Category Archives: Cancer

EnviroWatch: Species, air, water, bugs, & fuels


We begin with the first major downer of the day, via the Independent:

Earth could face sixth mass extinction within 100 years

The earth could face a mass extinction by the next century if species continue to disappear at the current rate, according to a report by the scientific journal Nature.

Despite conservation attempts by governments across the world to save endangered species, thousands of animal types continue to face extinction every year.

Nature found that 41 per cent of all amphibian species are threatened with extinction, the highest at risk group. A more modest, but still alarming, 26 per cent of mammal species and 13 per cent of bird species are also threatened.

And from the New York Times, the first of three headlines abut the same event:

Climate Deal Would Commit Every Nation to Limiting Emissions

Negotiators from around the globe reached a climate change agreement early Sunday that would, for the first time in history, commit every nation to reducing its rate of greenhouse gas emissions — yet would still fall far short of what is needed to stave off the dangerous and costly early impact of global warming.

The agreement reached by delegates from 196 countries establishes a framework for a climate change accord to be signed by world leaders in Paris next year. While United Nations officials had been scheduled to release the plan on Friday at noon, longstanding divisions between rich and poor countries kept them wrangling through Friday and Saturday nights to early Sunday.

The agreement requires every nation to put forward, over the next six months, a detailed domestic policy plan to limit its emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases from burning coal, gas and oil. Those plans, which would be published on a United Nations website, would form the basis of the accord to be signed next December and enacted by 2020.

That basic structure represents a breakthrough in the impasse that has plagued the United Nations’ 20 years of efforts to create a serious global warming deal. Until now, negotiations had followed a divide put in place by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which required developed countries to act but did not demand anything of developing nations, including China and India, two of the largest greenhouse gas polluters.

Next, via, a less affirmative headline from CBC News:

UN climate negotiators pass watered-down deal in Lima

  • Wide range of options on the table for global deal at 2015 conference in Paris

Negotiators have reached a watered-down deal at U.N. talks in Peru that sets the stage for a global climate pact in Paris next year.

The Lima agreement was reached early Sunday after late-night wrangling between rich and poor countries.

About 190 nations agreed on the building blocks of a deal to combat climate change in 2015 amid warnings that far tougher action will be needed to cut rising world greenhouse gas emissions.

Finally, the downer, via the Observer:

World set for climate disaster, say activists, as Lima talks falter

  • Proposals too weak to keep global warming to the agreed limit of two degrees above pre-industrial levels

Frustrated climate campaigners have claimed that the world was on course for an unsustainable four-degree rise in temperatures, as two weeks of negotiations for a climate change agreement headed for an unsatisfying conclusion.

The proposals, still under discussion on Saturday, a day after the talks were scheduled to end, were too weak to keep global warming to the agreed limit of two degrees above preindustrial levels, setting the world on course to a climate disaster, according to developing countries at the summit.

“We are on a path to three or four degrees with this outcome,” said Tasneem Essop, international climate strategist for WWF.

She said the final draft text, a five-page document put forward for approval on Saturday, offered little assurance of cutting emissions fast enough and deeply enough to curb warming. “We are really unhappy about the weakening of the text. This gives us no level of comfort that we will be able to close the emissions gap to get emissions to peak before 2020,” she said. Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development, put it even more succinctly: “It sucks. It is taking us backwards.”

CBC News looks ahead:

Rising sea levels could make Florida residents ‘climate refugees’

  • 3.5 million Canadians travel to the sunshine state every year

Florida’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change doesn’t seem at first blush to be a Canadian issue.

But every year, some 3.5 million Canadians travel to the sunshine state. What’s more, about half a million Canadians own property in Florida, much of it at risk from rising sea levels.

A lot of that property, particularly if it’s situated along one of the coveted stretches of Miami’s fabled beaches, could well be worthless and literally underwater in a few decades, says Harold Wanless, the chair of the department of Geological Sciences at the University of Miami.

His word for the future of Miami and much south Florida? Doomed.

The “monster” in climate change, as Wanless sees it, is a warming ocean. Sea levels will rise because water expands as it gets warmer, and oceans are taking up vast amounts of heat produced by global warming.

And the Observer looks at one dry spell not attributed to climate change [or some day]:

American drought: California’s crisis

A storm has hit California, but that’s not going to end the ‘worst drought in a generation’ that is turning much of the centre of the state into a dust bowl. Chris McGreal reports on the drought bringing one of the richest states in America to its knees

Esidronio Arreola never gave much thought to the well that so reliably pumped water to his traditional clapboard house in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. But one day in March, he opened the tap and all he got was air.

Through the searing summer heat, the Mexican immigrant to California’s Central Valley and his family endured a daily routine of collecting water in his pickup truck from an emergency communal tank, washing from buckets and struggling to keep their withering orchard alive while they waited for snow to return to the mountains and begin the cycle of replenishing the aquifer that provides water to almost all the homes in the region.

But as more of Arreola’s neighbours in East Porterville, a ramshackle, low-income town in sprawling Tulare County, reported their wells running dry, and state officials warned that the most severe drought in living memory may well extend into 2015 and beyond, he realised he might not have water for years to come.

So Arreola, who makes his living dealing in old fridges and washing machines from his garage, bit the bullet and borrowed the lion’s share of the $11,000 it cost to drill a new well four times as deep as his old one. In mid-November, seven months after the pipes went dry, water began flowing to his taps again. Arreola just doesn’t know for how long.

Another water problem, via Want China Times:

Yangtze water not a cure-all for Beijing’s thirst

Beijing is looking to water from the Yangtze river to ease its drought, but experts say the ambitious south-to-north water diversion project is not a cure-all for the capital’s thirst.

With Yangtze water piped in, Beijing will have 150 cubic meters per person, an increase of 50%, according to figures provided by the Beijing water authority.

It said the Chinese capital’s per capita water volume is currently 100 cubic meters, only 1.25% of the world’s average level.

Beijing needs at least 3.6 billion cubic meters of water a year to supply its 20 million residents and to keep local businesses running, but its own water supply was only 2.1 billion cubic meters annually in the past decade.

“The city is facing a severe water crisis,” said Xu Xinyi, a water conservancy specialist with Beijing Normal University. “It’s like five people stuffed into a room designed for two.”

Protest over anticipated water problems to come, via TheLocal.es:

Protesters strip off to oppose Repsol plans

Protesters plunged half-naked into the icy sea and unfurled banners Saturday to try to stop oil prospecting near Spain’s Canary Islands, a major tourist destination.

Ten boats from the archipelago took protesters eight nautical miles from where Spanish firm Repsol is exploring with a view to possibly drilling off the islands in the Atlantic ocean.

Protesters warn the oil and gas project is a threat to the environment and the tourist industry on which the Canary Islands rely.

They say drilling would raise the risk of an oil spill like the Deepwater Horizon disaster that struck at a BP oil prospect in the Gulf of Mexico in
2010.

And from Want China Times, another water protest:

Thousands take to street in Nicaragua to protest China canal deal

A massive demonstration rocked Nicaragua’s capital of Managua as protestors opposed to the construction of a US$50 billion Nicaragua Canal took to the streets on Wednesday. Protesters said the construction will damage local freshwater sources and the environment, reports Shanghai-based newspaper the Paper.

Some protesters held banners reading “Chinese gets out!” and “No canal.” The project, which is to begin construction on Dec. 22 and scheduled to be completed in 2019, will dwarf the neighboring Panama Canal. It will be 278 kilometers in length and pass through Central America’s largest lake.

Chinese-funded Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment won the bid for the project and the right to operate the canal and its facilities for 100 years. One protester said he does not want to see the lake being cut in half and the fact that a foreign company will operate the canal for a century means that not even his children will see benefits from the project.

From Want China Times yet again, China’s killer air:

Air pollution cause of high lung cancer rate in China: experts

China’s chronic air pollution is being named the key culprit behind the prevalence of lung cancer, with cases predicted to top 1 million by 2025, the highest worldwide, according to Chinese-language Economic Information.

Lung cancer has topped the list of cancers in China, passing liver cancer as the number of lung-cancer patients has doubled every 10-15 years in the past decades, according to statistics of the National Cancer Registration Center.

China now has 3.12 million new cancer cases a year and over 2 million Chinese people die of cancer annually. The number of lung-cancer patients has been increasing at an annual clip of 26.9% in recent years, with the disease’s mortality rate surging 465% over the past 30 years, which makes it the most lethal cancer, according to NCRC data.

From VOA Video, another report about the intersection of things inhaled and lung health:

Gold Miners Join Class Action Suit in South Africa Over Lung Disease

Program notes:

Five of South Africa’s largest gold mining companies recently announced they will create a working group to deal with the issue of occupational lung disease. This move comes as the sector faces what could be South Africa’s biggest-ever class action lawsuit. More than 25,000 miners are seeking compensation from gold mining companies, saying they failed to protect them from Silicosis, a debilitating and incurable lung disease. Emilie IOB reports from South Africa and neighboring Lesotho.

From JapanToday, amazing if confirmed:

Tohoku University team discovers blue light is effective at killing insects

And now in a report published in Scientific Reports, a team of researchers from Tohoku University have found a new use for blue LED. When used in the right frequency it can be an effective, safe, clean, and cheap way to kill insects. For the first time, they showed that visible light around the blue part of the spectrum is lethal to insects such as mosquitoes and fruit flies.

In the experiment, the team of Masatoshi Hori, Kazuki Shibuya, Mitsunari Sato, and Yoshino Sato gathered samples of three species of insects; fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), London Underground mosquito (Culex pipiens f. molestus), and confused flour beetles (Tribolium confusum). The names of these bugs are probably worthy of their own article, but we can’t get sidetracked now.

The team then hit these insects with different intensities of colored lights at different stages of their development from egg to adult. Interestingly, they found that wavelengths of light from ultraviolet (378 nanometers) to visible blue-green (508nm) killed off the bugs, whereas wavelengths of light in red and yellow had essentially no effect.

Even more interestingly, the wavelength of light did not directly correspond to its lethalness. For example, fruit flies dropped dead with under a 467nm far more efficiently than with any other longer or shorter wavelengths. Mosquitoes on the other hand were weaker to a more lavender 417nm wavelength light. When swapped, only a few fruit flies went down under 417nm, whereas mosquitoes barely flinched at the 467nm light.

And from CBC News, another grab for Arctic oil, gas, and minerals:

Denmark says Greenland subsea ridge gives it a claim to North Pole

  • Denmark says scientific data shows Greenland’s continental shelf is connected to a ridge beneath the Arctic Ocean, giving Danes a claim to the North Pole and any potential energy resources beneath it.

Denmark will deliver a claim on Monday to a United Nations panel in New York that will eventually decide control of the area, which Russia and Canada are also coveting, Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said.

Lidegaard told the Associated Press he hopes the other nations that also have made claims in the Arctic will continue to keep to “the rules of the game.”

The United States, Russia, Norway, Canada and Denmark all have areas surrounding the North Pole, but only Canada and Russia had indicated an interest in it before Denmark’s claim.

EnviroWatch: Health, land, water, nukes, more


We begin with the fruits of over-prescribed antibiotics, poorly compliant patients, and endless dosing of livestock crammed together in factory farms, via BBC News:

Superbugs to kill ‘more than cancer’ by 2050

Drug resistant infections will kill an extra 10 million people a year worldwide – more than currently die from cancer – by 2050 unless action is taken, a study says.

They are currently implicated in 700,000 deaths each year.

The analysis, presented by the economist Jim O’Neill, said the costs would spiral to $100tn (£63tn). He was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron in July to head a review of antimicrobial resistance.

Mr O’Neill told the BBC: “To put that in context, the annual GDP [gross domestic product] of the UK is about $3tn, so this would be the equivalent of around 35 years without the UK contribution to the global economy.”

Médecins Sans Frontières battles another lethal epidemic in the Ebola hot zone:

Sierra Leone: 1.5 million people in a country affected by Ebola receive drugs to prevent malaria

As part of its ongoing emergency response to Ebola in West Africa, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has carried out the largest-ever distribution of antimalarials in Sierra Leone, alongside the Ministry of Health. Teams distributed 1.5 million antimalarial treatments to residents of Freetown and five districts in the surrounding Western Area over four days, with the aim of protecting people from malaria during the disease’s peak season.

“In the context of Ebola, malaria is a major concern, because people who are sick with malaria have the same symptoms as people sick with Ebola,” said Patrick Robataille, MSF field coordinator in Freetown. “As a result, most people turn up at Ebola treatment centres thinking that they have Ebola, when actually they have malaria. It’s a huge load on the system, as well as being a huge stress on patients and their families.”

Sierra Leone has the fifth highest prevalence of malaria globally, and the disease is the biggest killer of children under five in the country. Malaria symptoms include high fever, dizziness, headaches, muscle aches and fatigue, many of which are similar to the symptoms of early stage Ebola.

The United News Press Center covers food worries:

UN agency reports record cereal crop as Ebola, conflict threaten food security

Despite world cereal production likely to reach an all-time record of more than 2.5 billion tonnes in 2014, a total of 38 countries are at risk of food insecurity, including 29 in Africa, with food insecurity worsening in several countries due to civil conflicts, adverse weather and the Ebola outbreak, according to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report released today.

The latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report shows that while bumper crops in Europe and a record maize output in the United States of America pushed cereal output 0.3 per cent higher than last year, agriculture and food sectors in many countries were hit by significant, damaging shocks.

In West Africa, the Ebola outbreak, which began when crops were being planted and gathered pace during the farming cycle, led to a reduced harvest. Rice and cassava prices showed “notable increases” in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, and other cities in September. Harvests were also reduced by bad weather in the Sahel region, with agricultural output in Senegal expected to be 38 per cent below average.

Conflict was responsible for serious impacts on food insecurity in several countries, including Syria, where a weak harvest, due to abandoned land, scarce labour, and damaged infrastructure, was exacerbating the effects of worsening civil conflict. An estimated 6.8 million Syrians – some refugees in neighbouring countries – faced severe food insecurity, with the situation in Iraq, where 2.8 million people were displaced, also acutely serious.

In the Central African Republic (CAR), increased violence, coupled with crop production 58 per cent below average, put one third of the population in need of urgent food assistance. Prices of agricultural commodities have shot up by as much as 70 per cent this year and one in four households has resorted to negative coping strategies, including selling productive assets and slaughtering livestock.

Pressure on food supplies also came from refugee movements, the report said, especially from Sudan’s Darfur region, northern Nigeria, the CAR and Mali. More than 6.5 million people need food and livelihood assistance in Chad, South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia.

From the Guardian, eugenic medicine in Old Blighty:

Devon drops plan to ban smokers and the obese from routine operations

  • Health bosses previously said that due cuts patients would need body mass index below 35, while smokers would have to quit

Health bosses in Devon have abandoned plans to ban smokers or the morbidly obese from undergoing routine operations until they quit the habit or lose weight.

The Northern, Eastern and Western Devon clinical commissioning group had previously said that due to temporary cost-cutting measures, patients would be expected to have a body mass index below 35, while smokers would have to quit eight weeks before surgery.

The proposals announced last week made national headlines and even led to one Labour MP claiming in the House of Commons that the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, and communities secretary, Eric Pickles, would be refused operations on smoking and weight grounds respectively.

The land game goes on, via the Los Angeles Times:

Massive bill would protect some wilderness, open other public land

A massive military policy bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last week, now awaiting approval by the Senate, contains something you might not expect: dozens of public-land measures that would redefine the use of hundreds of thousands of acres of wildland across America.

The bill, scheduled for a key procedural vote in the Senate on Thursday, designates nearly 250,000 acres of new wilderness in several Western states and places hundreds of thousands of additional acreage off-limits to drilling and mining. It also opens up more than 110,000 acres of wildlands as far away as Alaska for logging, oil and gas development, mining and infrastructure improvements.

It’s the biggest wilderness-lands bill since 2009, the product of a rough compromise that manages to protect such treasures as the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana while opening up majestic stands of old-growth timber in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to the chain saw. All of this is under the umbrella of a bill to authorize $585 billion needed to keep the U.S. military in business — who wants to vote no?

A grim statistic from BuzzFeed News:

There Are 48 Times More Pieces Of Plastic In The Ocean Than There Have Been Humans Ever

There are “at least 5.25 trillion plastic particles” in the world’s oceans, a new study found.

The study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, points out that “plastic pollution is ubiquitous throughout the marine environment.” To study the problem, scientists consequently embarked on a series of 24 expeditions to look at and haul up plastic. The researchers ultimately visited 1,571 locations around the world.

The researchers also estimated that all the plastic in the ocean weighs 268,940 tons. And that’s “highly conservative,” they wrote, because even more plastic may be lying around on beaches, inside animals, on the seabed, or hidden elsewhere in the water.

Of course, a lot of those pieces are very, very small. The study found that 92.4% of the particles were “microplastics” that are 4.75 millimeters or less thick. Still, most of those particles came from larger pieces breaking up. And larger “macroplastics” — things like fishing gear, old buoys, and bottles — actually contributed the most to the overall weight of the the oceans’ plastic content.

The energy flows, via the Guardian:

Tony Abbott says Australia may send uranium and coal to Ukraine

  • Prime minister tells Ukraine’s president exports from Australia could help secure Ukraine’s energy source

Australia is considering exporting coal and uranium to Ukraine it was announced, as the leaders of the two countries met for a historic state visit.

President Petro Poroshenko became the first Ukrainian leader to visit Australia, after accepting an invitation from the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, to discuss security issues in the wake of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in July.

“The MH17 atrocity has brought our countries together in a remarkable way,” Abbott told reporters on Thursday.

“I want to say thank you to you, Petro, for the help and assistance that Ukraine and your government gave to Australia and our citizens in the aftermath of that terrible atrocity. And coming from this tragedy, I believe will be a strong and lasting friendship between the Australian people and the Ukrainian people,” Abbott said.

After the jump, rhino horn trade explodes, government officials are suspected, and an ivory smuggling suspect is busted, Fukushima-pocalypse Now! ain’t goin’ green, and anti-nuclear activists target California’s last working nuclear power plant. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Disease, toxins, climate, nukes


And a whole lot more. . .

First, from the Guardian, the truly alarming:

Revealed: 100 safety breaches at UK labs handling potentially deadly diseases

  • Blunders led to live anthrax being posted from one lab and holes being found in isolation suits at a facility handling Ebola-infected animals

High-security laboratories that handle the most dangerous viruses and bacteria have reported more than 100 accidents or near-misses to safety regulators in the past five years, official reports reveal.

One blunder led to live anthrax being sent from a government facility to unsuspecting labs across the UK, a mistake that exposed other scientists to the disease. Another caused the failure of an air handling system that helped contain foot and mouth disease at a large animal lab.

Wear and tear also caused problems and potentially put researchers in danger. At a top security Ministry of Defence lab, tears were found in isolation suits at a facility handling animals infected with the Ebola virus.

Reports obtained by the Guardian from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal that more than 70 incidents at government, university and hospital labs were serious enough to investigate. Many led to enforcement letters, or crown prohibition notices (CPN), ordering labs to shut until improvements were made. Some were so serious they ended in legal action.

Another alarm from the New York Times:

‘Superbugs’ Kill India’s Babies and Pose an Overseas Threat

A deadly epidemic that could have global implications is quietly sweeping India, and among its many victims are tens of thousands of newborns dying because once-miraculous cures no longer work.

These infants are born with bacterial infections that are resistant to most known antibiotics, and more than 58,000 died last year as a result, a recent study found. While that is still a fraction of the nearly 800,000 newborns who die annually in India, Indian pediatricians say that the rising toll of resistant infections could soon swamp efforts to improve India’s abysmal infant death rate. Nearly a third of the world’s newborn deaths occur in India.

“Reducing newborn deaths in India is one of the most important public health priorities in the world, and this will require treating an increasing number of neonates who have sepsis and pneumonia,” said Dr. Vinod Paul, chief of pediatrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the leader of the study. “But if resistant infections keep growing, that progress could slow, stop or even reverse itself. And that would be a disaster for not only India but the entire world.”

Yet another alarm from the New York Times:

Chronic Diseases Are Killing More in Poorer Countries

Chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease are rising fast in low- and middle-income countries, striking far younger populations than in rich countries and causing much worse outcomes, according to a new report.

Deaths from chronic diseases have risen by more than 50 percent in low- and middle-income countries over the past two decades, according to the report, by the Council on Foreign Relations. The increase is part of a shift in global mortality patterns in which infectious diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, have declined substantially and are no longer the leading cause of death in the developing world.

The shift in poorer countries is being driven by urbanization and other major changes that have led to improvements in aspects of public health, such as hand washing, sanitation and vaccines. That has led to sharp declines in infant mortality, and in turn, to increases in life spans. The average life expectancy in Africa, for example, has increased by about eight years since 2000, according to the World Health Organization.

An early warning sign from Global Times:

China’s Fujian reports human bird flu case

East China’s Fujian Province on Wednesday reported a case of human infection of the H7N9 strain of bird flu.

The patient is a 27-year-old man from the city of Fuqing, the Fujian provincial health and family planning commission said in a statement.

The patient is in a critical condition and under observation at a hospital in the provincial capital of Fuzhou.

A corporate chemical alarm from the Center for Public Integrity:

Benzene and worker cancers: ‘An American tragedy’

  • Documents lay bare petrochemical industry’s $36 million ‘research strategy’ on carcinogen

Internal memorandums, emails, letters and meeting minutes obtained by the Center for Public Integrity over the past year suggest that America’s oil and chemical titans, coordinated by their trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, spent at least $36 million on research “designed to protect member company interests,” as one 2000 API summary put it. Many of the documents chronicle an unparalleled effort by five major petrochemical companies to finance benzene research in Shanghai, China, where the pollutant persists in workplaces. Others attest to the industry’s longstanding interest in such “concerns” as childhood leukemia.

Taken together, the documents — put in context by interviews with dozens of lawyers, scientists, academics, regulators and industry representatives — depict a “research strategy” built on dubious motives, close corporate oversight and painstaking public relations. They comprise an industry playbook to counteract growing evidence of benzene’s toxic effects, which continue to command the attention of federal and state regulators and be fiercely debated in court.

“The conspiracy exists, and the conspiracy involves hiding the true hazards of benzene at low doses,” said Robert Black, a Houston lawyer who represents plaintiffs in toxic tort cases. Since 2004, while handling dozens of lawsuits filed on behalf of workers sickened by leukemia, lymphoma and other diseases associated with benzene, Black has obtained 16,000 pages of internal records detailing the industry’s research tactics, which he shared with the Center. Other lawyers provided an additional 5,000 pages.

And the Daily Show looks at the pinkwashing another American corporate chemical carcinogenic stew:

Pink Fracking with John Stewart & Samantha Bee On The Daily Show

Program notes:

Energy giant Baker Hughes launches a breast cancer campaign despite the use of known carcinogens in fracking, and Samantha Bee identifies broader pinkwashing opportunities.

And on the subject of known carcinogens, this from Science:

Smoking erases Y chromosomes

If cancer, heart disease, and emphysema weren’t bad enough, male smokers may have another thing to worry about: losing their Y chromosomes. Researchers have found that smokers are up to four times more likely to have blood cells with no Y chromosome than nonsmokers. That’s worrisome, they say, because a recent study found an association between Y chromosome loss and a shorter life span, as well as a higher risk of multiple cancers.

There is, however, no direct proof that loss of Y sex chromosomes actually causes disease, cautions Stephen Chanock, a cancer geneticist at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, who was not involved with the work.

To conduct the study, molecular oncologist Jan Dumanski and statistician Lars Forsberg of Uppsala University in Sweden took advantage of data collected from three ongoing Swedish trials. The long-term studies are looking for associations between behavioral, lifestyle, or other traits and disease.

Playing hardball climate politics, via Reuters:

China says climate aid inadequate, especially Australia

Rich nations’ pledges of almost $10 billion to a green fund to help poor nations cope with global warming are “far from adequate”, particularly Australia’s lack of a donation, the head of China’s delegation at U.N. climate talks said on Thursday.

Su Wei also urged all rich nations to deepen their planned cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, signaling that a joint Chinese-U.S. announcement of greenhouse gas curbs last month does not mean an end to deep differences on climate policy.

Speaking during Dec. 1-12 talks in Lima, Su said donor pledges last month totaling $9.7 billion to a new U.N. Green Climate Fund (GCF), to help developing nations cut emissions and adapt to climate change, were only a small part of needed cash.

“It is far from adequate,” he told a news conference, noting that developed nations in 2009 agreed to mobilize $100 billion a year from both public and private sources by 2020 to help poor nations suffering droughts, heat waves, floods and rising seas.

More of the same from Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

India says will not be bulldozed at climate talks

India’s economy still is far behind that of China and government officials have argued in the past that this is why the South Asian country should not be obliged to curtail its carbon emissions.

India, the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, said on Thursday (Dec 4) it is committed to tackling global warming but vowed to protect its interests at the latest round of UN climate talks in Lima.

“We will walk with confidence with our own aggressive actions on climate change,” India’s environment minister Prakash Javadekar told Indian television network NDTV on the eve of his departure for the Peruvian capital.

United States and China, the world’s top two emitters of carbon dioxide, signed a landmark deal last month to work together to cut their carbon footprint.

California climate politics in Washington from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Latest California drought bill causes new dust-up

A new California water bill slated to hit the House floor next week would boost irrigation deliveries to farms south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, nudge along planning for new dams and capture more storm runoff for human use.

It would not authorize dam construction, repeal an ambitious San Joaquin River restoration plan or last longer than the state’s current drought.

And whether it survives or dies will almost certainly be up to the Senate, where California’s two Democrats are feeling the heat from every corner.

“I have carefully studied the Republican water bill and I am dismayed that this measure could reignite the water wars by overriding critical state and federal protections for California,” Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said late Wednesday.

BBC News covers a crisis in Africa:

African soil crisis threatens food security, says study

Neglecting the health of Africa’s soil will lock the continent into a cycle of food insecurity for generations to come, a report has warned. The publication by the Montpellier Panel said the problem needed to be given a higher priority by aid donors.

It added that soil degradation was also hampering economic development, costing the continent’s farmers billions of dollars in lost income. The study has been published ahead of the 2015 international year of soils.

The Montpellier Panel – made up of agricultural, trade and ecology experts from Europe and Africa – warned that land degradation reduced soil fertility, leading to lower crop yields and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

From the Montpellier Panel:

NO ORDINARY MATTER: CONSERVING, RESTORING AND ENHANCING AFRICA’S SOILS (2014)

Agriculture for Impact presented the new Montpellier Panel report ‘No Ordinary Matter: Conserving, Restoring and Enhancing Africa’s Soils’ on Thursday 4th December 2014 at the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome- ahead of World Soil Day on the 5th of December.

In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 65 per cent of soils are degraded, and unable to nourish the crops the chronically food insecure continent requires. Poverty, climate change, population pressures and inadequate farming techniques are leading to a continuous decline in the health of African soils, whilst the economic loss is estimated at USD 68 billion per year. Conversely, better land management practices could deliver up to USD 1.4 trillion globally in increased crop production – 35 times the losses.

This report from the Montpellier Panel argues that if left unaddressed, the cycle of poor land management will result in higher barriers to food security, agricultural development for smallholder farmers and wider economic growth for Africa.

BBC News covers drought Down Under:

Farmers set to receive A$100m drought aid from government

Farmers may soon receive as much as A$100m (£53m) in drought assistance from the Australian government.

The package will offer concessional loans at interest rates pegged at 3.2%.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said some farmers in Queensland had not earned any income for three years because of drought.

Much of Australia has received lower than usual amounts of rain this year, while the country has just experienced its hottest spring on record.

After the jump, India refuses to hew to climate demands, Europe eases up on GMO crop guidelines, a cocked, locked, and loaded fault on the U.S. Pacific Coast?, a massive pipeline leak in the Israeli desert, China drives massive online illegal wildlife trade, an endangered species win in California, the U.S. government screws the Indian out of their land once again, Japan eyes oceanic strip-mining, the Climate Game recolonization of Africa, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! with a coverup, an institute opened, and another consequence of N-plant shutdowns, major prison time demanded for Spanish nuclear plant protesters, and a case of statutory ape. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Politics, climate, ills, & nukes


But first, another of those superb climate videos from ScienceAtNASA:

ScienceCasts: Climate Change and the Yin-Yang of Polar Sea Ice

Program notes:

Arctic and Antarctic sea ice are both affected by climate change, but the two poles of Earth are behaving in intriguingly different ways.

On to the apocalyptic, via the Guardian:

Conservative lobby group Alec plans anti-environmental onslaught

  • Corporate lobbying network plans to draft bills attacking protections
  • Bills will reportedly aim to expand offshore oil drilling and cut EPA budget

The corporate lobbying network American Legislative Exchange Council, commonly known as Alec, is planning a new onslaught on a number of environmental protections next year when Republicans take control of Congress and a number of state legislatures.

The battle lines of Alec’s newest attack on environmental and climate measures will be formally unveiled on Wednesday, when the group begins three days of meetings in Washington DC.

On the agenda for its environment and energy task force are draft model bills that will seek to disband the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), expand offshore oil drilling, and weaken environmental protections for smog and other air pollutants, as well as roll back protections for endangered species.

And this is only the beginning, via BBC News:

World on course for warmest year

This year is in the running to be the hottest globally and for the UK since records began, early estimates show.

In the first 10 months of 2014, global average air temperature was about 0.57 Celsius above the long-term average. And the first eleven months in the UK have produced an average temperature 1.6C above the long-term.

A separate study by the UK Met Office says the observed temperatures would be highly unlikely without the influence of greenhouse gases produced by humans.

On a related note, via BBC News:

Major deltas ‘could be drowned’

Sea-level rise and river engineering “spell disaster” for many of the world’s river deltas, say scientists.

Half a billion people live in deltas, but the newly published research suggests many of these areas are set to be inundated by rising seas. Some of the lowest lying, including the Mekong and Mississippi, are particularly vulnerable.

The paper is published in the journal Nature. Lead researcher Dr Liviu Giosan, from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, said dams and other river engineering had exacerbated the problem by reducing the amount of sediment rivers could carry.

Messin’ with Texas via Public Radio International:

The ‘Texas miracle’ is fueling huge economic growth — and the climate change that may end it

There’s not much beautiful about the Houston Ship Channel, but it’s awe-inspiring in its own way: It’s the largest international port in the US and one of the busiest in the world.

The port is 52 miles long, hosts 7,000 ships a year, and is surrounded much of the way by warehouses, chemical and oil storage tanks, and construction cranes. It’s essentially one huge monument to the “Texas miracle,” the economic boom that’s delivered high profits and huge job growth even during the economic downturn.

But it’s also a symbol of Texas’ growing catch-22: Sites like the Ship Channel are fueling both the state’s economy and the effects of climate change — Texas is the nation’s top greenhouse gas polluter — bringing the state closer to a potential environmental and economic catastrophe.

The waterway is enormously vulnerable to big storms blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico, just 50 miles away. In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison caused an estimated $5 billion of damage around the state. And Allison was merely a preview of what might be ahead as climate change warms the world’s oceans.

The Guardian covers a subject of ongoing concern at esnl:

Toiletry chemicals linked to testicular cancer and male infertility cost EU millions, report says

  • Nordic Council calls on EU to ban damaging compounds found in household products that cost millions due to their harmful impact on male reproductive health

The hormone-mimicking chemicals used routinely in toiletries, cosmetics, medicines, plastics and pesticides cause hundreds of millions of euros of damage to EU citizens every year, according to the first estimate of their economic impact.

The endocrine disruptor compounds (EDCs) are thought to be particularly harmful to male reproductive health and can cause testicular cancer, infertility, deformation of the penis and undescended testicles.

The new report, from the Nordic Council of Ministers, focuses on the costs of these on health and the ability to work but warns that they “only represent a fraction of the endocrine-related diseases” and does not consider damage to wildlife. Another new study, published in a medical journal, showed an EDC found in anti-perspirants reduced male fertility by 30%.

An ongoing outbreak covered by Reuters:

Dutch discover bird flu in wild ducks, cull continues

Dutch animal health authorities found bird flu in two samples taken from wild ducks, a government statement said, but it was unclear if that was the source of an outbreak at four chicken farms in the Netherlands.

Duck droppings from the central Dutch province tested positive for the highly contagious H5 strain of the disease, the deputy economic affairs minister wrote in a letter to parliament.

“Based on this information I am considering follow-up measures,” deputy minister Sharon Dijksma wrote.

And a related Reuters story:

Three Egyptians die of bird flu, raising death toll to six

Three people have died from H5N1 bird flu in Egypt in the past week, bringing the death toll in the country this year to six, the Egyptian health ministry said on Monday.

Egypt has identified 11 cases of the virus in people this year including the six who have died, a ministry statement said.

It identified the most recent victims as a 40-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman in the central province of Minya as well as a 25-year-old woman in Beni Suef, south of Cairo.

The Guardian covers the conflation of the epidemiological and the environmental:

Venezuela: illegal mining and the resurgence of malaria

  • Gold mining in the Amazon is not only bad for the environment, stagnant water is propagating malaria-carrying mosquitoes

Not only does gold and diamond mining have a harmful environmental impact in the Amazon, but the rise in small-scale, illegal mining activities is causing a resurgence of malaria in Venezuela, which used to be a world leader in managing the disease.

In 2013, 76,621 cases of malaria were reported in Venezuela, the majority among men aged between 15 and 44 years old, and with 93% of cases (pdf) occuring in the state of Bolivar where gold mining is booming. Estimates suggest that the number of cases will only continue to rise.

Both legal and illegal mining create the perfect conditions for malaria to resurface and spread. “There is a large number of miners drilling holes in search of minerals. These holes with stagnant water are breeding grounds for mosquitoes,” says Jo Lines, a reader of malaria control and vector biology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

But cases of malaria are much harder to control among those working illegally, adds Lines. “The majority of self-employed miners are mobile [increasing the risk of imported malaria infections], and they are often reluctant to present themselves to official medical facilities due to immigration and work permit issues. They often live in cheap, crowded places without walls, where it is not easy to hang a bednet.”

From BBC News, suspicions confirmed:

Amazon indigenous land loss threatens climate, says study

Scientists say destroying indigenous areas of the Amazon rainforest will have an irreversible impact on the atmosphere of the planet.

A new study said indigenous lands were “protected natural areas” accounting for 55% of the carbon stored in the Amazon basin. It said this land was at risk because governments had failed to recognise or enforce indigenous land rights.

The report was released on the first day of UN climate talks in Peru. The study said nearly 20% of the Amazon forests are at risk from logging, mining, agriculture and infrastructure projects.

EcoWatch covers a notable anniversary:

30th Anniversary of the World’s Worst Industrial Disaster

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the world’s worst industrial disaster, the Bhopal gas tragedy, the deadliest in human history. The aftereffects continue to haunt the Bhopalis even after the victims’ 3rd generation has been born.

What’s even worse is the post tragedy scenario—the apathy that subsequent governments have shown in dealing with it.

It’s a known fact that till today, the impacted people are awaiting justice and there are continuing health and environmental issues.

A video report from the Economist:

The Bhopal disaster: Toxic legacy

Program notes:

Decades after the worst industrial accident in India’s history, many residents of Bhopal feel they were abandoned to suffer its toxic effects.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with the Asahi Shimbun:

British researcher blasts U.N. report on Fukushima cancer risk as unscientific

  • A British scientist who studied the health effects of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster panned a United Nations report that virtually dismissed the possibility of higher cancer rates caused by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Keith Baverstock, 73, made the comments during a visit to Tokyo at the invitation of a citizens group related to the Fukushima disaster.

In response to questions from The Asahi Shimbun, Baverstock said a report released in April by the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) was “not qualified to be called ‘scientific’” because it lacked transparency and independent verification. He added that the committee should be disbanded.

The U.N. report said any increase in overall cancer rates among residents of Fukushima Prefecture due to fallout from the accident was unlikely. However, Baverstock, former head of the radiation-protection program at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe, said radiation levels shown in the report were enough to cause a spike in cancer rates.

The Asahi Shimbun again, this time with improved readings:

New technology to speed up detection of radioactive strontium tenfold

New updated equipment that is scheduled to go into operation at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in December will detect radioactive strontium 90 in contaminated water in less than 30 minutes, compared to the seven to 10 days it now takes.

The advanced detection equipment was developed as part of a group effort centered on the work of Yoshitaka Takagai, an associate professor of analytical chemistry in the Faculty of Symbiotic Systems Science at Fukushima University. Researchers from PerkinElmer Japan Co., based in Yokohama, were also involved in the research.

University officials discussed the plan to deploy one of the new devices Nov. 27.

Finnish nuclear news from the Guardian:

Finland set to agree joint nuclear venture with Russian energy company

  • Alexander Stubb, Finnish PM, rejects suggestions that by backing Rosatom’s involvement he is bowing to Moscow

Finland’s parliament is poised to give the go-ahead to a controversial joint venture with the Russian state-owned energy company Rosatom to build a new nuclear power plant in the north of the country.

The green light will come despite calls by the EU for member states to suspend most planned energy agreements with Russia, as part of an international campaign of economic and financial sanctions prompted by the Ukraine crisis.

The nuclear joint venture is understood to have the support of a majority of MPs from the four main Finnish political parties and to be backed by the coalition government led by the prime minister, Alexander Stubb. A vote will take place on Wednesday.

And the New York Times covers nuclear troubles in Ukraine:

Ukraine Reports Nuclear Plant Accident, but Official Says There’s ‘No Threat’

Prime Minister Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk of Ukraine on Wednesday announced that there had been an accident at one of the country’s nuclear power plants, briefly setting off fears of a Chernobyl-like catastrophe. But there appeared to have been no radiation leak and only a temporary disruption in the power supply.

Mr. Yatsenyuk, during a session of the new Ukrainian government, disclosed that the accident had taken place at the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant and called on the newly installed energy minister to quickly brief reporters on the incident, the Ukrainian news media reported.

The energy minister, Volodymyr Demchyshyn, said that there was “no threat” from the accident and that the malfunction had taken place in the section of the plant responsible for distributing power, not among the reactors in the section for generating power.

Finally, from Environmental Health Perspectives, a story to get you really incensed:

Ritual Risk: Incense Use and Cardiovascular Mortality

Numerous studies have examined exposures to indoor combustion products such as secondhand smoke and emissions from burning of solid fuels. However, only a few have examined incense burning as a potential health threat, even though incense is commonly used for religious and ritual purposes in China, Taiwan, Singapore, India, and Middle Eastern nations.2 In this issue of EHP, investigators report an association between long-term incense use and increased cardiovascular mortality.

The study used data from the Singapore Chinese Health Study, which enrolled a cohort of 63,257 Chinese adults aged 45–74 years between 1993 and 1998. The authors identified cardiovascular deaths of cohort members via a nationwide death registry, checking the registry yearly through 31 December 2011. They stratified their analysis for factors such as smoking history, education level, baseline history of cardiovascular disease, and gender. They also performed a sensitivity analysis to examine potential confounding by exposure to secondhand smoke.

More than three-quarters of the participants reported currently using incense, and another 13% were former users. Most had used incense daily for at least 20 years, typically keeping it burning intermittently throughout the day. The authors estimated that current long-term incense users had a 12% increased risk of cardiovascular mortality compared with former and never users, including a 19% increased risk for stroke and a 10% increased risk for coronary heart disease.

EnviroWatch: Ills, carbon, climate, fuel, nukes


We begin with an alien invasion of the microbial trans-species kind from SciDev.Net:

Monkey malaria on the rise among humans in Malaysia

Once only monkeys were suffering — now people are getting sick too. Monkey malaria, which is three times more severe than other forms of malaria, now accounts for two-thirds of human malaria cases in Malaysian Borneo, says Balbir Singh, director of the Malaria Research Centre at the University of Malaysia in Sarawak.

Other South-East Asian countries such as Cambodia and Thailand are seeing infections too. Signs that monkey malaria may now be jumping directly between humans could lead to a further spike in cases, adds Singh.

The disease is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium knowlesi, transmitted by mosquitoes which usually feed on monkeys’ blood. The parasite was first described in 1932, and it was known that very occasionally people could get infected — for instance, when spending time in the jungle canopy being exposed to bites from mosquitoes that would normally prefer monkeys.

Cancer, race, and class from Newswise:

Race, Hospital, Insurance Status All Factors in How Lung Cancer Is Treated

African Americans, Hispanics, and those who receive care at a community hospital are all significantly less likely than other patients to receive treatment for early stage non-small cell lung cancer, according to a report in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.

“We found significant disparities for treatment of a curable cancer based on race, insurance status, and whether or not treatment was at an academic or community hospital,” said Dr. Matthew Koshy, a physician in the department of radiation oncology at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, and lead author of the study. “Reducing these disparities could lead to significant improvements in survival for many people with inoperable early stage lung cancer.”

The study is the largest to date looking at treatment received by patients with stage I non-small cell lung cancer, an early stage of lung cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes and is characterized by a small nodules in the lung tissue. Treatment during this early stage offers the best chance for long-term survival.

From the Washington Post, and it should come as no surprise:

U.N. report: Promised cuts in carbon emissions not enough to prevent warming

Pledges by the United States and other countries to sharply reduce greenhouse-gas emissions still aren’t enough to prevent global temperatures from rising beyond levels that scientists believe could be dangerous to the planet’s health, a U.N.-commissioned study says.

The report by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) cited a sizable “emissions gap” between the promises made by world leaders to lower pollution and the maximum amount of carbon the atmosphere can safely absorb.

“Without additional climate policies, global emissions will increase hugely up to at least 2050,” said the study, released Wednesday by the U.N. body that established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific organization that studies the effects of heat-trapping greenhouse gases on the global environment.

More atmospheric aggro from the Mainichi:

Brazil environmentalists: greenhouse gases rise

Emission levels of greenhouse gases in Latin America’s biggest country were almost 8 percent higher in 2013 than one year earlier, a Brazilian network of environmental groups said Wednesday.

The Observatorio do Clima, or Climate Observatory, is comprised of more than 30 non-governmental organizations focused on climate change. It said in a report that greenhouse gas emissions amounted to 1.57 billion metric tons in 2013 compared to 1.45 billion metric tons in 2012.

The increase represents a reversal in the trend that started in 2005 when emissions of greenhouse gases dropped year-by-year as deforestation levels fell, the report said.

The report said that soil use changes in 2013 accounted for 16.48 percent of the emissions due to increased deforestation levels in the Amazon region and in the savanna-like ecosystem known as the Cerrado in central Brazil.

Still more atmospheric woes from the Guardian:

EU court rules UK government must clean up dangerous air pollution

  • UK government must urgently improve air quality in British cities following a landmark case that could see more vehicles restricted from city centres

The government will be forced to urgently clean up illegal air pollution in British cities following a ruling on Wednesday in the European court of justice. It is likely to see many diesel cars and heavy goods vehicles restricted from city centres within a few years.

The landmark case, brought by a small environmental group through the UK courts, will allow people to sue the government for breaching EU pollution laws and will force ministers to prepare plans for many cities to improve air quality.

Europe’s highest court firmly rejected Britain’s long-standing approach to complying with EU air pollution laws which has been to appeal to Europe for time extensions.

The government has admitted that under its current plans, London, Leeds and Birmingham will not meet legal limits for the toxic nitrogen dioxide gas (NO2) until after 2030. This is 20 years after the original deadline set by Europe. Other cities, including Manchester and Glasgow , have target dates of 2025.

From the Los Angeles Times, the pollution pecking order:

Province near Beijing aims to move polluting factories overseas

In an effort to reduce pollution, authorities in Hebei province on Tuesday announced a plan to move steel, cement and glass factories outside of China, the official New China News Agency said. Through preferential policies and financial incentives, local companies will be encouraged to relocate to Africa, Central Asia and South America by 2023.

Industrial pollution is the largest source of the tiny, choking particles that regularly cloud Beijing’s skies, according to research last year by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Hebei, which surrounds the capital, is one of the country’s main industrial production centers. But with China’s economy slowing, factories have a surplus of capacity.

Authorities now want to put some of these factories offshore, with the government seeking to move 5 million tons of both steel and cement production out of the country by 2017, and even more ambitious targets of 20 million tons of steel and 30 million tons of cement moved out by 2023.

From TheLocal.dk, closer to home:

Denmark pressures EU on everyday chemicals

Saying that “the phasing-out of harmful chemicals is progressing far too slow in the EU,” Denmark’s environment minister has recruited colleagues for a coordinated campaign targeting the EU Commission.

Denmark’s environment minister, Kirsten Brosbøl, has joined with seven other European ministers to pressure the new EU Commission to increase its efforts to protect consumers from dangerous chemicals.

Brosbøl and the environment ministers of Austria, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden are calling on the new members of the EU Commission to eliminate chemicals from everyday products.

“Denmark holds an unfortunate record with regard to testicular cancer, and many couples are having difficulties getting pregnant, while children are reaching puberty at an ever earlier age. We know that this may be due to a number of harmful chemicals in our everyday lives,” Brosbøl said in a press release.

On to petro politics and perils with the Guardian:

Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise detained in Spain

  • Greenpeace ship taken into Spanish custody after oil protest in waters off of the Canary Islands, six months after being released by the Russian government

The Greenpeace protest ship Arctic Sunrise has been taken into custody by the Spanish government in waters off the Canary Islands, just months after it was released by the Russian government.

Spain’s Ministry of public works and transportation detained the vessel on Tuesday night pending an investigation against the captain for an “infringement against marine traffic rules”. The maximum fine for the offence is €300,000 (£240,000).

On Saturday, Greenpeace protesters from the ship approached the Repsol oil ship Rowan Renaissance – ignoring warnings from the Spanish navy to leave an exclusion zone. Activists were injured after their rhibs – an inflatable boat with a rigid hull – were repeatedly rammed by the Spanish navy. Footage of the clashes showed the moment when one activist had her leg broken and was thrown into the water.

EcoWatch fracks the commons:

Fracking Approved in Largest National Forest in Eastern U.S.

Despite strong opposition from both elected officials in the affected areas and environmental groups, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has approved fracking in George Washington Forest. Objections to the plan came from members of Congress from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Washington D.C. city council, which passed a resolution opposing it in March. McAuliffe reiterated his opposition before a meeting of the state’s Climate Change and Resilience Commission in September.

The forest, located in Virginia and West Virginia, is the largest national forest on the east coast. It contains the headwaters of the Potomac River, which feed into the Chesapeake Bay and provide drinking water for millions of people in the Washington, DC/Chesapeake region.

The USFS had initially proposed  to ban fracking in the 1.1 million acre forest, the first outright ban of the practice in a national forest. But when the plan was released in 2011, energy companies complained and exerted pressure on the USFS. About 10,000 acres of the forest are already been leased to oil and gas companies, with private mineral rights existing under another 167,000 acres. The newly released plan will only allow fracking on that land, which is located in sparsely populated rural Highland County, Virginia. The plan also puts off limits another 800,000 acres that were available for drilling.

And from RT America, Sioux pipeline ire:

Keystone XL an “act of war” declares South Dakota tribe

Program notes:

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota says that congressional approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline will be considered an act of war. If given the green light by congress, the controversial project will traverse land under the control of the Native American tribe, which is now threatening to exercise its rights as a “sovereign nation.” RT’s Ben Swann speaks to tribal president Cyril Scott to learn more.

Next, Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with nuclear politics from the Japan Times:

Abe’s election decision met with anger in disaster-hit communities

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to dissolve the House of Representatives for a snap election was met with anger in communities affected by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster.

Many people in the affected areas are concerned about a further delay in post-disaster reconstruction as procedures will grind to a halt until a new government is installed.

“Why does the Lower House need to be dissolved now?” Shigetoshi Shimomura, a local community leader in the Kerobe district of Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, asked indignantly. “Although Abe has said that there will be no revival for Japan without reconstruction of disaster-hit areas, he doesn’t seem to attach much importance to the issue,” the 65-year-old said.

JapanToday administers a seismic reminder:

M5.3 quake hits off Fukushima, jolts Kanto; no tsunami alert issued

An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.3 struck in the sea off Fukushima Prefecture at 10:51 a.m. Thursday, but no tsunami alert was issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency.

The agency said the epicenter was 40 kilometers deep.

The quake registered a 4 in Fukushima Prefecture, 3 in Miyagi, Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures, and a 2 in Tokyo and other parts of the Kanto region. Buildings shook briefly in Tokyo.

There was no immediate reports of injuries or damage to buildings.

Finding fault with the Mainichi:

Experts retain Tsuruga reactor fault judgment in draft report

A panel of experts under Japan’s nuclear regulator on Wednesday reaffirmed an earlier judgment that a reactor at the Tsuruga nuclear station is sitting right above an active fault, a move that could force the operator to permanently shut down the unit.

After the Nuclear Regulation Authority acknowledged last year that the fault in question is active, Japan Atomic Power Co. has submitted additional data in trying to have it overturned.

The experts, however, concluded that the new data offered no evidence to sway the judgment as it compiled a new draft report on the fault’s assessment.

From RT America, questions raised:

US fails to properly monitor Fukushima fallout

Program notes:

Scientists are warning that more stringent monitoring of radiation levels in the ocean is needed to ensure pollution from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster doesn’t worsen. Radioactive particles from Japan have managed to reach the west coast of the US, but there is no federal agency tasked with monitoring the levels of pollution, as RT’s Lindsay France explains.

Paving the way for politically fraught preliminary cleanup operation, via Jiji Press:

Japan Enacts Bill on Radioactive Soil Interim Storage

Japan enacted a bill Wednesday that is necessary to establish interim facilities to store soil polluted with fallout from the March 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

The storage facilities for the radioactive soil collected through decontamination of polluted areas in the northeastern Japan prefecture of Fukushima are set to be built around the natural disaster-stricken nuclear plant in the same prefecture.

The legislation, given the final go-ahead by the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Diet, requires the state government to dispose of the stored soil outside the prefecture and finish the final disposal work within 30 years, one of the five conditions that the Fukushima prefectural government has set for allowing the interim storage.

Disaster preparations from NHK WORLD:

Diet approves nuclear compensation treaty

Japan’s Diet has approved a bill to join an international treaty on sharing the costs of compensation in a nuclear disaster.

The bill on the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage cleared the Upper House on Wednesday.

The treaty obliges the signatories to set aside the equivalent of 47 billion yen, about 400 million dollars, to compensate victims in a nuclear accident.

If the cost of compensation in Japan exceeds its reserve, other signatories would provide around 60 million dollars more. Conversely, Japan would have to contribute about 34 million dollars to help compensate for a nuclear accident in another country.

And to close, British nuclear woes of another sort from the Guardian:

Hinkley Point C nuclear plant’s future in doubt as crisis hits shareholder

  • Questions over new Somerset power station after Areva’s nuclear projects in Finland and France run into difficulties

The future of the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in Somerset is under a cloud amid a financial crisis at Areva, a shareholder in the project and the designer of the proposed reactors.

Shares in the French engineering business plunged by almost a quarter after Areva warned it must suspend future profit predictions because of problems centred on a similar power station project in Finland.

Both that scheme at Olkiluoto and another at Flamanville in France are massively over-budget and over-schedule, forcing Areva to consider whether it needs an injection of new cash to survive.

EnviroWatch: Ills, toxics, fuels, climate, nukes


From the Express Tribune in Karachi, an ongoing plague, easily prevented:

As more polio cases surface, Centre unhappy with Sindh’s performance

As the 25th case of polio is reported in Sindh, the federal government has expressed dissatisfaction with the provincial government’s efforts to eradicate the virus from the province.

In a follow-up meeting with provincial authorities on Wednesday after meeting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad, State Minister for National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination, Saira Afzal Tarar, expressed her concerns over the rise of polio cases in Sindh.

The meeting which was attended by top officials of the province, except for the health minister and his secretary, briefed about the routine and special campaigns in the province. Sources at the meeting claim that the minister was displeased with how the routine polio drives were being conducted by the provincial health department. According to the minister, in certain districts there was only six per cent coverage, while in a few others it went as high as 29 per cent. She claimed that the polio virus could be eradicated completely if the provincial government would perform its duties properly. She added it will be impossible to overcome this situation without the exact data which will have to be provided by the provincial government.

The San Jose Mercury News covers residual poisons:

Fire retardant chemicals found in small group of Californians

The study, while small, offers the first glimpse of how these chemicals, which have been shown to cause cancer, neurological diseases and developmental disorders, have been absorbed into people’s bodies simply by sitting on a couch or breathing in dust, and offers a strategy for state and local bio-monitoring programs to test larger populations, experts say. The better people’s exposure to these harmful chemicals can be tracked, advocates say, the better experts can understand how they make people sick, offering more ammunition for legislative change to regulate toxic chemicals.

The findings also underscore the possible consequences of a California law passed in 1975 that set fire safety standards that effectively required furniture manufacturers to inject flame-retardant chemicals into all upholstered furniture sold in the state for the last 40 years. The bill was revised Jan. 1 to remove the flame retardant requirement, but some experts caution that Californians will be dealing with the public health fallout for several years.

The study, by Silent Spring Institute, an environmental nonprofit in Massachusetts, and university researchers in Belgium, found traces of a chemical that has been named a carcinogen on the state’s Proposition 65 list in 15 out of 16 people from Richmond and Bolinas, who had their urine and homes tested for chemicals in 2011.

From the Guardian, mutilation:

India mass sterilisation: women were ‘forced’ into camps, say relatives

  • Brother-in-law of one victim says women were ‘herded like cattle’ after 12 die and scores injured following botched operations

Relatives of the 12 women who died after a state-run mass sterilisation campaign in India went horribly wrong have told local media they were forced by health workers to attend the camp.

More than 80 women underwent surgery for laparoscopic tubectomies at a free government-run camp in the central state of Chhattisgarh on Saturday. About 60 fell ill shortly afterwards, officials said. At least 14 were in a very serious condition by Wednesday and the death toll was expected to rise.

“The [health workers] said nothing would happen, it was a minor operation. They herded them like cattle,” Mahesh Suryavanshi, the brother-in-law of one casualty, told the Indian Express newspaper.

Such camps are held regularly across India as part of a long-running effort to control population growth.

And as we expected, via the Guardian, killing tomorrow’s kids for today’s profits:

Republicans vow to use expanded powers to thwart US-China climate deal

  • Obama’s opponents looking for ways to undermine bold climate change strategy that could bring about drastic reduction in carbon emissions

Republicans promised on Wednesday to use their expanded power in Congress to undermine Barack Obama’s historic deal over carbon emissions with China on Wednesday, claiming Beijing could not be trusted to see through its side of an agreement that would ultimately damage the US economy.

The hard-hitting response from top Republicans to the historic deal between the US and China – the world’s two largest emitters – foreshadowed an expected collision with the White House over climate climate change that looks set to define Obama’s last two years in office and could shape the 2016 presidential elections.

That fight will encompass top-line carbon emissions targets set by White House, rules implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will reduce pollution from power stations and a looming and totemic decision over the Keystone XL pipeline.

We’ll let Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles have the last word:

BLOG Hot air

The Los Angeles Times covers a success story:

Water conservation efforts pay off: U.S. usage lowest in decades

Americans recently passed a milestone when federal officials reported that water use across the nation had reached its lowest level in more than 45 years: good news for the environment, great news in times of drought and a major victory for conservation.

What was surprising in the U.S. Geological Survey report released last week was how little of the 13% decline in national water usage was due to the public cutting back.

In drought-stricken areas, such as California and other states across the West, consumers are used to frequent warnings about the need to save water. Dry public fountains, limits on lawn watering and official requests for shorter showers have all been aimed at reducing water use at a time when reservoirs are shrinking and streams are running dry.

But it turns out that the public reduced water use by only about 5% from 2005 to 2010, the most recent period measured by the USGS.

And the accompanying chart on water use by sector:

BLOG Water

A less salubrious water story from Grist:

California drought leads to a black market for water

The drought in California is bad — so very bad, in fact, that it’s created an illegal gold rush: Poachers are siphoning off fresh water with plans to sell it to the highest bidder.

If that sounds apocalyptic, it kind of is. While the State Water Resources Control Board has 22 employees tasked with investigating such crimes — “illegal diversions,” they’re called — there’s yet to be a concerted statewide effort to track (let alone control and punish) water theft. In some rural areas, wells are running completely dry; local law enforcement thinks the desperation drives theft, and they’re scrambling to keep up. Reports the National Journal:

Officials complain that the penalty for getting caught may not be sufficiently strict: Mendocino County counts water theft as a misdemeanor. County Supervisor Carre Brown considers that a slap on the wrist. “To me this is like looting during a disaster. It should be a felony,” Brown said. …

Another water story, at the source, via NHK WORLD:

Global warming blamed for more rain in Japan

Japanese weather researchers say Japan has experienced heavier hourly rainfalls due to global warming.

The Meteorological Research Institute analyzed the heaviest hourly rainfall recorded in more than 980 locations across Japan between 1978 and 2013.

Researchers learned that the maximum hourly rainfall intensified by about 13 percent in the past 35 years.

Annual rain tends to intensify when temperatures, including water temperatures, are high.

From the Guardian, monetizing nature:

Peru’s forests store more CO2 than US emits in a year, research shows

  • Carbon mapping by the Carnegie Institute for Science reveals nearly seven billion tonnes of carbon stored in Peru’s rainforests, in a technique that could help preserve such stores to reduce carbon emissions

Peru, the host for December’s UN climate change summit, stores nearly seven billion metric tons of carbon stocks, mostly in its Amazon rainforest. That’s more than US annual carbon emissions for 2013 which were calculated at 5.38 billion tons, the new research by the Carnegie Institute for Science (CIS) shows.

Home to the second-largest area of Amazon rainforest after Brazil, Peru is to date the most accurately carbon-mapped country in history thanks to high-resolution mapping which provides a hectare-by-hectare look at its carbon reserves, it was reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The research by CIS’s Greg Asner means Peru now knows precisely how much carbon it is storing in its rainforest and where that carbon is being kept out of the atmosphere, allowing the country to negotiate a fair price for its reserves on the global carbon market.

After the jump, fracking disillusion in Old Blighty, Tar Sands pipeline litigation, a renewable breakdown Down Under, a European biking bonanza, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! with official regrets, a gubernatorial nuclear dump demurrer, and objections to the restart of another nuclear power plant, plus that Colorado carbon tax on pot. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ebola, Dengue, fracking, sharks


Plus some rare good water news.

First, from StarAfrica:

SADC health ministers hold emergency Ebola meeting in Zimbabwe

Health ministers from southern African are meeting in the Zimbabwean resort town of Victoria Falls to strategise on a regional response to the Ebola outbreak that has ravaged parts of West Africa, APA learnt here Friday.Ministers responsible for health in the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) began a two-day emergency meeting on Friday to review measures adopted by countries in response to the Ebola outbreak with a view to ultimately developing a regional response.

Zimbabwe’s Health Minister David Parirenyatwa, who currently chairs the SADC Committee of Health Ministers, said the meeting would, among others, seek to harmonise responses by member states to the outbreak, in particular measures on how to deal with travellers and border controls.

The meeting comes in the wake of reports that more than 80 cases have detected in the Democratic Republic of Congo, resulting in at least 36 deaths.

BBC News warns:

Sierra Leone’s Ebola lockdown will not help, says MSF

A three-day lockdown announced by Sierra Leone to combat Ebola will not help contain the virus, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says.

The charity said a lockdown would force people underground, destroy trust between doctors and the public and ultimately help spread the disease.

Sierra Leone officials say the measure, due to begin on 19 September, will let health workers isolate new cases.

From StarAfrica again, sad and dangerous:

Another Ebola trial drug arrives in Liberia

Liberia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says dosages of the experimental homeopathic drug for the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) have arrived in the country as part of efforts by the government to curb the epidemic.A Foreign Ministry statement on Friday disclosed that a 3 kg package of the experimental remedy containing sufficient doses for 30 infected persons arrived in the country from the International Emergency Management Organization (IEMO) in Italy.

It comes following two weeks of telephone exchanges between Liberia’s Foreign Minister, Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan and the Rome-based office of IEMO, the statement said.

According to the IEMO, the remedy is an aqueous alternative medicine that promotes homeopathic cure with no side effect.

From TheLocal.at, another non-Ebola case:

15-year-old boy has malaria not Ebola

A 15-year-old boy who was admitted to Linz General Hospital on Friday having symptoms consistent with Ebola has now been confirmed as having malaria.

He had recently returned from a trip to West Africa, where there have been more than 3,000 cases of the disease since it was first identified in Guinea in February.

A suspected case of Ebola in Vienna was given the all clear on Wednesday, and earlier alarms in Tyrol and Upper Austria all proved not to be Ebola.

From the Daily Monitor in Kampala, Uganda, another alert:

Kasese on Ebola alert

According to WHO, the Health Ministry in the Democratic Republic of Congo said in August that two samples taken from a remote village in the North-western province of Equateur had tested positive for the deadly virus, but added that the infections were from a different strain than the one that has killed more than 1,400 people in four West African countries

Kasese district has been put on Ebola alert following reports that the disease had so far killed 13 people in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kasese district leadership has directed all Health facilities in the area especially those along the Uganda-DR Congo common border to be on the alert of any suspicious cases.

A Health Inspector with Kasese District local government, Mr Samuel Kabunga on Monday told a District Health Assembly that the ministry of health had confirmed that Ebola had been reported in the Equatorial Province of the DRC where 13 people were reported dead.

StarAfrica announces another ban:

Sudan: UN imposes anti-Ebola measures on W/African personnel

The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has imposed wide health restricted measures among its staff to prevent the transmission of Ebola to Sudan through the West African UN personnel, reports said on Saturday.The move came after some Sudanese media reports warned of suspected cases among the West African UN staffs who are working in the mission in Darfur.

However the mission denied the reports, confirming that there are no recorded cases of Ebola among UNAMID’s personnel.

UNAMID said in a statement that the mission’s health section has put in place strict set of measures to prevent the risks related to Ebola, including three stages of tests to the personnel travelling to or coming from the West Africa countries.

From the Daily Monitor again, Uganda sends a general, not a doctor:

Gen Oketta for AU anti-Ebola operation

Maj Gen Julius Oketta, the disaster and relief coordinator in the Office of the Prime Minister has been nominated to join an Africa Union led humanitarian mission to combat the threat of the Ebola virus to the continent

Maj Gen Julius Oketta, the disaster and relief coordinator in the Office of the Prime Minister has been nominated to join an Africa Union led humanitarian mission to combat the threat of the Ebola virus to the continent.
Maj Oketta will join the Ethiopia-based Africa Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa( ASEOWA) that is spearheading an strategy code-named “Operation ASEOWA” in devising a strategy to combat the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa and is threatening East Africa.

In an interview on Tuesday, Maj Gen Oketta revealed that his appointment was a testimony that the African Union was impressed by Uganda’s effective response to the 2000 Ebola epidemic that ravaged Northern Uganda- even as the region was suffering war-but was ably dealt with.

And the Associated Press appreciates:

Zeal, devotion guides volunteers to Ebola crisis

These volunteers are passionate, but there’s also a cold logic to their commitment: This epidemic that has killed more than 2,000 people and sickened 3,900 in five West African nations won’t end unless more experienced health care workers confront it directly.

Ebola is being spread by people, in hospitals, homes and funerals. People catch the virus when they have direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of those who are sick and dying, or already dead. At ELWA, Jamison trained workers how to protect themselves and the wider population.

The hospital in Monrovia is operated by Charlotte-based SIM USA, and includes more than 200 beds as well as the 50-bed isolation unit for Ebola patients.

And from Agence France-Presse, raw footage — including the loading of bodies — outside an Ebola facility in the capital of Liberia:

Relatives of Ebola victims wait for news at Liberia hospital

Program note:

The death toll from the Ebola epidemic has climbed above 2,000, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Friday, as it voiced hopes a vaccine could be available in November.

From the Japan Times, an Asian outbreak expands:

Dengue spreads beyond two Tokyo parks; tally at 74

Evidence emerged Saturday that dengue fever is spreading throughout the capital after an infected Tokyo man said he hadn’t recently visited either of the parks so far linked to the virus, and the case tally grew overnight to 74.

The man, in his 60s, said he did not recently visit either Yoyogi Park or Shinjuku Chuo Park, the two hot spots identified as having mosquitoes carrying the virus, the health ministry said.

The others infected said they had spent time in or near Yoyogi Park, except for a Saitama man identified Friday who said he was bitten by mosquitoes in Shinjuku Chuo Park, west of Shinjuku Station and just north of Yoyogi.

From UC Riverside, some good water news for a change:

Acidity on decline in Sierra Nevada lakes

California’s water supply depends on a clean snow pack and healthy mountain lakes.  The lakes receive a large amount of runoff in the spring from the melting snowpack.  If the snowpack is polluted, the lakes will be polluted.

James O. Sickman, an environmental scientist at the University of California, Riverside, has conducted research on lakes in the Sierra Nevada — the most sensitive lakes in the U.S. to acid rain, according to the Environmental Protection Agency — and described human impacts on them during the 20th century.  The research was done by long-term measurements of lake chemistry beginning in the 1980s and the collection of long sediment cores from the lakes.

The conclusion is the overall news is good: Air quality regulation has benefited aquatic ecosystems in the Sierra Nevada, and controlling air pollution is benefiting nature in California.

Led by Sickman and his graduate students, the researchers have published a series of articles in peer-reviewed journals on their work, the latest of which appears in Environmental Science and Technology.

Back to watery woes with Al Jazeera America:

In shadow of oil boom, North Dakota farmers fight contamination

  • One county’s infertile lands offer a test case of the long-term effects of wastewater spills

Last summer, in a wet, remote section of farm country in Bottineau County, landowner Mike Artz and his two neighbors discovered that a ruptured pipeline was spewing contaminated wastewater into his crop fields.

“We saw all this oil on the low area, and all this salt water spread out beyond it,” said his neighbor Larry Peterson, who works as a farmer and an oil-shale contractor. “The water ran out into the wetland.”

It was August, and all across Artz’s farm the barley crop was just reaching maturity. But near the spill, the dead stalks had undeveloped kernels, which, the farmers knew, meant that the barley had been contaminated weeks earlier.

Soon after, state testing of the wetlands showed that chloride levels were so high, they exceeded the range of the test strips. The North Dakota Department of Health estimated that between 400 to 600 barrels of wastewater, the equivalent of 16,800 to 25,200 gallons, had seeped into the ground.

Wastewater, known as “saltwater” because of its high salinity, is a by-product of oil drilling, which has been a boom-and-bust industry in North Dakota since at least the 1930s. Far saltier than ocean water, this wastewater is toxic enough to sterilize land and poison animals that mistakenly drink it. “You never see a saltwater spill produce again,” Artz said, referring to the land affected by the contamination. “Maybe this will be the first, but I doubt it.”

Al Jazeera America again, with more fuelishness:

As Keystone awaits fate, other tar sands projects move forward

  • Environmental groups accuse pipeline companies of skirting federal review to get tar sands to the US

Over the past few years, the Keystone pipeline has become a household name. The controversy caused by Canadian pipeline company TransCanada’s project, which would bring hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil from Canada’s tar sands to the U.S. each day, has ignited an environmental movement across the country, and has elicited responses from top U.S. politicians, including President Obama.

But the U.S. has approved other cross-border tar sands transportation projects with little fanfare.

Those projects include one by TransCanada competitor Enbridge to build a facility in Illinois to transport crude oil from the tar sands via train, which was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week. The decision came just weeks after the State Department approved an Enbridge pipeline project that would cross Canada through the Minnesota border and help bring millions more barrels of oil to the U.S. each year. The project was approved without a public review process or an environmental-impact assessment.

The Times of India gives us our lone nuclear story:

Cancer behind 70% deaths in India’s atomic energy hubs

Cancer caused almost 70% of the 3,887 health-related deaths in the atomic energy hubs across the country over the last 20 years, an RTI reply has revealed. In all, 2,600 succumbed to cancer in 19 centres between 1995 and 2014.

The query to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), which, like the others, is under the Department of Atomic Energy, had another shocking revelation: 255 employees took their own lives while in harness in the same period, meaning an average of almost one every month over 20 years. Investigations showed they were mostly over prolonged illness or family problems.

Cancer is among the top ten killers in India, and accounts for around 7% of the roughly 9.5 million annual deaths, as has been estimated by the Centre’s ongoing Million Deaths Study.

And for our final item, via the London Telegraph, Help! Help! Sharks! [from a joke every U.S. fifth grade boy used to learn]:

Sharks nine times more likely to kill men than women, study says

  • Australian scientists baffled by finding that men are targeted in 84 per cent of all unprovoked shark attacks, and make up 89 per cent of all shark bite fatalities

Sharks are nine times more likely to kill men than women, new research from Australia shows.

Men are targeted in 84 per cent of all unprovoked shark attacks, and make up 89 per cent of all shark bite fatalities – which means that women are statistically more likely to survive a shark attack.

The numbers are from a study out of Bond University in Queensland to be published in the international journal Coastal Management this week.