Pollution’s Annual Cost? $4.6 Trillion and 9 Million Dead

❝ And that was just in 2015, according to a new global report on the consequences of humanity’s actions.


DelhiUdit Kulshrestha/Bloomberg

❝ Pollution in all its forms killed 9 million people in 2015 and, by one measure, led to economic damage of $4.6 trillion, according to a new estimate by researchers who hope to put the health costs of toxic air, water and soil higher on the global agenda.

In less-developed nations, pollution-linked illness and death drag down productivity, reducing economic output by 1 percent to 2 percent annually, according to the tally by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, published Thursday by the U.K. medical journal. The report is intended to illuminate the hidden health and economic consequences of harmful substances introduced into the environment by human activity…

❝ The report represents an “extremely comprehensive and rigorous quantification” of pollution costs, said Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“In the scientific community, I don’t think there is any disagreement about the cost-benefit analysis of controlling pollution,” Dominici said. Reducing air pollution from vehicles and power plants, for example, would simultaneously improve human health and reduce planet-warming carbon emissions, she said. “The major barrier has been political, but not scientific.”

❝ As large as that figure is, it may even underestimate the full cost of pollution. Because the amount is derived from death rates, it doesn’t include the price of medical expenditures or lost productivity from those sickened but not killed by pollution-related disease. And it doesn’t measure some forms of pollution that are likely to have health effects, such as soil tainted with heavy metals or industrial toxins, because data to calculate its influence on health are insufficient.

No surprise when Bloomberg offers articles like this one. Folks selling services to investors realize that folks in all walks of life can develop a conscience about principled profit-making versus scumbags who don’t care how their profits are acquired.

Americans save $4.50 for every $1 invested in ENERGY STAR products – Trump’s Congress wants to kill it


Trump’s idea of family transportation

❝ The U.S. House of Representatives passing an appropriations package that includes an approximately 40 percent cut to the ENERGY STAR program:

“Let’s be clear: This would be a debilitating cut to one of the most popular federal programs in history. ENERGY STAR has been such a money-saver for consumers and businesses because the products deliver enormous energy savings, and we can trust the label. Now Congress is threatening the integrity of the program.”…

❝ ENERGY STAR was created in 1992 under President George H. W. Bush’s administration and has maintained strong bipartisan support for more than 25 years. More than 16,000 companies and other organizations participate. The program delivered $34 billion in savings to American households and businesses in 2015 alone. Almost half of all American households knowingly purchased an ENERGY STAR product from 2014-2015.

RTFA for more details if you haven’t learned about ENERGY STAR from personal experience.

I’m pleased as any retiree could be with the number of long-lasting, smartly-engineered products I’ve bought over the years since the program started. I can’t afford to subsidize shoddy products rolled out to the American consumer based solely on profit margins. I love the idea of efficient engineering as a requirement for sale in this nation.

Reality of human society and pollution – in one Photo


Click to enlargeJustin Hofman

❝ Justin Hofman was leading an expedition through Borneo when a small group broke off for some impromptu snorkeling near the town of Sumbawa Besar. “The reef was actually in surprisingly good shape. It was devoid of big fish though the corals were thriving,” Hofman says. “After about an hour or so of bobbing around the tide started to turn. My good friend and expert wildlife spotter Richard White found this tiny sea horse drifting near the surface.”

❝ Seahorses ride the ocean currents by grasping floating objects with their tails. What began as amusement watching the tiny fish grasping bits of sea grass coming in with the tide turned to anger as plastic and other unnatural debris began to overtake the scene. Although a rising wind splashed polluted water in his snorkel and caused both camera and seahorse to bob around, Hofman stayed with it, capturing this image along with several others.

❝ “It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it,” he wrote on Instagram. “What started as an opportunity to photograph a cute little sea horse turned into one of frustration and sadness as the incoming tide brought with it countless pieces of trash and sewage. This photo serves as an allegory for the current and future state of our oceans.”

An amazing number of politicians around this little ball of mud we live and die upon would see nothing wrong in this photo.

China builds its first cute and cuddly solar power plant


UNDP

A Chinese solar power company has just completed the first phase of an ingenious PR stunt: building a 100MW solar power plant in the shape of a panda bear.

According to a release from the company, Panda Green Energy, and the Chinese state press Xinhua News Agency, the first half of the plant, with 50MW of installed capacity, was connected to the electricity grid in Datong, China, on June 29.

The image above of the project, which has gone viral, is not an actual photograph but an artist’s conceptual rendering pre-construction…

Panda Green Energy used a combination of darker monocrystalline silicon (the light-absorbing material in most solar cells) and lighter-colored thin film solar cells to design the solar farm in the likeness of China’s national animal…

While the actual plant isn’t quite as vivid as the sketch, it is nonetheless a significant addition to China’s solar fleet. According to the company, the new plant will avert the need to burn 1 million tons of coal over the next 25 years…

The Panda Power Plant initiative was also incorporated earlier this year into the “Belt and Road” initiative, China’s ambitious plan to invest in development projects in countries along the old Silk Road. The new plant in Datong is expected to be the first of 100 plants in the shape of pandas and other animals to be built in China and elsewhere as part of that effort. Another one, in Fiji, was announced in May.

The new Panda Power Plant is also just the latest showy example of China’s commitment to scaling up solar and other forms of renewable energy while cleaning up coal before eventually phasing it out. Unlike the US, China is on track to exceed its Paris carbon reduction commitments…

Gee, I wonder what Trump and the Republican Congress might come up with to express their failure to commit to cleaner energy?

A third of our nation’s honeybee colonies died last year

❝ An annual survey shows a third of America’s bee colonies were lost over the past year, and over 10 years, the numbers are even more troubling…

America’s beekeepers watched as a third of the country’s honeybee colonies were lost over the last year, part of a decade-long die-off experts said may threaten our food supply.

The annual survey of roughly 5,000 beekeepers showed the 33% dip from April 2016 to April 2017. The decrease is small compared to the survey’s previous 10 years, when the decrease hovered at roughly 40%. From 2012 to 2013, nearly half of the nation’s colonies died.

❝ “I would stop short of calling this ‘good’ news,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland. “Colony loss of more than 30% over the entire year is high. It’s hard to imagine any other agricultural sector being able to stay in business with such consistently high losses.”…

❝ One in every three bites of food, van Engelsdorp said, is directly or indirectly pollinated by honeybees, who pollinate about $15 billion worth of U.S. crops each year…

“Keeping bees healthy is really essential in order to meet that demand,” said vanEngelsdorp. He said there are concerns it won’t.

❝ So what’s killing the honeybees? Parasites, diseases, poor nutrition, and pesticides among many others. The chief killer is the varroa mite, a “lethal parasite,” which researchers said spreads among colonies…

vanEngelsdorp said people can do their part to save bee colonies by buying honey from a local beekeeper, becoming a beekeeper, avoiding using pesticides in your yard and making room for pollinators, such as honeybees, in your yard.

“Bees are good indicators of the landscape as a whole,” said Nathalie Steinhauer, who led data collection on the project. “To keep healthy bees, you need a good environment and you need your neighbors to keep healthy bees. Honeybee health is a community matter.”

Taking healthy care of the critters which fly and crawl around your own home patch are part of the larger environment for which we should all assume responsibility. Otherwise – we’re part responsible for the death and failure of that environment.

Latest air pollution finding shouldn’t surprise anyone…


Click to enlargeKieran Doherty/Reuters

A smoggy day in London town…

❝ The hearts of people who live in polluted areas are weaker than those who regularly breathe cleaner air, according to a new study which adds to the growing volume of evidence that fossil fuels are killing us.

The researchers said they found evidence of harmful effects even when levels of pollution associated with diesel vehicles were less than half the safety limit set by the European Union…

❝ According to a UK government estimate, about 40,000 people die prematurely because of the air they breathe…

❝ The process by which air pollution harms the body has been poorly understood. Until recently it was not known if fine particles could pass through the lungs into the bloodstream.

However, a study in which volunteers inhaled gold nanoparticles showed it was possible for this to happen with gold showing up in their blood and urine 15 minutes after they had breathed it in. The particles were still there up to three months later.

…Shouldn’t surprise anyone, that is, except heartless conservatives!

Our plastic crap ends up in the Arctic


BURP! — Wildest Arctic

❝ Of course, all our plastic crap ends up in the Arctic.

It isn’t freaking Narnia!

❝ The Arctic, in our popular imagination, is a frozen expanse teetering figuratively and literally on the edges of human culture. It remains primal and wild and unsullied by human contagions…

The Arctic, as a physical place, is directly connected to the same ecosystems that we humans are polluting closer to home. It’s foolish to think that harming one part of a connected ecosystem doesn’t harm the others, as a study released on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances makes clear. The study found that even in the remote Arctic we can’t escape the megatons of plastic waste humanity unleashes upon the world…

❝ Plastic in the world’s oceans has been a growing concern since at least 1997 when Charles Moore stumbled across the Great Pacific Garbage patch as he crossed the Pacific after competing in the Transpacific Yacht Race. Today we know that there are at least six main garbage patches filled with plastic plaguing the seas. By some estimates as much as 300,000 tons of plastics are in the world’s oceans…

❝ Plastic in the ocean isn’t just unsightly. In fact, the plastic debris that we see is less of a problem than the plastic that is too small to see easily. That’s because plastic never biodegrades. It doesn’t revert back to its molecular elements the way other materials do.

Given enough time a leaf laying on the soil floor will be eaten by bugs and microbes to become soil that once again provides the tree with nourishment. Given enough time plastic will become a smaller piece of plastic. That’s it – this stuff never goes away. Eventually, after being buffeted about by sun and salt water, it becomes small enough that sea animals confuse it with morsels of food such as seaweed, or plankton. A 2015 study found that roughly 20 percent of small fish have plastic in their bellies. Researchers have also found that some northern fulmar’s, a sea bird that hangs out mostly in the subarctic, have elevated levels of ingested plastic. Plastic it seems, is not just an occasional snack, but a steady part of their diets. Tasty.

Most societies, most governments – which you might think would know better – still think of oceans as an open sewer. You can throw any of your society’s debris in and it will somehow disappear.

Wrong.

If the EPA isn’t allowed to use science, what’s left? Witch doctors? Oil company pimps?

Note: This is part four of a four-part series about the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency, its policies, and the science that underpins those regulations have been under scrutiny in recent weeks. In fact, the agency is in danger of being drastically cut back or dismantled entirely. You can learn more about that by reading part one, part two, and part three, as well viewing a gallery of photos of what America looked like in the early days of the EPA. This week, we’ll focus on where the EPA stands right now.


Nothing in this photo Trump doesn’t approve of – except the kid isn’t blonde

The Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to make and enforce regulations that protect the environment. But as the scientific agency seems to throw science out the window, it’s worth asking: what happens when the EPA stops putting our health and wellbeing first?

On April 2, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision that was easy to miss…The 2007 case dates back to an earlier lawsuit, where Massachusetts sued the EPA for failing to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which are known to contribute to climate change. Whether the EPA has such an obligation depends on how you interpret a specific clause of the Clean Air Act. The clause states that the EPA Administrator must set an emissions standard for any air pollutant “from any class or classes of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines, which in his judgment cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”…

In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that the EPA had to regulate greenhouse gas emissions unless it could prove that they did not endanger public welfare.

The EPA based its decision on more than 100 peer-reviewed studies and input from a public comment period. The summary reads, “The Administrator finds that the current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)—in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.”

Greenhouse gases are putting us at risk. Luckily, the EPA is obligated to limit their emission. That is, as long as the agency chooses to accept the facts.

Earlier this week, current EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the following on CNBC: “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

It was an odd (and incorrect) statement from the Administrator of the EPA, an agency that — based on the best available scientific evidence — disagrees with Pruitt’s position, as does NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Center for Disease Control, the U.K.’s Met Office, and the Japan Meteorological Organization.

But, then, there’s nothing new about any of Trump’s appointed flunkies acting like anything other than pimps for the worst corporate barons in American capitalism. It may seem like he’s only carrying on the strongest traditions from previous Republican Administrations – but, that wouldn’t be true, either.

Trump is so confident of the backing of the chumps who voted him into office he has permission to skip over the soft rationales of most Big-C Conservatives and go straight into his repertoire of bald-faced lies, made-up data, alternative truth. Flunkies like Pruitt did this for years back in Oklahoma. Oil and gas companies would write rules and regulations allowing pollution for him to cut-and-paste into official government policy.

They deserve each other. So do the ignoranuses who voted them into national office. Trouble is – the rest of us are stuck with the results of their ignorance and corruption. Until and unless we fight back – and hard enough to win.