On the News With Thom Hartmann: Climate Change Could Push Millions More Into Extreme Poverty, and More

In today’s On the News segment: If we don’t strengthen our fight against climate change, 100 million more people may be pushed into extreme poverty within the next 15 years; a little change can go a long way when it comes to improving our health; the FDA has acknowledged the danger of pumping our livestock full of antibiotics, but they haven’t done a thing to ban the practice; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.


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You need to know this. If we don’t strengthen our fight against climate change, 100 million more people may be pushed into extreme poverty within the next 15 years. That’s Oxfam International’s response to a stunning, new report by the World Bank. That analysis is called “Shock Waves: Managaing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty,” and it is the first to consider how global warming will be felt at a household level. In other words, the researchers considered how heat waves, floods, droughts and public health issues will impact poor people, rather than simply considering how nations as a whole will deal with such problems. The report explained, “Poor people and poor countries are exposed and vulnerable to all types of climate-related shocks – natural disasters that destroy assets and livelihoods; waterborne diseases and pests that become more prevalent during heat waves, floods, or droughts; crop failure from reduced rainfall; and spikes in food prices that follow extreme weather events.” While those who can afford to withstand these events will be able to adapt to climate change, those who don’t have the means to move or pay higher food prices may suddenly find themselves in a desperate situation. In order to reduce these risks, and help more people survive on our warming planet, Oxfam and the World Bank insist that we must reduce poverty as we ramp up our climate fight. They call for “rapid, inclusive, and climate-informed development” to help people cope with short-term climate change, and “pro-poor mitigation policies” to limit the long-term impact. A senior economist at the World Bank said, “The report demonstrates that ending poverty and fighting climate change cannot be done in isolation – the two will be much more easily achieved if they are addressed together.” The fact is, we can no longer look at the climate fight and the effort to end inequality as two separate issues. If we want our species to survive, we better get to work and deal with both.

A little change can go a long way when it comes to improving our health. According to several new studies presented at the American Heart Association’s annual sessions, small changes in someone’s lifestyle can actually have a big effect. The researchers wanted to investigate why an increasing number of Americans seem to ignore health recommendations, such as getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. They found that many people felt that this number “set the bar too high” and they ended up getting discouraged. So, scientists studied the benefits of very small changes – like walking for three minutes to interrupt periods of prolonged sitting – and they were surprised by how beneficial that time could be on someone’s health. One of the authors said, “The magnitude of benefit was as much as it is with some anti-hypertensive drugs.” In other words, getting up for an extra walk to the copy machine at work could be as helpful as some medication used to treat high blood pressure. While the scientists insist that more exercise is certainly better, this research proves that it’s most important to get up and move.

The FDA has acknowledged the danger of pumping our livestock full of antibiotics, but they haven’t done a thing to ban the practice. That’s why the state of California is taking a stand on the practice to reduce the spread of dangerous food-borne illness. In 2009, 63 people in California became seriously ill because of a salmonella outbreak at a local beef plant. Just a few years later, more than 600 people got very sick from an outbreak at a California poultry plant. In both cases, the use of antibiotics in livestock made the illness resistant to regular treatment and a much bigger threat to those who got sick. Last week, California lawmakers decided that they don’t want to wait on the FDA – or on the next outbreak – and they passed a law banning the use of human antibiotics in livestock. Without those drugs, the meat processing industry will have to change their practices to ensure animals stay healthy, and doctors will have an easier time treating the people that occasionally get sick. Although a national law would go a lot farther to protect our food supply, getting antibiotics out of California livestock is a great start.

We already know that solar and wind are great sources of renewable power, but we may soon know a lot more about the potential for waves to generate another source of clean energy. According to a recent article from Science World Report, two power companies in Australia are working together to create the world’s first wave-integrated island microgrid. The Garden Island Microgrid Project will combine the existing solar power and desalinization plant with new wave-power projects in the coastal communities of Australia. Rather than building long transmission lines that pump energy from the mainland, this project will allow islands to generate all of their own electricity, and they will provide an important test of wave-energy technology. The system will use fully submerged buoys, which are attached to pumps on the seafloor, to harness the power of waves and create electricity. If we’re really going to make the switch away from fossil fuels, we need to utilize every natural source of power. With sources like waves and wind and solar, we’ll have all the power we need to make the switch to clean energy.

And finally… Ben and Jerry’s ice cream isn’t the only company focusing on climate change activism. According to a recent piece over at The Think Progress Blog, the fourth-largest craft beer brewery is teaming up with the ice cream company to raise awareness of our warming planet. The brewery cofounders, Kim Jordan and Jeff Lebesch, have always made environmental stewardship a cornerstone of their company’s operations. So, their decision to help Ben and Jerry create a limited-edition beer and ice cream pairing seemed like a natural fit. The companies are fighting to raise support for a nonprofit called “Protect Our Winters,” which advocates for the winter sports community. The special brew and sweets, which they named “Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale,” will be available in both a beer and an ice cream, and it will be sold until supplies run out. There are lots of ways we can help in the climate fight, but having a delicious brew and ice cream may be the sweetest.

And that’s the way it is for the week of November 16, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.