Cleaner Air Produced $5 Billion in Crops

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Farmers can’t control the air quality of their farms, yet the air makes quite the difference to the success of the crops. Since air can’t respect property rights it requires governments to act, and that’s what happened back in the 1990s in the USA when environmental regulations to improve air quality were put in place. A study of the impact of those regulations revealed that $5 billion USD in crops can be traced back to improved air quality.

Protecting the environment is good for the planet and for profits!

Focusing on a nine-state region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin) that produces roughly two-thirds of national maize and soybean output, Lobell and study co-author Jennifer Burney, an associate professor of environmental science at the University of California, San Diego, set out to measure the impact on crop yields of ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

“This has been a tricky problem to untangle because historically our measurements of different types of air pollutants and our measurements of agricultural yields haven’t really overlapped spatially at the necessary resolution,” explained Burney. “With the new high spatial resolution data, we could look at crop yields near both pollution monitors and known pollutant emissions sources. That revealed evidence of different magnitudes of negative impacts caused by different pollutants.”

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American Charities May Legally Have to Divest from Fossil Fuels

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Student groups have long called for their educational institutions to divest from the destructive fossil fuel industry (and ideally reinvest in renewables). This passionate demand from students has seen success at various schools around the world, and their fight in the USA may have gotten easier thanks to a change in law by the Biden administration. Large schools in the states tend to have a charitable arm to give out scholarships and collect donations from wealthy benefactors (who donate to dodge taxes, but that’s a separate issue). Charities in the states are obligated to serve the public interest, and investing in the destruction of the planet is not in the public interest according to the Biden administration. Let’s hope the divestment movement continues to grow!

Like other public charitable institutions, Harvard is legally bound to serve the public interest in exchange for privileges such as tax exemption. Harvard is also required to manage its endowment prudently, in order to further its mission of educating young people and creating a more just world.

Fossil fuel investments are incompatible with those obligations. Fossil fuels are not only the primary contributor to climate change; their extraction and refinement also emit toxic pollutants—often in Indigenous and low-income communities, where environmental racism is most acutely felt. For decades, fossil fuel companies have obscured the scientific reality of climate change and thwarted climate policy; in recent years they have also attacked climate scienceand funded research—including at Harvard—that tacitly furthers their agenda. Sea level rise caused by climate change even threatens Harvard’s campus.

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Keystone XL is Dead, For Reals This Time

Standing Rock #DAPL
Protesting works!

The absolutely foolish plan to make a massive pipeline to transport a heavily subsidized non-renewable energy source is dead. It is really dead. We’ve heard before that the project is over, only for it to come back to life. Obama and Trudeau both worked hard to ensure that future generations would have to suffer the ecological damage done by the project, yet in the end it was volunteer activists who won.

The pipeline was meant to open nearly a decade ago, and thanks to the efforts of so many groups it never will. The opposition to the project started small and now it’s a movement that is hoping to block other illogical gifts to the oil industry.

Keep protesting, never give up!

It’s easy to forget now how unlikely the Keystone fight really was. Indigenous activists and Midwest ranchers along the pipeline route kicked off the opposition. When it went national, 10 years ago this summer, with mass arrests outside the White House, pundits scoffed. More than 90 percent of Capitol Hill “insiders” polled by The National Journal said the company would get its permit.

But the more than 1,200 people who were arrested in that protest helped galvanize a nationwide — even worldwide — movement that placed President Barack Obama under unrelenting pressure. Within a few months he’d paused the approval process, and in 2015 he killed the pipeline, deciding that it didn’t meet his climate test.

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America Finally Acting on Climate Change

After years of neglect, and at times overt destruction, of the environment by the federal government in the USA is finally doing something about climate change. It’s acknowledged by scientist and average people that the greatest threat to humanity is climate change. Arguably the States have been the greatest contributors to the dire state of the climate.

The Trump administration in the USA didn’t understand science and welcomed policies which helped corporations get short term profits while saddling future generations with massive environmental debt.

It’s great to see that in Biden’s first week as President he is taking climate change seriously.

“It’s about coming to the moment to deal with this maximum threat that is with us now, facing us, climate change, with a greater sense of urgency. In my view, we’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis,” Biden said in a statement prior to signing the executive orders. “We can’t wait any longer.”

He emphasized in his statement, “Environmental justice will be at the center of all we do.”

Gina McCarthy, who Biden appointed as the first ever White House National Climate Advisor, told reporters at a press briefing that the United States would announce its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) — or each country’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions, a stipulation that is required in the Paris Climate Accord which Biden rejoined — prior to a climate summit on Earth Day, April 22.

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Want to Help People Escape Crazy Conspiracies? Read This

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2020 witnessed the rise of an absolutely bonkers conspiracy theory based around some anonymous internet poster. You may know somebody who believes the illogical thoughts that led to the insurrection in Washington last week and are concerned for their mental well being. If you know somebody deep into illogical and self-defeating conspiracies please check out this article from last November in the Guardian (to be clear, some conspiracies are real).

Like with most problems facing the world right now we can solve it by better educating people and applying critical thinking skills.

Finally, some conspiracy theorists greatly exaggerate debates among experts themselves. Not all epidemiologists will agree on the best measures to reduce the spread of the virus, but this disagreement shouldn’t be used to justify the idea that the whole pandemic has been engineered by the government for some nefarious end.

The tobacco industry used these tactics to great effect in the 1970s, with adverts that quoted fake experts and rogue scientists who questioned the harms of smoking.

“It’s a really persuasive form of misinformation,” says Prof John Cook, an expert in “science denial” at George Mason University. Fortunately, he has found that educating people about the history of this common deceptive tactic can make people more sceptical of other fake experts at a later point.

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