Trump Administration Buries Government-Funded Studies Showing Dangers of Climate Change
The Trump administration ratcheted up its open hostility to climate science in a move that may hide essential information from the nation's farmers.
The administration put the kibosh on publicizing work done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) own scientists that carried warnings about the long-term repercussions of the climate crisis, according to a report by Politico.
None of the studies were political in nature. In fact, they all went through peer-review and were cleared by the non-partisan Agriculture Research Service, a leading source of scientific findings for farmers and consumers. Furthermore, none of the studies looked at the causes of the climate crisis. Instead, they examined the effects of increases in carbon dioxide, rising temperatures and volatile weather, according to Politico.
Some of the studies are groundbreaking and essential information for human-health around the world, such as findings that rice loses vitamins in carbon-rich environments — a potentially dire cause of malnutrition for the 600 million people around the globe who consume rice as their main food source. The studies also found that climate change could reduce the nutritional quality of several grasses important to raising cattle, which could affect future beef and dairy supplies. Another study found that climate change could worsen and extend seasonal allergies, as Politico reported.
Politico found that the USDA not only refused to publicize the studies, but kept them off its own website.
Of course, the studies landed in the USDA, which is run by Sonny Perdue, who is openly hostile to climate science and denies the climate crisis.
"Climate change, we're told, is responsible for heavy rains and drought alike. Whether temperatures are unseasonably low or high, global warming is the culprit. Snowstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes have been around since the beginning of time, but now they want us to accept that all of it is the result of climate change," he wrote in the National Review in 2014. "It's become a running joke among the public, and liberals have lost all credibility when it comes to climate science because their arguments have become so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality."
In the rice study, the USDA not only squashed their own press release, but also sought to prevent the agency's research partners from publicizing the findings, according to Politico.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Washington who collaborated with scientists in the USDA as well as in Japan, China and Australia. Their findings that, as carbon levels increase, rice will lose protein, minerals and essential vitamins, passed through intensive peer-review.
Yet, the USDA urged the University of Washington not to publicize the study. The USDA was "adamant that there was not enough data to be able to say what the paper is saying, and that others may question the science," a UW communications director wrote in an email, as Politico reported.
Researchers argue that the Agriculture Department's maneuvers not only damage its own credibility but also show a nefarious intrusion of politics into science.
"Why the hell is the U.S., which is ostensibly the leader in science research, ignoring this?" said one USDA scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid the possibility of retaliation, as Politico reported. "It's not like we're working on something that's esoteric … we're working on something that has dire consequences for the entire planet."
"You can only postpone reality for so long," the researcher added.
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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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