Written by rjs, MarketWatch 666
This is a collection of interesting news articles about the environment and related topics over the last week. This is a Tuesday evening regular post at GEI. This week it is being posted a day late.
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Cosmonaut brains show space travel causes lasting changes –Our fleshy forms evolved to work within the tug of gravity. Take that pull away, and the clockwork operation of bodily functions just doesn’t keep ticking at the same steady beat. From fluids floating the wrong way to DNA expressing differently, space travel is tough on even the healthiest human body. Now, a study of recently active cosmonauts adds to the concern for one particularly vital organ: the brain. The results suggest that deformations to brain tissue caused by weightless conditions can linger even after space travelers have had their boots back on Earth for seven months. The research, published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, documents the impacts of space travel on cosmonauts who each spent roughly 189 days on the International Space Station. Led by scientists at the University of Antwerp, the team captured images of 10 male cosmonauts’ brains using magnetic resonance imaging before and after each mission. They repeated the scans seven months later for seven of these space adventurers.As previous studies have demonstrated, spaceflight seemed to increase the noggin’s cerebrospinal fluid, a clear liquid that acts as a cushion for your brain during motion or impacts and helps maintain the correct pressure.“We were designed for standing in gravity on Earth, and once that force is released, all the bodily fluids move upward,” says study author Peter zu Eulenburg of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. The latest study suggests that the excess cerebrospinal fluid seems to compress the brain’s grey matter – the dark-colored neural tissue that contains nerve fibers and nerve-cell bodies. Though the brain largely bounced back after seven months on Earth, some effects seemed to linger.
Rates Of STDs Rise Sharply- We Are Sliding Backward – The rate of sexually transmitted diseases is rising sharply. In fact, the rates of three sexually transmitted infections are at all-time record highs in the United States. Last year, nearly 2.3 million US cases of these sexually transmitted diseases were diagnosed, according to preliminary data. This data was reported on by Fox 13 out of Salt Lake City, Utah. That’s the highest number ever reported nationwide, breaking the record set in 2016 by more than 200,000 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It is time that President Trump and [Health and Human Services] Secretary [Alex] Azar declare STDs in America a public health crisis,” David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors said Tuesday. Harvey’s group co-hosted the National STD Prevention Conference in Washington Tuesday where the CDC made the announcement that the rates of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia have climbed upward again for the fourth year in a row.“What goes along with that is emergency access to public health funding to make a dent in these STD rates and to bring these rates down and to ensure that all Americans get access to the health care that they need,” he said.Others say this trend should not come as a surprise. “I think over the last five years, we’ve seen a rapid increase in the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections in the US, and we’re also starting to see a plateau in our fight against the HIV epidemic, as well,” said Rob Stephenson, a professor and director of the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Stephenson added that “it’s not a surprising trend.”But the focus of concern is with syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. “We’re talking about millions of infections with just these three infections,” said Dr. Edward Hook, endowed professor of infectious disease translational research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Medicine and scientific committee chair of the National STD Prevention Conference. Hook says this trend is concerning because the increase in these three STDs is significant. “Gonorrhea diagnoses that were reported to the CDC increased by nearly 67%. Diagnoses of primary and secondary syphilis increased over 75%, and chlamydia rates continued to increase,” he said according to Fox 13.
Polluted Air Sends Up to 33 Million People to the ER Each Year – Earlier this week, President Trump posted a false tweet that boasted about the U.S. having the “cleanest air in the world – BY FAR!” But a new study has found that millions of people around the world – including U.S. citizens – are going to the ER for asthma attacks because they are breathing dirty air.Between 9 to 33 million visits to the emergency room for asthma worldwide may be triggered by breathing in air polluted by ozone or fine particulate matter, a first-of-its-kind global study from George Washington University has found.Ozone pollution is created when emissions from industrial facilities, electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust and other sources interacts with sunlight. Fine particulate matter – or extremely tiny particles of pollution often associated with industrial emissions – can lodge deep into the lungs. These two forms of air pollution that are linked to asthma as well as a vast array of negative health impacts.In the study, published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the researchers examined emergency room visits for asthma in 54 countries and Hong Kong and then combined that information with pollution levels around the globe.Here are some of the key findings:
- Nine to 23 million annual asthma emergency room visits globally (8 to 20 percent of total global asthma ER visits) may be triggered by ozone.
- Five to 10 million asthma emergency room visits every year (4 to 9 percent of total global asthma ER visits) were linked to fine particulate matter.
- About half of the asthma emergency room visits attributed to dirty air were estimated to occur in South and East Asian countries, notably India and China.
- Although the air in the U.S. is relatively clean compared to South and East Asian countries, ozone and particulate matter were estimated to contribute 8 to 21 percent and 3 to 11 percent of asthma ER visits in the U.S., respectively.
The risks of synthetic biology in the information society — The instructions for making viruses from synthetic strands of DNA are on the internet. And, the strands themselves are available for purchase online. It’s called synthetic biology. Right now it’s not easy to get the strands to you need to make dangerous viruses or to put them together. But it is becoming easier.That’s the issue that exploded concerning the synthetic construction of an thought-to-be extinct horsepox virus. The problem is that the instructions for making horsepox are distressingly useful for constructing a smallpox virus, a virus responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths in the 20th century alone until its eradication. Smallpox, you’ll recall, was eradicated through a successful worldwide effort led by the World Health Organization. After 1980 it was no longer necessary to vaccinate people against the disease and very few people alive today have been vaccinated against it. Not surprisingly, an outbreak resulting from, say, the inadvertent or possibly intentional release of a synthetic smallpox virus from a lab could prove devastating worldwide. Synthetic biology perhaps most clearly illustrates that the benign assumption most modern people share about new technology is dangerously misguided. We have many other examples. Synthetic biology poses an altogether different and more severe threat. It’s not just our hearts and minds at stake. It is our very lives. And, yet the risks of this biology are very much linked to the information revolution we’ve experienced in the last few decades. Which is why the online publication of the findings of the team that assembled the horsepox virus created such a stir. The headline in Science promised a disturbing account: “How Canadian researchers reconstituted an extinct poxvirus for $100,000 using mail-order DNA.” The headline probably overplayed the threat a bit. But not by much.
CDC’s Salmonella Warning- Don’t Dress Up Chickens For Halloween – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has had to warn Americans about the dangers of dressing up their chickens for the upcoming Halloween festivities. The CDC warns that putting your chickens in a costume could result in a salmonella infection. The agency says handling chickens to put on a costume on them and cuddling the birds can lead to salmonella exposure and an eventual infection. However, for some chicken owners, like Stephanie Morse, the birds are family and their owners enjoy dressing them up each year.“I just like to put a t-shirt on them or a sweater,” Morse said according to KOAA News 5, an NBC affiliate. This Salmonella outbreak appears to be dominated by a strain of bacteria that seems to be resistant to drugs making it much more difficult to treat if a person is sickened. Antibiotics resistance is becoming worrisome to health officials too, as many in developed countries overuse antibiotics, or take them for a virus such as the common cold or the flu. Symptoms of a salmonella bacterial infection, which typically begin 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the bacteria, include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps and can last four to seven days. Most people infected with Salmonella recover without treatment, though in rare cases, antibiotics are needed for treatment. This particular strain of Salmonella has demonstrated resistance to multiple antibiotics, meaning treatment may be more difficult for the more severe cases. – SHTFPlan As of right now, the CDC is still tracking and investigating a current salmonella outbreak and so far it’s reached 29 states, and infected 92 people. The agency says handling chickens could be a contributing factor to the outbreak. But for chicken owners like Morse, it’s as if she was told to not pet her dog.. “Can you ever imagine not being able to dress up your chickens? Or hold them?” she asked reporters. “No. No. I love to hold them, I love to talk to them. Everybody has names,” Morse said.
Massive Study Finds Eating Organic Slashes Cancer Risks –Eating organic foods free from pesticides is strongly correlated with a dramatic reduction in the risk of cancer,according to a groundbreaking study published today in an American Medical Association journal.The observational study led by a team of French government scientists tracked the diets of nearly 69,000 people. Four years later, those who consumed the most organic foods were 25 percent less likely to develop cancer.For people consuming the highest amount of organic food, the study found a significantly lower risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, all lymphomas and postmenopausal breast cancer. The authors conclude, “Although our findings need to be confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer.”Pesticides linked to cancer include the weed killer glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, and the organophosphate pesticides malathion and diazinon.”This study provides more evidence suggesting pesticides in food may be harmful,” said EWG Toxicologist Alexis Temkin, Ph.D. “Low levels of synthetic pesticides, including those linked to cancer and other serious health problems, are found in some conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. Especially for those items, choosing organics is better for health as well as for the environment.” The scientists focused on 16 different organic food and beverage products, including fruits and vegetables, soy-based foods, eggs, dairy, grains, meat and fish, among others.
Denmark wants to make climate impact labels mandatory for food “If the rest of the world produced food the way we do in Denmark, the world would be a better place.” These words were spoken earlier this month by Morten Høyer, director of the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, which made international headlines for its proposal to add climate impact labels to food.The council would like to oblige food manufacturers and supermarkets to rate their products’ impact on the climate and environment, in order to help shoppers make more educated decisions. As CNN reports, the council also sees it as an opportunity to “promote best practices when it comes to mitigating the effects of farming on climate change.” Denmark has apparently been working with the European Union for ten years to develop a climate impact label for food, but after the International Panel on Climate Change published its jarring report earlier this month, stating that extreme measures are required within the next 12 years if global warming is to be kept below 1.5C, the Danish government included food labelling in its 38-point plan for a greener future, issued the same week as the IPCC report. As climate minister Christian Lilleholt stated,
Eating Locally and in Season: Is It Really Better for the Environment? All those trucks, trains, ships and planes are emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere while logging thousands of “food miles” – the distance a food product travels from the farmer or producer to the supermarket and finally, to your dinner table. Wouldn’t it be more eco-friendly to only buy food that is seasonal and locally grown? When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), it might not make such a huge difference, particularly for certain foods. According the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, “Differences in agricultural production and the realities of transportation impacts may favor sourcing from other regions from an environmental impact perspective.” The agency writes: In general, the contribution of food transportation relative to the total greenhouse gas emissions of a given food product represents a small percentage of the carbon footprint for many foods. Fresh foods transported by air freight can have significant distribution-related carbon impacts, but on average, distribution of finished foods (from farm or factory to retail stores) contributes less than 4 percent, on average, of the greenhouse gas emissions of foods consumed in the US.
America Has A Milk Problem – Not only does America have milk – it’s got a surplus of over 8 million metric tons, forcing dairy farms to shutter and farmers to simply start dumping millions of gallons of milk that far exceeds domestic and foreign demand. Declining consumption, increased production, retaliatory tariffs and lower prices in the face of increased costs have been walloping American farmers for some two years now, according to the Reedsburg Times Press. Northeastern states are the most affected by the glut. The State of Wisconsin has seen a net loss of more than 400 dairy farms this year alone, and in December last year, the state’s farmers dumped a record 160 million pounds of skim milk they couldn’t sell. That’s three times the amount they were forced to dump in 2012, according to CSMonitor. By July, farmers in the Northeast had dumped 145 million pounds of milk, and 23.6 million pounds of that was dumped in July alone, according to Bloomberg. Much of the blame will be laid on Canada, which moved last year to implement its own supply management by restricting dairy trade from the U.S. But the blame isn’t all about Canada, and you have to follow some less direct paths to the end of this glut. For instance, the European Union has also seen a surge in its exports of dairy, and because Russia in 2014 largely banned all dairy exports from the EU, the EU has tapped up other markets, pushing out American dairy. Nor is it just about exports. Americans, while enjoying a brief flirtation with a yogurt craze, are now weaning themselves off milk, which has always been the dairy farmers top revenue generator. But American farmers aren’t necessarily like other industries from an operational perspective. They milk cows whether the market wants them to or not. They keep producing, even when supply is at the glut level. Then, it’s either shut down or find another way to put all the milk to use.
Lab-Grown Meat Debate Overlooks Cows’ Range of Use Worldwide – A battle royale is brewing over what to call animal cells grown in cell culture for food. The narrative posited by, for now let us call it cultured meat, proponents is that animal agriculture requires large amounts of land and water, and produces high levels of greenhouse gases (GHG). The problem with this dichotomous framing is that it overlooks the rest of the story. Cattle produce more than just hamburgers for well-off consumers, and they typically do so by utilizing rain-fed forage growing on non-arable land. Additionally, cellular hamburger patties are themselves not an environmental impact-free lunch, especially from the perspective of energy use.Cultured meat requires the initial collection of stem cells from living animals and then greatly expanding their numbers in a bioreactor, a device for carrying out chemical processes. These living cells must be provided with nutrients in a suitable growth medium containing food-grade components that must be effective and efficient in supporting and promoting muscle cell growth. A typical growth medium contains an energy source such as glucose, synthetic amino acids, antibiotics, fetal bovine serum, horse serum and chicken embryo extract.If cultured meat is to match or exceed the nutritional value of conventional meat products, nutrients found in meat not synthesized by muscle cells must be supplied as supplements in the culture medium. Conventional meat is a high-quality protein, meaning it has a full complement of essential amino acids. It also provides a source of several other desirable nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and bioactive compounds.Therefore to be nutritionally equivalent, a cultured meat medium would need to provide all of the essential amino acids, along with vitamin B12, an essential vitamin found solely in food products of animal origin. The process for making cultured meat has technically challenging aspects. It includes manufacturing and purifying culture media and supplements in large quantities, expanding animal cells in a bioreactor, processing the resultant tissue into an edible product, removing and disposing of the spent media, and keeping the bioreactor clean. Each are themselves associated with their own set of costs, inputs and energy demands. One study concluded that “in vitro biomass cultivation could require smaller quantities of agricultural inputs and land than livestock; however, those benefits could come at the expense of more intensive energy use as biological functions such as digestion and nutrient circulation are replaced by industrial equivalents.” This idea of “industrial replacement of biological functions” emphasizes the point that nature has already developed a fully functional biological fermentation bioreactor for the conversion of inedible solar-powered cellulosic material, such as grass, into high-quality protein. It is called a cow. Ruminants have evolved, along with their large vat of rumen microbes, to digest cellulose, an insoluble carbohydrate, that is the main constituent of plant cell. That is their super power.
Scientists have found new evidence that tiny pieces of plastic might be accumulating in your poop -A group of Austrian researchers have found evidence that microplastics – extremely small particles of plastic beads, fibers, or fragments – accumulate in human feces. Scientists from the Environment Agency Austria and the Medical University of Vienna analyzed the stool samples of eight participants from all over the world, including Italy, Japan, Poland, the Netherlands, Russian, the United Kingdom, Finland, and Austria. Throughout the study, the participants recorded what they ate in the week prior to their stool sampling. They all drank from plastic bottles or consumed plastic-wrapped foods in that time, according to the study. All eight stool samples tested positive for microplastics. According to the study, published Monday in the United European Gastroenterology Journal, up to nine types of plastic were found in the stool samples.Researchers noted that the microplastics, which can form when larger pieces of plastic break down, could help transmit toxic chemicals and pathogens into the human body. They also noted that the particles could weaken the immune response of the gut. Monday’s study may be the first to show the presence of plastics in the human gut, and it comes a few months after the World Health Organization announced it would investigate the potential effects of plastic on human health. The WHO launched the review in March after a separate study found microplastics in 90% of 259 bottles. Previous studies have shown thatplastic is present in the food and drinks we consume, including fish and water, though it remains unclear how microplastics affect our bodies.
Would you eat insects to save the planet from global warming? – There isn’t much time left to figure out how to bring global warming closer to the forefront of people’s minds and persuade us to reduce our carbon footprints. In fact, we have just 12 years left to keep global warming to 1.5C, according to last week’s landmark UN report. Anything beyond this will massively worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Reducing our meat intake is crucial to avoiding climate breakdown, since food production accounts for about a quarter of all human-related greenhouse gas emissions, and is predicted to rise. In western countries, this means eating 90% less beef and five times as many beans and pulses. Edible insects have been hailed as a solution to both global food shortages and reducing emissions from animal agriculture, but despite the industry’s best efforts, our response when faced with a cockroach is disgust. Even in London edible insects are seen as nothing more than a gimmick, and there are only a handful of restaurants serving them up. But new research from Switzerland and Germany may have found out how to persuade people to eat insects – and it could have a huge impact on lowering human-led carbon emissions. The researchers concluded that we need to switch the message about saving the planet from altruism to pleasure. They back up their argument with previous studies showing that attitudes based on emotions are more malleable than those grounded in rational claims.
Why scientists are so worried by the huge, sudden loss of insects — In Puerto Rico’s rainforest, scientists have observed an astounding loss of life at the very base of the food web. It’s the insects.As an alarming new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlines, between 1976 and 2013, the number of invertebrates (like insects, spiders, and centipedes) in the Luquillo rainforest caught in survey nets plummeted by a factor of four or eight. When measured by the number caught in sticky traps, invertebrates declined by a factor of 60. These dramatic drops occurred despite the fact that the forest is a protected wildlife area.The researchers note that this loss of invertebrates – which serve as food for many other forms of life in the ecosystem – has also coincided with losses of birds, lizards, and frogs. “The food web appears to have been obliterated from the bottom,” the Washington Post’s Ben Guarino reported on the study. Guarino’s story quotes one invertebrate expert who called the research “hyper alarming.”The report is just one example of a larger, troubling trend: Insects – including yes, bees – and other critters are rapidly disappearing around the world. A 2017 study in Germany noted a 75 percent decline in flying insects over three decades. “The widespread insect biomass decline is alarming,” the authors wrote, “ever more so as all traps were placed in protected areas that are meant to preserve ecosystem functions and biodiversity.” There’s no one reason why so many critters are dying, and researchers are still unclear on what’s driving the change. Climate change (and changing drought and weather conditions) is strongly implicated. And it’s also partly due to environmental toxins and possibly pesticides. But it’s fair to say they’re mainly dying because humans are changing the world for the worse
Judge Upholds Verdict That Found Monsanto’s Roundup Caused a Man’s Cancer – Having successfully, closed on its $66 billion purchase of the agrochemical company Monsanto in June, we suspect Germany’s Bayer AG, is more than a little concerned now after failing to persuade a judge to set aside a jury’s $289 million verdict in the first trial over allegations that its Roundup weed killer causes cancer.As a reminder, in August, a San Francisco Jury awarded $289 million in damages to a former school groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, who said Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller gave him terminal cancer. The award consists of $40 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages.Johnson’s trial was fast-tracked due to the severe state of his non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system he says was triggered by Roundup and Ranger Pro, a similar glyphosate herbicide that he applied up to 30 times per year. His doctors didn’t think he’d live to live to see the verdict.Johnson testified that he had been involved in two accidents during his work in which he was doused with the product, the first of which happened in 2012. Two years later, the 46-year-old father of two was diagnosed with lymphoma – which has covered as much as 80% of his body in lesions. Monsanto said it would appeal the verdict. Appeal they did and today the verdict came down. San Francisco superior court judge Suzanne Bolanos had suggested in an initial written ruling this month that she was considering granting a new trial, but her final ruling today largely sided with Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, denying Monsanto’s request to overturn the verdict.
Cheerios, Quaker Oats and Snack Bars Test Positive for Glyphosate — An environmental advocacy group has discovered yet more traces of a potentially cancer-causing chemical in popular oat breakfast and snack food marketed to children.The Environmental Working Group (EWG) announced Wednesday that tests it commissioned foundglyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto‘s Roundup weed killer, in nearly 30 General Mills and Quaker brand products made with conventionally-grown oats. The tests found glyphosate in 28 of 28 products including several types of Cheerios, instant oatmeal and snack bars. In 26 of them, the levels surpassed EWG’s own safe limit of 160 parts per billion (ppb).”How many bowls of cereal and oatmeal have American kids eaten that came with a dose of weed killer? That’s a question only General Mills, PepsiCo [owner of Quaker] and other food companies can answer,” EWG President Ken Cook said. “But if those companies would just switch to oats that aren’t sprayed with glyphosate, parents wouldn’t have to wonder if their kids’ breakfasts contained a chemical linked to cancer. Glyphosate and other cancer-causing chemicals simply don’t belong in children’s food, period.”This round of tests comes two months after initial tests commissioned by EWG also turned up glyphosate in 43 of 45 products tested that used conventionally grown oats. More than two thirds had levels above EWG’s safety limit. The EWG also found glyphosate in one third of 16 products made with organic oats.The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in a statement to ABC News that consumers should not worry about the results, which showed amounts far below its safety limit of 30,000 ppb. “EPA’s review of available data does not support recent claims that glyphosate, the active ingredient of RoundUp, found in cereal (and other foods containing commodities like wheat and oat) is cause for concern,” an EPA spokesman said in a statement.
Study: Dozens more breakfast foods test positive for trace amounts of weed killer – Dozens of common breakfast cereals and snack bars have trace amounts of a controversial herbicide found in the weed killer Roundup, according to a report released today by an environmental advocacy group. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 26 of the 28 products it tested had levels of Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, that were “higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health.” An earlier report found similar results in over thirty oat-based foods. Manufacturers say their products are safe, but the EWG report argues that the vast majority of foods tested – such as Honey Nut Cheerios and Quaker Simply Granola Oats – have glyphosate levels that might pose a cancer risk with long-term consumption. None of the foods violated EPA limits on the herbicide, but the EWG uses a far more conservative health benchmark. California’s proposed glyphosate limit, which would be the most restrictive in the country, still allows for glyphosate levels that are over a hundred times higher than the EWG’s threshold. The environmental group says its lower threshold includes an added buffer for children, as “exposure during early life can have more significant effects on development later in life,” according to Dr. Alexis Temkin, the lead scientist on EWG report. But manufacturers dispute that threshold. Quaker said in a statement that the “EWG report artificially creates a ‘safe level’ for glyphosate that is detached from those that have been established by responsible regulatory bodies in an effort to grab headlines.” General Mills, whose products were also cited in the report, maintained that glyphosate levels in its foods do not pose any health risks. “The extremely low levels of pesticide residue cited in recent news reports is a tiny fraction of the amount the government allows,” the company said in statement to CNN.
The weed-killing chemical involved in a Monsanto lawsuit was found in Cheerios and Quaker Oat bars. Here’s how worried you should be. Ten weeks after the nonprofit Environmental Working Grouppublished a report that found the presence of a weed-killer in breakfast foods, a new round of tests is likely to generate additional concerns.In August, the EWG said it discovered traces of glyphosate, the most widely used agricultural pesticide in the world, in dozens of Quaker, Kellogg’s, and General Mills products, including cereals like Cheerios and Lucky Charms.The timing of the report aligned closely with a $289 million lawsuit against Monsanto (recently acquired by Bayer), which uses glyphosate as the active ingredient in its popular herbicide Roundup. On Monday, a judge denied the company’s motion for a new trial after ruling that Monsanto knew its product was “dangerous” and could lead to cancer.The EWG said in its August report that it tested the levels of glyphosate in 45 samples of conventionally grown oats and determined that 31 fell below its safety criteria. Its latest study tested another 28 samples, focusing exclusively on Cheerios and Quaker Oats products, and found that all but two showed harmful levels of glyphosate, according to its measures. As it stands, most published research has found that glyphosate isn’t a health threat at the low levels that consumers are exposed to. Certain scientific groups have insisted there is a link between glyphosate and cancer, but others aren’t convinced. Organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the European Commission, Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency, and the World Health Organization’s International Program on Chemical Safety have determined that glyphosate does not present a public health concern. Much of the argument surrounding glyphosate boils down to a report published by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer that said the herbicide was “probably carcinogenic in humans.” But an extensive review of the material by Reuters found that the IARC had edited parts of the document that didn’t align with its conclusion.
Entire Pesticide Class Must Be Banned to Save Children’s Health, Landmark Study Says – A first-of-its-kind study has reviewed the data and concluded that an entire class of pesticides should be banned because of its impact on children’s health, The Huffington Post reported.The study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine on Wednesday, said that even low-levels of organophosphate exposure can cause brain damage in children. The news comes as Trump‘s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently fighting a court order to ban just one of this class of toxicchemicalsâ€•the pesticide chlorpyrifos.”We have compelling evidence from dozens of human studies that exposures of pregnant women to very low levels of organophosphate pesticides put children and foetuses at risk for developmental problems that may last a lifetime. By law, the EPA cannot ignore such clear findings: It’s time for a ban not just on chlorpyrifos, but all organophosphate pesticides,” study lead author and University of California, Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center Director Irva Hertz-Picciotto told The Guardian. Children exposed to organophosphates in the womb have an increased risk for lowered IQ, reduced memory and attention and autism, the study found. To reach its conclusions, it drew on a UN database that includes 71 countries and cross referenced it with a wide variety of studies.”We found no evidence of a safe level of organophosphate pesticide exposure for children. Well before birth, organophosphate pesticides are disrupting the brain in its earliest stages, putting them on track for difficulties in learning, memory and attention, effects which may not appear until they reach school-age. Government officials around the world need to listen to science, not chemical lobbyists,” study author and Simon Fraser University scientist Bruce Lanphear told The Guardian.More than 10,000 tonnes (approximately 11,023 U.S. tons) of these pesticides are sprayed in 24 European countries every year, and more in the U.S. U.S. regulators have already banned 26 of 40 organophosphates considered dangerous without much fanfare.
Politicians say nothing, but US farmers are increasingly terrified by it – climate change – Farmers around here are itching to go after that amber wave of soya beans, but there was that 5in rain a couple of weeks ago and then a 7in rain, and it drives even the retired guys batty. This year, crops in north-west Iowa are looking spotty. Up into Minnesota they were battered by spring storms and late planting, and then inundated again in late summer. Where they aren’t washed out, they’re weedy or punky. Welcome to climate change, Iowa-style. It’s the least debated issue of the midterm political season. The weather is the top topic of conversation at any cooperative elevator’s coffee table, along with the markets. Everyone knows that things have been changing in sweeping ways out here on the richest corn ground in the world. It’s drought in the spring and floods in the fall – what were considered 500-year floods in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines 30 years ago are now considered 100-year floods. Iowa has been getting soggier in spring and fall, with scary dry spells interspersed, and more humid at night by as much as a third since 1980. Everyone knows it has been getting wetter and weirder, especially Dr Gene Takle, a Nobel prize-winning climate scientist at Iowa State University. Takle predicted 20 years ago the floods we see today, already linking it to climate change back then. Farmers just saw ponding and called the tiling company to install more. We’re on our way to doubling the size of the northern Iowa drainage system in the past 30 years as the upper midwest has grown more humid and extreme. This drainage system is delivering runoff rich in farm fertilizer to the Mississippi river complex and the Gulf of Mexico, where the nitrate from Iowa and Illinois corn fields is growing a dead zone the size of New Jersey. The shrimping industry is being deprived of oxygen so Iowa farmers can chase 200 bushels of corn per acre – and hope against hope that corn will somehow increase in price as we plow up every last acre. That flow also is creating a toxic source for Des Moines Water Works, which is facing up to $100m in improvements to remove agricultural chemicals from the Raccoon river that supplies 500,000 thirsty denizens. The waterworks sued our county over it, along with two others, but a federal judge threw out the case because you simply can’t sue an Iowa drainage district. And that means that there is no way to regulate agriculture as it responds to extreme weather and market consolidation that seeks immediate return. Meanwhile, those huge rainfalls on exposed black dirt wash it to the vales even from the flat ground of our neighborhood. We are losing soil at two to three tons an acre a year. Nature can regenerate the soil at only a half-ton a year. So we are washing our black gold down the river four to six times faster than we can regrow it.
Trump orders fewer ‘regulatory burdens’ for diverting water to CA farms – President Trump dived headfirst into one of California’s most contentious fights Friday, signing a memorandum intended to divert more water to farmers and “reduce regulatory burdens” that include protections for endangered species and environmental laws. Senior officials in the Trump administration said the memo allows for speedy environmental reviews of major water projects in the West, including the federally operated Central Valley Project, and will cut federal regulations that get in the way. Trump called for strict timelines to ensure more water makes it to farmers. Trump’s memo directs his interior and commerce secretaries to streamline regulatory processes and remove “unnecessary burdens” and develop a timeline for completing compliance requirements for major water projects. “And you’ll have a lot of water. I hope you’ll enjoy the water you’ll have,” Trump said. Trump signed the memo less than three weeks before midterm elections in which several California Republicans are locked in competitive races, including Denham of Turlock (Stanislaus County), Valadao of Hanford (Kings County) and Nunes of Tulare. After signing the memo, Trump handed his pen to Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chairman and one of the president’s most loyal defenders in Congress. “This will move things along at a record clip,” Trump said after signing the memo in Arizona alongside California GOP Reps. Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, and Devin Nunes, David Valadao, Jeff Denham and Tom McClintock. All represent Central Valley districts with substantial agricultural interests.e
War and drought have produced Syria’s smallest wheat crop in 30 years – Syria’s wheat crop this year was the smallest in three decades as war and drought cut production by around 30 percent, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said on Tuesday. Output of 1.2 million tonnes in 2018 was the lowest since 1989 and compared with a pre-crisis average of 4.1 million tonnes a year, FAO said.That puts pressure on the government as flat bread is a subsidised staple for Syrians, who have suffered under a conflict estimated to have killed several hundred thousand people and forced millions to flee their homes.The slump in wheat production this year occurred despite better access to agricultural land due to an improved security situation. Infrastructure has been badly damaged after years of war combined with drought hitting bread-producing regions.Of the total wheat produced, government state grain buyer Hoboob is estimated to have purchased only 250,000 tonnes.”There is a new dynamic in the country, as most farmers in these situations will sell to those offering the highest prices and so some of the wheat is sold to private traders and some filters across the borders to Turkey and Iraq,” Adam Yao, deputy FAO representative in Syria, told Reuters.Syria used to produce upwards of 4 million tonnes in a good year and was able to export 1.5 million tonnes. The fall in output has put President Bashar al-Assad’s government under increasing pressure to import the grain. Syria’s Internal Trade Minister told Reuters in June that Syria planned to import around 1.5 million tonnes of mostly Russian wheat this year.
West’s rivers are hot enough to cook salmon to death. Will this court ruling keep them cool? — It might be the most gruesome element of the drought conditions that have gripped the West in recent years: salmon being cooked to death by the thousands in rivers that have become overheated as water flows dwindle. Now a federal judge in Seattle has directed the Environmental Protection Agency, in a ruling with implications for California and the Pacific Northwest, to find a way to keep river waters cool. U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez, ruling in a case filed by environmental and fishermen’s groups, told the agency last week it must develop a plan to keep water temperatures low in the Columbia River and its main tributary, the Snake, to protect multiple varieties of salmon and steelhead that are covered by the Endangered Species Act. The ruling comes at a tense time. Environmentalists and state officials throughout the West are trying to grasp the implications of a memorandum President Donald Trump signed last week to streamline environmental regulations in order to increase water deliveries to farms and cities in the region. At the same time, drought-like conditions persist: The federal government’s U.S. Drought Monitor says 48 percent of California is in moderate to severe drought, along with 39 percent of Washington and 36 percent of Idaho. Just a month ago, the U.S. Commerce Department issued a disaster declaration for commercial salmon fishing on the West Coast, making communities that depend on those fisheries eligible for financial assistance. Martinez’s ruling last week was sparked by an ecological catastrophe in 2015, when an estimated 250,000 sockeye salmon died on the Columbia and Snake because the waters got too warm. In California, more than 95 percent of juvenile winter-run Chinook salmon perished in the Sacramento River in 2014 and 2015 when temperatures spiked during the worst of the drought. The Chinook are protected under the Endangered Species Act. The massive fish kills of 2015 represent “a glimpse into the future as we get hotter and drier,” said attorney Miles Johnson of Columbia Riverkeeper, an environmental group that spearheaded the Seattle case. He said conditions haven’t improved much since the 2015 debacle. “On the Columbia and the Snake we’re in a crisis for water temperature; we’re in danger of losing some of our salmon and steelhead stock,” he said. “Every summer the Columbia and the Snake get too warm for the fish.”
Almost Rs 4,000 Crore Spent, but the Ganga Is More Polluted Under Modi’s Watch – The Narendra Modi government has initiated many projects to clean up the Ganga, but pollution has increased at several sites where the river’s water is monitored. The water is not fit for drinking, bathing or domestic purposes. Professor G.D. Agarwal, the prominent environmentalist who spent several years for the cause of cleaning up river Ganga, passed away on October 11. He had been on a fast for 112 days. Professor Agarwal wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi thrice, demanding that the government ensure uninterrupted flow of Ganga. He sought to remind the PM of his visit to Varanasi in 2014 and his proclamation that “maa Ganga had called him”. However, the prime minister’s office did not respond to Agarwal. He eventually sacrificed his life. Read: G.D. Agarwal’s Third and Final Letter to PM Modi on Saving the Ganga. The Ganga has not become any cleaner under the Modi government. In fact, the river’s contamination levels have increased at many places since 2013, even though Rs 5,523 crore was released for cleaning the Ganga between 2014 and June 2018. Of the funds released, Rs 3,867 crore has already been spent. According to information provided by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), an organisation under the ministry of environment, forest and climate change, the amount of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) in the Ganga river was very high in 2017. BOD is the amount of oxygen needed by biological organisms to break down non-essential organic material in the water. The higher the BOD level, the faster oxygen present in water would deplete. A high BOD level is harmful for both the river and the organisms that live in it. Dissolved oxygen in another parameter used to measure pollution. A high DO level means the water is less polluted.When pollution rises, the oxygen is used to decrease it. If BOD level exceeds 3 mg/l, the water is not suitable for even domestic purposes, let alone consumption. In 2017, the BOD level of Ganga was more than 3 mg/l at 36 of the 80 sites and 2-3 mg/l at another 30. In 2013, it was more than 3 mg/l at 31 sites and 2-3 mg/l at 24.
India: why collecting water turns millions of women into second-class citizens A family in India needs fresh water. But this family can’t just turn on a tap. Instead, the women in the household must walk to fetch it, sometimes travelling miles carrying plastic or earthenware pots, possibly with a child or two in tow, to the nearest safe source – regularly repeating the journey up to three times a day. In the scorching summer months of April and May, when temperatures regularly exceed 40C, it is a particularly gruelling daily ritual – and when they get home they must complete their other household chores: cooking, washing, bringing up the children, even helping on the family farm.These women are reminiscent of the many-armed Hindu goddess, Durga – they have so many daily tasks, they could doubtless do with an extra set of hands. But they aren’t the exception. This is the reality for millions of women in India. From the Western Ghats and the mountainous north-east to the arid desert state of Rajasthan, women across the country act as water collectors. And this gender specific role has a severe impact on every aspect of their lives, from their health and social life to education and their ability to have a real say in the community. It is estimated that 163m Indians still don’t have access to clean, running water. Until that’s fixed, this significant national problem will prevail, with women paying the biggest price. Water collection in India is a woman’s job, irrespective of her physique – and there’s no respite, even when she’s menstruating, ill, or has something else to do. As groundwater resources are placed under increasing pressure due to over-reliance and unsustainable consumption, wells, ponds and tanks can also regularly dry up, escalating the water crisis and placing a greater burden on women to travel long distances. Access to unsafe drinking water also results in the spread of water-borne diseases. And women are often the first victims of both water scarcity and water pollution.
When drought and extreme heat strike forests at the same time – The frequency of extreme weather events is going up around the world, and droughts and heatwaves are no exception. When the globe warms by 3-4 degrees – a possibility during this century under a ‘business as usual’ scenario – about 40 percent of the world’s land surface is predicted to experience drought. The tropics are all set to experience high temperatures as the new normal. With drought and heat posing individual threats, there is also the looming threat of frequent ‘double whammies’ of drought and heat: concurrent drought and heatwaves, across India and the globe. A recent study has found that the area under concurrent drought and heatwaves is more in recent years (1981-2000) compared to an earlier time period (1951-1980) in India. Moreover, there is an increase in frequency of concurrent heatwaves and drought. “We divided 60 years of data into two halves taking 1951-1980 as a base period. At each grid, we computed the differences in number of concurrent droughts and heatwaves for the period 1981 to 2010 with respect to the base period. These results indicate that simultaneous occurrence of droughts and heatwaves have increased,” said Shailza Sharma, an author of the study. The study found that concurrence of extreme drought and longer, more severe heatwaves is increasing in Gujarat, Central India and Peninsular India.The response of vegetation to a combination of drought and stress is complex, ranging from short-lived local mortality events to regional-scale forest die-offs. A variety of forest types have shown mortality in the face of concurrent heat and drought: dry savannas which are adapted to seasonal rainfall, coniferous forests with a Mediterranean climate to tropical rainforests.
With 23 Asiatic lions dead in Gir, here’s what the authorities can do to preserve India’s pride – All is not well for the only free-ranging population of Asiatic lions in the world. In an unprecedented and unexpected development, 23 lions died in Gujarat’s Gir forest in two weeks starting September 12 in what the regional press described as “topotap maut” or back-to-back deaths. According to a report by the Indian Council for Medical Research, Canine Distemper Virus was confirmed in five of them. The deaths of the endangered animals has sent shock waves across the country, with several questions being asked. Were there effective monitoring and screening practices in anticipation of such a contingency? Were authorities prepared to deal with such a situation? Could these deaths have been prevented? In a country where wildlife populations are spiralling towards extinction, the success of the conservation of Asiatic lions has been exhilarating and inspiring. According to the available literature on the subject, the clinical manifestation of Canine Distemper Virus in lions varies with individuals. Serosurveillance or analysis of the blood serum has indicated seropositivity or confirmation of Canine Distemper Virus in the dead Gir lions. Does that automatically prove that Canine Distemper Virus was the cause of death? All animals that carry the Canine Distemper Virus may not die as its expression is dependent on various factors such as host immunity and the virulence of the virus.The enormity of the current situation will therefore be evident only when the clinical symptoms, post-mortem findings and other detailed tests are all examined together. Given these complexities in understanding the disease, its impact and expression, confirming these confounding factors in the wild would be even more challenging. At this juncture, based on available information, we may be able to say that Canine Distemper Virus had manifested as a symptom in Gir lions, and then went on to become fatal. Diseases like Babesiasis, a protozoan disease transmitted through tick bites (that has been confirmed in some lions too), I believe, are most expressed when in combination with another disease. Therefore, the role of the parasite Babesia for cause of death with other infections needs to be clearly understood. We now need answers to the following questions: Whether lions in the Gir forest carry the Canine Distemper Virus? If they do, was it the cause of death for the lions who died? If the animals carry Canine Distemper Virus, is it widespread in the entire population? Have some adult lions developed an immunity to Canine Distemper Virus?
Local Inaction Threatens China’s Snow Leopards, Report Says – A lack of conservation practices by local governments has become one of the major threats to snow leopards in China, according to a new report released Tuesday. Inadequate funding, manpower, and conservation training in government departments – especially those in the northwestern Qinghai province and the southwestern Tibet Autonomous Region – have made it challenging for state-employed conservationists to conduct field surveys and monitor the large cats, the report said. Xiao Lingyun, the report’s lead researcher, told Sixth Tone that the authorities should play an active role and invest more in protecting the threatened species. She added that strengthening policy is key to conservation. “No matter how much we local organizations do, it cannot compare with government policy in terms of the scale of funding and effort,” she said. With fewer than 7,000 remaining in the wild, snow leopards have been classified as a “vulnerable” species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The snow leopard population is spread across 12 countries, but scientists say that 60 percent of the animals can be found in western China. Experts surveyed five provinces and regions in the country’s west for the report and noted area-specific challenges in protecting the leopards. While feral dogs pose a high risk to snow leopards in Qinghai, increased human activity and overgrazing in the southwestern Sichuan province as well as poaching in the northwestern Gansu province – known for both its legal and unlawful sales of animal furs – have proven to be the greatest dangers to the big cats.
Man, 72, killed by group of aggressive “rogue” monkeys throwing bricks at him from tree – A man has been ‘stoned to death’ by a group of “rogue” monkeys who threw bricks at him from a tree, according to reports.Dharampal Singh, 72, suffered head and chest injuries in the attack and was later pronounced dead in hospital.Mr Singh was collecting pieces of dry wood when the group of monkeys launched their attack on Thursday.It is believed the monkeys had armed themselves with bricks they had collected earlier from a run down building nearby in Tikri, Uttar Pradesh. Villagers have repeatedly complained that aggressive monkeys in the area have made their lives hell, but the animals are a protected species so little can be done. Mr Singh’s brother Krishnapal told The Times of India : “Monkeys threw more than 20 bricks at Dharampal on Thursday. “Thrown from quite a height, the bricks were enough to kill him. “These rogue monkeys are the real culprits and must pay for it.” Mr Singh’s family has lodged a formal complaint and named monkeys as the accused but police insisted they cannot prosecute monkeys and have declared Mr Singh’s death was an accident. Chitwan Singh, station officer at Doghat police station, said: “How can we register the case against monkeys?
It’s Giant Mice Vs. Rare Seabirds on This Remote South Atlantic Island — On a remote island in the South Atlantic, a evolutionary battle is playing out between giant mice and rare sea birds. So far, the mice are winning.That’s the conclusion of a study published Monday in Ibis- International Journal of Avian Science that looked at the impact of invasive house mice (Mus musculus) on 10 seabird species on Gough Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important seabird colonies in the world. The study found that the mice ate two million eggs or chicks a year and were putting some endangered species at risk for extinction.”In a very short space of time, the Tristan albatross will be lost and this is also true for a number of other species,” study author Dr. Anthony Caravaggi, from University College Cork in the Republic of Ireland, told BBC News.The Atlantic petrel and MacGillivray’s prion are also at severe risk, the study found. All three species are endemic to Gough Island, which makes them especially vulnerable. Mice were first introduced to the island by sailors in the 19th century and have since adapted to their new surroundings and diets, growing to be 50 percent larger than domestic mice. Seabird chicks and eggs, which are small and nested in burrows, have no escape route from the ravenous mice.
NOAA Forecast: Great Barrier Reef Could Face Third Mass Bleaching Event in 4 Years – One of the most sobering pieces of information from this month’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was that global warming of just two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels could kill off 99 percent of tropical coral reefs. And even if we act quickly and successfully limit warming to 1.5 degrees, 70 to 90 percent of these invaluable ecosystems will still be lost. Now, an alarming forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that process could begin as early as this Australian summer in one of the most iconic reefs of all: the Great Barrier Reef. The forecast shows a 60 percent chance that the entire reef will face extreme heat stress and coral bleachingbetween November 2018 and February 2019. “This is really the first warning bells going off that we are heading for an extraordinarily warm summer and there’s a very good chance that we’ll lose parts of the reef that we didn’t lose in the past couple of years,” marine biologist and Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland Director Ove Hoegh-Guldberg told The Guardian. “These are not good predictions and this is a wake-up call.”The forecast further warns that the southern half of the reef has a 60 percent chance of experiencing a level two bleaching event, at which point coral death is likely, Australia’s ABC reported. The Great Barrier Reef suffered back-to-back bleaching events for the first time in 2016 and 2017, which killed 50 percent of the coral in shallow waters. If the reef suffers bleaching again in 2019, it will be the third time in four years, a frequency not predicted until the second half of the 21st century.
A cruise ship spills thousands of liters of waste in the Great Barrier Reef, harming coral already in troubled water – A cruise ship spilled thousands of gallons of liquid food waste in the Great Barrier Reef in August, according to an ongoing investigation by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority — potentially damaging a reef already plagued by pollution and coral bleaching. Carnival, which owns the P&O cruise ship, said the spill was unintentional and amounted to 7,000 liters (1,849 gallons). But Green Party Senator Larissa Waters and local media report the spill was 27,000 liters (7,133 gallons), citing an Australian Maritime Safety Authority report presented to the Senate. That amount is equivalent to more than 100 bathtubs full of waste water. The P&O ship spilled the polluted water on August 26, but authorities were not notified until two days later when Carnival self-reported the incident. Australian authorities detained the ship when it returned to Sydney in early September, according to an Australian Maritime Safety Authority representative. Carnival had to pay a fine of about $1.5 million (2.1 million Australian dollars) to release the vessel.
Plastic Watch: Recycling Woes — Jerri-lynn Scofield – Regular readers of my plastics posts know that I’m skeptical of the premise that the recycling fairy will be able to rid the world of the problems raised by overuse of plastics – and their inappropriate disposal.But I don’t deny that better recycling strategies would alleviate some damage that our current mis- and over-use of plastics creates.Alas, today I bring to readers’ attention a Guardian exclusive report, published Friday, UK plastics recycling industry under investigation for fraud and corruption. Over to the Guardian:The plastics recycling industry is facing an investigation into suspected widespread abuse and fraud within the export system amid warnings the world is about to close the door on UK packaging waste, the Guardian has learned.The Environment Agency (EA) has set up a team of investigators, including three retired police officers, in an attempt to deal with complaints that organised criminals and firms are abusing the system.Six UK exporters of plastic waste have had their licences suspended or cancelled in the last three months, according to EA data. One firm has had 57 containers of plastic waste stopped at UK ports in the last three years due to concerns over contamination of waste.Allegations that the agency is understood to be investigating include:
- Exporters are falsely claiming for tens of thousands of tonnes of plastic waste which might not exist
- UK plastic waste is not being recycled and is being left to leak into rivers and oceans
- Illegal shipments of plastic waste are being routed to the Far East via the Netherlands
- UK firms with serial offences of shipping contaminated waste are being allowed to continue exporting.
I encourage interested readers to read the Guardian’s account in full. Perhaps the most striking claim:The Guardian understands information has been passed to the EA – the regulators – which shows huge discrepancies between the amount of packaging exports recorded by HM customs, compared to the amount UK exporters claim to have shipped. The data, analysed by the Guardian, reveals British export firms claim to have shipped abroad 35,135 tonnes more plastic than HM Customs has recorded leaving the country.
Swamped with plastic waste: Malaysia struggles as global scrap piles up (Reuters) – Hundreds of sacks filled with plastic waste from the United States, Britain, South Korea and Spain spill onto the streets of an industrial zone in Pulau Indah, an island town just an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur and home to Malaysia’s biggest port. The stench of burning plastic and fumes from nearly a dozen recycling factories wafts through the neighborhood, even as more container-loads of plastic waste are unloaded. Pulau Indah – ironically, the name means “beautiful island” in Malay – is one of many towns in Malaysia where illegal plastic recycling factories have popped up in recent months as the Southeast Asian nation became the top choice for plastic waste exporters from around the world. The trigger for this dumping deluge was a Chinese ban on waste imports from the beginning of this year, which disrupted the flow of more than 7 million tonnes of plastic scrap a year. Malaysia quickly became the leading alternative destination, importing nearly half a million tonnes of plastic waste between January and July from just its top 10 source-countries. Dozens of factories have opened up in Malaysia to handle that waste, many without an operating license, using low-end technology and environmentally harmful methods of disposal. “The situation is getting worse, especially with more and more illegal plastic recycling factories,” Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysia’s minister of energy, technology, science, climate change and environment, told parliament last week. Used plastic is recycled into pellets, which are then used to manufacture other plastic products, but the process comes with pollution risks. Plastic unsuitable for recycling is burnt, which releases toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. Or it ends up in landfill, potentially contaminating soil and water sources. Yeo said she does not want Malaysia to be the “trash can” for developed nations, but Housing Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, who oversees the waste management department, told Reuters that the government also does not want to miss out on a business that could be worth billions. Both ministers are members of a government committee studying its options for dealing with the growing pile of plastic waste.
Trump Threatens to Cut California Firefighting Aid Over ‘Old Trees’ — President Donald Trump lashed out at Democrat-governed California on Wednesday, warning its leaders to clean up forests that he said are full of dead trees posing a wildfire risk. “California’s a mess,” Trump remarked at a Cabinet meeting after Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said his department is “making forests work again.”“It’a a disgraceful thing,” the president continued. “Old trees are sitting there rotting and dry and instead of cleaning them up, they don’t touch them, they leave them, and we end up with these massive fires.”California has experienced 5,322 fires that burned about 621,000 acres so far this year, costing it $773 million for firefighting, according to the state. Fire is a perennial threat in the state, though it has experienced more than twice as much burned acreage so far this year than average.Scientists believe climate change and rising temperatures are making California’s fires worse, but Trump blamed state leaders.“I say to the governor or whoever is going to be the governor: you better get your act together,” he said. “They don’t want to clean up their forests because they have environmental problems cleaning it up — it should be the opposite, you’re going to lose your forest, you’re going to lose it.”He threatened to cut off federal aid for firefighting in California, which he said costs “hundreds of billions of dollars” — an exaggeration. Total federal firefighting costs in 2017 were less than $3 billion, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Former Monsanto Executive Picked by Trump to Lead Wildlife Agency — President Donald Trump said he will nominate a former Monsanto executive to head the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Associated Press reported Tuesday. Aurelia Skipwith, who Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger called “a darling of corporate special interests,” worked at the agribusiness giant for more than six years. She has since worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of the Interior (DOI). A biologist and lawyer by training, Skipwith has been at the DOI since April 2017 overseeing policy and regulations at FWS and the National Park Service. She said she shared Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s goals to “protect our species, increase public access and ensure science is at the forefront of our decisions” in a statement reported by the Associated Press. If she is confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first African American woman to run FWS. FWS has been without an official head since Trump took office. Greg Sheehan, who served as deputy director for 14 months before stepping down in August, could not serve as acting director because he lacked a science degree, the Associated Press reported. Under his lead, FWS has moved forward with policies that have worried environmentalists and animal lovers, including:
- Weakening the Endangered Species Act: A massive DOI proposal included a provision removing the “blanket rule” giving threatened species the same protections as endangered species.
- Reversing the ban on imported elephant trophies: Last November, FWS undid an Obama-era ban on importing the remains of elephants killed legally in Zambia and Zimbabwe back into the U.S.
- Allowing bee-killing pesticides in national wildlife refuges: In August, FWS lifted another Obama-era ban on the use of genetically modified crops and certain pesticides in national wildlife refuges. Some of the newly-allowed pesticides are made by Monsanto, The Guardian pointed out.
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) told The Guardian it was unlikely that Skipwith would improve the situation, calling her “utterly unqualified” because she had no training in either wildlife management or fisheries.
Assessing the Global Climate in September 2018 — The global land and ocean temperature departure from average for September 2018 tied with 2017 as the fourth highest for the month of September in the NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880. The year-to-date was also fourth warmest on record. The September temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.40°F above the 20th century average of 59.0°F and tied with 2017 as the fourth highest for September in the 1880-2018 record. The 10 warmest September global land and ocean surface temperatures have occurred since 2003, with the last five years (2014-2018) comprising the five warmest Septembers on record. September 2015 is the record warm September at 1.67°F above average. September 2018 also marks the 42nd consecutive September and the 405th consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average. Record warm temperatures during the month were present across parts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and across parts of North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. The area with record cold September temperatures was in southwestern Canada. The September globally averaged land surface temperature was 1.84°F above the 20th century average of 53.6°F. This value was the sixth highest September land temperature in the 139-year record. The most notable warm land temperatures were present across southern South America, Alaska, the southwestern and eastern contiguous U.S., much of Europe, the Middle East, as well as western and eastern Russia, where temperature departures were 3.6°F above average or higher. The most notable cool temperature departure from average during September was in central and western Canada, where temperatures were 5.4°F below average or less. Warmer-than-average temperatures were present across much of Europe during September 2018, giving way to the warmest September, at 3.64°F above average, since continental records began in 1910. This value surpassed the previous record set in 2016 by more than 0.20°F. September 2018 marks the first time since continental records began that Europe had a September temperature departure from average that was 3.6°F or higher. South America had its second warmest September on record at 2.72°F above average. This value trails behind the record set in 2015 by 0.23°F. Africa and Asia had their third and fourth warmest Septembers, respectively. Meanwhile, North America had its smallest temperature departure from average for September in 10 years (since 2008) at 0.49°F above average. The September globally averaged sea surface temperature was 1.24°F above the 20th century monthly average of 61.1°F – the fourth highest global ocean temperature for September in the record. The years 2014-2018 comprise the five warmest Septembers on record, with 2015 the warmest September at 1.49°F above average.
El Nino Threatens North America In New Weather Report – Big East Coast Systems Capable Of Snow – El Nino conditions are quickly developing across the central and eastern equatorial regions of the Pacific Ocean, with meteorologist now indicating a high chance of development by December. Warmer-than-normal temperatures for most of the country are expected, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center’s official winter weather forecast released Thursday. Current models show El Nino has a 70 to 75% probability of forming. “We expect El Nino to be in late fall to early winter,” Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Although a weak El Nino is expected, it may still influence the winter season by bringing wetter conditions across the Southern United States, and warmer, drier conditions to parts of the North.” El Nino is a massive ocean-atmosphere climate event linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific waters. The swings between warmer and cooler waters in the tropical Pacific are the primary factors for either El Nino (warmer seawater) or La Nina (cooler seawater), which government meteorologist watch closely in determining the North American winter weather forecast. Here is the 2018 U.S. Winter Outlook report (Dec. through Feb): Warmer-than-normal conditions are expected across much of the northern and western U.S., with higher probabilities of warmer temperatures in Alaska and from the Pacific Northwest to the Northern Plains, Halpert said in a statement. The forecast does not show any region in the US below-average temperatures for the season. Much of the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Ohio Valley regions will remain within average ranges. Halpert said wetter-than-average conditions are favored across the southern tier and Mid-Atlantic, with the highest odds for above-average precipitation in northern Flordia and south Georgia. Drier conditions are expected in areas of the northern Rockies and northern Plains, as well as in the Great Lakes and northern Ohio Valley.
In pictures: Rome suffers freak hailstorm and flooding – A wave of extreme weather bringing hail, floods and strong winds has brought parts of Italy to a standstill. After a long spell of hot weather, Rome suffered damage from a major hailstorm and torrential rains overnight. Firefighters were called out nationwide, from Milan in the north to Sicily in the south. Local authorities issued an orange alert – one below the highest – for the region of Calabria, where cities and towns ordered schools to stay closed. Parts of Molise, Basilicata and Puglia are also on orange alert – while a lesser, yellow warning was issued for Abruzzo, Calabria, Sicily and Lazio. Some drivers were forced to abandon their cars trapped in ice or flooded streets in Rome
Hurricane heading toward Mexico strengthens to Category 4 – A hurricane heading toward Mexico strengthened Sunday to a Category 4 storm as it prepares to make landfall this week. Hurricane Willa is now an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm that will “produce life-threatening storm surge, wind, and rainfall,” the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory notice Sunday.The hurricane is expected to make landfall Tuesday over portions of southwest and west-central Mexico. The storm is expected to continue strengthening before making landfall, according to the National Hurricane Center.A hurricane watch is in effect along a portion of Mexico’s western coast, from San Blas to Mazatlan. Additionally, a tropical storm warning is in effect from Playa Perula to San Blas. Willa is the latest storm in a hurricane season that has included Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael, storms that wreaked havoc in the southeastern United States earlier this fall.
10,000+ Flee as ‘Life-Threatening’ Hurricane Willa Menaces Mexico — Thousands were evacuated from Mexico’s Pacific coast Monday as Hurricane Willa is expected to make landfall as a “life-threatening” Category Four storm Tuesday afternoon, Reuters reported.As of late Monday night, the storm was 80 miles west of Las Islas Marias islands opposite the state of Nayarit. It is expected to be one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to strike Mexico from the Pacific, CNN reported.”Let’s not play the macho. Let’s not act like superheroes,” Nayarit Gov. Antonio Echevarria said, according to Reuters. “It’s a very strong hurricane, very potent, and we don’t want any tragedies.” Nayarit said he had closed schools and evacuated more than 10,000 people.The storm is currently blowing at 130 miles per hour and expected to bring an “extremely dangerous” storm surge to southwestern Mexico and rainfall of six to 12 inches, with some local areas receiving as much as 18. The rain could produce “life-threatening” flooding and landslides, The National Hurricane Center said in itsmost recent forecast.A hurricane warning is in effect for Las Islas Marias and along the Pacific coast from San Blas in the south to Mazitlan in the north, around where it is first expected to hit.”People are really scared,” Mazitlan gas station attendant Zulema Pardo told Reuters, as customers stocked up on water and gasoline and emptied the shelves of bread. “People are crazy and worked up.”Hurricane Willa is another example of a storm, like Hurricane Michael, that intensified rapidly due to warmer-than average ocean temperatures, a phenomenon that has been linked to climate change. Willa formed Saturday as a tropical storm and grew into a Category Five storm Monday before weakening into a Category Four, CNN reported. The waters off of Mexico are one to two degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average for late October. Along with Tropical Storm Vincente, a weaker system moving south of Willa that is expected to make landfall as a tropical depression, also on Tuesday, it will make this hurricane season the most active ever for the northeast Pacific in terms of “Accumulated Cyclone Energy,” a metric that accounts for both the number of storms and their intensity.
Hurricane Willa makes landfall as Category 3 storm on Mexico — Hurricane Willa, a fierce Category 3 storm, closed in on Mexico’s Pacific coast making landfall near Isla del Bosque, Sinaloa state, in Mexico, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Estimated winds speeds were recorded at 120 mph with a wind gust of 95 mph reported. The storm had prompted more than 4,000 evacuations in coastal towns.Forecasters warn the storm will bring life-threatening storm surge, wind and rainfall to parts of western Mexico. Federal officials said late Tuesday there were early reports of blackouts in some places and damage to flimsy structures with tin roofs.The storm had battered the Islas Marias, a group of Mexican islands about 60 miles off the mainland that include a nature preserve and a federal prison. Federal authorities gave no immediate details on any damage to the prison or what steps were taken to protect the inmates. As Willa closed in, the beach in Mazatlan almost disappeared, with waves slamming against the coastal boulevard, black clouds looming overhead. The area is home to high-rise hotels and about 500,000 people, including many U.S. and Canadian expatriates. A few surfers had taken advantage of the high waves even as workers boarded up windows on hotels, shops and homes. Schools were closed and the streets nearly empty. Hurricane-force winds extended 35 miles from the storm’s center, and tropical storm-force winds were up to 115 miles out. Forecasters said Willa could bring 6 to 12 inches of rain, with up to 18 inches in some areas. Farther to the south, the remnants of Tropical Storm Vicente continued to bring heavy rain that caused deadly flooding and mudslides in southern and southwestern Mexico. Federal disaster agency chief Luis Felipe Puente said 11 people died as a result of Vicente. Local officials earlier put the figure at 12.
One-time Hurricane Willa dumping heavy rain on Mexico, on path for U.S — Hurricane Willa lost power rapidly overnight after roaring over a stretch of beach towns, fishing villages and farms on Mexico’s Pacific coast as a Category 3 storm with 120 mph winds. By 2 a.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center had downgraded Willa to a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.By 5 a.m., Willa was a tropical depression with top sustained winds of 30 mph. The hurricane center said Willa was about 75 miles east-northeast of Durango, Mexico, racing northeast at 25 mph.The center predicted the storm would dissipate altogether by afternoon as it moved farther inland over west-central and northern Mexico. Nonetheless, it forecast “additional rainfall totals of 2 to 4 inches with maximum totals of 6 inches possible from eastern Durango, northern Zacateca and southern Coahuila. “This rain will cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,” the center warned.Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli, a CBS News climate and weather contributor, predicts Willa’s remnants will cross the Gulf of Mexico, dump heavy rain on parts of Texas and the Southeast already hard hit then merge with a cold front to form a powerful nor’easter that will hug the eastern Seaboard form Virginia to New England.Assessments of damage done by Willa in Mexico were scanty during the night because of darkness and poor communications, but federal officials said power had been knocked out in some spots and there were early reports of flimsy structures with tin roofs sustaining damage.
Hurricane Willa to become nor’easter, hit East Coast this weekend after slamming Mexico – As Hurricane Willa moves onshore as a major hurricane today in Mexico, its next move is already planned. The storm is on track to become the East Coast’s first major nor’easter of the season, bringing damaging winds, pounding surf and even some heavy, wet inland snow this weekend. Currently located more than 2,000 miles away from New York City, Willa is making landfall today on the Pacific coast of Mexico, just south of the resort town of Mazatlan. Willa briefly hit Category 5 strength on Monday, becoming the third Category 5 storm of the Eastern Pacific season, which is now the most energetic on record. Willa is carrying supercharged Pacific energy and even moisture from another tropical system, Vincente, as it slams ashore in Mexico. While the storm is forecast to lose strength as it crosses the mountains of Mexico, it will retain its identity as it moves towards Texas. And that is where the transition from tropical storm system to nor’easter will begin. In Texas, up to several inches of rain will fall on already saturated ground. Having endured major flooding in the Hill Country less than a week ago, Texans are preparing for round two Wednesday. This time flash flooding is a threat in localized downpours. On Thursday, strong thunderstorms will pound some of the same areas ravaged by Hurricane Michael. Torrential downpours and isolated tornadoes are possible from Louisiana to Mississippi, Alabama, northern Florida and Georgia. The largest threat for tornadoes will be the Florida Panhandle and South Georgia. Then the system re-energizes. The remnants of Willa will merge with a cold front, round the corner and then hug the Eastern Seaboard, becoming a significant nor’easter for all of the East Coast as we head into the weekend. That raw weather will barrel up the Eastern Seaboard and make for a miserable Saturday in the Northeast. At this point the storm will be a full-fledged nor’easter, and a very strong one for this early in the season. Gusts of 50-70 mph and ocean waves up to 20 feet will lash coastal areas from Virginia to New England. Coastal flooding is possible in normally vulnerable areas. The snow will be heavier farther north, from the Catskills into the mountains of Northern New England. Some areas in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine could pick up a foot. The cement-like snow will weigh down power lines and, combined with gusty winds, may cause scattered power outages.
Hurricane Michael caused 1.7 million electricity outages in the Southeast United States – EIA – Hurricane Michael resulted in outages for up to 1.7 million electricity customers across six states, according to situation reports from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response. On Wednesday, October 10, 2018, the storm made landfall as a Category 4 storm near Mexico Beach in the Florida panhandle. During the following two days, Hurricane Michael traveled through Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia with heavy rainfall and up to 65 mile-per-hour winds. Outages were highest in Virginia, where peak outages reached 523,000 customers, or about 14% of the state, on October 12. North Carolina also saw significant outages on that day, reaching 492,000 customers, or 10% of the state. As of October 19, power had been restored to 93% of customers who experienced a storm-related outage. Of the 125,000 customers still without power on October 19, more than 80% were in Florida. Gulf Power, which serves 459,000 customers in northwestern Florida, estimates that some customers may not have power restored until October 24. Duke Energy, which serves Mexico Beach, cannot currently estimate recovery times because much of the infrastructure in the area where the storm made landfall will need to be rebuilt.
Death toll from Hurricane Michael rises to 36 – At least 36 people have been confirmed dead as a result of Hurricane Michael, according to authorities. The number rose Saturday after a local medical examiner confirmed the death of a woman in Bay County, Florida, bringing the death toll in Florida alone to 26. Authorities did not offer additional details on the death. Officials in four states — Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia — have each confirmed people died as a result of the storm. The latest death toll comes 20 days after Michael ravaged the Florida Panhandle and wrought havoc in a slew of Southern states that were battered by powerful winds and inundated with floodwater.
Hurricane Michael leaves a seaside Florida town in an existential crisis – For generations, families have come to Mexico Beach to soak up old-style Florida: the mom-and-pop seafood shacks, the dinky one-story motels and pastel bungalows, the retro ice cream parlor with claw machines and vintage arcade games.But Hurricane Michael, which less than two weeks ago pummeled the tiny seaside town with 155-mph winds and demolished roughly three out of every four buildings, has left the community in an existential crisis. Nobody is sure what comes next. Many residents and business owners, anticipating massive insurance shortfalls, have yet to decide whether to commit to the daunting challenge of rebuilding structures strong enough to withstand the next big storm.About a third of the town’s 1,200 full-time residents are senior citizens. Many homes were not covered by flood insurance. A vast swath of older ranch-style homes and commercial structures sat at ground level and did not meet the state’s current elevation and windstorm requirements. “They’re gonna make you build so heavy duty, you can’t afford to rebuild,” said Charles “Chuck” Smith, 56, owner of the Gulf View Motel, a modest 1940s-era building that his parents bought in the mid-1980s. Now it is rubble. Wind, water and debris wrecked the concrete walls, gutting the kitschy rooms with tiny kitchenettes, sweeping away the queen beds with peach and turquoise bedspreads patterned with seashells. Mexico Beach was woefully unprepared for a Category 4 hurricane: While new structures across South Florida must be built to withstand winds of around 175 mph, buildings in this stretch of Florida’s panhandle are required to sustain winds of only 130 mph. Older buildings are exempt. As residents began to grapple with insurance claims and apply for federal assistance, engineering experts and policymakers said current building codes should be tightened to make future homes more resilient. Some questioned whether, in an age of rising sea levels, it made any sense to rebuild so close to the beach. “I’m afraid we’re going to run into a situation where only the wealthy can afford to rebuild and the people that work in the economy – the teachers, the nurses, the paramedics, firefighters, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, people who work at the grocery store – may very well be priced out of their homes.”
Hurricane Michael’s homeless hunt places to live and rebuild – Noel Santiago, 53, dragged his friend, 34-year-old Rosa Perez, and her two children, down to the first story of Macedonia Garden Apartments in Panama City just as the howling winds of Hurricane Michael ripped the roof off their second-story apartment. A week later, many of the residents of the public housing complex are still here. They’re camping out amid the mouldering remains of their shredded apartments and cars, cooking over fires in common areas and lighting their mildewing spaces with candles when night falls.Like the tens of thousands displaced by the storm, many of these people don’t have places to go – or a way to get there if they did.There are rumors circulating that residents have three days to leave their ruined apartments or they won’t be able to be transferred to a new apartment building. Residents huddle in hallways, smoking cigarettes and anxiously discussing their next moves. Perez has been making the rounds, insisting to other residents that management can’t make them leave.“Legal services came and told us,” she said. “They can’t do that. They want FEMA to put us in a hotel and not take the rental voucher.”“Everybody is scared by that,” she added.Perez and her family lost everything in the storm. They’re living with a friend until Perez gets her FEMA voucher for two months’ worth of rent. She doesn’t have a bank account, so she’s been waiting a week for the mail to be delivered with her voucher.For many in the community, the world has narrowed to what’s within walking distance. The nearest aid station is just over two miles away at a Baptist church. Without a vehicle or a shopping cart to carry the goods home in the scorching heat, it’s out of reach.
Armed looters target homes devastated by Hurricane Michael in Florida — Armed looters are targeting homes and businesses that remain without electricity after being ravaged by Hurricane Michael a week ago. Sheriff’s Maj. Jimmy Stanford said deputies have arrested about 10 looters each night since Florida’s Bay County took a direct hit from the strong Category 4 storm last Wednesday. In some parts of the county, residents have spray-painted signs warning that “looters will be shot.”Callaway resident Victoria Smith told the News Herald that thieves came into her townhome while she and her four children were sleeping with the front door open to allow a breeze inside.”I must’ve been so exhausted from everything in the past days I didn’t even hear them come in,” Smith said. “They just snatched my purse out of my hands and ran. … It was all we had.”Often the looters have been armed, Stanford said.”Most of our officers lost their homes, have been working 16- to 18-hour shifts with no sleep, no shower, and now they’re encountering armed individuals,” he said. “It’s a stressful time for everyone in Bay County.” The storm killed at least 16 people in Florida, most of them in the coastal county that took a direct hit from the storm, state emergency authorities said Tuesday. That’s in addition to at least 10 deaths elsewhere across the South.
It will be years’ before life at Tyndall Air Force Base returns to normal – Jillian Arrowood and her two daughters had just joined her husband William, her son and her father-in-law, an Army retiree who had recently had a stroke, in their new home by the water on Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida on October 8. There was no indication of the bad weather that was headed their way. Just as the sun was setting, a nearby airman who had been fishing told them that Tyndall received evacuation orders. Less than six hours after Jillian and her daughters arrived on base, the Arrowood family was packing up to leave, and they haven’t been back since. They are one of hundreds of military families that have been displaced from Tyndall Air Force Base as a result of Hurricane Michael. The eye of the Category 4 storm cut straight through the base on October 10, causing catastrophic destruction. The storm reduced houses to splinters, blew off roofs and busted open hangars where top-grade aircraft such as F-22 planes were housed. In total, Brig. Gen. Edward Thomas, the Air Force Director of Public Affairs, estimated that there were more than 860 housing units on the base, and about 11,000 airmen and their families assigned there. He likened the damage to that seen on Keesler Air Force Base after Hurricane Katrina. He used Keesler as a comparison when estimating how long restorations would take. “I think it would be fair to say it will be years to make Tyndall look like it did before the hurricane hit,” he said at a press conference this week. Those who have been displaced from Tyndall are stuck in limbo, uncertain of what will happen next. Tyndall was home to about 55 out of the total 187 F-22s in the U.S. fleet. Some were flown to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, but the Air Force refused to say how many were left behind.
Category 5 Super Typhoon Yutu is Lashing U.S. Territories of Saipan, Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands – Super Typhoon Yutu is striking parts of the Northern Mariana Islands in the Western Pacific Ocean and has become the strongest typhoon of record to pass near the U.S. territories of Saipan and Tinian. The eye of Yutu has now pushed west of the islands of Saipan and Tinian in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, located about 120 miles north-northeast of Guam.Maximum sustained winds remain solidly Category 5 intensity, near 175 mph, as of the latest advisory from the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center. The intense eyewall of Yutu was clearly visible from the National Weather Service Doppler radar at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, early Thursday before the radar stopped transmitting data. There were numerous lightning strikes within Yutu’s eyewall, indicative of an intense tropical cyclone.Winds gusted to 103 mph at Saipan International Airport before wind data stopped transmitting as the eyewall moved in. Some gusts over 50 mph have been measured on Guam, along with bands of rain. Typhoon warnings continue for the islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota, and a tropical storm warning remains in effect for Guam, as well as the far northern islands of Alamagan, Pagan and Agrihan. Typhoon-force winds (at least 74 mph) will continue to lash Saipan, Tinian and Rota through late Thursday morning local time. Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands are 14 hours ahead of U.S. EDT. The NWS is forecasting seas to increase to 30 to 40 feet near the center of Yutu, with life-threatening rip currents expected from this surf. High surf and rip currents will be felt throughout the Marianas through at least Thursday as Yutu passes through. Winds of Category 5 magnitude are capable of the following impacts, according to the National Hurricane Center:
– High percentage of framed homes destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse.
– Fallen trees and power poles will isolated residential areas.
– Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months.
– Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
The eastern Pacific Ocean has seen its most active hurricane season on record – The Atlantic has endured a bad hurricane season, thanks to Florence and Michael, but it could be worse. The eastern Pacific Ocean, whose storms have affected Mexico’s west coast and Hawaii, has notched its most active season on record. And we still have more than a month left in the “official” window of eastern Pacific hurricane season.Already featuring three Category 5 hurricanes east of the international date line, the Pacific has been furiously cranking out storms since shortly after the season began May 15. Aletta formed on June 6, with Bud quickly spinning up three days later. Before long, a seemingly ceaseless barrage of storms blew up, largely dodging land save for a few brushes with coastal Mexico and Hawaii.Added up, this season tops the charts as the most energetic on record. Meteorologists evaluate how busy the hurricane season is by relying on a metric ACE – Accumulated Cyclone Energy – a measure of the intensity and duration of all the storms that form. Climatologists keep a running tally of ACE throughout the season to see how it stacks up against those from the past.The average season-to-date ACE for this time of year is 125.7 units. Through Oct. 23, storms had churned up a combined 311 units. That’s more than two and a half times the typical expectation. Even more staggering is the fact that no other season in recorded history has climbed above 295 units, reached in 1992. 2015 came in third place, at 287 ACE units. With five weeks left to go, we’re truly in uncharted territory.The season featured many highlights, among them the distinction of being only the third eastern Pacific season to boast three Category 5s. Just Monday afternoon, Willa metastasized into a 160 mph beast. Willa became the 10th major hurricane, Category 3 or higher, to form in the eastern Pacific this year. So far, 2018 is tied with 1992 for the second-most major hurricanes on record in this region.’
2018 Atlantic, Pacific Hurricane Season Most Active on Record – This hurricane season is the busiest we’ve ever seen – and we still have more than a month to go before it’s over.If you combine all the hurricanes and tropical storms that formed in both the Atlantic and eastern Pacificoceans this year, the 2018 hurricane season is the most active in recorded history, USA TODAY reported, citing Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach.To measure the activity of a hurricane season, meteorologists use the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index which takes into account the combined number, strength and duration of tropical cyclones that formed. The average ACE for the Atlantic and eastern Pacific seasons together is 221 units of energy. But this year? The combined Atlantic/Pacific ACE is 432, breaking the previous record of 371 set in 1992, according to Klotzbach.This year’s major storms included Florence and Michael in the Atlantic, as well as Lane, Rosa, Sergio andWilla in the Pacific. Hurricane season ends on Nov. 30.It’s been such an active season in the Pacific that we’re even starting to run out of names. After Willa became the 23rd named storm, we only have three more names on the list – Xavier, Yolanda and Zeke – before we have to switch to letters of the Greek alphabet to name storms.In the Atlantic, storm names only go to the letter “W” before reverting to Greek letters. The only time we had to do that was in 2005, NBC’s Texas-based DFW noted. After Wilma, we named six more storms: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon and Zeta.What’s more, Klotzbach said we’ve had more major hurricane days this year than ever before in the Pacific.”The 2018 Northeast Pacific (to 180°) #hurricane season has generated a whopping 34.5 major (Category 3+) hurricane days to date – shattering the old seasonal record of 24 major hurricane days set in 2015,” he tweeted on Tuesday. The record hurricane season is driven by warmer-than-average ocean surface temperatures.
‘Oh My God, It’s Gone!’ Hawaiian Island Important for Seals and Turtles Washed Away By Hurricane –A small Hawaiian island that was an important habitat for endangered species has entirely disappeared, The Huffington Post confirmed Tuesday.East Island in the French Frigate Shoals, an atoll around 550 miles northwest of Honolulu that formed part of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, was entirely washed over by storm surge fromHurricane Walaka this month, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) satellite images show.”I had a holy shit moment, thinking ‘Oh my God, it’s gone,'” University of Hawaii climate scientist Chip Fletcher told Honolulu Civil Beat. “It’s one more chink in the wall of the network of ecosystem diversity on this planet that is being dismantled.”East Island was only 11 acres – around a half mile long and 400 feet wide. But it was an important habitat for endangered Hawaiian monk seals, Hawaiian green sea turtles and several species of seabirds.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) protected species division director Charles Littnan told The Huffington Post he was not yet sure what the island’s loss would mean for the wildlife that depended on it, but that similar small islands were increasingly likely to disappear as climate change leads to sea level rise. This event is confronting us with what the future could look like,” Littnan said. Another nearby island, Trig Island, also disappeared this year due to wave activity, but its erosion had been predicted for years, Honolulu Civil Beat said.
1.2 Million Coastal Homes in England at Risk from Sea Level Rise by 2080 — “We are not prepared.” That’s the major takeaway from a new report by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) looking at the potential impact of sea level rise on England’s coastal homes and infrastructure, as one report author Prof. Jim Hall told The Guardian. The report, released Thursday, found that a third of current plans to shore up coastlines are not affordable, and that the country has not honestly confronted the level of risk. “There genuinely will be homes that it will not be possible to save,” CCC’s adaptation committee chair Baroness Brown told The Guardian. “The current approach is not fit for purpose. This report is really a wake-up call to the fact that we can’t protect the whole English coast to today’s standard. We could see as much as a meter of sea level rise before the end of the century, so within the lifetime of today’s children, and that has a major impact on coastal flooding and erosion.” The management plans currently in place have no funding or enforcement, the report said. Further, plans to protect more than 150 kilometers (approximately 93 miles) of coastline would cost more than the land they would save. BBC News and The Guardian summarized the report’s major findings. Currently 520,000 properties, including 370,000 homes, face a 0.5 percent or greater risk from annual coastal flooding. 8,900 properties are at risk from coastal landslides. Around 7,500 kilometers (approximately 4,660 miles) of road, 520 kilometers (approximately 323 miles) of railway, 205,000 hectares (approximately 506,566 acres)of agricultural land and 3,400 hectares (approximately 8,401 acres) of potentially toxic landfill face a 0.1 percent or greater risk of coastal flooding each year. By 2080 1.5 million properties, including 1.2 million homes, could be at risk from floods. Another 100,000 properties could be at risk from landslides caused by erosion. About 1,600 kilometers (approximately 994 miles) of major roads, 650 kilometers (approximately 404 miles) of railway, 92 railway stations and 55 historic landfill sites could be at risk from flooding or erosion.
Alaska’s growing season is getting longer thanks to climate change -If climate change remains unchecked, the growing season in Alaska may get longer, potentially offsetting some losses in crop yields in the contiguous 48 states, according to Earth Interactions, a journal published by the American Meteorological Society.Models show the growing season extending by an average of 48 days near Fairbanks as early as 2071 and 63 days on the Aleutian Islands, according to a paper published as an early online release. Some areas may see the season increase 87 days, between the last frost of spring and the first one of fall. Rick Lader, of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, was the lead author. Along with a longer growing season, Alaska may also get more days when heat stress presents a problem for crops. Because of the state’s harsh climate, farmland makes up less than 0.5 percent of its area. Oat, wheat and barley, along with some vegetables, berries and fruits grow there now.
PIOMAS October 2018 —Arctic Sea Ice by Neven – Wipneus has just updated his PIOMAS graphs to mid-October. More on that below, but first I’ll discuss the minimum.—Another month has passed and so here is the updated Arctic sea ice volume graph as calculated by the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) at the Polar Science Center: As always, the minimum was reached in September. This year, the lowest amount of sea ice volume, according to PIOMAS, was reached on September 15th, and ended up 6th lowest on record, after 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2017. And thus, because the maximum was second lowest on record, total melt was 9th lowest on record:
If we look at the data for the end of September, 2018 has already crept to 5th lowest on record, almost on a par with 2017. Where most years gain a bit of volume during September, 2018 actually lost 119 km3, thus reducing the gap with all years that were lower at the end of August (dipping below 2010), as can be seen on this table showing how the differences with previous years have evolved from last month: If we then look at Wipneus‘ most recent graph with data up to mid-October, we see that 2018 has gone down even further in the ranking and is now in 3rd place: So, basically, what we’re seeing, is the recent slow re-freeze reflected in PIOMAS volume data as well. Further confirmation is provided by SMOS, the satellite that measures sea ice thickness up to 1 metre (hat-tip to seaice.de): This means that the anomaly trend line on the PIOMAS volume anomaly graph is still hovering above the linear trend line (and will continue to do so until next summer, the only question is by how much): Both average thickness graphs, my crude calculation (by dividing PIOMAS volume numbers with JAXA extent) and the Polar Science Centre version, aren’t showing anything spectacular: An end has now come to the slow re-freeze, although things still aren’t progressing ultra-fast and 2018 is (among the) lowest on some extent graphs. Temperatures are still relatively high in the Arctic, as can be seen on Zack Labe‘s version of the DMI 80N graph, probably caused this time around by Arctic waters releasing their heat rather than heat getting imported from lower latitudes:
Media Is Ignoring The Escalating Militarization Of The Arctic – Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific are not the only potential theaters of military operations. The Arctic is an area of geopolitical rivalry. The situation there is undeservedly kept out of media spotlight. Meanwhile, 2018 has brought new record lows in the extent of sea ice in the region. Russia has presented a 1.2 million square kilometers Arctic claim to the UN. Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a Coastal state may claim rights to the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles by presenting scientific proof that it is a natural prolongation of its continental margin. The Russian Coastal exclusive economic zone can be extended, giving the state exclusive rights to exploit natural resources in the seabed and the ocean. Actually, Russia sits on $8.5 trillion oil reserves.Moscow considers the Northern Sea Route (NSR) lying east of Novaya Zemlya and specifically running along the Russian Arctic coast from the Kara Sea, along Siberia, to the Bering Strait as the water area within Russia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in accordance with Article 234 of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. This article grants all littoral states the right, within their exclusive economic zones (200 nautical miles), to pass non-discriminatory laws and regulations concerning navigation in ice-field areas. The US is a signatory but Congress has not ratified the document. Washington does not recognize the Russia’s claims and seeks to internationalize the region.The US, Canada, Denmark and Norway have their own claims. The Arctic is believed to hold more than $22 trillion worth of resources hidden beneath the ice, including 90 billion barrels of oil and 47 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. It’s only natural for states to have disputes as long as they are addressed on the basis of international law through negotiations. But the gradual escalation of tensions in the Arctic is a fact. According to the Danish government’s 2018-2023 defense guidelines, there will be an impressive 20 percent increase in defense spending in the next six years. The Arctic is mentioned as an area of increased activity and military presence. In summer, Norway recommitted itself to NATO defense spending target of at least 2% of GDP with its new long-term plan for 2021-2024 having this commitment as a key premise. Oslo is to invest in “strategic capabilities”, such as the new F-35 stealth fighter, submarines and P-8 maritime patrol aircraft. Canada is to deploy an Arctic naval flotilla. Last year, Ottawa unveiled a plan to boost its defense spending by 70 percent (or more than $30-billion) over the next decade – much of it going to new warships and fighter jets. The Lomonosov Ridge is the main object of territorial dispute between Russia and Canada. It stretches 1,800 km from the New Siberian Islands cross the Arctic Ocean to the Canadian Ellesmere Island. Canada conducts military exercises in the area.
Canada earthquake- Three strong quakes strike off British Columbia coast – Three strong earthquakes, of between 6.5 and 6.8 magnitude, have struck off the coast of the Canadian province of British Columbia, according to the United States Geological Survey.All the quakes occurred in less than an hour on Sunday night. There were no immediate reports of casualties or of any damage from the earthquakes.A 6.6 magnitude quake struck first, at 10.39 pm local time. The quake hit at a depth of 33 km, about 190 km southwest of Port Hardy, a town on the northeast end of Vancouver island.A 6.8 magnitude quake and a 6.5 magnitude one occurred in succession shortly afterwards. Geophysicist Amy Vaughan said that there were possibly some smaller quakes as well as some aftershocks.Ms Vaughan added that the earthquakes were lightly felt onshore. British Columbia sits in the North American portion of the Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.Its position means it is at risk of being hit by earthquakes. The US National Tsunami Warning Center said that a tsunami is “not expected.”
New York Sues Exxon for Deceiving Investors on Climate Change – New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil on Wednesday alleging the company defrauded shareholders and downplayed the risk of climate change to its business. The suit, first reported by the New York Times, is the culmination of a years-long investigation – colloquially known as the #ExxonKnew probe – into the energy giant’s business practices and whether it lied to investors and the public about the risks of climate change.In a press release, Underwood’s office said the investigation uncovered an alleged fraudulent scheme to systematically and repeatedly deceive investors about the significant impact that future climate change regulations could have on the company’s assets and value. The alleged fraud reached the highest levels of the company, including former chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson.”Investors put their money and their trust in Exxon – which assured them of the long-term value of their shares, as the company claimed to be factoring the risk of increasing climate change regulation into its business decisions. Yet as our investigation found, Exxon often did no such thing,” Attorney General Underwood said in the press release. “Instead, Exxon built a facade to deceive investors into believing that the company was managing the risks of climate change regulation to its business when, in fact, it was intentionally and systematically underestimating or ignoring them, contrary to its public representations.”The suit, filed in New York Supreme Court, New York County, seeks an order prohibiting Exxon from continuing to misrepresent its practices in this area and requires it to tell investors the truth. It also asks the court to award damages, although no dollar amount was specified. The impact of the alleged fraud on the company’s value could be massive. Underwood’s office listed the following:
- For 14 of Exxon’s oil sands projects in Alberta, Canada, Exxon’s failure to apply its publicly represented proxy costs resulted in undercounting of projected greenhouse-gas related expenses by more than $25 billion over the projected lifetime of the projects.
- Exxon undercounted projected greenhouse gas-related costs by as much as 94 percent – equal to about $11 billion – in an economic forecast for its Kearl oil sands asset in Alberta.
- Exxon failed to apply the proxy costs it represented to the public in estimating company reserves at Cold Lake, a major oil sands asset in Alberta, resulting in an overestimation of its projected economic life by 28 years, and an overestimation of company reserves volumes by more than 300 million oil-equivalent barrels, representing billions of dollars of revenues.
The fossil fuel corporation has tried to block the climate probe in courts in three states, the Times noted. A company spokesman told The Hill that there “is no evidence to support these allegations.”
Supreme Court Grants Government’s Extraordinary Appeal, Pauses Kids Climate Case — The U.S. Supreme Court has put the brakes on the landmark youth-led climate lawsuit, Juliana v. United StatesIn a one-page order issued Friday by Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., the court granted a request made earlier this week by the Trump administration to stay discovery and trial pending review of its newly filed petition for writ of mandamus.Roberts also ordered the plaintiffs to respond to the government’s mandamus petition no later than Wed. Oct. 24.Trial in the case was previously set to begin on Oct. 29 in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Ore.The Trump administration has repeatedly asked both the Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to stop the trial via writ of mandamus, a rarely used and even more rarely granted appeal in which a higher court overrules a lower court before a verdict has been issued. The Ninth Circuit has twice turned down the request for mandamus (and a third is pending) and the Supreme Court turned down a previous one as well.“We are confident once Chief Justice Roberts and the full Court receive the youth plaintiffs’ response to defendants’ mischaracterization of their case, the trial will proceed,” said Julia Olson, co-counsel for the young plaintiffs. The case has survived numerous attempts by the government to dismiss the case since it was originally filed in 2015. The 21 young plaintiffs from around the country argue that the federal government is violating their Constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by promoting an energy system that exacerbates climate change. They are asking for a science-based program to reduce carbon emissions and protect the climate for future generations.
Teen Climate Activist to Crowd of Thousands: ‘We Can’t Save the World by Playing by the Rules’ – Addressing some 10,000 people in Helsinki on Saturday at what some campaigners are calling Finland’s largest ever climate demonstration, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg urged marchers to fight for the major systemic changes that experts have said are necessary to limit greenhouse gas emissions and avert a looming climate catastrophe. “Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground, so we can’t save the world by playing by the rules because the rules have to change. Everything needs to change and it has to start today,” declared the Swedish teenager, who traveled to the capital city of her nation’s Nordic neighbor for Saturday’s massive march. “A lot of people say that Sweden or Finland are just small countries and that it doesn’t matter what we do,” Thunberg added. “But I think that if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school for a few weeks, imagine what we could do together if we wanted to.” Thunberg garnered international media attention when, ahead of Sweden’s September election, she refused to attend school and instead protested outside the Swedish parliament, handing out educational pamphlets to passersby. Now that the election has passed, the self-described “climate radical” and others who have joined the strike return to school for four days each week but still protest on Fridays. “We young people don’t have the vote, but school is obligatory,” she told The Local in August. “So this a way to get our voices heard.” At her “now-famous” protest spot and in interviews with the press, Thunberg has stuck to the same message she delivered Saturday about the necessity of a rapid global shift away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable energy sources. “I think the election didn’t matter,” she said to The New Yorker about Sweden’s latest batch of political races. “The climate is not going to collapse because some party got the most votes. The politics that’s needed to prevent the climate catastrophe – it doesn’t exist today. We need to change the system, as if we were in crisis, as if there were a war going on.”
Trump thinks scientists are split on climate change. So do most Americans – When queried about the most recent IPCC report, Republican lawmakers delivered a consistent, false message – that climate scientists are still debating whether humans are responsible. The previous IPCC report was quite clear on this, attributing 100% of the global warming since 1950 to human activities. As Nasa atmospheric scientist Kate Marvel recently put it, “We are more sure that greenhouse gas is causing climate change than we are that smoking causes cancer.” Donald Trump articulated the incorrect Republican position in an interview on 60 Minutes: We have scientists that disagree with [human-caused global warming] … You’d have to show me the [mainstream] scientists because they have a very big political agenda To paraphrase, ‘I know scientists. I have the best scientists.’ And of course Trump thinks he has “a natural instinct for science” which, as astrophysicist Katie Mack noted, is not a thing: There is no “natural instinct for science.” This is not a thing. There is curiosity, there is exploration, and there is the desire to learn & grow & test one’s naive notions against cold hard data. Believing in a “natural instinct for science” is anathema to everything science is…Numerous papers have shown that over 90% of climate science experts agreethat humans are the main cause of global warming since 1950, and when considering peer-reviewed papers, the consensus exceeds 97%. And yet as surveys by Yale and George Mason universities have found, only about 15% of Americans are aware that the expert climate consensus exceeds 90%.
The Vileness of “Progressives” on the Climate Crisis — Russell Bangs – There is one and only one way to avert the worst of the climate crisis: Stop emitting greenhouse gases; stop destroying sinks; rebuild sinks on a massive scale. All else is a lie. Most of all, the Big Lie is that anything constructive can be done within the congenitally destructive framework of capitalism, productionism, the economic civilization. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar who really cares nothing about the climate crisis or any other part of the great ecological crisis, other than seeing these as an opportunity to tout scams.For example, our “progressives” and “the left” are peas in a pod with George Bush in proclaiming that “the American way of life”, in all its wastefulness, destructiveness, and ugliness, “is non-negotiable.” Therefore, for them just as much as for corporations and rightists, the only true solution, which requires the complete end of this nightmarish “way of life”, is a non-starter, indeed is inconceivable.For progressives just as much as for ExxonMobil the ecological assault not only must continue but must escalate at all times. In the case of those who cry crocodile tears over the climate, the general assault must be augmented with yet another vicious assault in the name of “doing something about the climate.” Yes, they want to do something all right: They want massive, ecologically destructive industrial projects in order allegedly to “capture” carbon. In reality none of these would work. The only way to capture carbon is to stop emitting; stop destroying natural sinks; rebuild natural sinks on a massive scale. But that would require them to give up their worthless appliances, their worthless gadgets, their worthless industries, most of all their worthless cars. And like I said, “progressives” are every bit as materialistic, every bit as much nothing but the appendages of their machines and gadgets, and have every bit as much a hatred and destruction-lust toward the Earth as the fattest, most civilization-dependent conservative.
Our Constitutional Right to Protest Is Under Assault – A new proposed rule from the National Park Service is aiming to restrict peaceful protest in parks and even sidewalks within the District of Columbia – just one effort on a long list of anti-protest laws popping up all around the country.Our right to free speech and peaceful protest is so fundamental to our democracy that it’s one of the first points the authors of the Constitution felt must be guaranteed – centuries of state-sponsored oppression and persecution was bad enough to deem free speech a top priority for the new republic. Without this protection, think of the dozens of modern critical moments shaping our country that might not have happened otherwise – from the 1969 Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, which bolstered the anti-war sentiment for many families, or the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King Jr gave his iconic “I have a dream speech.” In moments like these, protests gave ordinary people like me and you a space and place to speak in the public interest, allowing us to practice of our First Amendment rights and hit an emotional cord, shaping the national discourse. But now this freedom to express ourselves is under serious threat, thanks to Trump’s Interior Department.Under a new proposal introduced by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the National Park Service is looking to dramatically limit the right to demonstrate near the White House and the National Mall, block 80% of the White House sidewalks, impose strict limits on spontaneous demonstrations, and even charge people for protesting.
Climate change and compassion fatigue – I’m a climate scientist, and I don’t worry about climate change very much. I think about it every day, but I don’t let it in. To me climate change is a fascinating math problem, a symphony unfolding both slowly and quickly before our very eyes. The consequences of this math problem, for myself and my family and our future, I keep locked in a tiny box in my brain. The latest IPCC special report tells the world what I and all of my colleagues have known for years: we’re seriously running out of time. In order to keep climate change in the category of “expensive inconvenience” rather than “civilisation destroyer”, we’re going to have to decarbonise the global economy in less time than many of the people reading this have been alive. But given the priorities of most of the world’s governments, it seems uncomfortably plausible that we’ll be facing the sort of post-apocalyptic wasteland I’ve only ever seen in movies. But I can’t seem to imagine my future intersecting with this future. I can’t picture myself or my family as part of the movie, only as part of the audience. It feels deeply intangible, like my own death. Instead I surround myself with the comforting minutia of academic life. I worry about small things, like how I’m going to fix the latest problem with my model, and slightly larger things, like what I’m going to do when my contract runs out and whether I will ever get a permanent job. But mostly I just really enjoy studying the disaster. An ice sheet which is falling apart is far more interesting than a stable ice sheet, and I feel privileged to have access to such a good math problem. And I don’t worry about climate change, I don’t open that box, for months at a time. “Compassion fatigue” is a term used to describe healthcare professionals who become desensitised to tragedy and suffering, and lose the ability to empathise with their patients. It begins as a coping strategy, because fully absorbing the emotional impact of such harrowing work would eventually make it impossible to get up in the morning. I think I have compassion fatigue with climate change. The more I study it, the less I actually think about it. The scarier it gets, the less I seem to care.
The Climate Won’t Stop Changing In 2100 – To suppose that climate change is somehow reversible in the natural course of events on any meaningful timescale is tantamount to denial. The science states clearly that the choices made in climate policy in the coming decades will likely affect the planet for millennia. Nothing will be reversible, except perhaps on geologic time scales – tens of thousands of years, by which time whatever remains of Trump’s towers will likely be under literal, if not financial, water. Still, there are limits to our understanding about climate change in the very long term. That’s because climate models tend to aim at the year 2100, because of both practical and technological limitations on what can be modeled. After that, we’re looking at very long-term timescales. But no matter how we model, the effects will clearly be irrevocably catastrophic unless emissions are reduced, and fast. The 2 degrees Celsius of global warming above preindustrial levels, once considered the limit for avoiding catastrophe, is now recognized as having catastrophic consequences. Wildfires, coral reef die-offs, droughts and floods will all get worse by 2040. And ambitious geoengineering tech that doesn’t exist yet could be crucial in mitigating some of warming’s worst effects. But even these reports have to stop somewhere, and the date is 2100, when most of the IPCC’s climate projections end. The reason for the cut-off is simple: computing power and time. When the IPCC started its work in the late 1980s and early ’90s, the computers simply didn’t have the capacity to run models that reached beyond 2100 in a reasonable amount of time. The models that have been developed since have grown increasingly sophisticated, but still largely take aim at the end of the century. That explains why the reports from the IPCC have so far only hinted at what might happen after 2100. Running these models on tennis-court-sized supercomputers uses up a ton of energy, too. A dismal side effect of figuring out how bad things will be in a future climate is that it takes a lot of power to do it. Of course, it doesn’t take a supercomputer – or even a clairvoyant – to imagine what happens next. Neither the cataclysmic events of climate change nor warming will stop in 2100, even if emissions do miraculously taper off in time to level off warming at 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. “What we’re doing right now is we’re putting a big spike of carbon into the atmosphere – instantaneously on geologic time scales,” . “Even 50,000 years in the future there will still be more carbon in the atmosphere than there was before.”
Y Combinator plans to back carbon removal ventures The prominent early-stage investor has invited startups exploring novel ways of sucking greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to apply for its accelerator program. Background: A growing amount of research concludes it will be nearly impossible for the world to avoid a dangerous 2 ËšC rise in global temperatures merely by cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, given the concentrations already in the atmosphere and the slow pace at which nations are shifting to clean energy. At this stage, the UN’s climate change panel and other institutions have said various methods of capturing and storing carbon dioxide will be required as well. The problem is that scientists and companies haven’t yet figured out a way to do so economically at anywhere near the scale required. “It’s time to invest and avidly pursue a new wave of technological solutions to this problem – including those that are risky, unproven, even unlikely to work,” Four to focus on: Several startups, including Climeworks and Carbon Engineering, have raised money and built facilities to capture carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. But Y Combinator highlighted four even earlier-stage approaches to removing greenhouse gases where it would be willing to fund startups, or potentially nonprofit research. They include using an electrochemical method to accelerate the natural process of mineral weathering, which pulls carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and oceans; creating genetically engineered phytoplankton that can use photosynthesis to capture and store carbon dioxide in the ocean; artificially flooding deserts to create oases that can support phytoplankton for the same purpose; and engineering enzymes that can efficiently capture and store carbon, and then be disposed of or used to create other products.
Trump Gives Hydropower A Major Boost With Water Spending Bill – The U.S. hydropower industry came out as a big winner after President Donald Trump signed a bipartisan water infrastructure bill into law. “As a candidate I called for a great rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure,” Trump said Tuesday as he put his signature onto America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, a comprehensive water infrastructure bill that will authorize $6.1 billion for 12 new projects administered by the Army Corps of Engineers. “This bill authorizes needed funding and tools to enhance our coastal ports, reduce flood risks, restore ecosystems, keep our inland waterways – which are in deep, deep trouble, but they won’t be for very long – upgrade our dams, hydropower and irrigation systems,” Trump explained, listing the many beneficiaries of the legislation. One clean energy resource, in particular, came out on top from the bill: hydroelectricity. Under America’s Water Infrastructure Act, the federal government will be able to expedite the construction of electricity-producing dams. More specifically, the bill establishes two separate task forces that speed up the licensing procedures that transition conventional dams into clean energy power plants. The bill also increases the number of hydropower pump storage facilities. Despite the growing attention placed on wind and solar, hydropower remains the largest source of renewable in the United States by far. Hydroelectricity makes up about 44 percent of total renewable energy generation and 7 percent of the country’s total electricity production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Trump says EPA acting chief ‘doing well,’ may become permanent (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, was doing a good job and could be nominated to permanently take on the role. “He’s acting, but he’s doing well, so maybe he won’t be so acting so long,” Trump said at an event alongside Wheeler. Wheeler took the reins at EPA after the agency’s former head, Scott Pruitt, resigned in July following a slew of ethical controversies that included his first-class travel, round-the-clock security detail, and expensive office equipment. Pruitt had aggressively moved to roll back Obama-era climate regulations and other environmental protections to unfetter the oil and coal mining industries. In Wheeler, Trump has seen another strong supporter of his deregulatory agenda and advocate for the fossil fuels industry, but without the constant criticism over alleged mismanagement that plagued Pruitt. Wheeler had worked at the EPA in the 1990s and later in the Senate under Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, a skeptic of mainstream climate science, before moving to the private sector as a lobbyist and consultant. He has said that he is “not at all ashamed” of his lobbying for the coal company Murray Energy Corp, the focus of criticism by environmentalists. Wheeler also lobbied for utility Xcel Energy Inc and consulted for biofuels industry group Growth Energy, agricultural merchant and biofuels producer Archer Daniels Midland Co, and International Paper Co, according to his public disclosures. He has been in the job in an acting capacity for more than 100 days, one of the longest tenures for an acting chief at the agency in decades. The next permanent EPA administrator must be nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate.
Canada’s Trudeau vows to impose carbon tax, opponents push back (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday said he would fulfill a promise to impose a carbon tax on provinces unwilling to combat climate change, prompting instant protests from a voter-rich part of the country. Trudeau, whose ruling Liberals face an election in October 2019, told a news conference that all the money collected would be returned directly to taxpayers in the four provinces without plans to curb the emission of greenhouse gases. Starting in April 2019 carbon pollution will initially cost C$20 ($15.27) a tonne, rising by C$10 a year until it reaches C$50 in 2022. Ottawa unveiled the proposal in 2016. “Putting a price on pollution is the best way to fight climate change,” said Trudeau. Official data regularly shows that Canada has little chance of meeting its climate change goals of reducing emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Canada’s Conservatives, the largest opposition party in the federal Parliament, say they will scrap the levy if they take power next year. Party leader Andrew Scheer, who has yet to unveil his own climate change plan, dismissed the tax as “an election gimmick.” The new tax will have the most impact in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, where the new right-of-center Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford says it will take Ottawa to court over the plan. “The Trudeau carbon tax will force our seniors to pay more for home heating … (and) make parents pay more to fill up their car when they drive their children to and from soccer practice,” Ford tweeted
Despite climate pledges, China struggles to break coal habit (Reuters) – In a former mining district in eastern China, authorities have shut dozens of pits and invested billions of yuan to resculpt the broken landscape, creating gardens, forest walks and wetland parks, as well as a small museum dedicated to coal. “There were many villages specializing in running coal mines and when the mines were shut down we lost around four-fifths of our income – we were under huge economic pressure,” said Meng Qinqxi, a senior Communist Party official in Mazhuang, a village on the outskirts of the heavy industrial city of Xuzhou. “This problem is not ours alone… but a national policy, and no one can resist it.” Xuzhou, in the Yangtze River delta manufacturing hub of Jiangsu, shut its coal pits a decade ago after 130 years of mining, one of many districts to stop producing the filthiest of fossil fuels in line with central government directives. But despite an unprecedented surge of investment in alternative energies, together with caps on coal use and the establishment of “no-coal zones” throughout the country, China’s overall consumption and production are again rising. When U.S. President Donald Trump said he was pulling the United States out of the Paris climate accord last year, China reaffirmed its commitments to tackle the problem of coal, by far the biggest source of its climate-warming carbon emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a landmark report this month that “unprecedented” changes were needed to keep global temperature rises to within 1.5 degrees Celsius, including profound cuts in burning coal. China has made efforts to cut the share of coal in total energy use, with the figure expected to drop to 58 percent by 2020, down more than 10 percentage points in a decade. It has also already met a 2020 target to cut the amount of carbon dioxide it emits per unit of growth. But the absolute volumes of both coal and CO2 remain by far the world’s highest, and are still set to rise.
SC judge expected to strike down controversial nuclear law – A state judge soon will find unconstitutional the infamous law that enabled South Carolina’s $9 billion nuclear construction fiasco, according to a state senator. That ruling could reduce how much SCE&G’s 730,000 electric customers pay for power monthly by slashing the amount the Cayce-based utility can charge them to pay off the failed V.C. Summer Nuclear Station expansion project, which the utility abandoned in July 2017. The ruling could be disastrous for SCE&G, which has threatened to file for bankruptcy if its shareholders are forced to eat the nuclear project’s costs.Stock in SCE&G’s parent company, SCANA, plummeted Monday as news of the impending ruling spread. SCANA shares were down more than $6 a share at one point Monday before closing at $36.40, down almost 11 percent. SCANA shares were down, in part, because the judge’s ruling could cause Dominion Energy to walk away from its proposed buyout of SCANA. The Virginia-based utility has said it will pull out of that deal if lawmakers or a court throw out the 2007 Base Load Review Act, blocking SCE&G from charging its customers to recover its almost $5 billion in nuclear-related costs. State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, said the 2007 law would be declared unconstitutional at a Charlotte energy conference Friday, according to the Charlotte Business Journal. Several sources independently confirmed to The State Hutto’s understanding of Circuit Judge John Hayes’ upcoming order, which could be announced as early as next week. After its stock plunged Monday, SCANA confirmed in a statement to investors that Hayes had asked attorneys suing the utility to draft orders for him ruling the Base Load Review Act violates the S.C. Constitution.
Perry Says White House Still Backs Nevada Nuclear Dump – Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the White House still supports construction of a planned repository for nuclear waste in Nevada, despite President Donald Trump’s suggestion over the weekend that he was reconsidering. When asked if the Trump administration still supports Yucca Mountain, Perry swiftly said “Yes.” “I’m making this presumption by looking at a budgeting process and there was money in the president’s budget to manage Yucca,” Perry said, after giving remarks at the department’s Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. Trump requested $120 million in his budget proposal for the geologic repository 90 miles north of Las Vegas. “I’m going to follow the law. And the law says, ‘here are the things you’re going to do.’ Those have to be funded. And so, we’re following the law,” Perry said. “If Yucca is to be closed, then I’m sure that Congress will deal with it and I’ll follow their instructions.” Trump told a Nevada television station he was reconsidering his support after campaigning last weekend with Senator Dean Heller, an embattled Republican senator who opposes the project and is in a tight re-election battle.
Atmospheric Radiation Increasing from Coast to Coast in the USA -High-altitude balloon flights conducted by Spaceweather.com and Earth to Sky Calculusshow that atmospheric radiation is intensifying from coast to coast over the USA – an ironic result of low solar activity. Take a look at the data: Since 2015, we have been monitoring X-rays, gamma-rays and neutrons in the stratosphere – mainly over central California, but also in a dozen other states (NV, OR, WA, ID, WY, KS, NE, MO, IL, ME, NH, VT). Everywhere we have been there is an upward trend in radiation – ranging from +20% in central California to +33% in Maine. The latest points, circled in red, were gathered during a ballooning campaign in August-October 2018. How does Solar Minimum boost radiation? The answer lies in the yin-yang relationship between cosmic rays and solar activity. Cosmic rays are the subatomic debris of exploding stars and other violent events. They come at us from all directions, 24/7. Normally, the sun’s magnetic field and solar wind hold cosmic rays at bay – but during Solar Minimum these defenses weaken. Deep-space radiation surges into the solar system. Cosmic rays crashing into our planet’s atmosphere produce a spray of secondary particles and photons. That secondary spray is what we measure. Each balloon flight, which typically reaches an altitude greater than 100,00o feet, gives us a complete profile of radiation from ground level to the stratosphere. Our sensors sample energies between 10 keV and 20 MeV, spanning the range of medical X-ray machines, airport security devices, and “killer electrons” in Earth’s radiation belts. Cosmic radiation at aviation altitudes is typically 50 times that of natural sources at sea level. Pilots are classified as occupational radiation workers by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) and, according to a recent study from researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, flight attendants face an elevated risk of cancer compared to members of the general population. There are studies (one recently published in Nature) asserting that heart rate variability and cardiac arrhythmias are affected by cosmic rays in some populations. If true, it means the effects reach all the way to the ground.
Nuclear Hanford Vit plant workers sent ‘take cover immediately’ alert over ‘incident’ with plutonium and uranium tunnels – WORKERS at a nuclear plant in the US have been told to “take cover immediately” following an incident involving plutonium and uranium tunnels.A text message alert was sent to workers at the Hanford plant in Washington around 6am local time today – or around 2pm in the UK. The message read: “WTP Alert: The WTP Site is in Take Cover. Go to the closest Take Cover facility now. Avoid eating or drinking until further notice.”Await further instructions.” NBC reported the warning was issued as a precaution to workers in the 200 East Area of Hanford after steam was observed coming from Plutonium/Uranium Extraction Facility (PUREX) Tunnel 2 during a tunnel filling operations. There was no indication of a release of hazardous material.
‘US would be history if Russia nukes Yellowstone volcano with mega-bombs’ – expert In order to curb the aggression from the West, Moscow shouldn’t compete with Washington in number of nukes, military expert Konstantin Sivkov wrote in a new article. The president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems believes that an “asymmetrical response” would work much better for Russia, as it is able to produce nuclear weapons with a yield of more than 100 megatons. If “areas with critically dangerous geophysical conditions in the US (like the Yellowstone Supervolcano or the San Andreas Fault)” are targeted by those warheads, “such an attack guarantees the destruction of the US as a state and the entire transnational elite,” he said. The production of around 40 or 50 such mega-warheads for ICBMs or extra-long-range torpedoes would make sure that at least a few of them reach their target no matter how a nuclear conflict between the US and Russia develops, the expert said. Such scenario “again makes a large-scale nuclear war irrational and reduces the chances of its breakout to zero,” Sivkov said. The possession of such weapons by Russia is what would finally make Washington start talking to Moscow and give up on its sanctions policy towards Russia, the expert said.
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