EPA Staffed With Industry Insiders

EPA Blowing Smoke On Critical Issues

By Liza Gross, Lindsey Konkel and Elizabeth Grossman, Reveal

Eleven new members of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board have a history of downplaying the health risks of secondhand smoke, air pollution and other hazards, including two who have spun science for tobacco companies, according to an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

Earlier this month, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt fired all board members who currently receive EPA grants for their research, saying they cannot remain objective if they accept agency money. In replacing them, Pruitt transformed the board from a panel of the nation’s top environmental experts to one dominated by industry-funded scientists and state government officials who have fought federal regulations.

Pruitt removed 21 members of the advisory board, mostly academics, and replaced them with 16 experts with ties to industries regulated by the agency and two with no industry ties. Fourteen of the new members consult or work for the fossil fuel or chemical industries, which gave Pruitt nearly $320,000 for his campaigns in Oklahoma as a state senator and attorney general.

wastewater treatment and disease

Under the Obama administration, industry-affiliated scientists made up 40 percent of the Science Advisory Board, or 19 of its 47 members. Under President Donald Trump, 68 percent of the board, 30 of its 44 current members, now has ties to industries. That leaves 14 with no industry ties, including two Obama appointees who work for environmental groups.

The Science Advisory Board, established by Congress in 1978, helps the EPA ensure it has the best available science when crafting regulations and standards that address the nation’s drinking water, air pollution, toxic contamination and other environmental problems that threaten public health.

“If memberships are weighted toward viewpoints that support the agenda of the administration, then the administration is signaling that it’s not asking for advice, but for a rubber stamp,” said environmental scientist Deborah Swackhamer, who was chairwoman of the board under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“That’s a complete misuse.”

Keeping drinking water safe. Shielding vulnerable populations from air pollutants that trigger asthma and heart attacks. Protecting communities from cancer-causing chemicals. These are the EPA’s mandates. And when making key decisions about science to follow these mandates, the agency relies on panels of advisers.

The Science Advisory Board is arguably the most important panel among 22 federal advisory committees that report to the EPA. The board gives the agency advice on specific matters, such as the impacts of fracking on drinking water supplies, factors that drive algae blooms in the Great Lakes and whether the agency’s risk assessments are scientifically sound.

The board doesn’t give guidance on proposed regulations. Rather, it vets the scientific foundations on which those recommendations are built, such as how dangerous the air pollutant ozone is at certain exposures or at what dose an industrial chemical would raise the risk of cancer.

To get the best science to policymakers, the EPA long has relied on a diversity of experts and a tradition of keeping politics out of scientific deliberations. In establishing the Science Advisory Board, Congress called for experts from academia, industry, nongovernmental organizations and federal, state and tribal governments. Most board seats over the past several decades have been held by government-funded university researchers.

But in February, Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, convened a hearing called “Making EPA Great Again” to investigate what he called the EPA’s “political agenda.” Smith, a Texas Republican who disputes climate science, said Science Advisory Board experts under Obama had “become nothing more than rubber stamps who approve all of the EPA’s regulations” because they receive millions of dollars in government grants.

climate change policy

Last month, Pruitt said experts who serve on the EPA’s scientific advisory boards can’t provide objective advice if they receive agency grants. He promised an audience at The Heritage Foundation, an anti-regulatory think tank that questions climate change, that he was “going to fix that” by restoring the “independence and transparency and objectivity in regard to the scientific advice we are getting at the agency” by prohibiting scientific advisers from taking EPA grants.

In a news release, Pruitt said the new makeup of the board shows the “EPA’s commitment to science and openness to expertise from a diverse array of perspectives.”

Pruitt has required advisory board members to remain “financially independent” of the EPA, but has placed no such restrictions on scientists with ties to industry.

“To say that academics have more conflicts because they get (government) grants is turning the idea of conflict of interest on its head and is patently absurd,” said Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy. “If a scientist working at a high level did not receive government funding, how would they have achieved that?”

A Reveal investigation shows that several new board members have a history of criticizing mainstream science to cast doubt on the health risks of commercial and industrial air pollutants and products.

One new appointee, Kimberly White, is a senior director at the American Chemistry Council, a trade group that represents chemical manufacturers, including Dow Chemical Co., Exxon Mobil Corp. and DuPont Co. The group for decades has fought EPA regulations on widely used chemicals linked to health effects, including flame retardants, formaldehyde, asbestos and plasticizers.

In an email to Reveal, White said that in the past, the EPA science board “lacked sufficient balance among its members, and they have missed out on valuable insight from important perspectives from industry.” She said her goal is to ensure that board recommendations “are objective and grounded in the highest quality and most relevant scientific evidence.”

The new appointees also include scientists who have served as expert witnesses for industries regulated by the EPA. Dr. Samuel Cohen, a cancer expert at the University of Nebraska, testified on DuPont’s behalf in a lawsuit holding the company liable for illnesses related to drinking water contaminated with perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a chemical DuPont used in a West Virginia plant that made Teflon. Cohen testified that the plaintiff’s kidney cancer was caused by her obesity, not PFOA, yet an independent science panel has found a probable link between the chemical and serious health conditions, including kidney cancer.

Cohen did not respond to a request for comment.

Two of Pruitt’s new appointees helped companies defend their products or fight restrictions on secondhand smoke, and another sought more than $300,000 in tobacco industry funding but was rejected.

John Graham, dean of the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs and founder of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, asked a top Philip Morris executive for $25,000 in 1991 to support his center, which he said had exposed “serious weaknesses in the federal government’s risk assessment process.”

Graham told the executive that he launched the center with gifts from several corporations, all with a financial interest in minimizing environmental regulations, including BP, Chevron Corp., Dow and Exxon. He ended his pitch by saying, “It is important for me to learn more about the risk-related challenges that you face.”

Graham got his $25,000 and later served as an adviser to The Advancement for Sound Science Coalition, a group created by Philip Morris to discredit an EPA report that identified secondhand smoke as a carcinogen.

Graham told Reveal in an email that he received larger amounts of funding from the EPA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to run his Harvard center.

“Since I have extensive experience with both government and industry,” he said, “I look forward to providing unbiased advice to EPA.”

He also said he worked to reduce particulate pollution while head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under President George W. Bush.

But Graham instituted an approach to risk analysis, according to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, that challenged the scientific consensus underlying regulations on ozone, fine particulate matter and formaldehyde pollution. The EPA decided not to tighten its health standard for fine particulate matter in 2006 under Graham, rejecting the recommendations of its expert panel for the first time on ambient air pollution.

Another new board member, Louis Anthony Cox, early in his career worked for consulting firm Arthur D. Little, which contributed to the industry’s discredited effort to develop a “safer” cigarette. He later testified on behalf of Philip Morris and three other tobacco giants against a smoker’s husband who sued the companies for lying about the dangers of cigarettes.

Cox received at least $22,000 for his services from tobacco industry law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon – the same firm that helped Philip Morris create “sound science” guidelines to challenge the EPA’s listing of secondhand smoke as a carcinogen and in 2016 sued the EPA on behalf of the coal industry to prevent the agency from enforcing carbon emission reductions under its recently repealed Clean Power Plan.

In addition to his membership on the Science Advisory Board, Cox has been tapped as chairman of a separate EPA board, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.

Cox, who runs consulting firm Cox Associates, told Reveal in an email that he’s used models to calculate the “excess risk of lung cancers caused by different smoking exposure histories” for various private- and public-sector organizations, including Philip Morris and the EPA. That work, he said, has helped him “appreciate some of the most common errors, heuristics and biases that can affect the judgments of scientists … in interpreting data.”

In addition to his work on behalf of the tobacco industry, Cox also has questioned the benefits of reducing particulate pollution in a paper sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute.

New board member Robert Phalen, who directs the Air Pollution Health Effects Laboratory at the University of California, Irvine, asked the Center for Indoor Air Research – a tobacco industry body founded to counter evidence that secondhand smoke causes cancer – to fund a grant of more than $311,000 to study “interactions among indoor aerosols.” Phalen submitted his proposal three times, but the group rejected his request in 1997, saying his hypothesis “seems implausible.”

The center was disbanded in 1998 after the tobacco companies agreed to stop sponsoring research as part of a landmark settlement of a federal lawsuit that charged the industry with conspiring to hide the dangers of smoking for decades.

In an email to Reveal, Phalen said he did not recall seeking any grants from the tobacco-funded group.

Phalen also has discounted some of the health effects of air pollution. In a 2004 report, he wrote that the risks of breathing particulate pollution “are very small and confounded by many factors.”

He told the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012, “Modern air is a little too clean for optimum health.” Children’s lungs, he was quoted as saying, need to be exposed to irritants to learn how to ward them off.

But studies repeatedly have shown that children are highly susceptible to air pollution for a variety of reasons, including because they breathe more air per pound of weight, have immature immune systems and spend more time exerting themselves outdoors.

Another new board member, Stanley Young – a statistician who advises The Heartland Institute, an anti-regulatory think tank that showcases global warming deniers at its annual conference – recently has questioned evidence underlying EPA regulations on air pollutants.

Young also is an adviser to the American Council on Science and Health, which describes itself as a “pro-science consumer advocacy organization” but is funded by free-market foundations and the chemical, fossil fuel and tobacco industries and challenges evidence supporting regulations.

Young did not respond to a request for comment.

Research from around the world has reported a link between air pollutants and deaths and hospitalizations from respiratory disease and heart attacks. Young published a critique of this evidence in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, a journal known for publishing industry-friendly science.

Read The Full Story About EPA and Its Pseudoscience.

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Climate Change The Top Threat In Chile

Climate Change Now Taught In Public Schools

Fernando Rojas is holding up a photograph of a pocket of countryside, between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains, that has been his home, his livelihood, and his passion for all of his 74 years.

His picture shows a lake, brimming with water, in front of a range of hills that are silhouetted by the sun. In the foreground, by the water’s edge, there’s a small boat, ready to set sail. Next to that, there’s a wooden jetty, jutting out into the waves.

Chile drought and climate change

You would hardly know that this image, taken in Chile just a few years ago, is of the same depleted landscape on which Rojas is now standing, grim-faced, puzzled and — he says — full of sadness.

Most of the water has gone. The jetty is marooned in a sea of mud and grass. Beside it, there is a new wire fence, erected to keep out horses and cattle that are grazing on the lake’s bed. Some boats are still there, stored away under canvas.

What water is left in the lake is in the hazy distance — about half of a mile away, a languid puddle, less than 3 feet deep, fringed by weeds and white egrets.

The Laguna de Aculeo — as this lake’s known — used to be a favorite retreat for many of the 7 million citizens of Chile’s capital, Santiago, 45 miles to the north.

On weekends, they came to windsurf, sail and Jet Ski, and to enjoy the tranquility of a valley with almond orchards, vineyards, poplar groves and wood cabins. Before the water suddenly receded, lakeside villas sold for more than $500,000.

For much of his life, Rojas farmed around the lake, growing melons and corn. He says the lake, which depends entirely on rainfall, began to shrink about seven years ago, and “got lower and lower and lower.”

The lake was roughly four times the size of New York’s Central Park. Rojas used to motor across it in a small boat to buy groceries. That same journey is now a walk. Lakeside villa prices collapsed — “no one wants to buy them, if they are not beside the water,” he remarks — and so have parts of the local economy.

Local people are “suffering [because] they depend on the water,” says Claudio Mella, an orthopedic surgeon in Santiago, who owns one of the villas and has been coming to the lake with his family for 15 years. “We have a lot of good friends here, and many of them have some depression, some family problems.”

Among those dependent on the lake is Oriana Lopez, who’s 55. Her once-thriving windsurfing business has received no clients for about five years, she says. Her family is left “in penury,” and must survive on her 97-year-old father’s pension, plus whatever money her son can earn doing casual labor.

“It is pitiful to see the lake like this,” Lopez says, as her dogs romp across what used to be the lake’s bed. Many people have had to leave the area, because of the lack of jobs. She, however, will stay and struggle on.

“I was born and raised here,” she says tearfully, “I love this land.”

Chile has been through an unusually severe seven-year drought that hit the central and southern areas where most of its population of 17 million lives. The affected zone includes the Laguna de Aculeo.

“We have been calling it the mega-drought because it has been very extended in space and in time,” says Maisa Rojas, a climatologist from the University of Chile. “We have seen this before, but never so widespread.” Although there has been a recent increase in precipitation, scientists are not yet sure if the drought’s over.

climate change policy

Studies are now underway investigating ways of saving the lake. “If nothing is done, it is possible the lake will dry out in a couple of years. It’s on the edge,” says Felipe Martin, a leading hydrologist who used to head the commission that develops Chile’s water resource policy.

Martin is among those working on rescue plans. He says the lake lost some water after its aquifers were disrupted by Chile’s 2010 earthquake. But drought is a major factor, and he blames that on climate change.

For Chile, the possible impact of climate change has now become an issue of profound concern on numerous fronts, from melting glaciers to conflicts over water rights between big agricultural businesses and small farmers.

“There is nobody who has not been affected by climate change, directly or indirectly, here in Chile,” says Matias Asun, director of Greenpeace Chile.

Chile’s Environment Minister, Marcelo Mena, cites “temperature anomalies” of 2 degrees Celsius in parts of Chile, and says there is “no space for climate denial because we see climate change threatening us in multiple shapes.”

Mena points to a wave of disasters that has hit Chile recently, including deadly floods and landslides, and a giant “red tide” — when an algae bloom, fueled by unusually warm sea temperatures, wiped out millions of fish, including 20 percent of the salmon production.

Sao Palo drought and water crisis

In January — fed by drought conditions — the worst wildfires in Chile’s history ripped across the landscape, destroying more than 2,300 square miles, including large areas of forests, and threatening some of the country’s famous vineyards.

“When you see the desperation in people’s eyes, and when you see things that you haven’t seen before, that really makes you worry that this is really getting out of hand,” Mena says.

“And when you see that some people are trying to deny the climate science, then … you have to take your gloves off, and you have to be very blunt about the fact that we are facing a challenge that is like something we have never seen before.”

Mena says most Chileans now regard climate change as their greatest external threat.

Proving that Chile’s wave of catastrophes was caused by climate change is highly complex. You have to use modelling studies to show any given event would have not have happened, were it not for climate change, says climatologist Maisa Rojas.

“We haven’t done any attribution studies for this, so I cannot say event[s] wouldn’t have happened, if it weren’t for climate change,” she says. “But the climate context in which these events have occurred are very much what we’d expect from climate change.”

Chile’s government is introducing a range of measures to help the country adapt to hotter, drier conditions — for example, better water conservation and fire prevention methods, and creating green spaces to help cool urban areas. To further raise awareness, there will be mandatory climate change classes in Chile’s schools, from next year onward.

Chile’s also rapidly expanding its use of renewable sources, which are expected to generate at least 80 percent of its energy by 2050. More than half the electricity used to power Santiago’s subway system will soon come from the sun and the wind. The lion’s share of this will be generated by a giant solar plant in Chile’s Atacama Desert, using hundreds of thousands of solar panels covering an area the size of 370 football fields.

At the Laguna de Aculeo — the shrinking lake — residents wonder what they will do if the water never comes back.

Paulo Gutierrez quit a high-pressure job in information technology and telecoms in Santiago to move to the lake with his family in search of a more tranquil way of life. He set up a cafe and a bakery around the time the lake’s water levels first began to drop. He is now is considering buying land further south, and moving there.

Gutierrez has moved beyond the debate over whether climate change is real; he believes Chile must now focus on figuring out how to adapt to it.

“We already know this thing is true, because we are suffering,” he says. “Twenty years ago, it was a possibility. Right now, it’s a reality.”

Read the full story at Climate Change News

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Crossbow Communications is an international marketing and public affairs firm. It 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.

Trump Sparks More Support For Climate Change Policies

U.S. President Trumped By Public Opinion, Political Support

As U.S. President Trump breaks the U.S. commitment to the Paris Agreement On Climate Change, grassroots support is rising up.

Nearly 70 percent of Americans, including a majority of people in all 50 states, support the Paris Agreement on climate change. The global climate deal, struck in late 2015, was a historic moment. Trump’s declaration to join Nicaragua and Syria outside the largely symbolic deal is also historic.

The United States Climate Alliance will carry the flag for America in Trump’s absence. The Alliance is a bipartisan group of states in the United States that are committed to upholding the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change within their borders, by achieving the U.S. goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions 26–28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025 and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.

climate change and extreme weather

With input from all participants, the U.S. Climate Alliance will act as a forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices, and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy.

“Those of us who understand science and feel the urgency of protecting our children’s air and water are as united as ever in confronting one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Our collective efforts to act on climate will ensure we maintain the United State’s commitment to curb carbon pollution while advancing a clean energy economy that will bring good-paying jobs to America’s workers.”

The alliance was formed on June 1, 2017, in response to the announcement earlier that day by U.S. President Donald Trump that he had decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. formed the Alliance to convene U.S. states committed to achieving the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.

The formation of the alliance was thereupon announced by three state governors: Jay Inslee of Washington, Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Jerry Brown of California. The association is not a legally binding treaty, but a group of state governments with similar policies regarding climate change.

Jerry Brown California water conservation

A press statement released by Inslee states that “New York, California and Washington, representing over one-fifth of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, are committed to achieving the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26–28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.” These three states are governed by the Democratic Party, although both New York’s and California’s governorship will be on the ballot in the United States gubernatorial elections, 2018. By the evening of June 1 the state governors of seven other U.S. states had agreed to maintain their states’ support for the Paris Agreement.

On June 2, Governor Dan Malloy announced that Connecticut would join the United States Climate Alliance. On the same day, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker became the first Republican governor to bring his state into the alliance. Governor Phil Scott of Vermont, another Republican, said his state would join. Governor Gina Raimondo said Rhode Island would also join. Governor Kate Brown said that Oregon would join. Governor David Y. Ige of Hawaii announced that Hawaii would also join, making them the 9th state in the Alliance.

On June 5, Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia would join the US Climate alliance. However, the Virginia Governorship is on the ballot in November of 2017. Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Governor John C Carney Jr of Delaware, and Governor Ricky Roselló of Puerto Rico also joined the alliance.

The member states, which make up 31.4 percent of the U.S. population and 36.3 perent of U.S. GDP as of 2016, emitted 18.1 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2014.

In addition, governors, mayors, businesses, investors, and colleges and universities from across the U.S. or with significant operations in the U.S said they would continue to uphold the tenets of the non-binding international agreement, according to a new consortium, We Are Still In.

Mayors, city councils, tribal groups and more progressive business leaders are responsibly stepping up to fill the leadership void. More than 1,000 state and city government officials and business and university leaders on Monday vowed to follow through on the goals outlined by the Paris climate change agreement, calling out President Donald Trump and his move last week to yank the U.S. from the landmark deal.

A coalition that includes nine U.S. states, more than 200 mayors and more than 20 Fortune 500 companies said in a so-called “letter to the international community” that it would work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

eiffel tower wind energy generator

Officially named We Are Still In the pledge has been signed by 1,370 businesses and investors (along with 9 states, 275 colleges and universities, and 178 cities and counties), and the list is still growing. Of the 1,370 businesses involved in We Are Still In, thirty-five of those are apparel brands like Under Armour, Nike, Adidas, Gap, Levi’s.

Indian tribes and indigenous organizations have pledged to honor the commitments of the Paris Climate Accord in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal, as have dozens of cities and states. Hawaii became the first state to pass laws supporting the agreement as Gov. David Ige signed two bills designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s (Tlingit & Haida) Executive Council issued a call to action to support the Paris Climate Change Accord. They were joined by three tribes, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), among others.

“As Indigenous Peoples, we have a responsibility to protect traditional homelands which are inherently connected to our cultural languages and identities,” declared a statement issued by the Tlingit & Haida along with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Quinault Indian Nation and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.

“Alaska tribal governments are living with the early but significant effects of climate change,” said council President Richard Peterson in the statement. “Our traditional knowledge learned over millennia within our aboriginal lands leaves us with no doubt that immediate action to reduce the impacts of climate change is our duty as sovereign indigenous governments. As such, we will seek to participate in the Paris Agreement.”

In response to the U.S. pullout, the indigenous leaders said they would “aggressively address climate change” in their respective homelands and communities. NCAI and NARF also said they “remain firmly committed to representing and advancing Indigenous Peoples’ interests in the ongoing process of implementing the Agreement.”

“We will work to ensure that all parties respect, promote, and consider Indigenous Peoples’ rights in all climate change actions, as is required by the Paris Agreement,” said NARF Executive Director John Echohawk in a statement.

Indigenous communities worldwide are at the forefront in feeling the effects of climate change. The Native Alaska village of Kivalina is nearly underwater, and in 2016 the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw in Louisiana became the first official climate refugees when they were given $48 million by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to move inland.

The Quinault Indian Nation has seen the encroachment of the ocean on the Lower Village of Tahola, the tribe said in a statement, and glaciers on the Olympic Peninsula are melting.

A federal judge has denied the Trump administration’s appeal in a climate change lawsuit, paving the way for the unprecedented suit to go to trial.

global warming solution

Meanwhile, the case — Juliana v. United States — pits a group of youth climate plaintiffs against the federal government and the fossil fuel industry. The plaintiffs allege that the federal government, through its actions and coordination with the fossil fuel industry, have violated their constitutional right to a livable climate. It is the first climate lawsuit to rely on a version of the public trust doctrine — known as atmospheric trust — to make its case, and adds to a growing number of attempts to force climate action through the judicial branch.

The lawsuit was initially filed in August of 2015, against the Obama administration. The Obama administration, as well as three fossil fuel industry groups as intervenors, all filed motions to have the lawsuit dismissed, which was denied in November by U.S. Federal Judge Ann Aiken. In February, after President Donald Trump was sworn in, the youth plaintiffs filed notice with the court that they would be replacing Obama with Trump.

They will seek to prove that the United States government has taken action to harm their right to a livable climate. They will also argue that the government has failed to protect commonly held elements, like the atmosphere, in good condition for future generations — a legal doctrine known as the public trust. The plaintiffs will then ask for science-based climate action by the federal government.

“The more evidence we gather for our case, the more I realize how decisively we can win at trial,” Alex Loznak, a 20-year old youth plaintiff from Oregon, said in a statement. “It’s no wonder the Trump administration wants to avoid the trial by seeking an unwarranted, premature appeal. Today’s ruling brings us one step closer to trial and to winning our lawsuit.”

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Crossbow Communications is an international marketing and public affairs firm. It 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.

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

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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.

UNDP Launches Program For Green Cities

Cities A Massive Problem, Opportunity

By Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

On behalf of UNDP, welcome to the launch of the UNDP Sustainable Urbanization Strategy. As we meet here in Quito today for the Habitat III conference, we are also celebrating the International Day for Poverty Eradication.

greener cities conference

Many of the world’s poor now live in cities where the most pressing development challenges are found. In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to ensure that the urban poor are not left behind.

The New Urban Agenda, which is due to be adopted here at Habitat III, aims to ensure that the cities of today and tomorrow offer an inclusive and sustainable future for all. The UNDP Sustainable Urbanization Strategy lays out the support which UNDP as a global development organization can provide to help achieve that.

Around our world, people are moving to cities in very large numbers.  Cities are seen as places of opportunity and hope, where hard work and determination can transform lives.

UNDP has developed its sustainable urbanization strategy to support cities to deliver on the hopes of their citizens and to implement the New Urban Agenda.  Many people in cities, particularly young people, lack work and say they currently feel excluded from opportunities. For women and girls, cities can be dangerous places where they cannot walk in safety and may risk exploitation in dangerous and demeaning jobs.  Natural disasters – including those exacerbated by climate change – and conflict and citizen insecurity can turn back the clock on hard won development gains.

UNDP’s experiences of working in towns and cities around the world have shaped this first UNDP sustainable urbanization strategy, and will guide our efforts beyond Quito.  Allow me to share three of our lessons learned:

  1. For cities to be succeed, they need to meet the needs of all their residents. Truly dynamic cities make space for all, and serve the needs of all.  Inclusivity is one of the main principles of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in which UN Member States pledged to leave no one behind. The needs and aspirations of poor and marginalized people in the world’s cities must be addressed to fulfill that ambition.
  2. Cities must be resilient to natural and man-made disasters and crises. Urban areas are now home to more than half the world’s people, and they also host most of the world’s critical infrastructure, key development assets, political institutions, and major socio-economic architecture. If disasters and crises rock cities, the spillover effects are great. In the first half of 2016 alone, natural disasters caused US$71 billion in damages worldwide, with most economic loss concentrated in cities. Political instability and conflict also have major costs.
  3. Cities are at the forefront of the battle against climate change and environmental degradation. They produce more than seventy percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and use eighty per cent of the world’s energy. How cities grow and develop in the coming decades will play a significant part in determining whether the world can live within its planetary boundaries.

climate change policy

Delivering the sustainable, inclusive, and resilient cities of the future requires that we work together in partnership, as UNDP is committed to doing. Our partnerships are diverse:

  • Here in Ecuador, we have been part of the efforts to help local communities recover and rebuild in Manabí province following the 16 April earthquake this year.
  • In Soacha, Colombia, a town close to Bogota, UNDP and UNCHR have been working together on a programme called Building Sustainable Solutions. It supports the local municipality with land registration and title, promoting economic development with the support of the private sector, and with community and institutional strengthening.
  • In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, UNDP has worked with local community groups to improve access to municipal services.
  • In Bangladesh, UNDP has supported municipal leaders to improve the livelihoods of millions of urban dwellers through our large scale Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction programme.
  • Initiatives like these, taken to scale through partnerships and strong urban leadership, will be critical to implementing the New Urban Agenda and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Helen Clark is the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. She also chairs the United Nations Development Group.

Frankfurt A Model For Sustainability

Most Cities Failing On Sustainability

Cities around the world are failing to meet the needs of their people, according to the inaugural Sustainable Cities Index. However, on a broad scale that measures people, planet and profit, Frankfurt is the world’s most sustainable city. London is the runner up.

The research was conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research. It examines 50 cities from 31 countries ranking them across a range of indicators to estimate the sustainability of each city. The cities included in the study were selected to provide a sampling of the planet’s greenest cities.

sustainable Frankfurt green city

The 2015 report finds that no utopian city exists, with city leaders having to manage a complex balancing act between the three pillars of sustainability (people, planet and profit). The overall Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index ranks the cities as follows:

  1. Frankfurt
  2. London
  3. Copenhagen
  4. Amsterdam
  5. Rotterdam
  6. Berlin
  7. Seoul
  8. Hong Kong
  9. Madrid
  10. Singapore
  11. Sydney
  12. Toronto
  13. Brussels
  14. Manchester
  15. Boston
  16. Paris
  17. Melbourne
  18. Birmingham
  19. Chicago
  20. New York
  21. Houston
  22. Philadelphia
  23. Tokyo
  24. Rome
  25. Washington
  26. Kuala Lumpur
  27. San Francisco
  28. Los Angeles
  29. Dallas
  30. Santiago
  31. Sao Paulo
  32. Mexico City
  33. Dubai
  34. Abu Dhabi
  35. Shanghai
  36. Istanbul
  37. Johannesburg
  38. Buenos Aires
  39. Beijing
  40. Rio de Janeiro
  41. Doha
  42. Moscow
  43. Jeddah
  44. Riyadh
  45. Jakarta
  46. Manila
  47. Mumbai
  48. Wuhan
  49. New Delhi
  50. Nairobi

The index takes into account 20 different indicators ranging from green space to income inequality to ease of doing business.

sustainable Amsterdam

Although mature cities achieve the best balance, they cannot rely on historic investment. In a rapidly urbanizing world, the way in which cities are planned, built, operated and redefined has a huge social, environmental and economic impact.

Arcadis defines a sustainable city as one that works well for their citizens in the present without causing problems for themselves and the rest of the world in the future.

Roughly half of Frankfurt’s surface area is green, according to the city’s environment department, which notes that 52 percent of the city area has been set aside for recreation and to offset climate change. It consists of parks, woodland, farmland, orchard meadows, grassland, allotments and hobby gardens, cemeteries, roadside grass verges and bodies of water.

Frankfurt also is a founding member of the Climate Alliance of European Cities, pledging to continuously reduce its carbon emissions by 10 percent every five years, resulting in a 50 percent cut by 2030.

Across the world, cities are performing better for being sustainable for Profit and Planet purposes than they are for People factors. Many of the world’s economic powerhouses are becoming less affordable for their citizens, with the cost of property in New York, London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong penalizing their rankings. There is also a tradeoff globally between strong education and poor work-life balance, particularly demonstrated in Hong Kong.

“City leaders need to find ways to balance the demands of generating strong financial returns, being an attractive place for people to live and work, while limiting their damage to the environment. To truly understand how sustainable a city is, we must understand how it ranks in People, Planet and Profit. Only then can city leaders act to assess their priorities, and the pathway to urban sustainability – for the good of all,” said John Batten, Global Cities Director at Arcadis, which produced the new urban index.

For more information about the Sustainable Cities Index, visit http://www.sustainablecitiesindex.com/

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/

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

Major US Banks Urge Global Leaders To Tackle Climate Change

Global Warming Threatens Business As Usual

Six major U.S. banks are urging world leaders to adopt a strong agreement to slash carbon emissions and tackle climate change. The coalition warned in a letter Monday that warming global temperatures and related effects, including sea level rise and severe drought, threaten to upend the global economy and jeopardize future prosperity.

trees a climate change solution

Their message targeted the heads of state and diplomats gathered in New York Monday for the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Climate change is one of the top subjects on the agenda, along with Syria’s civil war, the refugee crisis and the Iran nuclear accord. The U.N. is spearheading negotiations to forge a 195-country climate accord in Paris this December.

Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo called on negotiators to adopt policies that “recognize the cost of carbon” and help “provide greater market certainty, accelerate investment, drive innovation in low carbon energy, and create jobs,” according to the letter published by Ceres, a sustainability advocacy organization.

The banks noted that investments in global energy, water, transportation and urban infrastructure systems are projected to total $90 trillion over the next 15 years — a sum that could include funding for low-carbon alternatives given the right policy signals, according to a 2014 report by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, an initiative chaired by former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

“Businesses across the spectrum are evaluating the risks and opportunities associated with a changing climate,” Mary Wenzel, head of environmental affairs at Wells Fargo, said in a statement. “Strong, long-term policy frameworks can provide the business certainty needed to accelerate innovation and investment.”

climate change negotiations in Lima, Peru

The banks’ statement did not explicitly call for a price on carbon dioxide emissions, which proponents say would make it more expensive to burn coal, oil and natural gas and encourage greater investment solar and wind power, electric vehicles, biofuels and other clean energy alternatives. But some financial leaders, including the World Bank, a U.N. financial institution, have repeatedly urged policymakers to put an outright tax on carbon emissions or adopt a cap-and-trade system. China last week announced it would launch the world’s largest cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions from its steel, cement, paper and electric power sectors.

A carbon price is “the most powerful move that a government can make in the fight against climate change and the reengineering of the economy,” Rachel Kyte, a special envoy for climate change at the World Bank, said a year ago at the 2014 Climate Week NYC, an annual forum to promote the business case for a low-carbon economy.

Climate Change Solutions via http://www.ibtimes.com/six-major-us-banks-urge-global-leaders-adopt-climate-change-agreement-2116755

Climate Change Speeds Up Doomsday Clock

Time Running Out To Fight Climate Change

By Brian Kahn, Climate Central

The end of civilization as we know it just got a little closer. According to an update to the Doomsday Clock, the world is now three minutes from midnight and one of the big reasons is the failure to reduce greenhouse emissions even in the face of climate change.

climate change and Doomsday clock
Climate change has the Doomsday clock ticking a little faster.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists maintains the clock and resets the hands every few years based on existential threats to civilization. Created in 1947, the clock initially served as a warning about the threat of nuclear weapons, but climate change has started to mess with the hands of time in recent years. This is the fourth update to the clock that explicitly mentions climate change, though it’s an issue that has been on the Bulletin’s radar since 1961.

The clock was last updated in 2012, when the hands were set at five minutes to midnight. The reason the world is closer to doomsday now is the growing clarity about impacts of climate change, including some already occurring, and the inaction to do anything about it.

“The reason we feel greater sense of urgency on the climate issue is quantitatively, if you want to limit climate change to a certain magnitude, you’re only allowed to have a certain amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We’re about halfway there,” Richard Somerville, a oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a board member of the Bulletin, which maintains the clock, said.

If emissions continue on their current trend, they’ll likely expend the carbon budget — a term used by scientists to describe how much carbon dioxide can be emitted while safely keeping the world from warming more than the 2°C (3.6°F) — in three decades.

Passing that threshold could lead to higher sea levels, an increased rate of ocean acidification, and rising global temperatures at rates that some scientists think could be beyond society’s ability to adapt. Beyond those direct impacts, climate change also poses a threat multiplier problem for the military by potentially increasing migration, destabilizing governments and increasing regional conflicts. The Pentagon already views climate change as an “immediate risk.”

Sivan Kartha, another Bulletin board member and senior scientist atStockholm Environment Institute, said that international climate treaties have weakened in the 20 years of major negotiations with most emissions cuts going from binding to voluntary and emissions cuts failing to come close to staying within the carbon budget.

The only time the Doomsday Clock has been closer to midnight was in 1953, a year after hydrogen bombs were tested by the U.S. and Soviet Union in an escalating nuclear arms race. The clock also struck 11:57 p.m. in the Cold War chill of 1984. On the positive side, the clock was moved all the way back to 11:43 p.m. in the wake of the Cold War and the start of nuclear disarmament.

What’s keeping the clock from striking midnight now is that despite little to no action on climate change, solutions do exist. Namely, that means transitioning away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy.

“The IPCC concluded unequivocally that we can shift away from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy resources. Moreover, we can afford to do this,” Kartha said, noting it would shave just a fraction of a percent off project global economic growth, which “means instead of global GDP doubling in say 25 years, it would double in 26 years.”

Some countries have started that transition but Kartha said more efforts are needed and that the coming climate negotiations in Paris later this year could be a crucial turning point.

Climate Change Update via http://www.climatecentral.org/news/climate-change-doomsday-clock-18576