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Environment Headlines - 4 November, 2005

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage



New Orleans' toxic soup is served up all over America

Dr. James Martin, The Martin Clinic via ENN
News of the "toxic soup" contained in the floodwaters of New Orleans has been making headlines around the world, but this recipe is served up daily in practically every city throughout the United States. While the recipes differ from state to state, the "backbone" ingredients -- pesticides, heavy metals, petroleum products and other industrial chemicals -- are virtually everywhere.

Americans watched in horror and shame as our government -- on every level -- did not live up to our expectations and as a result so many suffered in New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast following hurricane Katrina. Yet this same travesty continues with the toxic assault on our environment that affects everyone within our borders.

So many have put their trust, along with the health and well being of our country, in government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Institute of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but the proverbial levee won't hold here either. To date the EPA has approved over 80,000 synthetic chemicals that continue to be released into the environment. We are told that these toxins are at "acceptable" levels but common sense tells us otherwise.

Toxic chemicals are in our air, our water, our fruits, vegetables, meats, fish and poultry. They're in everyday products like household cleaners, nail polish and remover, make-up, lotions and cigarettes. And now they're showing up in newborn babies.
(3 November 2005)


Study shows climate change to impact health, envrionment and the economy

Harvard Medical School press release
NEW YORK - The Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, along with co-sponsors Swiss Re and the United Nations Development Programme, today released a study showing that climate change will significantly affect the health of humans and ecosystems and these impacts will have economic consequences.

The study, Climate Change Futures: Health, Ecological and Economic Dimensions (CCF), surveys existing and future costs associated with climate change and the growing potential for abrupt, widespread impacts. The study reports that the insurance industry will be at the center of this issue, absorbing risk and helping society and business to adapt and reduce new risks.

"We found that impacts of climate change are likely to lead to ramifications that overlap in several areas including our health, our economy and the natural systems on which we depend," said Paul Epstein, the study's lead author and Associate Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School.

"A comparable event would be the aftermath of flooding, contamination and homelessness witnessed after Hurricane Katrina hit the US Gulf coast in August," he said. "Analysis of the potential ripple effects stemming from an unstable climate shows the need for more sustainable practices to safeguard and insure a healthy future."

..."As a reinsurance company, our goal is to evaluate and plan for the long-term," said Jacques Dubois, Chairman of Swiss Re America Holding Corporation. The parent company, Swiss Re, is a leading global reinsurance company and a co-sponsor of the study. Dubois continued, "Swiss Re has an ongoing effort to focus on potential economic impacts of climate change. This study adds to this by helping to review areas of increased vulnerability to climate change from a unique perspective. Whereas most discussions on climate change impacts hone in on the natural sciences, with little to no mention of potential economic consequences, this report provides a crucial look at physical and economic aspects of climate change. It also assesses current risks and potential business opportunities that can help minimize future risks."
(2 November 2005)
The report and supplementary materials are available at the Climate Change Futures website.
Reuters has a story on the report; see next entry.


Climate change linked to rise in malaria, asthma

Timothy Gardner, Reuters via ENN
NEW YORK — Climate change may promote the spread of deadly diseases like malaria and asthma in both rich and poor countries by increasing the range of parasitic insects and whipping up dust from storms, a new report says.

As climates warm, malaria is becoming more common in the traditionally cool mountains of Africa, Asia and Latin America where 10 percent of the world's people live, said Dr. Paul Epstein, the lead author of "Climate Change Futures."

"Colonizers escaped (to mountainous areas) to avoid the swamps that bred malaria. Those areas are no longer safe," Epstein told reporters upon presenting the study, noting that malaria cases have quadrupled in the past 10 years and kill 3,000 African babies a day.

Epstein, of the Harvard Medical School, wrote the report in collaboration with reinsurer Swiss Re and the United Nations Development Program.

The report warned that "malaria could suddenly swell in developed nations, especially in those areas now bordering the margins of current transmission."

Scientists believe greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) released by cars and utilities burning fossil fuels, lead to climate change by trapping the sun's heat in the atmosphere. That can lead to rising seas that may cause flooding and stronger storms.

Rising temperatures increase the range of the mosquitoes and ticks that carry maladies like malaria, West Nile virus and Lyme disease, the study said.

Cases of asthma, which is worsened by particulates in the air, can increase from greater amounts of CO2, the report said. Plants high in pollen and some soil fungi grow better with higher levels of the gas.
(3 November 2005)
For more information, see the previous story.


Drilling in ANWR? It's closer than ever

Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor
Environmental groups are targeting moderate lawmakers in eight states to oppose the move.
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Warnings about oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska seem to have had a "boy-who-cried-wolf" quality to them over the years. With a certain regularity, and an eye on keeping their troops fired up, environmental activists raised alarms that soon faded.

This time, after a long-running debate going back three presidential administrations and even more congressional sessions, this most controversial of energy development plans is nearer than ever to approval.

The combination of skyrocketing oil prices, more environmentally friendly ways of drilling and transporting oil, and the prospect of long-term, high-paying jobs has given the project a political boost.

Until now, Democrats and a small number of Republicans have blocked the measure on Capitol Hill by threatening to filibuster. Now, proponents of drilling in ANWR are attaching such measures to federal budget bills, which may not be filibustered. This means those who want to keep the wildlife refuge free of oil rigs, roads, and heavy equipment need 51 votes in the Senate (not just 41) to block it.
(3 November 2005)
Many other stories about the ANWR vote are in the news today.

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