Tag Archives | Environment

Climate Panel Claims ‘Near Certainty’ of Man-Made Global Warming

The results are in and they aren’t good, for anyone, climate deniers especially. The New York Times reports on the IPCC‘s dour assessment of climate change:

An international panel of scientists has found with near certainty that human activity is the cause of most of the temperature increases of recent decades, and warns that sea levels could conceivably rise by more than three feet by the end of the century if emissions continue at a runaway pace.

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The scientists, whose findings are reported in a draft summary of the next big United Nations climate report, largely dismiss a recent slowdown in the pace of warming, which is often cited by climate change doubters, attributing it most likely to short-term factors.

The report emphasizes that the basic facts about future climate change are more established than ever, justifying the rise in global concern. It also reiterates that the consequences of escalating emissions are likely to be profound.

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China To Introduce Death Penalty For Egregious Polluters

pollutersHarsh but fair? Via Scientific American:

Chinese authorities have given courts the powers to hand down the death penalty in serious pollution cases, state media said, as the government tries to assuage growing public anger at environmental desecration.

A new judicial interpretation which took effect on Wednesday would impose “harsher punishments” and tighten “lax and superficial” enforcement of the country’s environmental protection laws, the official Xinhua news agency reported: “In the most serious cases the death penalty could be handed down.”

Protests over pollution have unnerved the stability-obsessed ruling Communist Party. Thousands of people took to the streets in the southwestern city of Kunming last month to protest against the planned production of a chemical at a refinery.

Severe air pollution in Beijing and large parts of northern China this winter have added to the sense of unease among the population.

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Traces Of Prozac In Water Make Fish “Antisocial, Aggressive And Even Homicidal”

prozac

Good thing there aren’t traces of Prozac in the water we drin– oh, wait. ABC News reports:

Fish swimming in water with a trace of the anti-depressant Prozac became edgy, aggressive and some even killed their mates.

The fish were subjected to traces of the drug by a research group at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee that examined how environmental exposure to the medication altered the behavior of fathead minnows. Lead researcher Rebecca Klapper says that this experimental setup could actually be a reflection of the fishes’ reality.

The human body does not absorb medications 100 percent, so a trace amount is excreted in urine. Water treatment centers are unable to completely filter out all of those contaminant and can trickle down and affect the wildlife.

Klapper sees the minnows as a way to gauge the long-term effects of Prozac in humans. “It’s not just an environmental question but a human question as well,” she tells ABC News.

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The Emerging Speculative Genre Of “Cli Fi”

climate fiction

Is environmental change poised to thrust us into new worlds? NPR writes:

Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow is the latest in what seems to be an emerging literary genre. Over the past decade, more and more writers have begun to set their novels and short stories in worlds, not unlike our own, where the Earth’s systems are noticeably off-kilter. The genre has come to be called climate fiction — “cli-fi,” for short.

“I think we need a new type of novel to address a new type of reality,” says Rich, “which is that we’re headed toward something terrifying and large and transformative. And it’s the novelist’s job to try to understand, what is that doing to us?” As far as Rich is concerned, climate change itself is a foregone conclusion. The story — the suspense, the romance — is in how we deal with it.

Of course, science fiction with an environmental bent has been around since the 1960s (think J.G.

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EPA Declares More Than Half Of U.S. Rivers Unfit For Aquatic Life

river

Our world is so gross right now. Via Inhabitat:

The EPA has declared that an astounding 55 percent of rivers and streams in the country are in “poor condition for aquatic life.”

The results of their first comprehensive survey of waterway health reveal shrinking vegetation cover, high levels of phosphorous and nitrogen, and pollution from mercury and bacteria—none of which are all that great for human health either. Additionally, as the EPA emphasizes, the polluted, unhealthy waterways include vital sources of drinking water.

So where are these contaminants coming from? Phosphorous and nitrogen, both key ingredients in fertilizer, have long been recognized as a problem in US water health. 40 percent of waterways surveyed had high levels of phosophorous, while high levels of nitrogen were found in 27 percent of waterways.

Over 13,144 miles of waterways featured levels of mercury that similarly exceed safe levels for human health, making it ill-advised to consume fish from those areas.

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Food, Farms, Forests, and Fracking: Connecting the Dots

Picture: Zarateman (CC)

Picture: Zarateman (CC)

Ronnie Cummins and Zack Kaldveer write at Common Dreams:

If ever there was a time for activist networks and the body politic to cooperate and unite forces, it’s now. Global warming, driven in large part by the reckless business-as-usual practices of multi-billion-dollar fossil fuel and agribusiness corporations, has brought us to the brink of a global calamity.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution in the atmosphere has now reached 400 ppm of carbon dioxide (CO2), the highest level since our hunter and gatherer ancestors evolved 200,000 years ago. We are now facing, even though millions are still in denial, the most serious existential threat that humans have ever encountered. Through ignorance and greed, through unsustainable land use and abuse, through reckless deforestation, through unsustainable food, farming and ranching practices, and through overconsumption of fossil fuels, we have overloaded the atmosphere with dangerous levels of greenhouse gases: CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and black soot.

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China’s Elite Uses Air Purification Systems And Giant Domes To Retreat From Toxic Urban Air

giant domesIs life in some of our planet’s main cities beginning to resemble life on the moon? The New York Times reports:

Levels of deadly pollutants up to 40 times the recommended exposure limit in Beijing and other cities have struck fear into parents and led them to take steps that are radically altering the nature of urban life for their children.

Parents are confining sons and daughters to their homes, even if it means keeping them away from friends. Schools are canceling outdoor activities and field trips. Parents with means are choosing schools based on air-filtration systems, and some international schools have built gigantic, futuristic-looking domes over sports fields to ensure healthy breathing.

Face masks are now part of the urban dress code. Parents have scrambled to buy air purifiers. IQAir, a Swiss company, makes purifiers that cost up to $3,000 here and are displayed in shiny showrooms.

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European Union To Ban Pesticides Linked To Mass Bee Deaths

bee deaths

Via the BBC:

The European Commission will restrict the use of pesticides linked to bee deaths by researchers, despite a split among EU states on the issue. Neonicotinoid chemicals in pesticides are believed to harm bees and the European Commission says they should be restricted to crops not attractive to bees and other pollinators.

There is great concern across Europe about the collapse of bee populations. A report published by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in January concluded that the pesticides posed a “high acute risk” to pollinators, including honeybees.

There was ferocious lobbying both for and against in the run-up to Monday’s vote. Nearly three million signatures were collected in support of a ban. Chemical companies and pesticide manufacturers have been lobbying hard – they argue that the science is inconclusive, and that a ban would harm food production.

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Why Have Children?

image courtesy Matt Romack

Get married. Buy a house. Have kids. Retire. Die.

Why step three? Is it part of an egotistical drive to preserve one’s DNA? A desire to raise the most exotic pet of all – a human? A need to obtain a trophy to prove you had unprotected sex?

None of those, says a team of Cambridge and Stanford researchers. Instead, Dr. Partha Dasgupta and Dr. Paul Ehrlich posit, it’s part of the age-old question of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Physorg reports on the duo’s study which uses …

… data from several sources to compare population growth rates between people in Africa—where population growth is exploding in some areas—with others where it is not, to show that when people experience peer pressure to have large families and also feel pressure to keep up with the consumption habits of other people where they live, the result can be explosive population growth.

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The Twelve Most Awful Products Made By Monsanto

saccharinVia GMO Awareness, it may seem cartoonish to brand one company as an evil empire reaping misery over the course of a century, but it’s hard not to when they have created artificial sugar substitutes, DDT, Agent Orange, nuclear weapons, PCBs, and Bovine Growth Hormone:

When you take a moment to reflect on the history of product development at Monsanto, what do you find? Here are twelve products that Monsanto has brought to market:

1. Saccharin. John Francisco Queeny founded Monsanto Chemical Works with the goal of producing saccharin for Coca-Cola. Studies performed during the early 1970s showed that saccharin caused cancer in test rats and mice.

2. PCBs. During the early 1920s, Monsanto began expanding their chemical production into polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to produce coolant fluids for electrical transformers and motors. Fifty years later, the EPA published a report citing PCBs as the cause of cancer in animals, with additional evidence that they can cause cancer in humans.

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