In today’s On the News segment: Last week, the Tokyo Electric Power Company dumped 850 tons of radioactive groundwater into the Pacific Ocean; this season may see the worst El Niño event in 65 years; outdoor air pollution kills more than 3.3 million people around the globe every year; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Science and Green news …
You need to know this. Droughts … floods … heatwaves… you don’t have to be an expert to see that 2015 is shaping up to be a record-breaking year when it comes to extreme weather. And, according to the experts, it’s only going to get worse. Last week, the National Weather Service issued an El Niño update, and said that this season may see the worst El Niño event in their 65 years of record keeping. And, international climate scientists are saying the same. The British Meteorological Office recently published a study, called “Big Changes Underway in the Climate System?”, which says that increased carbon pollution is going to exacerbate El Niño and push global temperatures even higher. In other words, that means temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere are expected to hit new record highs in the 2015-2016 summer season, and that could bring about more extreme weather events for the whole planet. Rowan Sutton, a scientist who works for the National Center for Atmospheric Science, said, “This is not a fluke. We are seeing the effects of energy steadily accumulating in the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere, caused by greenhouse gas emissions.” Adam Scaife, the study’s lead researcher, explained further by saying, “We believe we are at an important point in the time series of the Earth’s climate and we’ll look back on this period as an important turning point.” He added, “That’s why we’re emphasizing it, because we’re seeing so many big changes at once.” The consensus among these experts is that global warming is no longer a problem for the future that we’re trying to prevent, it is a very real dilemma that we’re seeing occur right before our eyes. A century of pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is coming back to haunt us, and it’s only going to get worse if we don’t get serious about fighting climate change right now.
Last week, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) dumped 850 tons of radioactive groundwater into the Pacific Ocean. Despite the warnings from environmentalists and fishermen, Tepco released the contaminated water as a part of their so-called “subdrain plan” – which will lower the level of radioactive groundwater stored at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. Of course, Tepco claims that the water has been deemed safe to release into the ocean. But, fishermen in that area said even if that were true, they can’t withstand more damage to their battered reputations. It has been more than four years since the earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima nuclear power plant and forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate their homes. Yet, Tepco has barely scratched the surface of repairing the damage and cleaning up that massive disaster. The Fukushima disaster is too big and too complex for any company or country to handle on their own, and it’s time that the world intervene. And, it’s time for our world to say “No Nukes!” once and for all.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has overruled the EPA to protect our bees. Last week, Circuit Judge Mary Schroeder ruled that the EPA’s approval of a Dow pesticide called sulfoxaflor was “not supported by substantial evidence.” And, that’s why the court opinion reads “We therefore vacate the EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor.” That chemical is part of a broad class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, which have been shown to be highly toxic to honey bees. Although the EPA approved the pesticide back in 2013, beekeepers sued that agency in an effort to save their bees. However, it’s taken so long to get a ruling in this case that beekeepers say that 42 percent of their bee population has died off since that lawsuit was filed, and that could be a huge problem for our agriculture. Greg Loarie, lead counsel in the lawsuit, said, “Our country is facing widespread bee colony collapse, and scientists are pointing to pesticides like sulfoxaflar as the cause.” He added, “The court’s decision to overturn approval of this bee-killing pesticide is incredible news for bees, beekeepers and all of us who enjoy the healthy fruits, nuts, and vegetables that rely on bees for pollination.” In other words, this ruling is good for the bees – and that’s good for all of us.
Our air is literally killing us. According to a new study published in the journal Nature, outdoor air pollution kills more than 3.3 million people around the globe every year. And, that number is only going to get larger if we don’t act. If worldwide greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, air pollution could take twice as many lives by 2050. Of course, the highest rates of air-pollution-related deaths occur in China and India, but we’re not innocent when it comes to pumping toxic chemicals into our atmosphere. Michael Jerrett of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at UCLA said, “This projection should sound alarm bells for public-health agencies around the world.” Unfortunately, this projection isn’t likely to change policy around the world. A 2014 World Health Organization report warned of air-pollution related deaths, as did similar reports earlier this year. The fact is, oil and coal companies don’t care how many people die because of their pollution, and lawmakers throughout the world continue to be bought off by these lobbies. In order to clean our air, we need to clean up our energy policy, and stop the fossil fuel industry before it’s too late.
And finally … Believe it or not, even plants have natural defenses. However, some insects can actually trick plants into lowering their guard. That interesting news is part of a recent discovery from Pennsylvania State University, which found that some caterpillars send plants chemical messages through their waste. It turns out that armyworm caterpillars have a special chemical in their poop, which is also called frass, that tricks corn plants into thinking they’re being attacked by a fungus. Because the plants can only fight one attack at a time, the caterpillars can munch away on the leaves without the plants fighting back. One of the study’s co-authors said, “It is an ecological strategy that has been perfected over thousands of years of evolution.” And, it proves that even insect waste has an important role in the cycle of life.
And that’s the way it is for the week of September 21, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science and Green News.