In today’s On the News segment: The world’s leading scientists say that global warming is threatening our very survival; obesity in the United States is changing the way our car manufacturers test vehicle safety; it’s big news when any city stands up to the fossil fuel industry, but it’s really big news when that town is in Texas; and more.
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You need to know this. The world’s leading scientists say that global warming is threatening our very survival. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued it’s most severe warning yet. Last week, the IPCC released it’s newest report, which says that global warming could reverse decades of progress fighting hunger and poverty, and that it’s only going to get worse without immediate changes. Although most developed countries are taking action on climate change, many developing nations are using more fossil fuels as they industrialize. And, developed countries like ours are not doing enough. The IPCC report states, “Continued emission of greenhouse gasses will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.” In other words, they’re not only warning of hotter temperatures, the world’s leading scientists say that global warming may soon bring food shortages, refugee crises, and mass extinctions. In order to meet the international goal – to prevent our planet from warming another 2 degrees Celsius – the IPCC says governments must limit emissions to 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide. At the rate we’re burning fossil fuels, our planet would reach that limit within 30 years. However, most developed nations are not pushing to make the switch to green energy, and they keep burning fossil fuels as if there isn’t a problem. Here in the US, we have many lawmakers who refuse to admit that global warming is even an issue, and the fossil fuel industry just helped more science-deniers get elected. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, “Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.” We must do everything we can to protect the one planet we call home – the survival of our species depends on it.
Obesity in the United States is changing the way our car manufacturers test vehicle safety. Recent estimates show that one-third of all Americans are obese, and that means our cars must be safe for overweight individuals. To keep safety standards up-to-date, auto companies will start using new crash test dummies, which weigh 100 pounds more than previous models. Chris O’Conner, the CEO of Humanetics – which manufactures crash test dummies – said that original models were 167 pounds, but newer dummies will weigh 270. Mr. O’Conner said, “Seat belts, air bags, and other safety features have all been designed for thinner people, and don’t fit larger people in the same way.” To ensure that those safety features protect larger Americans, they’ve adjusted their crash dummies to reflect our over-weight population. Obesity costs our nation almost $150 billion every year in medical expenses, and it’s one of the leading causes of premature death. Although it’s good news that our crash dummies will be scaled to protect more Americans, it’s a sad statement on how poorly we’re doing when it comes to helping people get healthy.
The winds of change are blowing in Scotland. According to a new report from the World Wide Fund for Nature, in October, wind turbines in Scotland generated more than enough energy to power all of the homes in that nation. To make matters even greener, there was enough sunshine in October to provide 40 percent of the electricity needs for any home outfitted with solar panels. Lang Banks, the director of WWF Scotland, said, “while nuclear power plants were being forced to shut down because of cracks, Scotland’s wind and sunshine were quietly and cleanly helping to keep the lights on in homes across the country.” And, perhaps more importantly, Scotland’s wind and solar power is proving to the world that we can make the switch to green energy. If Scotland can do it, so can we, and so can every country on our warming planet.
Monsanto’s “Director of Millennial Engagement” wants you to think that the bio-chemical giant and its GMOs are really cool. Ecowatch.com reported on a recent NPR interview with 32-year-old Vance Crowe, who is tasked with convincing young people that Monsanto is totally hip. In the NPR interview, Mr. Crowe said, “Before I started working here, I thought everyone would be wearing dark suits and Matrix-style sunglasses. When I came for my job interview, I was greeted at the door by a woman in a sweater and ponytail, who eventually became my boss.” So, despite the fact that Monsanto poisons us with pesticides and controls our food supply with GMOs, we should all feel better about the company because their staff is young and hip. Despite their pathetic attempt to lure in young people, it’s unlikely that Vance Crowe is going to change many minds about Monsanto. People aren’t against the chemical giant because their staff isn’t cool enough – people are against their disastrous poisons, GMOs, and anti-farmer lawsuits. Perhaps Monsanto and Mr. Crowe will realize that the best way to reach young people is to end the practices that millennials oppose.
And finally… It’s big news when any city stands up to the fossil fuel industry, but it’s really big news when that town is in Texas. Out of eight anti-fracking measures in last week’s election, four of them were passed by voters. Two California counties passed measures to ban hydraulic fracturing, along with one Ohio town, and the voters of Denton, Texas. Chris Watts, the mayor of that Texas town, said, “As I have stated numerous times, the democratic process is alive and well in Denton.” The fossil fuel industry spent a ton of money against the local measure, trying to get voters to stop the ban, but thankfully, the vote was still successful. Voters approved the ban by an overwhelming margin of 59 to 41 percent, even in the face of threats by the industry to sue over that ban. The measures in California and Ohio also passed overwhelmingly, and showed exactly what voters think about fracking wells destroying their communities. When We The People have our say, we say “No” to fracking, which is exactly why the industry is terrified of measures just like these. Little by little, we’re taking back our neighborhoods from the fossil fuel industries, and these victories remind us that beating Big Oil is possible.
And that’s the way it is for the week of November 10, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.