In today’s On the News segment: Nine Northeastern states are reaping the benefits of their Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative; European regulators are being swayed by Big Agriculture; conservative media claim that the world is heading for a “mini ice age,” but they are wrong; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Science and Green news …
You need to know this. Electricity bills in the Northeast have dropped $460 million since that region put a price on carbon. Back in 2011, nine Northeastern states established the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – better known as RGGI. And, the benefits of that regional cap-and-trade system just keep adding up. Since it was established, that program has added $1.3 billion of economic activity to the region, reduced carbon emissions by 15 percent and saved customers a ton on their electric bills. Those are the facts according to an independent analysis released last week, and they prove that all the warnings about a carbon tax are nothing but Big Oil’s fear mongering. Critics of the RGGI plan warned that the system would cause a spike in electricity prices for consumers and put a damper on the local economy, but the program has had the opposite effect on both counts. The revenue collected from the program has been used to invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy projects and bill-payment assistance for consumers. Those investments have helped stimulate the regional economy, and lower electric bills mean customers have more money to spend locally. And, the program has been so successful that it could be used as a model to help more states comply with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which is set to be released next month. One of the authors of the recent analysis report said, “The nine New England states’ experience with RGGI can provide other states with valuable lessons for how one might comply with the CO2 regulations included in the Clean Power Plan.” In just four years, the Northeast has developed and implemented a system that boosts their economies, reduces greenhouse gas and lowers electricity bills for average Americans. That’s what you call a win-win, and it’s just the type of plan we should be implementing nationwide.
European regulators are being swayed by Big Ag. According to a recent article over at Common Dreams, the European Food Safety Authority is set to approve the use of toxic weedkiller on that continent. Despite a recent declaration from the World Health Organization that listed glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen,” the European regulators are citing industry-backed research as evidence that the chemical is not dangerous. Since the 1970s when glyphosate was discovered, the use of that chemical in pesticides has exploded. And, the genetic modification of corps like corn and soybeans that can resist that pesticide has dramatically expanded as well. Multiple studies have documented serious risks associated with glyphosate, including one from the WHO research group known as the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the EU banned the use of that chemical to protect their citizens. But regulators in that region are being pressured to overturn that ban, and their adoption of industry-funded data shows that the pressure is working. Regardless of whether it’s here in the States or across the pond, regulators should be listening to the people, not the corporations.
Many people think that every corner of our planet has been explored, but they’re wrong. There are still many things to discover here on Earth – especially when it comes to what’s at the bottom of our oceans. Recently, a team of researchers set out to look for and study lobster larvae, but they ended up finding an undiscovered chain of underwater volcanoes. The extinct volcanoes are located off of the East coast of Australia, and they are thought to be about 50 million years old. One of the scientists explained that the volcanoes, “tell us part of the story of how New Zealand and Australia separated around 40 to 80 million years ago, and they’ll now help scientists target future exploration of the seafloor to unlock the secrets of the Earth’s crust.” And, to top that off, the team discovered a lobster nursery ground in a nearby eddy, which allowed them to conduct the research that they originally set out to conduct. It’s hard to believe that we still have so much to learn about Earth, but every new discovery proves how little we actually know about our amazing planet.
Conservative media is claiming that the world is heading for a ‘mini ice age.’ Unsurprisingly, that claim is wrong. In fact, as the ThinkProgress blog reports, it’s pretty much the exact opposite of what scientists predict, but that hasn’t stopped media outlets from running with the headline. According to a June study by NOAA, global warming is headed toward an imminent speed-up, with temperatures in the Arctic predicted to rise by one degree Fahrenheit per decade by 2020. The conservatives’ claim stems from a Welsh National Astronomy Meeting, which predicted “that solar activity will fall by 60 percent during the 2030s to conditions seen during the ‘mini ice age’ that began in 1645.” While it’s easy to see how conservatives came up with their conclusion, a little more digging explains just why they are wrong. That astronomy report was only referring to solar activity, not the temperature activity here on Earth. And, the past ‘mini ice age’ they referred to was debunked by the most comprehensive study ever conducted. As usual, these claims are a distortion of the truth, and they’re just a pathetic attempt to stop climate action.
And finally … Astronauts on long space flights typically experience bone-related chronic illness as a result of being inactive for long periods in space. And scientists working on that problem may have found a solution much closer to home. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, the American black bear may hold the key to healthier space flights. Even though the bears are inactive for as much as six months of the year, they do not experience the bone damage seen in astronauts or other immobile individuals. Scientists studied the enzymes and hormones of hibernating bears and discovered that bears naturally suppress bone loss while they’re inactive. This happens because two hormones that cause bone formation and resorption actually decrease during hibernation, and calcium levels increase to keep bones strong. If scientists can recreate these chemical changes, they can protect astronauts from bone damage during space flights. Once again we see that mother nature already created the perfect solution to a problem, even when that problem occurs way out in space.
And that’s the way it is for the week of July 20, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science and Green News.