‘Sin taxes’ to reverse the rapid global growth in meat eating are likely in five to 10 years, according to a report for investors managing over $4tn
The global livestock industry causes 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions and meat consumption is rising around the world, but dangerous climate change cannot be avoided unless this is radically curbed. Furthermore, many people already eat far too much meat, seriously damaging their health and incurring huge costs. Livestock also drive other problems, such as water pollution and antibiotic resistance.
A new analysis from the investor network Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (Fairr) Initiative argues that meat is therefore now following the same path as tobacco, carbon emissions and sugar towards a sin tax, a levy on harmful products to cut consumption. Meat taxes have already been discussed in parliaments in Germany, Denmark and Sweden, the analysis points out, and China’s government has cut its recommended maximum meat consumption by 45% in 2016. 12-11-17
We Can’t Talk About the Los Angeles Fires Without Talking About Climate Change
Wildfires are becoming more frequent and intense in the West.Fires have been ravaging Los Angeles and neighboring counties since Monday evening, scorching upwards of 83,000 acres of land. Flames have traversed the 405 and 101 highways, some of the routes that tens of thousands of evacuees need to leave their homes and flee to safety. California’s fire season often extends into the fall, but blazes this late in the year are unusual, Chief Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director of Calfire, told the New York Times. “In the last decade we’ve had more and more fires in the nontraditional fire season months, which really emphasizes the changing climate that we have here in California,” he said.
Indeed, climate change may be to blame for more common and more intense fires in the West. Two-thirds of California’s largest wildfires in the past century have occurred since 2002, according to Calfire.
Back in October, when fires seared Northern California’s Napa and Sonoma counties, my colleague Matt Tinoco explored the connection between the increasing number of wildfires every year and our warming climate. 12-6-17
Trump vs. Bears Ears: Outraged Native Groups Respond
The proclamation to remove more than a million acres from protection has been called everything from illegal to racist.
“Offensive.” “Illegal.” “Racist.” Those are just a few of the words used by Native American leaders and groups this week in response to President Trump’s plan to remove protections from 85 percent of the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument. Tribes have spent decades trying to protect the culturally and historically significant Utah landmark.
The long-rumored details of President Trump’s action — fulfilling vague promises he made back in May — were officially announced today at a heavily protested public event in Salt Lake City, Utah. “We got it done,” said the president during the event.
At the close of his speech, Trump signed two presidential proclamations to shrink both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by a total of more than 2 million acres and in the process carve up what remains into several smaller monuments. 12-4-17
How Climate Change Is Impacting the American West Right Now
Many studies have modeled future impacts from climate change, but scientists have shown that warming trends are already affecting water and ecosystems in the West.
We are now living in a time that’s the warmest in the history of modern civilization, according to the latest Climate Science Special Report, part of the National Climate Assessment. Global annual average surface temperatures have risen nearly 1.8F (1C) since 1901. Sixteen of the warmest years on record have taken place during the past 17 years.
Scientists have calculated future scenarios for the coming decades that include sea-level rise, more severe rainfall and an increase in the frequency of heatwaves. Some areas will get drier, others wetter. No matter what the future brings, one thing is clear: Impacts from a warming climate are already being felt across the American West, with changes to ecosystems and water supply.
Scientists have been documenting this for more than a decade. A study published in 2001 showed that spring in the Western U.S. was arriving earlier, as measured both hydrologically (based on snowmelt) and phenologically (based on plant behavior).
“That was a landmark paper because it was suddenly clear that things were already changing in response to warming,” said Philip Mote, a professor in the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University and director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute. “This was no longer something we were predicting would eventually happen but something that was already happening.” 12-4-17
Critics highlight Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s environmental justice impact
On September 15, 1982, high-profile protests over the siting of a toxic waste dump in Afton, North Carolina – an overwhelmingly African American town an hour northeast of Raleigh – set in motion a wave of reforms to prevent polluters from targeting people of color and the poor.
Thirty-five years later, North Carolina advocates say the $5-billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline deserves its own place in the environmental-justice history books – a distinction they believe could be its undoing.
“It deserves its own claim to shame,” said Therese Vick, who has worked for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League for 25 years.
Backed primarily by Duke Energy and Dominion Resources, the project would transport 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Marcellus Shale region to Virginia and North Carolina, hugging the I-95 corridor before ending in Robeson County.
In all but one county along the pipeline’s 180-mile route in North Carolina, African Americans, Native Americans and those living in poverty make up a greater percentage of the population than the statewide average. More than a quarter of the state’s Native Americans live along the project’s path.
Despite flagging 71 percent of the census tracts along the North Carolina pipeline route for ‘environmental justice concerns,’ federal regulators have given the project the green light – a move scores of groups are contesting. 12-1-17
A map of $1.1 billion in natural gas pipeline leaks
When a crude oil pipeline is ruptured, it’s bad news, particularly if the oil gets into water, where it’s likely to impact wildlife or drinking water supplies. But when a natural gas pipeline busts, it can be far worse because of the volatility of the fuel, which is made up mostly of methane. Leaked natural gas can’t be recovered, it can build up in enclosed spaces and explode, and it is a potent greenhouse gas, with at least 30 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over the long term.
Between January 2010 and November 2017, the nation’s natural gas transportation network leaked a total of 17.55 billion cubic feet of mostly methane gas. That’s enough to heat 233,000 homes for an entire year, and it’s got the same global warming potential as the carbon dioxide emitted from a large coal-fired power plant over the course of a year. Pipeline incidents took nearly 100 lives, injured close to 500 people and forced the evacuation of thousands during that time, while costing about $1.1 billion. 11-29-17
A Clue in the Bee Death Mystery
Insecticides are often blamed, but new signs point to another chemical.
Domesticated honeybees get all the buzz, but wild bumble bees are in decline too, both globally and here in the United States. What gives? It’s an important question, because while managed honeybees provide half of the pollination required by US crops, bumble and other wild bees deliver the other half.
Insecticides used in agriculture are one possible trigger—they exist to kill insects, after all, and bumble bees are insects. But a different kind of farm chemical, one designed to kill fungi that harm crops, has emerged as a possible culprit. A new study by a team of researchers led by Cornell University entomologist Scott McArt adds to the growing dossier of studies pinpointing fungicide as a potential bee killer (see here, here, and here).
In their paper, McArt and his team looked at two factors related to bumble bee decline. The first is that many bumble bee species appear to be confining themselves to ever smaller geographical regions—a phenomenon known as range contraction. The other is a microscopic parasite called Nosema bombi, which has turned up at high rates in bumble bee species known to be deteriorating. 11-29-17
Debunking Climate Change Myths: A Thanksgiving Conversation Guide
Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration Over New Elephant and Lion Trophy Policies, Still in Effect Despite Trump’s Tweets
The Center for Biological Diversity and Natural Resources Defense Council sued the Trump administration Monday for allowing U.S. hunters to import elephant and lion trophies from Zimbabwe. The lawsuit aims to protect animals and resolve confusion created by the administration’s contradictory announcements in recent days.
The suit comes days after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service abruptly reversed an Obama-era ban on elephant trophy imports based on catastrophic elephant population declines. Fish and Wildlife also recently greenlighted lion trophy imports from Zimbabwe, despite the controversial killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe in 2015.
After massive public outcry, including from established Republican politicians and pundits, President Trump and Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke announced a “hold” on issuing elephant trophy import permits late Friday night. President Trump suggested on Twitter that a new big-game trophy decision would be forthcoming. Unfortunately, the new federal policies allowing imports of elephant and lion trophies—referred to as “positive enhancement findings” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act—remain in effect.
“The Trump administration must clearly and permanently halt imports of lion and elephant trophies to protect these amazing animals from extinction,” said Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Trump’s abrupt backpedaling after public outcry, while appreciated, shows how arbitrary this deplorable decision was. These incredibly imperiled creatures need a lot more than vague promises.” 11-21-17
State largely ignores role as seas grow more acidic
Despite a bipartisan recognition of a threat to Maine’s shellfish industry, leadership on the issue has fallen to a group of concerned volunteers.
At last week’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Germany, an issue of vital importance to Maine fishermen and shellfish growers took the international spotlight: the increasing acidity of the sea, which is making it harder for some shellfish to grow their shells.
The governors of Washington state and Oregon joined the fisheries minister of Fiji, the meeting’s official host nation, to announce the expansion of a year-old international alliance to combat the problem. It now includes four states, two Canadian provinces and nine national governments.
Maine isn’t one of them, nor was anyone from Maine state government at the conference.
Nearly three years ago, a bipartisan panel of experts convened by the Legislature concluded that ocean acidification – a byproduct of global warming – represented a potentially catastrophic threat to Maine’s marine harvesters, and issued a series of recommendations for Maine policymakers to enact, many of them focused on closing the information gap about the threat.
But state government and legislators have done little to implement the panel’s recommendations. A Republican-sponsored bill to put a $3 million bond issue on the ballot that would have funded targeted data collection, monitoring, and assessments of the impact on wildlife and commercial fish species never got a floor vote, while lawmakers last year declined to endorse allowing the 16-member panel to continue its work. 11-19-17
Analysis: The metabolic legacy of environmental injustice
Strikingly, a growing body of research suggests that toxics may be partly to blame.
Diabetes is a global health crisis—more than 30 million individuals suffer from the disease in the U.S., and it is projected to afflict 642 million individuals worldwide by the year 2040.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease principally defined by elevated blood glucose levels. The consequences of prolonged elevations in blood sugar are devastating. Diabetes is the leading cause of adult blindness, kidney failure, and non-traumatic amputations in the U.S.
Furthermore, it is a potent contributor to cardiovascular disease, the leading killer among those with the disease. Diabetes is also an important contributor to healthcare costs, with estimates suggesting that 20 percent of all U.S. healthcare dollars are spent on those with the condition.
While a lack of physical activity and excess calorie consumption are known contributors, these factors alone fail to fully explain the scope of the epidemic. Thus, attention has turned to other factors that promote the development of high blood sugars. Over the course of the last decade, an expansive body of human, animal, and cellular evidence has implicated environmental toxics as potential contributors to diabetes risk. 11-20-17
Massive Pipeline Leak Shows Why Nebraska Should Reject Keystone XL
“Enough is enough. Pipelines leak—it’s not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when.’ The pending permit for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline should be flatly rejected by Nebraska’s Public Service Commission (PSC), but know that no matter what the outcome, the fight’s not over yet,” said Scott Parkin, Rainforest Action Netrwork‘s Organizing Director. “We need to stop all expansion of extreme fossil fuels such as tar sands oil—and we need the finance community to stop funding these preventable climate disasters—disasters for the climate, the environment and Indigenous rights.”
CNN reported that the spill occurred in the same county as part of the Lake Traverse Reservation. 11-17-17
Hog waste-to-gas: Renewable energy or more hot air?
On a school night in early spring, a rowdy collection of environmental activists, local residents, and Duke University faculty and students packed a public forum, railing against the school’s plan to build a new $55-million gas plant on campus.
For nearly three hours, speaker after speaker denounced fossil fuels, decried fracking, and inveighed against the state’s investor-owned utility. They begged the university to invest in a “sustainable future,” one filled with wind and solar power, not natural gas.
But Tim Profeta, the chair of Duke’s sustainability committee and the host of the meeting, had another idea. “We have an opportunity to become a demander of biogas, and not the fracked gas we’ve been hearing about all night,” he said.
Since 2007, Profeta said, the university had been researching the capture of methane from hog manure to create electricity. The technology, called anaerobic digestion, could reduce pollution from the state’s 10 billion gallons of swine waste – now stored primarily in open-air pits – and help meet a campus-wide goal of zero net greenhouse gas emissions.
Many in the crowd that night were skeptical. Was it really feasible? 11-16-17
Singing protesters interrupt a White House presentation at COP23.
The Trump administration gathered a group of mostly fossil-fuel executives for a panel promoting coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy at the United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany over the weekend. The topic of discussion, ironically enough: the role of fossil fuels in mitigating climate change.
A group of musically inclined climate activists interrupted the event with a protest song to the tune of “God Bless the U.S.A.”
It all ended on another raucous note when Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! asked the panel a simple yes or no question: Do you support President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement? Most of the panelists tried to dodge the question, but when Lenka Kollar, director of business strategy for NuScale Power, said she didn’t support leaving the agreement, the crowd erupted in cheers. 11-13-17
Originally published by Grist
The Federal Electric Vehicle Tax Credit Is a Bipartisan Success Story, Which House Republicans Want to Undo
As the House and Senate develop their respective versions of a tax reform bill, the $7,500 federal electric vehicle (EV) tax credit is positioned to be a potential bargaining chip. The House’s version of the bill, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” includes a repeal of the EV tax credit. The Senate’s newly introduced version, at the moment, doesn’t kill the credit.
Current policy calls for an already-scheduled phase out of the credit over the two calendar quarters after each automaker surpasses 200,000 total plug-in vehicle sales. The new House proposal would eliminate the tax credit entirely at the end of this year—only EVs registered on or before Dec. 31 would qualify.
Not only would this repeal slow the acceleration of electric car adoption, it will also hurt our economic, energy security and energy independence goals, and slow progress in bringing affordable and practical electric cars to the mass market. To understand the importance, rationale and benefit of this credit, a short history of the bipartisan legislation is useful.
The Bipartisan Roots of the Electric Vehicle Tax Credits
Regardless of the environmental and human health benefits of displacing gasoline and diesel combustion with plug-in electrics, thoughtful policymakers and legislators from both sides of the aisle have long understood the importance of EVs when it comes to promoting energy independence and security. A decade ago, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, promoted and signed by Republican President George W. Bush, first deployed “incentives for the development of plug-in hybrids.” The stated purpose of the act included moving “the United States toward greater energy independence and security” and “to increase the efficiency of products, buildings and vehicles.” 11-13-17
California Cracks Down On Weed Killer As Lawsuits Abound
The U.S. postal worker and Little League coach was “very environmentally friendly,” said Teri McCall, his wife of 41 years. He avoided chemicals, using only his tractor-mower to root out the thistle and other weeds that continually sprouted on the flat areas of the ranch.
But he did make one exception to that rule — a fateful one, his wife now believes. For more than three decades, on the hilly parts of the ranch where he grew the avocados, and around newly planted fruit trees, Jack donned a backpack sprayer and doused weeds with the widely sold herbicide Roundup.
“He believed Roundup was safe,” Teri McCall said, noting that St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. has regularly touted its flagship product as harmless to people and pets.
In 2012, the McCalls’ 6-year-old dog, Duke, who regularly accompanied Jack around the farm, fell ill with swollen lymph nodes in his neck and died shortly afterward of lymphoma — a type of blood cancer. Three years later, Jack discovered swollen lymph nodes in his own neck, Teri said. The diagnosis: a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which killed him on Dec. 26, 2015.
“I thought, ‘That’s kind of a coincidence that they both got lumps in their neck,’” Teri recalled. “Then I thought about all the time Duke spent sticking his nose in grass that had been sprayed with Roundup.” 11-8-17
Science’s Top Foe in Congress Is Retiring
It’s been a tough year for scientists, but a number of climate scientists found reason to celebrate on Thursday. The Texas Tribune broke the news that Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), one of the most ardent skeptics of climate change in Congress, will be retiring next year.
Smith has become one of the most polarizing figures on science over the course of his five years chairing the House’s Science, Space, and Technology Committee. A change in House rules gave Smith new subpoena powers in 2015, unusual for the House science committee, and he has since issued 24 subpoenas, more than any other chair in the House during that time, with some going beyond the committee’s traditional jurisdiction over federal science research. Smith has convened a number of hearings to attack climate scientists, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Paris climate deal, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He helped to popularize the myth that global warming had paused, holding a hearing during which he demanded NOAA documents and redactions on its study refuting the idea.
The reaction from scientists who have been on the receiving end of Smith’s harassment can be summed up in two words: Good riddance. 11-3-17
National Forests, Endangered Species Under Attack as House Republicans Pass Reckless Logging Bill
In a partisan vote, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation Wednesday that would devastate national forests by gutting endangered species protections and rubber-stamping huge logging projects. The final vote was 232 to 188.
HR 2936, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), also limits public comment and environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. Under the guise of reducing forest fires, the bill would increase unfettered logging across national forests and public lands, increase fire risk and harm forest health, while doing nothing to protect communities.
“This bill is a dangerous bait-and-switch that rewards the timber industry. It puts the health of our forests and wildlife in grave danger and ignores real solutions,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It would green-light the worst forest management practices from decades ago, when reckless logging devastated wildlife, degraded rivers and ruined recreation opportunities for countless Americans.” 11-2-17