By Paul E McGinniss
Dirty, soot covered snow in Cony Island, New York. Photo courtesy e-arcades.com
As a native New Yorker, I know soot. Talk to anyone in NYC and they will tell you they've wiped soot off their faces, window sills, car windows and picnic tables.
Fortunately, on Dec. 14, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new clean air standards which will reduce harmful soot in the atmosphere by putting limits on emissions of fine particulate matter or PM2.5, one of the deadliest and most dangerous forms of air pollution. The new standard will reduce soot pollution by 20 percent. Soot pollution causes thousands of premature deaths every year across the U.S. through a variety of cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses.
And certainly the U.S. is not alone. A report out today by Greenpeace East Asia, estimated 8,572 premature deaths occurred in four major Chinese cities in 2012, due to high levels of PM2.5.
Even the Arctic is suffering from the world's high soot levels. James Balog and his Extreme Ice Survey Team, who bravely captured the Arctic glaciers disappearing as a result of global warming in the must see film, Chasing Ice, probably feels somewhat relieved that the U.S. EPA mandated new soot standards. Soot, also known as black carbon, is a significant contributor to climate change which Balog talks about in his film. According to a 2010 study by Dr. Mark Jacobson of Stanford University in the Journal of Geophysical Research, reducing black carbon emissions in the next 15 years could be the best and only way to save the Arctic ice from warmer temperatures.
Check out this video of Dr. Jacobson talking about his study Soot Is Second Leading Cause of Global Warming:
Clearly the U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson understands the value of stronger clean air standards. She said in a statement:
“These standards are fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act. We will save lives and reduce the burden of illness in our communities, and families across the country will benefit from the simple fact of being able to breathe cleaner air.
However, some industry groups acting like dinosaurs from ages long past, such as the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the American Petroleum Institute (API), oppose these tougher emissions restrictions.
Dinosaur-in-Chief, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons, stated in a press release:
“With the fiscal cliff only a few weeks away and so much hanging in the balance, the EPA displayed a staggering level of shortsightedness by dropping another harsh regulation on America’s job creators."
But is protecting the health of Americans and our environment really shortsighted and a cost that businesses can't afford?
The API, another, shall we say, "not progressive" trade group representing an industry experiencing record profits, thinks businesses can't afford to protect the environment or the health of Americans, including their own employees.
Howard Feldman, API director of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs, said about the EPA’s new standards:
"The collective impacts of these and other potential new regulations at a time when 12 million Americans are still unemployed would be a blow to our economy as it struggles to recover and put Americans back to work. It makes no sense to risk economic harm when the public health necessity of these regulations is ambiguous at best."
Fortunately, many American businesses don't buy the jobs vs. the environment ploy and believe that a strong, sustainable economy is only achievable when you have healthy people and a healthy planet.
Grain Processing Corporation (GPC) in Muscatine, Iowa, is demonstrating that they can stay in business while meeting the tougher new environmental standards. Janet R. Sichterman, corporate spokesperson for GPC, told EcoWatch today by email:
“Grain Processing Corporation has an ongoing commitment to the health and safety of our community. We are well on our way to reducing our environmental impact with the construction of a new $100 million dryer house.
"Operational in 2015, this new dryer house alone will enable GPC to reduce total emissions by 72 percent in less than three years and by 82 percent by 2020.
"This $100 million environmental renovation will allow GPC to slash emissions and achieve the new air quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency long before they take effect.”
Of course it will take time to see progress from these new regulations, especially considering that 66 counties in the U.S. haven't even reached the air quality required by the old soot standard. If you live in greater Cleveland, Ohio, or the New York City metro region including New Jersey, Connecticut and Long Island, or one of the many parts of California as shown in the map to the right, you breathe air every day that is classified as non-attainment air quality.
Is it too much to ask for the snow falling on NYC to stay white for longer than a New York Minute?
Paul E McGinniss is The New York Green Advocate. He is a green building consultant and real estate broker in New York. He is pretty much obsessed with all things environment and has lately become a resiliency addict. Follow McGinniss @PaulEMcGinniss.
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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World's Richest One Percent Are Producing More Than Double the Carbon Emissions as the Bottom 50 Percent
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.
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