Rachel's News #988

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Rachel's Democracy & Health News #988

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

Thursday, December 4, 2008..............Printer-friendly version

Featured stories in this issue...

A Dangerous Game
  A new "reality coalition" has challenged the coal industry to "live
  up to the promise of so-called clean coal." But how serious is this
  new coalition?
Climate Activists Invade D.C. Offices of Environmental Defense Fund
  Climate activists took over the Washington D.C. office of
  Environmental Defense Fund earlier this week. The activists said they
  had targeted EDF, one of the largest environmental organizations in
  the world, because of its key role in promoting the discredited
  approach of carbon trading as a solution to climate change.
Time To Shape Up or Step Aside, Environmental Defense Fund
  The daughter of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) founder Robert
  Smolker occupied the offices of EDF earlier this week and delivered a
  speech saying, in part, "EDF has turned itself into a corporate
  makeover facility. The most polluting companies on earth walk in here
  seeking advice on how to better paint themselves green. EDF does the
  paint job and then hands out free samples and an eternity's worth of
  coupons for future cash-in."
Carbon Trading: Environmental Godsend or Giant Shell Game?
  Among big banks and financial entrepreneurs, the burgeoning "carbon
  market" seems by far the best way to curb global warming. But will it
  actually reduce global warming?
Is Golf Causing Diabetes?
  Golf courses are typically saturated in pesticides. Now it seems
  apparent that grounds keepers, who are routinely exposed, are
  suffering the consequences.
Another Pesticide Linked To Diabetes (and Obesity)
  New research published in Bioscience implicates the common
  pesticide tribuyltin in the linked epidemics of obesity and diabetes.
What Politicians Dare Not Say
  "This is the logic of free-market capitalism: the economy must grow
  continuously or face an unpalatable collapse. With the environmental
  situation reaching crisis point, however, it is time to stop
  pretending that mindlessly chasing economic growth is compatible with


From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News, Dec. 4, 2008
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By Peter Montague

Five big enviro groups have just launched a new campaign to force the
coal industry to put up or shut up about "clean coal."

The Alliance for Climate Protection, League of Conservation Voters,
National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council
(NRDC), and Sierra Club this week launched the "Reality Coalition," an
advertising campaign to -- in their own words -- "tell a simple truth:
in reality, there is no such thing as 'clean coal.'

The first "Reality" print ad shows a solitary door labeled "Clean Coal
Facility Entrance." Behind the door, though, lies a barren field. "In
reality, there's no such thing as clean coal," the ad says.

Reality's first TV ad follows the same premise and can be viewed at 

The "reality coalition" is responding to the coal industry's own
multi-million dollar ad campaign claiming that "clean coal" is the
answer to global warming.

The coal industry defines "clean coal" as power plants that capture
roughly 85% of their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, turn the CO2 into
a liquid, transport it via pipeline to a "suitable location," and bury
it a mile or so below ground, hoping it will stay there forever (thus
passing today's problem on to future generations).

Surprisingly, the "reality coalition" accepts the coal industry's
definition of "clean coal" -- merely capturing most CO2 emissions and
burying them in the ground. This is a very narrow definition of

How dirty is coal? Let me count the ways.

A new report from Greenpeace International discusses the following
problems created by dependence on coal:

Effects of mining coal: Deforestation, soil erosion, water
shortages, coal fires, greenhouse gas emissions, lower water tables,
destruction of mountains, dust particles and debris in surrounding
communities, destruction of surrounding plant life, pollution of
nearby water bodies through runoff, displacement of communities due to
mining, coal fires, landslides and contaminated water supplies, plus
black lung disease.

Effects of burning coal: Water shortages from cooling of power
plants and "washing" of coal, air pollution and smog, serious mercury
pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, acid rain, and widespread lung
disease from fine and ultrafine particles.

Effects after burning: Abandoned mines, destroyed communities,
altered landscapes, soil damage and water pollution from acid mine
drainage, destruction of fish and aquatic animals, collapsing mines
causing structural damage to nearby roads, bridges and buildings,
kidney disease, and cancer, plus every year U.S. coal plants produce
120 million tons of toxic coal combustion wastes laced with lead,
arsenic and cadmium, most of which gets buried in the ground, creating
toxic time bombs.

But the "reality coalition says only, "Coal cannot be considered clean
until its carbon dioxide emissions are captured and stored."

And: "No matter how much they say it in their advertising, coal can't
truly be clean until the plants can capture the global warming

Surely a coalition of major environmental groups can see that there is
more to cleaning up coal than merely burying CO2 in the ground.

The "reality coalition" seems to be playing a dangerous game. The way
the "reality" campaign is framed, it invites the coal industry to meet
the challenge by merely creating a few "demonstration" projects, which
will then be used to claim that "clean coal" has arrived. Indeed, one
small "demonstration" plant is already operating in Germany, and coal
executives are already claiming it "demonstrates" that "clean coal" is

The "reality coalition" has not defined what would constitute an
"adequate demonstration" of "clean coal." If the goal is to bury
trillions of tons of CO2 in the ground and keep it there for, say,
2000 years -- how could you demonstrate success? Yes, you can stick a
pipe in the ground and pump liquid CO2 into it for five years. But the
day you declare the demonstration a "success," leakage could begin the
next day. So how can such a demonstration ever be declared a success?

And if a demonstration occurs under laboratory conditions for a few
years, does that mean that trillions of tons of CO2 can then be
"safely" pumped into the ground for the next 50 years in China, India,
Russia and who knows where else? Are regulatory authorities in those
countries even as vigilant as the sleepy agencies we tolerate in the

Unless we specify what constitutes an adequate demonstration of carbon
dioxide burial, and show that humans have the capacity to monitor
operations for the duration of the hazard, arguably a few thousand
years -- which is something humans have never done before -- we
will be allowing the coal industry to define what constitutes a "clean
coal" success story. It's like asking a den of foxes to define
"adequate safety" in the henhouse.

Pardon me for being skeptical, but one member of the "reality
coalition" -- Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)-- since 2005
has been the main cheerleader for the coal industry's plan to
demonstrate "clean coal" without defining (a) what constitutes
"success," and (b) what sort of institutional framework could provide
adequate regulatory oversight for the duration of the hazard. Indeed,
NRDC's reckless slogan has been "CO2 capture and storage: Just do
it!" Has this leopard changed its spots?

The rubber will meet the road the next time the coal industry and its
friends in government (like Barack Obama and Joe Biden) ask Congress
for $20 or $30 billion to pump CO2 into the ground for a few years as
a "demonstration" of clean coal. If the "reality coalition" doesn't
oppose such give-aways to the coal industry, we'll know they're not
serious about making the coal industry demonstrate that clean coal is
technically feasible and economically viable. In the meantime,
it's a dangerous game they are playing. A dangerous game.

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From: Rising Tide North America, Dec. 1, 2008
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Daughter of Environmental Defense Fund Founder Accuses NGO of Pushing
False Solutions to Climate Change

By Matt Wilkerson

As the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change opened today in
Poznan, Poland, grassroots climate activists took over the Washington
D.C. office of Environmental Defense. The activists stated that they
had targeted ED, one of the largest environmental organizations in the
world, because of the organization's key role in promoting the
discredited approach of carbon trading as a solution to climate

EDF office = Environmental crime scene

Dr. Rachel Smolker of Global Justice Ecology Project and Global
Forest Coalition read a statement, which said in part, "My father
was one of the founders of this organization, which sadly I am now
ashamed of. The Kyoto Protocol, the European Emissions Trading Scheme
and virtually every other initiative for reducing emissions have
adopted their market approaches. So far they have utterly failed,
serving only to provide huge profits to the world's most polluting
industries. Instead of protecting the environment, ED now seems
primarily concerned with protecting corporate bottom lines. I can hear
my father rolling over in his grave."

The activists rearranged furniture in the office, illustrating how
marketing carbon is "like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."
Others held signs reading "Keep the cap, ditch the trade" and "Carbon
trading is an environmental offense."

Carbon trading is an environmental offense.

Leo Cerda, an indigenous activist with Rising Tide Ecuador said, "ED
wants to turn the atmosphere and forests into private property, and
then give it away to the most polluting industries in the form of
pollution allowances that can be bought and sold. Not only is this an
ineffective way to control emissions, it is also a disaster for the
poor and indigenous peoples who are not party to these markets and are
most impacted by climate change."

ED has been key in establishing the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a
business consortium advocating for a cap and trade system with
extremely weak emissions reductions. US CAP allows polluters like Duke
Energy, Shell, BP, DuPont, and Dow Chemical to claim they are green
while continuing with business as usual. In recognition, activists
awarded ED the "Corporate Greenwash Award," a three foot tall green
paintbrush. "We think this award is appropriate since Environmental
Defense spends more time painting polluters green than actually
defending the environment," said Matt Wallace of Rising Tide North

Opposition to carbon trading is growing as it becomes apparent that
market based schemes do little to fight climate change while helping
corporations rake in profits. Earlier this year, over 50 groups came
together in the US to denounce carbon trading in a Declaration
Against the Use of Carbon Trading Schemes to Address Climate Change.
Globally, hundreds of environmental, social justice, and indigenous
groups have come together to oppose such market based initiatives as
inherently unsustainable and ineffective in creating a just transition
away from fossil fuels.

See the full statement from Rachel Smolker, daught of Environmental
Defense founder Robert E. Smolker

See more photos and information at Rising Tide North America.

Read a first-hand account of the invasion of EDF's D.C. office.

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From: Global Justice Ecology Project, Dec. 1, 2008
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From the Daughter of Environmental Defense Fund founder, Robert E.

By Dr. Rachel Smolker

Author Dr. Rachel Smolker is with Global Justice Ecology Project and
Global Forest Coalition

My name is Rachel Smolker. When I was a child, growing up on Long
Island, my father, Robert E Smolker, along with Charlie Wurster,
Dennis Puleston and Art Cooley, used to sit around in the living room
sipping their beers and discuss environmental issues. My father, an
ornithologist, was observing the thinning of predatory bird eggshells
caused by DDT, Rachel Carson's seminal work on the impacts of
pesticides was still relatively warm off the presses, and their were
already many, many indications that virtually all ecosystems were in
decline: the beautiful wetlands surrounding our island were
contaminated and littered with garbage, fisheries were declining, and
from afar, the drumbeat of deforestation, pollution, and climate
change. Yes, way back then. Climate change was an issue very few knew
anything about, but I would say it came as no surprise to those who
spent time in the natural world and understood the delicate
intricacies of ecological systems on a tiny blue speck of a planet,
more or less accidentally blanketed in a thin and accommodating

I watched these men as they talked, sometimes seriously, sometimes
with tremendous humor, and almost always with a deep sense of
commitment and camaraderie. I was 10-12 years old, on the brink of
puberty and frankly not all that much interested, but I respected them
and as I grew up recognized the importance of this phenomenon, called
EDF, which germinated out of the couches of my home.

My father and his friends celebrated their capacity to act together
when EDF achieved bans on DDT in the early 70es. They brought lawyers
and scientists and fundraisers and administrators and many others
onboard and expanded the organization, experienced and overcame some
growing pains and enjoyed a number of victories.

My father passed away in 1985. By that time, EDF had at least a few
offices dotted around the country, and sizeable resources. The
organization was, already, under the leadership of Fredd Krupp. Before
his death, he complained to me that he "did not approve of the
direction in which the organization was headed".

Why? What was he foreseeing? I think I understand now:

EDF has swelled and mushroomed into the darling of the corporate
world: advocating for "market incentives" to "encourage" corporations
to stop their destructive practices, provided they do not cause
"economic hardship". Like the corporations you have befriended, you
too have become entirely beholden to the gods of endless economic
growth. The goal of protecting the environment has been relegated to
the back seat.

EDFes corporate partnership approach sounded friendly and sort of
"new" back in the 80's. Sure, perhaps there was some potential in
trying to reform polluting practices "from the inside". EDF proudly
designed the market trading system for sulphur emissions causing acid
rain, among numerous other accomplishments. That emissions trading
model, hailed as a breakthrough in "harnessing market forces in
service of environmental goals", has now been carried over to the
international arena and become the central approach to addressing
global warming emissions.

Carbon emissions trading is now formally enshrined within the Kyoto
Protocol, and within almost every state, federal and international
initiative for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It has in fact
become pretty much the only game in town.

You argue that it is the "least expensive" means of lowering
emissions, allowing companies to avoid costly abatement by purchasing
credits from others who could more easily reduce their emissions. A
sort of a kinder gentler‰ approach to lowering carbon emissions.

But let me ask you. Is it working? Has it worked? Will it work fast
enough? Is it in our best interests at this point to make things kind
and gentle and inexpensive for these polluters? Is that our priority?

I would ask that you take a trip outside of Washington, put on your
boots and jeans and anoraks: travel to the Arctic community of
Kivalina and talk with the folks there who are filing suit against
your bedfellows in the fossil fuel industry over the extermination of
their community and their entire lifestyle. I say, you are guilty by
association. EDF has become the mistress of murderers. While James
Hansen and others suggest they should be put on trial for their crimes
against humanity, you would have us reward them!

You would have us reward them by turning the atmosphere into private
property, dividing it into pieces and generously bequeathing the
pieces as gifts to these corporate criminals. And in doing so, you
provide them with a license to carry on with their dirty business and
pretend to be doing something other than advancing their own profits.
While they drill and mine and pump and plunder with one hand, the
other is busy shaking hands with Fred Krupp. EDF has been the primary
architects and advocates of "market approaches" which do nothing but
pad the coffers of climate criminals while doing nothing to avert
global warming.

EDF has turned itself into a corporate makeover facility. The most
polluting companies on earth walk in here seeking advice on how to
better paint themselves green. EDF does the paint job and then hands
out free samples and an eternity's worth of coupons for future cash-
in. What comes out the other end is business as usual, and a few added
digits on the organization's salary balance sheets.

I have two young children. I am not going to launch into a teary-eyed
appeal to you about their future, don't worry.

No: I am going to tell you something about being a parent that I think
is relevant: When my children do something naughty, do I yell at them
and take away some privileges? Or do I offer them a candy in exchange
for halting their naughtiness? Welllll -- some would advocate the
candy approach, but what happens when they realize that the outcome of
their naughtiness is to receive candy? Of course they can't wait to be
naughty again! That is your approach to dealing with polluting
corporations; reward them with permits to pollute and a new paint job.

That is why they are knocking down your doors. Your Climate Action
Partnership? Well, no shit Sherlock -- the dirtiest most polluting
industries made windfall profits off the European Emissions Trading
Scheme, which has been deemed completely ineffective if not
counterproductive as a means of reducing emissions of greenhouse

No wonder these corporations are eager to sign on to the CAP and have
you championing such an approach! They know the climate change grim
reaper is on his way. They see the writing on the walls. Would they
prefer to be regulated and fined and forced to behave like proper
citizens of the global community? Or would they prefer to hide behind
some smoke and mirrors, receive permits to pollute, pass along the
cost of purchasing those permits to their ratepayers if possible, and
then rake in rewards for sort of maybe doing what they should
absolutely for the sake of us all should be doing in any case? You
provide them the means to enhance profits and paint themselves green
at the same time! WoW!

We cannot pretend that handing out permits to pollute and then trading
them around like baseball cards is even remotely related to seriously
reducing emissions. It is a great get-rich-quick scheme for the
brokers, marketers and financiers who enjoy playing games with my
children's future, and it is a huge gift to the polluting criminals.

Offsetting emissions is a similar deceit, nothing but another fine
arrangement of smoke and mirrors that allow some people to "feel good"
while continuing to carry on business as usual. They provide a
convenient way to sidestep and avoid real and necessary change. It is,
without question, a lovely idea to provide funding to really good
"quality" projects that hold promise of reducing emissions, but there
are more straightforward ways to get there that do not require
unfounded and unreliable measures of carbon flow, additionality,
verifiability or permanence, and do not confuse fossil and biological
carbon. We clearly need to halt, not offset emissions, even where it
is a hard thing, a very hard thing to do.

We are here today because we have simply had enough. In fact we
reached that point quite a while ago, and since then have been
gathering our courage and building the solidarity that is required to
stand up for the very future of life on earth in the most effective,
meaningful manner possible. It is a mightily sad state of affairs,
when a group of dedicated activists, who are keenly aware of the dire
crisis we are facing, must come to the offices of one of the world's
biggest and most influential "environmental organizations" to protest.
People you see before you have chained themselves to the gates of coal
fired power plants and to the doors of the World Bank. They have stood
up to corporate thugs and threats, they have put themselves in harms
way to stand up for what is right and what MUST be done to protect the
future of life.

We cannot afford to wait, or to fail, or to only half succeed at this

EDF: It is time to admit to the failure of the market based policies
you are advocating: The Kyoto Protocol, the European Trading Scheme -
these have failed us, and in the process have blinded and bedazzled so
many that the real solutions to the crisis have fallen into the
shadows where they are languishing. Now it is time to face the facts
and turn every ounce of your substantial weight towards DEMANDING that
your corporate bedfellows strip off their phony green veneer, halt the
pillaging of our futures, and give REAL solutions to climate change
their due opportunity. Yes it will be hard, yes it will force change
upon the polluters. But the cost of inaction, or ineffective action,
will be much, much greater.

The incoming administration has made it clear that they intend to
adopt a cap and trade legislation, along with a suite of other
questionable steps intended to address the crisis of climate change,
including clean coal‰, nuclear energy and agrofuels. EDF as a
massively influential organization will undoubtedly play a role in
shaping this legislation. It is time to stop pandering to the
corporate criminals. We can no longer make corporate profits a
priority over swift and severe measures to avoid catastrophe. We can
no longer concern ourselves with making it easy or less costly or any
other such warm and fuzzy goodwill towards the corporations that are
responsible for the destruction. We can no longer count on the magic
of markets to achieve the deep, real, meaningful and essential changes
that are needed.

EDF: I wish I could say I am proud of my own father's legacy! But it
is, sadly, the case that I have to apologize, offer disclaimers, make
explanations when pronouncing my relationship to this organization. I
can hear my father rolling over in his grave! EDF has strayed so far
from his vision, from the mission of protecting and advocating for the
environment, that it would now be completely unrecognizable to him.
Were he to rise up from the dead, I can only hope that these plush
digs and six figure salaries would convince him there is no
relationship between the current manifestation of this organization
and himself.

For me, it is deeply ironic that I find myself here today, taking
action against this organization which so shaped my early world view,
and which I have now come to see as a primary obstacle to averting
planetary crisis: the architects and powerful advocates of
extraordinarily dangerous and distracting policy advice.

I hope that the people working here will take a very deep look in the
mirror and ask yourselves: are we REALLY doing the right thing? Are we
true to our mission? To ourselves? To our children and to the future
of life on this little blue speck?

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From: Discover Magazine, Dec. 3, 2008
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A lively debate over whether cap-and-trade really does much to fight
global warming

By Jennifer Barone

[Rachel's introduction: More grist for the mill: The Government
Accountability Office (GAO) recently published a new report that
questions the value of carbon offsets as a way of reducing global
warming. And the Congressional Budget Office says it favors a carbon
tax rather than a cap-and-trade approach.]

Josh Margolis keeps a grueling schedule, brokering deals between
buyers and sellers and forecasting how government actions could affect
his clients. But his obsession is not stocks, or bonds, or oil
futures. As co-CEO of the San Francisco-based company CantorCO2e,
Margolis is part of an exploding branch of finance in a new commodity:

Mainstream financial institutions including Merrill Lynch, J.P.
Morgan, Deutsche Bank, and Goldman Sachs are joining the booming
carbon market, which continues even through the current economic
jitters. According to the World Bank, global trades in this market in
2007 were valued at more than $64 billion, more than doubling since
2006. Skip Willis, president and CEO of Carbon Capital Management,
a Toronto-based "carbon monetization" corporation, predicts that by
the end of 2008 the global carbon trading system will have topped $100
billion. "This is a market that barely existed five years ago," Willis

The carbon market was born out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which
mandates the curbing of carbon emissions. To comply, the 182 nations
that signed the protocol must meet targets for reducing emissions of
greenhouse gases -- climate-warming gases that include the common
industrial by-products carbon dioxide and methane. Meanwhile, many
companies are participating in carbon trading voluntarily, either to
build a green reputation or in anticipation of looming regulation.
(DISCOVER recently did its own carbon-offset experiment; see the
results below.) The United States never signed the Kyoto Protocol, but
growing concern in this country over climate change may soon bring
some form of regulation here, too. Joseph Romm, who served as acting
assistant secretary of energy during the Clinton administration and
now edits a climate policy blog as a senior fellow at the Center for
American Progress, predicts that "the United States is clearly going
to have a carbon trading system in the near future." He notes that the
president-elect supports such a plan.

Behind the carbon wheeling and dealing lies a market mechanism called
cap-and-trade. "What a cap-and-trade tries to accomplish is the most
cost-effective way to achieve emissions reductions," says Eric Klein,
a senior broker with the New York office of the emissions trading
company TFS Green. The government sets a cap limiting the total
amount of greenhouse gases that an industry, sector, region, or the
country may emit. It then sells or grants permits to businesses
covered by the cap. Each permit essentially allows the license holder
to release the equivalent of 1 ton of carbon dioxide and can be traded
among emitters and financial institutions. "Over the course of the
year," Klein says, "if you emit above and beyond the amount covered by
your permits, it's your responsibility to buy more of them on the open
market. If you emit less than your limit, you can sell your extras on
the open market."

Mandatory carbon trading programs, such as the European Union
Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) that began in 2005, have their
roots in the U.S. Clean Air Act amendments of 1990. That
legislation, which Klein calls "the granddaddy of all emissions
trading markets," created a cap-and-trade system for utilities to
reduce the sulfur-based pollutants that cause acid rain. "A cap-and-
trade system says, 'You have to reduce overall emissions, but how you
do it is your business.' That flexibility saves a lot of money,"
according to Robert Repetto, economist emeritus of the Yale School
of Forestry and Environmental Studies and senior fellow at the United
Nations Foundation. Ultimately, Repetto says, the Clean Air Act
resulted in the reduction of acid rain pollution more quickly than
expected, and at much less expense than what traditional regulation
would have cost.

Replicating that success is not as straightforward as it sounds.
First, carbon emissions are not currently well quantified. The Clean
Air Act amendments required power plants to install instruments that
record their acid rain-causing emissions and to report the numbers to
the Environmental Protection Agency. Yet in Europe's carbon trading
system -- a likely model for the United States -- businesses are not
required to use monitoring instrumentation. They are allowed to
determine their carbon emissions by "calculation." Although third-
party auditors check the process, Michael Wara, a Stanford Law
School professor and a researcher at the Stanford Program on Energy
and Sustainable Development, acknowledges that there is reason for
concern when emitters are doing their own carbon accounting. "Enron is
always a specter in the background," he says, referring to the
accounting scandals that sank the giant energy-trading company in

According to Larry Lohmann, a researcher with the U.K.-based
nonprofit the Corner House and editor of a book criticizing the
carbon trade, "Even here in Europe, we're nowhere near being in
possession of the technology and enforcement we would need to run a
respectable cap-and- trade program, which we're already supposedly
running. The margin of error for what's coming out of the stacks is
way too wide to say whether emitters are in compliance with
regulations. And when it's left up to the companies to do the
reporting, they have a huge amount of discretion in saying how much
they're emitting."

The second problem concerns the validity of offsets, a feature of most
existing carbon trading systems. "Under a cap-and-trade program,"
Margolis says, "offsets are a form of currency to help participants
meet the regulations. If you need to emit less carbon, you can change
your process, you can change what fuel you use, or you can find a
company that you can pay to reduce those tons for you, which is what
happens when you buy an offset." A company that needs to eliminate
1,000 tons of emissions from its ledger might pay for a project that
will plant enough trees to absorb that amount of carbon dioxide.

Lohmann points out that to show that an offset project does what it
claims -- actually reduce emissions -- "you have to argue that there
will be lower emissions than would have been the case without the
project. That type of measurement is just doomed from the start. And
people are aware that it can't be verified, which opens the way to
making any claim you want to make. There have been a lot of complaints
about so- called carbon cowboys making a lot of money on nonexistent
carbon reductions," Loh--mann adds. "But since the question can't be
decided scientifically, there's no sheriff."

Stanford's Wara and his colleague David Victor recently investigated a
group of offsets offered under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development
Mechanism (CDM), which can be purchased for compliance with the E.U.
trading scheme. "The basic idea of the CDM is that you cut emissions
in a place like China in lieu of reducing them in Europe," Wara says.
"So we need to be certain that we're really cutting in China.
Otherwise the whole goal is undermined." For instance, power from a
new Chinese wind farm or hydroelectric plant might displace
electricity that would otherwise come from carbon-spewing fossil
fuels. If the developers of these projects can show that these
renewable energy sources would never have been built without offset
money, then the carbon emissions saved by the new plants can be sold
as offsets.

In their study, though, Wara and Victor found indications that offset
funding is flowing to projects that would probably have been built
anyway. "We can show that essentially every major wind and hydro
project in China is claiming credit for CDM offsets," Wara says. "We
know that China has been building about 10 gigawatts of hydropower
every year for a long time. Last year, suddenly all of that
development was claimed as carbon credits. Is it really the case that
none of those projects would have been built without offset money?
These offsets are being sold to the United States and Europe, and if
they're not real reductions, we have a big problem."

Another popular type of offset demonstrates a different kind of
problem with the carbon market. HFC-23, an industrial greenhouse gas
thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide, is produced as a
by-product in the manufacture of refrigerant, and a number of major
offset projects capture and destroy HFC-23, doing a huge service to
the climate. But Wara discovered that offset sales from destruction of
the gas were far more lucrative than the sale of the refrigerant
responsible for creating the pollutant in the first place, giving
factories a perverse incentive to produce as much waste as possible
and then create projects that sell offsets to destroy it.

Both Wara and Lohmann say that a cap-and-trade program that excludes
offsets would probably be more effective at reducing emissions. "When
you have offsets in a cap-and-trade system," Wara says, "it's like not
being able to tell counterfeit money from real money." Lohmann notes
that the acid rain program so often cited by carbon market proponents
as a success story did not allow offsets.

David Orr, a professor of environmental studies at Oberlin College,
agrees that the concept should be viewed with skepticism. "I'm
suspicious of offsets," he says. "The farther away they get, and the
more abstract they get, the more difficult it is to know whether you
got what you paid for. And you can't monitor them. It opens up a can
of worms."

The Presidential Climate Action Project, which Orr cofounded and
advises, recommends that the United States bring a new, more
streamlined approach to the carbon market. Instead of regulating
carbon at the many smokestacks where emissions occur, the group
recommends regulating by cap-and-trade permits directed "upstream" at
the wellheads, mine mouths, and import points where oil, coal, and
natural gas enter the economy. Repetto of Yale points out that unlike
a market for emissions, which come from countless sources and can be
complicated to calculate, "an upstream system is very easy to
administer. There are only about 2,000 initial sellers of fossil fuel
that you'd need to keep track of, and their sales are already tracked
anyway." However, an upstream cap-and-trade program would be likely to
face political resistance because it would bring a sharp increase in
operating costs for power plants that emit greenhouse gases. Orr notes
that industry would prefer a downstream cap.

As the nation debates possible structures for federal climate change
legislation, many states are already moving forward with carbon-
cutting plans of their own. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
(RGGI), a mandatory cap-and-trade carbon market encompassing 10
Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, requires electricity producers to
reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10 percent by 2018. The first batch
of carbon permits were auctioned off to power companies in late
September, and a second auction is scheduled for December. RGGI does
allow participants to buy offsets, but it limits the percentage of
required cuts that can be met with such purchases.

Similar programs are arising across the United States. The Western
Climate Initiative, covering seven states and four Canadian
provinces, and the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord,
signed by six states and one province, are both developing cap-and-
trade markets. The plans may speed the development of a nationwide
program, since companies that do interstate business would probably
prefer a single set of operating regulations. Broker Klein points out
that many firms now embrace the idea of carbon emission laws but need
"clear rules of the game" in order to plan for them.

As for Wara, the shortcomings of current carbon markets are not enough
to dissuade him from his belief that laws governing greenhouse gas
emissions should be enacted as soon as possible. "We're going to
stumble, and we need to be prepared for that," he says, "but my
criterion is, what can we do now? Even if we don't get it right the
first time, we need to learn by doing. This is the problem of the

Meanwhile, the carbon market keeps whirring, and Margolis keeps
brokering -- or, as he likes to put it, "making the world a better
place, one deal at a time."


Sidebar: Offsets in Action

DISCOVER experimented with carbon trading when we calculated our
carbon footprint for the May 2008 issue and bought a $4,796 offset
from Carbonfund.org to cover it. The small but growing voluntary
offset market (operating outside of government programs like the one
in Europe and reaching sales of $258 million in 2007) offers to erase
emissions from your business, home, travel, or even your whole life.
We, like others who have sought to be a little more green, wondered
what we got for our money.

Carbonfund.org finances a changing roster of renewable energy,
reforestation, and energy efficiency projects, all certified by third-
party auditors. When we checked on the impact of our offset, a
spokesperson told us our donation had been pooled with others
earmarked for reforestation and renewable energy projects, as we had
requested, but added, "Unfortunately, it's not possible to pin it to a
specific project." So we called some of the projects listed on
Carbonfund.org's Web site to find out how they use offset donations.
At a reforestation project in Nicaragua, offset money pays for plants
and workers. A power company that produces wind energy told us offset
funds are used to reduce prices for consumers.

Anja Kollmuss, a staff scientist with the Stockholm Environment
Institute and the author of two recent industry reports, says that
while problems exist, voluntary offsets "have helped to get some good
projects off the ground ?that otherwise would not have existed." They
also help businesses and consumers develop an awareness of their
carbon footprints, she adds.

If you would like to get involved with offsets, both Kollmuss and
climate blogger Romm recommend projects certified by the Gold
Standard Foundation as the most rigorously vetted ones on the
voluntary market.


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From: DailyGreen, Jun. 5, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]


HD Pesticides Commonly Used on Golf Courses Linked to Disease: NIH

By Dan Shapley

How green is your green?

A pesticide commonly used on the turf at golf courses was linked to a
whopping 250% increase in diabetes risk to the workers who apply the
pesticides, according to one of the largest studies of its kind,
by the National Institutes of Health.

The chemical, trichlorfon, was associated with an 85% increase in risk
of diabetes for even infrequent users, and a 250% increase in risk for
those who had applied it more than 10 times. Of those who used the
chemical frequently, 8.5% developed diabetes, versus 3.5% of those who
had never used it. The same pesticide has been used to kill
cockroaches, crickets, bedbugs, fleas, flies and ticks, but its main
current use is on turf, such as at golf courses.

It was the most extreme connection researchers found between pesticide
applicators and diabetes, but not the only one. Use of any of the
pesticides studied for more than 100 days in a lifetime increased
diabetes risk 17%. The other pesticides studied were aldrin,
chlordane, heptachlor, dichlorvos, alachlor and cynazine, all of which
are chlorinated pesticides.

Diabetes affects nearly 21 million Americans, and rates of disease
have been increasing dramatically in recent years, particularly among

"The results suggest that pesticides may be a contributing factor for
diabetes along with known risk factors such as obesity, lack of
exercise and having a family history of diabetes," said Dale Sandler,
Ph.D., chief of the Epidemiology Branch at the National Institute of
Environmental Health Services and co-author on the paper. "Although
the amount of diabetes explained by pesticides is small, these new
findings may extend beyond the pesticide applicators in the study."

The study focused only on adults whose work requires them to use
pesticides repeatedly. That said, there were more than 30,000 people
in the study, so the results have real statistical weight. Though the
same pesticides are often used in households in off-the-shelf
formulations, and though some can be found on residue in foods,
researchers said the risk to the general population is probably low.
Some of those pesticides studied have already been removed from the
market because they were deemed unsafe for other reasons.

"This is not cause for alarm," Sandler said, "since there is no
evidence of health effects at such very low levels of exposure."

Still, the study raises clear questions about the safety of these
pesticides for workers, and if the results continue along the lines of
similar studies of similar chemicals, health risks linked to lower
exposures, particularly for children, may be only a matter of time.
Families can take this study as another piece of evidence that the
cure may be worse than the ill when it comes to dealing with pests
around the house.

And for golfers, think twice about kissing your ball for good luck.
(Better yet, ask some hard questions of your favorite golf courses and
see if you can inspire some changes that will make the course safer
for golfers, and the groundskeepers.)

Copyright 2008 Hearst Communications, Inc.

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From: Green Daily, Dec. 1, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]


Scientists: Obesity-Chemical Exposure Link Is Both "Plausible and

By Dan Shapley

A common pesticide used to kill pests on food crops, boats, wood and
textiles could be causing diabetes, according to new research by
Japanese scientists published in Bioscience.

The pesticide in question, tributyltin, had already been known to
cause chemical burns and other skin irritation, dizziness, difficulty
breathing and flulike symptoms to workers exposed to contaminated
dust. It had already been known that tributyltin suppresses the immune
system, as well as reproductive problems and increased rates of infant
mortality and deformities in lab rats. Lab studies have also shown
that tributyltin can disrupt the endocrine system of mammals,
upsetting hormone levels in the pituitary, gonad and thyroid glands,
and causing disruptions to reproductive, immune and nervous systems
and the liver.

That's to say nothing of its effect on marine organisms, which are
also well documented. It is highly toxic to mollusks, causes female
snails to develop male characteristics, and it builds up in the food
chain, affecting predators that consume prey exposed to the chemical.

Now, new research implicates it in the obesity epidemic.

According to the American Institute of Biological Sciences:

"The harmful effects of the chemical on the liver and the nervous and
immune systems in mammals are well known, but its powerful effects on
the cellular components known as retinoid X receptors (RXRs) in a
range of species are a recent discovery. When activated, RXRs can
migrate into the nuclei of cells and switch on genes that cause the
growth of fat storage cells and regulate whole body metabolism;
compounds that affect a related receptor often associated with RXRs
are now used to treat diabetes. RXRs are normally activated by
signaling molecules found throughout the body.

"The BioScience article, by Taisen Iguchi and Yoshinao Katsu, of the
Graduate University for Advanced Studies in Japan, describes how RXRs
and related receptors are also strongly activated by tributyltin and
similar chemicals. Tributyltin impairs reproduction in water fleas
through its effects on a receptor similar to the RXR. In addition,
tributyltin causes the growth of excess fatty tissue in newborn mice
exposed to it in utero. The effects of tributyltin on RXR-like nuclear
receptors might therefore be widespread throughout the animal kingdom.

"The rise in obesity in humans over the past 40 years parallels the
increased use of industrial chemicals over the same period. Iguchi and
Katsu maintain that it is "plausible and provocative" to associate the
obesity epidemic to chemical triggers present in the modern
environment. Several other ubiquitous pollutants with strong
biological effects, including environmental estrogens such as
bisphenol A and nonylphenol, have been shown to stimulate the growth
of fat storage cells in mice. The role that tributyltin and similar
persistent pollutants may play in the obesity epidemic is now under

Earlier this year, a National Institutes of Health study fund that a
different pesticide, trichlorfon, commonly used on golf courses, was
associated with an 85% increase in risk of diabetes for even
infrequent users, and a 250% increase in risk for workers who had
applied it more than 10 times. The same pesticide has been used to
kill cockroaches, crickets, bedbugs, fleas, flies and ticks, but its
main current use is on turf, such as at golf courses.

It was the most extreme connection researchers found between pesticide
applicators and diabetes, but not the only one. Use of any of the
pesticides studied for more than 100 days in a lifetime increased
diabetes risk 17%. The other pesticides studied were aldrin,
chlordane, heptachlor, dichlorvos, alachlor and cynazine, all of which
are chlorinated pesticides.

Diabetes affects nearly 21 million Americans, and rates of disease
have been increasing dramatically in recent years, particularly among

Copyright 2008 Hearst Communications, Inc.

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From: New Scientist (pg. 42), Oct. 18, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]


By Tim Jackson

Scratch the surface of free-market capitalism and you discover
something close to visceral fear. Recent events provide a good
example: the US treasury's extraordinary $800 billion rescue package
was an enormous comfort blanket designed to restore confidence in the
ailing financial markets. By forcing the taxpayer to pick up the
"toxic debts" that plunged the system into crisis, it aims to protect
our ability to go on behaving similarly in the future. This is a
short-term and deeply regressive solution, but economic growth must be
protected at all costs.

As economics commissioner on the UK's Sustainable Development
Commission, I found this response depressingly familiar. At the launch
last year of our "Redefining Prosperity" project (which attempts to
instil some environmental and social caution into the relentless
pursuit of economic growth), a UK treasury official stood up and
accused my colleagues and I of wanting to "go back and live in caves".
After a recent meeting convened to explore how the UK treasury's
financial policies might be made more sustainable, a high-ranking
official was heard to mutter: "Well, that is all very interesting,
perhaps now we can get back to the real job of growing the economy."
"A UK treasury official accused me of wanting to go back to cave

The message from all this is clear: any alternative to growth remains
unthinkable, even 40 years after the American ecologists Paul Ehrlich
and John Holdren made some blindingly obvious points about the
arithmetic of relentless consumption.

The Ehrlich equation, I = PAT, says simply that the impact (I) of
human activity on the planet is the product of three factors: the size
of the population (P), its level of affluence (A) expressed as income
per person, and a technology factor (T), which is a measure of the
impact on the planet associated with each dollar we spend.

Take climate change, for example. The global population is just under
7 billion and the average level of affluence is around $8000 per
person. The T factor is just over 0.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per
thousand dollars of GDP -- in other words, every $1000 worth of goods
and services produced using today's technology releases 0.5 tonnes of
CO2 into the atmosphere. So today's global CO2 emissions work out at 7
billion × 8 × 0.5 = 28 billion tonnes per year.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that
to stabilise greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere at a reasonably
safe 450 parts per million, we need to reduce annual global CO2
emissions to less than 5 billion tonnes by 2050. With a global
population of 9 billion thought inevitable by the middle of this
century, that works out at an average carbon footprint of less than
0.6 tonnes per person -- considerably lower than in India today. The
conventional view is that we will achieve this by increasing energy
efficiency and developing green technology without economic growth
taking a serious hit. Can this really work?

With today's global income, achieving the necessary carbon footprint
would mean getting the T factor for CO2 down to 0.1 tonnes of CO2 per
thousand US dollars -- a fivefold improvement. While that is no walk
in the park, it is probably doable with state-of-the-art technology
and a robust policy commitment. There is one big thing missing from
this picture, however: economic growth. Factor it in, and the idea
that technological ingenuity can save us from climate disaster looks
an awful lot more challenging.

First, let us suppose that the world economy carries on as usual. GDP
per capita will grow at a steady 2 or 3 per cent per year in developed
countries, while the rest of the world tries to catch up -- China and
India leaping ahead at 5 to 10 per cent per year, at least for a
while, with Africa languishing in the doldrums for decades to come. In
this (deeply inequitable) world, to meet the IPCC target we would have
to push the carbon content of consumption down to less than 0.03
tonnes for every thousand US dollars spent -- a daunting 11-fold
reduction on the current western European average.

Now, let's suppose we are serious about eradicating global poverty.
Imagine a world whose 9 billion people can all aspire to a level of
income compatible with a 2.5 per cent growth in European income
between now and 2050. In this scenario, the carbon content of economic
output must be reduced to just 2 per cent of the best currently
achieved anywhere in the European Union.

In short, if we insist on growing the economy endlessly, then we will
have to reduce the carbon intensity of our spending to a tiny fraction
of what it is now. If growth is to continue beyond 2050, so must
improvements in efficiency. Growth at 2.5 per cent per year from 2050
to the end of the century would more than triple the global economy
beyond the 2050 level, requiring almost complete decarbonisation of
every last dollar.

The potential for technological improvements, renewable energy, carbon
sequestration and, ultimately perhaps, a hydrogen-based economy has
not been exhausted. But what politicians will not admit is that we
have no idea if such a radical transformation is even possible, or if
so what it would look like. Where will the investment and resources
come from? Where will the wastes and the emissions go? What might it
feel like to live in a world with 10 times as much economic activity
as we have today?

Instead, they bombard us with adverts cajoling us to insulate our
homes, turn down our thermostats, drive a little less, walk a little
more. The one piece of advice you will not see on a government list is
"buy less stuff". Buying an energy-efficient TV is to be applauded;
not buying one at all is a crime against society. Agreeing reluctantly
to advertising standards is the sign of a mature society; banning
advertising altogether (even to children) is condemned as "culture
jamming". Consuming less may be the single biggest thing you can do to
save carbon emissions, and yet no one dares to mention it. Because if
we did, it would threaten economic growth, the very thing that is
causing the problem in the first place.

Visceral fear is not without foundation. If we do not go out shopping,
then factories stop producing, and if factories stop producing then
people get laid off. If people get laid off, then they do not have any
money. And if they don't have any money they cannot go shopping. A
falling economy has no money in the public purse and no way to service
public debt. It struggles to maintain competitiveness and it puts
people's jobs at risk. A government that fails to respond
appropriately will soon find itself out of office.

This is the logic of free-market capitalism: the economy must grow
continuously or face an unpalatable collapse. With the environmental
situation reaching crisis point, however, it is time to stop
pretending that mindlessly chasing economic growth is compatible with
sustainability. We need something more robust than a comfort blanket
to protect us from the damage we are wreaking on the planet. Figuring
out an alternative to this doomed model is now a priority before a
global recession, an unstable climate, or a combination of the two
forces itself upon us.


Tim Jackson is professor of sustainable development at the University
of Surrey, UK. His research focuses on understanding the social,
psychological and structural dimensions of sustainable living. He is
also a member of the Sustainable Development Commission, which advises
the UK government.

Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd. Vacancies

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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.
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