Two dozen prominent scientists from around the world have asked the UN to make environmental damage in conflict zones a war crime. The scientists published their open letter in the journal Nature.
The letter, titled "Stop Military Conflicts from Trashing the Environment," asks the United Nations' International Law Commission to adopt a Fifth Geneva Convention when it meets later this month. The UN group is scheduled to hold a meeting with the aim of building on the 28 principles it has already drafted to protect the environment and lands sacred to indigenous people, according to The Guardian.
Damage to protected areas during a military skirmish should be considered a war crime on par with violations of human rights, the scientists say. If the UN adopts their suggestions, the principles would include measures to hold governments accountable for the damage done by their militaries, as well as legislation to curb the international arms trade.
"We call on governments to incorporate explicit safeguards for biodiversity, and to use the commission's recommendations to finally deliver a Fifth Geneva Convention to uphold environmental protection during such confrontations," the letter reads.
Currently, the four existing Geneva Conventions and their three additional protocols are globally recognized standards enshrined into international law. It dictates humane treatment for wounded troops in the field, soldiers shipwrecked at sea, prisoners of war, and civilians during armed conflicts. Violating the treaties amounts to a war crime, as Common Dreams reported.
"Despite calls for a fifth convention two decades ago, military conflict continues to destroy megafauna, push species to extinction, and poison water resources," the letter reads. "The uncontrolled circulation of arms exacerbates the situation, for instance by driving unsustainable hunting of wildlife."
Sarah M. Durant of the Zoological Society of London and José C. Brito of the University of Porto in Portugal drafted the letter. The 22 other signatories, mostly from Africa and Europe, are affiliated with organizations and institutions in Egypt, France, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Libya, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and the United States.
"The brutal toll of war on the natural world is well documented, destroying the livelihoods of vulnerable communities and driving many species, already under intense pressure, towards extinction," said Durant, as the The Guardian reported. "We hope governments around the world will enshrine these protections into international law. This would not only help safeguard threatened species, but would also support rural communities, both during and post-conflict, whose livelihoods are long-term casualties of environmental destruction."
The idea for adding environmental protections to the Geneva Convention first arose during the Vietnam war when the U.S. military used massive amounts of Agent Orange to clear millions of acres of forests which had long term adverse consequences on human health, wildlife populations and soil quality. Work on the idea picked up in earnest in the early 90s when Iraq burned Kuwaiti oil wells and the U.S. fired off bombs and missiles with depleted uranium, which poisoned Iraqi soil and water, as Common Dreams reported.
The effects of conflict have been proven recently in the Sahara-Sahel region, where cheetahs, gazelles and other species have suffered rapid population loss due to the spread of guns following Libya's civil war. Conflicts in Mali and Sudan have correlated with an uptick in elephant killings, as The Guardian reported.
"The impacts of armed conflict are causing additional pressure to imperiled wildlife from the Middle East and north Africa," said Brito to the Guardian. "Global commitment is needed to avoid the likely extinction of emblematic desert fauna over the next decade."
The environment became the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's social cause for July. The royal couple announced on their official Instagram account that they would use the month to draw attention to people and organizations working to improve the environment and to fight the global climate crisis.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry launched their joint Instagram account in April and have used the platform to draw attention to a different social issue each month. In May, they highlighted Mental Health Awareness month. They promoted LGBTQ rights in June as part of Pride Month. The environment is their first topic choice that doesn't correspond with an officially designated month, according to Grist.
"As a continuation of our monthly social awareness approach to shine a light on the accounts that are working towards positive change, for the month of July we turn our attention to the environment," the post reads and is accompanied by pictures of nature and activists. "There is a ticking clock to protect our planet — with climate change, the deterioration of our natural resources, endangerment of sacred wildlife, the impact of plastics and microplastics, and fossil fuel emissions, we are jeopardizing this beautiful place we call home — for ourselves and for future generations. Let's save it. Let's do our part."
The royal couple chose to follow 15 accounts dedicated to protecting animals or the environment. Most of the accounts they follow are dedicated to saving animals or are conservation oriented. They chose to follow only two accounts dedicated to the climate crisis: Greta Thunberg's and This is Zero Hour, according to Grist.
A royal account can certainly help bring a cause to a large audience and help open a conversation about important issues. Yet, the timing of the Duke and Duchesses account has opened the royal couple up to accusations of hypocrisy since official statistics published last week showed that the royal family's greenhouse gas emissions due to air travel doubled last year, as the Sun reported.
The drastic increase was attributed to the increased use of "chartered large fixed wing aircraft for foreign business travel," with the majority of flights taken by Prince Charles and Camilla, according to the Sun. Most of those flights were to the Carribean, Africa and Europe on behalf of the Queen.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have also done their fair share of travel, having visited Sydney, Melbourne, Fraser Island, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand as part of their Australian tour, as well as Morocco and Dublin.
Markle also traveled in Amal Clooney's private jet to New York City for her baby shower. First class and private travel has a much larger carbon footprint than economy travel, which accommodates more travelers per flight, as the Daily Express reported.
So far, their post announcing the groups and individuals they will follow in July has nearly 200,000 likes.
- 20 Instagram Accounts for Environmental Inspiration - EcoWatch ›
- Wildfires Burn Fragile Ecosystem on Australia's Fraser Island ›
The sprawling size and sunny days of Texas make it one of the top states for solar energy. If you live in the Lone Star State and are interested in switching to a solar energy system, you may be wondering: What's the average solar panel cost in Texas?
In this article, we'll discuss the cost of solar panels in Texas, what factors affect pricing, Texas' solar incentives and more. Of course, the only way to know for sure how much you would pay to install a solar panel system on your roof is to receive a free, no-obligation quote from a top solar company near you. You can get started by filling out the quick form below.
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in Texas?
Thanks to the growing investment in renewable energy technology statewide, homeowners now enjoy a below-average cost of solar in Texas. Based on market research and data from top brands, we've found the average cost of solar panels in Texas to be $2.69 per watt. This means a 5-kW system would cost around $9,953 after the federal solar tax credit. This is especially valuable when you take into account the unpredictable Texas energy rates.
Here's how that average calculates into the cost of the most common sizes of home solar panel systems:
|Size of Solar Panel System||Texas Solar Panel Cost||Cost After Federal Tax Credit|
Though this data reflects the statewide averages, you'll need to contact a solar installer near you to get an accurate quote for your home. Savvy customers will get free quotes from multiple companies and compare them to the state averages to make sure they receive the best value possible. Bear in mind that the biggest providers of solar won't always have the best prices.
What Determines the Cost of Solar Panels in Texas?
The main factor determining the cost of solar panel installations in Texas is the homeowner's energy needs. No two homes are the same, and installation costs will look far different for a home needing a basic 5kW system and a home needing 10kW with backup power capabilities. The solar financing and installation company a homeowner chooses will also affect a customer's overall solar costs in Texas. Here's how each factor comes into play:
Similar to phones, cars and other technology, solar products and system costs vary greatly based on their quality, scale and included features. Some customers may be satisfied with a modest array of affordable solar panels and inverters, while others may opt for a system with premium panels, full-home backup power and cutting-edge energy monitoring technology.
The overall cost of solar depends significantly on how a customer chooses to finance their system. The three most common solar financing options include paying in cash, taking out a solar loan and solar leasing.
- The most economical way to purchase solar, an upfront cash purchase provides the best long-term return on investment and the lowest overall cost.
- Customers can choose to take out a solar loan to purchase the system outright and make monthly payments to repay the loan. The typical payback period for a solar loan averages around 10 years. Systems purchased with a loan are still eligible for the federal solar tax credit.
- Signing a solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA) allows a solar customer to rent solar panels from a company or third party. Though requiring the least amount of money upfront, solar leases provide the least amount of overall value. Also, solar leases aren't eligible for the federal tax credit, as the homeowner doesn't actually own the system.
Solar Installation Company
Texas has seen some of the strongest solar energy market growth over the last few years, and the SEIA reports that there are now nearly 600 solar companies based in Texas, and each is looking to expand its market share.
Price ranges can differ significantly based on the installer. Larger solar providers like Sunrun offer the advantage of solar leases and quick installations. Local providers, on the other hand, provide more personalization and competitive prices to undercut the biggest national companies.
Because of this, it's wise to get quotes from a few local and national installers and compare rates — because of the stiff competition between companies, you could end up saving several thousand dollars.
Texas Solar Incentives
For the most part, Texas taxes are administered by local governments. As a result, the state doesn't offer a large number of statewide solar-related policies, and incentives will depend more on the locality in which you live.
However, all homeowners in the state remain eligible for the federal solar tax credit, and there are some statewide local property tax exemptions for both photovoltaic solar and wind-powered renewable energy systems. Let's walk through how to find what incentives are available to you.
Federal Solar Tax Credit
All Texans can claim the federal solar investment tax credit, or ITC, for PV solar panels and energy storage systems. By claiming the ITC on your tax returns, the policy allows you to deduct 26% of the total cost of the solar system from the taxes you owe the federal government.
The tax credit is available to both residential and commercial system owners who have installed solar panels at any point since 2006. The credit is worth 26% through the end of 2022 and will drop to 22% in 2023. It is set to expire at the end of 2023 unless congress extends it.
Net Metering Policies in Texas
Net metering programs allow customers to sell unused solar energy back to their local utility company in exchange for credits that can be cashed in when panels aren't producing energy. Due to the energy bill savings, this incentive can greatly reduce the solar investment payback period.
As is true with most of Texas' solar rebates and incentives, there is not one net metering program that is offered throughout the entire state. Rather, your eligibility will depend on the policy of your local utility company or municipality. Most utilities in the state have a net metering policy, including American Electric Power (AEP), CPS Energy, Green Mountain Energy, El Paso Electric, TXU Energy in Dallas and more.
The rate at which your local utility will compensate for this excess energy will depend on your local policy, so we encourage you to look into the policy offered by your utility company.
Local Solar Rebates in Texas
In addition to identifying your local net metering program, look into any local rebates available to you. Homeowners who live in the top cities for solar in Texas, like Austin, San Marcos or Sunset Valley might have more luck than customers in other areas. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency has a full list of local rebates, solar loan programs and more.
FAQ: Solar Panel Cost Texas
Is it worth going solar in Texas?
Long, sunny days and below-average solar installation costs make Texas one of the best states in the U.S. for generating energy with solar panels. The ample sunshine provides more than enough energy for most families, serving up huge benefits to homes in Texas equipped with solar panels.
How much does it cost to install solar panels in Texas?
As of 2021, the average cost of solar panels in Texas is $2.69 per watt. This means a 5-kW system would cost around $9,953 after the federal solar tax credit. This is slightly below the national average due to the resource availability in Texas, current energy costs and the state's available sunlight. The best way to assess how much solar would cost you is to consult local providers near you for a free estimate.
Do solar panels increase home value in Texas?
Solar panels increase home value everywhere, but mostly in areas with generous net metering policies and solar rebates. As such, the proportion at which solar panels increase home value in Texas corresponds with the areas with the most solar-friendly policies.
How much do solar panels cost for a 2,500 sq foot house?
Though knowing the size of a house is helpful in determining how many solar panels could fit on its roof, the energy use of the house is the more important factor in determining solar panel cost in Texas. The higher your energy use, the greater your solar needs will be.
Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
By Jason Bittel
Imagine you're a redwing, a small, speckled bird in the thrush family. You weigh as little as two light bulbs, and yet each year you make a 2,300-mile journey from your summering grounds in Iceland to a winter refuge in Morocco. One night, you decide to stop off in an olive grove in Portugal to rest your weary wings.
Little do you know, night is when the machines come.
Mechanical harvesters taller than the trees themselves rumble through the olive groves, each equipped with floodlights and rows of vibrating teeth. Like a slow-moving beast, the harvesters straddle the trees and throttle them, shaking loose their olives and directing the fruits to powerful vacuums for collection.
Workers unload harvested olives from a truck on a farm in the Alentejo region of Portugal.
Francisco Seco / AP
It's an incredibly efficient way to harvest the olives destined for our cooking oil, martinis, and charcuterie platters. And according to the Olive Oil Times, night harvesting preserves the aromatic qualities of the crop.
But the benefits stop there. Birds like the redwing seem to be "dazzled by the strong lights of the machines," said Vanessa Mata, an ecologist at the Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources in Portugal. During the day, the birds would simply fly away. At night, they become disoriented and can wind up getting sucked into the harvesters, with fatal consequences.
In southern Spain, olive farmers sometimes sell the dead to local restaurants which offer them on menus as "fried birds" — an illegal practice that is "highly pursued by the Ministry of Health," according to a new report by the environmental council of the regional government of Andalusia, in Spain.
Songbirds caught in an olive harvester.
Junta de Andalucia
The problem is not just a local issue of some unfortunate and accidental songbird deaths. According to a letter that Mata recently published in the journal Nature, Portugal's night harvesting machines vacuum up some 96,000 birds each year. It's even worse in Andalusia, where as many as 2.6 million birds disappear annually during nocturnal harvesting. (France and Italy also harvest olives at night, but neither country keeps records of the practice's toll on wildlife.)
All told, we're talking about many millions of migratory birds slain each year by the international olive industry. This is obviously bad news for redwings, which the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies as near threatened, but plenty of other species are taking a hit too.
According to the Andalusian report, the suctioning kills garden warblers, mistle thrushes, willow warblers, common linnets and yellow wagtails — all species already considered by conservationists to be on the decline. (Eleven other bird species identified in the report have stable or increasing populations.)
Many of these birds are already the victims of illegal hunting. Trappers catch and sell them as food or pets, said Mata, which is a problem across the Mediterranean. BirdLife International reports that the populations of 57 of Europe's most common avian species have been on the decline over the past 30 years. Those birds that inhabit the continent's farmlands appear to have suffered the most severe losses.
But there is some hope. Mata said while the many threats birds face in this part of the world aren't going to disappear overnight, the issue with the olive groves really could. That's because this manner of harvesting olives became popular only over the past decade or so. "Day harvesting is the traditional method," she said. "Night harvesting with machines is a recent practice used in super-intensive olive farms."
A wall is spattered with residue from machines that process olives in the Andalusia region of Spain.
Cristina Quicler / AFP / Getty Images
Olive growers insist that night harvesting provides a better-quality product, but Mata suspects it just comes down to money. The harvest season falls between October and January, but weather and fruit ripeness determine when that season hits its peak. Once it's time, it's time.
Growers who rent expensive harvesting machinery, such as the behemoth seen in this drone footage (with birds in formation flying overhead), want to maximize returns while minimizing rental and operating costs. "By operating the machines day and night, you can harvest the same area using half the machines," said Mata.
Because night harvesting is relatively new, information is scarce about its impact on wildlife and the environment. That's what makes these new reports so eye-opening — they're the first to put numbers on paper. But we're going to need a lot more numbers to understand the true scope of the problem.
Even at the scale indicated by the recent reports, Mata said, the practice is a clear violation of the Birds Directive, the European Union's equivalent of the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Not only is it illegal to kill migratory birds in flight, but it's also against the law to disturb them while they're resting.
If nothing else, olive growers who harvest at night should have to monitor and report the number of birds killed in their machines as other industries do, said Mata.
"I think the important thing for now is for people to take action, press their food suppliers about the origin of their olives and oil, but also [press] their politicians so this practice becomes regulated," said Mata. Her colleague Elli Rivers even started a Change.org petition as one way to get involved.
For now, Mata said the best thing consumers can do for the birds is to raise awareness. Down the road, creating market incentives for daytime harvesting, such as a consumer label noting whether an olive brand is "bird safe" (in the same way that dolphin-safe tuna became an industry standard), could help stem this senseless slaughter.
Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.
By Ansley Hill
Argan oil has been a culinary staple in Morocco for centuries — not only because of its subtle, nutty flavor but also its wide array of potential health benefits.
This naturally occurring plant oil is derived from the kernels of the fruit of the argan tree.
Although native to Morocco, argan oil is now used across the globe for a variety of culinary, cosmetic and medicinal applications.
This article explains 12 of the most prominent health benefits and uses of argan oil.
1. Contains Essential Nutrients
Argan oil is primarily comprised of fatty acids and a variety of phenolic compounds.
The majority of the fat content of argan oil comes from oleic and linoleic acid (1).
Oleic acid, though not essential, makes up 43–49% of the fatty acid composition of argan oil and is also a very healthy fat. Found in olive oil as well, oleic acid is renowned for its positive impact on heart health (1, 2).
Argan oil provides a good source of linoleic and oleic fatty acids, two fats known to support good health. It also boasts high levels of vitamin E.
2. Has Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Properties
The various phenolic compounds in argan oil are likely responsible for most of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacities.
Argan oil is rich in vitamin E, or tocopherol, a fat-soluble vitamin that serves as a potent antioxidant to reduce the damaging effects of free radicals (1).
A recent study revealed a significant reduction in inflammatory markers in mice fed argan oil prior to exposure to a highly inflammatory liver toxin, compared to the control group (6).
Additionally, some research indicates that argan oil can also be applied directly to your skin to reduce inflammation caused by injuries or infections (7).
Although these results are encouraging, more research is needed to understand how argan oil can be used medicinally in humans to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
Multiple compounds in argan oil may help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, though more research is needed.
3. May Boost Heart Health
Argan oil is a rich source of oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated, omega-9 fat (1).
In another small human study, a higher intake of argan oil was associated with lower levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and higher blood levels of antioxidants (10).
In a study on heart disease risk in 40 healthy people, those who consumed 15 grams of argan oil daily for 30 days experienced a 16% and 20% reduction in "bad" LDL and triglyceride levels, respectively (11).
Although these results are promising, larger studies are necessary to better understand how argan oil may support heart health in humans.
Argan oil's fatty acids and antioxidants may help reduce heart disease risk, though more research is needed.
4. May Have Benefits for Diabetes
Some early animal research indicates argan oil may help prevent diabetes.
These studies largely attributed these benefits to the antioxidant content of the oil.
However, such results do not necessarily imply that the same effects would be seen in humans. Therefore, human research is needed.
Some animal studies indicate argan oil may reduce blood sugar and insulin resistance to help prevent diabetes. That said, human studies are lacking.
5. May Have Anticancer Effects
Argan oil may slow the growth and reproduction of certain cancer cells.
One test-tube study applied polyphenolic compounds from argan oil to prostate cancer cells. The extract inhibited cancer cell growth by 50% compared to the control group (14).
In another test-tube study, a pharmaceutical-grade mixture of argan oil and vitamin E increased the rate of cell death on breast and colon cancer cell samples (15).
Although this preliminary research is intriguing, more research is needed to determine whether argan oil could be used to treat cancer in humans.
Some test-tube studies revealed potential cancer-fighting effects of argan oil, though more studies are needed.
6. May Reduce Signs of Skin Aging
Argan oil has quickly become a popular ingredient for many skin care products.
Some research suggests that dietary intake of argan oil may help slow the aging process by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress (16).
Ultimately, more human research is needed.
A few small studies indicate that argan oil may be effective at reducing signs of aging, either when ingested or applied directly to your skin.
7. May Treat Some Skin Conditions
Argan oil has been a popular home remedy for treating inflammatory skin conditions for decades — especially in North Africa, where argan trees originate.
Although there's limited scientific evidence supporting argan oil's ability to treat specific skin infections, it is still frequently used for this purpose.
Keep in mind that more research is needed.
While argan oil has been traditionally used to treat skin infections, there is limited evidence to support this. That said, anti-inflammatory compounds may benefit skin tissue.
8. May Promote Wound Healing
Argan oil may accelerate the wound healing process.
One animal study revealed a significant increase in wound healing in rats given argan oil on their second-degree burns twice daily for 14 days (19).
Although this data doesn't prove anything with certainty, it does indicate a possible role for argan oil in wound healing and tissue repair.
That said, human research is needed.
In one animal study, argan oil applied to burn wounds accelerated healing. However, human research is needed.
9. May Moisturize Skin and Hair
Argan oil is often directly administered to skin and hair but may also be effective when ingested.
In one study, both oral and topical applications of argan oil improved the moisture content of the skin in postmenopausal women (18).
Although there isn't any research on the specific use of argan oil for hair health, some studies indicate that other plant oils with a comparable nutritional profile may reduce split ends and other types of hair damage (21).
Argan oil is popularly used to moisturize skin and hair. Some research indicates the fatty acids in argan oil may support healthy, hydrated skin and reduce hair damage.
10. Often Used to Treat and Prevent Stretch Marks
Argan oil is frequently used to prevent and reduce stretch marks, although no research has been conducted to prove its efficacy.
In fact, there is no strong evidence that any kind of topical treatment is an effective tool for stretch mark reduction (22).
However, research does indicate that argan oil may help reduce inflammation and improve the elasticity of skin — which could be why so many people report success in using it for stretch marks (7, 17).
Argan oil is often used as a remedy for treating stretch marks, although no scientific data supports this.
11. Sometimes Used to Treat Acne
Some sources claim argan oil to be an effective treatment for acne, although no rigorous scientific research supports this.
The oil also may contribute to skin hydration, which is important for acne prevention (18).
Whether argan oil is effective in treating your acne likely depends on its cause. If you struggle with dry skin or general irritation, argan oil may provide a solution. However, if your acne is caused by hormones, argan oil will not likely provide significant relief.
Though some people claim that argan oil is effective for treating acne, no studies support this. However, it may reduce redness and soothe irritation caused by acne.
12. Easy to Add to Your Routine
As argan oil has become increasingly popular, it's easier than ever to add it to your health and beauty routine.
It is widely available in most major grocery stores, drug stores and online retailers.
Argan oil is usually used topically in its pure form — but also frequently included in cosmetic products like lotions and skin creams.
While it can be applied directly to your skin, it may be best to start with a very small amount to ensure that you won't have any adverse reactions.
You can apply argan oil directly to damp or dry hair to improve moisture, reduce breakage, or reduce frizz.
It is also sometimes included in shampoos or conditioners.
If it's your first time using it, start with a small amount to see how your hair responds. If you have naturally oily roots, apply argan only to the ends of your hair to avoid greasy-looking hair.
If you're interested in using argan oil with food, look for varieties specifically marketed for cooking, or make sure you're buying 100% pure argan oil.
Argan oil marketed for cosmetic purposes may be mixed with other ingredients that you shouldn't ingest.
Because of its recent rise in popularity, argan oil is widely available and easy to use for skin, hair and food.
The Bottom Line
Argan oil has been used for centuries for a variety of culinary, cosmetic and medicinal purposes.
It is rich in essential nutrients, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Early research indicates that argan oil may help prevent chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It may also treat a variety of skin conditions.
While current research cannot definitively state that argan oil is effective for treating any of these conditions, many people report desirable results after using it.
If you're curious about argan oil, it's easy to find and start using today.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
The upper midwest is bracing for some dangerously cold weather this week. Wind chills are expected to reach levels not seen since the 1990s in parts of Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and the Dakotas, the National Weather Service predicted.
Temperatures will dip 20 to 40 degrees below average Tuesday through Thursday, and wind chill temperatures could hit -60 degrees in the upper Midwest and -55 in the upper Mississippi Valley, U.S. News and World Report reported.
"You're talking about frostbite and hypothermia issues very quickly, like in a matter of minutes, maybe seconds," NWS Weather Prediction Center meteorologist Brian Hurley told The Associated Press.
Wind chills will fall to dangerous levels in the Upper Midwest this week, and should be the coldest since the mid-1… https://t.co/d5mY5uRpMv— NWS WPC (@NWS WPC)1548602393.0
The Chicago NWS said the forecast was for "life-threatening extreme cold," The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang reported. The dangerous cold snap could potentially break records, with forecasts for Chicago, Des Moines, Cleveland, Detroit and Minneapolis putting temperatures within one degree of the coldest ever recorded. In Chicago, some forecasts on Monday put temperatures at -29 degrees, two degrees below the lowest on the books.
Minneapolis Public Schools are closing through Wednesday to protect students, as are some schools in eastern Iowa, and the Chicago Public School system is keeping an eye on the thermometer, The Associated Press reported. Homeless shelters are also gearing up for the onslaught. Organizations in Minneapolis are working to increase hours and beds.
"The charitable organizations responsible for operating shelters are adding emergency capacity as they do whenever dangerous extreme temperature events occur," Hennepin County emergency management director Eric Waage told The Associated Press.
The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang explained why cold weather is so dangerous:
"A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that cold weather is responsible for the majority of weather-related fatalities. The wind chill temperature is more than a catchy forecast term. The wind blows away the insulating layer of warm air around us generated naturally by our bodies. Wind chill attempts to quantify the effect in terms of how it feels on our skin, which is why you'll sometimes hear it called the "feels like" temperature. A wind chill of minus-20 degrees can cause frostbite in as little as 30 minutes."
The freezing temperatures are caused by something called a polar vortex, an area of low pressure and cold air that circulates around the poles. As warm air from Morocco entered the Arctic last month and caused it to warm about 125 degrees, this influx of warm air divided the polar vortex, sending one of its pieces down to freeze the Midwest, atmospheric environmental research expert Judah Cohen told The Associated Press.
Here it comes! Thanks to 🛰 #GOESEast and #GOES17, we can visually see the #polar air set to bring potentially histo… https://t.co/VZJwnbFrFg— NWS Grand Forks (@NWS Grand Forks)1548694040.0
Some scientists also think that climate change is making the polar vortex increasingly unstable, as warmer temperatures in the Arctic cause the jet stream to push more cold air further south, National Geographic explained.
Earth is anomalously warm today, but North America is cold. A huge blob of icy Arctic air, usually corralled up no… https://t.co/ErPbwpQKnb— Stefan Rahmstorf (@Stefan Rahmstorf)1548103376.0
"In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can't last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you!" he tweeted.
In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In comin… https://t.co/FnaCaBA5Nz— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1548728929.0
This prompted journalists to repeat the truth that climate and weather are not the same thing.
"The globe as a whole is still much warmer than normal, and scientists say the cold snap in parts of the U.S. in no way invalidates the overwhelming scientific evidence showing global average temperatures are increasing due to the burning of fossil fuels for energy," Axios' Andrew Freedman wrote.
Remember, if you're cold, they're cold. Some furry friends of the NWS are here to remind you that unless your pets… https://t.co/R48XCEWy9H— National Weather Service (@National Weather Service)1548696686.0
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that temperatures could hit -60 degrees in the upper Midwest and -55 in the upper Mississippi Valley. The story has been updated to specify that those are wind chill temperatures.
Kateryna Shcherban / EyeEm / Getty Images
There's just something sublimely satisfying about dyeing your hair a vibrant shade of red in the middle of a cold, gray winter or bright blonde at the height of summer.
Fortunately, there are many cruelty-free hair colors available today to help you achieve the perfect look. No matter whether you prefer an all-natural dye, a quick pick-up box from the drugstore, a semi-permanent color or a salon service, there is definitely something for everyone.
Try one of these cruelty-free, vegan hair dye brands:
Free of animal tests since the company began in 1980, Paul Mitchell is a pioneer in the world of cruelty-free beauty. Find a salon that uses Paul Mitchell hair dye.
You can find this company's products at Target stores, which carry 12 shades—huzzah!
4. Lime Crime
Lime Crime's semi-permanent hair color is adorably called Unicorn Hair, and comes in 13 magical shades.
5. Kevin Murphy
This company offers a hair color line for professional use. The hair dye formula uses extracts from Peruvian bark, baobab, bamboo and orange blossoms to moisturize hair as well as antioxidants from kakadu plums, orchids, lotus flowers and desert limes to help repair chemical damage naturally.
Free of ammonia and parabens, Tints of Nature's hair color is infused with plant-derived extracts and vitamins C and E.
This company offers seven shades of vegan, nontoxic dye and a selection of aftercare products.
https://t.co/xENnmgITmd— Green Hare Mud (@Green Hare Mud)1452832092.0
8. Primary Syn
This 100 percent vegan hair color line for professional use features semi-permanent and permanent color from a single tube.
This vegan hair color brand offers various lines, including professional-grade traditional colors, washable fun colors, correctives to bad dye jobs and more.
With a line of hair color called Deepshine Color, Rusk offers a wide selection of color and aftercare products.
11. Manic Panic
If you're looking for semi-permanent hair color without ammonia or peroxide, look no further. Manic Panic has wild and tame colors—whatever fits your mood.
12. Good Dye Young
This cruelty-free line of hair dye, developed by Hayley Williams of the band Paramore, features numerous shades of semi-permanent hair color and temporary hair makeup. Good Dye Young is now available online through Sephora and on the official Good Dye Young website.
13. Arctic Fox
This entirely vegan brand uses no drying alcohols, PPDs or harsh chemicals.
These henna colors are blended with essential oils and cocoa butter, so your hair will be conditioned and feeling fabulous after use.
15. Henna Color Lab
This company's organic vegan henna hair dyes bond with your hair (as opposed to chemically coating it), while Ayurvedic herbs condition the hair and scalp. The company also carries hair dye specific to beards!
All of Morocco Method's henna hair dyes are sulfate- and gluten-free and use no synthetic chemicals.
For a full list of cruelty-free hair dye companies, see our cruelty-free database and choose your desired product type from the pull-down menu.
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By Danielle Nierenberg, Katherine Walla and Hayly Hoch
This holiday season, we're highlighting 12 children's books that will educate and inspire future eaters, food producers and innovators. From stories exploring community gardens and ugly vegetables, to tales about feeding a hungry stranger and slaying "the climate dragon," these books discuss deep topics in a personalized and fun way. Happy holidays!
1. Amelia's Road by Linda Jacobs Altman, illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez
Amelia's Road follows Amelia Luisa Martinez, a young girl who lives in a family that travels around the country as migrant farmworkers. Although her day-to-day is characterized by long work days, unfamiliar schools and bleak cabins, she one day finds an old tree that becomes a special place for her. Amelia's Road offers children a chance to reflect on the experiences of migrant farmworker families.
2. Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington
This book tells the story of Annie, a young apple farmer. As she picks, sorts and sells her apples, she enlists the help of readers with some small, challenging activities such as counting, object-naming and money counting. Author Monica Wellington includes her personal recipes for applesauce, applesauce cake and apple muffins.
3. Community Soup by Alma Fullerton
Author Alma Fullerton tells the story of a young Kenyan girl, Kioni: her herd of goats followed her to school and began destroying the school's garden. Kioni and her friends join together to find a creative solution, making a tasty vegetable soup and saving Kioni's goats. Community Soup offers readers an uplifting story about the power of communal projects.
4. Green Green: A Community Gardening Story by Marie Lamba and Baldev Lamba, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez
Through charming rhymes, this book tells the story of a city's dwindling green space—and the neighborhood children who inspire the community to recover it. Authors Marie Lamba and Baldev Lamba playfully highlight the power of collaboration among people of any age who want to improve their communities.
5. Little Seeds by Charles Ghigna, illustrated by AG Jatkowska
As one of a four-part My Little Planet series, Little Seeds follows three children that celebrate spring by planting a seed. Readers find that while it is fun to garden, it is also fun to take care of the planet by doing activities like planting seeds.
6. Our Community Garden by Barbara Pollak
In Our Community Garden, Audrey Aubergine and her friends describe their favorite activities at their community garden. Together, the children get excited about everything from getting their hands dirty to exploring the bugs on their plants. The story offers children of all ages an opportunity to learn about the possibilities that can result from people who join to work—and have fun—together.
7. Plants Feed Me By Lizzy Rockwell
This book celebrates the plants that grow all around us: the trees, roots, bushes and stems that nourish our communities. Author Lizzy Rockwell takes readers to the farm, orchard and community garden to discover the various parts of plants humans eat, revealing food's beauty.
8. Stone Soup, a classic tale
Originally a French tale from the early 18th century, Stone Soup tells the story of a hungry man who approaches the house of a woman seeking food. While the woman turns him away for begging, the man tricks her into cooking by showing her a stone that makes soup with simply fire and a pot of water. The man tricks the woman by asking her to add vegetables and herbs throughout the process, ending with a fantastic soup for everyone to enjoy.
9. That's Not Fair! / ¡No Es Justo! by Carmen Tafolla and Sharyll Teneyuca, illustrated by Terry Ybáñez
Authors Carmen Tafolla and Sharyll Teneyuca tell the true story of Emma Tenayuca, a young Mexican-American girl in San Antonio in the 1920s. After watching her community work unreasonably long hours for low wages and struggle with hunger, Emma begins to advocate for Mexican-American workers, eventually leading 12,000 in a struggle for justice. The story offers parents a starting point to talk about each individual's role in making a more just food system.
10. The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
Authored and illustrated by Peter Brown, this book celebrates a discovery of a love for gardening. The main character, Liam, discovers a struggling garden, brings it back to life, and finds his efforts have a city-wide impact. The story opens the door for a conversation around the importance of green spaces in urban settings and the power of a single green thumb.
11. The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin
Author and illustrator Grace Lin tells the story of a young girl tending an ugly garden—one that lacks colorful flowers and stunning butterflies, yet produces the tastiest vegetables. Once the girl's mother harvests the vegetables for a tasty Chinese soup, the young gardener learns that everything has value: including ugly vegetables. Lin tops off the story with her recipe for ugly vegetable soup.
12. What's On Your Plate: Exploring the World of Food by Whitney Stewart, illustrated by Christiane Engel
This book, written by Whitney Stewart and illustrated by Christiane Engel, takes young readers around the globe, introducing them to new tastes and flavors in countries like Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, Morocco and more. Each section includes an easy recipe for children to cook with a parent for an interactive way to learn about the diversity of ingredients each country and the role of culture in cuisine.
Bonus: Slaying the Climate Dragon by Kate Marvel
Although not a book (yet), this short story authored by Kate Marvel is a wonderful resource for starting a conversation with young children on climate change. The story's open ending allows space for youth to brainstorm the ways they can join the good fight to slay "the climate dragon."
But in a study released Tuesday, researchers determined that the current climate polices of governments around the world will push Earth towards 3.3˚C of warming. That's more than two times the aspirational 1.5˚C target adopted by nearly 200 nations under the 2015 Paris agreement.
The report is an annual update of the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), an independent scientific analysis produced by three European research organizations. The CAT is based on policy movements made by governments since the Paris accord.
The report found that even if all governments achieved their Paris agreement commitments, the world will still likely warm 3.0°C.
Even an increase of 2°C—the upper warming limit adopted in Paris—would cause approximately 4 inches of sea level rise, increase the chance of ice-free Arctic summers from once-per-decade to once-per-century, devastate tropical coral reefs and push hundreds of millions of people from climate risk and poverty by 2050, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said.
Alarmingly, the majority of countries that were tracked in the CAT report have not yet fully aligned their policies to actually achieve their Paris commitments.
However, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, the European Union, India and Morocco have taken "significant steps in the right direction," the report says.
Meanwhile, the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Russia and the United Arab Emirates were singled out for making insufficient progress or even moving in the wrong direction in terms of greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
The report notes that China's coal consumption has risen for a second year in a row, and Brazil "appears to have turned away from its forest protection policies even before its recent change of government."
The authors of the CAT report note that limiting warming to 1.5˚C is "feasible and has substantial economic and sustainable development benefits."
They praised countries such as Norway and Costa Rica for their efforts to deploy renewable energy and plans to decarbonize their transportation sectors. They highlighted Chile's 2050 energy strategy which aims at decarbonizing the energy system, India's National Electricity Plan and South Africa's energy resource strategy that aims to shift away from coal toward renewables and gas.
As for the U.S., despite the Trump administration's efforts to roll back climate policies, the country's emissions are "slowing as coal continues to exit the power market, driven by the declining costs of renewables and storage," the report says
The move would lift an Obama-era rule that required newly built coal-fired plants to use carbon capture and storage… https://t.co/RsSH92oUEz— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1544098930.0
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in October that limiting warming to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels was possible but would require social and technological change on a scale for which "there is no documented historic precedent," The Washington Post reported.
"We have yet to see this translate into action in terms of what governments are prepared to put on the table," Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Analytics, one of the three CAT research groups, told Reuters.
With government #ParisAgreement commitments, global warming in 2100 will be 3.0˚C - twice the agreed 1.5˚C limit. W… https://t.co/f184t0ebRQ— ClimateActionTracker (@ClimateActionTracker)1544524378.0
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration acknowledged climate change as a cause of migration, both due to extreme weather and "slow onset events" like drought after various advocacy groups pushed for the addition.
"It's the first time the international community has recognized that migration and displacement can be caused by climate change disasters and has made specific commitments on how to address that," Walter Kaelin from the Platform on Disaster Displacement told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Weather disasters displaced an average of 26.4 million people a year between 2008 and 2015, according the UN. And in March the World Bank warned that more than 140 million people in Africa, South Asia and Latin America could be forced to migrate due to climate change unless the world acts quickly to lower emissions, according to Reuters.
Most of the climate change mentions in the current compact come under Objective No. 3, calling on signatories to "Minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin."
The compact lists investing in "climate change mitigation" as one way to minimize these forces.
The compact also calls on signatories to share information to better understand and predict climate-caused migrations, develop strategies to combat the effects of climate change, consider possible displacement when creating disaster response plans, coordinate at a regional and subregional level to make sure the humanitarian needs and rights of climate migrants are met and develop strategies to respond to the challenges posed by climate-based migration movements.
"After this compact, no one can say: 'We don't see a relation between climate change and displacement and migration,'" head of climate change and resilience policy at CARE International Sven Harmeling told The Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"But we'll have to see how fast and how many governments will sign up to this," he added.
The compact will be officially adopted at a meeting in Morocco in December.
The compact is non-binding and does not require countries to agree to targeted goals or to grant any climate migrant legal status.
It was first begun in 2015 in response to the refugee crisis in Europe, which saw the largest number of refugees enter the region since World War II.
The compact was originally agreed to by all 193 UN member countries, but the U.S. pulled out last year and Hungary also promised to withdraw Wednesday.
The U.S. government has since come under fire for its treatment of Central American asylum seekers at the country's southern border, some of whom are partly fleeing drought and food insecurity linked to climate change.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled the Thomson Reuters Foundation
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By Andy Rowell
If Justin Trudeau didn't know before, he does now. If Canada's prime minister could blame ignorance before, he can't now.
Every day brings reports of new deaths and disasters as the intense heat wave which has gripped much of the Northern Hemisphere continues.
The numbers do not lie. Some fifty dead in Greece, at least 44 dead in Japan, at least 70 dead in Canada. Sweden alight. Numerous other parts of the world are scorching, too.
Let's start with Greece. Many people awoke this morning to the distressing news that at least 50 people have been killed, including a six-month old baby and many children, with dozens more injured and hundreds rescued as devastating wildfires swept through a small resort near Athens. The authorities have called a state of emergency, and has asked for international help.
Twenty-six people had reportedly died huddled together close to a beach in a town called Mati. Nikos Economopoulos, head of Greece's Red Cross, told the country's Skai TV, "They had tried to find an escape route but unfortunately these people and their kids didn't make it in time."
One Mati resident, Kostas Laganos, said that he escaped by diving into the sea: "Thankfully the sea was there and we went into the sea, because the flames were chasing us all the way to the water, it burned our backs and we dove into the water."
Greek authorities urged residents at the coast west of Athens to abandon their homes as the tinder dry conditions continued, with temperatures over 40°C (104°F).
Greece is not alone. Yesterday I blogged on the heatwave in Japan. Today, the country's weather agency has declared the heatwave a natural disaster, saying that at least 65 deaths had been recorded in the past week. Experts believe there will be many more.
In Canada, the hot weather has reportedly caused the deaths of at least 70 people in Quebec alone. Earlier this month, in Ottawa, in Ontario, the humidity index—the method used there to measure the combined humidity level and temperature—hit 47°C (116.6°F) on July 2.
But the hot temperatures are back. Early this morning, the Canadian government issued another heat warning for the Montreal area, advising people that the so-called humidex values are expected to reach the high thirties.
"Heat warnings are issued when very high temperature or humidity conditions are expected to pose an elevated risk of heat illnesses, such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion," it said.
Parts of Canada too are alight. As of last weekend, there were more than one hundred fires burning in British Columbia, and a further 118 burning in Ontario, with 29 of them considered "out of control."
Finally, some in the media are waking up. One BBC journalist tweeted: "Climate change. It's here. It's catastrophic. This month alone: — '50 dead' in Greece wildfires — Arctic Circle ablaze — Japan heatwave, flooding and landslides kill hundreds — Record temperatures in Algeria, Morocco, Oman — Drought squeezes US lemons."
Climate change. It's here. It's catastrophic. This month alone: — '50 dead' in Greece wildfires — Arctic Circle a… https://t.co/mEQ5iMMupj— James Cook (@James Cook)1532415848.0
But not, it seems, Justin Trudeau, who is asleep in the heat. All he has to do is switch on the news to see what is happening. As people die across the globe, his government was searching for a buyer for the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline, which will triple the amount of dirty tar sands exported from Alberta to Vancouver to 890,000 barrels a day.
The pipeline has become the most toxic political issue in Canada. It is vehemently opposed by the government of British Columbia and by a coalition of First Nations, community and environmental groups.
Despite all the warnings about the climate impact of the pipeline, Trudeau's government offered to buy it from Kinder Morgan after the company froze investment, to keep construction continuing. They had hoped to sell the pipeline quickly to a new buyer.
But that has not happened and no buyer could be found before the deadline, which was on Sunday. So Trudeau's government has no option now but to be the full-time owner of the tar sands pipeline.
As the Canadian Star stated: "But with that date set to pass without a deal, it was expected the pipeline company will now take Ottawa's $4.5-billion offer to purchase the project to its shareholders."
On Saturday, the day before the deadline, protesters amassed in Parliament Hill wearing hazardous-materials suits and carrying a fake pipeline. One of the protesters, Aaron Thornell, said, "I think that this investment sets us down a completely wrong and long path that will not lead to the [clean energy] transition. Another, Pat Taylor, added, "It's just crazy. And you know, I have a son. I think about my grandchildren to come and it just breaks my heart."
The formal sale now looks likely to be approved next month, or in September. It is undoubtable that more people will die from the global heatwave in the meantime. But that won't worry Trudeau who is on holiday. Ironically, in British Columbia.
236 Civil Society Groups to Justin Trudeau: 'The Time for Investment in New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Is Over'… https://t.co/MYATeBUbyc— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1527213627.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Oil Change International.
By Sharon Kelly
The petrochemical industry anticipates spending a total of over $200 billion on factories, pipelines, and other infrastructure in the U.S. that will rely on shale gas, the American Chemistry Council announced in September. Construction is already underway at many sites.
This building spree would dramatically expand the Gulf Coast's petrochemical corridor (known locally as "Cancer Alley")—and establish a new plastics and petrochemical belt across states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
If those projects are completed, analysts predict the U.S. would flip from one of the world's highest-cost producers of plastics and chemicals to one of the cheapest, using raw materials and energy from fracked gas wells in states like Texas, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Those petrochemical plans could have profound consequences for a planet already showing signs of dangerous warming and a cascade of other impacts from climate change.
The gathering wave of construction comes as the Trump administration works to deregulate American industry and roll back pollution controls, putting the U.S. at odds with the rest of the world's efforts to slow climate change.
Trump announced in June 2017 that the U.S. had halted all implementation of the 2015 Paris agreement and intends to fully withdraw. America is now the world's only state refusing participation in the global agreement to curb climate change (after Syria, the final holdout, signed in November 2017).
This petrochemical industry expansion—much of it funded by foreign investors—makes America's refusal to participate in the Paris agreement all the more significant, because much of this new U.S. infrastructure would be built outside of the greenhouse gas agreement affecting the rest of the globe.
If American policy makers approve this wave of new plastics and petrochemical plants with little regard to curbing climate change and reducing fossil fuel use, environmentalists warn, they'll be greenlighting hundreds of billions of dollars of investment into projects at risk of becoming stranded assets.
From Rust Belt to Plastics Belt
Some of the largest and most expensive petrochemical projects in the U.S. are planned in the Rust Belt states of Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York, a region that has suffered for decades from the collapse of the domestic steel industry but that has relatively little experience with the kind of petrochemical complexes that are now primarily found on the Gulf Coast.
In November 2017, the China Energy Investment Corp., signed a Memorandum of Understanding with West Virginia that would result in the construction of $83.7 billion in plastics and petrochemicals projects over the next 20 years in that state alone—a huge slice of the $202.4 billion U.S. total. Those plans have run into snags due to trade disputes between the U.S. and China and a corruption probe, though Chinese officials said in late August that investment was moving forward.
The petrochemical industry's interest is spurred by the fact that the region's Marcellus and Utica shales contain significant supplies of so-called "wet gas." This wet gas often is treated as a footnote in discussions of fracking, which tend to focus on the methane gas, called "dry gas" by industry—and not the ethane, propane, butane and other hydrocarbons that also come from those same wells.
Those "wet" fossil fuels and chemical feedstocks are commonly referred to as "natural gas liquids," or NGLs, because they are delivered to customers condensed into a liquid form—like the liquid butane trapped in a Bic lighter, which expands into a stream of flammable gas when you flick that lighter on.
Ethane can represent a surprising amount of the fossil fuel from a fracked shale well, particularly in the Marcellus. For every 6,000 cubic feet of methane (the energy equivalent of the industry's standard 42 gallon barrel of oil), Marcellus wet gas wells can produce up to roughly 35 gallons of ethane, based on data reported by the American Oil and Gas Reporter in 2011.
And U.S. ethane production is projected to grow dramatically. By 2022, the region will produce roughly 800,000 barrels of ethane per day, up from 470,000 barrels a day in 2017, according to energy consultant RBN Energy.
That supply glut is driving down ethane prices in the Rust Belt.
"The lowest price ethane on the planet is here in this region," Brian Anderson, director of the West Virginia University Energy Institute, told the NEP Northeast U.S. Petrochemical Construction conference in Pittsburgh in June.
Chemicals and the Climate
Image projected onto Houston petrochemical plant during the Houston Toxic Tour, 2017.Backbone Campaign, CC BY 2.0
The petrochemical and plastics industries are notoriously polluting, not only when it comes to toxic air pollution and plastic waste, but also because of the industry's significant greenhouse gas footprint—affecting not only the U.S., but the entire world.
"The chemical and petrochemical sector is by far the largest industrial energy user, accounting for roughly 10 percent of total worldwide final energy demand and 7 percent of global [greenhouse gas] emissions," the International Energy Agency reported in 2013. Since then the numbers have crept up, with the IEA finding petrochemicals responsible for an additional percentage point of the world's total energy consumption in 2017.
Carbon emissions from petrochemical and plastics manufacturing are expected to grow 20 percent by 2030 (in other words, in just over a decade), the IEA concluded in a report released Oct. 5. A few days later, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that by 2030, the world needs to have reduced its greenhouse gas pollution 45 percent from 2010 levels, in order to achieve the goal of limiting global warming to a less-catastrophic 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
The petrochemicals industry has so far drawn relatively little attention from oil and gas analysts and policy makers. "Petrochemicals are one of the key blind spots in the global energy debate, especially given the influence they will exert on future energy trends," Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA's executive director, said in a statement this month.
"In fact," he added, "our analysis shows they will have a greater influence on the future of oil demand than cars, trucks and aviation."
The new investments, which will rely on decades of continued fracking in the U.S, offer the oil and gas industry a serious hedge against competition from renewable energy, even in the event that climate policies push fossil fuel energy to the margins.
"Unlike refining, and ultimately unlike oil, which will see a moment when the growth will stop, we actually don't anticipate that with petrochemicals," Andrew Brown, upstream director for Royal Dutch Shell, told the San Antonio Express News in March.
The planned infrastructure could also help bail out the heavily indebted shale drilling industry financially by consuming vast amounts of fossil fuels, both for power and as a raw material.
The American Chemistry Council has linked 333 chemical industry projects, all announced since 2010, to shale gas—that is, gas that is produced using fracking. Forty-one percent of those projects are still in the planning phase as of September, according to the council, and 68 percent of the projects are linked to foreign investment.
State regulators in Texas and Louisiana have already issued permits that would allow a group of 74 petrochemical and liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects along the Gulf Coast to add 134 million tons of greenhouse gases a year to the atmosphere, an Environmental Integrity Project analysis found in September. The group said that was equal to the pollution from running 29 new coal power plants around the clock.
The expansion of plastics manufacturing in America also has environmentalists worried over a plastics pollution crisis. "We could be locking in decades of expanded plastics production at precisely the time the world is realizing we should use far less of it," Carroll Muffett, president of the U.S. Center for International Environmental Law, told The Guardian in December 2017.
This story is part of Fracking for Plastics, a DeSmog investigation into the proposed petrochemical build-out in the Rust Belt and the major players involved.
The petrochemical industry transforms ethane and other raw material into a huge range of products, including not only plastic, but also vinyl, fertilizers, Styrofoam, beauty products, chemicals and pesticides.
The petrochemicals industry itself straddles an uncomfortable fence when it comes to renewable energy and climate change. A significant portion of its revenue comes from "clean" technology sectors, as it provides materials used to make batteries and electric cars.
One report last year concluded that roughly 20 percent of the industry's revenue comes from products designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the American Chemistry Council cited the industry's role supplying "materials and technologies that improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions," as it opposed Trump's decision to drop out of the Paris agreement.
But petrochemical manufacturers are also heavily reliant on fossil fuels. They need them to power and supply a dreamed-of "manufacturing renaissance," as the ExxonMobil-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute explained as it pushed for Trump to abandon the Paris agreement.
Plans to use American shale gas would also link petrochemicals to the expansion of fracking, which carries its own environmental concerns. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's landmark study on fracking and drinking water concluded in 2016 that fracking has led to water contamination and poses continued risks to American water supplies.
In addition, though conversations about climate change usually focus on carbon emissions, the gas industry has such a bad methane leak problem that using natural gas can be even worse for the climate than burning coal.
Pittsburgh and Paris
Climate implications make a petrochemical build-out risky, not only from an environmental perspective, but also from a fiscal perspective, Mark Dixon, co-founder of NoPetroPA, which opposes fracking-based petrochemicals projects, told DeSmog.
One plant, Shell's $6 billion ethane "cracker" plant currently under construction in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, has permits to pump 2.25 million tons of CO2 equivalent per year into the air near Pittsburgh, roughly equal to the annual carbon pollution from 430,000 cars.
Industry advocates say the region can produce enough ethane to support up to seven more ethane cracker plants like Shell's.
"We're trying to drop our emissions 50 percent by 2030," Dixon said, referring to Pittsburgh's highly touted plans to comply with international climate targets despite the federal government's withdrawal from the Paris agreement. "The Shell cracker alone will decimate that."
A kayaker protests against Shell's cracker project outside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in June 2018.Mark Dixon, CC BY 2.0
International negotiators met in Bangkok in September to hash out details on how the Paris agreement will be implemented. The U.S., which participated in talks despite the Trump administration's intention to withdraw from the accord, faced criticism over working to delay clarity over the agreement's financing (nonetheless, a top UN negotiator praised "good progress" from the talks).
While the Paris agreement is not directly binding, globally there has been discussion of using trade agreements and tariffs to pressure countries that fail to keep up with their carbon-cutting commitments.
In February, the European Union (EU) declared that it will not sign new trade agreements with any country that refuses to get on board with the Paris agreement.
"One of our main demands is that any country who signs a trade agreement with EU should implement the Paris agreement on the ground," France's foreign affairs minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne told the French Parliament. "No Paris agreement, no trade agreement."
"They're already shooting across the bow, saying look, you've got to implement the Paris climate agreement," Dixon told DeSmog. "We could very well spend 10 years building an infrastructure to support fracking all over the region, crackers, ethane, plastics, everything, then have Europe say, 'sorry, you can't do that. You have to shut it down.'"
In other words, whether or not the U.S. puts its signature on the climate pact's dotted line, the pressure from trading partners to reduce greenhouse gas pollution—and the underlying concerns about the rapidly warming climate—could remain the same.
That said, while the U.S. is the only country to reject Paris on paper, it is far from the only country on track to miss its targets aimed at warding off catastrophic climate change. Only Morocco and The Gambia are projected to hit "Paris Agreement Compatible" targets, according to the Climate Action Tracker (whose rating tracker includes many major polluters but not all countries worldwide).
The EU itself currently earns a rating of "insufficient" from the group (China is ranked "highly insufficient," while the U.S. and four other nations earned the worst "critically insufficient" grade).
The next several years will determine the future of petrochemical production for decades to come, crucial years when it comes to the fate of the climate, if industry gets its timing right—particularly in the Rust Belt.
"The window to make this all work is not forever," Charles Schliebs of Stone Pier Capital Advisors told the NEP Northeast U.S. Petrochemical Construction conference in June. "It's maybe two to five years."
That means key decisions may be made while Donald Trump remains in office—though state and local regulators will also face important calls over permits and construction planning.
For some living near the center of the planned petrochemical expansion, the problem is readily apparent.
"We're not going to be able to double down on fossil fuels," Dixon said, "and comply with the Paris climate agreement."
The Link Between Fossil Fuels, Single-Use Plastics and Climate Change https://t.co/dNvbx9e4r9 @PlasticPollutes @GreenNewsDaily— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1525383607.0
Follow the DeSmog investigative series, Fracking for Plastics, and get your questions answered with the Field Guide to the Petrochemical and Plastics Industry.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
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The theme for this year's World Environment Day, the world's largest environmental celebration which takes place June 5, is "Beat Plastic Pollution." In honor of the occasion, UN Environment released the first ever "state of plastics" report, tracking government action against plastic waste, a UN Environment press release reported.
The report, titled "Single-Use Plastics: A Roadmap for Sustainability," found that more than 60 countries have introduced bans or levies on single-use plastics, and that bans and levies are one of the most effective ways to reduce the use of disposable plastic items.
"The assessment shows that action can be painless and profitable—with huge gains for people and the planet that help avert the costly downstream costs of pollution," head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said in the report's foreword. "Plastic isn't the problem. It's what we do with it."
The report summed up the extent of the plastic pollution crisis: Only 9 percent of all plastics ever produced have been recycled, while 12 percent have been incinerated and a full 79 percent have ended up in landfills, dumps, or the environment. Plastic bags are especially a concern and, with Styrofoam, have been the leading subject of plastic product bans. They have been found blocking waterways and worsening natural disasters, blocking sewers and providing a breeding site for disease-carrying insects, and blocking the stomachs and airways of animals like the whale that died in Thailand this weekend after consuming more than 80 of them.
Fifty percent of the countries that have implemented bans or levies did not have sufficient data to assess the environmental impact of the policies; of the other 50 percent, 30 percent of the bans significantly reduced the use of plastic bags within a year and 20 percent had little impact, either due to poor enforcement or lack of alternatives.
One success story was Morocco, where 421 tonnes of bags were seized after a ban and replaced almost entirely by fabrics. A failed case was Botswana, where a levy on retailers was issued but not enforced, the BBC reported.
The report also recommended that bans and levies be joined by positive measures such as improving waste management, moving towards a circular plastic production and consumption model and providing financial incentives for businesses and customers to develop and use alternative materials.Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the report with Solheim in New Delhi Tuesday. India is this year's host country for World Environment Day, which was established by the UN in 1972 and first celebrated in 1974.
UN's #BeatPlasticPollution Tag Is the New Ice Bucket Challenge https://t.co/o3fIhtHEeW @savingoceans @PlasticPollutes— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1527852906.0