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Jun 24, 2017, 01:10 AM
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 on: Jun 21, 2017, 05:33 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Heatwaves are national emergencies and the public need to know

Bob Ward

Lethal risks of extreme weather are under-reported and government must stop cutting public awareness funds

Wednesday 21 June 2017 07.00 BST

Hundreds of people across the UK are likely to be killed by a natural disaster this week, but their deaths will not be the subject of ministerial statements or newspaper reports, even though a failure of government policy is partly responsible.

The heatwave conditions are causing preventable deaths partly because large swaths of the population wrongly believe that extremely hot days are becoming less common.

While the hot weather is not as obviously newsworthy as the recent terrorist attacks or the Grenfell Tower fire, it should be treated as a national emergency that is every bit as serious.

Public Health England warned on Friday before the high temperatures over the weekend that “for some people, such as older people, those with underlying health conditions and those with young children, the summer heat can bring real health risks”.

It drew attention to the Heatwave Plan for England, published in May 2015, noting that there were about 2,000 “excess deaths” during the heatwave in August 2003, with 680 more in summer 2006 and 300 killed in 2009.

The lethalness of heatwaves is often hidden because the total number of deaths is not reported until many months after they have happened.

In its annual report last November on deaths over the previous 12 months, an analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that, while there were markedly more deaths during the winter, a spike in casualties was evident on 19 July 2016.

On that date, there were 1,661 deaths recorded in England, compared with the five-year daily average of 1,267. The ONS pointed out that this peak coincided with the hottest day of the year, with maximum temperatures of 31C in some parts of the country.

Public Health England on Monday raised the level of its “heat-health watch” in anticipation of further hot weather this week, with the Met Office forecasting daytime temperatures of more than 30C across parts of the country.

The level-three amber warning, one level below a national emergency, advises people to stay out of the sun, keep homes cool, and check that anyone “at special risk” knows how to cope with the conditions.

However, the Committee on Climate Change has highlighted a worrying lack of understanding of heatwave risks which is increasing the number of people that succumb in hot weather.

The 2014 progress report to parliament by its adaptation sub-committee found that heat contributes to about 2,000 premature deaths each year in the UK, and that this figure could rise to about 7,000 annually in the 2050s due to the impact of climate change and population growth.

It concluded that “the uptake of measures to increase cooling capacity in existing homes is currently very low”, and suggested that this may be because “the public appear to perceive that heatwaves and hot weather have become less common over time”.

It cited research on a representative sample of the UK public who believed that hot weather had become less common during their lifetimes.

The study did not explore the influence of coverage of extreme weather by the UK media. Many national newspapers and broadcasters have downplayed the risks of heatwaves and flooding by amplifying the false claims of climate change sceptics that there has been no increase in extreme weather events.

Nevertheless, the Met Office has indicated that the UK appears to be warming more quickly than the global average and refers to research showing that “the maximum daily temperature and minimum daily temperature in the UK have risen by just over 1C since the 1950s”, adding that “there is a suggestion that the warmest daily temperature extremes are rising faster in summer, whereas the coldest daily temperature extremes are rising faster in winter”.

In its assessment two years ago of the government’s National Adaptation Programme, the Committee on Climate Change warned that “there is low awareness amongst the general public about how the risks from heat are changing”.

It recommended that the updated version of the programme, due to be published in January 2018, “should contain specific actions to increase public awareness of the risks of climate change, with lead responsibility for increasing awareness assigned to a single department”.

However, the government’s response rejected the committee’s advice. Subsequent cuts to the funding for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – which has lead responsibility for ensuring the nation’s resilience to climate change – and the Environment Agency have eliminated most activities aimed at increasing public awareness of the risks of climate change impacts in the UK.

The last few environment secretaries have largely ignored the importance of climate change adaptation. Will Michael Gove break with the dismal record of his predecessors and try to save lives by raising public awareness about the growing risks of heatwaves and other impacts of climate change?

    Bob Ward is policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

 on: Jun 21, 2017, 05:31 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Land restoration in Ethiopia: 'This place was abandoned ... This is incredible to me'

A project to restore the land in Tigray, Ethiopia has created opportunities for livelihoods for young people who had been leaving in droves

Cathy Watson
Wednesday 21 June 2017 10.30 BST

Ethiopia is suffering from severe drought, but there is water in Gergera. 20 years of restoring its hills and river valley has brought life back to this area of the Tigray region in the country’s far north.

The work has been painstaking, complex and multidimensional and continues to this day. But the hard-won results offer up two key lessons. We know now that landscape restoration in drylands hinges on water management. And we know, just as importantly, that restoration can create a base for better livelihoods and jobs for youth who formerly left in droves.

Government ministers visited the revitalised watershed on 31 May 2017 after signing a memo of understanding to establish a National Agroforestry Platform to support climate-resilient green growth and transformation. Over 40 prominent figures attended, including ministers of state Kaba Urgesa and Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, Wubalem Tadesse of the Ethiopian Environment and Forest Research Institute, Fassil Kebede, adviser to the minister of agriculture, and Eleni Gabre Madhin, founder of Ethiopia’s commodity exchange and representatives of embassies, development agencies, and civil society groups such as Oxfam, Farm Africa, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and Packard.

    I know this place. It was abandoned and untouched. This is very incredible to me
    Eyasu Abraha, Ethiopia’s minister of agriculture and natural resources

Gergera watershed covers 1382 hectares in the kebele (Ethiopia’s smallest administrative unit) of Hayelom in Atsbi-Wonberta district in the eastern zone of Tigray. The visit began at the head of the valley where community leaders had gathered. Alighting and looking around, Ethiopia’s minister of agriculture and natural resources Eyasu Abraha was visibly moved. “I know this place. It was abandoned and untouched. This is very incredible to me,” he said.

The group stood under tall trees, bathed by bird song, with luscious grasses and pools of clean water at their feet. So that it can regenerate, this part of Gergera has long been closed to cattle. “The first thing you notice is the change of vegetation,” said World Agroforestry Centre’s director general Tony Simons, pointing out a Sclerocarya birrea, the Marula tree which has a nutritious plum-like fruit with a kernel with oil prized for cosmetics by firms such as the Body Shop.

By consent of the community, only cutting and carrying grass to livestock and beekeeping are permissible in this upper catchment. Indeed, the wooded hillsides are rife with carefully placed hives. Gabions (mesh cages filled with rocks) built by members of the community slow the rain water when it courses down the chasm, which, formerly too deep to cross, is gradually filling as earth builds up behind the structures. Critically, this earth now retains rainwater, which seeps into the ground and emerges as groundwater in the valley where 1,000 hectares of land are now under small scale irrigation. Meanwhile, more tree cover on the hills means that when surface water does reach the valley, it does so with less destructive velocity.

It was not always like this. Landscape degradation in Ethiopia is centuries old. A painting from 1951 in Ethiopia’s National Museum shows erosion devouring arable land. “During the period of the Emperor and the Derg, degradation was so severe that once we were forced to dismantle a church at risk of being swept away!” said elder Khasay Gebreselaasie, referring to the regime which ruled from 1974 for 17 years. But the fall of the Derg brought a groundswell of activity to address agricultural productivity in an area once struck by famine.

“The people took the initiative to rehabilitate the environment,” explained the administrator of Hayelom, Habtom Woreta. “That is when Irish Aid came in and we became a model watershed for the region and the world. You can see how the area is transformed! Biodiversity has increased and we have hand dug wells at 1m deep because of recharge. And none of this is in vain. Now we have TVs in the houses. Before we slept on mats, now we have beds.”

Once a hot spot for the perilous out migration of youth, even that has changed. When Irish Aid representative Aileen O’Donovan asked “about job creation for the youth, who are motivated but restless”, Kebele leader Tsuruy proudly said. “We have 1,070 youngsters, of whom 506 are employed due to restoration”.

“This is music to my ears,” said Abraha, the minister of agriculture, whose government recently completed a rural job opportunity strategy.

Down in the valley, young men were building gabions to deflect a gully away from the fields that would be destroyed if the water flowed unchecked after the rains. They are paid under Ethiopia’s cash transfer scheme, the Productive Safety Net Programme, to which the UK contributes over £50m a year. They also donate 40 days of their time for free, both as a social obligation and in anticipation of receiving reclaimed land from the state. Asked why they were doing this, they shouted, “to earn daily bread and stop the loss of land. The land was going!”

There were more young men as well as women at the rural resource centre, a former government nursery now supported by the World Agroforestry Centre, which guides the restoration. They earn their living selling trees, particularly avocado, and 13 fodder grass species. They currently have tree seedlings and vegetable plantlets for sale worth altogether $11,523 as well as $10,000 saved in the bank.

As the trip wrapped up, the community served bread and honey from the recovering hills. State minister for livestock and fisheries Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes said “what has been seen today is job creation” and “cash transfers improving the lives of the poor”. And Kiros Hagdu, who leads the World Agroforestry Centre in Ethiopia, said his centre was committed to evidence-based restoration of farms and landscapes with the government and communities and that now was “the time to scale-up the successes nationally”.

The minister of agriculture had the last word. “Agroforestry is becoming the heart and the mind of the government,” said Abraha. “What we see here is really the beginning of transformation. All those youngsters who wanted to migrate will have productive land.”

This blogpost was first published on Agroforestry World. Cathy Watson is head of program development at the World Agroforestry Centre.

 on: Jun 21, 2017, 05:29 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Major publishers move to defend Greenpeace in dispute with logging firm

Firms including Penguin Random House and HarperCollins have spoken out about timber company’s ‘dangerous’ moves to quash campaigners’ claims

Danuta Kean
Wednesday 21 June 2017 06.30 BST

The world’s biggest book publishers have been dragged into a bitter dispute between a US logging company and environmental campaigners Greenpeace. It follows legal action taken by the logging company, Resolute Forest Products, which campaigners and publishers fear has implications for freedom of speech.

The dispute centres on claims by Greenpeace about the company’s logging practices in sections of Canada’s boreal forest, which are home to indigenous peoples as well as endangered wildlife. Greenpeace alleges that Resolute: “Is responsible for the destruction of vast areas of Canada’s magnificent boreal forest, damaging critical woodland caribou habitat and logging without the consent of impacted First Nations.”

Resolute strongly disputes the claims. Last year, it followed up a 2013 defamation and economic interference lawsuit launched in Canada with a $226m (£178m) US claim under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act (Rico). Passed in 1970 to counter organised crime, the use of the act has been criticised as an attempt to silence both Resolute’s critics and for setting a “dangerous” precedent for whistleblowers and NGOs.

Publishers, including Penguin Random House and Murdoch-owned HarperCollins, became involved after a petition signed by more than 100 authors in support of Greenpeace was handed in at US publishing trade show BookExpo. The petition called for publishers using Resolute products to use their clout to pressurise the company into dropping the lawsuit and addressing alleged logging practices.

Hachette Livre, whose UK subsidiaries publish among others Ian Rankin, JK Rowling and Cressida Cowell, expresseds concern that the Rico action poses a threat to free speech and could be used to silence environmental organisations at a time when the US government has stated its intention to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement on climate change.

Emphasising that Hachette had “no intention of taking sides”, but was “reaffirming our commitment to free speech”, Ronald Blunden, senior vice-president of corporate communications said: “It is the [scale] of the damages being sought in the suit. We are concerned that it is about muzzling Greenpeace at a time when the US government is pulling out of the Paris accord on climate change.”

He added: “You need these NGOs to be able to do their work and be whistleblowers, because if they disappear, and if the US pulls out of the Paris accord, who will be left to speak up and defend the environment?”

In a letter to Resolute, HL chairman Arnaud Nourry described the use of racketeering law in the US as excessive and asked if there was another way in which the company could respond to the accusations. The logging company’s CEO Richard Garneau responded by providing a detailed rebuttal of the activists’ claims and responding to the gagging charge: “Freedom of speech is not the same as libel and slander.”

Other publishers have expressed frustration with the way the dispute has escalated, with several describing it, off the record, as a mess. In a statement from Simon & Schuster US, senior vice president and director of corporate communications Adam Rothberg noted the claims, counterclaims and arguments made by both parties about “complicated issues, that, as publishers, we have little ability to judge or verify”. He added: “We do, however, recognise the urgency of current environmental issues, the unalloyed right to free and responsible free speech in advocating for environmental and other causes and the right to defend one’s reputation.”

Publishers on both sides of the Atlantic said pulp from the disputed forests is not used in their books and emphasised the use of “vigorous” oversight by the Forest Stewardship Council. In a statement sent to the Guardian, Penguin Random House said that it “strives to procure paper from suppliers who source responsibly”. HarperCollins issued a similar statement.

It is unlikely that the case will come to a swift conclusion. The next hearing will be held in California. But publishers may be forced to take economic action to end the row. Blunden said although Hachette remained a customer of Resolute, should the publisher’s authors demand its wood pulp is not used in their books, the company may rethink its buying policy. However, he added, no such protests had yet been made.

 on: Jun 21, 2017, 05:27 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
New 'disturbance map' shows damaging effects of forest loss in Brazilian Amazon

    Silent Forest Project map reveals urgent need for conservation protections
    ‘It is terrifying to see the Amazon degraded to this extent,’ scientist says

Jonathan Watts in Rio de Janeiro
Tuesday 20 June 2017 15.00 BST

As Brazil’s government steps back from Amazon conservation, the urgent need for stronger protection has been made more apparent by a new data map that highlights the knock-on effect of the forest’s capacity to absorb carbon, regulate temperatures and sustain life.

Launched on Tuesday, the Silent Forest project assesses the extent and impact of forest degradation – a largely man-made phenomenon that is less well-known than land clearance, but is seen by scientists as potentially more of a problem for the climate and biodiversity.

Forest degradation is the thinning of tree density and the culling of biodiversity below an apparently protected canopy – usually as a result of logging, fire, drought and hunting.

It is more difficult for satellites to monitor than deforestation (the total clearance of foliage) because the canopy – when viewed from above – appears uninterrupted, even when many of the plants underneath have been cut down or destroyed and the habitat of many species has disappeared.

As a result, it is harder to tackle and has long been overlooked by policymakers, even though scientists warn it may have a bigger impact on biodiversity loss and carbon emissions.

To draw attention to the trends and the risks, the Silent Forest “disturbance map” highlights the black spots of forest degradation (particularly prominent near Santarem, Sinop and on the border of Pará and Maranhão states), as well as areas affected by roads, logging and forest fires, which tend to cluster together as a result of (often illegal) human activity.

During the 2015-16 El Niño, fires affected 38,000 sq km of Brazilian Amazon – more than five times the area classified as deforested. On other land, loggers cut deep under the canopy to remove the most valuable timber and swaths were bisected or fragmented by roads.

This creates a vicious circle because degraded land is drier and results in lower rainfall in surrounding areas, which increases the vulnerability to arson and accidental fire.

“It is terrifying to see the Amazon degraded to this extent,” said Jos Barlow, a scientist at Lancaster University and one of the authors of a key study being used for the data visualisation. “Every time we go to field, we measure plots and find the situation is far far worse than before but nothing is being done about it.”

He and the other scientists behind the data visualisation hope the new tool will guide policymakers to tackle the multiple causes of forest degradation.

Thiago Medaglia, coordinator of the Silent Forest platform, said: “The data visualization from scientific studies is an important step in the struggle for forest conservation. Now, it is possible not only to visualize the impacts of deforestation in the Amazon, but also those of degradation.”

They have also added information on biodiversity loss to widen the potential audience. Bird lovers, for example, will be alarmed to discover that some of the worst wildfires last year occurred in the habitat of the highly endangered black winged trumpeter on eastern Amazon. The species – which numbered only 100 or 200 individuals – is now considered the most likely to go extinct in the near future.

Last year, an international team of researchers found that areas in Pará state with the highest levels of protection still lost between 46% and 61% of their conservation value as a result of degradation.

 on: Jun 21, 2017, 05:18 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
50+ Interviews With EPA Staff: Trump Poses 'Greatest Threat' to Agency in 47-Year History


From repealing and replacing Obamacare to constructing that border wall, President Donald Trump has broken a lot of promises that he made on the campaign trail. However, there is one area where Trump has been seemingly true to the his word—crippling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to the first of a series of reports from the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI), the Trump administration poses the greatest threat to the EPA's 47-year history.

The group's stunning analysis, The EPA Under Siege, draws on institutional history and the insight of more than 50 interviews with long-term EPA staff, who are unidentified in the report for their protection. The report's authors have identified plummeting morale, mutual distrust between political appointees and career staff, and paralysis of operations within the EPA under current Administrator Scott Pruitt.

"Twice before, presidential administrations in North America have targeted their own environmental agencies with comparable aggression, in the early Reagan administration (1981-1983) and under Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (2006-2015)," the EDGI report's authors state. "Trump's assault is on track to surpass these."

The EDGI is an international coalition of academics and nonprofits organizations that formed after Trump's election to address potential threats to federal environmental and energy policy. You may know of their detailed work on tracking changes to federal websites.

There are many unsettling revelations from the report, but this section says it all:

"From their front row seats, many agency veterans now think they see a gathering profile of the Trump administration's long game: to abolish the EPA. 'I think there's a general consensus among the career people,' one tells us, 'that at bottom they're basically trying to destroy the place.' Another, working in a different office, elaborates: 'I think this is just phase one … I think there's a much bigger master plan [discernible] if you read into what came out of restructuring ... we're going to be structured out. I think they're either going to break us up again and send us back to the ... programs we came from, or combine us with Energy or strip even further programs from us so that there's just a real exceedingly small base that's doing this work. I think the plan is to get rid of EPA.'"

Here are some of the other allegations from the EPA staff (you can read the whole collection of quotes here):

Pruitt has never met with environmental groups. "I don't believe he's met with any environmental groups to date, so he's still kind of sticking with his core business, government groups." Almost no one interviewed in the report has had contact with Pruitt himself or seen him around the office. Rather, they take note of his frequent trips around the country and visits with like-minded constituencies, such as Western governors, farmers and coal miners.

Pruitt has banned staff from taking notes. "There's a premium on, I would say secrecy. Meaning senior managers that are going into meetings with Pruitt…. aren't [allowed to compile] written materials. They're asked not to take notes, not to take a computer in and type notes… Everything is just verbal. If it's just verbal, then there's no record that you can get a FOIA to see what happened."

Pruitt has requested around-the-clock security. "Pruitt is requesting in the 2018 budget that he have a security team, 24/7, made up of 10 people because he feels his life is I guess at risk because there's such internal hatred at EPA. This is scary and unfounded."

Pruitt's first speech to the agency was carefully stage-managed to avoid dissent. His speech also never alluded to the EPA's longstanding work in safeguarding human health, science, scientists, ecology or even climate change. One staff member recalled, "I can say that many of us were seething after watching his speech. Well, watching it 'live' from the EPA TV. Junior staff were not permitted to attend in person. All staff were provided with the opportunity to rsvp to attend but apparently the rsvp list was reviewed with a fine toothed comb so only those certain to not cause a disruption during the speech, would be there. I assume that means old people with suits (which is what we saw on the EPA tv while watching the speech). Yes, I too was wondering when he would mention human health. Apparently never!"

Trump's visit to the EPA was met with frustration from staff employees. During Trump's March 28 visit to the agency's headquarters to sign "new energy revolution" executive order to undo Obama's climate policies he was flanked by coal miners, Pruitt, Vice President Mike Pence and the new Secretaries of Energy Rick Perry and Interior Ryan Zinke. However, few people at the EPA were invited. One interviewee said, "We were frankly insulted that the President would come to EPA to announce that he is overturning the work to battle the most urgent environmental problem of our generation—climate change. It was beyond comprehension that an Administration could be so arrogant and callous." Another veteran official described it as an "in-your-face, insulting [a] thing as I've experienced in my time here."

Some staff believe that Trump's draconian 2018 EPA budget proposal was influenced by conservative think-tanks. One EPA worker's "personal opinion" was that "it's all from the Heritage Foundation's report, almost verbatim ... they just literally went through the list and said well this is climate change, boom this goes. EJ [environmental justice] we couldn't care less about that, this goes."


Exodus from Trump's Environmental Protection Agency continues as several more staff are forced out

It is 'another example of the erosion of the role of science'

Mythili Sampathkumar

Several more scientists advising the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been notified their contracts will not be renewed.

In an email forwarded to The Independent, Acting Assistant Director Dr. Robert Kavlock told members of the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) that EPA administrators feel “the need to reconstitute the” committee and thus none of their contracts will be renewed.

​BOSC and subcommittee members are nominated by peers if they have significant scientific experience and have done research in the environmental field; they are not political appointees. They serve as external advisors to EPA staff and provide guidance from their academia, industry, non-profit sector positions to help direct resources.
Once approved, they normally serve two three-year terms, with a maximum of six years. That means all of the current advisors were appointed during one of the previous Obama administrations.

Dr Robert Richardson, a professor at Michigan State and former BOSC subcommittee chair, told The Independent that the EPA's latest actions have "made it political" due to the Trump administration's policies on climate change and the environment.

On several occasions, Donald Trump has called climate a "hoax" perpetrated by the Chinese and has withdrawn the US from the global Paris Agreement on climate change.

The US is one of the world's top emitters of carbon dioxide, but Mr Trump and EPA chief Scott Pruitt have continued the rhetoric on exporting American coal, steel, and manufacturing innovation and technology.

Mr Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry have both commented that though they have been convinced human activity contributes to climate change, neither feels that government policy and regulation will do anything to help combat climate-related issues despite hundreds of scientific studies, some conducted by both of their federal agencies.

They want to "wipe the slate clean...start anew," he said.

It is "another example of the erosion of the role of science in federal government," Mr Richardson said.

On 5 May Mr Richardson took to Twitter with an announcement. He had been “trumped” from his position. Dr Courtney Flint, a professor at Utah State University also received notice that day that her term on BOSC would not be renewed.

    Today, I was Trumped. I have had the pleasure of serving on the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors, and my appointment was terminated today.
    — Robert Richardson (@ecotrope) May 5, 2017

An EPA spokesperson said they would be replaced by those in industry "who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community".

Also in May, Dr Carlos Martin, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute, and Dr Peter Meyer, President and Chief Economist of The EP Systems Group, both resigned citing political differences with Donald Trump's administration.

Mr Meyer and Mr Martin were members of the Sustainable and Healthy Communities subcommittee of BOSC, of which Mr Richardson was the Chair.

In the letter, they detail the reasons for their immediate resignation, prompted by non-renewal of their colleagues' contracts. Mr Martin posted their joint resignation letter on Twitter, and in it the pair said they felt the EPA was “watering down credible science” by putting politics where it did not belong.

Mr Meyer previously told The Independent that “non-renewal is just a polite way of saying fired”.

In the contract notice email, Mr Kavlock also wrote that none of the five advisory subcommittees within the BOSC would be holding meetings for the rest of the year, but was “hopeful” these would resume in 2018.

Mr Richardson said that not having external advisors meeting and on-hand could hamper staff "in terms of EPA getting feedback... [and] making progress on its research action strategy - the EPA staff has told us its valuable to them".

The work the subcommittee members do helps EPA "direct resources to the appropriate places...and stay cutting edge and relevant," said Mr Richardson.

Mr Kavlock said the EPA “encourages you to reapply for membership” to the committee members and provided a link to do so. It is unclear how many members will take him up on the opportunity.

The due date for nominations is in just a few weeks and Mr Richardson indicated that weeding through applications, vetting, and ethics and compliance training took months when he was first appointed.


Extreme Heat Grounds Flights in Arizona as Death Valley to Reach Whopping 127 Degrees


Warnings of excessive heat in the American Southwest have forced airlines to cancel dozens of of flights this week.

American Airlines flies certain routes with the Canadian-built Bombardier CRJ aircraft, which is not permitted to fly in temperatures above 117 degrees Fahrenheit. In Phoenix, Arizona, where temperatures are around a scorching 119, American Airlines had no choice but to preemptively cancel seven flights on Monday and 43 for Tuesday.

"Our smaller regional operations—those that use our CRJ aircraft types–will be most affected by the heat," the airline's communication specialist Kent Powell told CNN. "We really aren't expecting any change to the operation with our mainline aircraft."

According to National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Fisher, temperatures in Death Valley in eastern California and in the town of Needles near the Arizona border are expected to reach a whopping 127 degrees this week.

"A strong high pressure aloft over the southwest states will create hot conditions away from the coast at least through midweek, peaking Tuesday and Wednesday," the National Weather Service reported on Monday. "High pressure may weaken slightly the latter part of the week with inland temperatures slightly lowering through Friday."

Several Northern Californian cities broke heat records on Sunday, including Sacramento (106 degrees), San Jose (103 degrees) and San Francisco (88 degrees). The high temperatures have led to power outages in California's Central Valley, the Bay Area and southern parts of the state.

Transportation officials are also looking into whether the extreme heat is behind the buckling of several freeway lanes in West Sacramento on Sunday.


The Green Energy Revolution Will Happen Without Trump

JUNE 20, 2017

In the wake of President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, a dozen states and more than 300 cities have pledged to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in line with the Paris targets.

The move suggests a possible future for climate change policy in the Trump era: States and cities are taking on the brunt of climate responsibility, building green energy capabilities and meeting ambitious climate targets in the process.

There is no replacing the federal role in setting the larger climate agenda, without which the country is unlikely to meet more ambitious targets. But states and cities should still do all they can to fight for sensible climate policy in the absence of a sensible president. In many cases, that work is already underway and shows no signs of slowing.
States Are Already Abandoning Coal

Despite the president’s focus on bolstering the coal industry, the sector faced persistent declines over the past decade. This is important for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions since coal produces more carbon dioxide than other common forms of energy and is one of the leading causes of global warming.

Megawatt-hours of electricity production, by energy source




Natural gas















Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

States have been lured away from coal by cheaper alternatives and an abundance of cleaner natural gas — market forces that are not easily manipulated by Trump’s policies. The rise of natural gas and decline of coal was partly responsible for falling CO2 emissions — 18 percent below projections made in 2008 by the Annual Energy Outlook.

Metric ton of CO2 emissions from energy consumption


AEO 2008













Sources: EIA, Rhodium Group analysis

“Regulation will play a modest role in the future,” said Mark Muro, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “But the main effect here is simply price. Gas and renewables are simply becoming cheaper than coal for many plants and many situations.”

Federal regulations, if implemented, would force some states to replace older, dirtier sources of energy with cleaner fuels, or push them to find efficiency improvements in the grid and engage in emissions trading with other states. Those regulations would have included the Clean Power Plan, which set ambitious carbon emission reduction goals for high-polluting states, but Trump ordered the E.P.A. to roll back the plan in an executive order.

Percent change in net electricity generation from coal, 2004 to 2015



































































































Only Alaska and Nebraska

increased their net electricity

generation from coal.

Note: Excludes Rhode Island, which had no coal energy production.

Coal measurements include anthracite, bituminous coal, subbituminous coal,

lignite, waste coal, and synthetic coal

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Green Technologies Are More Affordable

Median price per watt for distributed solar systems

Net solar electricity generation, megawatt-hours






















Note: The system installed price is the upfront cost for photovoltaic solar energy, not including any

financial incentives, in 2015 dollars. Energy production includes solar thermal and photovoltaic but excludes rooftops.

Sources: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (price); U.S. Energy Information Administration (production)

Once prohibitively expensive, renewable energy is becoming increasingly affordable, especially in sunnier and windier parts of the country. The price of solar cells, for example, plummeted in recent years, allowing states like California — a role model for climate policy at the state level — to substantially increase investment in that technology.

An analysis by the University of Texas Energy Institute found that for most of the country, natural gas and wind power are the cheapest forms of new energy capacity. But when other factor costs like health, availability of water and government regulations are factored in, solar, wind, nuclear and other greener energies prove even cheaper in some parts of the country. The institute based its findings on 2015 data, and some of those technologies are probably even more cost effective now.

Cheapest source of potential new electricity, by county

If counties were looking to add electricity-generating capacity, natural gas plants and wind turbines would be the cheapest option for many of them...

...But that changes when considering local rules, conditions, health costs and pollution costs:

Solar (large arrays or rooftop)


Natural gas




Natural gas


Natural gas

Note: These maps use 2015 estimates for solar panel prices, which have dropped since then. Government subsidies, which lower costs, are not included.

Source: University of Texas Energy Institute

It’s clear that Trump’s policies won’t affect the economic calculus states are facing: for many of them, green energy is the better option.

Investing in Green Energy Makes Economic Sense

A standard criticism of climate policy is the supposed negative impact on the economy. Trump cited this among his justifications for leaving the Paris accord.

“The Paris Agreement handicaps the United States’ economy in order to win praise from the very foreign capitals and global activists that have long sought to gain wealth at our country’s expense,” Trump said in his speech from the White House Rose Garden.

But findings from the Sierra Club, an environmental organization, showed clean energy account for more than double the number of jobs from coal, oil and gas combined. The growth is led by California, which has nearly half a million people employed in solar, wind and other clean energy jobs.

Jobs by energy sector, 2016

Clean energy*








*Includes solar, wind, storage, energy efficiency and smart grid

Source: The Department of Energy; The Sierra Club

At the state level, there’s growing evidence that cutting carbon dioxide emissions can be accomplished while accelerating gross domestic product. The Brookings Institution found more than 30 states have done this in recent years. The process, known as “decoupling,” has also happened in at least 35 countries — including the United States.

While the G.D.P. rose higher in states where CO2 increased, the ability to grow the economy while reducing harmful pollutants is a reality for many states. Trump’s actions, no matter how harmful, can’t stop that progress.

Percent change in state GDP and energy CO2 emissions, 2000 to 2014


CO2 Emissions

States where CO2 emissions fell







































































States where CO2 emissions rose

































Sources: Environmental Protection Agency (CO2); Bureau of Economic Analysis (GDP); the Brookings Institution

Vikas Bajaj is a member of the editorial board. Stuart A. Thompson is the graphics director for the Opinion section.

Source: The Rhodium Group (cities and states supporting the Paris agreement)

 on: Jun 21, 2017, 05:11 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Groups Slam Exxon for Deceptive Support of Carbon Tax Plan


Environmental organizations are calling foul on a carbon tax and dividend plan announced today that was supported by ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and other influential businesses, individuals and organizations.

The Climate Leadership Council, developed by former cabinet members James Baker and George Shultz, have crafted a plan designed to fight climate change by taxing carbon emissions and then redirecting that levy to taxpayers.

While the proposal has been touted as a free market, "conservative climate solution," it also calls for the rolling back of Obama-era climate regulations and shields polluting companies from lawsuits over their contribution to climate change.

That sounds all-too convenient for a certain fossil fuel giant that's under investigation for exactly that, environmentalists pointed out. Experts also suggested that the chances that Congress would pass a carbon tax in the near future were low and would require bipartisan support.

"Exxon is signing onto this carbon tax proposal because they know it's dead-on-arrival, but hope it will distract from the ongoing investigations into whether the company lied to the public and its investors about climate change," Jamie Henn, 350.org strategic communications director, said.

"We already know from the New York Attorney General's investigation that Exxon misled investors about its internal carbon tax, stating one price externally but using a lower internal price to double down on fossil fuel extraction. Exxon has a decades-long track record of misleading the public on climate change, this is just more of the same delay and deceit."

As it happens, Exxon has historically lobbied against similar carbon tax proposals and contributed campaign funds to congress members who oppose a carbon tax.

"ExxonMobil will try to dress this up as climate activism, but its key agenda is protecting executives from legal accountability for climate pollution and fraud," said Greenpeace climate liability project lead Naomi Ages.

"Buried in pages of supposedly 'free market' solutions is a new regulation exempting polluters from facing legal consequences for their role in fueling climate change."

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter noted how such a carbon tax plan would allow fossil fuel corporations to continue business as usual.

"That means continued oil and gas extraction, continued air and water pollution, and a continuing steady march toward irrevocable climate chaos," she said. "This plan being promoted by notable conservatives and their industry allies is particularly absurd: It would scrap many existing pollution controls—common sense rules that tackle carbon emissions at their source—in favor of a market-based scheme that would push added costs onto consumers, not polluters."

"Broadly speaking, there is no evidence that carbon taxes reduce carbon emissions," she added. "Many tax advocates point to a plan instituted in British Columbia in 2008 as evidence of the method's success in lowering emissions. In fact, carbon emissions actually increased in B.C. under the plan. When carbon taxes increase costs on fossil fuel corporations, those costs are simply passed down to consumers at the gas pump or store shelves."

"Only cutting carbon emissions at their source—by keeping fossil fuels in the ground and transitioning rapidly to clean, renewable energy—will quickly reduce emissions and effectively tackle the worst effects of impending climate chaos," she concluded.

 on: Jun 21, 2017, 05:08 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
New Claims Against Monsanto in Consumer Lawsuit Over Roundup Herbicide

By Carey Gillam

Another day, another lawsuit against global seed and chemical giant Monsanto Co. In a complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in Wisconsin, six consumers alleged that the company's top-selling Roundup herbicide has been falsely promoted as uniquely safe when it actually can have profound harmful impacts on human gut bacteria critical to good health.

The lawsuit, which also names Roundup distributor Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. as a defendant, specifically alleges that consumers are being deceived by inaccurate and misleading statements made by Monsanto regarding glyphosate, the active weed-killing ingredient in Roundup. Plaintiffs include residents of Wisconsin, Illinois, California, New York, New Jersey and Florida.

Glyphosate, which Monsanto introduced as an herbicide in 1974 and is widely used in growing food crops, has been promoted for years as a chemical that kills plants by targeting an enzyme that is not found in people or pets. The lawsuit claims that assertion is false, however, and argues that research shows glyphosate can target an enzyme found in gut bacteria in people and animals, disrupting the immune system, digestion and "even brain function."

"Defendants repeat these false and misleading representations throughout their marketing, including in video advertisements produced for their websites and YouTube Channel," states the lawsuit, which is filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

Monsanto did not respond to a request for comment and neither did Scotts. Monsanto is currently defending itself against nationwide claims that Roundup has caused hundreds of people to suffer from a type of blood cancer called non-Hodgkin lymphoma. More than 1,100 plaintiffs have lawsuits pending in state and federal courts with many of the lawsuits combined in multi-district litigation in federal court in San Francisco. Those lawsuits were triggered by a 2015 decision by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to classify glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. IARC said research showed an association between non-Hodgkin lymphoma and glyphosate, with limited evidence from epidemiology data collected on humans and stronger evidence seen in laboratory animals exposed to glyphosate.

The lawsuit filed in Wisconsin is markedly different from the Roundup cancer claims, though some of the same attorneys are involved in both lines of litigation. Plaintiffs do not claim physical injury; rather they claim violations of trade and business practices laws, and allege Monsanto and Scotts were "unjustly enriched" as plaintiffs purchased and paid for more Roundup products than they would have in absence of the alleged false promotions.

 on: Jun 21, 2017, 05:03 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
How climate change will threaten food security of world’s poorest countries

UK ranked as third least vulnerable country with island states the most likely to suffer

Ian Johnston Environment Correspondent

Some of the world’s poorest countries will be hit hardest as climate change affects marine fisheries all over the world, according to a new study.

The global fishing industry produces a total catch worth about $90bn (£71bn) but the warming oceans temperatures are causing many valuable species to shift their usual ranges.

The potential for water to hit temperatures lethal to corals such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which support vast amounts of other marine life, is another particular problem.

The researchers assessed 147 countries based on their vulnerability to the effect of future warming on fishing in their waters and their ability to cope with the changes.

The worst-affected countries were mostly small islands with Kiribati, Micronesia, Solomon Islands, Maldives and Vanuatu making up the top five, according to a paper in the journal PLOS One.

However large countries like China in eighth place, Nigeria (15th) and Indonesia (26th) also featured high on the list.

Ireland was predicted to be the least vulnerable country in 147th place, followed by Chile, the UK, Iceland and Namibia with the US in sixth.
The five worst-affected countries were given a 'vulnerability score' that was eight to nine times higher than those at the bottom of the list.

Writing in the journal, the researchers warned that climate change’s effect on fisheries could harm food security, people’s livelihoods and public health – particularly in poor countries because they are less able to cope.

“More than 87 per cent of least developed countries are found within the top half of the vulnerability index, while the bottom half includes all but one of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development member states [wealthy countries],” they said.

“This is primarily due to the tremendous variation in countries’ adaptive capacity, as no such trends are evident from the exposure or sensitivity indices.”

And the countries that have done the least to cause climate change appear to be the ones that can expect their fisheries to be the worst affected by it.

“A negative correlation exists between vulnerability and per capita carbon emissions, and the clustering of states at different levels of development across the vulnerability index suggests growing barriers to meeting global commitments to reducing inequality, promoting human well-being and ensuring sustainable cities and communities,” the researchers wrote.

 on: Jun 21, 2017, 04:58 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
The latest threat to Antarctica: an insect and plant invasion

Rise in tourism and warmer climate bring house flies – and the growth of mosses in which they can live
An Adélie penguin near the Antarctic’s McMurdo research station.

Robin McKie Science editor

Antarctica’s pristine ice-white environment is going green and facing an unexpected threat – from the common house fly. Scientists say that as temperatures soar in the polar region, invading plants and insects, including the fly, pose a major conservation threat.

More and more of these invaders, in the form of larvae or seeds, are surviving in coastal areas around the south pole, where temperatures have risen by more than 3C over the past three decades. Glaciers have retreated, exposing more land which has been colonised by mosses that have been found to be growing more quickly and thickly than ever before – providing potential homes for invaders. The process is particularly noticeable in the Antarctic peninsula, which has been shown to be the region of the continent that is most vulnerable to global warming.

“The common house fly is a perfect example of the problem the Antarctic now faces from invading species,” said Dominic Hodgson of the British Antarctic Survey. “It comes in on ships, where it thrives in kitchens and then at bases on the continent. It now has an increasing chance of surviving in the Antarctic as it warms up, and that is a worry. Insects like the fly carry pathogens that could have a devastating effect on indigenous lifeforms.”

The Antarctic has several native species of insects. Together with its indigenous mosses and lichens, these are now coming under increased threat from three major sources: visiting scientists; swelling numbers of tourists; and global warming.

In 2015-6, more than 38,000 tourists visited Antarctica while around 43,000 were expected for the following season. “These tourists are often very scrupulous about not leaving waste or having mud – which could carry seeds or bugs from other areas – on their boots when they set foot on the Antarctic peninsula,” said Hodgson.

“However, it is still very difficult to avoid contamination. Camera bags are a particular problem. People take them from one continent to the next and rarely clean them. They put them on the ground and seeds picked up elsewhere get shaken loose. It is a real issue.”

Nevertheless, it is global warming that is the main driver of the greening of Antarctica. Temperatures have been rising steadily in the peninsula since meteorological data began to be collected there in the 1950s. This shows that over the past 60 years the region has warmed up by around half a degree Celsius every decade.

    The insects and plants native to Antarctica have survived for thousands of years. These are now at considerable risk
    Dominic Hodgson, British Antarctic Survey

As a result, the Antarctic’s scarce plant life – which currently grows on only 0.3% of the continent – has responded dramatically, according to British researchers writing in Current Biology. The group, led by Dan Charman of Exeter University, studied cores drilled into moss banks on islands off the peninsula and found that the rate of moss growth is four or five times higher than it was before 1950. “The sensitivity of moss growth to past temperature rises suggests that ecosystems will alter rapidly under future warming, leading to major changes in the biology and landscape of the region,” said Charman. “In short, we could see Antarctic greening to parallel well-established observations in the Arctic.”

More and more invasive plants – mostly non-native meadow grasses and sunflower species – have been found on the Antarctic peninsula and its islands and have required removal. In addition, a paper in Biodiversity and Conservation by Kevin Hughes of the British Antarctic Survey and others, indicates that current biosecurity measures to control these invasions are inadequate.

To put this right, a number of measures are outlined by the group, which included scientists from Spain and Chile. These include a call for all Antarctic tourists and scientists to be better educated about conservation when they arrive in the region. In addition, contingency plans to deal with plant or insect invasions should be developed and better use made of scientific experts when incidents occur.

“The insects and plants that are native to Antarctica have survived there for thousands of years,” said Hodgson. “We have got to act now if we want to save this last, pristine environment.”

 on: Jun 21, 2017, 04:56 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Lima's time bomb: how mudslides threaten the world's great 'self-built' city

Evangelina Chamorro became a symbol of hope after she survived being swept two miles in a mudslide – but her story reveals the city’s shaky foundations

Dan Collyns in Lima
21 June 2017 07.15 BST

The extraordinary video of a Peruvian woman coated in mud emerging from a brown sea of pallets and wooden poles was viewed around the world. Evangelina Chamorro, who had been feeding her pigs when she was swept for two miles downhill in a huge mudslide, became the poster girl for resilience during the country’s worst floods in living memory.

Remarkably, the 32-year-old was treated for minor injuries and left hospital just a week after the incident in March. The psychological scars, however, are taking longer to heal.

“It would have been too sad for my daughters if I had not survived. I just thought of them and prayed to God. Thanks to God I survived,” she says, her expression wavering.

Labelled “Mother Courage” by the national press, her ordeal, recorded on a camera phone by an onlooker, was viewed millions of times and broadcast around the world. But Chamorro’s story is not just one of remarkable survival. It revealed the shaky foundation of the Peruvian capital itself.

By many reckonings, Lima is one of the world’s greatest “self-built” cities. Most people here still build their own homes, pouring the concrete themselves. In fact, more cement is sold on the domestic market than in the commercial one.

But those homes are all too often built in vulnerable locations, sold by unscrupulous land dealers who misrepresent safety claims. As a result, when heavy rains hit the city, hundreds of thousands of homes were simply washed away.

With 10 million inhabitants, Peru’s capital spreads horizontally across a coastal desert plain and outward and upward into the foothills of the Andes mountains. It has grown sixfold since 1960, swelled by waves of migration from the provinces.

Until very recently, however, there was virtually no state-backed social housing. Successive governments simply allowed poor migrants to occupy desert land of little value, eventually giving in to the new slums’ demands for basic services such as electricity and water, and granting property titles. Villa El Salvador was among the first of these pueblos emergentes, or “emerging towns”, which started to spring up around Lima in the 1970s.

    In Lima almost all the flood damage was caused by the illegal occupation of land
    Alvaro Espinoza

This deliberate government policy – and the historic lack of access to credit – drove generations of families to build their own homes. They added floors when they could afford them; as the country’s economy boomed in the 2000s, so did cement companies and DIY stores. The result is a city of colourful, higgledy piggledy neighbourhoods where homes vary from the derelict to the picturesque – a testament to Peruvian resourcefulness.

The more established districts escaped the worst of the floods. But many others were not so lucky. The floods are estimated to have caused more than £7bn pounds worth of damage. President Pedro Pablo Kuczysnki has said that future construction, informal or not, will have to be strictly controlled.

“We must rebuild but we must do it much better than before,” he said in a national address in April. “No more roads which collapse, no more drains which get blocked, no more precarious buildings on dangerous floodplains. We have to change.”

“Self-building is not really a big deal. The problem is that the self-builder lacks technical assistance,” says Gustavo Riofrio, a town planner and adviser to Peru’s congressional housing commission. The result is homes that are less resistant to natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.

Location also has a major role to play. “In Lima almost all the flood damage was caused by the illegal occupation of land,” says Alvaro Espinoza, an urban development investigator with thinktank Grade.

“The landslides happen every year. The problem isn’t the buildings, but that they are built on riverbeds – and people continue to live there even when they have seen what happens.”

Although this year’s floods were on a much greater scale, flood-induced landslides are a seasonal occurrence in the arid foothills that are the backbone of the low-lying Pacific-facing city.

Nueva Navarra, however – the new settlement near the popular beach resort Punta Hermosa where Chamorro’s partner, Armando, had bought their plot – had been dry for years. Like many Peruvians, the couple purchased terrain from an unregulated land dealer. They were not aware they were living on a time bomb waiting to triggered by a coastal El Niño.

“There are traffickers who sell land without explaining if it’s dangerous or not,” says Chamorro, who was a migrant from the Amazon city of Iquitos. “They should also share the blame for why we’re living in these places where no one should live.”

Chamorro is sitting in the living room of a portable home donated by a local modular construction company, Tecnofast, which she is set to move into with Armando and their daughters Doris, 10, and Daysy, five. The company claims the homes are insulated, fire-proof and earthquake-proof.

All the family needs now is a plot of land in a safe place. These remain in short supply in Lima.
Story of cities #46: the gated Buenos Aires community which left its poor neighbours under water
Read more

New legislation from Kuczysnki promises to crack down on corrupt municipal officials and local mayors who facilitate such sales in high-risk zones. But the floods also laid bare how endemic corruption had left infrastructure weakened to the point of collapse.

Throughout the country, funds earmarked for disaster prevention were not used. In Lima, just a fraction of the budget for 2017 had been spent on actually preventing disaster. Instead, most of it was used to improve Lima’s seafront, despite widespread public disapproval.

Meanwhile, population growth in Lima continues – with very little good quality areas left on which to build, says Espinoza.

“Lima needs to densify. It’s too low-rise, and it needs to build upwards,” he says, arguing that only formal construction companies can make that transformation. While Peru’s emerging middle class are beginning to move into new-build apartments, helped by accessible mortgages from state-backed lenders such as Fondo MiVivienda, those remain beyond the reach of many. Until that changes, Lima’s poor will continue to build their own city – will all the risks that entails.

Chamorro urges her fellow settlers to choose wisely. “To all those people who are looking for a new place to live – find a safe place.”

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