In today’s On the News segment: A group of leading international scientists issues a stark warning that we’d better act fast on climate change; a consumer advocacy group wants Coca-Cola to stop making illegal claims about diet soda; Food & Water Watch says it’s time for the White House to fix our broken GMO approval process; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of…science & green news…
You need to know this. We’re running out of time to save our species. That’s the warning issued last Friday by a group of nearly 2,000 leading international scientists. Their recent call for action was the outcome statement from a four-day meeting called “Our Common Future under Climate Change,” which was a gathering of academics ahead of the UN climate talks in Paris later this year. Their warning states, “The window for economically feasible solutions with a reasonable prospect of holding warming to 2 degrees Celsius or less is rapidly closing.” In other words, if we want to ensure the survival of our species, we better act fast and we better be bold. And by bold, these experts say that we need to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2050 – and a 70 percent reduction is recommended. Anything less will likely mean disaster. In order to achieve such an ambitious goal, we must pursue bold solutions – and those solutions all start with standing up to the fossil fuel industry. In their call for action, these scientists say that it’s time to end fossil fuel subsidies and time to put a price on carbon. They say that a carbon tax, “helps level the playing field among energy technologies by charging for the damage caused by climate change and rewarding other benefits of mitigation activities.” That means that green energy technology like wind, solar and geothermal would suddenly be the more-affordable energy option for the planet. In addition to these suggestions, the experts call for large, national investments in climate change adaptation, mitigation and clean energy to help increase “inclusive and sustainable” growth. We only have one planet to call home, and the actual scientists are telling us to get busy if we want to survive here much longer.
A consumer advocacy group wants the Coca-Cola company to stop making illegal claims about diet soda. According to a recent press release from US Right to Know, the soft-drink company continues to claim that artificially-sweetened soda can help fight obesity, despite numerous studies that prove otherwise. The consumer group is calling on the FDA to reign in the misleading claims, which present diet soda as a treatment for losing weight. A growing number of scientific studies have linked artificial sweeteners to weight gain, instead of weight loss, but Coca-Cola continues to list these products as part of their “Global Commitment to Help Fight Obesity.” Gary Ruskin, the co-director of US Right to Know, said, “Coke is wrong of the facts and the FDA should stop them if they are on the wrong side of the law.” They’re not calling on the agency to block the sale of these products, only to make it clear that they are not a recognized treatment for weight loss. But, considering the numerous other studies that have shown these artificial sweeteners pose serious health risks, perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad thing if the FDA was to take them off the market once and for all.
Humans have a long history of loving our pets. While archeologists have long-documented our domestication of dogs, early examples of pet cats are more rare. That’s why the recent discovery of a Native American domesticated bobcat made big news in the science community. Angela Perri of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany made the surprising discovery while reviewing ancient dog burials in the Hopewell culture that once lived across much of North America. She discovered the bobcat skeleton, which was mismarked as a dog, and she said that the elaborate burial given to the animal showed it was well-loved by the ancient people. The bobcat was adorned with a collar made of bear teeth and shells, and it was surrounded by other objects. It’s clear that our love for animals goes back to our earliest ancestors, and that those ancient cultures were just as devoted to their beloved pets.
Food & Water Watch says it’s time for the White House to fix our broken GMO approval process. In an article last week, that advocacy group explained that our government has dropped the ball when it comes to monitoring the safety of our food supply, and they want a change. Their article says, “The current system relies on analysis and data from companies seeking approval for their new GMO crops and fails to do any post-approval monitoring once these foods hit the market or even require labeling.” That means that the agencies in charge of protecting our food supply, the EPA, the FDA and the USDA, all rely on the studies and tests conducted by the very same companies that stand to profit off of genetically-modified food crops. And, once they accept that very-likely skewed data, and approve a new GMO crop, no one bothers to test it to ensure it’s actually as safe and nutritious as those companies claimed. The White House recently released a memo to these agencies announcing a planned update to their policies, and Food & Water Watch wants that update to fix these problems. It’s the responsibility of these agencies to protect us, and the safety of our food supply should be front and center.
And finally… Germany is light-years ahead of us when it comes to clean energy, and now their rolling out their newest plan to lead the world in electric vehicle technology. Last week, the very first all-electric eighteen wheeler hit the road in Munich, Germany, where it will go in to full service transporting vehicle parts across the city. The tractor-trailer was developed by BMW and a German automotive service provider called the SHERM group, and it will save almost 12 tons of carbon dioxide every year. According to the companies, the new truck is “CO2-free, quiet, and [it] generates almost no fine particle pollution,” but so far it only goes about 60 miles per charge. Considering it is the first of it’s kind, that’s still very impressive. It’s only a matter of time before the range of this truck is extended, and this technology is used throughout the world. The only question is whether the US will help lead the world in green technology innovation, or whether we will continue to let Big Oil rule our future.
And that’s the way it is for the week of July 13, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.