming
Solar cell panels at California Valley Solar Ranch
If California is to meet its goal of running on 100-percent clean electricity by 2045, fields that once grew hay are going to have to start producing electrons. That’s according to a new report from The Nature Conservancy that estimates the state will need to cover an area at least twice as large as Yosemite National Park with solar panels and wind turbines.
That may seem like an ambitious ask, but the amount of California land devoted to renewable energy is already slated to grow exponentially. Part of the driving force is water scarcity: A state law now requires water regulators to figure out how to balance their accounts so that groundwater levels stop dropping. (For the past 50 years California has been pumping far more water out of the ground than filters back into aquifers.) To comply, farmers would have to stop irrigating at least half a million acres, according to a study by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.
Letting valuable land go unirrigated isn’t exactly appealing to many growers. But the Nature Conservancy report suggests a good chunk of that acreage could be used for solar and wind farms. The report states that between one-third and one-half of the space needed by the state for renewables could come from agricultural acres starved for water. 08-06-19
European climate researchers said Monday that last month was the hottest July — and thus the hottest month — ever recorded, slightly eclipsing the previous record-holder, July 2016. “While July is usually the warmest month of the year for the globe, according to our data it also was the warmest month recorded globally, by a very small margin,” Jean-Noël Thépaut, head of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, said in a statement.
The service, part of an intergovernmental organization supported by European countries, said the global average temperature last month was about 0.07 degree Fahrenheit (0.04 Celsius) hotter than July 2016.
The researchers noted that their finding was based on analysis of only one of several data sets compiled by agencies around the world. 08-05-19
What’s in the way of this Texas pipeline? A cute songbird.
The golden-cheeked warbler, an endangered songbird native to Central Texas, always seems to be flitting around controversy. It proved to be a roadblock derailing the Texas Department of Transportation’s plans to build a toll road in 2016. Prominent politicians in Texas say protections for the bird infringe on property rights. And in the last few years, the diminutive bird has survived multipleattemptsto remove it from the federal endangered species list.
Now the warbler is at the center of a fight between Kinder Morgan and landowners in the Hill Country who want to block the company’s proposed pipeline through the 25-county region. Last fall, Kinder Morgan unveiled plans to build the Permian Highway Pipeline, a 430-mile conduit capable of transporting 2.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Permian Basin in West Texas to the Gulf Coast. The pipeline route would cut right through some of the most pristine parts of the state, including vast swaths of oak-juniper woodlands, the warbler’s preferred habitat. It would also run over the Edwards Aquifer, a source of drinking water for more than two million people in Texas.
A group of Hill Country landowners, the Travis Audubon Society, and Hays County, part of the Austin metro area, recently notified Kinder Morgan that it plans to sue the company if it applies for federal permits to build the pipeline without an adequate plan to protect the warbler and other endangered species in the area. 08-05-19
Debate’s Attempt to Show Candidates Divided on Climate Change Finds Unity Instead
The Democrats may butt heads on climate policy details, but they all see growing risks to security, economy and health that the next president can’t ignore.
In two nights of debates that seemed designed to highlight divisions among the candidates, the Democratic presidential hopefuls this week managed to display remarkable unity in their proclaimed commitment to aggressive action on climate change.
Barbed questions posed by a CNN panel produced sharp wrangling over the details of universal health care, immigration and crime. But when it came to decarbonizing the economy, few hard and fast differences surfaced.
“We have all put out highly similar visions on climate,” said Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
Former Vice President Joe Biden sought to fend off the charge that his plan was “middling.” Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio envisioned a manufacturing future centered around the electric car. Sen. Kamala Harris of California called for adopting a Green New Deal and getting the country to carbon neutral by 2030.
Yes, some of the moderates don’t like the Green New Deal. And the left-leaning politicians were more vociferous in their denunciation of the fossil fuel industry, with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont accusing the corporations of “criminal activity that cannot be allowed to continue,” and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts vowing to take on a Washington that “works great for the oil companies, just not for the people worried about climate change.” 08-01-19
Pennsylvania power plant to stop coal ash pollution, pay $1 million fine
The Brunner Island plant near Harrisburg, long-criticized for pollution problems, will enter into a legal agreement to end water pollution from coal ash pits
The Brunner Island Generating Station, located on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, will be addressing leakage from several coal ash disposal sites that environmental groups allege is contaminating the river. (Dan Blood)
In a consent decree with four environmental groups, a large central Pennsylvania power plant has agreed to stop tainted water in its coal ash disposal sites from leaking into the Susquehanna River.
The Brunner Island Generating Station, located on the Susquehanna just south of Harrisburg, has agreed to close and excavate one of its active but leaking coal ash landfills and address leaks at seven other sites.
The plant also will be fined $1 million by the state Department of Environmental Protection, according to the consent decree to be filed today in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg. The fine is the largest ever involving coal ash disposal in Pennsylvania.
The consent decree involves Brunner Island owner Talen Energy and the environmental groups Environmental Integrity Project, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, PennEnvironment and the Waterkeeper Alliance.
A consent decree is a legal agreement that solves a dispute between two parties without the accused party admitting guilt.
For 58 years, Brunner Island has burned coal to generate enough electricity to continuously power 1 million homes. Beginning in 2016, the plant began producing some power with natural gas. As part of another lawsuit and consent decree in 2018 with The Sierra Club, which had alleged air and water pollution, the plant is to phase out coal power by the end of 2028. 07-31-19
Wait, 40 percent of white evangelicals support the Green New Deal?
Matt McClain / The Washington Post via Getty Images
In the 2016 presidential election, 81 percent of white evangelical Christians voted to elect President Trump. But this core base of the Republican Party, despite Fox News’ efforts, is more receptive to large-scale action to combat climate change than you might expect.
In fact, Christians from a wide range of denominations are calling for action. Catholics are building solar farms and talking to farmers about global warming. Progressive denominations have officially endorsed the Green New Deal. If this keeps up, the 70 percent of Americans who call themselves Christians could prove to be a catalyst for getting the country to take long-awaited climate action.
But it’s the openness to action among white evangelicals that might be the most surprising. Some 40 percent of white evangelicals support the progressive climate-justice-jobs resolution introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, according to a recent pollconducted by NPR, PBS Newshour, and Marist.
Many Christians are still skeptical of the climate movement, which has earned a reputation as secular (given that it’s based on, you know, science, like evolution) and of particular concern to Democrats (thanks, Al Gore). Their support for the Green New Deal is weak compared to that of most Americans, 63 percent of whom say they support it — on par with legalizing weed.
And about 28 percent of white evangelicals accept the scientific consensus that the Earth is warming because of human activity — the lowest among the major religious groups in the United States, according to a report from Pew Research in 2015. By contrast, 77 percent of Hispanic Catholics are on board with the scientific consensus. 07-29-19
A Storm Brews Over South Portland’s Oil Industry and Fumes From Its Tank Farms
South Portland has 120 giant petroleum storage tanks, including some the EPA has known for years were exceeding federal limits for pollutants. Many of those tanks are close to homes and schools. Credit: Sabrina Shankman
Activists in this coastal Maine city beat back a tar sands pipeline. Now, fearing for their community’s health, they’re rallying residents for a larger fight.
SOUTH PORTLAND, MAINE — The email arrives on a Wednesday afternoon. “I am writing to let you know that your air quality sample ‘grab canister’ will be available for pick up,” writes the city manager. I instantly feel like I’ve won the lottery. This is what I have been waiting for—word that it’s my turn to sample the air where I live.
And then I think about it, and realize this is a lottery I’d rather not have a ticket for.
As a parent in South Portland, Maine, it’s been hard not to worry about the air here. We always knew it stunk—an industrial stench would occasionally fill the skies outside our home, and especially near my kids’ daycare, and we sensed that it might have something to do with the 120 petroleum storage tanks around the city. But we focused more on the appeal of living here: proximity to Portland, to beaches, to good schools and a strong community.
Then we found out that some of those tanks had been issued violations by the EPA because they had the potential to emit twice their permitted limit of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Those nasty pollutants can trigger asthma attacks and cause headaches, and the worst of them can cause cancer.
Once we learned about that, I started worrying less about the smell as a nuisance and more about whether it might be making people sick. 07-30-19
In December of 2017, the administration provoked mass outrage with its decision to reduce Bears Ears by about 85 percent. The Bureau of Land Management — an agency of the U.S. Interior Department — published in the Federal Register on Friday a management plan for, as one critic put it, “the meager remnants of the original monument.”
“This administration’s management plan only reinforces its illegal action to steal huge swaths of land from the national monument so that oil and gas and mining companies can exploit the land,” Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) said in a statement Friday. “It puts sacred sites at risk of being lost forever.”
Haaland is an original co-sponsor of the Bears Ears Expansion and Respect for Sovereignty (BEARS) Act. The bill, introduced by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) in January, would not only protect the original land designated by former President Barack Obama, but also expand the monument to the full 1.9 million acres encompassing sacred artifacts and cultural resources that local tribes wish to protect. 07-29-19
Berkeley Approves Natural Gas Ban in New Buildings
Berkeley, California on Tuesday became the first U.S. city to approve a ban on natural gas hook-ups in all new residential buildings, a move that proponents argued is a needed step for all cities in the state if California is to meet its goal of shifting to net-zero carbon emissions from energy sources by 2045.
The ban was passed into law less than a week after the city council unanimously voted in favor of it and following vocal support for the measure from the public.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is running for president in the 2020 Democratic primary, and former California state controller Steve Westly were among the climate action advocates who praised the city’s decision as part of a growing movement of local governments “[leading] the way in the fight to defeat climate change.”
Berkeley city council member Rigel Robinson noted that the lawmakers voted on the ban just a year after the city declared a climate emergency.
“Many cities would be satisfied or content to just declare a climate emergency.” Robinson tweeted. “This is what acting on it looks like.” 07-25-19
“I think the big conclusion is that lowering the limits of air pollution could delay in the U.S., all together, tens of thousands of deaths each year,” study lead author and Imperial College London Prof. Majid Ezzati told CNN.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the current safe level of particulate matter at 12 microgram per cubic meter of air (μg/m3), but researchers still calculated tens of thousands of deaths for 2015, when particulate matter levels fell between 2.8 ug/m3 and 13.2 ug/m3 and were below 12 ug/m3 in all but four counties. They concluded that 2015 levels were linked to 15,612 heart or lung disease deaths in women and 14,757 in men. Overall, that led to a lower life expectancy of 0.15 years for women and 0.13 years for men.
CACES Director Allen Robinson said the study had important political implications. 07-24-19
Ohio Governor Signs Nuclear and Coal Bailout at Expense of Renewable Energy
Opponents fear the law will send the growing wind and solar industry to neighboring states while Ohio homeowners are stuck boosting old, uneconomical power plants.
In a year when several states have taken big steps to embrace a future that runs on renewable energy, Ohio is taking a leap in the opposite direction.
The Ohio legislature passed a measure Tuesday that cuts renewable energy and energy efficiency programs while adding subsidies for nuclear and coal-fired power plants—a policy cocktail that opponents say is backward-looking and harmful to the economy, consumers and the environment.
Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, signed the bill into law within hours.
Opponents were unable to match the political power of FirstEnergy Solutions, the owner of the state’s two nuclear plants, and its allies.
The new law is in line with Ohio’s recent history of hostility to renewable energy, while also making the state an outlier as several other states have increased their support for renewable energy, including plans to move to 100 percent carbon-free or renewable electricity, most recently in Maineand New York.
“This is one of the worst pieces of energy related legislation we’ve seen,” said Dan Sawmiller, Ohio energy policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. 07-23-19
E-commerce’s sustainability problem isn’t just the packaging
Freight and cargo ships move goods around the world — but also bring fumes and emissions. Shutterstock anek.soowannaphoom
With the click of a button, our groceries, clothes, personal care products, household items — just about anything — could arrive on our doorsteps in a neatly packaged cardboard box. It’s convenience, delivered. But at what cost?
What happens behind-the-scenes to get a package delivered to your door is taking a toll on our planet and our health. Freight is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases and a major source of local air pollution. The rise in e-commerce is a growing part of increased pollution and poor air quality.
The truth is, “free shipping” isn’t really free. We’re just paying for it in other ways.
More packages means more trucks, more trucks means more pollution
If you were to ask someone what the No. 1 environmental issue facing e-commerce was, chances are they’d say packaging. This makes sense — boxes are piling up in landfills and they generate enormous amount of waste. But another equally as important issue is worsening air pollution caused by long-distance shipping and last-mile delivery moved by trucks. The problem is, air quality is a difficult issue to grasp given that it’s invisible to the eye. Nonetheless, it’s a growing challenge and it needs to be solved. 07-23-19
From Atlantic City to Key West: 21 beach towns that will soon be under water
Ventnor City, New Jersey (Photo: AppalachianViews / Getty Images)
There are about 13,000 miles of coastline in the 48 contiguous United States, and by the end of the century, these contours will be greatly altered by climate change.
By the close of the 21st century, about 2.5 million properties worth $1.07 trillion, in cities and towns along the coastline will be at risk of chronic flooding, according to a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science advocacy organization. Chronic flooding, as defined by the scientists group, means flooding that occurs 26 times a year or more.
24/7 Tempo has identified the 21 beach towns in the United States that will soon be under water, based on data in the Union of Concerned Scientists report “Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods, and the Implications for US Coastal Real Estate.” Areas were ranked by the total number of homes that will be at risk of flooding by the year 2060.
Rising waters will have far-reaching implications for the economy. Apart from the impact on financial and real estate markets, town infrastructure such as roads, bridges, power plants, airports, public buildings, military bases, would be at risk of more frequent inundation.
Chronic flooding also will have a social impact as well, as beloved destinations holding memories of boardwalk strolls, young romance, crashing ocean waves, and greasy summer food are inundated with rising waters and could become virtually unlivable. 07-18-19
Trump’s EPA just gave a controversial pesticide the green light
When the pesticide DDT was finally banned in 1972 (thanks, Rachel Carson!), chlorpyrifos took its place. But one environmental win gave way to another public health problem: Studies showed that the new pesticide, used on crops like corn, soybeans, fruits, and also things like golf courses, was linked to cognitive problems in children. Under pressure from regulators, Dow Chemical voluntarily withdrew the pesticide for household use in 2000. That’s how nasty the stuff is.
For a while, it looked like President Obama was going to ban the pesticide. But then Donald Trump took office, and, in 2017, then-EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, lover of ballpoint pens and engraved coins, started the process of reevaluating the Obama-era decision.
In a controversial decision on Thursday, Trump’s EPA announced it will not banchlorpyrifos, angering public health advocates and environmental groups. The decision was announced the same day that the agency was required by law to respond to a lawsuit brought against the EPA by the League of United Latin American Citizens and other groups. The lawsuit argued that the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act directs the EPA to take the pesticide off the market if it is a risk to human health. 07-18-19
How fast can the political pendulum swing? Ask Maine.
Duane Jordan proposed erecting 11 wind turbines on his property near Waltham, Maine, but could not get approval for them until the new governor took office this year. Photo: Doug Struck
In a world of political hot takes and partisan outrage, it can feel as if an opposing politician or party is doing irreparable damage. But Maine shows how quickly and dramatically things can change.
Duane Jordan is a proud logger; so was his father and grandfather. But as the timber business slumped, Mr. Jordan figured he would put some of his land on the rugged Down East coast of Maine to good use by erecting 11 wind turbines to make electricity.
The governor of Maine for eight years, Republican Paul LePage, slapped a moratorium on wind turbines and viewed renewable energy, as one critic put it, as “an existential threat” to the state. He promoted fossil fuels, vetoed clean energy bills, tried to tear up environmental regulations, was alone among Atlantic coast governors to court offshore drilling, refused to issue voter-approved conservation bonds, and sought to tax vast protected forestland or open it to development. He also refused to put up signs to direct tourists to the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument designated by former President Barack Obama.
“He not only didn’t care about the environment, he was actively hostile toward it,” says a Democratic state senator, Brownie Carson.
Mr. LePage decamped the State House in January to move to Florida, after his frequent foil, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, was elected. In the whirlwind legislative session that ended last month, the Legislature passed and Governor Mills signed an unprecedented array of environmental bills. 07-17-19
California’s Wildfires Are 500 Percent Larger Due to Climate Change
“Each degree of warming causes way more fire than the previous degree of warming did. And that’s a really big deal.”
On a hot July evening last year, a rancher tried to use a hammer and stake to plug a wasp’s nest. The hammer slipped, a spark flew, and a patch of dry grass ignited, according to the Los Angeles Times. Within minutes, the brush fire fed on bone-dry conditions and became too big to control.
It soon merged with another blaze and became the Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest wildfire in California’s history. It burned almost half a million acres, or roughly 720 square miles, before it was finally extinguished four months later. It killed one firefighter and injured four.
Californians may feel like they’re enduring an epidemic of fire. The past decade has seen half of the state’s 10 largest wildfires and seven of its 10 most destructive fires, including last year’s Camp Fire, the state’s deadliest wildfire ever.
A new study, published this week in the journal Earth’s Future, finds that the state’s fire outbreak is real—and that it’s being driven by climate change. Since 1972, California’s annual burned area has increased more than fivefold, a trend clearly attributable to the warming climate, according to the paper.
The trend is dominated by fires like the Mendocino Complex Fire—huge blazes that start in the summer and feed mostly on timberland. Over the past five decades, these summertime forest fires have increased in size by roughly 800 percent. This effect is so large that it is driving the state’s overall increase in burned area. 07-16-19
World Hunger Rises with Climate Shocks, Conflict and Economic Slumps
A woman in Zimbabwe inspects a stunted cob in her dry maize field in March 2019. Eastern Zimbabwe has been struggling with drought-induced hunger. Credit: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images
An annual UN report shows an estimated 2 billion people now face moderate or severe food insecurity as the planet warms.
The combined forces of climate change, conflict and economic stagnation are driving more people around the world into hunger, reversing earlier progress, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported on Monday.
Although the numbers fluctuate as economies rise and fall, conflicts come and go, and climate emergencies intensify and recede, the prevalence of hunger remains stubbornly high. In 2015, rates of hunger began to rise after decades of progress, and while the rates have now stabilized, the overall number of undernourished people is still rising as the population expands.
The FAO estimates that 820 million people suffered from malnourishment, up from 785 million in 2015. Overall, nearly 2 billion people face either moderate or severe food insecurity, meaning they don’t have regular access to nutritious food, the FAO reports.
“Economic shocks are contributing to prolonging and worsening the severity of food crises caused primarily by conflict and climate shocks,” the FAO warns in the new report. 07-15-19
The Air Force polluted 4 SC bases with a toxic firefighting foam, didn’t tell neighbors
The Shaw Air Force Base water tower is seen on base on Monday, July 1, 2019 in Sumter County. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff By Andrew Whitaker [email protected]
Four Air Force bases in South Carolina are severely contaminated with chemicals that scientists continue to investigate for possible links to thyroid disease, pregnancy complications, and kidney and testicular cancers.
The man-made chemicals are from an industrial foam the military used to extinguish fires at bases since 1970 — a toxic legacy that has only recently come to light.
Three previously undisclosed studies obtained by The Post and Courier show Shaw Air Force Base, Joint Base Charleston, the North Auxiliary Airfield and the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base are all saturated with the compounds — known as PFOS and PFOA.
Some of the groundwater collected from the four sites contained chemical levels thousands of times higher than an advised limit laid out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
And at Shaw, in Sumter County, the study suggested the chemicals could leach into wells that provide drinking water to several nearby trailer parks.
“The groundwater in the area presents a potential hazard to human health,” warned the report commissioned by the Air Force. “Drinking water may be impacted.”
South Carolina isn’t the only state where these contaminants have raised serious concerns. The Department of Defense found similar pollution in at least 27 other states, including Florida, Georgia and Virginia.
And the list continues to grow.
Defense Department officials reported last year that nearly 400 Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force bases could be contaminated around the globe. And they noted that roughly 600 drinking water systems on or near military bases have already tested positive for significant levels of the pollutants. 07-13-19
Intelligence aide, blocked from submitting written testimony on climate change, resigns from State Dept.
Rod Schoonover’s decision to leave was voluntary, according to individuals familiar with the matter
A State Department intelligence official who was blocked by the White House from submitting written congressional testimony on climate change last month is resigning from his post.
Rod Schoonover — who worked in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research’s Office of the Geographer and Global Issues — spoke before the House Intelligence Committee on June 5 about the security risks the United States faces because of climate change. But White House officials would not let him submit the bureau’s written statement that climate impacts could be “possibly catastrophic,” after the State Department refused to cut references to federal scientific findings on climate change.
Individuals familiar with the matter, who asked for anonymity to speak frankly, said Schoonover is leaving voluntarily. But the incident that led to his departure underscores the extent to which climate science has become contested terrain under the current administration.
Andrew Rosenberg, who directs the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a phone interview Wednesday that federal experts should be free to provide their expertise with policymakers, even if it is at odds with the views of whoever occupies the Oval Office.
“This isn’t carrying forward your political opinions,” Rosenberg said. “This is bringing the work you’re hired to do in a policy setting.”
President Trump has repeatedly questioned the scientific consensus that human activity is driving recent climate change and that the planet’s warming poses a major security risk to the United States.
Asked about the matter Wednesday, a State Department official confirmed that Schoonover would step down Friday. 07-10-19
‘We won’: Environmental activists claim victory after Detroit incinerator closes
Citing poor air quality and environmental racism, residents of the majority Black neighborhood surrounding the plant had long fought for its closure.
The incinerator is seen in the distance from the street of a Detroit neighborhood. (photo by Cybelle Codish)
The recent shutdown of the largest municipal trash incinerator in the U.S. marks the end of a long-fought battle for a majority Black neighborhood that has for decades fought a constant stream of pollutants and pungent odors of trash.
Activists have spent decades fighting the incinerator, known as Detroit Renewable Power, which burned one million tons of solid waste from 13 counties in southeastern Michigan each year to create steam and electricity, according to Breathe Free Detroit.
“Most of the waste [came] from whiter, more affluent communities, placing the burden of disposal on a mostly African American, lower-income community — classic environmental racism,” said Kim Hunter, an environmental justice activist with Breathe Free Detroit.
Breathe Free Detroit is a campaign that collected nearly 15,000 petition signatures starting last year demanding Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan shut down the incinerator because of its link to air pollution.
The plant closed down March 27, though the threat of hazardous toxins still lingers within the residential area of the incinerator; the site serves as a transfer point for garbage shipments and will send waste to a nearby city. 07-09-19
Trump’s Misleading Speech on His Environmental Record Is a ‘True “1984” Moment’
President Donald Trump delivered a speech Monday on “America’s environmental leadership” that failed to even once mention climate change, The New York Times reported. The speech was also riddled with inaccuracies, as the president took credit for environmental achievements enacted by previous administrations and downplayed the impacts of his deregulatory agenda.
At one point, the doublespeak prompted Fox News host Shepard Smith to interrupt the broadcast to point out that many of Trump’s policies had been “widely criticized by environmentalists and academics,” HuffPost reported.
Smith then went on to list some of the more than 80 regulatory rollbacks the Trump administration has initiated, including the recent repeal of the Clean Power Plan that would have limited emissions from coal plants. 07-09-19
Energy audit inspires Virginia yogis to ‘stand up for something that’s important’
Yogaville leaders hope their investments in solar power send a message about opposing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Swami Dayananda talks with solar boot camp attendee Richard Walker at Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Union Hill. (photo by Elizabeth McGowan)
YOGAVILLE, Va. — Yogaville leaders were heartened when they learned five years ago that Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be buried a few miles from their property line in Buckingham County.
They figured having access to a cheap and abundant natural gas supply to power their 660-acre spiritual center along the banks of the James River would provide significant utility bill relief.
Their enthusiasm abated, however, when they found out locals weren’t allowed to tap into the energy resource. That discovery prompted them to organize a team that dug relentlessly into the carbon footprint of fossil fuels, their retreat’s own energy footprint and the far-reaching impact of pipeline infrastructure.
“It was eye-opening and prompted us to take a stance against a pipeline we didn’t want near us,” said Jeeva Abbate, director of Yogaville Environmental Solutions, an internal group abbreviated as YES. “But some of our visitors said they saw all of this no, no, no to the pipeline and the compressor station and asked if we could find a solution we could say yes to.”
That key question spurred not only the birth of YES, but also a link to the group Green Faith and an energy audit that revealed Yogaville’s campus was ideal for solar installations.
“When we saw the possibilities, that audit kind of became our Bible,” Abbate said. “This whole process has activated us to protect this pristine land.” 07-08-19
Stop building a spaceship to Mars and just plant some damn trees
When it comes to climate change research, most studies bear bad news regarding the looming, very real threat of a warming planet and the resulting devastation that it will bring upon the Earth. But a new study, out Thursday in the journal Science, offers a sliver of hope for the world: A group of researchers based in Switzerland, Italy, and France found that expanding forests, which sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, could seriously make up for humans’ toxic carbon emissions.
In 2018, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s foremost authority on climate, estimated that we’d need to plant 1 billion hectares of forest by 2050 to keep the globe from warming a full 1.5 degrees Celsiusover pre-industrial levels. (One hectare is about twice the size of a football field.) Not only is that “undoubtedly achievable,” according to the study’s authors, but global tree restoration is “our most effective climate change solution to date.”
In fact, there’s space on the planet for an extra 900 million hectares of canopy cover, the researchers found, which translates to storage for a whopping 205 gigatons of carbon. To put that in perspective, humans emit about 10 gigatons of carbon from burning fossil fuels every year, according to Richard Houghton, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, who was not involved with the study. And overall, there are now about 850 gigatons of carbon in the atmosphere; a tree-planting effort on that scale could, in theory, cut carbon by about 25 percent, according to the authors. 07-05-19
Booming LNG industry could be as bad for climate as coal, experts warn
Liquefied natural gas developments on a collision course with Paris agreement, Global Energy Monitor says
The booming liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry will play at least as big a role as new coal investments in bringing on a climate crisis if all planned projects go ahead, US-based energy analysts and campaigners say.
The report by the Global Energy Monitor appears at odds with comments by Australia’s emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, who has said the country could be proud that the rapidly expanding LNG export industry was displacing coal power overseas.
Government analysis identified LNG as the main reason Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have risen each year since 2015, but the minister and industry say Australian gas deserves credit for lowering global emissions.
The Global Energy Monitor, formerly known as CoalSwarm, is a US-based research and advocacy group that tracks fossil fuel development. It found there were US$1.3tn in planned LNG investments across the globe, including nearly $38bn in Australia, putting it fourth on a list behind the US, Canada and Russia. 07-02-19