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David Suzuki: Humanity’s Fate Depends on the Choices We Make Today

We're living in a time of records. More renewable energy came on stream in 2015than ever—147 gigawatts, equal to Africa's entire generating capacity—and investment in the sector broke records worldwide. Costs for producing solar and wind power have hit record lows. Portugal obtained all its electricity from renewable sources for four straight days in May—the longest achieved by any country—and Germany was able to meet 90 percent of its electricity needs with renewable power for a brief period. Clean energy employment and job growth now outpace the fossil fuel industry by a wide margin.

That's just a portion of the good news. Oil prices have fallen so low that some more damaging activities are becoming unprofitable, a record number of coal companies are going bankrupt or filing for bankruptcy and fewer coal mines are operating in the U.S.

But are the good records enough to help us deal with the bad? Global average temperatures are hitting record highs every recent month and year and atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are rising steadily, to levels unheard of in human history. Arctic sea ice is vanishing at unprecedented levels, mass bleaching is killing the Great Barrier Reef and record-setting droughts, floods, heat waves and extreme weather are happening around the world.

As Prof. Stefan Rahmstorf of Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research told the Guardian: "These are very worrying signs and I think it shows we are on a crash course with the Paris targets unless we change course very, very fast. I hope people realize that global warming is not something down the road, but it is here now and is affecting us now."

The Paris agreement, accepted in December by most nations, offered hope that world leaders are aware of this serious problem and know that unless we quickly employ a range of solutions—from renewable energy to reducing consumption to changing dietary and agricultural practices—humanity is at risk.

Despite overwhelming evidence for human-caused climate change, the fossil fuel industry continues to employ shady people and organizations to fool fearful and apparently blind followers into believing the problem doesn't exist or isn't serious enough to worry about. Their messaging follows a pattern: Spread a simplistic lie until it becomes so discredited that few people accept it and then move on to another simplistic lie.

The most recent from Canadian industry propagandists like Patrick Moore, Tom Harris (of the misnamed International Climate Science Coalition) and their pals at organizations like the U.S. Heartland Institute is that CO2 is not a pollutant, just a benign or beneficial gas that stimulates plant growth. It's true CO2 is good for plants. So is nitrogen, but when it runs into waterways and the oceans, it pollutes them. Overwhelming scientific evidence proves that increased atmospheric CO2 is a major cause of global warming. The profound effects of that warming are already here and new and frightening aspects are also coming to light, such as ocean oxygen depletion.

Recent bankruptcy filings for Peabody Energy showed the U.S. coal company owes money to a range of deniers and their organizations, including the also misnamed Calgary-based Friends of Science. It claims the sun and not human activity drives climate change (and that the world is cooling, not warming), a ridiculous assertion, often repeated by coal companies, that real scientists have thoroughly debunked. Extensive research shows coal, oil and gas interests have pumped huge amounts of money into these denial campaigns, all the while knowing that human-caused climate change is real and dangerous.

It's good that deniers' voices are being drowned out by evidence and rational arguments and that solutions are becoming better, cheaper and more readily available daily. But we no longer have time to allow compromised politicians, greedy industrialists and dishonest organizations to stall progress. We need record numbers of people to do all they can—develop solutions, write letters, sign petitions, talk to politicians, vote and take to the streets—to demand that governments, industry and society treat climate change with the seriousness it deserves.

Humanity's fate depends on the choices we make today. We can't let a polluting sunset industry and its minions block progress to a cleaner, healthier future.

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EPA: Perchlorate in Drinking Water Can Harm Fetal Brain Development

By Tom Neltner

Pursuant to a consent decree with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is developing drinking water regulations to protect fetuses and young children from perchlorate, a toxic chemical that inhibits the thyroid's ability to make the hormone T4 essential to brain development. The rulemaking is part of a long process that began in 2011 when the agency made a formal determination that Safe Drinking Water Act standards for perchlorate were needed. Under the consent decree, EPA should propose a standard by October 2018.

In the latest step in that process, EPA's scientists released a draft report in September that, at long last, answers questions posed by its Science Advisory Board in 2013: does perchlorate exposure during the first trimester reduce production of T4 in pregnant women with low iodine consumption? Does reduction in maternal T4 levels in these women adversely affect fetal brain development? According to EPA's scientists, the answers are Yes and Yes.

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Ditch Plastic Lunches: Stand Up for Zero-Waste Schools

  • Carrots in a Ziploc
  • Grapes in a bag
  • Sandwich in saran wrap, with a "fresh daily" tag
  • Water bottle snuggled by an extra pair of socks
  • Plastic straw
  • Chips to gnaw
  • Juice in a box

That's an average American kids lunch stuffed in a school bag, with enough plastic packaging to wallpaper the classroom. Once it comes to school lunch, we don't practice what we preach, so let's unpackage what we teach.

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Trump's 'Hold' on Elephant Trophies May Not Be Enough

As many of you may have heard by now, President Donald Trump tweeted, and Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke reiterated, a decision late Friday night to put elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe "on hold" out of the belief that "conservation and healthy herds are critical."

This follows the administration's decision, on Thursday, to allow such imports after finding Zimbabwe's management of its elephant population "enhances the survival of the species" (referred to as a "positive enhancement finding") under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The announcement reversed the Obama-era suspension on such imports due to finding the opposite: that Zimbabwe was NOT successfully managing its elephant population.

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Fracking Chemicals Remain Secret Despite EPA Knowledge of Health Hazards

By Tasha Stoiber

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) knows that dozens of the chemicals used in fracking pose health hazards. The agency not only allows their use, but also lets the oil and gas industry keep the chemicals secret, according to a new report.

Between 2003 and 2014 the EPA identified health hazards for 41 chemicals used in fracking, according to a report from the Partnership for Policy Integrity and Earthworks, based on documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Fracking is the injection of a chemical slurry into drilling sites to free up underground oil and gas deposits. Hazards from the chemicals used included irritation to eyes and skin; harm to the liver, kidney and nervous system; and damage to the developing fetus.

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Global Warming Timeline, Political Will: Top Questions After COP23

As the world increasingly looks to be on track for a catastrophic 3°C of global warming, world leaders and diplomats gathered in Bonn, Germany to turn the Paris agreement into a set of rules.

In that sense the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23), which concluded on Saturday, accomplished its goal of keeping the process alive by setting up the rules that will be finalized next year in Poland. But the conference also kicked a number of issues down the road. The round of climate talks heard repeated calls for a more ambitious approach to slashing carbon emissions but did not initiate any conclusive solutions, though it should be noted that no major decisions were expected.

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Florida Schools' Food Waste Program: A Win-Win to Fight Hunger and Save the Environment

You've probably heard the unsettling stories of school cafeteria workers throwing away students' lunches over unpaid lunch bills, but schools in Orange County, Florida have come up with a genius solution to not only help feed hungry students and their communities, but to also cut down on food waste.

For the past two years, about 20 public elementary schools in the Florida county have been using "share tables" to great effect, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The program allows kids to place their unwanted food on designated tables so others can eat them. This means the food doesn't have to be thrown out. Instead, fellow students who are still hungry can just grab the food themselves off the tables.

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Record Number of Americans 'Very Worried' About Climate Change

As someone who writes about the environment on a near-daily basis, the fact that a large chunk of Americans (about one in eight) reject the near scientific consensus of climate change can be a tough pill to swallow.

But after a year of record-breaking heatwaves, massive wildfires in the west, and a string of destructive hurricanes, it appears that my fellow U.S. citizens are waking up to the realities of our hot, new world, according to the latest nationally representative survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

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Nursery Bans Glitter, Calls on Others to Follow Their Example

By Imogen Calderwood

Glitter is great, right? Particularly now that it's getting dark and cold and a bit depressing outside.

But, as much as we love glitter for making everything look festive, a chain of children's nurseries in the UK might actually have a point.

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