UN warns of global failure to tackle hazards – with risks ranging from cancer to coral damage
A chemicals factory in China, which is forecast to account for almost half the world market in synthetic chemicals by 2030. Photograph: Ryan Tong/EPA
Sales of synthetic chemicals will double over the next 12 years with alarming implications for health and the environment, according to a global study that highlights government failures to rein in the industry behind plastics, pesticides and cosmetics.
The second Global Chemicals Outlook, which was released in Nairobi on Monday, said the world will not meet international commitments to reduce chemical hazards and halt pollution by 2020. In fact, the study by the United Nations Environment Programme found that the industry has never been more dominant nor has humanity’s dependence on chemicals ever been as great.
“When you consider existing pollution, plus the projected growth of the industry, the trends are a cause for significant concern,” said Achim Halpaap, who led the 400 scientists involved in the study.
He said the fastest growth was in construction materials, electronics, textiles and lead batteries. More and more additives are also being used to make plastics smoother or more durable.
Depending on the chemical and degree of exposure, the risks can include cancer, chronic kidney disease and congenital anomalies. The World Health Organization estimated that the burden of disease was 1.6 million lives in 2016. Halpaap said this was likely to be an underestimate. In addition to the human health dangers, he said chemicals also affect pollinators and coral reefs. 03-12-19
Read more at The Guardian
How America’s food giants swallowed the family farms
Barb Kalbach on the land she and her husband farm. Photograph: Scott Morgan/The Observer
Across the midwest, the rise of factory farming is destroying rural communities. And the massive corporations behind this devastation are now eyeing a post-Brexit UK market.
When the vast expanse of rural Iowa was carved up for settlers in the 19th century, it was often divided into 160-acre lots. Four farms made a square mile, with a crisscross of dead-straight roads marking the boundaries like a sprawling chess board.
Within each square, generations of families tended pigs and cattle, grew oats and raised children, with the sons most likely to take over the farm. That is how Barb Kalbach saw the future when she left her family’s land to marry and begin farming with her new husband, Jim, 47 years ago.
“When we very first were married, we had cattle and calves,” she says. “We raised hogs from farrow to finish, and we had corn, beans, hay and oats. So did everyone around us.”
Half a century later, Kalbach surveys the destruction within the section of chessboard she shared with other farms near Dexter in southwestern Iowa. Barb and Jim are the last family still working the land, after their neighbours were picked off by waves of collapsing commodity prices and the rise of factory farming. With that came a vast transfer in wealth as farm profits funnelled into corporations or the diminishing number of families that own an increasing share of the land. Rural communities have been hollowed out. 03-09-19
Read more at The Guardian
‘They chose us because we were rural and poor’: when environmental racism and climate change collide
‘It was an awakening, showing the country that race and class play a part in who has to live near toxic waste.’ Illustration: Eiko Ojala
The environmental movement has a long history in America’s south – yet people of color and impoverished communities continue to face dangerous pollution
It doesn’t surprise me that the environmental justice movement began in the south, a place where, historically, the pressure of injustice builds until it explodes into organized resistance.
The Warren, North Carolina, protests of 1982 are considered one of the earliest examples of the environmental justice movement. A manufacturer of electrical transformers dumped tons of cancer-causing PCB waste along 240 miles of North Carolina’s highways. When it came time for the clean up, the North Carolina government chose Warren – a small, predominantly African American town – for the toxic waste facility.
There were weeks of protests and over 500 arrests. It was an awakening, showing the country that race and class play a part in who has to live near toxic waste.
I spoke with Almena Myles, one of the protesters. Even 30 years later, the incident has left a mark. “I learned why we were targeted. They chose us because we were rural and poor and they thought we couldn’t fight it,” she told me. “They thought we wouldn’t understand. It was a crash course in advocacy. We felt we had stepped back in time, like it was the 1960s all over again and we had to fight for our rights as if it was the civil rights movement.”03-08-19
Read more at The Guardian
How Much Would Trump’s Climate Rule Rollbacks Worsen Health and Emissions?
Using government data, a new analysis adds up the harm to humans and the climate from scrapping 6 greenhouse gas rules involving cars, power plants and oil and gas.
A second report says the Trump administration’s decision to reverse course on a broad range of climate initiatives threatens to waste taxpayer dollars, too. Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
The Trump administration’s efforts to undo rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gases would lead to a rise in annual emissions of more than 200 million metric tons by 2025 and thousands more American deaths, according to a report from New York University Law School.
The added pollution would be equivalent to 44 million more cars driven every year or the burning of enough coal to fill more than 1 million railcars, the authors wrote in “Climate and Health Showdown in the Courts.”
The report, released Tuesday, homes in on six rules the administration has either tried to suspend or has announced plans to roll back, then calculates the possible damage based on data from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department. The regulations include:
- The Clean Power Plan, which would cut emissions from electric utilities;
- Clean car standards, which would boost fuel efficiency and reduce emissions from passenger vehicles;
- Glider truck pollution rules, which would close a loophole used by freight-hauling trucks with super-polluting rebuilt engines;
- Methane standards for new and existing oil and gas sites, which would reduce emissions of the highly potent short-lived climate pollutant;
- Methane reductions on federal lands, which would reduce venting and flaring of natural gas on property leased to oil and gas companies by the Interior Department, and
- Landfill methane rules, which would cut emissions from municipal waste dumps. 03-06-19
Read more at Inside Climate News
A look into Big Oil’s fight against electric cars
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) opposes the electric vehicle tax credit. Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Last November, oil industry representatives huddled with conservative state lawmakers at a hotel a few blocks from the White House.
The gathering was a covert affair. Reporters were barred from the room. Attendees cast votes in secret.
The meeting was organized by the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative bill-writing group. A topic of discussion was the federal electric vehicle tax credit, which allows people who purchase EVs to receive up to $7,500 after filing their tax returns.
Representatives of the oil industry — including those from Marathon Petroleum Corp., the nation’s largest refiner — spoke out against the tax credit, according to people in the room. The attendees ultimately voted to support a resolution calling for Congress to scrap the popular subsidy.
The resolution was largely symbolic. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) had already introduced legislation that year to kill the EV tax credit and impose a new fee on people who drive EVs.
Still, the episode showcased the oil industry’s pushback on a key trend in the transportation sector: the rise of electrification. 03-04-19
Read more at E&E News
Europe’s renewable energy policy is built on burning American trees
Biomass energy, in the form of wood pellets, is inadvertently making the climate crisis worse.
In the lowland forests of the American southeast, loblolly pines and cypress trees are grabbing carbon dioxide from the air right now. Using power from the sun, they release the oxygen and bind the carbon, building trunks, barks, and leaves.
But much of that carbon won’t stay there. As it turns out, millions of tons of wood from these forests each year are being shipped across the Atlantic, and burned in power plants in countries like the UK and the Netherlands, in the name of slowing climate change.
As they steadily wean themselves off coal, European Union nations are banking on wood energy, or “biomass,” to meet their obligations under the Paris climate agreement.
That’s because in 2009, the EU committed itself to 20 percent renewable energy by 2020, and put biomass on the renewables list. Several countries, like the United Kingdom, subsidized the biomass industry, creating a sudden market for wood not good enough for the timber industry. In the United States, Canada, and Eastern Europe, crooked trees, bark, treetops, and sawdust have been pulped, pressed into pellets, and heat-dried in kilns. By 2014, biomass accounted for 40 percent of the EU’s renewable energy, by far the largest source. By 2020, it’s projected to make up 60 percent, and the US plans to follow suit. 03-04-19
Read more at Vox