A CFO’s take on climate and risk management

July 13, 2020 by  
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A CFO’s take on climate and risk management Vincent Manier Mon, 07/13/2020 – 01:00 Just a couple of months into 2020, the world was amid significant discussion about the core purpose of businesses, led by BlackRock CEO Larry Fink calling for corporate America to take control of its carbon footprint and major companies, including Microsoft and Delta , making ambitious zero-carbon pledges. When COVID-19 arrived, we saw the impact that global crises have overnight, teaching the corporate sphere valuable lessons about risk mitigation. Economic estimates predict that the pandemic will decrease global GDP by 3 percent in 2020, and at our current pace, climate change is estimated to decrease the global GDP by anywhere from 2.5 percent to 7.5 percent by 2050 . While climate risk remains an often overlooked or undervalued factor in risk management programs, there is an urgent need to integrate resiliency into core business strategy if businesses want to continue to thrive — or even remain operational. There is an urgent need to integrate resiliency into core business strategy if businesses want to continue to thrive — or even remain operational. The current COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of prioritizing resilience by exposing the fragility of global supply chains and dysfunctional systems across businesses and forcing them to change the way they plan and operate to factor in large-scale crises. Hospitals, for example, felt the disastrous impact of vulnerable supply chains, and needed to plan for alternative sources of personal protective equipment to keep their medical workers and staff safe. These learnings must be applied to similar risk brought about by climate change — businesses need to prepare for the impact of devastating weather events on supply chains and infrastructure they rely on to remain safe and operational. As key members of the financial team, risk managers need to grasp the implications of sustainability across the organization, from strategic risks posed by new regulations to operational risks posed by extreme weather and financial risks with regards to taxes and insurance. As we continue to fight climate change, understanding the strategic, operational and financial risks — and the tools available to assess and plan for them — will help finance teams take a more forward-facing approach to risk management and avoid repeating past mistakes. Strategic risk factors Four key risk factors are associated with strategic risk and sustainability: economic changes; corporate responsibility; regulatory risk; and reputational risk. From an economic standpoint, there have been major shifts brought about by decarbonization and diversifying portfolios — consider the rapid decline of the coal industry, for example. In addition, companies are being held more accountable for their impact on the environment, with pressure coming from all sides, including customers, investors, competitors and regulators. Increased regulation and legal requirements around resource management and carbon reduction, as well as required carbon reporting, can result in major fines if not complied with. Finally, reputational risk, while hard to quantify, can be enormous, particularly in today’s political climate and as both internal and external stakeholders become more educated on the action against climate change. Operational risk factors Sustainability also can affect how businesses approach operations, such as supply-chain optimization, procurement strategies, data privacy and security. For instance, the finance team can make more informed decisions around power purchase agreements, onsite and offsite renewable energy, decentralization and microgrids, energy independence and cost savings opportunities when factoring climate risk into the overall procurement strategy. There are also more direct operational risks to consider as a result of climate change in the form of extreme weather events, which continue to increase in both frequency and intensity. Businesses must account for the possibility of outages, damages and closures, all of which can threaten the ability to protect employees, assets and data centers (which can pose new risks in terms of data privacy and leaks) and, ultimately, to keep the business operational. Financial risk factors Climate change poses significant financial risks to an organization as sustainability policies and corporate initiatives can affect taxes, insurance, resource management, energy sourcing, investor support and even intangible assets such as goodwill — for instance, the impalpable value that customers and investors place on a company’s ability to reduce its footprint. From changes in insurance premiums and coverage to identifying financial benefits of electrification, there are almost countless financial risks and opportunities for the financial team to assess. Sustainability planning also opens the door to integrating new technologies to save money, such as alternative energy vehicles, which bring financial benefits all their own. Integrating climate risk strategy Integrating climate risk into new or existing risk management programs can seem daunting, but the financial team can leverage strategic assessments to make the process simpler. For instance, vulnerability assessments allow businesses to understand where climate change is most likely to affect them. Scenario assessments can provide a forward-looking view of the potential impact, so finance teams can plan ahead to mitigate future developments. The world’s current state is illuminating the need for resilience to global events we may not be able to foresee or control. With climate change being the next undeniable threat, it’s on the shoulders of the financial team to ensure that companies are adequately prepared for different climate events to improve their resilience and mitigate the associated risks. The strategic planning used now to prepare for these issues may encourage innovation and new methods of operating that not only benefit the bottom line but also prepare a business for when unexpected events do occur. This also offers opportunity to strategically prepare and recover from events in a way that helps reduce climate change and improve the environment on a global scale. Pull Quote There is an urgent need to integrate resiliency into core business strategy if businesses want to continue to thrive — or even remain operational. Topics Risk & Resilience Climate Change Finance & Investing Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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A CFO’s take on climate and risk management

How we can fight the pandemic by embracing circularity

June 12, 2020 by  
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How we can fight the pandemic by embracing circularity Garry Cooper Fri, 06/12/2020 – 01:30 Throughout the pandemic response, a key issue has been a lack of communication and coordination to get personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies to where they are most needed, with many areas of the country suffering from severe resource shortages as a result. The only truly successful solution has been, and will continue to be, to strategically adopt two core elements of a circular economy model: reuse and resource sharing. The key goals of the circular economy are ” designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems .” Unlike in our current linear economic model, which generally discards materials once used, the circular economy enables more value to be extracted from an item by eschewing the “take-make-waste” pattern. In a situation where supply is limited, the circular model gets far more use out of the same supply. While the need for a circular economy has been growing for decades, especially as the impacts of climate change have begun to loom larger, this pandemic has caused that need to increase dramatically. Taking on the circularity principles of reuse and resource sharing — and equally important, having a more coordinated approach around those efforts — is critical for directing supplies to the places where there is the greatest need in a timely and equitable fashion. My company, Rheaply, has pivoted our resource-sharing technology to aid in this approach. In partnership with the city of Chicago, we built Chicago PPE Market , a platform that provides small businesses and nonprofits access to a network of local manufacturers and suppliers of PPE at cost-controlled rates, helping them protect their staff and prevent further spread of the virus. Within the first week of the platform going live, we onboarded 1,555 small businesses, with over 165,000 listings and 2,100 transactions for items such as face coverings, protective shields and various sanitizers. Yet we are just one company contributing to the efforts to fight the pandemic. To truly fight the virus, we must all adopt a circularity approach, sharing physical resources and human capital. Even beyond the pandemic, this approach will allow us to more efficiently and cooperatively operate as a global community. The first step is to change the way we think about the resources we have. To do so, we must do the following: Establish a community-oriented mindset.  With healthcare professionals advising “social distancing,” we are all keeping physically distant from others, even as states begin to reopen. Mentally, however, distancing is a way of making people think more about others. You distance yourself to protect everyone, not just yourself. We have to think about fighting this virus as a team effort, not as something that just healthcare professionals can do.  We also have to think about that “team” more broadly. To combat the virus effectively, the team has to be made up of your family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors, your city, your state, your country — the global community. For most people, the most effective way to help the team is to practice social distancing in order to prevent the spread of disease. But for those with the power to do so, it is imperative to think about the broader team and allow for human capital and medical supplies to be allocated to places where the need is greatest now, while also planning for sufficient healthcare workers and PPE to fight the virus when it spikes in new areas. Think about the resources you have that might help others. There may be other ways to help that may surprise you.  Check your cabinets . Consider what resources you might have in your home or business. If you’re a dentist whose practice has been forced to temporarily close or whose practice has a surplus of supplies that could benefit healthcare providers, consider donating or selling those items to institutions in need. If you’re a graduate student working in a lab, think about the gloves, gowns and masks you’re not currently using and donate them. If you’re not in charge of the supplies at your organization, make the case to your superiors for donating supplies. Think about your skills . Not all resources are tangible. If you’re someone who is healthy, consider how your skills could be used as resources to benefit others. One example would be people who have put their sewing skills to work to make masks. Another would be individuals who use 3D printers to make PPE . Pivot your business . If you’re a manufacturer or other business owner, think about how your business could alter its offering to make a difference. If you have the resources and access to certain supply chains, you may be able to shift to manufacturing PPE. Businesses ranging from hockey equipment manufacturer Bauer to fashion brands have begun creating masks. You might be surprised to see how your business’s strengths could be directed toward fighting the virus.  If we spread this way of thinking, both about supplies and human capital, then we can create a system where we all can rely on each other. Think about using, not owning, resources.  Question the way you think about items. Plenty of items don’t need to be owned, but instead just used for a period of time (properly decontaminated N95 masks or face shields) — you may have items that could be reused by those currently in greater need. Ask yourself, “What is the true value of idle resources that I’ve put aside?” If you’re not using an item, then it is of little value to you, whereas it may be of great value to someone else. For items that should not be reused (gloves), think about how much of these items you actually need. Ask yourself, “Do I need this many gloves right now?” In many cases, your need is probably less dire than the need of overwhelmed healthcare providers.   At the same time, we also should be thoughtful about how we treat and value the skills of our healthcare workers. Those who oversee healthcare providers can’t think of healthcare providers as belonging exclusively to certain institutions; instead, they have to think about them as having transferable skills that could provide a huge benefit to institutions and communities around the country and the world.  If we spread this way of thinking, both about supplies and human capital, then we can create a system where we all can rely on each other. If you lend a hand now, then others will be more willing to help you when you are in need. These times are tough, and it’s easy to start feeling helpless. But practicing and advocating for the principles of a circular economy are crucial ways to help. You have the power to make a difference. Let’s get started. Pull Quote If we spread this way of thinking, both about supplies and human capital, then we can create a system where we all can rely on each other. Topics Circular Economy Corporate Strategy Climate Strategy Reuse Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Rows of N95 respiratory mask, used as personal protective equipment. Shutterstock Faizzamal Close Authorship

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How we can fight the pandemic by embracing circularity

Discarded COVID-19 masks are now littering seas and oceans

June 10, 2020 by  
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In May, the French nonprofit Opération Mer Propre reported collecting several used face masks within waves of the Mediterranean Sea. According to the organization’s report, there has been a surge in “COVID waste”, including masks, latex gloves and plastic hand sanitizer bottles, in the past 3 months. Unfortunately, this only compounds a waste problem that has been around for many years. According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), over 13 million metric tons of plastic waste go into the oceans each year. UNEP predicts that the amount of waste dumped in the oceans will increase up to 10 times the current amount in the next 15 years. However, the UN report did not anticipate a situation where people around the world had to use face masks on a daily basis. The pandemic now complicates all efforts geared toward a safer and more sustainable environment. Related: How to safely dispose contaminated gloves, masks, wipes and more According to Joffrey Peltier of Opération Mer Propre, dozens of face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer bottles were found at the bottom of the sea among other plastic waste. Opération Mer Propre is one of many organizations concerned about the fate of the environment after the coronavirus pandemic . “Soon there will be more masks than jellyfish in the waters of the Mediterranean,” said Laurent Lombard of Opération Mer Propre. Now, Opération Mer Propre and other organizations are calling for a more cautious approach to the use of face masks and other medical tools. Environmental activists are championing the use of reusable face masks and more washing of hands instead of wearing latex gloves. The oceans are already overwhelmed with plastic waste from our normal lifestyles. If we keep on pumping medical waste into the environment, we risk pushing thousands of ocean species to extinction. In the words of Peltier, “With all the alternatives, plastic isn’t the solution to protect us from COVID.” Via The Guardian Image via Noah

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Discarded COVID-19 masks are now littering seas and oceans

Could indoor air quality become part of the post coronavirus playbook?

May 15, 2020 by  
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Could indoor air quality become part of the post coronavirus playbook? Joe Snider Fri, 05/15/2020 – 01:29 Here is what we know, or think we know, about COVID-19: it can spread through the air. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , it is thought that the COVID-19 virus can spread “through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.” According to a news release from the National Institutes of Health on March 17, these respiratory droplets seem to be detectable in the air for as long as three hours. Here is what we also know about hospital buildings and the way they are designed: Ventilation is an important aspect for the design of medical facilities, embraced to prevent the spread of airborne disease. As engineer Gregory Hudson notes in his article ” Ventilation Strategies for Healthcare Facilities ,” “Appropriate ventilation, when properly applied and designed, can limit the spread of airborne pathogens throughout a healthcare facility.” The question then becomes, if ventilation can help prevent the spread of airborne pathogens, and we work really hard at designing and implementing ventilation in medical facilities, might there not be strategies we could or should be implementing in other facilities that could be part of the many-pronged approach to limiting the spread of the coronavirus? The reality is that at some point we will reopen society, our economy and therefore our buildings, with the coronavirus still very much a highly contagious threat. For the sake of this discussion, we will focus on commercial buildings because ventilation systems in residences can vary widely. In most buildings, air comes into a space through some kind of a ventilation system. That air is usually a mix of recirculated air and fresh outdoor air. In non-medical buildings that need to be occupied, maybe it would be a good idea to circulate air more, add more fresh outdoor air and increase filtration. In most cases, that air is coming in cooled or heated as well and combines the functions of both conditioning and ventilating the space. Most commercial building codes require a minimum amount of outdoor air to be coming into different spaces in a building. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)  has a detailed standard that is the reference for many of us in the field ( ASHRAE 62.1 ). This standard is updated regularly. However, just because there is a minimum doesn’t mean that a space can’t exceed minimum code requirements. Based on the above information about droplets and medical facility design, it is a logical step to look at the possibility that in non-medical buildings that need to be occupied right now, maybe it would be a good idea to circulate air more; if possible, add more fresh outdoor air; and increase filtration. Another reason to ask ourselves what we can be doing to improve indoor air quality right now is because poor indoor air quality is not good for people’s lungs, and it is well documented that healthy lungs are positive when someone does get sick with this virus. Many buildings designed in recent years according to the LEED or WELL building standards already adhere to higher thresholds of outdoor air flow and other strategies to improve indoor air quality for occupants. The following is a list of best practices that the building owners and facilities managers can be doing to enhance the indoor air quality of our spaces where people need to be now, and/or prepare for when we will be together again. For currently unoccupied buildings, it makes sense to explore many of these strategies while a building is unoccupied so that everything is in the best working order when people return. Give your building a tune-up Just because a building was designed for proper air flows doesn’t mean it is still operating that way. Over time, systems can slip or people can do things such as close vents that are supposed to be left open. Through the process of Testing, Adjusting and Balancing (TAB), technicians determine what the appropriate air flows are supposed to be in different spaces, then go through to verify that the spaces are achieving those airflows. If they aren’t, they are corrected. It is essentially a tune-up for the building’s ventilation system. This can help to ensure all spaces are properly ventilated and in the process possibly help your building operate more efficiently. Increase air circulation and outdoor air As part of the TAB process, depending on how the system is designed, technicians can measure and possibly even adjust the amount of outdoor air coming into the building. Based on how COVID-19 behaves, as noted above, and how we ventilate for pathogens in medical facilities, it seems logical that moving more air and providing more outdoor air would be beneficial. In fact, the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19 ) specifically mentions “Increase ventilation rates” and “Increase percentage of outdoor air.” Note, we are heading into cooling season in most parts of the country, so people wonder, “Won’t I use more energy having to condition more outdoor air and why is the green guy recommending that?” In reality, green buildings are a balancing act, and not all about energy. Yes, energy is important, but the concept of “green building” includes healthy people as well. Use spaces designed for better ventilation Ventilation in a building is determined space by space. A corridor has less fresh air than a meeting room because people are not staying in that space for any measurable period of time. So in any building, there are likely to be better-ventilated spaces. Where might those be in your building, and how might you consider what spaces to be in with that knowledge? For example, we are working on a police facility. That facility has a crime lab that is negatively pressurized where all air in the room is exhausted (meaning none of it is recirculated). Perhaps that space would be a better space for a meeting for these first responders than the conference room, which has much less overall ventilation than the lab. Change out filters or even improve them Regular filter changing should be part of any regular building maintenance plan. Often this can get overlooked or slip on maintenance schedules. Make sure your building filters are not old. Old, dirty filters can slow down air movement, thus reducing the ventilation rates. In addition, consider adding a higher level of filter. Both the LEED rating systems and the WELL standard use MERV-13 (or better) as the guidance for top-level filtration. There can even be ways to add on things such as high-efficiency particulate air or HEPA filters or ultraviolet light for greater levels of filtration and decontamination. Is it time to replace an old unit? If you are inching towards a unit replacement, now just may be the ideal time. First of all, many older buildings were not designed with ventilation systems that meet even today’s minimum standards. A new system retrofit can achieve that. Also, if your building is unoccupied at the moment, it is a great time to be changing out equipment and not disrupting workflows. Getting the ventilation systems up to current standards before employees return could be helpful as we continue to combat the spread of this disease. What are occupants experiencing? It is easy for many of us in the building professions to forget that at the end of the day, it is the occupants for whom we are designing, constructing and maintaining buildings. Another green building and efficiency tool is the use of a survey. A simple occupant comfort survey can help identify issues from poor airflow to major issues such as mold. Again, as the building is unoccupied, it might be the ideal time to do a survey and explore or fix issues as there would be little disruption to workflow. Reduce toxic indoor contaminants Lastly, as we generally have become suddenly and acutely aware of respiratory health, we need to acknowledge the negative impact to respiratory health that so many materials and products used in our buildings can have. Going forward, consider implementing policies for the use of greener cleaning products, integrated pest management programs that use fewer toxic chemicals and lower-emitting paints and sealants, all of which contribute to healthier indoor spaces. Yes, energy is important, but the concept of ‘green building’ includes healthy people as well. The LEED and WELL building standards include these and many other strategies for improving the indoor air quality that so many of us sit in day after day that can have lasting impacts on our respiratory health. It has become clear that COVID-19 won’t be defeated with any singular silver bullet, at least until we get to a vaccine, which is estimated to be 18 months away or more. But a combination of best practices — hand washing, social distancing, etc. — is clearly the approach for now. The indoor environments we provide can help with our health and spread of disease, not only now, but even in the future to help things such as basic colds, the flu or other health issues for people. As the delicate balance between health and the economy has come into sharper focus than any of us could have imagined, it is worth noting that long before COVID-19, Kaiser Permanente noted it is estimated that work absenteeism costs U.S. employers $1,685 per employee each year. Even in non-pandemic scenarios, it can be smart business to spend some time focusing on healthy indoor environments for workers. Please note I am not a medical professional. I am an architect. I study buildings, not the specific ways diseases spread, nor the human body’s response to those diseases. I have been reaching out to the medical community, and I will update this article with new information as I receive it. This article originally appeared on Medium. Pull Quote In non-medical buildings that need to be occupied, maybe it would be a good idea to circulate air more, add more fresh outdoor air and increase filtration. Even in non-pandemic scenarios, it can be smart business to spend some time focusing on healthy indoor environments for workers. Yes, energy is important, but the concept of ‘green building’ includes healthy people as well. Topics COVID-19 Buildings COVID-19 HVAC Health 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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How COVID-19 can shape the response to climate change

May 13, 2020 by  
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How COVID-19 can shape the response to climate change Terry F. Yosie Wed, 05/13/2020 – 02:31 Part Two of a four-part series. Part One can be found here . As the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to unfold, insights are emerging on how to repurpose what’s been learned for the benefit of climate change mitigation. To date, most of the focus on the pandemic-environment nexus has been short-term. A number of environmental activists, for example, have recommended that temporarily reduced air pollution levels be made permanent through regulatory controls. Conversely, the Trump administration has used the pandemic as an argument to issue an open-ended suspension of the enforcement of environmental laws. These examples reflect the battle lines being drawn for an even larger conflict that is emerging over climate change policy.  Three key facts Three key facts highlight the growing stakes in play for climate change decision making. First, many parallels exist between arguments that deny the existence of climate change and the assertion that COVID-19 is a large-scale hoax designed to reduce personal liberty, confiscate the purchase and use of weapons and alter the traditional American way of life. Using Facebook and YouTube as principal social media organizing platforms and Fox News as a megaphone to broadcast their views, “denialists” have proven their ideology to be adaptable across multiple issues, including climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion and vaccinations against communicable diseases. Recent Washington Post investigations have reported linkages among groups that organize and financially support denialist demonstrations. Some of these groups also fundraise in behalf of the Trump re-election campaign. As the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to unfold, insights are emerging on how to repurpose what’s been learned for the benefit of climate change mitigation. Second, a principal argument used against greenhouse gas controls — that they rely upon data and protocols developed by scientific experts — has garnered substantial public support when applied to combating the COVID-19 pandemic. This result occurs because individual citizens understand that their personal well-being is at risk. Thus, they are more receptive to receiving guidance on how to mitigate this risk from medical professionals that they know of and trust. Also, the medical advice provided is both direct and practical — shelter-in-place, wear a mask, maintain social distancing. A similar opportunity exists to provide more specific climate change mitigation advice from independent scientists and professional bodies directly to citizens whose awareness of climate risks continues to grow. Third, there is overwhelming evidence that both the coronavirus pandemic and climate change damage were knowable and preventable. Numerous scientific reports, intelligence community assessments and public pronouncements from well-known public health or technology authorities such as Bill Gates warned, over a period of years, of the probability of a pandemic. The inability to respond to these warnings represents a system-level failure on the part of those responsible for protecting public health. A similar failure towards a system-level set of risks is unfolding with accelerating climate change. Over the past three decades, an elaborate evidence-based system has been in place for evaluating scientific data, modeling temperature changes and effects as varied as the melting of polar ice caps, sea level rise, heat waves and droughts and the spread of disease vectors. Unlike their health scientist counterparts, climate scientists have encountered a longstanding, organized campaign of skepticism and denial — funded by dark money business interests — about their peer-review procedures and their conclusions. This has resulted in direct harassment of both Individual climate scientists and established scientific bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and has directly slowed policymakers’ and civil society’s ability to respond to life-threatening climate risks. COVID-19 outcomes for climate change planning At this juncture of managing the COVID-19 crisis, three significant outcomes have emerged that can inform responses to the climate crisis: People have connected their personal well-being to expectations of government action. They expect the institutions of government (and civil society organizations) to act on their behalf by defining essential economic activities, providing needed medical infrastructure (hospital capacity, critical supplies and tests) and maintaining civil order. Governmental officials, medical professionals and citizens have embraced the need to “bend the curve” for COVID-19 incidence and mortality. Citizens believe they have a responsibility to each other by sheltering in place, frequently washing their hands, maintaining appropriate distances, limiting their mobility and wearing masks outside of their homes. This has occurred for reasons of self-interest but also stems from moral and ethical values and notions of good citizenship. Actions to bend the climate curve Public support for a goal to “bend the climate curve” can be built but will require national and International efforts to limit/reduce future greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and contain a worldwide temperature increase to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius over the next few decades (the two pre-eminent metrics for measuring success in bending the curve).  Three types of actions are required to achieve this goal: policy initiatives that can acquire sufficient political support to be enacted within the next two years; interventions by investors on climate governance; and behavioral change through moral and ethical appeals to individuals and groups. Policy actions Policy actions should be guided by the “Bill Gates Principle”: People should not waste idealism and energy on a policy that will not cause any reduction in the use of fossil fuels. Policy actions should encompass regulatory, tax and budgetary actions. They include: Rejoining the Paris Climate Accord , with the objective of renegotiating more ambitious climate targets and timetables with added transparency. Setting a U.S. objective of decarbonizing the economy through a policy of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 across all major industry sectors. Appropriate interim objectives also should be established. For example, the U.S. government and the utility industry should establish a goal for phasing out coal-fired power plants by 2030. The Obama administration’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards should be maintained and periodically updated. Removing all energy subsidies , including those for solar and other renewables. The latter have achieved a level of market competitiveness and will succeed in gaining expanded access to various energy markets. Fossil fuel companies, a growing number of which are heavily indebted or experiencing reductions in their customer markets, should compete in the future only on a market-clearing basis and not as rent-seeking enterprises. Avoiding transfer of public funds to large, carbon-intensive companies. Innovation potential is higher when funds are directed at new technology development rather than larger, more heavily capitalized firms with existing access to credit markets. Investor actions Investors have become increasingly active in engaging multinational companies on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments. Their influence is greatly strengthened by the performance of ESG or sustainability fund investment portfolios when compared against traditional benchmarks such as the S&P. Moving forward, investors should be: Intensifying engagement with CEOs and corporate boards on climate governance and commitments. Increasing synergy involving Climate Action 100+ (and allied partners) advocates, ESG-focused investment firms, individual analysts and shareholders have achieved some impressive gains in recent years and should accelerate. Shell Oil Company’s April 16 declaration to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, followed shortly thereafter by a similar announcement by French oil giant Total, are examples of such engagement. Investors should espouse that all Fortune 500 companies achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 with interim, transparent reporting benchmarks established for 2030 and 2040. Advocating the elimination of deferred carried interest. This refers to the preferred tax treatment received by hedge fund and private equity fund managers. Current rules treat carried interest income as a long-term capital gain (taxed at a U.S. rate of 23.8 percent) rather than as ordinary income (subject to a rate of 39.6 percent). This favored tax treatment is completely artificial, and benefits investors primarily interested in accumulating short-term gains rather than longer-term focused portfolios such as investments in sustainable energy. Carried interest deferral also contributes greatly to social inequality. Recommending that the financial transaction tax (FTT) be raised . Presently, each stock transaction is taxed at a rate of 2 cents per $1,000. Raising the FTT to $1 for each $1,000 of transactions will disincentivize high-frequency trading, create fairer markets, encourage longer-term possession of stocks and lessen inequality. Mobilizing citizens Persuasive facts directly engaging citizens must accompany policy and investor actions if a growing public awareness of climate change is to mobilize an aggressive movement to support greenhouse gas reductions. A citizen mobilization strategy should include: Expanding philanthropic support for grassroots citizen participation to distill climate change science into usable, actionable knowledge. This can be done by establishing academic fellowships, research centers and grants to develop position papers and other content; training citizens to participate in government decision making; and multiplying citizens’ voices at the grassroots levels and through social media. Leading philanthropists should pool their resources, using nonprofit, tax-deductible organizations, to invest at least $1 billion annually within the next two years and subsequently. Unlike the “dark money” contributions of foundations, whose aim is to weaken health and environmental protections and sow political divisions, the sources of pro-climate change philanthropy should be completely transparent. Convening community climate risk commissions to evaluate risk scenarios, the resilience of current infrastructure (drinking water systems, the electricity grid, subways and bridges). The outcome of this effort — ideally a collaboration of local governments with universities, nongovernmental organizations, progressive businesses and interested citizens — would be the development of a community climate plan to identify key local risks and recommended priorities and budgets for their resolution. Expanding the moral and ethical rationale for climate actions. The moral basis for reducing climate risks includes: self-preservation of humans and ecosystems that sustain all life forms; expanding economic opportunities that broadens the middle class, expands the social safety net and rewards investors; creating a fair and more equitable society; and protecting the earth for future generations. Coupling moral arguments with expanded economic opportunities (job creation, purchase of newer and cleaner products, investing in companies with highly rated environmental, social and governance portfolios) can unleash powerful incentives at market scale to transform enterprise management and consumer behavior to better manage climate risks. Contemporary society already has entered the era of system-level risk from climate change. By way of context, scientists evaluating the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have concluded that mitigation measures taken in January-February were far more effective in avoiding disease incidence and mortality than later initiatives to self-isolate and shut down non-essential economic activities. In a similar fashion, delays in implementing climate mitigation and adaptation measures across the globe will result only in more draconian setbacks to life as we’ve come to know it. Leadership consists of mobilizing governments, businesses and citizens to support initiatives that can begin to bend the climate curve in the next two years. Pull Quote As the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to unfold, insights are emerging on how to repurpose what’s been learned for the benefit of climate change mitigation. Topics Climate Change COVID-19 Policy & Politics Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Catherine Zibo Close Authorship

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How COVID-19 can shape the response to climate change

How COVID-19 can shape the response to climate change

May 13, 2020 by  
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How COVID-19 can shape the response to climate change Terry F. Yosie Wed, 05/13/2020 – 02:31 Part Two of a four-part series. Part One can be found here . As the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to unfold, insights are emerging on how to repurpose what’s been learned for the benefit of climate change mitigation. To date, most of the focus on the pandemic-environment nexus has been short-term. A number of environmental activists, for example, have recommended that temporarily reduced air pollution levels be made permanent through regulatory controls. Conversely, the Trump administration has used the pandemic as an argument to issue an open-ended suspension of the enforcement of environmental laws. These examples reflect the battle lines being drawn for an even larger conflict that is emerging over climate change policy.  Three key facts Three key facts highlight the growing stakes in play for climate change decision making. First, many parallels exist between arguments that deny the existence of climate change and the assertion that COVID-19 is a large-scale hoax designed to reduce personal liberty, confiscate the purchase and use of weapons and alter the traditional American way of life. Using Facebook and YouTube as principal social media organizing platforms and Fox News as a megaphone to broadcast their views, “denialists” have proven their ideology to be adaptable across multiple issues, including climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion and vaccinations against communicable diseases. Recent Washington Post investigations have reported linkages among groups that organize and financially support denialist demonstrations. Some of these groups also fundraise in behalf of the Trump re-election campaign. As the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to unfold, insights are emerging on how to repurpose what’s been learned for the benefit of climate change mitigation. Second, a principal argument used against greenhouse gas controls — that they rely upon data and protocols developed by scientific experts — has garnered substantial public support when applied to combating the COVID-19 pandemic. This result occurs because individual citizens understand that their personal well-being is at risk. Thus, they are more receptive to receiving guidance on how to mitigate this risk from medical professionals that they know of and trust. Also, the medical advice provided is both direct and practical — shelter-in-place, wear a mask, maintain social distancing. A similar opportunity exists to provide more specific climate change mitigation advice from independent scientists and professional bodies directly to citizens whose awareness of climate risks continues to grow. Third, there is overwhelming evidence that both the coronavirus pandemic and climate change damage were knowable and preventable. Numerous scientific reports, intelligence community assessments and public pronouncements from well-known public health or technology authorities such as Bill Gates warned, over a period of years, of the probability of a pandemic. The inability to respond to these warnings represents a system-level failure on the part of those responsible for protecting public health. A similar failure towards a system-level set of risks is unfolding with accelerating climate change. Over the past three decades, an elaborate evidence-based system has been in place for evaluating scientific data, modeling temperature changes and effects as varied as the melting of polar ice caps, sea level rise, heat waves and droughts and the spread of disease vectors. Unlike their health scientist counterparts, climate scientists have encountered a longstanding, organized campaign of skepticism and denial — funded by dark money business interests — about their peer-review procedures and their conclusions. This has resulted in direct harassment of both Individual climate scientists and established scientific bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and has directly slowed policymakers’ and civil society’s ability to respond to life-threatening climate risks. COVID-19 outcomes for climate change planning At this juncture of managing the COVID-19 crisis, three significant outcomes have emerged that can inform responses to the climate crisis: People have connected their personal well-being to expectations of government action. They expect the institutions of government (and civil society organizations) to act on their behalf by defining essential economic activities, providing needed medical infrastructure (hospital capacity, critical supplies and tests) and maintaining civil order. Governmental officials, medical professionals and citizens have embraced the need to “bend the curve” for COVID-19 incidence and mortality. Citizens believe they have a responsibility to each other by sheltering in place, frequently washing their hands, maintaining appropriate distances, limiting their mobility and wearing masks outside of their homes. This has occurred for reasons of self-interest but also stems from moral and ethical values and notions of good citizenship. Actions to bend the climate curve Public support for a goal to “bend the climate curve” can be built but will require national and International efforts to limit/reduce future greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and contain a worldwide temperature increase to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius over the next few decades (the two pre-eminent metrics for measuring success in bending the curve).  Three types of actions are required to achieve this goal: policy initiatives that can acquire sufficient political support to be enacted within the next two years; interventions by investors on climate governance; and behavioral change through moral and ethical appeals to individuals and groups. Policy actions Policy actions should be guided by the “Bill Gates Principle”: People should not waste idealism and energy on a policy that will not cause any reduction in the use of fossil fuels. Policy actions should encompass regulatory, tax and budgetary actions. They include: Rejoining the Paris Climate Accord , with the objective of renegotiating more ambitious climate targets and timetables with added transparency. Setting a U.S. objective of decarbonizing the economy through a policy of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 across all major industry sectors. Appropriate interim objectives also should be established. For example, the U.S. government and the utility industry should establish a goal for phasing out coal-fired power plants by 2030. The Obama administration’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards should be maintained and periodically updated. Removing all energy subsidies , including those for solar and other renewables. The latter have achieved a level of market competitiveness and will succeed in gaining expanded access to various energy markets. Fossil fuel companies, a growing number of which are heavily indebted or experiencing reductions in their customer markets, should compete in the future only on a market-clearing basis and not as rent-seeking enterprises. Avoiding transfer of public funds to large, carbon-intensive companies. Innovation potential is higher when funds are directed at new technology development rather than larger, more heavily capitalized firms with existing access to credit markets. Investor actions Investors have become increasingly active in engaging multinational companies on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments. Their influence is greatly strengthened by the performance of ESG or sustainability fund investment portfolios when compared against traditional benchmarks such as the S&P. Moving forward, investors should be: Intensifying engagement with CEOs and corporate boards on climate governance and commitments. Increasing synergy involving Climate Action 100+ (and allied partners) advocates, ESG-focused investment firms, individual analysts and shareholders have achieved some impressive gains in recent years and should accelerate. Shell Oil Company’s April 16 declaration to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, followed shortly thereafter by a similar announcement by French oil giant Total, are examples of such engagement. Investors should espouse that all Fortune 500 companies achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 with interim, transparent reporting benchmarks established for 2030 and 2040. Advocating the elimination of deferred carried interest. This refers to the preferred tax treatment received by hedge fund and private equity fund managers. Current rules treat carried interest income as a long-term capital gain (taxed at a U.S. rate of 23.8 percent) rather than as ordinary income (subject to a rate of 39.6 percent). This favored tax treatment is completely artificial, and benefits investors primarily interested in accumulating short-term gains rather than longer-term focused portfolios such as investments in sustainable energy. Carried interest deferral also contributes greatly to social inequality. Recommending that the financial transaction tax (FTT) be raised . Presently, each stock transaction is taxed at a rate of 2 cents per $1,000. Raising the FTT to $1 for each $1,000 of transactions will disincentivize high-frequency trading, create fairer markets, encourage longer-term possession of stocks and lessen inequality. Mobilizing citizens Persuasive facts directly engaging citizens must accompany policy and investor actions if a growing public awareness of climate change is to mobilize an aggressive movement to support greenhouse gas reductions. A citizen mobilization strategy should include: Expanding philanthropic support for grassroots citizen participation to distill climate change science into usable, actionable knowledge. This can be done by establishing academic fellowships, research centers and grants to develop position papers and other content; training citizens to participate in government decision making; and multiplying citizens’ voices at the grassroots levels and through social media. Leading philanthropists should pool their resources, using nonprofit, tax-deductible organizations, to invest at least $1 billion annually within the next two years and subsequently. Unlike the “dark money” contributions of foundations, whose aim is to weaken health and environmental protections and sow political divisions, the sources of pro-climate change philanthropy should be completely transparent. Convening community climate risk commissions to evaluate risk scenarios, the resilience of current infrastructure (drinking water systems, the electricity grid, subways and bridges). The outcome of this effort — ideally a collaboration of local governments with universities, nongovernmental organizations, progressive businesses and interested citizens — would be the development of a community climate plan to identify key local risks and recommended priorities and budgets for their resolution. Expanding the moral and ethical rationale for climate actions. The moral basis for reducing climate risks includes: self-preservation of humans and ecosystems that sustain all life forms; expanding economic opportunities that broadens the middle class, expands the social safety net and rewards investors; creating a fair and more equitable society; and protecting the earth for future generations. Coupling moral arguments with expanded economic opportunities (job creation, purchase of newer and cleaner products, investing in companies with highly rated environmental, social and governance portfolios) can unleash powerful incentives at market scale to transform enterprise management and consumer behavior to better manage climate risks. Contemporary society already has entered the era of system-level risk from climate change. By way of context, scientists evaluating the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have concluded that mitigation measures taken in January-February were far more effective in avoiding disease incidence and mortality than later initiatives to self-isolate and shut down non-essential economic activities. In a similar fashion, delays in implementing climate mitigation and adaptation measures across the globe will result only in more draconian setbacks to life as we’ve come to know it. Leadership consists of mobilizing governments, businesses and citizens to support initiatives that can begin to bend the climate curve in the next two years. Pull Quote As the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to unfold, insights are emerging on how to repurpose what’s been learned for the benefit of climate change mitigation. Topics Climate Change COVID-19 Policy & Politics Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Catherine Zibo Close Authorship

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What you need to know about CBD products

March 4, 2020 by  
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As 2020 gets underway, the deluge of CBD products continues. Suddenly, CBD oil is everywhere: from CBD skincare to lattes to CBD-laced treats for Fido and Fluffy’s aging joints. But is the craze legitimate or is it all hype? We’ve delved into recent studies to get the facts on the current state of CBD products. What is CBD? Cannabis plants produce over 100 different chemicals called cannabinoids. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), responsible for the high people get when smoking marijuana, is the most abundant and the most famous. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the second most abundant chemical in cannabis plants. Unlike THC, it doesn’t cause psychoactive intoxication. Most people won’t feel altered after ingesting CBD, but about 5% of people could be exceptions to this. Human bodies naturally produce cannabinoids that are involved in pain sensation, mood,  sleep , appetite and other bodily functions. CBD may interact with — and amplify — the effects of these cannabinoids already in the body. People ingest CBD products by smoking, vaping, eating gummies, taking pills, applying patches and creams, and placing tinctures under their tongues. Facts about CBD In 2018, Congress passed a law legalizing hemp in all 50 states and removing CBD from the controlled substance list. The idea was to allow manufacturers to use  hemp  to make textiles, concrete, paper and other products. The CBD boom was a side effect. But do CBD products work? While users provide anecdotal evidence, researchers aren’t so sure. “The main problem is that not enough medical studies have been done to offer any kind of clear guidance,” Dr. Jordan Tishler, instructor of medicine at  Harvard Medical School and president of the Association of Cannabis Specialists, said on the Harvard Medical School website. He attributes some CBD success stories to a placebo effect. Along with the efficacy question, lack of oversight in CBD products is a problem. “Right now, there is no way to know for certain whether a product contains any CBD at all, or is safe from contamination ,” says Tishler. “Worse, we’ve found that some companies have even added other medications to CBD products, like opioids and benzodiazepines.” The Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) is still figuring out how to regulate CBD products. While CBD supplements can’t legally be marketed with specific therapeutic or medical claims, tricky manufacturers are using vague terms like “joint health” or “calm” or “relax” to suggest unproven product benefits. “Until the FDA finalizes how it will regulate CBD, it’s not cracking down on many false claims or overseeing how products are made,” says Tishler. “This means companies can put out all kinds of CBD products with zero accountability.” Some doctors are hopeful about proving the benefits of CBD products. As  Health   reports, “CBD might be worth trying to manage symptoms of anxiety.” Dr. Junella Chin, an osteopathic physician and a medical cannabis expert for cannabisMD, added, “[CBD] tells your body to calm down and reminds you that you’re safe. It mellows out the nervous system so you’re not in a heightened ‘fight or flight’ response.” However, Chin emphasized that CBD isn’t a cure-all. So far, the FDA has only approved one CBD product, a prescription drug to treat certain types of epilepsy. The FDA warns consumers about the potential of harming themselves with CBD products, citing liver injury and  drug  interactions as top concerns. Consumers might not connect subtler side effects with CBD use, such as drowsiness, irritability and gastrointestinal distress. The FDA also emphasizes that the long-term effects of CBD products are unknown, as are the effects on developing teen brains, fetuses, breastfed infants and male reproduction. Most popular CBD products Some of the most popular CBD products include topical creams, CBD bath bombs, CBD skincare and CBD pet products, such as tinctures and calming chews. But how do you assess the onslaught of items made with CBD oil? None of these have so far been subject to FDA evaluation. And, despite what promises they make on their labels, CBD products are not a substitute for  medical  diagnosis and care. When you look at a CBD product, note the label. All dietary supplements should have back panels including an FDA disclaimer and a warning section. “Ideally, it would be preferable to have access to their third-party lab testing results too,” Brandon Beatty, an executive vice president of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, said in an interview with  Health.  Third-party testing confirms that the label is accurate. For example, a 2017 study by the  Journal of the American Medical Association  found that 26% of the 84 CBD products tested contained lower doses than the label stated. You can check the brand’s website if you don’t see that info on the label. You’ll also want to read the label carefully for dosing instructions and to determine whether the CBD is isolate or full-spectrum. The latter means the  product may contain additional cannabinoids, which are sometimes more effective — and consequently may require a smaller dose. Responsible manufacturers of CBD products should also include a batch number on the  packaging . “This is a huge indicator as to whether they are following good manufacturing practices,” said Beatty. “There should be a way to identify this product in case it was improperly made so the company can carry out a recall.” + Harvard Medical School Via FDA and Health Images via Shutterstock and Pixabay

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cigu creates a hotel room of the future that emphasizes water recycling

March 4, 2020 by  
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For the Hôtel Métropole exhibition at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal, Parisian design collective ciguë recently showcased “Une chambre pour demain” (A Room for Tomorrow), an experimental redesign of a hotel room that champions water recycling. Created as a reaction against the amount of unseen excess and waste in the hospitality business, the pavilion takes the shape of a minimalist hotel room that uses a series of rainwater harvesting systems estimated to offer 70% water savings as compared to a standard hotel room. The design for A Room for Tomorrow began with the architects’ comparison of hotel rooms to time capsules, in that their designs are typically reflective of the way of living in a particular era. “With our current times accelerating faster than ever, it however seems as if the evolution has wound down, the model has become almost stagnant and is being duplicated indefinitely with a quest focused more and more on comfort, perhaps as a way of forgetting that there is an urgency to react,” ciguë explained in a project statement. “Meanwhile, thousands of bathtubs are being filled, emptied and refilled as we speak.” Related: LEED Gold eco hotel in the Wine Country was built using reclaimed wood To bring attention to the urgency to act on environmental concerns and present possible solutions to the excesses in the hospitality business, the architects worked together with environmental engineering experts Le Sommer Environment to create a home room prototype with a focus on recycling. The room is deliberately stripped down to its solid oak skeleton, which was built to be easily dismountable so that the parts can be recycled . The focus of the pavilion is the bathroom, where water-saving technologies are demonstrated. The minimalist pavilion features an open ceiling, through which two water tanks can be seen. One tank is for rainwater collection and the other is for storing water rendered potable through phytopurification plants and activated carbon filters. Graywater from the bathtub and sink are filtered, collected and reused in a closed-loop circuit. In the corner, a transparent composting toilet bowl shows how human excrement is separated into liquids and solids, with the latter to be transformed into compost . A Room For Tomorrow was on display in Paris from October 16, 2019 to January 12, 2020.  + ciguë Images via Salem Mostefaoui and ciguë

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New York could become the first state to ban cat declawing

June 7, 2019 by  
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On Tuesday, New York lawmakers voted to ban cat declawing. If New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the bill, cats may be packing their little suitcases and moving to the first state to protect their claws by law. “Cat declawing is a horrific, yet often practiced surgery that leads to a lifetime of pain and discomfort for thousands of cats,” Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal of Manhattan told NPR . “Today, though, every cat and kitten in New York state lands on its feet as we prepare to make New York the best state for cats to live in the United States.” When cats are declawed, the vet removes part of the cat’s toe bones as well as the claws. Usually the surgery is only performed on the front feet, but sometimes claws are removed from all four paws. Pet owners often order this painful surgery to protect their furniture, and many command declawing as a requirement if the cat wants to live indoors. Adverse effects from declawing include back and joint problems, personality changes and litter box issues due to painful paws. Once their claws are removed, cats are unable to defend themselves nor to climb trees to escape predators, so they must stay inside forever. If the bill becomes law, the declawing procedure will still be performed for medical issues including injuries or infections. While many people and most cats were jubilant at the NY news, the bill is not without controversy. The New York State Veterinary Medical Society opposed the bill, arguing that pet owners who are diabetic, hemophiliac, immune-compromised or on immune suppressing medication are at great medical risk from cat scratches. They might be forced to relinquish their cats if declawing becomes illegal. According to the American Humane Society, about 71 percent of cats that enter shelters are euthanized. However, many other vets supported the bill, which passed on June 4, the annual New York State Animal Advocacy Day . This annual event is described on its Facebook page as “a bi-partisan event to further protect our companion pets from cruelty.” People who care more about couches than cats might consider adopting a pet rock instead. Via NPR Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat and Flensshot

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Invasive longhorned tick could spread disease across the U.S.

December 17, 2018 by  
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The Asian longhorned tick used to be a species only found in China, Japan, Korea and southeastern Russia, plus parts of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. But last year, an established population was found in New Jersey, and since then, the ticks have been found in eight other states. Because the tick is parthenogenetic — which means the females can reproduce without needing male DNA — it is possible that it will soon occupy large parts of the Pacific Northwest and the eastern U.S. “There is a good chance for this tick to become widely distributed in North America,” said Ilia Rochlin, a researcher at the Rutgers University Center for Vector Biology. “Mosquito control has been very successful in this country, but we are losing the battle with tick-borne diseases.” Related: Winter ticks are responsible for New England’s moose massacres The Asian longhorned tick’s ability to clone makes it possible for them to cause “massive” infestations of hosts, and Rochlin said that researchers have already seen large numbers on livestock and dogs. He added that the ticks can bite humans, pets, farm animals and wildlife . The Journal of Medical Entomology published new research about the tick last week, and even though the tick can cause infectious disease, there have not been any reported illnesses in animals or humans in the U.S. One of the diseases the Asian longhorned tick can transmit is a hemorrhagic illness called thrombocytopenia syndrome. According to the CDC , the illness recently emerged in China, South Korea and Japan. The syndrome causes severe fever, nausea, diarrhea and muscle pain. Most patients must be hospitalized, and almost a third of infected people have died. The tick can also carry other illnesses like Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. Rochlin said that all of these illnesses can lead to severe disabilities. Asian longhorned ticks can spread quickly in favorable habitats. If you add that to their aggressive biting behavior and potential for carrying pathogens, Rochlin said the tick is a significant public health concern. + Journal of Medical Entromology Via CNN Image via James Gathany / CDC

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