Monday, August 27, 2012

Guest Posting: The Ways in Which Climate Change Threatens Global Public Health

Clean Air Watch has posted many articles related to the consequences of ignoring the harmful human effects of air pollution.

Today’s guest post by Charlotte Kellogg touches on a similar topic as she discusses the ways in which greenhouse gases are contributing to the rise in extreme weather occurrences in the U.S. and across the globe. Charlotte is a public health expert on who frequently contributes to a number of online resources intended to guide young people in the field, offering advice such as where to get a public health degree online from reputable schools http://www.publichealthdegree.com/schools/.

The Ways in Which Climate Change Threatens Global Public Health

The total number of natural disasters reported each year has been steadily increasing in recent decades, and with it, devastation and casualties. However, with public outreach campaigns and disaster preparedness education and technology, the toll caused by these forces of nature could be mitigated substantially.

In March 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, the largest in the nation's history, hit Japan, triggering a deadly 23-foot tsunami in the northern region of the country. The giant waves destroyed large swaths of cities and rural areas, sweeping cars, homes, buildings and trains along with it. Exacerbating matters, cooling systems in one of the reactors of a nuclear power station in Fukushima caused a nuclear crisis that led to the evacuation of 200,000 residents. Over a year later, approximately 100,000 people still live in temporary housing, and 58,000 acres of farmland and rice paddies remain unusable.

“This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about,” says Jonathon Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at University of Arizona, regarding the recent spate of natural disasters sweeping across the globe.

It’s not just earthquakes: the summer of 2012 has been one of historic heat and drought, with the heat blamed for over 46 deaths by July 8th around the U.S. In Chicago alone, the Cook County medical examiner's office determined that at least 18 people died during the heatwave. Though the heat itself has already claimed dozens of lives, the devastating long-term effects are expected to continue long into the winter, as farmers harvest a disappointing crop that will mean a struggle to feed people and livestock. Because of the dryness, the USDA declared more than 1,000 counties in twenty-six states to be natural disaster areas, by far the largest such designation ever made by the agency. “You couldn't choreograph worse weather conditions for pollination,” says Fred Below http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2012/07/23/120723taco_talk_kolbert , crop biologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It's like farming in Hell.”

In response to the rising amount of natural disasters, several public outreach organizations around the globe are actively working to limit the impact of natural forces on humanity. In October 2010 http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/jrc/index.cfm?id=2820&obj_id=546&dt_code=HLN&lang=en , The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction called on its partners to play a more active role to protect cities against disasters. In Ethiopia http://reliefweb.int/report/world/new-technologies-allow-better-planning-natural-disasters , the World Food Program's LEAP program has been utilized as a tool to calculate crop yield early in the country's dry season, helping humanitarian organizations to forecast the needs of communities in drought prone areas by aiding farmers in predicting bad weather and paying for losses if bad weather occurs.

Technology also plays a role in disaster preparedness. Developed by scientists at the University of the West Indies, the GeoNode platform is being used in the Caribbean to provide data on coastline roads, soil type, rainfall and land areas so that adverse conditions can be monitored, Instant messaging technology is also widely being used; in Kenya the intergovernmental Authority on Development uses to SMS to alert Masai farmers to upcoming bad weather, and by rural residents to alert humanitarian organizations of their location and needs during disasters.

Unfortunately, the most tragic effects of global climate change are not felt until years after, when greenhouse gas emissions are released. If the prior rise of greenhouse gases are any evidence, we may be seeing even more extreme weather for many years to come. As we face the daunting challenges of the 21st century, productive action from humanitarian organizations and advances in technology will become more important than ever so that people can anticipate the effects of extreme weather and act quickly to avert tragedy when possible.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Oxfam America: Families Go Hungry While Crops Burn Up in Gas Tanks

We’re in the middle of the worst drought in more than 50 years. American farmers are ringing warning bells: their crops are dying by the acre.

The US is the world’s largest exporter of corn, wheat and soybeans – so when our crops suffer, the world pays higher food prices and families go hungry.
What’s making matters even worse? The EPA’s mandate for corn ethanol – a rule that requires a large portion of US corn crops to be used to make ethanol. Instead of being eaten by hungry families, those crops are burning up in our gas tanks.

Higher food prices could cause severe food crises, like the current one in the Sahel, to spread to other regions of the world. We can’t wait any longer to take action! Join us in calling on the Obama Administration to waive this mandate.

We need your voice: Tell the Obama Administration to waive the mandate for corn ethanol NOW.

With a shrunken harvest this year in the United States, global food prices could skyrocket. As food prices continue to rise, people in poverty around the world – many of whom already spend a majority of their income on food – won’t be able to buy enough food to eat. Climate shocks are destroying crops simultaneously in multiple parts of the world, creating a perfect storm for hunger.

Last year, 40 percent of the corn produced in the US was made into ethanol because of this mandate. We’re burning up millions of bushels of corn for fuel – and what’s left over to meet demand is so expensive that millions of poor families can no longer afford to feed themselves. That’s just plain wrong.

By waiving the mandate for corn ethanol to allow more of this year’s harvest to be used as food, we can take some of the pressure off the global food market and stop food prices from rising out of control. Will you ask the Obama Administration to stop a global food crisis?

Send a message to The White House: Tell President Obama to waive the mandate for corn ethanol now so the world can afford to eat.

Thank you for standing with Oxfam’s GROW campaign. Together, we’re helping to fix our broken food system to ensure that everyone on the planet has enough to eat, always.

Sincerely,

Vicky Rateau, GROW Campaign
Oxfam America

Monday, August 20, 2012

California air pollution control officers to Congress: don't fall for cruise ship dirty-air scam

August 6, 2012

The Honorable Peter T. King, Chairman
Committee on Homeland Security
United States House of Representatives
1011 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Bennie G. Thompson
Ranking Member
Committee on Homeland Security
United States House of Representatives
H2-117 Ford House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman King and Ranking Member Thompson:

The California Air Pollution Control Officer Association (CAPCOA), representing the air pollution control officers from all 35 local and regional air districts in California, is dedicated to improving public health and providing clean air for all our residents.

I am writing to express CAPCOA’s opposition to the cruise industry’s proposal to amend the Coast Guard authorization bill, HR 5887, to allow ocean going vessel operators to participate in alternative “pilot projects” in lieu of compliance with the North American Emission Control Area (ECA) fuel requirements. This proposal would have substantial negative public health impacts for Californians.

California is a coastal state, with significant marine vessel traffic in our harbors and offshore. Over 80% of the state’s population is exposed to harmful ship emissions. Marine vessels are the largest source of sulfur oxide emissions in our state, and major emitters of particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen. These emissions are responsible for thousands of premature deaths annually in California.

CAPCOA has long advocated for measures to reduce marine vessel emissions. We have been strong supporters of the International Maritime Organization’s 2008 amendments to MARPOL’s Annex VI, which established the North American Emission Control Area (ECA). While we believed the 2008 ECA establishment was long overdue, today it is an essential complement to the California Air Resources Board’s (ARB) marine vessel regulations.

Allowing the pilot program as currently proposed in the cruise industry’s amendment will increase emissions and jeopardize public health. By allowing emissions averaging over a voyage, vessel emissions immediately offshore of California’s most densely-populated and polluted regions will increase, leading to greater health risks. Moreover, allowing ships to count emission reductions from port power and other coastal measures will effectively double-count reductions that would be occurring anyway and so would allow for even greater total emissions. Thus the proposed pilot, while ostensibly aimed at achieving equivalent emissions, will increase both overall emissions and specifically emissions in California’s most heavily impacted and populated regions.

The long-overdue ECA was finally established through a comprehensive process that included coordination with the shipping industry. The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has conclusively shown the technical feasibility and cost-effectiveness of the ECA, as well as its public health benefits. We join with our colleagues at both the USEPA and ARB in opposing this amendment proposed by the cruise industry, and urge you to do the same.
Sincerely,

Rick Martin
President
cc: The Honorable John Mica, Chairman
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
2187 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Nick Rahall
Ranking Member
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
2307 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Frank LoBiondo, Chairman
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
2427 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Rick Larsen
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
U.S. House of Representatives
108 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Fred Upton, Chairman
Committee on Energy and Commerce
2183 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
cc, continued:

The Honorable Henry Waxman
Ranking Member
Committee on Energy and Commerce
2204 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Dan Lungren, Member
Committee on Homeland Security
2313 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Loretta Sanchez, Member
Committee on Homeland Security
1114 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Laura Richardson, Member
Committee on Homeland Security
1330 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Janice Hahn, Member
Committee on Homeland Security
2400 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Elizabeth Adams
Deputy Director, Air Division
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
Region 9
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, California 94105
Senator Diane Feinstein
United States Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Senator Barbara Boxer
United States Senate
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Mary Nichols, Chairwoman
CARB
PO Box 2815
Sacramento, CA 95812

Friday, August 17, 2012

EPA Staff: the Bush-Obama Smog Standard Doesn't Cut It

Environmental Protection Agency staff scientists have published a new "draft" policy assessment on ozone. This is a preliminary step in the long and grinding process of reviewing the scientific studies and the adequacy of the current national air quality standard.

The bottom line: the standard set by the Bush administration (and later backed by the Obama White House against the advice of EPA and the agency’s independent science advisers) simply doesn't cut it.

This assessment notes that recent studies bolster the case for a tougher new national smog standard. EPA had backed a tougher standard even before the new evidence came in. (The Obama Administration is currently in court defending the Bush standard.)

Because of political meddling by the Obama White House and its former "regulatory czar" Cass Sunstein, breathers will be paying the painful price of smog until at least 2014, when EPA completes its evaluation of this issue.

Here is a link to the new EPA assessment:

http://1.usa.gov/Nua5lM

And here are a few key excerpts, with a little emphasis that we added to key points:


With regard to the scientific evidence related to short-term O3 exposures as considered above (section 4.2.1), we reach the preliminary conclusion that the available evidence clearly calls into question the adequacy of the current standard and provides strong support for considering potential alternative standards to increase public health protection, especially for at
risk groups.
This preliminary conclusion places considerable weight on the array of O3-related respiratory effects that have been reported following short-term exposures to O3 concentrations below the level of the current standard, including clear evidence from controlled human exposure studies of lung function decrements, respiratory symptoms and pulmonary inflammation, as well as evidence of clearly adverse effects from epidemiologic studies, including respiratory hospital admissions and emergency department visits, and premature mortality. Staff believes that this body of scientific evidence is very robust, recognizing that it includes large numbers of various types of studies, including toxicological studies, controlled human exposure studies, and community epidemiological studies, that provide consistent and coherent evidence of a causal relationship between short-term O3 exposures and an array of respiratory morbidity and mortality effects, especially for at-risk populations. Moreover, the evidence supports a likely causal relationship between short-term O3 exposures and non-accidental and cardiopulmonary
mortality.
... in staff’s view the broad array of health effects reported following exposures to O3 concentrations below those allowed by the current standard (i.e., respiratory effects and mortality), combined with the plausible linkages between these effects and the much larger body of epidemiologic and controlled human exposure evidence at higher O3 concentrations, supports the appropriateness of considering revising the current O3 standard in order to increase public health protection against adverse health effects from short-term O3 exposures, particularly for
children, older adults, people with asthma, and for other at-risk groups...


With regard to CASAC advice (section 4.2.3), we note that the CASAC O3 Panel has repeatedly recommended setting the level of the 8-hour O3 standard no higher than 70 ppb, within a range of 60 to 70 ppb, which is below the level of the current standard (i.e., 0.075 ppm or 75 ppb). Since this advice was provided, based on evidence available in the last review, the evidence for adverse health effects following short-term exposures to O3 concentrations below 75 ppb has become even stronger, with the addition of several controlled human exposure and epidemiologic studies conducted at relatively low O3 concentrations. Given this, we note that, at a minimum, nothing in the recent evidence would contradict CASAC’s previous advice and that, in fact, recent evidence provides stronger support for that advice.

In light of all of the above considerations, staff reaches the preliminary conclusion that the body of information now available supports consideration of revising the current 8-hour O3 primary standard, so as to afford greater public health protection against the adverse health effects of short-term O3 exposures, especially to at-risk groups, and that it does not support retention of the current standard. In so doing, we also recognize that consideration should be given to the extent which such a revised standard would also provide appropriate protection against the adverse health effects of long-term O3 exposures.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Dirty Diesel Cleanup in California Lags

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 6, 2012

CONTACT:
Antonio Santos
202.296.4797 x108
asantos@meca.org

Retrofit Device Sales for Trucks and Buses in California Continue at Slow Pace

Washington, D.C. -- Sales of diesel particulate filters (DPFs) for in-use, on-road heavy-duty diesel vehicles operating in California continue at a slow pace, according to the results of a survey released today by the Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association (MECA). According to the results, the total number of verified DPFs sold by MECA member companies for in-use, on-road heavy-duty diesel vehicles operating in California in the first half of 2012 (January 1, 2012 to June 30, 2012) is 3,030 (includes both passive and active filters). Retrofit device manufacturers were expecting this number to be much higher due to the requirements of the California Air Resources Board’s in-use truck and bus regulation (finalized in December 2008 and amended in December 2010). Under the regulation, ARB projected that approximately 12,000 filters would be installed in 2012 (to meet a January 1, 2013 compliance deadline) and that approximately 66,000 filters overall would be installed from 2011 through 2015.

ARB has designated the month of August as “Gear Up for Clean Truck Month” in order to send a clear message that the agency’s in-use truck and bus regulation is in effect and being enforced. Throughout the month, ARB says outreach and enforcement teams will conduct inspections at weigh scales, random roadside locations, fleet facilities, truck stops, and other areas where diesel vehicles are present to ensure full compliance with the regulation’s requirements. Enforcement actions will involve fleet citations and audits.

“ARB’s announcement on stepping up enforcement of their truck and bus regulation this month is warranted and welcomed based on the lackluster California retrofit sales reported by MECA members so far this year,” said MECA’s executive director, Joseph Kubsh. “The clean air benefits of the truck and bus regulation can only be realized if the requirements are effectively enforced.”

Founded in 1976, MECA is a national association of companies that manufacture a variety of emission control technologies for automobiles, trucks, buses, and off-road vehicles and equipment, as well as stationary internal combustion engines. For more information on exhaust emission control technology, please visit MECA’s website at: www.meca.org. Additional information on diesel retrofit technology is available on MECA’s diesel retrofit website at: www.dieselretrofit.org.

# # #

Gasp, Gasp! Clean Air Watch Survey Reports Smoggiest July Since 2008

Stop the presses! July’s smog did not break a record!

However, it was the smoggiest July since 2008.

These are among the conclusions from Clean Air Watch’s latest Smog Watch Survey, the nation’s the first comprehensive snapshot of smog in the United States in 2012.

The survey by Clean Air Watch volunteers underscores that we need new smog-fighting tools, such as low-sulfur gasoline. And the smog stats from this summer also suggest that the U.S. EPA’s official list of clean-air areas really understates the true extent of our national smog problem.

You may recall that both May and June of this year set dirty-air records for their respective months. http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2012/07/smog-siege-clean-air-watch-survey-finds.html

Our latest survey found that in July, breathers in 36 states and the District of Columbia suffered levels of smog worse than the national ozone standard set by the Bush administration in 2008. These smog levels are labeled “Code Orange” or “Code Red” under the Air Quality Index system created by the federal bureaucracy.

Last month was the second smoggiest July since the Bush standard was set in 2008. (2008 was the worst.)

During July 2012, the survey found the national health standard for smog, technically ozone, was breached at least 1,590 times at state-run monitoring stations.

By comparison, during July 2011, there were 1,310 such events, known in the jargon of the bureaucracy as “exceedances.”

For 2012 as a whole there have been 4,702 of these dirty-smog readings, compared to 2,999 in 2011.

Clean Air Watch noted that the widespread nature of the problem underscored the dire need for new smog-fighting tools, including cleaner, low-sulfur gasoline.

Clean Air Watch also noted its survey understates the true extent of the smog problem. The EPA conceded more than two years ago that the Bush standard was too weak to protect children with asthma and other breathers http://1.usa.gov/lCsWTr .

But in the face of oil industry pressure, the White House put off any effort to update the standards until at least 2014. (Among those leading the opposition to tougher standards were then-White House Chief of Staff William Daley and OMB Regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein, who recently announced he was returning to academia. We hope EPA will be allowed to deal with this issue honestly now that they’re going or gone.)

Oil pressure similarly has stalled a preliminary EPA plan to require oil companies to make cleaner, low-sulfur gasoline. EPA has testified to Congress that such a plan would cost refiners “less than one penny per gallon.” http://bit.ly/K1s0yH

A recent survey concluded that refiners would likely eat the cost – and that there would be no increase at the pump.

http://naviganteconomics.com/docs/061212%20Economic%20Analysis%20of%20the%20Implications%20of%20Tier%203%20Sulfur%20Reduction%20Final_embargoed%20copy.pdf

Clean Air Watch pointed out that low-sulfur gas would mean that every car on the road today would immediately pollute less because catalytic converters would perform better to eliminate smog-forming emissions.

One other thing really jumps out of the smog statistics: It appears that a number of cities (for instance: Birmingham, Detroit, Kansas City, Little Rock, Louisville, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Richmond, Tulsa, Wichita) that EPA designated in April 2012 as in “attainment” of the ozone standard are already monitoring violations of that standard. Will EPA re-classify these areas, or will bureaucratic inertia rule -- and breathers continue to suffer and be misled?

Here are some of the grim details from last month, based on a survey of federal and state web sites:

July exceedances of ozone standard:

2012: 1590
2011: 1310
2010: 1080
2009: 740
2008: 1850

Here is the list of states with dirty-air (Code Orange or worse) days in July 2012:

Alabama
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Connecticut
Delaware
DC
Georgia
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Missouri
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Virginia
West Virginia
Wisconsin