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 sustainability." :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News, Dec. 4, 2008 [Printer-friendly version] A DANGEROUS GAME 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 http://www.thisisreality.org/. 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 "clean." 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 pollution." 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 real. 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 U.S.? 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. Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Rising Tide North America, Dec. 1, 2008 [Printer-friendly version] CLIMATE ACTIVISTS INVADE DC OFFICES OF ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND 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 change. 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." 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 America. 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. Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Global Justice Ecology Project, Dec. 1, 2008 [Printer-friendly version] TIME TO SHAPE UP OR STEP ASIDE, ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND From the Daughter of Environmental Defense Fund founder, Robert E. Smolker 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 atmosphere. 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 gases. 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 point. 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? Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Discover Magazine, Dec. 3, 2008 [Printer-friendly version] CARBON TRADING: ENVIRONMENTAL GODSEND OR GIANT SHELL GAME? 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: carbon. 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 says. 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 2001. 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 century." 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. ======================================================== Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: DailyGreen, Jun. 5, 2008 [Printer-friendly version] IS GOLF CAUSING DIABETES? 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 children. "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. Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Green Daily, Dec. 1, 2008 [Printer-friendly version] ANOTHER PESTICIDE LINKED TO DIABETES Scientists: Obesity-Chemical Exposure Link Is Both "Plausible and Provocative" 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 scrutiny." 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 children. Copyright 2008 Hearst Communications, Inc. Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: New Scientist (pg. 42), Oct. 18, 2008 [Printer-friendly version] WHAT POLITICIANS DARE NOT SAY 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 living" 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 Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: 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. 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