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Wednesday, 25 May 2016 13:23

How to Feed the World as the Planet Warms

DR. DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Earth 0525wrp opt(Photo: NASA)Calculating farming’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is difficult, but experts agree that feeding the world’s people has tremendous climate and environmental impacts. Estimates of global emissions from farms range widely. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency puts them at 24 percent, including deforestation, making agriculture the second-largest emitter after heat and electricity.

Agriculture contributes to global warming in a number of ways. Methane and nitrous oxide, which are more potent than CO2 but remain in the atmosphere for shorter times, make up about 65 percent of agricultural emissions. Methane comes mainly from cattle and nitrous oxide from fertilizers and wastes.

According to the World Resources Institute, “Smaller sources include manure management, rice cultivation, field burning of crop residues and fuel use on farms.” Net emissions are also created when forests and wetlands are cleared for farming, as these “carbon sinks” usually absorb and store more carbon than the farms that replace them. Transporting and processing agricultural products also contribute to global warming.

We need to eat. So what’s the answer? That obesity is epidemic in parts of the world while people starve elsewhere and that an estimated one-third of food gets wasted, shows improving distribution and reducing waste are good places to start—but won’t be enough to significantly curtail agriculture’s contribution to climate change.

Reducing meat and animal-product consumption and production—especially beef—would cut emissions, but wouldn’t get us all the way.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Uber 0525wrp(Photo: Guilhem Vellut)Pouty, whiney, spoiled-bratism is not nice coming from a four-year-old — but it's grotesque when it comes from billion-dollar corporate elites like Uber and Lyft.

The two internet-based ride-hiring brats call themselves "ridesharing" companies, but that's a deceit, for they don't share anything — their business model relies on folks needing a ride to hire a driver through the corporations' apps. With the bulk of the fare going to out-of-town corporate hedge funders.

The tow outfits have swaggered into cities all across our country, insisting that they're innovative, tech-driven geniuses. As such, they consider themselves above the fusty old laws that other transportation companies, like taxis, follow. So Uber and Lyft have made it a corporate policy to throw hissy fits when cities — from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Houston to Portland — have dared even to propose that they obey rules to protect customers and drivers.

The latest tantrum from the California giants happened in Austin, when the city council there adopted a few modest, perfectly-reasonable rules, despite the screams of PR flacks from both outfits. The petulant duo then used fibs and high-pressure tactics to get enough signatures on petitions to force a special election to overturn the council's action. Naturally, being brats, they gave the city an ultimatum — "Vote our way or we will leave town" — and assumed that Austin's tech-savvy voters would flock to do whatever the popular ride-sharing service wanted.

But they picked the wrong city. First, they ran a campaign of blatant lies, as though Austinites wouldn't question them. Then, they shoved a sickening level of corporate cash into their campaign, apparently thinking that the sheer tonnage of ads would win the day for them. However, the slicks from California turned out to be uber-goobers. Despite spending $9 million (more than the combined spending of all city council candidates in the past decade), they went down, 56-to-44 percent.

Published in Guest Commentary

KEN KIMMELL ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Reposted with Permission of the Union of Concerned Scientists 

Fraud 0523wrp opt(Photo: Union of Concerned Scientists)On Wednesday, I received a letter signed by thirteen members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. In my thirty years as an attorney, public official, and now UCS President, I have never seen anything quite like it. The letter states that the House Science Committee is “conducting oversight of a coordinated attempt to deprive companies, non-profit organizations and scientists of their First Amendment rights.” This sounds like an oversight effort UCS could support—but for what follows.

The representatives are requesting “all documents and communications” between UCS and state attorneys general and between UCS and other NGOs related to our work to hold oil and gas companies accountable for deception. Apparently, these elected representatives believe that UCS and others have infringed on the free speech rights of fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil.

How? By sharing information with these attorneys general about whether ExxonMobil and others misled the public about the dangers of climate change, and by explaining how climate change caused by burning fossil fuels is harming people and places in their states.

You know what else this tells me? The campaign to hold companies accountable is working.

How absurd is this request?

Let’s start with the premise of the letter—that the free speech rights of companies such as ExxonMobil are violated by an investigation. This is nonsense. No company has a First Amendment right to knowingly provide misinformation about the harm associated with its product (in this case the emissions of heat trapping gases from the combustion of fossil fuels). And attorneys general have every right to investigate whether the companies’ actions amounted to an actionable fraud.

In fact, the letter itself compromises the First Amendment rights of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the other recipients of this letter.

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 20 May 2016 07:31

Will Vegans Save the World?

DR. DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Vegan 0520wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Will vegans save the world? Reading comments under climate change articles or watching the film Cowspiracy make it seem they’re the only ones who can. Cowspiracy boldly claims veganism is “the only way to sustainably and ethically live on this planet.” But, as with most issues, it’s complicated.

It’s true, though, that the environment and climate would benefit substantially if more people gave up or at least cut down on meat and animal products, especially in over-consuming Western societies. Animal agriculture produces huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, consumes massive volumes of water and causes a lot of pollution.

But getting a handle on the extent of environmental harm, as well as the differences between various agricultural methods and types of livestock and balancing that with possible benefits of animal consumption and agriculture isn’t simple.

Estimates of how much animal agriculture adds to greenhouse gases range widely, from about 14 to more than 50 percent of total global emissions. Agriculture exacerbates climate change in a number of ways. Clearing carbon sinks such as forests to grow or raise food can result in net greenhouse gas increases. Farming, especially on an industrial scale, also requires fossil fuel–burning machinery, as does processing and transporting agricultural products.

Determining the overall contribution is complicated by the fact that livestock agriculture accounts for about 9 percent of human-caused CO2 emissions but far greater amounts of other greenhouse gases, which are worse in many ways but less dangerous in others.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock farming produces 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the global warming potential as CO2. It also contributes “37 percent of all human-induced methane (23 times as warming as CO2), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants and 64 percent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.” But methane stays in the atmosphere for about 12 years and nitrous oxide for about 114, while CO2 remains for thousands of years.

Published in Guest Commentary

KATIE POHLMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Paris 0518wrp(Photo: EcoWatch)Parisians can walk, skate or cycle down the iconic Champs Elysees one day a month without worrying about traffic. The first Sunday of every month is a car-free day, an attempt to reduce pollution in the French city. The initiative began in September 2015 as the brainchild of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

The Paris Breathes campaign, responsible for implementing the program, blocks off 13 sections of the city at various times throughout the day. Sections are closed for various time periods ranging from four to 10 hours, according to the campaign’s website. There are an additional four locations that go car-free for the summer months only. The first car-free day—Sept. 27, 2015—led to a 40 percent drop in nitrogen dioxide in Paris, The Guardian reported.

Paris residents seem to love the car-free days. “I think especially when the weather is like that, beautiful sunshine, we feel like it’s the holidays for us. We can walk easily, no pollution, no noise. We are very happy,” one of the participants said in the below NowThis video.

Paris leads the pack in monthly car-free days, but several large metro cities participate in international car-free day on Sept. 22 every year, including Washington, DC, Seattle and Long Island, New York.

Published in Guest Commentary

OUR CHILDREN'S TRUST OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DEP 0518wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found in favor of four youth plaintiffs, the Conservation Law Foundation and Mass Energy Consumers Alliance Tuesday in the critical climate change case, Kain et al. v. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The court found that the DEP was not complying with its legal obligation to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and ordered the agency to “promulgate regulations that address multiple sources or categories of sources of greenhouse gas emissions, impose a limit on emissions that may be released … and set limits that decline on an annual basis.”

“This is an historic victory for young generations advocating for changes to be made by government. The global climate change crisis is a threat to the well being of humanity, and to my generation, that has been ignored for too long,” youth plaintiff Shamus Miller, age 17, said.

“Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has recognized the scope and urgency of that threat and acknowledges the need for immediate action to help slow the progression of climate change. There is much more to be done both nationally and internationally but this victory is a step in the right direction and I hope that future efforts have similar success.”

In 2012, hundreds of youth petitioned the DEP asking the agency to comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) and adopt rules reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, but that petition was denied. As a result of DEP’s reluctance to comply with the GWSA, youth filed this case arguing that the DEP failed to promulgate the regulations required by Section 3(d) of the GWSA establishing declining annual levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Glypho 0516wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Four Nebraskan agricultural workers have filed a lawsuit against Monsanto Co. alleging that the agribusiness giant’s cancer-linked product, Roundup, gave them non-Hodgkin lymphoma after many years of exposure.

The plaintiffs have also accused Monsanto of purposely misleading consumers about the safety of its blockbuster product, which contains glyphosate as its controversial main ingredient.

The plaintiffs allege that Monsanto mislabeled the product in defiance of the “body of recognized scientific evidence linking the disease to exposure to Roundup.”

Glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world was infamously classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March 2015.

“Case-control studies of occupational exposure in the USA, Canada, and Sweden reported increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that persisted after adjustment for other pesticides,” the IARC said about the herbicide, adding that there is also “convincing evidence” that it can cause cancer in laboratory animals.

The plaintiffs in the case are farmers Larry Domina and Robert Dickey both of Cedar County, York County farmer Royce Janzen and Dodge County agronomist Frank Pollard, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. They are represented by Omaha-based Domina Law Group and New York-based Weitz & Luxembourg.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

FrackingBad 0516wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Unconventional oil and gas (UOG) operations such as fracking might allow for cheaper prices to heat your home, but a growing number of scientists are becoming concerned about its unacceptable health implications.

In the first comprehensive literature review to date on the respiratory health risks associated with UOG, experts from the Center for Environmental Health, the Institute for Health and the Environment, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments have found that these operations are particularly harmful to infants and young children.

The study, Hazards of UOG Emissions on Children’s and Infants’ Respiratory Health, was published today in the journal Reviews on Environmental Health.

The the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that there are nearly 700 chemicals used in the fracking process. Fracking fluids can contain a toxic slew of hazardous chemicals that can affect human health and the environment, but oil and gas companies are not required to disclose exactly what they are.

According to the study, at least five chemicals associated with unconventional oil and gas operations and fracking—tropospheric ozone, particulate matter, silica dust, benzene and formaldehyde—are linked to respiratory health issues on infants and children, including asthma, reduced lung and pulmonary function, increased susceptibility to infection, chest discomfort, difficulty breathing, lung inflammation and other adverse outcomes.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Glyphosate 0513wrp(Photo: Glyphosate USA)Last month, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) volunteered to take a urine test to see if glyphosate—the cancer-linked weedkiller—is in their system. Forty-eight MEPs from 13 different European Union countries participated in the test, and now the results are in.

According to ELISA test results from the accredited Biocheck Laboratory in Germany: “All participants excreted glyphosate by urine.”

The experiment was spearheaded by the Green Party in the European Parliament, which wants a ban on the controversial herbicide in the European Union.

The group noted in a press release of their so-called “#MEPee” test:

On average, the MEPs had 1.7 micrograms/liter of glyphosate in their urine, 17 times higher than the European drinking water norm (0.1 microgram/litre). This means that everyone we tested was way above the limit for residues of pesticides in drinking water.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DAPL 0511wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)The campaign to oppose the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) continues to gain steam with Leonardo DiCaprio and actors from the upcoming Justice League film joining the cause.

Dakota Access—a subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP—has proposed a $3.7 billion, 1,168-mile pipeline that will transfer up to 570,00 barrels of crude oil per day from the North Dakota Bakken region through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois.

The DAPL, also referred to as the Bakken pipeline, would cross the Missouri River less than a mile away from the Standing Rock Reservation that stands in North and South Dakota. The Missouri River, one of the largest water resources in the U.S., provides drinking water for millions of people.

The people of Standing Rock, often called Sioux, warn that a potential oil spill into the river would threaten the water, land and health of their reservation.

In DiCaprio’s tweet, the Oscar-winning actor and clean energy advocate said he was “standing with the Great Sioux Nation to protect their water and lands,” and linked to a Change.org petition that urges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

 

Published in Guest Commentary
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