The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Utah High Schoolers Convinced State Lawmakers to Admit Climate Change Is Real
Utah's state lawmakers aren't exactly friendly to climate change legislation. Their Republican governor said in 2015 that man-made climate change is "a little debatable." In 2010, the state legislature overwhelmingly passed a resolution that implied global warming is a conspiracy and urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop all carbon dioxide reduction policies and programs.
But thanks to a group of fearless high schoolers, Gov. Gary Herbert reversed the 2010 measure this past March, with the support of 75 percent of Republican legislators.
The resolution, which Herbert signed on March 20, "encourages the responsible stewardship of natural resources and reduction of emissions through incentives and support of the growth in technologies and services that will enlarge the economy."
This valiant, two-year effort was detailed in a High Country News op-ed this week by Jack Greene, a retired high school teacher who works with Utah students on environmental issues.
According to Greene, a group of students at Logan High School were shocked after learning about the 2010 resolution and sprung to action. He described how the students have already witnessed Utah's longer and more intense fire seasons, a dwindling snowpack and increasing water scarcity.
"My generation and generations to come will inherit the many threats that climate change poses," student Piper Chirstian told Greene.
They eventually drafted their own bill and gathered support from grassroots groups, business coalitions and key lawmakers.
In 2017, they enlisted Republican legislator Rep. Becky Edwards to sponsor the resolution, "Economic and Environmental Stewardship."
Although this attempt failed, the students did not give up, and "partnered with a coalition of advocacy organizations, whose volunteers met with representatives from nearly every Utah political district," Greene reported.
The bill's supporters pled to legislators to consider the effects of climate change on the state's future.
"We, as youth leaders of Utah, have assembled with you, our state leaders, to address what we consider to be the paramount issue of our generation—that of a changing climate," one student said.
During the 2018 legislative general session, after impassioned testimony from the students, the bill gained traction. It made it out of committee by an 8-2 vote, Green wrote, "then, at last, came success as the House passed the resolution 51-21 and the Senate 23-3."
Those opposed to the bill included Rep. Mike Noel. As quoted by The Salt Lake Tribute, Noel told the students: "This whole issue of climate change has been used by organizations to fool people."
The Utah Legislature, however, was no fool.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.