Lorraine Chow

Here are 10 worst-case climate predictions if we don’t keep global temperature rise under 1.5 degrees Celsius

The summer of 2018 was intense: deadly wildfires, persistent drought, killer floods and record-breaking heat. Although scientists exercise great care before linking individual weather events to climate change, the rise in global temperatures caused by human activities has been found to increase the severity, likelihood and duration of such conditions.

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99 Percent of Seabirds Will Have Plastic in Their Guts Within Decades

The world’s plastic problem may seem vast and incalculable, but its footprint has actually been measured. In a sweeping 2015 study, researchers calculated that 9 billion tons of the material have been made, distributed and disposed in fewer than 70 years. That’s an astonishing figure, but it’s also one that’s hard to picture. Perhaps a better way to illustrate the problem of plastics is by looking at the damage that can be caused by a single drinking straw.

In 2015, a team of marine biologists in Costa Rica pried a plastic straw from the nose of a male olive ridley sea turtle. Footage of the excruciating, bloody extraction was posted online and viewed by millions of people around the globe. The video is powerful not only because it suggests the pervasiveness of plastics and shows the harm it can inflict on a vulnerable species, but it also strikes a much deeper chord within: shame.

“Subconsciously, people who watched the video knew that the straw in that turtle’s nose could have been thrown away by any of us,” Christine Figgener, the biologist who extracted the straw, wrote in a Medium post after the video went viral. “They saw their own actions reflected in its eyes.”

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India's Top Court Just Dealt a Devastating Blow to Monsanto

In an another legal blow to Monsanto, India's Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay the Delhi High Court's ruling that the seed giant cannot claim patents for Bollgard and Bollgard II, its genetically modified cotton seeds, in the country.

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Groundbreaking Youth Climate Lawsuit Gets a Trial Date

A trial date of Oct. 29 has been set for a landmark climate change lawsuit brought by a group of young Americans despite the Trump administration's efforts to halt the case.

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We Now Have Clear Evidence That Plastic Bag Fees Actually Work

If you ever feel like the world's plastic nightmare might never end, a new study shows proof that plastic pollution legislation actually works.

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Another 333 Minke Whales Killed by Japanese Fleet

In defiance of international protests, Japanese whaling vessels returned to port with another 333 minke whales on Saturday after its months-long hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in Antarctic waters.

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Despite Overwhelming Opposition From Residents, Michigan Permits Nestlé to Draw More Groundwater for Bottling

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has granted Nestlé Waters a permit to increase groundwater withdrawal from 250 gallons per minute to 400 gallons per minute from its White Pine Springs well for the purpose of bottling drinking water.

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Court Tosses Exxon's 'Implausible' Lawsuit Seeking to Stop Climate Probe

A federal judge on Thursday threw out ExxonMobil's lawsuit that sought to derail New York and Massachusetts' probe into whether the oil giant misled investors and the public about its knowledge of climate change.

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Brazilian School Districts Make Historic Switch to 100% Plant-Based Meals

Four cities in Brazil have pledged to transition all of the meals served at its public school cafeterias to 100 percent plant-based by the end of 2019, with the mission of reducing the cities' environmental footprint (especially water consumption), aiding local produce farmers and fostering humane and healthy eating habits for students.

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Trump Administration Is Now Auctioning Off Public Land in Utah for Oil and Gas

The Interior Department on Tuesday is auctioning off 32 parcels of public lands in southeastern Utah for oil and gas development.

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World's Last Male Northern White Rhino Dies

The world's last male northern white rhino has died, leaving only two females left to save the subspecies from extinction, the wildlife conservancy taking care of him announced Tuesday.

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EPA Sued Over Failure to Release Correspondence With Heartland Institute

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being sued for its "unlawful and unreasonable delay" in responding to requests for information about the agency's communications with the Heartland Institute, according to a complaint by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

The lawsuit centers around the EDF and SELC's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for communications between the EPA and the Heartland Institute in August and October of 2017, respectively.

The requests were made after Heartland Institute Communications Director Jim Lakely said last July, "The White House and the Environmental Protection Agency have reached out to the Heartland Institute to help identify scientists who could constitute a red team, and we've been happy to oblige."

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier who has close ties to the fossil fuel industry, has long insisted on a nationally publicized "red team-blue team" debate that would pit climate skeptics against scientists who accept the facts about global warming. However, news emerged this week that White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has reportedly put a stop to Pruitt's plan.

According to the complaint, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, the EPA acknowledged both requests and asked for some initial clarification, but has subsequently stopped communicating with SELC and provided vague responses to EDF's outreach that do not indicate any expectation of near-term progress on EDF's FOIA request.

There certainly appears to be some—and even extensive—contact between the EPA and the Heartland Institute. As seen below, the complaint states that the EPA's own search for correspondence between agency employees and Heartland yielded between 200 and 600 records.

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The complaint by the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Environmental Defense Fund

Under the law, all federal agencies are required to respond to a FOIA request within 20 business days.

"EPA's efforts to promote climate change deniers and undermine peer-reviewed science behind closed doors is not only a failure of its mission, it is illegal," Kym Hunter, an attorney for the SELC, said in a statement. "The public has a clear and protected right to know what the EPA is doing and with whom they are communicating, including those pushing a climate-denier agenda."

The Heartland Institute has been labeled as "the primary American organization pushing climate change skepticism." Frontline reported that the think tank sent out 25,000 copies of its bookWhy Scientists Disagree About Global Warming, and an accompanying 10-minute DVD to 25,000 science teachers.

Just last week, the EPA sent out a press release that touted an op-ed written by Heartland Institute president Tim Huelskamp for The Hill titled, "Scott Pruitt is leading the EPA towards Greatness."

"Even as Americans face growing risks from climate change, Scott Pruitt continues to stonewall common-sense solutions and deny decades of mounting scientific evidence that the problem is real and serious," said Ben Levitan, an attorney for the EDF, in a statement. "Americans have a right to know who is influencing Pruitt's decisions, and who is shaping the agenda at the agency in charge of protecting our health and safety."

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Judge to Decide If Raft of Cancer Lawsuits Move Forward Against Monsanto

A federal judge in San Francisco will hear from expert witnesses on the science and safety of glyphosate at critical hearing starting Monday that will determine if plaintiffs around the country can move forward with their legal action against Monsanto over cancer claims.

During the week-long hearing—dubbed "Science Week"—epidemiologists, oncologists, toxicologists and other scientists representing both sides will offer testimony about glyphosate.

The judge will not decide whether or not glyphosate causes cancer. Rather, Chhabria will determine if the experts providing scientific opinions regarding causation will be permitted to testify at trial, explained Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, one of the law firms leading the litigation.

The firm wrote:

If Judge Chhabria determines that the experts used valid methodologies, then the cases would proceed to trial and the experts would provide evidence and testimony regarding whether Roundup generally causes NHL and additionally whether that propensity for inducing NHL caused a particular Roundup user's NHL. The jury would then decide whether the evidence more likely than not shows Roundup caused the individual's NHL.

Simply—"It's game over for the plaintiffs if they can't get over this hurdle," as David Levine, University of California, Hastings law professor told the Associated Press:

Glyphosate, the star ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, is the world's most popular herbicide and is applied on everything from home gardens to crops that are genetically engineered to resist it.

The herbicide was declared a "probable human carcinogen" in 2015 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Monsanto has since faced a mountain of lawsuits in federal and states courts over cancer claims. The state of California has listed glyphosate as a chemical known to cause cancer. A California federal judge ruled on this month that Roundup does not need to carry a warning label.

A number of international scientific panels and agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are in stark contradiction with the IARC's conclusion. Monsanto has also adamantly defended its product and denies cancer claims.

"There are more than 800 published studies—scientific, medical and peer-reviewed—which demonstrate that glyphosate is safe and there is no association whatsoever with any form of cancer," Scott Partridge, vice president of strategy at Monsanto, told the AP.

However, court documents have raised questions about Monsanto's alleged role in ghostwriting research and later attributing it to academics to cover up Roundup cancer risks and working with a senior EPA official to quash a review of glyphosate.

Timothy Litzenburg, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the link between glyphosate and cancer is not "junk science."

"You can just do a literature search and find many, many peer-reviewed, published articles concluding that glyphosate exposure increases the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma," he told the AP.

Journalist and author Carey Gillam, the research director of consumer and public health watchdog group U.S. Right to Know, will be live-blogging the event from the courthouse. You can follow her posts here.

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Climate Change and Conflict Leave 224 Million Undernourished in Africa (Video)

An official with the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns that climate change and conflict are leading to food insecurity for millions of people living in Africa.

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One Million Trees Pledged to 'Trump Forest' to Offset President's Anti-Climate Agenda (Video)

Trump Forest—a global reforestation project aiming to offset President Trump's anti-climate policies—has reached 1 million trees after thousands of pledges from around the world.

"Thanks to you guys, you've pledged more than a million trees all over the world to try and offset that ignorance," Adrien Taylor, one of the three founders of the project, said in a video message announcing the milestone. "In doing so, you've not only offset some of the carbon emissions that have come out of the Trump administration, you've also helped reforest communities, and you've helped create a small silver lining in the very dark cloud of ignorance which is in the White House."

The idea behind the effort is simple. "US President Donald Trump doesn't believe in the science of human-caused climate change. He wants to ignore one of the greatest threats to healthy life on Earth," the project website states.

"Trump wants to bring back coal despite scientists telling us we cannot afford to burn it, and despite economists telling us there's more money to be made and more jobs available in renewable energy," the statement continues. "So we're planting a forest to soak up the extra greenhouse gases Trump plans to put into our atmosphere. We're planting a global forest to offset Trump's monumental stupidity."

The forest does not have a single, physical location. Rather, anyone who wants to participate in the project can plant trees anywhere around the world in Trump's name. Once that's done, you send the group a receipt so the contribution is added to the global Trump Forest map. You can also directly donate to Trump Forest partner Eden Reforestation Projects, a non-profit that works in developing countries to rebuild natural landscapes destroyed by deforestation.

The organizers' goal is to plant 10 billion trees—an area roughly the size of Kentucky—to make up for the carbon dioxide that would be released into the atmosphere should the Trump administration continue to roll back environmental regulations and push for fossil fuels.

"One million trees is only the beginning," co-founder Dr. Dan Price, a British climate scientist, said.

"Despite new evidence of the chaos of climate change every day, Trump continues to use his position to exacerbate the problem and prop up the fossil fuel industry. We really look forward to making Earth great again."

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Electric Vehicles Are Setting Sales and Usage Records in the U.S.

While electric vehicles only make up a tiny 0.2 percent of passenger cars around the world, that number is growing, and growing fast. In 2016, there were 2 million EVs on the world's roads, up from "virtually non-existent" in 2012. Nearly 200,000 electric vehicles were sold in the U.S. in 2017 alone, a new record.

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5 Million Gallons of Freshwater Used to Frack a Single Gas Well

A lot has been said about the toxic slurry of fracking fluids and its impact on water quality, but what about the millions of gallons of water that's sucked up by the drilling process and its impact on water quantity?

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Donald Trump Is Even More Clueless About Climate Change Than You Think

President Trump, notorious for his views on climate change, again said something about the topic that's the opposite of what's actually happening.

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Why Urban Farming Is Key in the Fight Against Hunger and Climate Change (Video)

The urban farms sprouting up and across cities around the world aren't just feeding mouths—they are "critical to survival" and a "necessary adaptation" for developing regions and a changing climate, according to a new study.

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2017 Weather and Climate Disasters Cost U.S. Record $306 Billion

2017, one of the hottest years in modern history, was also an extremely costly year. According to a new report from the National Centers for Environmental Information, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), "the U.S. experienced 16 weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion, with total costs of approximately $306 billion—a new U.S. annual record."

The federal agency listed several noteworthy events, including the wildfires in the west, with total costs of $18 billion, tripling the previous U.S. annual wildfire cost record.

The year's string of devastating hurricanes were also very expensive. Hurricane Harvey had total costs of $125 billion. Hurricanes Maria and Irma had total costs of $90 billion and $50 billion, respectively.

2005 was the previous most expensive year for the U.S., with losses of $215 billion mostly due to Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita.

The tropical cyclones, storms, floods, a crop freeze, drought and wildfires in 2017 were not only costly financially—they also caused a total of 362 direct fatalities, the report said.

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With 16 billion-dollar disasters in 2017, the U.S. has now experienced 219 weather and climate disasters since 1980—total losses exceed $1.5 trillion. NOAA NCEI Climate

The report noted that 2017 was the third warmest year since record-keeping began in 1895. The average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. last year was 54.6 degrees Fahrenheit, 2.6 degrees above the 20th-century average.

A separate announcement from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, a major international weather agency, recently ranked 2017 as the second-hottest year.

"It's striking that 16 of the 17 warmest years have all been this century," Jean-Noel Thepaut, head of Copernicus, told Reuters, noting the overwhelming scientific consensus that man-made emissions have exacerbated Earth's rising temperatures.

The NOAA report highlights the extreme costs of climate and weather disasters despite President Donald Trump and his administration's skepticismand downright indifference—towards climate policy, from pulling the U.S. out of the Paris agreement to dropping climate change from the list of national security threats.

Trump said in June after withdrawing the country out of the global climate accord: "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris."

He claimed the Paris agreement "hamstrings the United States while empowering some of the world's top polluting countries."

Last month, the president unveiled a new national security strategy that reversed an Obama-era declaration that placed climate change as a major threat facing the nation.

Rather, Trump's "America First" plan focuses on four themes surrounding economic security for the U.S: “protecting the homeland and way of life; promoting American prosperity; demonstrating peace through strength; and advancing American influence in an ever-competitive world," the Associated Press reported, quoting senior administration officials.

A draft document of the national security strategy showed that the Trump administration would actively oppose efforts to reduce the burning of fossil fuels for energy, which emits greenhouse gases that drive global warming.

"U.S. leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth, energy agenda that is detrimental to U.S. economic and energy security interests," the document stated.

“Given future global energy demand, much of the developing world will require fossil fuels, as well as other forms of energy, to power their economies and lift their people out of poverty."

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Some Bigelow Tea Not 'Natural' Because It Contains Glyphosate, Lawsuit Says

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has filed a lawsuit against R.C. Bigelow, Inc. alleging that glyphosate—the world's most widely used weedkiller—can be detected in some of the company's popular tea products.

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100% Renewable Energy Worldwide Isn't Just Possible, It's More Cost-Effective Than the Existing System

Transitioning the world to 100 percent renewable electricity isn't just some environmentalist pipe dream—it's "feasible at every hour throughout the year" and is more cost-effective than the current system, which largely relies on fossil fuels and nuclear energy, a new study claims.

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Monsanto Giving Cash to Farmers Who Use Controversial Pesticide

Looks like Monsanto really wants farmers to use XtendiMax. The agribusiness giant is offering a cash incentive to farmers to apply a controversial pesticide linked to 3.1 million acres of crop damage in nearly two dozen heartland states, according to Reuters.

Monsanto could refund farmers about 50 percent of the price of its product, XtendiMax With VaporGrip Technology, in 2018 if they spray the product on the seed company's Xtend soybeans that are genetically engineered to tolerate dicamba.

Reuters reported: 

XtendiMax costs about $11 per acre to buy, and Monsanto is offering $6 per acre in cash back to farmers when they apply it on Xtend soybeans along with other approved herbicides, according to the company.

“We believe cash-back incentives for using XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology better enable growers to use a management system that represents the next level of weed control," said Ryan Rubischko, Monsanto product manager.

The herbicide is designed to beat back weeds on dicamba-resistant soy and cotton fields but is highly damaging if it floats onto neighboring non-target crops. Plants exposed to the chemical are left wrinkled, cupped or stunted in growth.

But Monsanto has vehemently defended the safety of XtendiMax and has casted blame on farmers for improperly using the product.

In October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached an agreement with Monsanto, BASF and DuPont to set new requirements for “over the top" use of dicamba to help minimize drift damage for the 2018 growing season.

Meanwhile, regulators in North Dakota, Missouri and Arkansas are taking steps to set restrictions on dicamba-based herbicides.

In Arkansas, where dicamba damage has been especially bad, state lawmakers are considering a ban on the use of the weedkiller next summer.

Monsanto sued the state's agricultural officials to stop the proposed ban.

“Monsanto is presently losing sales every day the ban on in-crop use of dicamba herbicides remains in effect," the company said in its filing (via Associated Press). “The losses cannot be recovered in an action against the state."

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France Awards U.S. Climate Scientists Multi-Year Grants to ‘Make Our Planet Great Again'

French President Emmanuel Macron will announce the first recipients of the "Make Our Planet Great Again" grants Monday evening.

According to the Associated Press, the campaign was initially aimed at American researchers but was later expanded to other non-French climate scientists. The grants will be awarded to about 50 climate research projects, totaling around $70 million. The 90 finalists are mostly American or based in the U.S.

The initiative was unveiled this summer just hours after Trump decided to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement. The "Make Our Planet Great Again" website welcomed researchers, teachers and students to apply.

It stated:

To All Responsible Citizens:

On the 1st of June, President Donald Trump decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement, which gathered more than 190 countries united against climate change.

This decision is unfortunate but it only reinforced our determination. Don't let it weaken yours.

We are ONE planet and Together, we can make a difference.

France has always led fights for human rights. Today, more than ever, we are determined to lead (and win!) this battle on climate change.

Emmanuel Macron, President of France.

The awards ceremony comes one day before the UN and World Bank's "One Planet Summit," an event focused on how those working in public and private finance can help the fight against climate change.

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The Surprising Reason Why Transportation Is Now the Top Source of U.S. Pollution

With the holidays coming around, it may be a good time to note that the countless miles that Americans will drive, train or fly has a big planetary impact.

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5,500 K-12 Schools Have Already Gone Solar

Nearly 5,500 K-12 schools in the U.S. are harnessing the sun's rays for energy, according to a new report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the Solar Foundation and clean energy nonprofit Generation 180. That means about five percent of all K-12s in the nation are solar powered.

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Leonardo DiCaprio Joins Forces With Mexican Government to Save the World's Most Endangered Marine Mammal

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Leonardo DiCaprio and telecom tycoon Carlos Slim signed a memorandum of understanding committing to conserve marine ecosystems in the Gulf of California and to save the vaquita porpoise—the most endangered marine mammal in the world.

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3 Major Spills in 7 Years: Keystone Has Leaked Far More Than TransCanada Estimated

TransCanada's existing Keystone pipeline has already leaked a significant amount of oil three times in less than seven years. That's a much higher rate than the company predicted in its risk assessments provided to regulators, Reuters reported.

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Massive Pipeline Leak Shows Why Nebraska Should Reject Keystone XL

About 210,000 gallons (5,000 barrels) of oil leaked Thursday from TransCanada's Keystone oil pipeline near Amherst, South Dakota, drawing fierce outcry from pipeline opponents.

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Educated Republicans Are Less Likely to Believe in Climate Change

Just this week, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries signed a paper issuing an urgent plea to global leaders about the "current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change." The article, titled World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice, is a wakeup call to anyone concerned about rapidly rising temperatures and stronger and more frequent extreme weather events.

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