Federal court dismisses Trump’s rollback on regulating carbon emissions

January 20, 2021 by  
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A federal court has turned down the EPA’s efforts to lessen carbon emission regulations for coal plants. The move has been celebrated and welcomed by opponents of the Trump administration’s actions to weaken environmental protection laws. Many critics of the regulations say that the rollback would give coal plants too much power in deciding their carbon control actions or lack thereof. The ruling now reduces the list of actions that the newly inaugurated President Joe Biden has to take in his first days in office. Biden is expected to get things going right from day one by reversing some of the harmful environmental policies put in place by the Trump administration. Related: EPA finalizes rule to make efforts against climate change more difficult The 2019 regulation would have required individual states to make coal-fired plants more efficient in the long run. However, the regulation left a wide margin within which states could operate in regards to reducing emissions, as long as they can show some effort toward making coal plants efficient. EPA officials had earlier said that the Clean Air Act imposes major limits on the freedom to go beyond the changes that can be made at specific power plants. Further, one EPA official said that the agency is not an energy regulatory authority. While the EPA might be on the defensive, the judge ruled that the agency is incorrectly reading the statute. The ruling said that the statute section “does not, as the EPA claims, constrain the Agency to identifying a best system of emission reduction consisting only of controls ‘that can be applied at and to a stationary source.’” The ruling indicates that the EPA’s rollback ignores some elements that power plants might use to achieve emissions reduction. Following the ruling, environmental lawyers and other groups expect Biden’s administration to take a broad approach to the regulation of power plants. However, some lawyers have cautioned that if the administration gets too ambitious with the regulations, it may have to face the Supreme Court’s conservative majority. Via Axios Image via Benita Welter

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Federal court dismisses Trump’s rollback on regulating carbon emissions

Earth911 Reader: Reassessing Environmental Impacts & Evolution Can’t Keep Up With Global Warming

December 19, 2020 by  
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Earth911 Reader: Reassessing Environmental Impacts & Evolution Can’t Keep Up With Global Warming

Hack Your Way to World-Saving Insights With This Python Bundle

December 19, 2020 by  
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Hack Your Way to World-Saving Insights With This Python Bundle

EPA @ 50, and what it says about you and me

October 26, 2020 by  
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EPA @ 50, and what it says about you and me Terry F. Yosie Mon, 10/26/2020 – 01:45 The American people always have possessed a very personal relationship with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Like all personal relationships, the EPA and its public have their share of successes and shortcomings, adjustments of expectations to realities, and recognition that the daily grind of complexity reveals our own values however much they end up being compromised. Few institutions exhibit such a pervasive daily presence in American life as the EPA. Its decisions impact the air we breathe (indoors and outside), the water we drink, the food we eat, the health of the children we give birth to and raise, the cars and fuel we purchase, the beaches where we swim, the chemicals we consume (voluntarily or involuntarily) or the quality of nature that we enjoy. The public health and environmental benefits of the EPA’s actions have been enormous, even while controversial. As one example, a draft report to Congress from the current administration estimated that, over the past decade, annual benefits from EPA regulations ranged from $196 billion to $706 billion, while yearly economic costs were between $54 billion and $65 billion. On Dec. 2, the EPA will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its establishment, not by an act of Congress but through an executive decision of President Richard M. Nixon. It has carried out its mission through the various statutes enacted by Congress beginning in 1970. The 50th-anniversary commemoration will not be widely celebrated because the EPA has become a political lightning rod among anti-regulatory conservative groups — who have dominated the national narrative about environmental policy during most of the past 40 years — and the toxic management of the current administration has weakened numerous health and environmental safeguards. However, the anniversary should stimulate serious reflection about what we as citizens expect from the EPA and ourselves if we are to successfully resolve the mounting domestic and international challenges that have placed the biological systems of our planet in various stages of collapse. The anniversary should stimulate serious reflection about what we as citizens expect from EPA and ourselves. A good place to begin that reflection is a new book by former senior EPA officials, “Fifty Years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Progress, Retrenchment and Opportunities,” edited by A. James Barnes, John D. Graham and David M. Konisky and soon to be published by Rowman & Littlefield. (I am co-author of the chapter on environmental science.) Long-term environmental policy observers will note that the EPA’s beginning coincided with a burst of public interest and participation to clean up America’s degraded skies, water and land. Often led by idealistic college students and affluent citizens of a growing middle class, a mass movement catalyzed new research, advocacy and media attention that greatly affected decisions in Congress and the executive branch and pioneered new judicial interpretations supportive of the EPA’s decisions. Fast-forward 50 years to the present. Both America and the EPA have experienced what author George Packer described as the “unwinding” of American life. The phenomenon of the unwinding means that people who have been on this earth since at least the 1960s “have watched structures that had been in place before your birth collapse like pillars of salt across the vast visible landscape … the order of everyday life … changed beyond recognition.” Unwinding support  America’s relationship to the EPA and environmental policy also has experienced an unwinding that has manifested itself in four distinctive ways: Environmental decision-making became less connected with core values and more focused around technocratic solutions. This understandable outcome resulted from a growing recognition that environmental problems were more complex than originally perceived and more costly to resolve. The resulting investments in science, technology and economic analysis, and debates over which scientific data and cost/benefit analysis met acceptable professional standards, moved the environmental conversation away from citizens and towards scientists and engineers and lawyers that knew how to craft or oppose regulations to support their positions. At times, these “insider” debates became dysfunctional (EPA’s scientific review of dioxin risks went on for about 20 years) and detracted from the ability to continuously engage in a broader public conversation about environmental priorities and the benefits of EPA policies to enhancing the quality of life. Bipartisan politics largely died. The bipartisanship present at EPA’s founding generally persisted through subsequent decades until the mid-1990s and the unveiling of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. Deregulation was a central feature of this Republican agenda and has remained so to the present day. Democrats also abandoned the idea that the EPA should remain as an independent agency and, beginning with the Clinton administration, centralized much of environmental policymaking as part of the White House political operation. The financial advantages that Republicans and their corporate allies enjoyed supported their deregulatory agenda at all levels of government through gerrymandered congressional districts, volumes of commissioned studies conducted by their ideological supporters and more conservative judicial appointments. Both parties used environmental policy, and the EPA, as a weapon against their political opponents. A debilitated and insecure middle class led to weakened support for environmental protection. Beginning in the 1970s, America’s post-World War II economic success buckled through a series of recessions and depressions, oil embargoes, high inflation and low inflation, de-industrialization and free trade policies and financial collapses that eroded the affluence of the middle class. As a result, the widespread societal consensus for environmental protection fragmented across social and economic class lines as middle- and lower-income voters focused more directly on job security, health insurance and the broader social safety net. Advocacy groups opposed to taking action on climate change, strengthening controls on particulate matter or controlling non-point sources of water pollution were able to exploit the economic anxieties of workers in America’s industrial states and the farm belt. Environmental organizations, and other members of the center-left and progressive communities, have been slow to recognize that enacting their agenda necessarily depends upon building a new political coalition to build hope and job opportunities for those whose incomes have not kept pace in a changing economy. Public values have changed. Over several decades, public opinion polls consistently concluded that Americans support environmental protection as a second-tier priority (generally below health care, jobs and economic security, and education). These surveys, however, do not reveal that awareness of environmental problems necessarily motivates people to act upon this information, endorse specific policies or support EPA as an institution. The changing arc of the Baby Boom generation (born between 1946 and 1964) is a case in point. Boomers provided the tip of the emotional and advocacy spear for a host of environmental and social reforms while in their 20s and 30s. By the time they reached their 40s and 50s, their values and priorities had taken a decidedly more conservative turn in favor of tax cuts and more skepticism towards government intervention in the economy. They have represented a core part of the constituencies that elected the Reagan, Bush and Trump administrations and Republican control of Congress. As this generation, now proceeding into its retirement years, experiences the COVID-19 pandemic, its receptivity towards government taking preventive public health actions and securing a broader economic and social safety net appears to be evolving yet again. Regenerating and refocusing Renewing support for environmental protection, and for the EPA specifically, critically depends upon reviving America’s democracy. Such renewal depends upon success in three areas: Expanding voting and other forms of civic participation across all income levels and social groups so that environmental policymakers and legislators hear from a more representative range of voices across society; Assuring that future abundance is distributed more equitably and that the risks (environmental or economic) generated from such abundance are reduced and managed more effectively; and Rethinking the EPA’s role in advancing environmental and social justice. The very complexity of American society and its overcharged political system has the unfortunate byproduct that issues don’t get the attention they deserve until a crisis emerges to focus public and political attention. A regeneration agenda for the environment and EPA can advance through the following initiatives: Re-establishing the EPA as a science-based, professional, independent agency whose decision-making processes are decoupled from any White House or campaign political operation. While the agency’s senior leadership will continue to be political appointees who will generally seek to reflect any specific administration’s priorities, supporting the professionalism and diversity of EPA staff and its adherence to widely accepted scientific and economic methods and peer standards can significantly augment its effectiveness, reputation and legitimacy. Investing in and broadening public access to environmental data and decision-making. This should include expanding research to understand the impacts of pollution upon minority populations and supplementing the array of risk reduction tools beyond traditional regulation to expedite decision making. The EPA also must embrace more direct and extensive public engagement to listen to public concerns and explain its actions through community outreach, talk radio, town hall meetings and social media. Most EPA administrators and their leadership teams have not conceived these actions as a vital responsibility nor have they possessed the critical communications skills for success. Re-establishing the public’s relationship with the EPA is a vital factor in restoring the agency as a credible and effective — and non-political — public institution. Integrating environmental protection within the economic renewal agenda. Expanding health care, investing in more innovative infrastructure (digital technologies and more equitable access to broadband) and decarbonizing the economy all provide unique opportunities to unify environmental and economic policies. Well-paying job opportunities, greater economic security, healthier lifestyles, more prosperous communities and a more sustainable planet are measurable outcomes of such a strategy. Being explicit about the values that environmental policies support. Oftentimes, public policy decisions are submerged in a barrage of models and concepts that are impenetrable, even to many of the most senior leaders of the EPA and other agencies. If the outcome of an environmental decision will increase the cost of a consumer product as a means of protecting children’s health or reducing hospital admissions from pollution — then say so. Over time, and more often than not, the public will support such reasoning and appreciate the honesty and integrity through which it is offered. The very complexity of American society and its overcharged political system has the unfortunate byproduct that issues don’t get the attention they deserve until a crisis emerges to focus public and political attention. Even more, unfortunately, our present moment is experiencing four simultaneous crises — public health, economic, race relations and global climate change. The current unwinding largely was predicted and has been long in the making. It, too, can be resolved if economic investment, science-based policies and public engagement expand although the process will take time and be noisy and sometimes disruptive. As for those Baby Boomers, many of whom have entered their retirement years, it’s time to pass the torch to the millennials and their idealism, new skills and alternative outlooks on life and the planet we inhabit. Pull Quote The anniversary should stimulate serious reflection about what we as citizens expect from EPA and ourselves. The very complexity of American society and its overcharged political system has the unfortunate byproduct that issues don’t get the attention they deserve until a crisis emerges to focus public and political attention. 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EPA @ 50, and what it says about you and me

These changes to our food systems could improve human and planetary health

October 26, 2020 by  
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These changes to our food systems could improve human and planetary health Oliver Camp Mon, 10/26/2020 – 01:30 On the recent World Food Day, the clarion call was clearer than ever: We must fix our food systems to improve human health, drive economic growth and save the planet from environmental collapse. The challenges facing us are wide-ranging. The way the world produces and consumes food causes huge environmental impacts, and yet 3 billion people worldwide are unable to afford a healthy diet, and up to a third of the food we produce is wasted. What’s more, hunger and micronutrient deficiencies are concentrated among the poorest and most vulnerable — often including those who produce the food we eat. Meanwhile, the so-called double burden of malnutrition is on the rise: hunger and malnourishment coexisting with overweight and obesity, often in the same countries, communities or even individuals. Tackling these multiple challenges and threats requires coordinated action from the public sector, private sector, NGOs, civil society, innovators and actors throughout the food value chain. In my role at the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (a Swiss-based foundation on a mission to advance nutrition outcomes by improving the consumption of nutritious and safe food for all people, especially the most vulnerable), I am constantly inspired by the passion and commitment of our partners across these sectors. In particular, young leaders who refuse to accept the status quo are already driving real change and positive impact in food and ag. Over the past two months, I reached outside my usual network to discuss this topic via email with six fellow honorees from the 2020 GreenBiz 30 Under 30 , to which I was named in June. In particular, our exchange explored how food systems can be made healthier and more sustainable as we look to a future in which we’ll need to find a way to produce enough food to nourish as many as 10 billion people while staying within planetary boundaries. We also considered the role of young leaders from the private and public sectors in this essential transformation. All comments expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of their organizations. Below are excerpts, edited for style and length. If you’d like to discuss these subjects and the future of food systems, join Oliver Camp’s roundtable session Thursday at VERGE 20 . Jennifer Ballen, head of global market operations, Indigo Ag What concerns you about the current global food system when it comes to environmental sustainability and human health? Only eight countries in the world spend less than 10 percent of their household income on food, with the United States spending the least amount (around 6 percent). In contrast, Nigeria spends over half of its household income on food, followed by nine other countries that spend over 40 percent on food. This is not because food is more expensive in Africa than it is in the United States. Au contraire, it is the reverse. The average American spends $2,392 per year on food while the average Kenyan spends $543 per year on food (World Economic Forum, 2016). The global food system, like many of the world’s Achilles’ heels, is representative of the tragedy of the commons: a renowned economic theory by which individual agents of a system using shared resources act in accordance to their self-interest at the expense of society. As the demand for the resource overwhelms the supply, each additional unit consumed directly harms those who can no longer reap the benefits. The chief impediment is that the gain is private, yet the cost is public. One juicy hamburger for you equates to (about) 600 gallons of water consumed, 0.126 pounds of methane released, 13.5 pounds of cattle feed that could have been consumed by a malnourished human, 64.5 square feet of land and the assuaging of animal species distinction, water pollution and habitat destruction. My biggest concern is running out of time. Looking back with regret. My grandchildren wondering how our generation let this happen. The world seems to be less nourished than ever before. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), there are almost 60 million more undernourished people now as compared to 2014. In 2019, 690 million people or 8.9 percent of the world population were undernourished. Moreover, to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, scientists posit carbon emissions must drop rapidly to 25 gigatons by 2030, or 7.6 percent emissions reduction every year over the next decade (United Nations). Pause and consider how difficult this will be considering the pace at which our population is growing. We must change our relationship with food. What gives you hope and optimism when you look at the future of our global food system? The problem is vast. In our world of finite resources, we need to revolutionize the way we produce and consume food to ensure enough nutritious food for 9.8 billion people by 2050. And we need to do so in a way that reduces the environmental devastation on our planet. Awareness is vital to ignite change. I am optimistic that the world is “waking up” Corporations, governments and individuals are enduring the conversation and mobilizing around solutions aimed at producing enough nutritious food for our growing population in a sustainable manner. We have access to myriad documentaries and books aimed at increasing awareness. I am witnessing the increase in education ignite behavior changes in some communities: less meat; less waste; more conscious decisions.  People, corporations and governments are seemingly taking action. We’re seeing a variety of interesting solutions and advancements from the private sector such as carbon sequestration on farms, meatless food that tastes like meat, greater access to vegetarian and vegan options and the use of technology to reduce food waste. The public sector is mobilizing around curbing hunger. We’re working with each other, not at each other’s expense. Collaboration is queen if we are to solve this thing. How can young sustainability leaders play a role in securing a nutritious and sustainable future of food? Long-lived, profitable habits are hard to change. While some ignore the issue at hand, others point to the food system as “broken.” Both are dangerous vantage points. The chief impediment to the notion that a system is broken is the illusion that a system can easily be fixed. A different point of view is that the food system is not broken, but instead working exactly the way it was built — by and to the advantage of the rich at the expense of the poor. We don’t need small tweaks and improvements: We need a revolution.  The battle against climate change is vital. The more troops the merrier. Learn, share, act. Sustainability leaders of all ages must educate themselves on the systemic food production and consumption challenges and subsequently educate others. Sustainability leaders should vote those with strong environmental platforms into office. Leaders should also ‘vote’ with their wallets, supporting companies that are part of the solution and avoiding companies that are part of the problem. When designing solutions, it’s imperative to understand that the climate crisis and therefore the global food crisis disproportionately affects people of color, particularly Black and Indigenous peoples, who are more likely to live near toxic areas, be inflicted by pollution and climate-related diseases, experience lagging response to emergencies — the list, unfortunately, goes on. Sustainability leaders must vote at the polls and with their wallets. We need strong public sector commitments to mitigate the global food crisis. Sustainability leaders should vote those with strong environmental platforms into office. Leaders also should “vote” with their wallets, supporting companies that are part of the solution and avoiding companies that are part of the problem. Leaders must lead by example in their own food consumption habits. Is your household dependent on meat? Do you know where your food is coming from and how it is produced? Charlotte Bande, global head of climate strategy, Quantis International What concerns you about the current global food system when it comes to environmental sustainability and human health? I think the first element is how slow we are moving in the right direction. While I understand the complexity of these supply chains and how difficult it will be to fully transition to a more sustainable food system, we are losing critical time in endless debates that are not focusing on action.  A great example is accounting. Companies often spend months if not years trying to get the accounting perfect, and this can shift the focus away from action as a result. Accounting methodologies are yet to be refined and finalized and, in the meantime, companies need to try to find a balanced way to track progress while also taking action. Secondly, companies are setting individual targets to try to solve a global challenge. By focusing on reducing their own impacts instead of looking at things holistically, they sometimes end up losing sight of critical pieces and actually driving change. It leads them to focus on optimizing their current business models rather than taking a step back and look to transform it. To give some concrete examples of what I mean, let’s talk about three major transformations that our food system needs to undertake to become more sustainable, and where we are not seeing the right pace of change. Deforestation is a critical environmental challenge associated with the food system. It drives most of the food and beverage industry climate impacts, threatens biodiversity and water, as well as habitat for people and animals. While many companies are very aware of this issue, they are working on it in a siloed way, which significantly limits opportunities for improvement. Companies have targets that push them to fix their own supply chain, but this can lead to simply shifting the problem to another company’s supply chain. Companies are setting individual targets to try to solve a global challenge. By focusing on reducing their own impacts instead of looking at things holistically, they sometimes end up losing sight of critical pieces and actually driving change. Food loss and waste is another big environmental topic. And like deforestation, it affects much more than the environment alone. We need to feed 11 billion people in the future, and some studies estimate food loss and waste amounts to up to 50 percent of food production. Food loss and waste is very poorly measured right now, and most value chains are not equipped to understand the extent of food loss and waste that is occurring in their supply chain or at consumer levels. However, this is a topic that brings great economic and social opportunities. Reducing companies’ food loss and waste not only would help drastically reduce the food system’s heavy impact at the raw materials extraction stage, it also would help reduce costs, as less food would need to be produced to feed 11 billion people in the future. It might even help farmers earn more for what they sell. Finally, meat consumption. Animal protein production is heavily reliant on feed that is fossil-dependent and contributes to deforestation. To reach a 1.5 degrees Celsius world, we’ll need a paradigm shift in the way we raise animals, and regenerative agriculture practices can and should be a part of the solution. However, in addition to improving practices, there is an opportunity for producers to rally around the idea that less and more sustainable meat options, which will be critical to limit global warming, can still be good for business. These examples show the importance for every company to take a step back and look at the overall picture, understand what a 1.5 degrees C food system looks like, and define how their business model will need to shift to guarantee not only that we can stay within planetary boundaries, but also to ensure their business’ long term resilience. What gives you hope and optimism when you look at the future of our global food system? The first thing is the shift in consumer mindsets. In Southern California, where I live, I can see the explosion of interest in our local farmers’ markets or the appearance of plant-based options on restaurant menus. To me, this really shows a demand from consumers for these products. On a corporate level, working with companies at Quantis, I have seen a major shift over the past few years. Companies now have a good sense of where their major drivers lie and are seeing the case for some environmental actions. Additionally, they start to better identify where risks associated with a siloed approach might occur and ensure that their identified solutions aren’t simply shifting impacts. Finally, NGOs like the WWF are working to define what a sustainable food system looks like, and I’m hopeful that bringing more clarity on the level of sector-wide transformation needed will help companies take the transformative actions we need. How can young sustainability leaders play a role in securing a nutritious and sustainable future of food? I believe it is our role to make these risks and opportunities more visible. During conversations with companies we work with at Quantis, I always try to bring a more global perspective in our discussions, supporting companies in identifying the questions that will put them on the right path and broadening the conversation towards business model transformation rather than incremental changes.  It’s also our role to share our knowledge with the people we know. Not everyone works in our fields and has access to the information we have. We should use this to help others make better-informed decisions by helping them learn what we have learned throughout our careers.  And finally, ask more from our politicians and governments. This is a global challenge that will require collective action. We need everyone on board. Arturo Elizondo, CEO, Clara Foods What concerns you about the current global food system when it comes to environmental sustainability and human health? I am deeply concerned about our reliance on animals to make our food. From a sustainability standpoint, animal agriculture emits more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector (all the planes, ships, cars in the world combined). And from a health standpoint, it’s the cornerstone of the Standard American Diet directly fueling heart disease as the No. 1 killer in the country. What gives you hope and optimism when you look at the future of our global food system? Conscious consumers give me hope. People voting with their dollars. If it weren’t for conscious consumers actively trying to eat more sustainably, pushing companies to source better and more ethical ingredients, and striving to eat less meat and animal products, the sustainable food-tech startups that can scale massively to transform our food system would have a harder time getting off the ground. How can young sustainability leaders play a role in securing a nutritious and sustainable future of food? Advocate for plant-based options at your corporate cafeterias, get you and your colleagues at work to do Meatless Mondays, and get you and your friends excited about out all the new plant-based foods that are now ubiquitous. Demand drives supply. A tiny ripple can create a tsunami. It makes a difference. Alyssa Harding, executive director, Sustainable Food Trade Association What concerns you about the current global food system when it comes to environmental sustainability and human health? Our food system as it is today is broken and is disconnected from the needs of its stakeholders. Our planet’s 500 million smallholder farmers tend to be the most impoverished and malnourished groups, not to mention the disproportionate lack of equitable access to healthy, nutritious food that low income, minority communities often face. We need to find sustainable and equitable solutions that provide nutritious food to almost 10 billion people by 2050, and remedy the global food inequity that permeates our communities and supply chains. What gives you hope and optimism when you look at the future of our global food system? The global pandemic has illustrated that local, sustainable supply chains are more resilient, and with the rise of regenerative organic agriculture, it is clear that a redefined food system can provide an opportunity for climate impact and environmental justice. I’ve worked with many brands over the past few years who are intrinsically motivated to find good food solutions and think business as a force for good has a unique role to play in both climate action and social justice. Although sustainable food systems lag behind energy and health when it comes to investment and policy, we are at a critical mass to help push forward sustainable development, focus on equitable food access, and diversify our leadership to better serve our economies, people and planet. How can young sustainability leaders play a role in securing a nutritious and sustainable future of food? Many of my colleagues can be considered young leaders, and youth climate activists have been gaining a lot of momentum in terms of educational awareness and producer responsibility. I feel very fortunate to pursue both my personal and professional passions in one role, and I think that young leaders can bridge the gap between industry/sector leaders and bring new technology innovation, research hubs, new financing mechanisms and radical collaboration to our conversations on building a truly holistic food system. José Miguel Salazar, senior specialist, corporate sustainability services, CSRone What concerns you about the current global food system when it comes to environmental sustainability and human health? Since the Industrial Revolution, as humanity we have been achieving unprecedented progress in terms of decoupling famine from our living conditions due to advances in technological innovation, science and more efficient industrial practices, among others. However, our modern food systems also have brought a new set of global challenges that require urgent attention and action to fix systemic failures that threaten our way forward. In terms of environmental sustainability, our current global food system accounts roughly for 12.8 percent of our total global greenhouse gas emissions , and its contribution as a sector to climate change is quite significant. In addition, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that roughly a third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted along different stages of the value chain. If food waste alone were a country, its emissions would rank third in carbon emissions after China and the U.S. Fixing our food system is an important component to address the urgent climate crisis and at the core lies decoupling our reliance on animal-based foods, which overall have a significantly higher footprint than plant-based foods. We as sustainability professionals have a unique positioning in our organizations, networks and communities to serve as ambassadors or influencers to communicate these challenges and emphasize the opportunities … In terms of human health, based on the latest estimates from the Global Nutrition Report, globally one in nine people is hungry or undernourished, and one in three people is overweight or obese. These findings indicate that a very significant percentage of the world’s population is affected by malnutrition and at least by one or some of the following health issues: poor child growth; micronutrient deficiencies; overweight and obesity; and non-communicable diseases. These health issues ultimately could bring serious and lasting burden for individuals and their families, for communities and for countries. The convergence of these challenges creates unprecedented risks for the sustainability of our natural environment and the development of societies and economies. Moreover, we need to keep in mind that our world population is expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050, hence food production would have to be increased to meet growing demands and, of course, we would have to bring innovations along the value chain. In this regard, what concerns me the most is our ability to accelerate the innovation and change at scale that is needed on time and in ways that respect human well-being and the environment. What gives you hope and optimism when you look at the future of our global food system? There are several positive signals of change I’ve been observing in the last few years. But I’d like to highlight three in particular: 1. Growing awareness and changing behaviors. Increased access to education and modern communication technologies have brought more attention towards these issues, and rapidly emerging groups of consumers advocate and favor food products that are more nutritious, with lower environmental footprint and that contribute to regenerative agricultural practices. This is still a niche market from the total, however many social enterprises, companies and even multinational corporations are understanding and designing or re-adjusting their operations to meet these emerging needs. 2. Advances in technologies and their applications. Solving these challenges requires addressing a number of gaps (food production gaps, agricultural land area use gaps, GHG mitigation gaps, inequities gaps, nutrition outcomes gaps, etc.) and this requires better collection and analysis of data. Emerging new technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence can help us to understand and identify areas to invest resources and increase positive impact. 3. The rise of multi-stakeholder initiatives. Organizations such as GAIN, the FAO, the Global Nutrition Report, the WEF and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) provide important platforms for different stakeholders to convene and develop system-wide proposals and solutions. These initiatives can be implemented on the ground through the collaboration of governments, investors, business, NGOs, civil society and consumers that have the capacity to accelerate change and scale up the innovations where needed the most while creating shared value. Solving the food systems challenge is an immense task and it could not be addressed by one stakeholder alone. How can young sustainability leaders play a role in securing a nutritious and sustainable future of food? Since this is a very complex and systemic challenge, I think there are plenty of areas where sustainability leaders can advance progress. Any sort of innovation brought along the value chain (production, storing, processing and packaging, distribution and consumption) will be important. There is a great report from the World Resources Institute (WRI) that offers a set of five solutions to ensure we can feed 10 billion people by 2050 without increasing emissions, fueling deforestation or exacerbating poverty. I highly recommend everyone interested in the topic to take a look at it. In my view, anybody can exercise the role of a positive agent of change in these topics and move forward solutions; however, in terms of how and where can young sustainability leaders be most influential, I believe it is through the advocacy of the risks and opportunities from the food system failures internally in their organizations and externally with the wider society and governments. We as sustainability professionals have a unique positioning in our organizations, networks and communities to serve as ambassadors or influencers to communicate these challenges, but also and most importantly emphasize the opportunities of creating shared-value and proposing practical initiatives that can bring these opportunities forward.   Katerina Fragos, manager, sustainability and climate change consulting, PwC What concerns you about the current global food system when it comes to environmental sustainability and human health? I have three concerns with the global food system. First, a large majority of medical practitioners will tell you that nutrition is not well-covered in medical school curriculum just as several farmers will tell you that regenerative agriculture techniques are not yet well-understood in their community groups. This means that two of the most important stakeholders in our health and food system are missing the knowledge and tools to entrench sustainability within the system. Second, modern life has decoupled us from the food system, with many of us never visiting a farm or tending to a garden in our lifetimes. A lack of exposure to the various steps in our food system value chain makes it challenging to understand just how damaged the system has become. Third, the cheapest and most available foods are also often the least healthy and sustainable. We need to start replacing calorie-dense, nutrition-devoid foods with plant-based, nutrition-rich alternatives to make the healthiest foods the most accessible and affordable. What gives you hope and optimism when you look at the future of our global food system? I am encouraged by the large number of medical professionals focusing on communicating and simplifying the complex science behind nutrition and health to empower people to make more informed food choices. There are fantastic sources of information available. To name a few: Dr. Michael Gregger’s NutritionFacts.org and Daily Dozen app as well as Dr. Will Bulsiewicz’s Fiber Fueled . There is also a great deal of momentum around regenerative agriculture with organizations such as the Land Institute , Regeneration International and RegenAg taking the lead. Interestingly, certain experts, like Dr. Zach Bush, have even begun to triangulate the concepts of health, nutrition and regenerative agriculture through efforts such as the Farmer’s Footprint . How can young sustainability leaders play a role in securing a nutritious and sustainable future of food? From a personal perspective, a few actions to consider: transition towards a plant-based diet; aim to grow our own food (start small with herbs) if possible; try to buy from local farmers; look for third-party certifications (RFA, organic, etc.). From a professional perspective, there are plenty of opportunities to drive action. For instance, aim to influence the spending habits of the organization you work for (catered events, cafeteria options), work for food manufacturers and retailers to help accelerate their transitions to more sustainable and regenerative models; participate in sustainable food advocacy groups or organizations. Pull Quote Sustainability leaders should vote those with strong environmental platforms into office. Leaders should also ‘vote’ with their wallets, supporting companies that are part of the solution and avoiding companies that are part of the problem. Companies are setting individual targets to try to solve a global challenge. By focusing on reducing their own impacts instead of looking at things holistically, they sometimes end up losing sight of critical pieces and actually driving change. We as sustainability professionals have a unique positioning in our organizations, networks and communities to serve as ambassadors or influencers to communicate these challenges and emphasize the opportunities … Topics Food & Agriculture 30 Under 30 VERGE 20 Collective Insight 30 Under 30 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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These changes to our food systems could improve human and planetary health

BP, Shell, oil giants fund research into mobile carbon capture from ships at sea

October 26, 2020 by  
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BP, Shell, oil giants fund research into mobile carbon capture from ships at sea Michael Holder Mon, 10/26/2020 – 00:05 A coalition of oil and gas majors are eyeing up the potential to capture carbon dioxide emissions from ships out at sea, teaming up with global tanker owner and operator Stena Bulk to evaluate the feasibility of technology they claim could play a key role in decarbonizing the hard-to-abate sector. The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) — which represents 12 of the world’s largest oil and gas companies including BP, Shell, Exxon, Chevron, Aramco and Petrobras — revealed recently it is funding research alongside Stena Bulk into mobile carbon capture on board ships out at sea. The project aims to evaluate the technical and economic challenges involved in capturing CO2 from ships cruising the oceans, and is in part an extension to OGCI member Saudi Aramco’s research which it claims has successfully demonstrated carbon capture on board heavy-duty trucks on roads, it said. “Carbon capture will play an important role in reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions, but there’s no reason it needs to be limited to stationary applications,” said Michael Traver, head of OGCI’s transport workstream. “Expanding carbon capture to long-distance marine shipping could help accelerate its use, while addressing a difficult to abate sector of the transport industry.” Expanding carbon capture to long-distance marine shipping could help accelerate its use. OGCI claims mobile carbon capture technologies aboard ships could help the global shipping sector reach its current climate target to cut emissions by 50 percent by 2050, from a 2008 baseline — a goal that has faced criticism from green groups for lacking ambition. The research itself is also likely to provoke renewed criticism of the OCGI’s priorities, given it focuses on CCS technologies that would in effect prolong the use of fossil fuels to power ships, rather than on alternative, low or zero carbon shipping fuels that could transition the sector away from fossil fuels altogether. But Stena Bulk President and CEO Erik Hånell argued it was “increasingly evident that we need to evaluate as many potential solutions as possible that might help decarbonize the industry.” “Carbon capture might be such a solution with the potential to play a key role in this transition, and this feasibility study presents a unique opportunity for us to work with some of our key customers to understand and assess the technical and economic challenges involved in making carbon capture work onboard vessels,” he said. The global shipping sector is responsible for around 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and has received flak over its failure to come up with a detailed, ambitious plan to decarbonize in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The global shipping sector is responsible for around 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018 the International Maritime Organization (IMO) — the UN-affiliated body which oversees the global shipping sector — agreed on a draft target to cut global emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050 compared to 2008, alongside targets to cut the average carbon intensity by at least 40 percent by 2030. However, details of the strategy have yet to be fully thrashed out, and crunch negotiations over how the industry should go about meeting its near-term 2030 climate goals are set to kick off today at the IMO, amid concerns from green groups that current proposals amount to an “empty shell. ” Meanwhile, the OGCI today announced that its members collectively have reduced the cut their absolute upstream methane emissions by 22 percent since 2017, shrinking the methane intensity of members’ upstream oil and gas to operations to 0.23 percent. It surpasses its target to cut methane intensity to 0.25 percent by 2020, and as such the OGCI has set a stricter goal of 0.2 percent by 2025. Moreover, the group claims to have cut its carbon intensity by 7 percent collectively since 2017, as it pushes towards its target for a 13 percent cut.  However, carbon intensity targets have faced increasing criticism from green groups, as organizations potentially can still increase their overall emissions by expanding their business while reducing the CO2 intensity of their operations.  Pull Quote Expanding carbon capture to long-distance marine shipping could help accelerate its use. The global shipping sector is responsible for around 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Topics Oil & Gas Carbon Removal Shipping & Logistics BusinessGreen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Stena Conqueror is a Oil and Chemical Tanker, built by Swedish tanker giant Stena Bulk. The company is participating in a novel carbon capture project for shipping. Flickr royvanwijk Close Authorship

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BP, Shell, oil giants fund research into mobile carbon capture from ships at sea

How to support environmental justice

July 8, 2020 by  
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When most of us think about the environment, we tend to conjure certain images. Clean waterways and national parks full of trees or wildlife come to mind, especially since environmental news often focuses on polar ice caps melting in the Arctic, deforestation in the Amazon and animals close to extinction. How often, however, do we think about the human communities in our own backyard and where we fit into environmental issues? When climate change doesn’t seem to affect you directly, it can be easy to overlook. This is where environmental justice comes in. What is environmental justice? The United States  Environmental Protection Agency  defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” This goal will become reality “when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.” This intersection between environmentalism and social justice forms an important branch of activism that focuses on people’s right to live safely without environmental hazards. Related: 5 growing environmental nonprofits to support in 2020 Concerns linked to hazardous  waste  sites, failing infrastructure and money-saving policy changes in vulnerable communities continue to plague the environment and the humans who live there. Low-income communities and communities of color are especially at risk; think Flint, Michigan, when a 2014 policy change led to at least 100,000 people losing access to clean water. Additional examples of environmental injustice remain plentiful. Low-income communities are more likely than the overall population to be affected by climate change threats (such as flooding), due to inadequate housing. A 2018  study  by the Environmental Protection Agency also found that  air polluting  facilities burdened Black communities at a rate 1.54 times higher than the overall population. Throughout the country, there are even neighborhoods without access to healthy food, and communities with toxic waterways and soil due to oil and gas extraction. How to help All of these environmental injustices can be daunting, but there are ways to help. Especially with  social media , something as simple as raising awareness of an issue can have a lasting effect. You can also show your support by getting involved with or donating to environmental justice  non-profits . One of the best ways to help is by backing socially-equal conservation policies and the organizations or politicians supporting them.  WE ACT  is an organization that helps low-income communities of color fight harmful environmental policies while participating in the creation of fair environmental policies.  Green For All  works to uplift the voices of low-income communities and people of color in the climate justice movement and fights to build a green economy that lifts people out of poverty. The NAACP also has an  Environmental and Climate Justice Program  to support community leadership in addressing environmental injustice and its disproportionate impact on communities of color and low-income communities. Take the time to challenge unjust laws and violations of environmental policies in marginalized communities, too.  EarthJustice  believes that law is the most powerful tool for environmental change. The non-profit public interest environmental law organization supports an experienced legal team that represents their clients from small towns to large organizations (for free) in the fight against environmental injustice. Environmental justice work doesn’t stop there Indigenous communities are also disproportionately exposed to environmental contaminants, often due to federal and state laws that make it easier for extractive and polluting facilities to access tribal lands. A 2012  study  even found that Indigenous American communities face disproportionate health burdens and environmental health risks compared with the average North American population. Organizations like  Cultural Survival , which works to advance the rights and cultures of Indigenous people, and the  Indigenous Environmental Network , an alliance of Indigenous peoples who fight to address environmental and economic justice issues, help educate and empower Indigenous people while raising awareness for their environmental protection. Other facets of the environment, such as the  agricultural  sector, also experience injustice.  The National Black Farmers Association  is a non-profit organization representing African American farmers and their families in the U.S., focusing on issues such as civil rights, land retention, education, agricultural training and rural economic development. A new generation leading the way Especially in recent years, with young leaders addressing the environmental tolls that harmful practices reap upon the planet, several organizations for young people have made tremendous strides in environmental justice.  The Sunrise Movement , a youth-led organization, advocates for political action on climate change and works to help elect leaders who stand up for the health and equal wellbeing of all people. Similarly, the  Power Shift Network  mobilizes the collective power of young people to fight against environmental racism by stopping dirty energy projects and campaigning to divest from  fossil fuels . Images via Pexels

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How to support environmental justice

EPA suspends environmental law enforcement

March 30, 2020 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency has announced that, in accordance with the wishes of the Trump administration, it will suspend enforcing environmental laws for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses will not face any repercussions for polluting American air, land or water, as long as they can claim their practices are related to COVID-19. “This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment,” said Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the EPA. Related: Air pollution could make COVID-19 more dangerous The memo explains that staff shortages and social distancing restrictions may constrain laboratories’ abilities to analyze samples and companies’ abilities to meet reporting obligations. The new policy applies retroactively, beginning on March 13, with no end in sight. “The EPA will apply this policy to actions or to missions that occur while this policy is in effect even after the policy terminates,” according to the memo. Last week, the American Petroleum Institute, which promotes the interests of gas and oil companies, sent the EPA a letter lobbying for the suspension of rules requiring these companies to fix leaky equipment or monitor pollution . Air pollution is particularly worrisome at the moment, as COVID-19 attacks the human respiratory system. People with preexisting respiratory conditions are especially in danger, as are those who live near industrial facilities emitting large quantities of pollution. Because these facilities are usually located in less affluent neighborhoods, those with low incomes and people of color will unfairly bear the consequences of these relaxed laws. The EPA’s new policy has shocked and outraged public health and environmental advocates. “EPA should never relinquish its right and its obligation to act immediately and decisively when there is threat to public health, no matter what the reason is,” said Cynthia Giles, who headed EPA enforcement during the Obama administration. “I am not aware of any instance when EPA ever relinquished this fundamental authority as it does in this memo. This memo amounts to a nationwide moratorium on enforcing the nation’s environmental laws and is an abdication of EPA’s responsibility to protect the public.” + Environmental Protection Agency Via The Guardian Image via Environmental Protection Agency

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EPA suspends environmental law enforcement

How 2019 laid the groundwork for change in the chemical industry

January 15, 2020 by  
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There’s a movement to regulate toxics such as Chlorpyrifos and PFAS.

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How 2019 laid the groundwork for change in the chemical industry

Climate change has led to more temperature inversions and the rise of ‘super pollution events’

January 15, 2020 by  
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This is why the air was unsafe to breathe and reeked of “hospital waste” in a Pennsylvania community in late December.

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Climate change has led to more temperature inversions and the rise of ‘super pollution events’

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