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Our Daily Planet: Monica talks regulations/E. coli, the truth about climate models and Chef José Andrés is nominated for Nobel Peace Prize.
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 Water

Trump Administration Shelved Rule Dealing With E. Coli Bacteria 


Whew! It’s safe to eat romaine lettuce again — BUT ONLY IF you can find it in a store or restaurant and you can be sure it did not come from California, otherwise it’s still not safe according to the CDC.  That is easier said than done.  How did we get here, you ask?  In an effort to “erase” Obama Administration regulations from the books, President Trump upon taking office immediately shelved regulations that had been put into place by his predecessor and directed each agency to eliminate two regulations for each new one proposed.  As a direct result, in October, the Food and Drug Administration delayed for four years requirements that farmers conduct safety tests on the water that they use to irrigate crops like lettuce.  The Obama Administration had finalized these water testing requirements after a number of serious e. Coli outbreaks and they were set to begin to take effect this year.  

Numerous news outlets, including People magazine, reported late yesterday that this delay came even after an E. coli outbreak last spring that killed five people and made more than 200 more sick, which was traced to romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona that had been irrigated with contaminated canal water.   The latest outbreak, which began last week and spread to 12 states and Canada, resulted in 65 people being hospitalized.   

Why This Matters:  We have a massive clean water problem in this country — I (Monica) talked about this on Hill TV’s Rising yesterday morning.  The FDA claimed that the delaying of this water testing requirement would “give the agency time to take another look at the water standards to ensure that they are feasible for farmers in all regions of the country, while protecting public health.”  While protecting public health? Is five people dead and hundreds hospitalized in two countries in the last six months really considered protecting public health?  And think of all the wasted lettuce that had to be thrown away in each case because the FDA and grocers had no way to trace the tainted lettuce’s origin.  Hopefully, the public and retailers will put pressure on the Trump Administration and Congress to implement the water testing rule now before we have another wasteful and deadly e. Coli outbreak.  

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 Land

Oil/Gas Drilling on Federal Lands A Major Source of Carbon Pollution

The Trump Administration issued not one, but two reports containing bad news about climate change last week on Black Friday.   The second climate change report, written by the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) stated that carbon emissions resulting from drilling for oil and gas on federal lands accounted for on average nearly 25% of all the greenhouse gas emissions nationwide from 2005 to 2014.  These emissions levels are probably higher now because the Trump Administration has increased the amount of drilling taking place on federal land and offshore.  David Hayes, a former Deputy Secretary of Interior in the Obama Administration, told The Washington Post, “[t]he USGS report is particularly unwelcome, because it acknowledges, and quantifies, the direct role that the federal government has in accelerating climate change.”

But, but, but….in the good news category, a bipartisan group of Members of Congress is expected to introduce legislation today to impose a $15 fee on every metric ton of carbon emitted and would rebate the fees back to taxpayers on a per capita basis. The Hill reported last night that The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, if enacted, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 40 percent in 10 years, and 91 percent by 2050, which would actually go farther than the reductions required by President Obama’s Clean Power Plan or the United States’ commitment under the Paris climate agreement.  

Why This Matters:  If the air pollution generated from drilling on federal lands and waters was bad during the Obama Administration, and is worse now, the worst is yet to come.  Last March, the largest oil and gas sale for leases on federal lands took place with 77.3 million acres of offshore waters auctioned for drilling, covering coastal waters in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.  Query: if the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act were to pass, should the federal government have to pay any portion of the carbon fee for emissions coming from its own land?  
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 Climate Change

How Do Climate Models Work?

Yesterday White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders held the first White House press conference in nearly a month and was asked about the recently-released National Climate Assessment and why the president denies its findings and refuses to lead on climate issues domestically or abroad. She replied that climate models are not “data-based” and are not reliable tools for predicting climate change. As the president had already done, she stated that the White House believes “that this the most extreme version and it’s not based on facts.” As you can see below, as part of their coverage CNN put up a fact tracker to debunk the false statements Sanders was making in real time: 
Why This Matters: It’s a common talking point from climate-deniers that there is absolutely no way that we can predict the effects of climate change as the models used are “unreliable.” This isn’t the case. Last year, the first climate change model turned 50 and it turns out it predicted global warming almost perfectly. In fact, Carbon Brief analyzed several early climate models and found that while some models projected less warming than we’ve experienced and some projected more, all showed surface temperature increases between 1970 and 2016 that were not too far off from what actually occurred, particularly when differences in assumed future emissions are taken into account. Take a look at the video above with Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe as she explains how climate models work and the immense amount of data and calibration that goes into them. 
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 Energy Impacts From Climate Change

Black Friday Climate Report Predicts “Cascading” Energy Problems

We continue to bring you the “highlights” of the “Black Friday” Climate Report in its own words – today’s topic is the impact on the nation’s energy sector.   Here is the report’s breakdown:
  • Increasingly, climate change and extreme weather events are affecting the energy system (including all components related to the production, conversion, delivery, and use of energy), threatening more frequent and longer-lasting power outages and fuel shortages. 
  • Such events can have cascading impacts on other critical sectors and potentially affect the Nation’s economic and national security.
  • Natural gas and renewable resources are moving to the forefront as energy sources and energy efficiency efforts continue to expand, forcing changes to the design and operation of the Nation’s gas infrastructure and the electrical grid.
  • Temperatures are rising in all regions, and these increases are expected to drive greater use of air conditioning. 
  • Energy systems in the Northwest and Southwest are likely to experience the most severe impacts of changing water availability, as reductions in mountain snowpack and shifts in snowmelt timing affect hydropower production.
  • Drought will likely threaten fuel production, such as fracking for natural gas and shale oil; enhanced oil recovery in the Northeast, Midwest, Southwest, and Northern and Southern Great Plains; oil refining; and thermoelectric power generation that relies on surface water for cooling.
  • Deliberate actions are being taken to enhance energy security, reliability, and resilience with respect to the effects of climate change through integrated planning, innovative energy technologies, and public-private partnerships, however, much work remains to establish a climate-ready energy system that addresses present and future risks.
Why This Matters:  Last night, in an op/ed in The Hill, former George W. Bush Interior Department official Lynn Scarlett said, “If there is any good news in all these reports, it is this — we can make new choices and set a new path for ourselves, one that offers opportunity. By significantly increasing our use of renewable energy sources, we create more, cheaper, and better options to power our future.”  This is true — and it is such a shame that the Trump Administration does not agree.   See our story about climate models above.  
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 Sustainability

A man looks for plastic to recycle at a garbage site in Malaysia. Photo: Mohd Samsul
Asian Nations Struggle to Absorb Our Waste 

Ever since China stopped accepting the bulk of the developed world’s trash, nations like America have been struggling to find new markets for their recyclable waste. As NatGeo explained, across Southeast Asia, recyclers operating in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia bought, but were quickly overwhelmed by, the sheer volume that China once easily absorbed. This is problematic for many reasons but as Forbes explained, about 60 percent of plastics that end up in the ocean come from five countries — China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam — according to a 2015 article published in the journal Science.
 
 Among rivers that carry the most plastics out to sea, compiled for a 2017 study published in Nature, 15 of the top 20 are in Asia. Six are in China. Asia has serious problems with plastic pollution. But shipping waste to Asia only makes it worse. Imported plastic waste adds, on average, another 12 percent to the plastic waste China generates domestically every year, according to a study published in Science Advances last June. In 2016, that translated into 8.1 million additional tons on top of the 67 million tons of domestic trash created in China. There is some good news though: in the private sector (as PBS reported), Circulate Capital, an investment management firm has partnered with several large corporations, including PespiCo and Proctor & Gamble, plans to finance waste management companies and build infrastructure to reduce plastics waste in Asia and also the amount of plastic that makes it into the ocean. While the initial $90 million investment is nowhere near enough to completely revamp Asia’s waste infrastructure it’s a start that can hopefully attract more government and private investment. 

Why This Matters: Developed nations, America especially, can’t just rely on other countries to make our trash disappear. We must work diligently to reduce excessive packaging and single-use plastics, not just send them off to Asia where they become someone else’s problem. Nat Geo noted that Malaysia’s Yeo Bee Yin, whose full title is Minister for Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change, and Environment said that “I hate seeing my country as the dumpsite for the developed world.” Specifically addressing the United States she added that “You have to mind your waste in your own backyard. Especially the non-recyclables”–which is spot-on! 
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 Hero

Photo: World Central Kitchen
One Cool Thing: Chef José Andrés Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Chef Andrés was nominated by Rep. John Delaney of Maryland;  who had the following to say about our favorite chef/humanitarian: “Because of Mr. Andrés’s work, millions of people have been fed. This is the most basic human need and Mr. Andrés has proven to be world-class in this essential humanitarian field. With an incredible spirit and an innovative mind, Mr. Andrés is solving one of the world’s ancient problems and supplying world leaders with a new road map to provide more effective disaster relief in the future.”

This is so well deserved! If you would like to make a donation to Chef Andrés’ amazing charity, World Central Kitchen, which helps provide millions of meals to those in need you can do so here
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