Archive for the ‘Pollution’ Category

Coal is the enemy of the human race, mainstream economics edition

Monday, October 10th, 2011

… noted a new paper in theAmerican Economic Review: “Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy.”   Brad Johnson has a longer summary here.   I want to emphasize the paper’s conclusions and make a few related points. But mostly I want to beg everyone: spread this around. Coal’s net economic effects on the U.S. are poorly understood, to say the least, and this paper’s findings are stunning.

Once you strip away the econ jargon, the paper finds that electricity from coal imposes more damages on the U.S. economy than the electricity is worth. That’s right: Coal-fired power is a net value-subtracting industry. A parasite, you might say. A gigantic, blood-sucking parasite that’s enriching a few executives and shareholders at the public’s expense.

– From the Grist Blog (

– To more of the original article…  

Fukushima: It’s much worse than you think

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

– There’s a lot of information and, probably, misinformation going about concerning what’s happened at Fukashima in Japan.   And, I’m the first to admit that I don’t know the truth of it.   But I do know that governments do try to hide bad news.   So, I’ll just present this and time will tell what’s true and what’s not.

– dennis

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Scientific experts believe Japan’s nuclear disaster to be far worse than governments are revealing to the public.

“Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind,” Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president, told Al Jazeera.

Japan’s 9.0 earthquake on March 11 caused a massive tsunami that crippled the cooling systems at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan. It also led to hydrogen explosions and reactor meltdowns that forced evacuations of those living within a 20km radius of the plant.

Gundersen, a licensed reactor operator with 39 years of nuclear power engineering experience, managing and coordinating projects at 70 nuclear power plants around the US, says the Fukushima nuclear plant likely has more exposed reactor cores than commonly believed.

“Fukushima has three nuclear reactors exposed and four fuel cores exposed,” he said, “You probably have the equivalent of 20 nuclear reactor cores because of the fuel cores, and they are all in desperate need of being cooled, and there is no means to cool them effectively.”

TEPCO has been spraying water on several of the reactors and fuel cores, but this has led to even greater problems, such as radiation being emitted into the air in steam and evaporated sea water – as well as generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive sea water that has to be disposed of.

“The problem is how to keep it cool,” says Gundersen. “They are pouring in water and the question is what are they going to do with the waste that comes out of that system, because it is going to contain plutonium and uranium. Where do you put the water?”

Even though the plant is now shut down, fission products such as uranium continue to generate heat, and therefore require cooling.

“The fuels are now a molten blob at the bottom of the reactor,” Gundersen added. “TEPCO announced they had a melt through. A melt down is when the fuel collapses to the bottom of the reactor, and a melt through means it has melted through some layers. That blob is incredibly radioactive, and now you have water on top of it. The water picks up enormous amounts of radiation, so you add more water and you are generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive water.”

Independent scientists have been monitoring the locations of radioactive “hot spots” around Japan, and their findings are disconcerting.

“We have 20 nuclear cores exposed, the fuel pools have several cores each, that is 20 times the potential to be released than Chernobyl,” said Gundersen. “The data I’m seeing shows that we are finding hot spots further away than we had from Chernobyl, and the amount of radiation in many of them was the amount that caused areas to be declared no-man’s-land for Chernobyl. We are seeing square kilometres being found 60 to 70 kilometres away from the reactor. You can’t clean all this up. We still have radioactive wild boar in Germany, 30 years after Chernobyl.”

– More…

– Research thanks to Tony B.

As pollution soars, cancer is now the leading cause of death in China

Monday, May 30th, 2011

The Earth Policy Institute reported on figures today showing that cancer is now the leading cause of death in China, accounting for a quarter of all deaths in the country. The most common type? Lung cancer – caused in large part by increasingly foul air due to a heavy reliance on coal:

Deaths from this typically fatal disease have shot up nearly fivefold since the 1970s. In China’s rapidly growing cities, like Shanghai and Beijing, where particulates in the air are often four times higher than in New York City, nearly 30 percent of cancer deaths are from lung cancer.

The figures, which were compiled from the Chinese Ministry of Health, show the other side of China’s rush to develop new sources of energy.  In the case of lung cancer, the bad air is compounded by soaring tobacco use.

The Chinese are, rightfully, seen as aggressively pursuing leadership in clean energy, while America falls behind.  (I’ve used it to frame the debate too – and given how fast China is building projects and growing its manufacturing base, Americans better pay attention.)

But that comparison often ignores the broader picture in the country. Sure, China is beating us in wind installations and has a leg up in solar manufacturing; but in a country building a new coal plant every other week, any environmental and health impact of developing renewable energy is being negated by such a heavy reliance on dirty energy. Or, as the Earth Policy Institute so bluntly puts it: “China is sacrificing the health of its people, ultimately risking future prosperity” (and that’s on top of the devastation that awaits China from unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases).

While official rhetoric recognizes the importance of preserving the environment and the health of its people, the Chinese government still has a long way to go in bolstering transparency and enforcement of even the existing environmental regulations, not to mention strengthening protection. If it does not do so, the country’s toxic burden threatens to stall or even reverse the dramatic health gains of the last 60 years, which raised average life expectancy from 45 to 74 years and slashed infant mortality from 122 deaths per 1,000 births down to 20. Economic gains could be lost as productivity wanes and massive health bills come due. Ultimately, a sick country can prosper only so long.

– More…

John Holdren relishing Congress climate opportunity

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

– “Any objective look at what science has to say about climate change ought to be sufficient to persuade reasonable people that the climate is changing and that humans are responsible for a substantial part of that – and that these changes are doing harm and will continue to do more harm unless we start to reduce our emissions.

– Speaking to BBC News at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in Washington DC, Professor John Holdren

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The US president’s chief science adviser says the nation’s current efforts to tackle climate change are insufficient in the long-term.

Speaking to BBC News at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in Washington DC, Professor John Holdren said the current US Congress was unlikely to pass new legislation to put a price on CO2 emissions.

President Obama’s administration’s efforts, he said, would instead have to focus on developing cleaner technologies, expanding the use of nuclear power and improving energy efficiency.

But he admits that in the long term, these initiatives on their own will not be enough.

“Ultimately, we will have to look to a future Congress for the more comprehensive approach that climate change will require,” he said.

For the time being, Professor Holdren faces a more sceptical Congress than he would like, and one that proposes a series of congressional hearings to assess the science of climate change.

Professor Holdren says he is relishing the opportunity.

– more…

Utah Army base locked to solve ‘serious concern’

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah military base that carries out tests to protect troops against biological attacks was locked down Wednesday to resolve a “serious concern,” officials said.

Base commander Col. William E. King said no one was in danger and the gates will reopen as quickly as it’s feasible.

His statement did not provide any details of the problem.

Base spokeswoman Bonnie Robinson told the The Associated Press early Thursday that officials hope to have the problem resolved shortly.

“We are working as quickly and as thoroughly as possible to resolve a serious concern within the Test Area,” King said.

“Measures like these (lock down of our gates) are not taken lightly. No one is in immediate danger but these steps are required,” he said.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that a lockdown began at 5:24 p.m. MST Wednesday, with no one allowed in or out of the base. There were about 1,200 to 1,400 people at Dugway at the time.

Military weapons are tested at Dugway, located about 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Its primary mission is defending troops against biological and chemical attacks.

– To the original…

– Research thanks Jonathan S.

– Update 31 Jan 2011 … see:

Nature’s sting: The real cost of damaging Planet Earth

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

You don’t have to be an environmentalist to care about protecting the Earth’s wildlife.

Just ask a Chinese fruit farmer who now has to pay people to pollinate apple trees because there are no longer enough bees to do the job for free.

And it’s not just the number of bees that is dwindling rapidly – as a direct result of human activity, species are becoming extinct at a rate 1,000 times greater than the natural average.

The Earth’s natural environment is also suffering.

In the past few decades alone, 20% of the oceans’ coral reefs have been destroyed, with a further 20% badly degraded or under serious threat of collapse, while tropical forests equivalent in size to the UK are cut down every two years.

These statistics, and the many more just like them, impact on everyone, for the very simple reason that we will all end up footing the bill.

Costing nature

For the first time in history, we can now begin to quantify just how expensive degradation of nature really is.

A recent, two-year study for the United Nations Environment Programme, entitled The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb), put the damage done to the natural world by human activity in 2008 at between $2tn (£1.3tn) and $4.5tn.

At the lower estimate, that is roughly equivalent to the entire annual economic output of the UK or Italy.

A second study, for the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), puts the cost considerably higher. Taking what research lead Dr Richard Mattison calls a more “hard-nosed, economic approach”, corporate environmental research group Trucost estimates the figure at $6.6tn, or 11% of global economic output.

This, says Trucost, compares with a $5.4tn fall in the value of pension funds in developed countries caused by the global financial crisis in 2007 and 2008.

Of course these figures are just estimates – there is no exact science to measuring humans’ impact on the natural world – but they show that the risks to the global economy of large-scale environmental destruction are huge.

– More…

Nuclear Power ?

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

– A decade ago, people (most people) were pretty clear that the big problem with nuclear power is the waste it generates.   And, the wide consensus was that until we solve that problem, using nuclear power is a no-win strategy.  Yes, we get the power now but we have to do something with the waste – and we really have no good idea what to do with it other than burying it.

– It takes over 10,000 years to begin to cool down.   Essentially, we are burying extremely dangerous stuff that we can only hope does not impact those living here in thousands of years.   I, personally, don’t think we have that right – to put them at great risk.

– If humanity had faced up to its impending energy problems a decade or two ago, we might have had time to build out alternative energy systems to replace oils and gases.   But, we went into denial on the entire issues and now we’re drawing close to the time when the lights really are going to go off if we don’t take action.

– In short, we’ve driven ourselves into the fatal corner wherein nuclear power is the only real option we have – other than letting the light go off.   That’s pretty short term thinking and, unfortunately, those living here on Earth many thousands of years from now, may have to pay a terrible price for our thoughtlessness.

– Here are two stories about nuclear power as it is evolving in the world today:

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Chris Huhne says new nuclear plants on track for 2018

Italy: ‘No choice but to return to nuclear power

The Story of Cosmetics – a video you should see

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

– Just watched this video.   It is powerful stuff.

“The average woman in the U.S. uses about twelve personal care products daily… each product containing a dozen or more chemicals. Less than 20 percent of the chemicals used in cosmetics have been assessed for safety by the industry safety panel, so we just don’t know what they do to us when we use them.”

“It’s like a giant experiment,” Annie continues. “We’re using all these mystery chemicals and just waiting to see what happens… The FDA doesn’t even assess the safety of personal care products or their ingredients… they don’t even require that all the ingredients be listed on the label!”

The see the video, click here: 

– If you use cosmetics and personal care products of any kind, you’ll want to know this information.

– Research thanks to Charles P.


Postscript: an academic friend wrote back to me soon after I posted the above and offered the following additional information – which is highly relevant.

– Thanks John P!



FDA does not approve cosmetics.

Natural Cosmetics: Are They Healthier for Your Skin?

Eco-Friendly Beauty Products
THE GREENER GOODS: A fresh crop of natural beauty buys

1. Stella McCartney Care 5 Benefits Moisturising Fluid, Nourishing Elixir, and Purifying Foaming Face Cleanser

2. 365 Organic Cotton Balls

3. Aveda Be Curly Curl Control

4. The Healing Garden Organics Wild Honey Body Wash

5. Tom’s of Maine Natural Long-Lasting Deodorant Stick in Lemongrass

6. Luzern Laboratories Serum Control Absolut

7. Aveda Lip Shine in Night Iris

8. Josie Maran Plumping Glosses in Brilliance and Strength, Black Mascara, and Eyeshadow in Valentine

9. Origins Nourishing Face Lotion and Conditioning Hair Oil

10. Burt’s Bees Very Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner with Pomegranate & Soy

11. Jurlique Replenishing Foaming Cleanser

12. Nude Facial Scrub, Cleansing Milk, Age Defence Intense Moisture, and Lip Balm

13. Jason Super-C Cleanser

Mystery Disease Linked to Missing Israeli Scientist

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

– I’ve known about this for at least two years.  I remember writing an E-Mail to a friend of mine from Oregon with a persistent cough and asking if she’d spent much time on Vancouver Island in Canada.

– Now, this latest story suggests a link to a renegade Israeli scientist.   This, in turn, reminded me of a little known book by Frank Herbert (famous for being the author of Dune).  This book I’m reminded of was called The White Plague and bears some similarities to what the article is suggesting.

– My university degree (BS) is in Medical Microbiology and I find all of this terrifying food for thought.

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Media outlets across the Northwest United States began reporting on April 24 that a strange, previously unknown strain of virulent airborne fungi that has already killed at least six people in Oregon, Washington and Idaho is spreading throughout the region. The fungus, according to expert microbiologists, who have expressed alarm about the emergence of the strain, is a new genotype of Cryptococcus gatti fungi. Cryptococcus gatti is normally found in tropical and subtropical locations in India, South America, Africa and Australia. Microbiologists in the United States are reporting that the strain found here, for reasons not yet fully understood, is far deadlier than any found overseas.

Physicians in the Pacific Northwest are reporting that an undetermined number of people in the region are ill from the effects of the strange strain. Physicians also say that the virulent strain can infect domestic animals as well as humans, and symptoms do not appear until anywhere from two to four months after exposure. Symptoms in humans include a lingering cough, sharp chest pains, fever, night-sweats, weight-loss, headaches and shortness of breath. The strain can be treated successfully, if detected early enough, with oral doses of antifungal medication, but it cannot be prevented, and there is no preventative vaccine. Undiagnosed, the fungus works its way into the spinal fluid and central nervous system and causes fatal meningitis.

– More…

Beehives face ‘catastrophic’ decline

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

LONDON – Disturbing evidence that honeybees are in terminal decline has emerged from the United States where, for the fourth year in a row, more than a third of colonies have failed to survive the winter.

The decline of the country’s estimated 2.4 million beehives began in 2006 when a phenomenon, dubbed colony collapse disorder, led to the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of colonies.

Since then, more than three million colonies in the US and billions of honeybees worldwide have died and scientists are no nearer to knowing what is causing the catastrophic fall in numbers.

The number of managed honeybee colonies in the US fell by 33.8 per cent last winter, according to the annual survey by the Apiary Inspectors of America and the US Government’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

The collapse in the global honeybee population is a major threat to crops. It is estimated a third of everything we eat depends upon honeybee pollination, which means bees contribute about $54.6 billion to the global economy.