Marcia G. Yerman

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Women’s Voices Stymie Trump Agenda

Women’s Voices Stymie Trump Agenda

Just as mothers understand the pain of others trying to save their children from violence and desperate situations; that children must be defended against the horrors of unregulated guns; they also get that deregulating environmental regulations spells disaster.

July 10, 2018 | No comment | Read More »

“Nelly” —  New Film Looks at Life and Work of Canadian Writer

“Nelly” —  New Film Looks at Life and Work of Canadian Writer

Arcan was both appreciated and reviled. She was a finalist for the revered French literary awards, the Prix Médicis and the Prix Fémina. Perhaps the public couldn’t forgive her for living the life that she wrote about.

September 7, 2018 | No comment | Read More »

Women’s Voices Stymie Trump Agenda

Women’s Voices Stymie Trump Agenda

Just as mothers understand the pain of others trying to save their children from violence and desperate situations; that children must be defended against the horrors of unregulated guns; they also get that deregulating environmental regulations spells disaster.

July 10, 2018 | No comment | Read More »

The Trump Shutdown and the Environment

The Trump Shutdown and the Environment

The EPA has determined that they need only a skeletal staff of 794 workers. It makes you wonder what their 13,000 colleagues were up to.

January 19, 2019 | No comment | Read More »

Spotlight

The Trump Shutdown and the Environment

The excitement many Americans feel about the installation of a new Congress is still palpable, but definitely hampered by the current government shutdown. Even worse, it looks like there may be no immediate end in sight and the possibility of the situation morphing into deeper and darker territory (as in the declaration of a “national emergency).

The news has made it clear that government workers are at serious risk of not being able to pay their bills. Without funding, 800,000 employees will work but not receive pay; approximately 380,000 have been furloughed without pay.

Every day, the harm to Americans is spreading.

In the area of “environmental agencies” that protect children’s health, the impacts are both large and small.

The EPA has determined that they need only a skeletal staff of 794 workers. It makes you wonder what their 13,000 colleagues were up to.

Important stuff!

Beginning three days after Christmas, routine actions including poisonous Superfund site cleanups, oversight of regulations, and keeping corporate polluters accountable — all came to a standstill.

Here is a list of some of the key work that isn’t taking place:

  • Inspections to guarantee that activities subject to regulations are done properly and according to law.
  • A majority of the Superfund program actions that supervise the clean-up of hazardous waste.
  • Supervision and approval of pesticide products.
  • Toxic substance approval or reviews.
  • Granting of federal permits, state grants, and responses to FOIA requests.

For all those who complain about too much government regulation, the common citizen may find themselves stymied if they need any help on issues that come under the jurisdiction of the EPA staff. All workers have been instructed not to answer emails, and their phones have been routed to voicemail. These are the people that field thousands of calls per day.

About what?

Everything from if a product is EPA certified, to hearing from whistle-blowers report illegal dumping near their homes.

I got first-hand insights from Bonnie Bellow of the Environmental Protection Network, a group comprised of “former EPA career staff.”

Bellow explained that the work of the EPA is all about developing “long-term protections.” The longer the government is not operating, the greater the potential dangers become.

“Everything becomes backed up,” Bellow told me. “Lack of inspections, oversight at facilities, work in labs. Monitoring is not going on.”

A key concern is that public meetings are being canceled and comment periods are being affected. Bellow related a story about East Chicago, where a proposed plan for a clean-up would now be hindered. She mentioned similar situations in New Jersey (which has the largest number of Superfund sites), and emphasized that there were examples all around the country. Bellow noted that frontline communities are at greatest jeopardy.

“What if someone is dumping asbestos?” she asked rhetorically.

Another factor is that the EPA works on a seasonal action calendar. If planning is not done and put into play, the appropriate season for work to be done is then missed.

One of most frequently reported accounts references the plight of unstaffed national parks. Both Clinton and Obama closed all parks during the periods when their administrations were facing shuttered government. This secured the areas and eliminated both harm to visitors and damage to the parks.

The Park Service stats show that up to 16,000 of 19,000 workers have been furloughed. During that time, three deaths have occurred, including that of a 14-year-old girl.

Visitor centers and bathrooms have been closed (Yes, there have been stories about human waste.). Unfortunately, without rangers or staff on the grounds, unchecked visitor behavior has made the parks (and wildlife) vulnerable to degradation, safety concerns, and even looting. In the seventy national parks
that are closed, there has been a reported spike in illegal activities.

In the areas of government which utilize the brainpower of top scientists, these people are not allowed to attend conferences. They are blocked from going to events which promote dialogue between them, academics, and members of the private sector. An example is the seven hundred federal workers who were scheduled to travel to Arizona for the American Meteorological Society.

For me, the gut-puncher was the anecdotal evidence of how an individual EPA furloughed worker, Sherrie Kinard of Lakewood, Colorado, was coping. Vaughn Hillyard filed a story on MSNBC about her, and other distraught federal workers who are trying to take care of their families. Kinard has two children with special needs. Without her paycheck, she cannot pay for their therapies.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has figured out a way to continue to push for oil drilling on federal lands in Alaska.

 

This article originally appeared on Moms Clean Air Force.

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Jan 19, 2019 | No comment | Read More »

The Environment 2018: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

2018 is drawing to a close. It was an exhausting year, but I’m excited about 2019. In fact, I’m counting down the days to January 3, when the House of Representatives turns Democratic. (Yes, every vote counts!)

It’s impossible to keep up with the news cycle, but there are a few glimpses of good news.

Before I accentuate the positive, let’s get the negative out of the way:

  • Trump’s EPA — under the leadership of Andrew Wheeler — has hit its lowest, in its radical agenda to destroy protections against pollution. EPA has launched a process to sabotage and ultimately destroy our Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. These are protections that keep a terrible poison from harming babies’ brains. This  is proof that Trump’s EPA will stop at nothing to protect polluter profits.
  • According to a New York Times report, Trump’s efforts to decrease the efficacy of the car emissions rulings had a helping hand from Marathon Petroleum.
  • Trump’s EPA, along with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, has moved to roll back the standards put in place to keep our water safe. They were originally instituted by President George H.W. Bush.
  • Trump’s EPA has closed the book on a civil rights complaint in the African-American community of Tallassee, Alabama, underscoring that Environmental Justice has taken a hit under their watch. Chalk it up to politics.
  • Protection for the at-risk sage grouse have been loosened, to facilitate new oil exploration.
  • The seven-person Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) has eliminated the subcommittees of scientific experts need to furnish guidance on “ozone and particulate standards.” Chris Frey, former chair of CASAC from 2012 to 2015, has been highly critical.
  • Poor air quality has forced children in Utah to stay indoors. Brian Moench, who I previously interviewed, recently spoke about the impact of poor air quality on kids. He stated, “There are now many studies that show air pollution affects the ability of our school children to actually learn at school. It affects their ability to think. Air pollution that a child breathes on the way to school can affect their ability to learn that same day at school.”
  • Increased exposure to air pollution, even for a small time frame, can increase the threat of miscarriage in women by 16%.
  • Trump’s EPA is looking to alter the Obama regulations which directed that the maximum of 1400 pounds of carbon be emitted per mega watt-hour…to 1900 pounds.
  • The Trump administration is seeking to turn nineteen million acres of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge into an oil drilling field, making short-term financial profits a priority. While insects continue to diminish in number, Trump’s EPA is considering a request by Dow Chemical to expand the use of their poisonous product, sulfoxaflor.
  • A new study has proposed that “a growing body of evidence strongly suggests an association between PM2·5 pollution and the risk of diabetes.
  • Under Trump, relations between China and America have deteriorated. This will impact joint action on climate change from the two top global carbon emitters (40 percent total).

The good news:

  • Ryan Zinke steps down. Perhaps the thought of a serious Congressional look into his actions was the motivator. Regardless, he’s gone.
  • Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, the state which holds the number two ranking for gas production, has proposed stronger rules for oil and gas emissions from extraction fields. This would reduce methane emissions.
  • During the United Nations climate change talks in Katowice, Poland, over 1,000 institutions agreed to divest from fossil fuels. Faith-based organizations made up 28 percent of those on board.
  • The Keystone Pipeline project is back on hold, thanks to the judge who rejected the Trump executive order to proceed.
  • Renewable energies are increasingly being adapted by corporate entities.
  • Youth climate activism is growing. Example: Swedish 15-year-old Greta Thunberg.
  • The hole in the ozone is shrinking. Negative effects could be reversed by the 2060s.

For thoughts on how new leadership will impact the fight to protect the environment, I reached out Rep. Nancy Pelosi. She responded by e-mail:

“On Election Day, voters delivered a resounding verdict against Washington Republicans’ attacks on the health of our families, democracy and planet. Mothers have been on the frontlines of the climate fight since day one, and their strong voices and advocacy have been critical to changing the national conversation and forging progress on this looming crisis. Our House Democratic Majority will make fighting the climate crisis a top priority, and looks forward to the courageous leadership that America’s mothers will bring as we fight for a clean energy future for all our children. Together, we can create the good-paying clean jobs of the future, take bold action to fight the devastation of the climate crisis and safeguard clean air, clean water and public lands for the generations to come.”

 

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force .

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Dec 23, 2018 | No comment | Read More »

The 2018 IPCC Climate Report Issues Stern Warning

The 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming reads like a horror movie. The findings are frightening, especially if action is not taken.

The study was presented in Incheon, Republic of Korea. The product was the result of the work of ninety-one scientists from forty countries. They reviewed and analyzed 6,000 scientific papers. International governments have two months to review before the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland.

The 2015 Paris Agreement was approved to set limits on global temperature rise from 1.5˚C to 2˚C (2.7˚F to 3.6˚F). This latest report drives home the deadly difference half a degree can make.

The top takeaway is that to inhibit warming to 1.5˚C, a major global transformation will have to be undertaken. It needs to be swift and far-reaching. Low-carbon technology and efficacy has to be increased exponentially, five times the rate of what was achieved in 2015.

The findings underscore that a warming rate of 1˚C has already delivered significant damage to the oceans and low-lying areas. World health is impacted, with elevated detriments to those who are economically disadvantaged. This has been evidenced by food insecurity and population displacement.

Examples illustrate the differences that result from a 2˚C global increase in warming as compared to a 1.5˚C measurement. It’s not encouraging. Examples include:

  • 6x worse extreme heat.
  • 2x worse species loss of vertebrates and plants.
  • Up to 29% worse for coral reef decline.

The scientific models lay out the variables in attacking the problem. One possibility is the approach of exceeding the desired 1.5˚C threshold for several years, and then revert to lower temperatures. That might work in some situations, but if the “overshoot” takes place it’s a region with a precarious ecosystem and the negative impact is likely to be irreversible. So even if 1.5˚C is reestablished, there could be species extinction during the “overshoot period.”

Also pointed out is that different reduction activities yield different results. In the case of industrial black carbon being reduced at an accelerated rate, the diminishment of snow and ice in the Arctic can be modified.

Since the pre-Industrial era, the world has become 1˚C hotter. This has resulted in a substantial melting of Arctic sea ice and an 8-inch rise in sea levels since 1880.

Making fast and extensive change is going to take enormous political will. The longer change is delayed, the more damage will ensue – and that includes financial loss. The study outlined estimates of economic fallout around the globe from warming:

  • $54 trillion if the earth warms by 1.5˚C by 2100
  • $69 trillion if the earth warms by 2˚C by 2100

Typically, the cost of making changes now is presented as an attack on the economy. However, studies have posited that fighting climate change could actually boost the international economy.

So, what kind of adjustments have to be undertaken to get the ball rolling to effect a robust difference? There are several paths that can lead to traction:

Energy

  • Eliminating fossil fuels is a no-brainer. Net CO2 emissions must hit the zero mark by 2050, although achieving that marker a decade earlier is the central to reaching the 1.5˚C goal.
  • Activating specific strategies to pull carbon out of the air such as Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR).
  • Taxing carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Cutting short-lived but highly potent climate pollutants dramatically. This points to methane and hydrofluorocarbons (HFC).
  • Increasing energy efficiency and lowering the demand for energy. Electric cars become mainstream. Urban planning implements green solutions.

Food and Agriculture

  • Changing the way food is produced, the amount of waste that takes place, and reevaluating diet impacts on climate change.
  • Agriculture is related to almost one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions (2010).
  • Deforestation, which adds to 10 percent of the world’s emissions, must end and landscapes need to be restored. This is termed a “Net-negative emissions quest.” (Forests are being demolished to grow crops like soy and oil palms.)
  • Agriculture is responsible for 80 percent of tropical deforestation.
  • Agriculture depends on 70 % of all “freshwater withdrawn from rivers lakes, and aquifers.”

Can the top industrialized nations lead the way when the United States, under the Trump administration, refuses to accept “settled science?” What about the influence of groups looking to maintain their bottom lines? (The World Coal Association wasted no time in commenting on the IPCC findings.)

America, the world’s largest economy, is also the second largest greenhouse gas emitter (China is first). Ironically, both of these countries will be in line for intense coastal flooding by 2040.

Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II noted succinctly:

The decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, both now and in the future. This report gives policymakers and practitioners the information they need to make decisions that tackle climate change while considering local context and people’s needs. The next few years are probably the most important in our history.”

 

Image: Courtesy of World Resources Institute

A version of this article originally appeared on Moms Clean Air Force.

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Oct 14, 2018 | No comment | Read More »

Bill de Blasio Holds Town Hall in Northwest Bronx

A diverse group of constituents from the Northwest Bronx met with Mayor Bill de Blasio...

Feb 23, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Local Activism Pays Off

Individuals from all walks of life, who are concerned about the future of their children...

Dec 18, 2014 | No comment | Read More »

The Military Battles Climate Change

Ret. Adm. David Titley said,"The ocean, atmosphere and ice do not caucus, do not vote,...

Jul 27, 2014 | 1 comment | Read More »

EPA Adminstrator McCarthy Makes A “Moral Obligation To The Next Generation”

McCarthy, who doesn’t pull any punches, stated, “Climate change caused by carbon pollution is one...

Oct 11, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

IPCC Report: Man-Made Climate Change Is A Scientific Certainty

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its new report on September...

Oct 2, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

Small Businesses Support President Obama’s Climate Plan

After extreme weather incidents like Hurricane Sandy, 40 percent of small businesses do not reopen....

Jul 23, 2013 | No comment | Read More »