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Rachel's Democracy & Health News #989

"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"

Thursday, December 11, 2008.............Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org
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Featured stories in this issue...

Zero Waste Activism Takes on Global Warming
  The phrase "zero waste" includes two different activities --
  municipalities aiming to recycle, reuse or compost up to 90% of
  municipal discards ("trash"), and "zero waste manufacturing" also
  know as "designing for re-use," which aims to create products that can
  be endlessly remanufactured and reused. Both activities are important
  to the future of the planet.
Letter of Principles for Toxic Chemical Regulatory Reform
  In this letter to president-elect Barack Obama, U.S. chemicals
  policy activists say, "U.S. chemical regulatory policy must understand
  and implement the Precautionary Principle so that we may finally join
  the modern chemical policies of other countries around the world."
It's Official: Men Really Are the Weaker Sex
  A compilation of scientific research from around the world reveals
  that the male gender is in danger, with far-reaching consequences for
  both wildlife and humans.
Climate Change Gathers Steam, Say Scientists
  New studies indicate that human activity may be triggering powerful
  natural forces that would be nearly impossible to reverse and that
  could push temperatures up even higher than scientists had previously
  predicted.
Four Truths About Climate Change We Can't Ignore
  After 70 interviews in a dozen countries over 18 months, "I have
  reached four conclusions that I didn't even suspect when I began the
  process. The first is simply this: The scientists are really scared.
  Their observations over the past two or three years suggest that
  everything is happening a lot faster than their climate models
  predicted."
Climate Change Overwhelming Disaster Relief
  "Over the past 20 years, the number of reported disasters has
  doubled from roughly 200 [per year] to 400. Today, floods are
  happening more frequently. In 1985, we used to have 50 floods per
  year. In 2005, the number jumped to 200." Reflecting the trend,
  contributions for natural disaster relief have leapt hugely, from $257
  million in 2006 to $808 million in 2007 to $961 million so far this
  year, he said.
The Fool's Gold of Carbon Trading
  Carbon trading has created the most complex commodity market the
  world has ever known. As such, it is open to abuse, and will reduce
  carbon dioxide in the atmosphere far too slowly to avoid warming the
  planet by 7 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit -- a catastrophe for the
  environmment and for humanity.

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From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #989, Dec. 11, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]

ZERO WASTE ACTIVISM TAKES ON GLOBAL WARMING

By Tim Montague

The the Big Three automakers are licking their chops over the $14 to
$34 billion in tax-payer bailouts they hope to find in their
Christmas stocking. Meanwhile, community based environment, health,
jobs and justice activists are planning an important Zero Waste
Communities conference in the Motor City February 6-9, 2009.

The conference will bring together community-based activists from the
U.S. and Canada aiming to create jobs by phasing out dumps and
incinerators. Unlike the auto executives who have resisted innovation
and the manufacture of cleaner cars, these activists will be
organizing, sharing ideas, and swapping business plans to create real
economic opportunity for communities of color and/or low income.

The Zero Waste Communities conference is part of a broad trend that
is changing the environmental movement in the U.S. Grassroots
activists are increasingly committed to solving serious environmental
and health problems by creating sustainable green jobs, and using
global warming as a multi-issue rallying cry for justice and
sustainable prosperity.

The "Zero Waste" conference, hosted by the Coalition for a New
Business Model for Detroit Solid Waste, is part of the global fight
to stop landfills and incinerators from wreaking havoc on low-income
people, indigenous communities, people of color, and the fabric of
life on the entire planet.

The conference comes on the heels of a new report, Stop Trashing the
Climate.[1] The 70-page report by Eco-Cycle, the Institute for
Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), and the Global Alliance for Incinerator
Alternatives (GAIA) (who have also produced a 7 page companion
statement Zero Waste for Zero Warming and a video) -- convincingly
argues that governments can adopt zero waste strategies to greatly
reduce their need for landfills and incinerators and combat
climate change.

Dave Ciplet, an organizer with GAIA and one of the report's authors,
says that the aim of Zero Waste is investing, "in the workforce,
infrastructure and local strategies needed to reduce what we trash in
incinerators and landfills to zero by a given year. It means stopping
even another dime of taxpayer money from subsidizing waste disposal
projects that contaminate environments and the people who live there."

As Rachel's readers know, there are many good reasons to find safer
alternatives to burying and burning trash. Landfills and incinerators
are major sources of toxic pollution that harm the environment and
human health.[2] The report makes it alarmingly clear that dumps and
incinerators are also major sources of greenhouse gases (GHG),
speeding us towards a world too hot for human habitation.

According to the new report, we bury or burn nearly 170 million tons
of stuff every year in the U.S. This is two-thirds of everything we
make.(p.14) Only one-third gets recycled, re-used or composted.

Typical household trash is comprised of 59% organic matter -- an
amount that equals 100 million tons (200 billion pounds) of wood,
paper, food, and yard trimmings thrown away annually, according to the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). After you bury trash,
bacteria convert the organic matter into methane and CO2. Methane is a
potent greenhouse gas that is up to 72 times more powerful at trapping
heat than CO2.[3] Landfills are the largest producers of methane and
consequently their gasses pose a threat to climate stability.(p. 14)

Burning garbage is a messy but profitable business. It takes useful
material (wood, paper, metal, plastic, food scraps and lawn clippings)
and converts it to heat and C02 (plus creating a brand new set of
nasty chemicals like dioxins and furans). Then someone has to create
all that stuff again. For every piece of paper that is burned or
buried, a new piece of paper has to be manufactured -- starting with
cutting down a tree somewhere, transporting it, chemically processing
it, and so on.

The waste industry ignores the replacement cost of items that are
burned or buried. They "greenwash" so-called "waste-to-energy"
projects (aka, incinerators), proposing them as a 'solution' to the
climate crisis, because they make something 'good' (electricity) from
otherwise 'bad' stuff, like methane from landfills; or garbage that
would otherwise take up precious landfill space.

Altogether, the report authors estimate that landfills and
incinerators are directly responsible for 7% of our greenhouse gas
emissions -- 5% from landfills and 2% from incinerators. What is
important here, is that the 7% of greenhouse gas emissions produced by
our garbage actually accounts for 37% of emissions if you take into
account all the mining, logging, milling, oil drilling, transporting
and manufacturing required to produce new stuff.(p.24)

The report advocates serious recycling of the raw materials present in
discarded items, rather than burning or burying them. We could divert
all the reusables, recyclables and compostables from the waste stream,
capturing 90% of the material and reducing the nation's total
greenhouse gas emissions in the process by at least 7%; today, in
contrast, we capture only about 30% for reuse. This 7% reduction in
greenhouse has emissions would be equal to shutting down 83 (one
fifth) of the nation's 417 coal-burning power plants forever.(p. 15)

But this could be considered an interim goal -- on our way to a zero-
waste manufacturing society. Among the 12 principles of green
engineering, principle #6 is to retain complexity when reusing or
recycling materials. In other words, a bottle has been manufactured
for a particular purpose. Its shape, its size, the varying thickness
of its base and neck -- are all essential to its purpose. Those design
features should be retained, rather than just crushing the bottle back
to glass shards and remelting them into a new bottle. As Paul Palmer
of the Zero Waste Institute points out, bottles should be marked
with a special machine-readable code so that a sorting machine can
process garbage and extract bottles into proper categories. Then the
bottles could be re-filled, re-sealed and re-used many times -- just
as bottles used to be re-used in this country before about 1960.

Electronic circuit boards -- the guts of our computers and cell phones
-- should be manufactured in modules with the circuit diagrams
published online so that they could be re-used in new products rather
than being simply crushed and discarded. Their inherent complexity
should be viewed as an investment that we should not throw away.

For every ton of trash that we landfill or incinerate in the U.S.,
another 71 tons of waste are produced during the mining, drilling,
logging, processing, transporting, and manufacturing of those
products.(p. 19) Burning or burying our municipal discards entails
great replacement costs.

Since 1970, we have consumed one-third of the world's available
natural resources -- forests, minable metals, fossil fuels, and so
on.[4] This enormous waste is the main reason why, if everyone in the
world tried to live as we live in the U.S., we would need six planet
Earths to provide the raw materials and places to throw stuff away.
Our U.S. throw-away lifestyle is threatening the planet with
ecological overshoot and collapse, while producing massive profits
for certain industries.

Reusing, recycling and composting are threats to those major
industries that profit from our single-use society. If we were reusing
the 170 million tons of municipal discards that are currently going
into landfills and incinerators, then we would effectively be reducing
12 billion tons (71 tons of waste times 170 million tons of stuff) of
industrial waste. This is the kind of savings that could put us on the
path towards real sustainability. We might actually be able to
envision a no-growth, steady-state economy (gasp). (More on a
steady-state economy here.)

Although zero-waste manufacturing is not on the national agenda (yet)
for many municipal governments, diverting usable stuff from landfills
and incinerators is an idea whose time has come, and dozens of cities
around the world are taking it seriously. As part of the Urban
Environmental Accords, cities like Oakland, Portland and Seattle have
agreed to meet the goal of zero waste by 2040.(p.49) San Francisco
(which already recycles close to 70% of its trash) has committed to
increasing that proportion to 90% by 2020 -- and they are
demonstrating that this can be done using today's technology with
curbside recycling and composting programs.

Zero-waste manufacturing -- designing for reuse -- is going to get us
beyond 90% recycling -- which slows our rate of raw material
consumption but doesn't stop it -- to 99%. Some of the incentives for
society to make that transition will include extended producer
responsibility (EPR), which makes it industry's responsibility to
design non-toxic, reusable, recyclable or compostable products. With
EPR, the manufacturers of an item (such as a TV) retains legal
liability for the item at the end of its useful life -- creating an
incentive to manufacture with something in mind besides a landfill or
incinerator, both of which endanger the environment and public health.
(In the U.S., California is leading the way with a Product
Stewardship Council with a very broad membership. The Product Policy
Institute in Athens, Ga. has been instrumental in this important
development; see their video, Cradle to Cradle.)

The good news here is that we can now see unequivocally that we must
change and that zero waste -- meaning both recycling and zero-
waste manufacturing -- must be part of the solution if we are to get
on the path towards sustainability. On our present course, the garbage
stream will grow steadily from 250 million tons per year in 2006 to
over 300 million tons by 2030 (an increase of 20%). With zero waste
firmly in our decision-making toolkit, we can envision a world without
a waste stream that poisons both future generations and ourselves.

Imagine if Congress had the creative insight and the guts to say no to
the Big Three auto makers and yes to millions of green jobs and
thousands of community-based economic engines (public works projects)
based on the principles of resource conservation, clean production
and zero waste manufacturing. That would be a bailout worth fighting
for, and one that would certainly help us step back from the brink of
climate chaos.

[1] Brenda Platt, David Ciplet, Kate Bailey and Eric Lombardi, Stop
Trashing the Climate (June 2008). www.stoptrashingtheclimate.org

[2] See for example, Michelle Allsopp, Pat Costner, and Paul Johnson,
Incineration & Public Health: State of Knowledge of the Impacts of
Waste Incineration on Human Health (Greenpeace, Exeter, UK: March
2001). And, also: Cormier, S. A., Lomnicki, S., Backes, W., and
Dellinger, B. (June 2006). "Origin and Health Impacts of Emissions of
Toxic By-Products and Fine Particles from Combustion and Thermal
Treatment of Hazardous Wastes and Materials." Environmental Health
Perspectives, 114(6): 810-817.

[3] Over a twenty year period, methane is 72 times as potent a
greenhouse gas as CO2; over a 100-year period, methane's potency drops
to 25 times that of CO2 because some of the methane decomposes over
time (it has a half-life of seven years in the atmosphere). The report
authors use the twenty-year time period -- potency of 72 -- because of
the urgency of the climate catastrophe and because of the potential
benefits of reducing methane emissions in the short term. Dr. Ed J.
Dlugokencky, Global Methane Expert at NOAA says, "Scientifically
speaking, using the 20-year time horizon to assess methane emissions
is as equally valid as using the 100-year time horizon."(p. 7)

[4] Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins, Natural
Capitalism, Little Brown and Company, (1999), p. 4.

Return to Table of Contents

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From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #172, Dec. 10, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]

LETTER OF PRINCIPLES FOR TOXIC CHEMICAL REGULATORY REFORM

To the Obama transition government

Dear President-Elect Obama,

Congratulations on your victory in the election for president of the
United States. We look forward to the positive changes you plan on
making, and send you this letter to offer our support in that
endeavor, especially for the urgently needed reform of our chemical
regulatory policy.

Recent reports about industry influence and possible interference with
our chemical regulatory policy on chemicals at the FDA, EPA and other
agencies threaten the confidence of all consumers about American
products, and about our government's role in protecting health. As we
are sure you know, storms of controversy over chemicals in everything
from shower curtains and lipstick, to baby bottles, infant formula,
canned food, cars, toys and even pet food have increasingly unnerved
parents and anyone concerned about public health.

Though its effects may not be as obvious, the deregulation of the
chemical industry has hurt the United States just as much as the
deregulation of Wall Street, with effects likely to last generations.
Scientists, physicians, health advocates, worker organizations, parent
groups, health-affected groups and many others view fundamental reform
to current chemical laws as urgent and necessary to protect children,
workers, communities, and the environment now and in the future.

The economic costs of current levels of chemical contamination are
often hidden, though they contribute significantly to reduced worker
productivity, increased hospital costs, more expensive health
insurance, and greater burdens on businesses for hazardous waste
storage, disposal, and clean-up fees. Uncounted in the conventional
cost-benefit analysis of our chemical regulatory policies is the price
we pay for children with developmental disabilities or the toll on
families with chemical exposure-linked illness, not to mention eco-
system impacts, made worse by global warming.

Mounting scientific studies link chemical exposure to human illness
and unnecessary disabilities and chronic conditions. The most
vulnerable include children, women, and communities of color and those
already stressed by depressed economic conditions and diminished
access to health care and information. Spikes in rates of illness
linked to chemical exposure include: obesity, diabetes, thyroid
disease, childhood cancers, breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart
disease, asthma, neurodevelopmental problems, learning disabilities in
children that persist throughout life and other effects. Although
chemical exposure knows no boundaries, communities of color located
around chemical manufacturing areas and whose geographic location
receives chemical drift from applications elsewhere are at particular
risk.

Tragically, these preventable illnesses and health effects linked to
chemical exposure are on the rise, and the effects of some chemical
exposure effects can last for generations. Scientists, physicians,
health advocates, worker organizations, parent groups, health-affected
groups and many others view fundamental reform to current chemical
laws as urgent and necessary to protect children, workers,
communities, and the environment now and in the future.

People all over the United States, including Mossville, Louisiana,
Glynn County, Georgia, Dixon, Tennessee, Port Arthur and Corpus
Christie, Texas, agricultural communities in California, North
Carolina, Washington, and Florida and elsewhere are suffering from
chemical contamination. Arctic Indigenous communities are among the
most highly exposed populations in the world. The Arctic has become a
hemispheric sink for long-lasting chemical contaminants that travel
long distances on oceanic and atmospheric currents. These chemicals
accumulate up the food chain in fish, wildlife and peoples of the
north.

Harm from chemical exposure from U.S. based and other chemical
corporations is not limited to the U.S. Despite efforts by the
international community to identify the most dangerous chemicals and
phase them out, the U.S. government has obstructed this movement and
has lost credibility with an international community suffering from
the health effects of insidious chemical exposure caused,
significantly, by U.S. corporations and their foreign allies. Ongoing
efforts of the U.S. government to impede and obstruct major
international policy advances such as the Stockholm Treaty and REACH
have had serious economic and political consequences.

The opportunity to eliminate toxic chemical exposure and build a new
green economy that supports clean production of safe consumer goods is
now at hand. By designing new, safer chemicals, products, and green
production systems, American businesses will protect people's health
and create healthy, sustainable jobs, and enhance our ability to
compete in the international marketplace. Some leading companies are
already on this path and the workers and neighboring communities
benefit. They are creating safe products and new, green jobs by using
clean, innovative technologies that benefit public health, the
environment and the bottom line. But transforming entire markets will
require policy change.

Please consider these five steps to improve the health and well being
of Americans, to protect future generations, promote industry
innovation and technological superiority in designing safer chemicals,
products and manufacturing processes, reduce our dependence on foreign
oil, and reward businesses that protect workers and lead the way to a
new, green energy economy that will benefit all Americans.

1. Hire and Gather the Best and the Brightest for your Toxics
Regulatory Team

* Deploy thoughtful leaders on: chemical exposure and environmental
health, scientific and common sense solutions to the toxic chemical
contamination problem, innovations in business and industry with Green
Chemistry development, and other innovative thinkers to advise the
administration on toxic chemical exposure as a variable in all
domestic and foreign policy as well as on new appointments to agencies
and departments relevant to environmental health. One example would be
forming a task force on chemical regulatory reform or some other
multi-stakeholder process to help expedite immediate action. These
innovative thinkers should advise the administration on toxic chemical
exposure as a variable in all domestic and foreign policy as well as
on new appointments to agencies and departments relevant to
environmental health and have no financial conflicts of interest. It
will be important for this group to see the interconnectivity of
issues inherent to a healthy and prosperous future.

* Set a public interest research agenda that coordinates green
chemistry with green energy and green engineering technologies being
developed and supported.

* The administration should adopt the position that the right to a
clean and healthy environment is an inalienable right that will be
protected by the courts.

2. U.S. Chemicals Policy Must Adhere to Principles and Guidelines for
Ethical Chemical Regulatory Reform

* U.S. residents and all peoples have a fundamental right to
protection from exposure to toxic substances, including from chemicals
and nuclear radiation, in our environment and our bodies. The purpose
of the U.S. chemicals regulatory policy must be to protect us from
these exposures, while preventing the export of toxic substances that
could harm other countries.

* U.S. chemical regulatory policy must understand and implement the
Precautionary Principle so that we may finally join the modern
chemical policies of other countries around the world. The
Precautionary Principle forms the foundation of the European Union's
REACH law on chemicals and international treaties such as the
Stockholm Convention. This foundation for U.S. chemical policy
mandates adequate scientific evidence that will help to insure that a
substance is safe before it is allowed to be introduced in the
marketplace.

* U.S. chemical regulatory policy must provide remedies for the
injustice of unequal environmental protection based on race that has
exposed communities of color to significant levels of toxic pollution.
Such remedies must include a legal standard that requires a safe
distance between a residential population and a chemical facility and
a private right of action against a federal, state, or local
regulatory agency whose decision or action results in a racially
disproportionate pollution burden.

* In addition to aligning with REACH, U.S. chemical regulatory policy
must regain U.S. leadership by respecting the intentions of
international agreements, including Strategic Approach to
International Chemicals Management (SAICM), the Stockholm Convention,
Rotterdam Convention, Basel Convention, the Montreal Protocol, and a
new global free standing legally binding agreement on mercury and
other similar substances of concern.

3. Revamp the Chemical Evaluation Process

* A gross lack of knowledge currently exists in the U.S. about the
data on chemical substances produced, imported, exported, and used in
the U.S. This serious data deficiency demands immediate adoption of a
comprehensive process of identifying and assessing critical
information for all substances before they can be produced, marketed
or allowed for continued use. Of utmost priority art chemicals that
are suspected of being mutagens, carcinogens, reproductive or
neurodevelopmental toxicants, endocrine disruptors, and persistent
bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals. Examples include: phthalates,
bisphenol A, perflourinated chemicals, endosulfan, lindane,
perchlorate, methyl bromide, methyl iodide, organophosphates, dioxins,
furans, and brominated and chlorinated flame-retardants, and non-
persistent chemicals, such as benzene, which may be difficult to
detect.

* Evaluation of the chemicals must be on the basis of their inherent
hazards and toxicity, including threats of harm to workers who make
them, the communities where they are made, the communities where the
chemicals and chemical-induced products are used, disposed or
destroyed, and where there is danger for impacting the health of the
general public, now and in the future, as in the case of neurotoxins
and many carcinogens, which can take years to trigger or manifest
effects.

* Chemical evaluation processes also must be based on complete
transparency and mandated data collection from the corporations that
make the chemicals, removing "business security" shields from
manufacturers of suspected dangerous substances. Health and safety
information should not be considered confidential business information
and a "No Data, No Market" rule should be implemented and enforced.

* Suspected materials must be phased out more rapidly where safer
substitutes are already available.

* No U.S. government agency should be allowed to shield chemical
corporations from being mandated to provide information under the
guise of "national security," in regard to chemical production
facilities or transportation of these chemicals.

* Evaluation of chemicals must be conducted by U.S. government
scientists and academic colleagues in a manner that that upholds the
integrity of the evaluation, with public financial support as well as
political support for independent research and protection for speaking
freely about their findings. Scientists must be expected to report
unbiased results, free from political and industry-driven influences,
with all findings subject to fully transparent, independent peer
review. Scientists must have support and protections to be able to
conduct independent scientific study and speak freely about their
findings -- the "gag order" on U.S. federal scientists must be removed
immediately.

* Immediate action to pursue permanent Chemical Security legislation
that would require thousands of facilities, including all water
treatment plants to require the use of safer chemical alternatives and
processes. Millions of people inside the U.S. are at risk if an
unintentional or intentional (terrorist attacks) industrial chemical
accident were to occur. The framework required includes improving
standards for review of safer and more secure alternatives, worker
involvement, and crucial government accountability. One immediate
concern is the need for a structured review of federal facilities that
pose the danger of an off-site chemical emergency release. The
standards for these reviews must be focused on "alternatives
assessment" rather than "risk assessment."

4. Reform "Stakeholder" Influence in Decision-Making

* U.S. chemical policy regulators, including non-scientist appointees
and staff members, must be completely free of ties to the chemical
industry or other entities that would attempt to influence their
decisions or impact the integrity of chemical evaluations. Regulators
may consult with the chemical industry, but we need a change from what
has become a conventional U.S. process in which the chemical industry
dictates chemical regulatory policy and writes relevant legislation.
The preferred "stakeholders" in this process must be the people of the
United States, not the chemical corporations.

* The people of the United States need to have access and the ability
to participate in the chemical evaluation process, which requires
resources for capacity building and access to expertise to represent
their interests.

* The Toxic Release Inventory rule and other tools for industry
transparency?must be strengthened, and the public's right to know
chemical data should be guaranteed. There must be Executive and
legislative support for mandating complete transparency for all data
regarding chemical exposure in communities, including pesticide use
data.

* Toxic chemical exposure must also be considered an Environmental
Justice issue, and previously ignored and disenfranchised communities
of color and of modest economic standing must be brought into the
process of identifying vulnerable populations and implementing
culturally respectful policies for empowerment to become safe from
chemical exposure. This can only be accomplished through dedicated
resources for capacity building at the community level.

* Resources must be immediately directed toward environmental
monitoring of air, water, and soil where chemical exposure is
suspected in order to prevent, not just manage, exposure to workers
and communities.

* When toxic chemical exposure is identified, immediate action and
resources must be available to halt the exposure and protect
communities, especially children, honoring the cultural integrities of
each community.

* Assessment of toxic chemical exposures must be an immediate mandated
component of all relief efforts for communities in times of disaster,
with protection mitigations in place to prevent additional and new
exposures (as in the example of the FEMA trailers) compounding
existing tragedy.

5. Create Economic Strength and Strategy Via Toxic Chemical Exposure
Protections

* A program of incentives must be developed to support the efforts of
chemical corporations, the auto and oil industries, and other relevant
industries to develop less harmful substitutions for their products.
No new products should be allowed into the marketplace without
adequate scientific study on health effects. The responsibility must
be on the producer to demonstrate no harm. Regulatory and financial
barriers for companies seeking to develop and use less toxic products,
move away from reliance on petrochemicals, and reduce resource
depletion in production, including use of water, should be addressed,
and incentives provided for those corporations that demonstrate
significant progress insuring that their workers, communities, and
customers are protected.

* "Polluter pays," reverse onus, and other precautionary policies, in
addition to the Rio Principles should be adopted as a foundation for
U.S. environmental protections and for restoring confidence in U.S.
corporations, their standing in the community, and the products they
make. Re-establish support and enforcement of Superfund policies.

* Support programs for farmers to transition to safer, less toxic
means of food production must be instituted.

* Integrate Toxic Chemical Exposure Issues Throughout U.S. Government
Agencies and Policies

* EPA must partner with the Centers for Disease Control and immediate
resources need to be made available for biomonitoring and public
health surveys of communities where chemical exposure impact is
suspected. Monitoring should also include biota and human tissue
contamination with the intention of tracing the sources of
contamination. These agencies must develop and use a protocol for the
evaluation of chemical exposure impact that is based on the
Precautionary Principle

* Intentional dosing of human beings, especially children, with
pesticides and other known toxic chemicals in experiments is unethical
and must be prohibited.

* Chemical contamination knows no political boundaries. Testing of
imported foods and other products for chemical contamination must be
reinstated.

* The U.S. government must make it illegal for U.S. corporations to
dump toxic waste or sell banned or restricted products outside of the
country. U.S. corporations must be accountable and responsible for
harm that befalls communities at home and overseas from chemical
exposure caused by these corporations chemical manufacture, use
(including in consumer products), and disposal. The U.S. must become a
party to the Basel Treaty and uphold its principles.

* The U.S. government must define toxic substance hazard as a variable
in all international trade, human rights, and other agreements and
encourage and support other nations to reduce and eliminate toxic
substance exposure.

* Toxic chemical exposure must be taken into account for all U.S.
policies, including stimulus for the economy,?job creation, the
transition away from petrochemical fuels, education, and other urgent
changes in U.S. economic and social enterprises.

* A timeline must be set for putting a modern chemical regulatory
process and policy in place; time is of the essence with the health of
hundreds of millions of people at stake.

Thank you.

The undersigned groups are eager to assist with designing and building
support for transformational change to the U.S. chemical regulatory
system and offer our recommendations as enthusiastic partners of the
President-Elect's new administration to achieve necessary and timely
change.

Sincerely,

[Organizational affiliations given for identification purposes only.]

Laura Abulafia, MHS, Director, Environmental Health Initiative,
American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
(Formerly AAMR)

Martha Dina Arguello, Executive Director, Physicians for Social
Responsibility

Ruth Berlin, LCSW-C, Executive Director, Maryland Pesticide Network

Joan Blades, President and Co-founder, MomsRising.org

Arlene Blum, Executive Director, Green Science Policy Institute

Lin Kaatz Chary, Great Lakes Green Chemistry Network

Elizabeth Crowe, Director, Kentucky Environmental Foundation

Kathleen Curtis, Policy Director, Clean New York

Carol Dansereau, Executive Director, Farm Worker Pesticide Project,
Washington

Joe DiGangi, International Pops Elimination Network

Tracey Easthope, Environmental Health Director, Michigan Ecology
Center

Jay Feldman, Executive Director, Beyond Pesticides

Christopher Gavigan, CEO, Healthy Child, Healthy World

Lois Gibbs, Executive Director, Center for Health, Environment and
Justice

Dori Gilels, Executive Director, Women's Voices for the Earth

Kathryn Gilje, Executive Director, Pesticide Action Network North
America

Monique Harden, Co-director and attorney, Advocates for Environmental
Human Rights

Amanda Hawes, attorney

Rick Hind, Legislative Director, Greenpeace

Dr. J. William Hirzy, Vice-President NTEU Chapter 280 (EPA HQ
Professionals Union), and Chemist in Residence, American University

John Kepner, Project Director, Beyond Pesticides

Bettie D. Kettell, RN Durham, Maine

Elise Miller, MEd, Executive Director, Institute for Children's
Environmental Health

Pam Miller, Biologist and Director of Alaska Community Action on
Toxics

Mark A. Mitchell, MD, MPH, President, Connecticut Coalition for
Environmental Justice

Peter Montague, PhD, Environmental Research Foundation

Suzanne Murphy, Executive Director, Worksafe

Janet Nudelman, Director of Program and Policy Breast Cancer Fund

Judith Robinson, Director of Programs, Environmental Health Fund

Mike Schade, PVC Campaign Coordinator, The Center for Health,
Environment and Justice (CHEJ)

Ted Shettler, MD, MPH, Science and Environmental Health Network

Lynn Thorp, National Campaigns Campaigns Coordinator, Clean Water
Action

Laurie Valeriano, Policy Director, Washington Toxics Coalition

Nathalie Walker, Co-director and attorney, Advocates for Environmental
Human Rights

Kristen Welker-Hood, ScD MSN RN, Director, Environment and Health
Programs, Physicians for Social Responsibility

Charlotte Wells, Galveston BAYKEEPER®, Texas

Resources

Contaminated without Consent www.contaminatedwithoutconsent.org

Is It In Us? isitinus.org/

The Louisville Charter www.louisvillecharter.org

Principles of Environmental Justice
ej4all.org/environmental.principles.php

Scientific Consensus Statement on Environmental Agents Associated with
Neurodevelopmental Disorders Developed by the Collaborative on Health
and the Environment's Learning and Developmental Disabilities
Initiative February 20, 2008 (revised July 1, 2008) 
www.iceh.org/pdfs/LDDI/LDDIPolicyStatement.pdf

Toxic Playroom www.toxicplayroom.org

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From: The Independent (London, U.K.), Dec. 7, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]

IT'S OFFICIAL: MEN REALLY ARE THE WEAKER SEX

Evolution is being distorted by pollution, which damages genitals and
the ability to father offspring, says new study. Geoffrey Lean reports

By Geoffrey Lean

The male gender is in danger, with incalculable consequences for both
humans and wildlife, startling scientific research from around the
world reveals.

The research -- to be detailed tomorrow in the most comprehensive
report yet published -- shows that a host of common chemicals is
feminising males of every class of vertebrate animals, from fish to
mammals, including people.

Backed by some of the world's leading scientists, who say that it
"waves a red flag" for humanity and shows that evolution itself is
being disrupted, the report comes out at a particularly sensitive time
for ministers. On Wednesday, Britain will lead opposition to proposed
new European controls on pesticides, many of which have been found to
have "gender-bending" effects.

It also follows hard on the heels of new American research which shows
that baby boys born to women exposed to widespread chemicals in
pregnancy are born with smaller penises and feminised genitals.

"This research shows that the basic male tool kit is under threat,"
says Gwynne Lyons, a former government adviser on the health effects
of chemicals, who wrote the report.

Wildlife and people have been exposed to more than 100,000 new
chemicals in recent years, and the European Commission has admitted
that 99 per cent of them are not adequately regulated. There is not
even proper safety information on 85 per cent of them.

Many have been identified as "endocrine disrupters" -- or gender-
benders -- because they interfere with hormones. These include
phthalates, used in food wrapping, cosmetics and baby powders among
other applications; flame retardants in furniture and electrical
goods; PCBs, a now banned group of substances still widespread in food
and the environment; and many pesticides.

The report -- published by the charity CHEMTrust and drawing on more
than 250 scientific studies from around the world -- concentrates
mainly on wildlife, identifying effects in species ranging from the
polar bears of the Arctic to the eland of the South African plains,
and from whales in the depths of the oceans to high-flying falcons and
eagles.

It concludes: "Males of species from each of the main classes of
vertebrate animals (including bony fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds
and mammals) have been affected by chemicals in the environment.

"Feminisation of the males of numerous vertebrate species is now a
widespread occurrence. All vertebrates have similar sex hormone
receptors, which have been conserved in evolution. Therefore,
observations in one species may serve to highlight pollution issues of
concern for other vertebrates, including humans."

Fish, it says, are particularly affected by pollutants as they are
immersed in them when they swim in contaminated water, taking them in
not just in their food but through their gills and skin. They were
among the first to show widespread gender-bending effects.

Half the male fish in British lowland rivers have been found to be
developing eggs in their testes; in some stretches all male roaches
have been found to be changing sex in this way. Female hormones -
largely from the contraceptive pills which pass unaltered through
sewage treatment -- are partly responsible, while more than three-
quarters of sewage works have been found also to be discharging
demasculinising man-made chemicals. Feminising effects have now been
discovered in a host of freshwater fish species as far away as Japan
and Benin, in Africa, and in sea fish in the North Sea, the
Mediterranean, Osaka Bay in Japan and Puget Sound on the US west
coast.

Research at the University of Florida earlier this year found that 40
per cent of the male cane toads -- a species so indestructible that it
has become a plague in Australia -- had become hermaphrodites in a
heavily farmed part of the state, with another 20 per cent undergoing
lesser feminisation. A similar link between farming and sex changes in
northern leopard frogs has been revealed by Canadian research, adding
to suspicions that pesticides may be to blame.

Male alligators exposed to pesticides in Florida have suffered from
lower testosterone and higher oestrogen levels, abnormal testes,
smaller penises and reproductive failures. Male snapping turtles have
been found with female characteristics in the same state and around
the Great Lakes, where wildlife has been found to be contaminated with
more than 400 different chemicals. Male herring gulls and peregrine
falcons have produced the female protein used to make egg yolks, while
bald eagles have had difficulty reproducing in areas highly
contaminated with chemicals.

Scientists at Cardiff University have found that the brains of male
starlings who ate worms contaminated by female hormones at a sewage
works in south-west England were subtly changed so that they sang at
greater length and with increased virtuosity.

Even more ominously for humanity, mammals have also been found to be
widely affected.

Two-thirds of male Sitka black-tailed deer in Alaska have been found
to have undescended testes and deformed antler growth, and roughly the
same proportion of white-tailed deer in Montana were discovered to
have genital abnormalities.

In South Africa, eland have been revealed to have damaged testicles
while being contaminated by high levels of gender-bender chemicals,
and striped mice from one polluted nature reserved were discovered to
be producing no sperm at all.

At the other end of the world, hermaphrodite polar bears -- with
penises and vaginas -- have been discovered and gender-benders have
been found to reduce sperm counts and penis lengths in those that
remained male. Many of the small, endangered populations of Florida
panthers have been found to have abnormal sperm.

Other research has revealed otters from polluted areas with smaller
testicles and mink exposed to PCBs with shorter penises. Beluga whales
in Canada's St Lawrence estuary and killer whales off its north-west
coast -- two of the wildlife populations most contaminated by PCBs -
are reproducing poorly, as are exposed porpoises, seals and dolphins.

Scientists warned yesterday that the mass of evidence added up to a
grave warning for both wildlife and humans. Professor Charles Tyler,
an expert on endocrine disrupters at the University of Exeter, says
that the evidence in the report "set off alarm bells". Whole wildlife
populations could be at risk, he said, because their gene pool would
be reduced, making them less able to withstand disease and putting
them at risk from hazards such as global warming.

Dr Pete Myers, chief scientist at Environmental Health Sciences, one
of the world's foremost authorities on gender-bender chemicals, added:
"We have thrown 100, 000 chemicals against a finely balanced hormone
system, so it's not surprising that we are seeing some serious
results. It is leading to the most rapid pace of evolution in the
history of the world.

Professor Lou Gillette of Florida University, one of the most
respected academics in the field, warned that the report waved "a
large red flag" at humanity. He said: "If we are seeing problems in
wildlife, we can be concerned that something similar is happening to a
proportion of human males"

Indeed, new research at the University of Rochester in New York state
shows that boys born to mothers with raised levels of phthalates were
more likely to have smaller penises and undescended testicles. They
also had a shorter distance between their anus and genitalia, a
classic sign of feminisation. And a study at Rotterdam's Erasmus
University showed that boys whose mothers had been exposed to PCBs
grew up wanting to play with dolls and tea sets rather than with
traditionally male toys.

Communities heavily polluted with gender-benders in Canada, Russia and
Italy have given birth to twice as many girls than boys, which may
offer a clue to the reason for a mysterious shift in sex ratios
worldwide. Normally 106 boys are born for every 100 girls, but the
ratio is slipping. It is calculated that 250,000 babies who would have
been boys have been born as girls instead in the US and Japan alone.

And sperm counts are dropping precipitously. Studies in more than 20
countries have shown that they have dropped from 150 million per
millilitre of sperm fluid to 60 million over 50 years. (Hamsters
produce nearly three times as much, at 160 million.) Professor Nil
Basu of Michigan University says that this adds up to "pretty
compelling evidence for effects in humans".

But Britain has long sought to water down EU attempts to control
gender-bender chemicals and has been leading opposition to a new
regulation that would ban pesticides shown to have endocrine-
disrupting effects. Almost all the other European countries back it,
but ministers -- backed by their counterparts from Ireland and Romania
- are intent on continuing their resistance at a crucial meeting on
Wednesday. They say the regulation would cause a collapse of
agriculture in the UK, but environmentalists retort that this is
nonsense because the regulation has get-out clauses that could be used
by British farmers.

Copyright 2008 Independent News and Media Limited

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From: Agence France Presse, Nov. 29, 2008
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CLIMATE CHANGE GATHERS STEAM, SAY SCIENTISTS

PARIS (AFP) -- Earth's climate appears to be changing more quickly and
deeply than a benchmark UN report for policymakers predicted, top
scientists said ahead of international climate talks starting Monday
in Poland.

Evidence published since the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate
Change's (IPCC) February 2007 report suggests that future global
warming may be driven not just by things over which humans have a
degree of control, such as burning fossil fuels or destroying forest,
a half-dozen climate experts told AFP.

Even without additional drivers, the IPCC has warned that current
rates of greenhouse gas emissions, if unchecked, would unleash
devastating droughts, floods and huge increases in human misery by
century's end.

But the new studies, they say, indicate that human activity may be
triggering powerful natural forces that would be nearly impossible to
reverse and that could push temperatures up even further.

At the top of the list for virtually all of the scientists canvassed
was the rapid melting of the Arctic ice cap.

"In the last couple of years, Arctic Sea ice is at an all-time low in
summer, which has got a lot of people very, very concerned," commented
Robert Watson, Chief Scientific Advisor for Britain's department for
environmental affairs and chairman of the IPCC's previous assessment
in 2001.

"This has implication's for Earth's climate because it can clearly
lead to a positive feedback effect," he said in an interview.

When the reflective ice surface retreats, the Sun's radiation -- heat
-- is absorbed by open water rather than bounced back into the
atmosphere, creating a vicious circle of heating.

"We had always known that the Arctic was going to respond first," said
Mark Serreze of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder,
Colorado. "What has us puzzled is that the changes are even faster
than we would have thought possible," he said by phone.

New data on the rate at which oceans might rise has also caused
consternation.

"The most recent IPCC report was prior to... the measurements of
increasing mass loss from Greenland and Antarctica, which are
disintegrating much faster than IPCC estimates," said climatologist
James Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in
New York.

Unlike the Arctic ice cap, which floats on water, the world's two
major ice sheets -- up to three kilometers (two miles) thick -- sit on
land.

Runaway sea level rises, Hansen said, would put huge coastal cities
and agricultural deltas in Bangladesh, Egypt and southern China under
water, and create hundreds of millions of refugees.

The IPCC's most recent assessment "did not take into account the
potential melting of Greenland, which I think was a mistake," said
Watson, the former IPCC chairman.

Were Greenland's entire ice block to melt, it would lift the world's
sea levels by almost seven meters (22.75 feet), while western
Antarctica's ice sheet holds enough water to add six metres (20 feet).

Neither of these doomsday scenarios is on the foreseeable horizon.

But for coastal dwellers, even a relatively small loss of their ice
could prove devastating.

IPCC estimates of an 18-to-59 centimetre (7.2-to-23.2 inches) rise by
2100 has been supplanted among specialists by an informal consensus of
one metre (39 inches), said Serreze.

The accelerating concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,
and signs of the planet's dwindling ability to absorb them, are also
causing some scientists to lose sleep.

During the 1970s, there were on average 1.3 parts per million (ppm) of
carbon dioxide -- the main greenhouse gas -- in the air. In the 1980s
the figure was 1.6 ppm, and in the 1990s 1.5 ppm.

In the period 2000-2007, however, the concentration jumped to an
average 2.0 ppm, with a high of 2.2 last year, according to the Global
Carbon Project, based in Australia.

"The present concentration is the highest during the last 650,000
years and probably during the last 20 million years," said the Global
Carbon Project's Pep Canadell, a researcher at Australia's
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

And in 2008, he said, there has been an "exponential growth" in the
atmospheric concentration of methane, another greenhouse gas that is
an even more potent driver of global warming than CO2.

One potential source of both gases is frozen tundra in the Arctic and
sub-Arctic regions, where temperatures have risen faster than anywhere
else on Earth.

"The amount of carbon that is locked up in permafrost that could be
released into the atmosphere is just about on a par with the
atmospheric load the world has right now," said Serreze.

These higher concentrations of greenhouse gases come at a time when
Earth's two major "carbon sinks" -- forests and especially oceans --
are showing signs of saturation.

The December 1-12 forum of 192-member UN Framework Convention on
Climate Change (UNFCCC) comes midway through a two-year process
launched in Bali for braking the juggernaut of global warming.

Scheduled to run until December 12, the talks are a stepping stone
towards a new pact -- due to be sealed in Copenhagen in December 2009
-- for reducing emissions and boosting adaptation funds beyond 2012,
when the current provisions of the UN's Kyoto Protocol expire.

Copyright 2008 AFP

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From: The Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah), Dec. 3, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]

FOUR TRUTHS ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE WE CAN'T IGNORE

By Gwynn Dyer

About two years ago, I realized that the militaries in various
countries were starting to do climate change scenarios in-house --
scenarios that started with the scientific predictions about rising
temperatures, falling crop yields and other physical effects -- and
examine what that would do to politics and strategy.

The scenarios predicted failed states proliferating because
governments couldn't feed their people; waves of climate refugees
washing up against the borders of more fortunate countries; even wars
between countries that shared the same rivers.

So I started interviewing everybody I could get access to. Not only
senior military people, but scientists, diplomats and politicians.

About 70 interviews, a dozen countries and 18 months later, I have
reached four conclusions that I didn't even suspect when I began the
process. The first is simply this: The scientists are really scared.
Their observations over the past two or three years suggest that
everything is happening a lot faster than their climate models
predicted.

This creates a dilemma for them, because for the past decade they have
been struggling against a well-funded campaign that cast doubt on the
phenomenon of climate change.

Now, finally, people and even governments are listening. Even in the
United States, the world headquarters of climate change denial, 85
percent of the population now sees climate change as a major issue,
and both presidential candidates in last month's election promised 80
percent cuts in American emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.

The scientists are understandably reluctant at this point to announce
publicly that their predictions were wrong; that it's really much
worse and the targets will have to be revised. Most of them are
waiting for overwhelming proof that climate change really is moving
faster, even though they are already privately convinced that it is.

So governments, now awakened to the danger at last, are still working
to the wrong emissions target. The real requirement, if we are to
avoid runaway global warming, is probably 80 percent cuts by 2030, and
almost no burning whatever of fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil) by
2050.

The second conclusion is that the generals are right. Food is the key
issue, and world food supply is already very tight: We have eaten up
about two-thirds of the world grain reserve in the past five years,
leaving only 50 days' worth in store. Even a 1.8-degree rise in
average global temperature will take a major bite out of food
production in almost all the countries that are closer to the equator
than to the poles, and that includes almost all of the planet's
breadbaskets.

So the international grain market will wither for lack of supplies.
Countries that can no longer feed their people will not be able to buy
their way out of trouble by importing grain from elsewhere, even if
they have the money. Starving refugees will flood across borders,
whole nations will collapse into anarchy -- and some countries may
make a grab for their neighbors' land or water.

These are scenarios that the Pentagon and other military planning
staffs are examining now. They could start to come true as little as
15 or 20 years down the road. If this kind of breakdown becomes
widespread, there will be little chance of making or keeping global
agreements to curb greenhouse gas emissions and avoid further warming.

The third conclusion is that there is a point of no return after which
warming becomes unstoppable -- and we are probably going to sail right
through it. It is the point at which human-caused warming triggers
huge releases of carbon dioxide from warming oceans, or similar
releases of both carbon dioxide and methane from melting permafrost,
or both. Most climate scientists think that point lies not far beyond
3.6 degrees hotter.

Once that point is passed, the human race loses control: Cutting our
own emissions may not stop the warming. But we are almost certainly
going to miss our deadline. We cannot get the 10 lost years back, and
by the time a new global agreement to replace the Kyoto accord is
negotiated and put into effect, there will probably not be enough time
left to stop the warming short of the point where we must not go.

So -- final conclusion -- we will have to cheat. In the past two
years, various scientists have suggested several "geo-engineering"
techniques for holding the temperature down directly. We might put a
kind of temporary chemical sunscreen in the stratosphere by seeding it
with sulphur particles, for example, or we could artificially thicken
low-lying maritime clouds to reflect more sunlight.

These are not permanent solutions; merely ways of winning more time to
cut our emissions without triggering runaway warming in the meanwhile.
But the situation is getting very grave, and we are probably going to
see the first experiments with these techniques within five years.

There is a way through this crisis, but it isn't easy and there is no
guarantee of success. As the Irishman said to the lost traveler: "If
that's where you want to go, sir, I wouldn't start from here."

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From: Gulf Times (Doha, Qatar), Dec. 3, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]

CLIMATE CHANGE OVERWHELMING DISASTER RELIEF

By Agence France Presse

POZNAN (AFP) -- Climate change is overwhelming the capacity of relief
agencies to cope with people made sick or homeless by natural
disasters, humanitarian groups warned here yesterday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the UN climate talks, the heads of three
leading agencies said catastrophic droughts and floods were already
becoming more frequent, fuelling demands to help those in need.

The problem will amplify in the coming decades as the expected impacts
of global warming bite hard, they said.

"The problem we are facing today is that the capacity (of relief
agencies) has been overwhelmed," Kasidis Rochanakorn, head of the UN
Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told a press
conference.

"Climate change is here and it's here now... the impact is clear to
us, the burden is getting heavier," he said.

"Over the past 20 years, the number of reported disasters has doubled
from roughly 200 [per year] to 400. Today, floods are happening more
frequently. In 1985, we used to have 50 floods per year. In 2005, the
number jumped to 200."

Reflecting the trend, contributions for natural disaster relief have
leapt hugely, from $257mn in 2006 to $808mn in 2007 to $961mn so far
this year, he said.

Bekele Geleta, secretary general of the International Federation of
the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, urged the UN negotiations,
being held in the Polish city of Poznan, to factor disaster relief
into a future treaty on climate change.

"Climate change is a global problem but its impacts are felt locally.

It leads to more frequent and more extreme weather events, and so much
more and bigger disasters," he said.

In a landmark report last year, top scientists gathered for the UN
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that rising
temperatures, stoked by greenhouse-gas emissions, would change weather
patterns this century.

Depending on how far temperatures increase, the consequences could be
dramatic for many millions of people, the Nobel-winning panel said.

They pointed to worsening water stress and drought, floods, storm
surges that could threaten low-lying deltas, hunger and malnutrition,
and a threat from cholera, malaria and other diseases.

Charles Vincent, a director of the World Food Programme (WFP), said
that it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint climate change as one of
the factors that caused disasters today.

Overpopulation, the building of homes in vulnerable areas and poor
preparedness for catastrophes were other big causes for loss of life
and homelessness, he said.

"However, the number of extreme (weather) events has quadrupled in 20
years. Droughts are longer, and coming more quickly.

"When you look at it closely, (the impact of climate change) is hard
to see. It's like looking at the hour hand of your watch. You don't
see it move, but somehow it does."

Jose Riera, a senior policy advisor for the UN High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR), said that people displaced by future climate change
- sometimes called "climate refugees," a term the UNHCR rejects on
legal grounds -- was "the elephant in the room" that everyone tried to
ignore.

Predictions of how many people would be forced from their homes by
climate damage vary widely, from 250mn to as many as 1bn by 2050, he
said.

Some experts argue that the war in Sudan's Darfur is an example where
climate change has already driven a badly stressed region over the
brink. One of the triggers for the conflict was below-average rainfall
that depleted harvests, amplifying competition, experts say.

The December 1-12 conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate
Change (UNFCCC) is aimed at advancing towards a new pact on reducing
carbon emissions that trap the Sun's heat, and on boosting help to
poor, vulnerable countries. -- AFP

Copyright Gulf-Times.com 2007-2008

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From: Sunday Times (London, U.K.), Nov. 30, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]

THE FOOL'S GOLD OF CARBON TRADING

A huge new market designed to solve global warming seems doomed to
failure

By Jonathan Leake

It was a deal to make Alistair Darling hug himself with glee. Just
as the world's existing financial markets were hitting a five-year low
two weeks ago, the Treasury raked in a cool £54m ($79.3 million)
from a brand new one. The occasion was Britain's first auction of CO2
permits. Almost £4m ($5.9 million) were knocked down to
greenhouse gas emitters in a sale that was four times oversubscribed.
The government expects to sell £80m ($117.5 million) more over
the next four years, raising a further £1 billion ($1.47
billion).

The plan, at first glance, seems simplicity itself: by charging
companies for the right to emit CO2, the government hopes to encourage
them to switch to cleaner and greener technologies. It is the latest
development in a global campaign to save the planet by making
polluters pay.

We are witnessing the birth of the greatest and most complex commodity
market the world has seen. Last year alone, permits worth more than
£55 billion ($80.76 billion) were traded on the world's carbon
markets -- but future trading volumes, if all goes global according to
plan, will dwarf these.

Carbon trading schemes originate from the Kyoto protocol on climate
change agreed under the auspices of the United Nations in 1997.
Governments adhering to Kyoto accept limits on the CO2 their countries
can emit. To meet their pledges, they put caps on the carbon outputs
of domestic companies, which have to buy annual permits to exceed
them.

Permits are bought from governments or from carbon traders, who,
naturally, charge a commission. For the City the arrival of carbon
trading is a bonanza. The sector already employs about 3,000 people
and has created a few dozen new millionaires.

Several such schemes are up and running around the world: Europe's
Emissions Trading Scheme, founded in 2005, is the biggest, but others
are following in Australia, the US and even China.

It sounds good news for everyone: governments, taxpayers, City boys
and the environment. The reality is a great deal less rosy -- indeed
some of those closest to the carbon markets say openly that the system
is doomed to failure.

Many carbon traders believe they could make the system work but fear
the politicians who oversee it will never dare put a sufficiently high
price on carbon emissions to make a difference.

Those millions collected by the Treasury, for example, came mainly
from UK power companies, and the cost will be added directly to our
bills, as will the cost of annual CO2 permits in future. More worrying
still, carbon trading shows no sign of achieving its purpose: CO2
emissions have increased, not slackened, since the first trading
schemes. What, then, is the point? Good question, particularly for the
10,000 politicians, policy-makers and civil servants arriving this
week in Poznan, Poland, for the latest round of global climate
negotiations. They will consider a proposal to make carbon trading one
of the world's main tools for cutting greenhouse gas emissions after
the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012.

The incongruity of proposing that a brand new financial market might
be able to save the world -- when faith in every other kind of
financial market is tumbling -- needs no underlining. But there are
plenty of other reasons for scepticism, too.

Jim Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard space centre and a renowned
critic of global measures to combat climate change, believes carbon
trading is a "terrible" approach. "Carbon trading does not solve the
emission problem at all," he says. "In fact it gives industries a way
to avoid reducing their emissions. The rules are too complex and it
creates an entirely new class of lobbyists and fat cats."

Even some of those involved in setting up the carbon markets fear they
will fail in their principal aim of cutting carbon emissions. Liz
Bossley of CEAG, a City consultant in carbon trading, may have helped
the fledgling system to grow from nothing into a big business but she
is frank about its limitations. "The fatal flaw is... the politicians,
because they set the cap which determines the supply of CO2 credits,"
she says.

"The problem is that making those caps tough enough to achieve real
cuts in CO2 emissions would have all kinds of political consequences.
The chances of any politician taking such a decision are negligible."
What Bossley means is that consumers -- voters -- have to foot the
bill when the cost of permits turns up in domestic energy prices.

British consumers are already paying about £60 ($88) extra each
year on their gas and electricity bills to support renewable energy.
Will they take more of this medicine in the middle of the worst
recession for decades? Nervous politicians remember the backlash in
2000 when angry lorry drivers almost brought the country to a
standstill over the fuel accelerator tax.

There's more. Under the 1997 Kyoto deal the main 37 industrialised
nations (but not America) agreed that one of the ways they could cut
emissions was by financing "clean development" projects in the
developing world.

The idea is certainly appealing: if a company is emitting too much CO2
it can either make cuts or pay other companies to cut their emissions
instead. If it turns out to be cheaper to pay someone in China to
plant a forest to absorb carbon dioxide, or a factory in India to
install clean technology to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases,
then this is allowed, provided the project has been approved under the
UN framework convention on climate change. For each tonne of CO2
saved, the convention issues a certified emission reduction
certificate, or CER. These are valuable: indeed, they are the nearest
thing to currency that the carbon markets acknowledge. Each one is
worth about £14 ($20.56).

The original plan was to create a system for transferring wealth from
developed countries such as Britain and America to the Third World,
hence killing two birds with one stone: cutting emissions and helping
international development.

It certainly sounded good -- but the reality is the most complex
trading system the world has known.

The complexity naturally means the system is open to abuse. Last year
The Sunday Times revealed how SRF, an Indian company that produces
refrigeration gases at a sprawling chemical plant in Rajasthan, stood
to make £300m ($440.5 million) from selling certificates to
overseas companies including Shell and Barclays. The Indian company
had spent just £1.4m ($2.06 million) on equipment to reduce its
emissions -- and was using the profit to expand production of another
greenhouse gas, a thousand times more. Other manufacturers damaging
than CO2 in India and China producing similar products are expected to
earn an estimated £3.3 billion ($4.85 billion) over the next six
years by cutting emissions at a cost of just £67m ($98.4
million).

Internal papers leaked from the UN show that such problems arose
because the system for checking companies involved in emissions
reductions schemes was seriously flawed. One official estimated that
up to 20% of the carbon credits issued did not represent genuine
reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This meant that the real
effect of the system had been to increase the amount of greenhouse gas
in the atmosphere.

Nor is this all. One of the unintended consequences of the carbon
trading system is a potentially huge -- and massively destabilising -
transfer of money and influence from the industrialised West to
Russia. This is because when the Kremlin signed up to the Kyoto treaty
it was given an annual emissions limit based on the horrors pumped out
by filthy old Soviet industries back in 1990. Since then Russia's
industrial base has contracted so drastically that it uses only a
fraction of its allowances. One recent analyst's report found that
Russia has accumulated emissions permits worth about four billion
tonnes of CO2. The report warned: "Russia must be singled out as a
potential threat to the ability of the market to produce a meaningful
carbon price."

There is of course another huge incongruity in Russia, one of the
world's biggest suppliers of coal, gas and oil, also in effect having
control of the system for reducing emissions from these fossil fuels.
It means that the West could end up paying the Russians for fuel --
and then paying them again for the right to burn it.

Undeterred by these fundamental flaws, the UN is planning many more
CER [certified emission reduction] schemes. About 4,000 are awaiting
approval, including plans for capturing methane from Indian chicken
farms, Filipino pig farms and Thai coal mines. Other schemes propose
destroying industrial gases at factories in China and India and
cutting CO2 emissions by building wind farms in Mongolia. One of the
ideas under discussion in Poznan could result in European industry
paying millions of pounds to landowners in Brazil and Indonesia not to
cut down their rainforests.

It is easy to mock such schemes but the mockery hides from view the
really big question, and the one that is hardest to answer: are the
emerging carbon markets capable of making a significant dent in the
world's surging carbon emissions?

Lord May, a former government chief scientist, is now an influential
member of the British government's climate change committee, whose
inaugural report (Building a Low-Carbon Economy -- the UK's
Contribution to Tackling Climate Change) will be published tomorrow.

The report will include a full scientific and economic analysis of how
Britain can achieve its target of cutting emissions by 80% by 2050,
including specific reduction targets for each of the UK's first three
five-year "carbon budget" periods. Although the report will support
carbon trading as a possible means of reducing emissions, May has
warned that the system risks creating a false sense of security.

Speaking at the Royal Society last month, he said: "The [inclusion of]
these fiscal instruments could give the misleading impression that
they can deliver real emissions reductions. Sooner or later, people
are going to have to realise that, in climate change, we now face
something far worse than world war two."

Some of his fellow scientists even warn that governments may soon have
to accept that combating climate change is becoming incompatible with
economic growth. A recent peer-reviewed paper from the Tyndall Centre
for Climate Change Research, the government's leading academic
research centre for global warming, warned: "Unless economic growth
can be reconciled with unprecedented rates of decarbonisation, it is
difficult to foresee anything other than a planned economic recession
being compatible with stabilising the climate."

At the Royal Society, Professor Kevin Anderson, director of the
Tyndall Centre, spelt it out: "The target set for the climate talks
was to keep global temperature rises below 2C [3.6 degrees
Fahrenheit]. At the moment, however, the level of emissions is rising
so fast that we are heading for a world that is 4-5C [7.2 to 9 degrees
F.] warmer than now by 2100. That would be catastrophic for the
environment and for humanity."

In other words, if the scientists are right, all our efforts to fight
off the recession are wrongheaded. We should be embracing it. So where
does this leave the world leaders and their Sherpas, heading for
Poznan with their hopes set on trading our way out of the abyss?
Anderson's answer is a shrug.

"Carbon trading may have been the answer once but not any more," he
says. "It will just take too long to achieve anything, and we no
longer have the luxury of time."

Stinking rich

For clever City boys, carbon markets are a marvellous way of turning
muck into brass. Daniel Co, a Filipino pig farmer, used to shovel the
dung from his 10,000 animals into ponds on his UniRich Agro Industrial
farm. The manure generated thousands of tons of methane, a global
warming gas, but Co did not want to spend £110,000 [$161,500] on
kit [equipment] to trap the gas.

Then EcoSecurities, a British carbon trading firm, worked out that
anything that captured the methane would entitle the farmer annually
to nearly 3,000 "certified emission reductions" -- the nearest thing
to a carbon trading currency.

EcoSecurities did the paperwork for Co and gave him just over £2
[$2.94] per certificate. He put in the methane-capture kit, generating
power and saving about £24,000 [$35,239] a year in utility
bills. EcoSecurities sells the CERs for about £10 [$14.68] each
to a French bank, which sells them on to power plants that need to
offset emissions. The consumer pays through higher bills. A nice
little earner for everyone except the poor mugs (us) at the end of the
chain -- but can it save the planet?

Copyright 2008 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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  Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's Environment &
  Health News) highlights the connections between issues that are
  often considered separately or not at all.

  The natural world is deteriorating and human health is declining  
  because those who make the important decisions aren't the ones who
  bear the brunt. Our purpose is to connect the dots between human
  health, the destruction of nature, the decline of community, the
  rise of economic insecurity and inequalities, growing stress among
  workers and families, and the crippling legacies of patriarchy,
  intolerance, and racial injustice that allow us to be divided and
  therefore ruled by the few.  

  In a democracy, there are no more fundamental questions than, "Who
  gets to decide?" And, "How do the few control the many, and what
  might be done about it?"

  As you come across stories that might help people connect the dots,
  please Email them to us at d...@rachel.org.
  
  Rachel's Democracy & Health News is published as often as
  necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the
  subject.

  Editor:
  Peter Montague - pe...@rachel.org
  
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