Global air pollution is worse than you ever thought it was


Click to enlargeBBC

The World Health Organization — which has previously found that indoor and outdoor air pollution killed a shocking 7 million people globally in 2012 — released a new analysis Tuesday underscoring the extent of the risk, which seems to grow worse and worse the more we learn about how damaging tiny airborne particles can be to our health.

Most strikingly, the new report, which combines local data with a global model to determine the extent of deadly air pollution across the planet even in places where there are no instruments recording it, finds that 92 percent of people suffer under pollution levels that are worse than WHO standards (as of 2014). The vast majority of deaths are in developing countries. The document calls air pollution the “largest environmental risk factor.”

Of greatest concern is a form of pollution called PM2.5, referring to particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers. The global health agency believes that a concentration greater than 10 micrograms per cubic meter of these fine particles in the air qualifies as dangerous. The great risk is that the particles are so small that they can be inhaled, travel into the lungs, and enter the bloodstream…

The new report credits air pollution with “about one in every nine deaths annually…”

In general, developed nations such as the United States have managed to clean their air substantially in recent years, but WHO has found that in developing countries the burden remains quite high. A previous report from earlier this year from the agency found that the Indian capital city of Delhi had annually averaged PM2.5 levels of 122, or more than 12 times the safe level…

In other words, Air pollution is improving in rich countries, but it’s still getting worse in most developing countries.

France first nation to ban plastic dishware

❝ It’s a logical move for a country known to revel in the finer things. France this week became the first country to pass an all-out ban on plastic cutlery, plates, and cups.

The new law is set to take effect in 2020 and will be part of France’s Energy Transition for Green Growth Act, which has already set a ban on disposable plastic bags throughout the country. The law will only allow disposable tableware made from 50% biologically-sourced materials that are compostable at home. The restrictions on plastic products follow the global climate agreement reached in Paris in 2015, a meeting of nations looking to curb the effects of climate change.

❝ Plastic production requires the use of fossil fuels, which evidence has shown to have played a role in climate change. Once produced, plastic products are not biodegradable and can wind up languishing in garbage dumps and polluting the ocean and waterways, which often have adverse effects on wildlife.

Human use of plastic has become so commonplace that scientists have estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. In fact, mankind has created so much plastic that some say it will likely show up in future fossil fuels.

❝ French president François Hollande said the new law against disposable plastic tableware would make his country “an exemplary nation in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, diversifying its energy model and increasing the deployment of renewable energy sources.”

Its detractors say blah, blah, blah.

Overdue. Yes, there always has to be a first. Surely took a long time to get here, though.

Any bets on how long before the US climbs on board?

Costa Rica has produced 100% renewable electricity for 76 days straight — and still counting


Arturo Sotillo

❝ Costa Rica is well known for its lush rainforests, astounding volcanoes, beautiful beaches, and diverse wildlife. The country also has a reputation for actively focusing on climate change initiatives and can now boast the title of running on 100% renewable energy for 76 straight days – and counting.

According to Costa Rica’s National Centre for Energy Control, June 16, 2016 was the last day that fossil fuel-based energy was used on the national grid. Throughout August, the country has accumulated 150 days of renewable energy in 2016 alone…This is the second time the Central American country has run for more than two months straight on renewable energy. In 2015, Costa Rica powered itself for almost 300 days…without burning oil, coal, or natural gas…to produce electricity.

❝ Costa Rica is unique in that it’s powered on a mix of hydro, geothermal, wind, and solar energy, with hydropower providing about 80% of the total electricity for August. Geothermal plants contributed to about 13% of electricity generation in August, while wind turbines provided 7%, and solar 0.01%.

This impressive achievement is due to a couple advantages the country holds. Costa Rica is only about 19,700 square miles—a bit smaller than West Virginia at 24,231 square miles—and has a population of about 4.87 million people. This small population requires much less energy. Additionally, Costa Rica’s primary industries are tourism and agriculture versus energy-intensive industries such as mining or manufacturing. Heavy rains have also helped four big hydroelectric dams run above their usual capacity, allowing the country to turn off its diesel generators…

❝ While Costa Rica is undoubtedly setting an example in terms of how much focus it places on environmental sustainability, it also faces its own challenges. [Politicians] recently delayed its goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2021 to 2085. However, based on the progress the country has already made, 365 days of zero fossil fuels is surely on the horizon.

Comparing Costa Rica to West Virginia is silly, of course. South Carolina is closer in size. The population is almost identical. Tourism and agriculture are as important as in Costa Rica.

South Carolina’s GDP – and per capita GDP – is more than double the same measures in Costa Rica. Annual budget to run South Carolina is about a third larger than that of Costa Rica. Obviously South Carolina – given the inclination, dedication to human costs – could achieve much the same. As could many American states.

American politicians and the voters who put them in office have other priorities. In the rare instances when they concern themselves at all with a better life for all.

Meet the Deniers Club — clouding the climate change debate


Click to enlarge

❝ August tied July as the hottest month on record, according to NASA data released this past week. This year we’ve seen half a dozen thousand-year floods, along with epic droughts. Mother Nature is telling us there’s a problem. The long-term trend lines are clear. Yet we have a Republican presidential nominee who has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax.”

“Perhaps there’s a minor effect,” Donald Trump told The Washington Post’s editorial board, “but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change.”

❝ So it goes in the madhouse of the climate debate. Even as the evidence has become unmistakable, and even though the alarm has been sounded several times, public policy has been paralyzed — sometimes from ignorance, sometimes from uncertainty, but often from a campaign of deliberate misinformation.

Click here to view some of the worst offenders.

Tom Toles rules!

Progress building clean power in the USA even while conservatives drag their feet

❝ As the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals prepares to hear challengers’ arguments against the Clean Power Plan on September 27th, the most up-to-date analysis shows that the Clean Power Plan’s goals have become even more readily achievable as the electricity sector is already shifting to clean energy. Many power companies are not waiting for the courts to resolve the legal challenges. Instead, they are accelerating the shift to clean energy, assisted by the rapid cost declines of renewable technologies. This steady and continuing shift in our power sector makes clear that the goals set forth by the Clean Power Plan are eminently attainable.

❝ The Clean Power Plan — the centerpiece of U.S. action on climate change — places the first-ever limits on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants, our nation’s largest source of the dangerous pollution that drives climate change…In fact, the pace of investments in clean energy is accelerating in the power sector, continuing the strong climate progress of the last several years…Several recent studies have projected that renewable energy may double from 2015 levels by 2021…

❝ Dynamic maps in the article show the dramatic renewable energy progress that has been made across the country over the past several years. In the span of just five years, solar generation in Nevada increased more than seven-fold, and North Carolina has seen its solar generation increase five-fold in the past two years alone. Iowa and Texas, which were already leaders in wind power back in 2010, have both nearly doubled their wind generation over the past five years, and both states are expected to continue their shift to a clean energy future over the next several years.

The Clean Power Plan reinforces and builds on these market trends by embracing the kind of flexible strategies that the industry already employs. The CPP gradually phases in the required emissions limits starting in 2022, and by 2030 is projected to result in carbon cuts of roughly 32 percent below 2005 levels, or 19 percent below 2012 levels. Even though the CPP emissions limits don’t go into effect for another six years, carbon emissions from the power sector have already fallen by more than 5 percent since 2012. That means that in the past three years alone the power sector achieved more than one-quarter of the pollution cuts required by 2030…

The benefits are economic as well as environmental, they affect our public health as much as our economic health. Progress towards the time when global energy is dominated by renewables is no longer a dream but an obvious and growing reality. RTFA and take a look at those maps chugging along. Reflect upon the fact that the do-nothing, know-nothing Congress has been owned by fossil fuel industries so long they may as well change the name of the building to the Koch Bros. Lobbying Center. Yet, change is upon us all. Costs continue to reduce through the economies of scale, design and research.

Put some folks into elective office with backbone and principle. Who knows how much more will be accomplished?

A clear contrast of sustainable and unsustainable farming — in 20 seconds!

❝ A clear contrast of sustainable and unsustainable farming practices — in 20 seconds! Of course, there are scores of variables when it comes to sustainable farming, but this little video shows the huge difference between no-till and conventional farming:

no-till-v-conventional
Click to access video and the complete article

❝ The video starts on a no-till field — one that isn’t ever plowed. Instead of tilling, or turning over the soil to kill weeds, farmers plant directly into the thatch of grasses and usually use an application of herbicide to knock down weeds. When farmers leave fields bare, like in the other field, soil washes away and local waters are polluted.

Some farmers on this silly little planet continue to grow no till-crops decades after the invention of machines that increase profits. And also require tons of added and otherwise unnecessary chemicals to produce those crops.

NASA finds August 2016 tied July 2016 for hottest month ever recorded


Click to enlarge

❝ August 2016 was the warmest August in 136 years of modern record-keeping, according to a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies…

❝ Although the seasonal temperature cycle typically peaks in July, August 2016 wound up tied with July 2016 for the warmest month ever recorded…

“Monthly rankings, which vary by only a few hundredths of a degree, are inherently fragile,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “We stress that the long-term trends are the most important for understanding the ongoing changes that are affecting our planet.”

The record warm August continued a streak of 11 consecutive months dating back to October 2015 that have set new monthly high-temperature records.

❝ The monthly analysis by the GISS team is assembled from publicly available data acquired by about 6,300 meteorological stations around the world, ship- and buoy-based instruments measuring sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research stations. The modern global temperature record begins around 1880 because previous observations didn’t cover enough of the planet.

Nothing like having a clear idea of how human beings are screwing up the planet.

Well, actually a small number of human beings. Like 1%.

A principled decision by the US government offers Native Americans an opportunity for justice


Lucas Reynolds

❝ Shortly after federal Judge James Boasberg denied the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for an injunction against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Department of Justice and Army Corps of Engineers issued a joint statement that, in effect, temporarily halts all construction bordering Lake Oahe on the Missouri.

❝ The tribe had sought an injunction to stop the routing of the Dakota Access oil pipeline underneath the Missouri River, the source of the reservation’s drinking water, on the grounds that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had failed to conduct a proper environmental and cultural impact study. While acknowledging that damage had been done to an area sacred to the tribe, Boasberg said that the tribe had not made its case for an injunction…

❝ Shortly after Judge Boasberg’s decision, the three government agencies stepped in, suggesting that a change in process may be in order when it comes to how the courts and federal law view Indian land.

“We appreciate the District Court’s opinion on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act,” the joint announcement stated. “However, important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain.”

❝ The agencies called for “serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.” The statement announced “formal, government-to-government consultations” this fall that would examine what the federal government can do “to ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights,” and whether new legislation was needed to meet the goal of meaningful consultation

“The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws,” the statement said. “Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time…”

❝ Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II expressed elation and gratitude.

“Our hearts are full. This an historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and for tribes across the nation,” Archambault said in a statement. “Today, three federal agencies announced the significant decision to respect tribal sovereignty and stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Army Corps land…”

“Our voices have been heard,” said Archambault. “The Obama administration has asked tribes to the table to make sure that we have meaningful consultation on infrastructure projects. Native peoples have suffered generations of broken promises and today the federal government said that national reform is needed to better ensure that tribes have a voice on infrastructure projects like this pipeline…”

Please RTFA. Judge Boasberg’s decision is worth reflection. Even though I believe like too many in the American legal profession he forgets to consider the spirit of laws intended to protect people and their property at a higher priority than corporate wealth and profit.

The full statement from David Archambault 11, Standing Rock Chairman is inclusive and reflects his thanks to all across this nation who support his tribe, Native Americans, and the broader fight against rich and powerful interests.

President Obama’s decision should be recognized as an act of courage. Albeit not one taken frequently enough against the most reactionary elements in American society. I only hope it succeeds in reversing the decades of repression against those fighting for equal rights and authority in this nation – and Native American people in particular.