On the News With Thom Hartmann: Our Oceans Are in Serious Trouble, and More

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In today’s On the News segment: Our oceans are in serious trouble because a major bleaching event is wiping out coral reefs and threatening marine ecosystems; the International Monetary Fund says that now is the time to put a price on carbon; Bhutan’s agriculture will soon be 100 percent organic; and more.

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


Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Science and Green News …

You need to know this. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says that now is the time to put a price on carbon. According to a recent article over at the ThinkProgress blog, last week, IMF managing director Christine Legarde said that climate change is now a “macro-critical” issue and carbon taxes have proven to be a big success in the effort to expand clean energy. For example, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is made up of nine northeastern states, has already saved consumers $460 million in energy costs, and added $1.3 billion to the regional economy. Earlier this year, the IMF announced that governments around the world needed to reduce the $5.3 trillion being spent in fossil fuel subsidies every year. Now they’re taking that advice a step further by offering their help to nations that want to make the fossil fuel industry pay for their own pollution. Legarde said, “What we can do is certainly provide strong advocacy for things such as removing subsidies that actually go to the wrong pockets. What we can do is provide tools for countries to actually set the right prices, including externalities.” In other words, we now have plenty of evidence to show that carbon taxes work, and the IMF wants to help nations make sure that those carbon taxes are priced correctly. It’s long passed time to stop subsidizing the destruction of our planet and start incentivizing the switch to clean energy. The primary purpose of the IMF is “to ensure the stability of the international monetary system,” and they recognize that our current system is unsustainable. We can’t continue to subsidize the oil industry, and putting a price on carbon is the best way to fix our broken system.

Our oceans are in serious trouble. For the third time in our recorded history, a major bleaching event is wiping out coral reefs from Hawaii to the Indian Ocean. According to a group of scientists at NOAA, increasingly warmer ocean temperatures pose a serious threat to 95 percent of all US coral reefs. Global warming, a strong El Niño season and an unusual warm water mass in the Pacific are all contributing to warmer ocean temperatures, which coral reefs can’t survive. By the end of this year, NOAA expects that more than 4,600 square miles of reefs will have perished, and that’s bad news for the rest of our oceans. Coral reefs act as nurseries to thousands of fish and marine species, and they act as a natural barrier to protect the coast against extreme weather. When coral dies, fish species often die with them, and the entire marine ecosystem in an area can fall apart. That sets off a chain reaction as fish try to survive in other areas, and often disrupt those ecosystems as well. If our reefs disappear, we lose far more than beautiful ocean scenery, and they could take decades or longer to grow back. For the sake of our oceans, and our species, we must get serious about protecting our oceans, and the amazing coral reefs that they contain.

It turns out that there may be slackers in every species. According to a recent study in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, some worker ants are really lazy. In order to study how ants in a colony interacted, scientists marked every member of five different colonies with different colored paint. Then, with the help of a high speed camera, the researchers were able to study the ants over a two-week period. Surprisingly, they found that more than 70 percent of so-called “worker ants” were completely inactive more than half of the time. And almost one in four were never active. Out of all of the ants they studied, less than three percent were always working. Although previous studies hypothesized that the inactive periods were simply a matter of ants working in shifts, this study concluded that the same worker ants always worked, and the “lazy” ants were always lazy. The scientists say that this may be the result of some ants being too old or too young to work as needed, or it may simply be that every species has it’s own set of slackers.

It’s always easier for small countries to institute big changes, but that doesn’t lessen the importance of the latest news out of Bhutan. According to a recent announcement out of the tiny mountain nation, their agriculture will soon be 100 percent organic. As a primarily-Buddhist nation, the people of Bhutan typically live according to the tenets of their religion. For the population of only 700,000, that means living sustainably, protecting their environment and practicing good governance. That nation even rejects the use of GDP as a measure of progress, and relies instead on the measurement of “gross national happiness.” So, it’s not surprising that the nation is going organic. Sustainable and organic farming are far better for the people and the environment, and to the people of Bhutan, these practices are even better for national happiness. In an interview with the ThinkProgress blog, Bhutan’s agricultural adviser said, “Organic farming was very much a part of the gross national happiness. You cannot think about applying chemical fertilizers and pesticides and say that your country is happy.” Whether it’s for happiness, health, or otherwise, it’s great news that Bhutan is going organic.

And finally … Maybe Americans will get serious about climate change when they can’t have their pumpkin pie. No, seriously. According to the world’s largest supplier of canned pumpkin, their annual yield has been cut in half because of extreme weather. Libby’s Pumpkin, which supplies 85 percent of all the canned pumpkin in the world, said that they will have no reserves to ship after they send out this year’s stock for the holiday season. As the company’s brand affairs director explained, “That means we will have no pumpkin to ship until the next harvest, which will begin in 2016.” Considering that natural disasters, super storms and mega droughts haven’t convinced our Republican lawmakers to act on climate change, it’s unlikely that anything will interfere with their support of the fossil fuel industry. But, who knows, maybe the loss of one of America’s favorite holiday desserts will force them to get serious about our climate crisis.

And that’s the way it is for the week of October 19, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science and Green News.