California A Global Leader On Climate Change

White House Agenda Not Slowing Action In Golden State

The environmental ministers of Canada and Mexico went to San Francisco last month to sign a global pact — drafted largely by California — to lower planet-warming greenhouse pollution. Gov. Jerry Brown flies to China next month to meet with climate leaders there on a campaign to curb global warming. And a battery of state lawyers is preparing to battle any attempt by Washington to weaken California’s automobile pollution emission standards.

As President Trump moves to reverse the Obama administration’s policies on climate change, California is emerging as the nation’s de facto negotiator with the world on the environment. The state is pushing back on everything from White House efforts to roll back pollution rules on tailpipes and smokestacks, to plans to withdraw or weaken the United States’ commitments under the Paris climate change accord.

climate change policy

In the process, California is not only fighting to protect its legacy of sweeping environmental protection, but also holding itself out as a model to other states — and to nations — on how to fight climate change.

“I want to do everything we can to keep America on track, keep the world on track, and lead in all the ways California has,” said Mr. Brown, who has embraced this fight as he enters what is likely to be the final stretch of a 40-year career in California government. “We’re looking to do everything we can to advance our program, regardless of whatever happens in Washington.”

Since the election, California has stood as the leading edge of the Democratic resistance to the Trump administration, on a range of issues including immigration and health care. Mr. Trump lost to Hillary Clinton here by nearly four million votes. Every statewide elected official is a Democrat, and the party controls both houses of the Legislature by a two-thirds margin. Soon after Mr. Trump was elected, Democratic legislative leaders hired Eric H. Holder Jr., the former attorney general, to represent California in legal fights with the administration.

But of all the battles it is waging with Washington, none have the global implications of the one over climate change.

climate change and extreme weather

The aggressive posture on the environment has set the stage for a confrontation between the Trump administration and the largest state in the nation. California has 39 million people, making it more populous than Canada and many other countries. And with an annual economic output of $2.4 trillion, the state is an economic powerhouse and has the sixth-largest economy in the world.

California’s efforts cross party lines. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who served as governor from 2003 to 2011, and led the state in developing the most aggressive pollution-control programs in the nation, has emerged as one of Mr. Trump’s biggest Republican critics.

Mr. Trump and his advisers appear ready for the fight.

Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency chief, whom Mr. Trump has charged with rolling back Obama-era environmental policies, speaks often of his belief in the importance of federalism and states’ rights, describing Mr. Trump’s proposals as a way to lift the oppressive yoke of federal regulations and return authority to the states. But of Mr. Brown’s push to expand California’s environmental policies to the country and the world, Mr. Pruitt said, “That’s not federalism — that’s a political agenda hiding behind federalism.”

“Is it federalism to impose your policy on other states?” Mr. Pruitt asked in a recent interview in his office. “It seems to me that Mr. Brown is being the aggressor here,” he said. “But we expect the law will show this.”

In one of his earliest strikes, Mr. Trump signed an executive order in March aimed at dismantling the Clean Power Plan, President Barack Obama’s signature climate policy change. Much of the plan, which Mr. Trump denounced as a “job killer,” was drawn from environmental policies pioneered in California.

Jerry Brown California water conservation

Mr. Brown has long been an environmental advocate, including when he first served as governor in the 1970s. He has made this a central focus as he enters his final 18 months in office. In an interview, he said the president’s action was “a colossal mistake and defies science.”

“Erasing climate change may take place in Donald Trump’s mind, but nowhere else,” Mr. Brown said.

The leadership role being embraced by California goes to the heart of what has long been a central part of this state’s identity. For more than three decades, California has been at the vanguard of environmental policy, passing ambitious, first-in-the-nation legislation on pollution control and conservation that have often served as models for national and even international environmental law.

Read The Full Story at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/us/california-engages-world-and-fights-washington-on-climate-change.html?emc=edit_ta_20170523&nl=top-stories&nlid=59791470&ref=cta&_r=0

public affairs and public relations firm

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting sustainable, resilient and livable cities. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com to join our network.

Most People Breathing Unhealthy Air

Air Pollution An Extreme Threat To Public Health

By Mike Ives, The New York Times

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that 92 percent of people breathe what it classifies as unhealthy air, in another sign that atmospheric pollution is a significant threat to global public health.

A new report, the W.H.O.’s most comprehensive analysis so far of outdoor air quality worldwide, also said about three million deaths a year — mostly from cardiovascular, pulmonary and other noncommunicable diseases — were linked to outdoor air pollution. Nearly two-thirds of those deaths are in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region, compared with 333,000 in Europe and the Americas, the report said.

air pollution Beijing

“When you look out through the windows in your house or apartment, you don’t see the tiny little particles that are suspended in the air, so the usual perception is that the air is clean,” Rajasekhar Balasubramanian, an air quality expert at the National University of Singapore who was not involved in the study, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

“But the W.H.O. report is a clear indication that even in the absence of air pollution episodes, the concentrations of particles suspended in the air do exceed what’s considered to be acceptable from a health viewpoint,” he said.

In previous studies, the W.H.O. estimated that more than eight in 10 people in urban areas that monitored air pollution were breathing unhealthy air and that about seven million deaths a year were linked to indoor and outdoor pollution.

The new study reduced the second estimate to 6.5 million deaths. But María P. Neira, director of the W.H.O.’s Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a telephone interview that “the trends are still going in the wrong direction.”

“Somebody has to pay for those health systems to sustain the treatment and the care for those chronic patients, and this is something that countries need to balance when they make decisions about the sources of energy they are selecting or the choices they make in terms of public transport,” Dr. Neira said. “These economic costs of health have to be part of the equation.”

The W.H.O. study was conducted by dozens of scientists over 18 months and was based on data collected from satellites, air-transport models and ground monitors in more than 3,000 urban and rural locations, agency officials said Tuesday.

greenhouse gas and climate change

The agency defined unhealthy air as having concentrations of fine particulate matter, known as PM 2.5, above 10 micrograms per cubic meter, or 35.3 cubic feet, but it did not measure concentrations of ozone, nitrous oxide or other harmful pollutants.

The study said that major drivers of global air pollution included inefficient energy use and transportation but that nonhuman factors, such as dust storms, also played a role.

Professor Balasubramanian said it was an open question whether countries in Southeast Asia, a region that has densely packed cities and struggles to combat cross-border pollution, would choose to improve urban air quality by switching to cleaner fuels in their power plants, as Western European countries did several decades ago.

Prolonging the decisions will probably increase the health risk from air pollution, he said, because the region’s population is rising and demanding more energy.

About 300 million children in the world breathe highly toxic air, the United Nations Children’s Fund said in a new report. The vast majority of these children, about 220 million, live in South Asia, in places where air pollution is at least six times the level that the World Health Organization considers safe, Unicef said.

Air Pollution News via http://nyti.ms/2cSBoVb

New Coal Deals Threaten Paris Climate Goals

Greenhouse Gas Reductions Critical In Battle Against Climate Change

The landmark global climate change deal brokered in Paris cleared an important hurdle this week when it secured enough official support to go into effect, but experts say the biggest hurdle — signatory countries turning their emissions, clean energy and climate adaptation financing goals from mere promises into reality — still lies ahead.

Slowing down construction of coal-fired power stations will be vital to hit globally agreed climate change goals, the World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, said as he outlined a five-point plan to flesh out last year’s Paris agreement to reduce COemissions.

climate change policy

Speaking at a climate ministerial meeting in Washington during the bank’s annual meeting, he said there was no prospect of keeping global warming at or below 2C (3.6F) if current plans for coal-fired stations, especially those earmarked for Asia, were built.

“Many countries want to move in the right direction on climate change. We can all help to find renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions that allow them to phase out coal,” Kim said.

The World Bank president said achieving the climate change target required action in five areas. In addition to slowing down growth in coal-fired power stations, Kim said climate ambition needed to be baked into development plans for every developing country. It was important that the $90 billion of planned infrastructure spending over the next 15 years was for low-CO2 and climate-resilient investment.

He called for the ramping up of energy-efficient appliances and less use of hydrofluorocarbons, which are used in air conditioning units. “Phasing down HFCs could prevent close to half a degree of global warming by the end of the century,” he said.

Calls for the greening of finance by the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, were also strongly backed by Kim who said the sector needed to be “fit for purpose to assess climate risks and opportunities.”

greenhouse gas and climate change

Finally, Kim said poor countries needed help to adapt to climate change and to become more resilient. He added that without climate-driven development, climate change could force more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030, and that unless low-income countries in many parts of Africa, south Asia and the Pacific islands were helped all the gains in poverty reduction risked being lost.

Kim said countries needed more efficient water supply systems, climate-smart agriculture, early warning systems, better social protection and a reduction in disaster risk.

“It is our collective responsibility to see the Paris agreement through,” he said. “We cannot afford to lose the momentum. With each passing day, the climate challenge grows. The longest streak of record-warm months has now reached 16 – such heat has never persisted on the planet for so long. The reality is stark. We have a planet that is at serious risk, but our current response is not yet equal to the task.”

Kim said the Paris climate agreement was a “victory for multilateral action and a powerful signal from all corners of the world that there can be no turning back in the battle against climate change.”

Climate Change Update via https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/09/world-bank-jim-yong-kim-paris-climate-coal-power-emissions

Cities Recycling Infectious Waste, Disease

Sewage Sludge Spreading Brain Disease

In 1972, the world realized that dumping millions of tons of sewage sludge into the oceans killed underwater ecosystems. Some nations stopped the dumping immediately. Others did not.

The U.S., for example, finally passed the Ocean Dumping Ban Act of 1988. It required dumping all municipal sewage sludge and industrial waste on land. That meant dumping it into landfills or dumping it openly on land, including farms, ranches, national forests, city parks, golf courses, playgrounds, sport fields and beyond. The Act went into effect in 1992 and it sparked a public health disaster. The practice is spreading pathogens to people, livestock, wildlife and beyond every day.

Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering and characterizing deadly prions and prion disease, also known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). He claims that all TSEs are caused by prions. President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the importance of his research.

transmissible spongiform encephalopathy

According to Prusiner, TSEs all are on the same disease spectrum, which is more accurately described as prion (PREE-on) disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is at the extreme end of the spectrum. Prusiner’s science is being ignored and we are facing a public health disaster because of the negligence.

Studies confirm that people and animals dying of prion disease contaminate the environment around them with prions because prions are in the urine, feces, blood, mucus and saliva of each victim. Not only are homes and hospitals exposed to the prion pathogen, so are entire sewage treatment systems and their by-products. Wastewater treatment plants are prion incubators and distributors. The sewage sludge and wastewater released are spreading disease far and wide.

Claudio Soto prion research

Claudio Soto, PhD, professor of neurology at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, and his colleagues confirmed the presence of prions in urine. Soto also confirmed that plants uptake prions and are infectious and deadly to those who consume the infected plants. Therefore, humans, wildlife and livestock are vulnerable to prion disease via plants grown on land treated with sewage sludge and reclaimed sewage water.

Prion researcher Dr. Joel Pedersen, from the University of Wisconsin, found that prions become 680 times more infectious in certain soils. Pedersen also found that sewage treatment does not inactivate prions. Therefore, prions are lethal, mutating, migrating and multiplying everywhere sewage is dumped.

“Our results suggest that if prions enter municipal wastewater treatment systems, most of the agent would bond to sewage sludge, survive anaerobic digestion, and be present in treated biosolids,” Pedersen said.

prion research sewage sludge

“Land application of biosolids containing prions represents a route for their unintentional introduction into the environment. Our results emphasize the importance of keeping prions out of municipal wastewater treatment systems. Prions could end up in sewage treatment plants via slaughterhouses, hospitals, dental offices and mortuaries just to name a few of the pathways. The disposal of sludge represents the greatest risk of spreading prion contamination in the environment. Plus, we know that sewage sludge pathogens, pharmaceutical residue and chemical pollutants are taken up by plants and vegetables.”

biosolids and prion disease

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that prions are in sewage and that there has been no way to detect them or stop them. As such, the EPA has never issued guidance on prion management within wastewater treatment plants. Unfortunately, the EPA’s risk assessment on sewage sludge and biosolids were prepared before the world of science knew about prions. The agency continues to cling to it’s antiquated sludge rule crafted back in the dark ages. It does, however, consider prions a “emerging contaminant of concern.” Meanwhile, its outdated risk assessments are promoting a public health disaster.

“Since it’s unlikely that the sewage treatment process can effectively deactivate prions, adopting measures to prevent the entry of prions into the sewer system is advisable,” said the Toronto Department of Health, November 2004.

Landfills designed to handle this toxic soup are extremely expensive. So, the dumpers conspired with the EPA and hired a public relations firm to convince unsuspecting citizens that neurotoxins are fertilizer. The PR firm called this toxic waste biosolids. It’s even sold in bags at your local home and garden store as soil for your garden and potting plants. It’s death dirt.

wastewater treatment and disease

Since then, millions of tons of sewage sludge have been given to farmers as fertilizer every year. Those farmers and ranchers who don’t believe that “fertilizer” bullshit are being paid to dump it on their land and shut up. The farmers are held harmless the reckless practice causes damage to people or property downwind, downstream or at the dinner table. With government assistance, land owners are literally making a killing.

Unfortunately, the practice of dumping extreme quantities of sewage sludge on land has created an even bigger public health problem. It’s now killing wildlife and it still kills sea mammals. Livestock are not immune to the threat.

mad cow disease

Prions are the protein-based infectious agents responsible for a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is transmissible. TSEs are more commonly known as:

  • bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) in cattle;
  • scrapie in sheep;
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans; and
  • chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer, elk, and moose.

As stated earlier, infectious prions are in the bodily fluids of its victims, including blood, urine, mucus, saliva and feces. Thousands of victims flush tons of prion-infected waste to the municipal sewage treatment plant every day, where they mutate and incubate. Wastewater effluent and sewage sludge recycles prions into the environment. Once dumped on open land, they remain infectious. Irrigation, precipitation and wind carry the prions into groundwater, streams, lakes, oceans and airways, including homes, offices and beyond.

Reckless wastewater treatment policies and practices are now fueling a global epidemic of neurodegenerative disease among people, wildlife and livestock. The risk assessments are based on fraud and outdated information. The risk assessments for the land application of sewage sludge (LASS) were developed back in the 1970s and 1980s–before we knew about prions and other killers in modern sewage streams, including many forms of infectious medical waste.

The risk assessments are total failures now. Plus, these risk assessments do not account for the possibility of sewage sludge dumped on land going airborne. It’s much more than a possibility–airborne sewage is killing people and animals. Wind dumps the toxins everywhere.

air pollution and human health

Unfortunately, the U.S. exported these ridiculous ideas to other nations who proceeded to contaminate their food and water supplies with sewage. If hospitals can’t stop prions, neither can the brain surgeons at wastewater treatment plants.

The legislation banning ocean dumping was very explicit about the need to stop dumping potentially infectious medical waste into the oceans. Ironically, the current policy that promotes LASS ignores the risk of infectious medical waste and many other threats. It also ignores radionuclides, endocrine disruptors, birth control pills, antibiotics, flame-retardants and other toxins and superbugs. This toxic waste belongs in a lined landfill not our watersheds and food supplies. It’s time for immediate reforms.

The same sewage-borne toxins and pathogens are still contaminating our oceans. Now, they’re dumped in further upstream. Entire watersheds are now being infected—including the oceans. The body count among people, livestock and wildlife has been stacking up ever since ocean dumping began phasing out.

Biosolids and other forms of sewage mismanagement are now fueling a global epidemic of neurological disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism, mad cow disease, chronic wasting disease, microcephaly and more. Industry and governments are scrambling to blame the global epidemic on anything but contaminated soil, water, food and air. They are playing dumb in the face of fraud and scientific suppression. Negligence is too kind of a word for these sociopaths.

Alzheimer's disease and infectious waste

Sewage also contaminates our food with listeria, e-coli, salmonella and other killers. In fact, scientists are scrambling to come up with new names for the growing list of sewage-related ailments, including Zika virus, West Nile virus, epizoic hemorrhagic fever, equine herpes, valley fever and others. Industrial disease is a more accurate label.

Killer prions are impossible to stop. Prions are contributing to the death of millions of people now. Victims produce and spread prions daily because they’re in the bodily fluids of all victims. Millions of people with brain disease are contaminating their homes and communities, while exposing caregivers and family members to the contagion. The sewage from these victims is contaminating the local wastewater treatment plant and everything that enters or leaves these facilities, including reclaimed wastewater and sewage sludge. Once dumped on open land, these contagions remain infectious as they migrate, mutate and multiply forever.

sewage sludge treatment and disposal

Prions demand containment and isolation, not distribution and consumption through air, food and water. These toxins demand lined landfills not reckless dumping on our dinner tables. Prions migrate, mutate and multiply, so dilution is not a solution. Prions are a nightmare.

The world has never done an effective job of managing its sewage. It’s an industry that drives by looking in the rear view mirror. It only swerves when the road is buried in body bags. After enough people get sick and die, new alternatives emerge. Today is no different. The bodies are stacking up. The contamination grows stronger and spreads further every day. It’s time to stop dumping sewage sludge on land because of the prion risk and many others that are not accounted for in the antiquated and fraudulent risk assessments. It’s time for citizens to defend our land, water and air.

Today, the land application of sewage sludge is killing mammals and more around the world. Pathogens in sludge are causing brain disease, cancer and death. Let’s take a meaningful stand for food safety. Just say no to biosolids in our watersheds and food supplies. Demand the use of lined landfills or other proven containment strategies.

public affairs and public relations firm

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting sustainable, resilient and livable cities. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com to join our network for reform on sewage sludge and biosolids.

Can World Leaders Tackle Climate Change

Environmental, Social and Economic Issues Tightly Connected

By Gro Harlem Bruntland

In the early 1990s, when I was Prime Minister of Norway, I once found myself debating sustainable development with an opposition leader who insisted that I tell him the government’s single most important priority in that field. Frustrated, I replied that what he was asking was impossible to answer. I concluded our exchange by explaining why: “Because everything is connected to everything.”

WEF and climate change

Fortunately, such thinking is now more widely held than it was back then, thanks partly to the human development approach, which emphasizes the complexity of nature and recognizes that one-dimensional solutions cannot address multidimensional problems like those we currently face. Indeed, today’s challenges are seldom simply environmental, social, or economic, and their solutions do not lie within the area of competence of a single government ministry. Without broad, multidisciplinary impact analysis, such narrow thinking can lead to new problems.

This is particularly true of climate change. Fortunately, a growing realization that rising global temperatures are not simply an environmental concern provides reason to hope that world leaders are finally ready to address the problem in an effective way.

In the talks leading up to the Paris climate conference, a consensus emerged that climate change is not only linked to many other major environmental problems (climate, water, soil, and biodiversity are all a part of the same system); it is also intertwined with social and economic challenges, like poverty, sustainable development, and the wellbeing of future generations.

climate change policy

“All too frequently, leaders will concern themselves with matters that are closest at hand, while the most serious issues are often more distant – geographically or in time,” said former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. “If we fail to tackle climate change, the worst effects will be suffered by future generations and by poor countries far from global power centers.”

At the same time, it is not only the future that should concern us. As the economists Amartya Sen and Sudhir Anand argued more than a decade ago, “It would be a gross violation of the universalist principle if we were to be obsessed about intergenerational equity without at the same time seizing the problem of intragenerational equity.”

After ignoring the universalist principle for too long, world leaders finally seem to be acknowledging the magnitude of the problem – as well as their responsibilities to people far beyond their immediate electoral constituencies. The climate agreement between the United States and China, announced last year, indicates that one of the major stumbling blocks in the negotiations – the schism between rich and poor countries – is being overcome. With China now working to reverse the growth in its greenhouse-gas emissions, other developing countries will find it increasingly hard to argue against controlling their own emissions.

global warming solution

The European Union continues to set a high bar for action on climate change. Last year, the EU pledged to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 40 percent, relative to 1990 levels, by 2030. By that year, at least 27 percent of the EU’s energy is to come from renewable sources.

The EU’s pioneering carbon-trading scheme is also an important step forward, though emission allowances will have to be cut and the cost of emitting increased if the system is to be effective. Investments in tomorrow’s energy supply and production processes will largely come from the private sector; but it is up to government to develop the institutional and regulatory frameworks that ensure that these investments are allocated in ways that are environmentally sustainable.

Finally, the sharp rise in pledges to the Green Climate Fund indicates a growing recognition of the disproportionate impact of climate change on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Total national contributions have surpassed the preliminary target of $10 billion. Countries such as Mexico, Panama, Indonesia, and Mongolia are now contributors, even if the main responsibility for the problem rests with the world’s major economies.

sustainable resilient cities

For billions of people, the stakes could not be higher. In Paris, the UN is promoted the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of global targets that represent a quantum leap forward from their predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals, in that they embed sustainability in every aspect of policy and practice.

But the SDG targets are unlikely to be met if world leaders are unable to forge a credible accord to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2° Celsius. A stable climate provides the underpinnings for poverty reduction, prosperity, and the rule of law – in short, human development. That, I might have told my opponent a generation ago, is the positive side of everything being connected.

Author: Gro Harlem Brundtland is a former prime minister of Norway and a member of The Elders, a group of independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights.

Climate Change News via https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/09/why-the-world-is-ready-to-combat-climate-change/

Climate Change Deemed Top Economic Threat

Environmental Concerns Have Economists’ Attention

Forced migration and climate change are the biggest risks facing the global economy this decade, according to 750 experts surveyed by the World Economic Forum. The warning was published in the 11th edition of WEF’s Global Risks Report and in advance of the annual gathering of global leaders at Davos next week.

WEF’s Global Risks Report

In a bleak assessment published Thursday before next week’s meeting in Davos, the WEF said its survey found that a failure to deal with and prepare for climate change is potentially the most costly risk during the next 10 years, ahead of weapons of mass destruction, water crises, large-scale migration flows and severe energy price shocks.

That’s the first time that an environmental concern has topped the list of global risks of the WEF’s Global Risks Report and comes after what meteorologists say was the hottest year on record.

“Climate change is exacerbating more risks than ever before in terms of water crises, food shortages, constrained economic growth, weaker social cohesion and increased security risks,” said Cecilia Reyes, chief risk officer at Zurich Insurance, which helped develop the annual Global Risks Report.

The survey of nearly 750 experts and decision-makers from a variety of fields, locations and ages was conducted in the autumn of 2015 before the global warming targets agreed upon in Paris in December.

trees a climate change solution

John Drzik, president of global risk at insurance broker Marsh, which also helped develop the report, conceded that climate change might not have topped the list if the poll had been conducted after the Paris Agreement. The deal saw nearly 200 countries agree to keep global temperatures from rising another degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) between now and 2100.

Drzik said the 2016 report, overall, has the “broadest array” of risks facing the global economy in the survey’s history. However, he noted that the 2008 financial crisis, which saw the collapse of numerous banks and caused the deepest global recession since World War II, may have prompted more immediate damage from a purely economic point of view.

“Events such as Europe’s refugee crisis and terrorist attacks have raised global political instability to its highest level since the Cold War,” Drzik said.

A major concern identified by all involved in the report is the interconnectedness of all the risks.

climate change and deforestation

“We know climate change is exacerbating other risks such as migration and security, but these are by no means the only interconnections that are rapidly evolving to impact societies, often in unpredictable ways,” said Margareta Drzeniek-Hanouz, the WEF’s head of global competitiveness and risks.

Climate Change News via: http://triblive.com/business/headlines/9799998-74/global-risks-climate#ixzz3xKMpGFvk

Beijing Smog Sparks First Red Alert

Schools, Factories Close As Millions Of Vehicles Forced To Park

Beijing has issued its first pollution red alert as acrid smog enveloped the Chinese capital for the second time this month. The alert will begin at 7am on Tuesday and should see millions of vehicles forced off the roads, factories and construction sites shut down and schools and nurseries advised to close.

air pollution Beijing

“It is history – this is a precedent set,” said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public an Environmental Affairs in Beijing. “This is extremely important to stop children from being exposed to such a high level of pollution.”

Chinese authorities faced fierce criticism last week when they failed to issue a red alert even as Beijing’s residents choked on smog levels that in some areas rose to 40 times those considered safe by the World Health Organisation.

Greenpeace complained that the government’s insufficient alerting system compounded the effects of Beijing’s latest “airpocalypse,” in which readings of the hazardous airborne particle PM2.5 exceed 900 micrograms per cubic meter in some parts of the city.

Monday’s emergency announcement appeared in part to be a reaction to those criticisms. Ma Jun said it would have been a “very tough decision” for China’s leaders to declare the red alert in a city of about 23 million inhabitants.

 

“It is going to involve some very challenging actions like stopping half of the cars. In a city with more than five million cars you can imagine that is going to be a big challenge,” he said. “It is not about the political or financial cost, first and foremost it is about the great difficulty in trying to organize such an emergency response.

“But this will definitely help protect people’s health. With the red alert, primary schools, middle schools and kindergartens will be [advised] to stop having class. This will be very helpful in preventing extra exposure of the most vulnerable group of people to the air pollution hazards.”

Chinese state media said the latest bout of pollution would linger over Beijing until Thursday, when rain is expected to clear away the toxic smog. “Coal-fired power plants are the major culprit at this point,” said Xinhua, China’s official news agency.

Last year the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, vowed to declare war on pollution, but despite such pledges smog continues to blight cities right across the country. Scientists blame air pollution for about 4,000 deaths a day.

Ma Jun said Beijing’s first red alert underlined how serious the smog problem remained. “It just shows that air pollution is still a very big challenge to the city of Beijing and that the government has paid greater attention to this issue,” he said.

air pollution China

The crisis is even more severe in the regions surrounding Beijing, where hundreds of millions of tons of coal are still being burned each year even as the capital tries to slash its use of the fossil fuel.

Ma Jun said government action in those places was also needed in order to solve Beijing’s smog problem. “Beijing actually isn’t even in the top 10 polluting cities in the region [any more]. There are others which are significantly more polluting,” he said.

Sustainable City News via http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/07/beijing-pollution-red-alert-smog-engulfs-capital?CMP=share_btn_tw

Singapore Choking On Air Pollution From Indonesia

Singapore Pays Price For Bungle In Indonesia’s Jungles

Illegal burning of Indonesian rainforest to make room for palm and paper plantations has left neighboring countries choking on smoke. Many hope the latest crisis will lead to stricter policies.

More than a month after uncontrollable wildfires were kindled in Indonesian rainforests to make room for palm and paper plantations, a blanket of smog is choking the region, including the country’s neighbors of Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.

The dense cloud of smoke has closed schools, canceled major events, grounded flights, and driven thousands of people to doctors.

Though this is regular occurrence, thanks to paper and palm oil companies that illegally burn down Indonesian rainforest to make room for farmland, this year’s fire is particularly devastating, having reached crisis levels, according to the World Resources Institute. Largely this is due to El Niño-induced drought helping the unrelenting fire spread through Sumatran peatland.

Environmental and public-health advocates from Singapore, Malaysia, and around the world have been sternly calling on the Indonesian government to strengthen its policies on forest fires, pressuring it in September to ratify a 13-year-old regional agreement on cross-border haze.

Deforestation and climate change

“Indonesia has already carried out operations for the prevention, mitigation of forest fires and haze, and recovery activities, at the national level,” the country’s parliament said in a statement. “But, to handle cross-border pollution, Indonesia and other Asian nations recognize that prevention and mitigation need to be done together,” it said.

The “together” part might be key, as Greenpeace points out that companies that own plantations on Indonesian islands are not necessarily Indonesian.

“Of course all the fires are coming from Indonesia, but Singapore is enjoying the ‘deforestation economy’ of Indonesia as a financial center,” Bustar Maitar, head of Indonesia Forest Campaign at Greenpeace International told the Times. “And there are many Malaysian palm oil companies operating in Indonesia, and Singaporean companies are there as well,” he pointed out.

Perhaps the latest bout of fires is a tipping point for the southeast-Asian countries. On Wednesday, reports the Times, Singapore’s largest grocery chain, NTUC FairPrice, stopped selling paper products sourced from one of the world’s largest paper and pulp companies: Indonesia’s Asia Pulp and Paper Group.

Singapore last month passed a bill allowing it to fine companies up to $1.6 million for causing or contributing to haze, the Guardian reported, regardless of whether they have an office in the country.

For its part, Indonesia arrested seven people last month whose companies are suspected of starting the fires. They could face 15 years in jail and heavy fines for breaking Indonesian laws that ban starting forest fires.

Air Pollution News via http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2015/1008/Why-is-Singapore-covered-in-smoke-and-what-can-be-done-about-it-video

U.N. Leaders Join Pope Francis To Build Momentum For Climate Action

Vatican Supports Climate Science, Policies

For a 2,000-year-old institution hardly known for its mutability, there was a sense of urgency at the Vatican on Tuesday when scientists, diplomats and religious and political leaders discussed climate change and its impact on the world’s poor.

“We are the first generation that can end poverty, and the last generation that can avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” Secretary GeneralBan Ki-moon of the United Nations said at an international symposium on climate change organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The event presaged a keenly anticipated papal letter on the environment that Pope Francis is expected to issue in June.

Pope Francis and climate change

Mr. Ban met with the pope ahead of the one-day conference here and told reporters afterward that the pope’s message in his scheduled papal teaching, known as an encyclical, would come at “a critical time,” one that “demanded a collective action.”

“Climate change is approaching much faster than one may think,” he said.

In September, the pope is scheduled to address Congress, as well as a United Nations summit meeting on sustainable development, where he is expected to reiterate his environmental message. The pope has said that climate change is “mostly” a result of human activity.

“I count on his moral voice, his moral leadership,” said Mr. Ban, who is leading efforts to come to an agreement on limiting human contributions to global warming, which will be discussed at a climate summit meeting in Paris in December.

Representatives of different religions spoke at the symposium, and a statement approved Tuesday by the participants underscored their environmental concerns: “These traditions all affirm the inherent dignity of every individual linked to the common good of all humanity. They affirm the beauty, wonder, and inherent goodness of the natural world, and appreciate that it is a precious gift entrusted to our common care, making it our moral duty to respect rather than ravage the garden that is our home,” the statement read.

“Let the world know that there is no divide whatsoever between religion and science on the issue of climate change,” Mr. Ban told the assembly.

Pope Francis is not the first pope to address environmental issues, but his encyclical is expected to be the most comprehensive Vatican document so far on the links between sustainable development, concern for the poor and care of the planet.

Some critics of restrictions on greenhouse gases have said the pope’s encyclical could confuse “people into thinking that climate change issues are now an article of faith, part of the Roman Catholic doctrine,” said Marc Morano, publisher of ClimateDepot, a global warming website.

Mr. Morano was part of a delegation of self-proclaimed “climate skeptics” led by the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank, that came to Rome to challenge the symposium’s findings. Jim Lakely, the director of communications for the institute, said Monday that the delegates wanted to “prevent the pope from making the mistake” of listening only to what they believe are climate change alarmists.

Mr. Ban conceded Tuesday that “faith leaders should not be scientists,” but what is important, he added, “is their moral commitment.”

“Not only scientists, but every citizen should be part of the process,” Mr. Ban said. Religious leaders, he added, should play a “substantively important role.”

Climate Change News via http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/29/world/europe/scientists-and-religious-leaders-discuss-climate-change-at-vatican.html?_r=0

Portland Defends Its Trees To Defend City

Urban Forests Benefit Citizens, Wildlife, Planet

Property owners in Portland need to think twice before chopping down trees. A new city tree code took effect in January. It brings new protections to trees on both public and private property, along with stricter regulations and tough penalties for violators.

It takes away a lot of the confusion about what you can do with trees, says Portland landscape contractor Greg Schifsky. “It also sends a message that we treasure our trees.”

reforestation and climate change solution
Reforesting cities can help fight climate change, while making them more resilient.

Schifsky was part of a core group of neighborhood activists who started lobbying the city back in 2005 to 2006 to improve its jumbled tree-cutting regulations. For a city that prided itself on its greenery, a lot of important trees kept disappearing, he says, “and a lot of them were being taken down for not very good reasons.”

Developers also were frustrated, because patchwork tree regulations were embedded in many parts of the city code. Regulations were inconsistent and administered by seven different city bureaus, which in Portland can seem like seven different local governments.

“The department of transportation would tell you to take out a trees and the planning department would say ‘No, we don’t want you to do that,’ ” says Justin Wood, associate director of government relations for the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland.

After several years of citizen pressure, stakeholder meetings and public hearings, the City Council adopted a new tree code in 2011. Though some homebuilders still don’t see why a city tree code is necessary, “as tree codes go, I think it’s a pretty fair tree code,” Wood says.

The biggest shock will come from homeowners, he predicts, who aren’t accustomed to being told they can’t cut down trees on their property. One-third of all the trees in the city are on single-family lots, and most of those previously were unregulated.

“The old tree code was not consistent and as fair as it could be,” says Meryl Redisch, who worked closely on the tree code as a member of the city’s Urban Forestry Commission. It had very different treatment for trees in development situations and those that aren’t, Redisch says.

The new code seeks to change that, but it may make some people unhappy. From now on, residents will need to apply for a $25 city permit before taking down any tree on their property with a diameter of 12 inches or greater, measured 4.5 feet off the ground. They will have the right to remove up to four trees per year from their yard if the trees have a diameter of 20 inches or less — though that will require permits. Residents may be required to plant a higher number of replacement trees elsewhere, so the city doesn’t see its overall tree canopy reduced.

deforestation and global warming

Permits also are required before pruning tiny branches off street trees with diameters of a quarter-inch or greater. Generally, the city will only allow full removal of street trees on the public right of way if they’re dead, dying or dangerous. Residents won’t be able to take them down just because they produce a lot of leaves, make too much shade, or obstruct views.

“A big part of it is going to be education,” Redisch says. City arborists will seek to counsel residents who might otherwise be too hasty about removing trees from their property, she says. Neighbors will be notified of some tree-cutting permit applications, giving them a greater voice in protecting iconic trees in a neighborhood.

The message from the new code is that saving big trees has benefits that extend far beyond an individual homeowner, applying to future generations on that property, neighbors and the city as a whole.

The Benefits Of Saving Trees

“What we get are air-quality improvements, shade, storm water benefits, wildlife habitat, beauty, enjoyment — those are the easy ones,” says Redisch, the recently retired executive director of the Audubon Society of Portland.

Trees also have been shown to reduce asthma, make people calmer and absorb pollutants. Perhaps most importantly, they counteract climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.

A greater tree canopy over Portland also can help lower the “urban heat island” effect, which makes the city much hotter than surrounding areas because of the loss of tree canopy here and preponderance of roads, sidewalks, parking lots and rooftops that retain the sun’s rays. That’s expected to become more significant as the climate warms.

The new tree code will preserve more trees on developable land, says Jeff Fish, a homebuilder who was involved in framing the regulations. But the code is more flexible in some cases than before, he says, an acknowledgement that meeting the city’s goals of boosting density means building more homes.

“We have to take some trees down to build a house,” Fish says. If the ordinance makes it much harder to do infill and other development in the city, it will cause more sprawl — and greater tree removal — on land outside the urban growth boundary, he says.

But Fish and others still wonder how well the advice of stakeholders and citizens gets put in practice.

“We’ll find out as we implement this in January how good the code-writers wrote the code to make this work,” he says.

Contrary to stereotypes, homebuilders often recognize the merits of preserving trees.

“A tree can add $2,500 worth of value or more” to a home on the market, Fish says, “so most of us don’t take down any more trees than we have to.”

It also can cost them up to $2,000 to $4,000 to chop down and remove a large Douglas fir.

By design, the new tree code should help meet the city’s goal of having one-third of its land area covered with tree canopy. The city estimates the new code will preserve one to two acres of tree canopy on private property per year and result in the planting of six to 30 acres of new tree canopy each year.

On development lands, the code is projected to preserve 44 acres to 88 acres of tree canopy a year, and result in the planting of 48 acres to 96 acres a year. Some of that is because the old standards only applied to single-family developments, while the new tree-cutting restrictions apply to all developable land. The city also is setting tree-density requirements; developers who don’t meet those can put money into a city tree-planting fund.

City officials delayed implementation of the new code until they could afford seven new city staff members to enforce it. As a result, the city is promising improved customer service. The Bureau of Development Services and Portland Parks & Recreation will administer the ordinance, down from seven bureaus before. Two staff members will be stationed at the city Permit Center downtown to answer questions and issue permits. A new hotline and website will serve as a clearinghouse for information about the new rules.

And, not surprising, stiff new fines will be imposed for those who don’t obey the new rules, including $1,000 for those who fail to get permits. The city has promised to go easy on enforcement in the early days at least, until Portlanders learn about their new responsibilities. City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversees both bureaus managing the program, has appointed a citizen oversight committee. That group, which includes Fish, will monitor how well the tree code is working out, and suggest any needed changes. It will make regular reports to the Urban Forestry Commission, now led by Redisch.

Urban Forestry News via http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/245492-112620-stumptown-no-more