Dr. Michael Mann on Paris and Clean Power Plan: 'We’re Seeing Real Movement'
Climate Reality recently chatted with world-renowned climatologist and geophysicist Dr. Michael E. Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, ahead of our Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the training, Dr. Mann participated in the panel "Our Changing Storms."
“We predicted this long ago.” Dr. @MichaelEMann on the changing face of extreme weather https://t.co/YFYt4FoLsA #ActOnClimate— Climate Reality (@Climate Reality)1508811720.0
Climate Reality: The Trump administration recently announced its intent to repeal the Clean Power Plan. Could you please speak to the importance of emissions regulations in the fight for climate solutions?
Dr. Michael Mann: The Clean Power Plan, first of all, demonstrated good faith on the part of the United States in meeting our obligations to the world community in combatting the climate change problem. It gave us the leverage to achieve a very important bilateral agreement with China a few years ago, by [President] Barack Obama. And, of course, it set the stage for the monumental progress that we saw in Paris. So the U.S. was able to go into those negotiations with quite a bit of credibility because it was demonstrating a willingness to act in a meaningful way on this problem—through the Clean Power Plan, through the Obama era regulations on automobile efficiency and clean energy standards, and incentives for renewable energy.
What we're seeing right now, it isn't just the dismantling of the environmental policy success of the last administration, the Obama administration. We are seeing the dismantling of policies that were put in place by both Republican and Democratic administrations over the past half century. It's unprecedented. It's catastrophic. It's, as far as I'm concerned, clearly impeachable. [EPA Administrator] Scott Pruitt has violated the public faith by acting on behalf of polluting interests rather than the people he is supposed to represent.
Climate Reality: Realistically, what sort of regulation at the Federal and State levels do you believe is necessary to effectively mitigate climate change?
Dr. Michael Mann: The irony is that we may well meet our obligations under the Paris treaty, even with the current administration playing an adversarial role. That's simply because of all of the progress that we are seeing now at the state level, at the municipal level thanks to efforts by folks like Al Gore to really mobilize the American people on this issue.
I think we're seeing real movement, and I think we're seeing so much movement that there's really nothing that the polluting interests can do to stop the transition that's underway. All they can do is try to slow it down. If they can slow it down, well, they can make more fossil fuel profits in the meantime.
What they're really worried about are stranded assets—you know, all of the fossil fuels that they currently have on their bank sheets. So their agenda is to try to extract and sell as much fossil fuels as they can before the inevitable happens—before the global transition that's underway ultimately leads us away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy.
That transition is happening anyways. We may well meet our obligations under the Paris treaty, even without any support from the administration or from the Congress. That having been said, it makes it tougher, obviously, for us to meet our reduction targets, and it slows down that necessary transition.
#LeadOnClimate: Clean energy is one of the most powerful solutions to the climate crisis. Retweet if you agree with… https://t.co/MNFSL4Dryg— Climate Reality (@Climate Reality)1508334181.0
Ironically, it puts the U.S. in a less competitive position. The rest of the world recognizes that the future of our global economy will be in renewable energy. That's the great economic revolution of this century. And what Trump and those whose agenda he's advancing are doing is holding us back as the rest of the world moves on, and guaranteeing that we lose out in this economic race.
It's really misguided on multiple levels. It's misguided on an environmental level because, ultimately, it means more degradation of the planet. It means increased risks for the American people when it comes to food and water and health and national security. But it also means that we lose out in terms of our international competitiveness as a nation.
We'll still get there. But it will slow that progress down a bit, much to our detriment—and much to the world's detriment. Because the fact is, every ton of carbon that we put into the atmosphere does additional damage, and we want to emit as little carbon as we possibly can.
As Dr. Mann makes clear, there's no mystery what's happening to our planet. And there's no mystery about how we solve this crisis by switching from dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designed America's Clean Power Plan to accelerate this shift and cut the dirty power plant emissions driving climate change. But now, fossil fuel interests leading EPA want to repeal the Clean Power Plan and take us back to the dark days of dirty energy.
We're not about to just sit back and let that happen. If you're ready to act, join us and thousands of others by adding your comment in support of America's Clean Power Plan.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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