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'Climate Change' Removed From National Institutes of Health Website
The effects of climate change are inextricably linked to human health. The burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that traps heat in the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to spike, air quality to worsen, all while fueling droughts, floods and storms that impact food and water security.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has "altered climate change language, updated climate change references, and reduced access to a Web resource with information on climate change and human health across several webpages," according to a new report from the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI), which monitors changes to federal agency websites.
The NIEHS studies the effects of the environment on human health and is one of the 27 institutes and centers of the National Institutes of Health. EDGI told reporters this is the first time an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services has made climate-related changes to its online resources.
Changes to the NIEHS website are subtle but telling. For instance, the watchdog group noticed the Global Environmental Health pages has changed the term "climate change" to simply "climate" on side menus and page titles. These changes occurred in late July.
Granted, that's just a single word. The term "climate change" also remains in the body of the page's current text. However, for many leaders of the Republican party and among the Trump administration, climate science is treated with skepticism to outright denial. Media outlets have also reported that staffers from other federal agencies, including the Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy, have been instructed to specifically avoid the phrase.
The subtitle "Health Impacts of Climate Change" was also stricken from a page about climate change and cancer, but semantics are not the only changes on the site. According to EGDI researchers, in July "NIEHS also removed links to an educational 4-page fact sheet titled, Climate Change and Human Health, from two separate pages: a library of brochures and fact sheets, and a page dedicated to explaining the environmental impacts of climate change."
While the fact sheet is still hosted on the NIEHS website, access has been significantly reduced, the report added.
A spokesperson for the group told POLTICO PULSE that the changes appear targeted to reduce the prominence of climate issues, adding that other language on the pages was not affected. PULSE also noted that other Health and Human Service websites still host climate change information, including HHS.gov/climate that states, "The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) considers climate change to be one of the top public health challenges of our time."
EDGI is an international coalition of academics and nonprofits organizations that formed after Trump's election to address potential threats to federal environmental and energy policy. The group has tracked similar website alterations at the Department of Energy's Office of Technology Transitions (report), the Department of Transportation (report) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (report).
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
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2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
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A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.