Category Archives: Environment

Beyond the brink: extinction of the Northern White Rhino

The world’s last northern male white rhino, Sudan, has died at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya due to age-related complications, survived only by his daughter, Najin, and granddaughter, Fatu.

It is strange that when first writing the title for this post, I wrote ‘on the brink of extinction’, but given that the world is inured to everything being on the brink of extinction, I changed the title.

Hopefully, given that his genetic material was collected, some serious genetic science can now get Fatu pregnant, and some luck intervenes to produce both males and females.

Bill de Blasio sues oil giants over climate change, divests pension funds from fossil fuel industry

New York City announces a lawsuit Wednesday that blames the top five oil companies for contributing to global warming and says the city will sell off $5 billion in fossil fuel investments from its pension fund of $189 billion.’Safeguarding the retirement of our city’s police officers, teachers and firefighters is our top priority, and we believe that their financial future is linked to the sustainability of the planet,’ said NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer .

Mayor de Blasio said: ‘We’re bringing the fight against climate change straight to the fossil fuel companies that knew about its effects and intentionally misled the public to protect their profits. As climate change continues to worsen, it’s up to the fossil fuel companies whose greed put us in this position to shoulder the cost of making New York safer and more resilient.’ NYC alleges the fossil fuel industry was aware for decades that burning fuel was impacting climate change. The defendants in the city’s federal lawsuit are BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell.

But Exxon Mobil’s Scott Silvestri retorted that “reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue and requires global participation and actions. Lawsuits of this kind — filed by trial attorneys against an industry that provides products we all rely upon to power the economy and enable our domestic life — simply do not do that.’ Petroleum sources are predictably downplaying the importance of this move.

Clara Vondrich of the DivestInvest campaign says the city joins a movement that started about six years ago. She says hundreds of institutional investors managing assets of over $5.5 trillion have taken their money out of fossil fuel investments. Last month, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to have the state pension funds also divest from fossil fuel investments. He and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli are creating an advisory committee to examine the way to proceed with divestment.

Vondrich said other cities and entities selling off fossil fuel interests have included Berlin and Washington, D.C.; insurance companies Swiss Re, Axa and Allianz; and educational institutions such as the University of Oxford in Great Britain, Stanford University in California and Trinity College in Ireland. Philanthropies have included the Wallace Global Fund and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, notable because the late John D. Rockefeller grew his wealth as an oil baron.

Environmental activist Bill McKibben called the actions by the city one of a handful of the most important developments in the past 30 years. ‘The mightiest city on the planet has now sort of walked into a real fight with the richest and most irresponsible industry on the planet,’ he said.

This will take years to play out (as did the smoking class action suits against the tobacco companies), but the very fact of the legal risk to oil corporations as well as the fact that investors generally are beginning to divest from oil shares will create a self-reinforcing cycle which will drive the oil companies to make entirely new decisions for their future.

Consuming the world: a hotter, wetter more violent US – and not so gradually

US Climate Science Report

Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.). U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA

The climate of the United States is strongly connected to the changing global climate. The statements below highlight past, current, and projected climate changes for the United States and the globe.

Global annually averaged surface air temperature has increased by about 1.8°F (1.0°C) over the last 115 years (1901–2016). This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization. The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes, and the last three years have been the warmest years on record for the globe. These trends are expected to continue over climate timescales.

This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activi­ties, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.

In addition to warming, many other aspects of global climate are changing, primarily in response to hu­man activities. Thousands of studies conducted by researchers around the world have document­ed changes in surface, atmospheric, and oceanic temperatures; melting glaciers; diminishing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea levels; ocean acidification; and increasing atmospheric water vapor.

For example, global average sea level has risen by about 7–8 inches since 1900, with almost half (about 3 inches) of that rise occurring since 1993. Human-caused climate change has made a substan­tial contribution to this rise since 1900, contributing to a rate of rise that is greater than during any preceding century in at least 2,800 years. Global sea level rise has already affected the United States; the incidence of daily tidal flooding is accelerating in more than 25 Atlantic and Gulf Coast cities.

Global average sea levels are expected to continue to rise—by at least several inches in the next 15 years and by 1–4 feet by 2100. A rise of as much as 8 feet by 2100 cannot be ruled out. Sea level rise will be higher than the global average on the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States.

Changes in the characteristics of extreme events are particularly important for human safety, infrastruc­ture, agriculture, water quality and quantity, and natural ecosystems. Heavy rainfall is increasing in intensity and frequency across the United States and globally and is expected to continue to in­crease. The largest observed changes in the United States have occurred in the Northeast.

Massive bleaching of Great Barrier Reef

Unprecedented coral bleaching in consecutive years caused by rising water temperatures has damaged two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, aerial surveys have shown. If normal conditions return, the corals can recover, but it can take decades, and if the stress continues the corals can die

It is happening in Japan first: obliteration of the coral reefs due to global warming

70% of coral in Okinawa’s Sekiseishoko area in the Sekiseishoko area, the largest coral reef in Japan, is dead, survey shows.

A ministry official said Tuesday the result showed accelerated coral bleaching was taking place — due chiefly to rising ocean temperatures. The survey was conducted at 35 points in Sekiseishoko, located between Ishigaki and Iriomote islands in Okinawa Prefecture, last November and December.

Putting Democracy above the Bottom Line

Kelle Louaillier writes

This month, we will have a chance to chart a course toward a stronger, safer global society, where power belongs to the many, not to the few, and where those who have run roughshod over our environment, human rights, and public health will be held accountable. I am not talking about the United States’ presidential election.

To be sure, the US election will be immensely consequential; but endless punditry and horserace politics have obscured two groundbreaking events that begin on November 7: meetings of the parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).Global corporations are enormous, and their influence affects almost every aspect of our lives. To understand the reach of their power, one must look no further than the billions of dollars they spend on elections; their lobbying to gut worker and environmental protections in trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; and fossil-fuel corporations’ relentless drive to derail climate-change policy.

Global corporations have disproportionate power because they can operate across national borders, which means that no single local or national government can effectively regulate them. The crucial function of international frameworks such as the FCTC and UNFCCC is to provide concrete tools for governments to set national policies on issues ranging from public health to climate change and global inequality.

Read full article here

New Evidence About the Dangers of Monsanto’s Roundup

Sharon Lerner writes

John Sanders worked in the orange and grapefruit groves in Redlands, California, for more than 30 years. First as a ranch hand, then as a farm worker, he was responsible for keeping the weeds around the citrus trees in check. Roundup, the Monsanto weed killer, was his weapon of choice, and he sprayed it on the plants from a hand-held atomizer year-round.

Frank Tanner, who owned a landscaping business, is also a Californian and former Roundup user. Tanner relied on the herbicide starting in 1974, and between 2000 and 2006 sprayed between 50 and 70 gallons of it a year, sometimes from a backpack, other times from a 200-gallon drum that he rolled on a cart next to him.

The two men have other things in common, too: After being regularly exposed to Roundup, both developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer that starts in the lymph cells. And, as of April, both are plaintiffs in a suit filed against Monsanto that marks a turning point in the pitched battle over the most widely used agricultural chemical in history.

Read the full article

Beware of Trade Deals

File photo taken in 2008 shows farmed bluefin tuna off the coast of Kushimoto in Wakayama Prefecture, western Japan. Around 11,000 of them died after a powerful typhoon struck the region in July 2015. The tuna are believed to have died after crashing into nets or each other amid high waves. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

International trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) need to be carefully examined piece by piece because they can take precedence over a country’s own laws.

Case in point: the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Friday ruled that dolphin-safe tuna labeling rules — required by U.S. law, in an effort to protect intelligent mammals from slaughter — violate the rights of Mexican fishers.

As a result, the U.S. will have to either alter the law or face sanctions from Mexico.

read more on

https://theintercept.com/2015/11/24/wto-ruling-on-dolphin-safe-tuna-labeling-illustrates-supremacy-of-trade-agreements/