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November, 2016:

China’s Lung Cancer Epidemic is a Global Problem

In the West, China is arguably most well-known for its enormous population and the one child policy introduced in the 1970s to control it. Earlier this year, however, that policy was officially rescinded in order to combat a problem that most people generally associate with Europe or Japan: a rapidly falling population.

Indeed, after four decades of suppressing population growth, China is now afflicted by the problem of increasing numbers of retirees dovetailing with dwindling numbers of young people joining the workforce. Making things worse, China’s breakneck pace of economic development is now a major cause of preventable deaths every year. Air pollution and rampant smoking rates are making a bad demographical problem worse and Chinese authorities are slowly coming around to the idea that there is a direct connection between its population’s health and its economic prospects.

Today in China there are about 5 workers for every retiree. Given current population trends, by 2040 that ratio will stand at 1.6 workers for every retiree. The average age will rise from under 30 now to 46, with the number of people over 65 reaching 329 million by 2050, up from 100 million in 2005. The burden that this will place on the social services needed to care for the elderly in the face of falling tax revenues from a diminished workforce is only exacerbated by the fact that the country’s runaway cancer rates means that more of its elderly population will be in need of state care. Many of those sick beds will be taken up by lung cancer patients. With 600,000 deaths caused by the disease every year, expected to rise to 700,000 by 2020, China has the highest number of lung cancer patients in the world. And with an estimated 4,000 deaths a day caused by industrial pollution alone, grassroots organizations have finally decided that enough is enough and are beginning to agitate for something to be done to improve living standards.

Residents of China’s smog-filled cities have suffered for years, but it was a documentary released this year about China’s environmental problems that finally sounded a clarion call for Chinese people to rally to. Produced by Chai Jing, a former China Central news anchorwoman, the documentary racked up hundreds of millions of views before being scrubbed from the Internet by the authorities fearing that it could create a groundswell of discontent that could spill over into mass protests. Realizing the depth of feeling, the government has scrambled to get out ahead of the situation and declared its own ‘war on pollution’, culminating with President Xi’s historic agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions sign the Paris climate agreement.

As up hill a struggle as reducing industrial pollution will prove for the Chinese authorities, the other leading cause of lung cancer in China is set to present even more of a challenge. Nearly 70 percent of Chinese men are addicted to tobacco, one in three of whom are expected to die from the habit – by 2030, over two million people would die every year from smoking if nothing changes. Current tobacco reduction efforts in the country are hampered by poor enforcement and the massive influence of the state owned cigarette manufacturer, China National Tobacco Corporation, which supports millions of jobs among tobacco farmers and retailers.

Further frustrating the drive to curb tobacco use is the fact that China has signed up to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which does not recognize e-cigarettes as an efficient way of quitting, despite the fact that over 10 million people have given up the habit thanks to vaping. The FCTC’s latest meeting in New Delhi raised new obstacles to the prospect of the organization softening its stance, after delegates blocked journalists and e-cigarette producers from even observing the meetings. In line with the Convention’s advice, China is expected to take measures that will restrict e-cigarettes and tobacco alike, with the ultimate aim of banning both.

While these obstacles may seem nearly insurmountable to China’s anti-tobacco agenda, there are lessons that can be carried over from its anti-pollution drive. International pressure has played a big part in getting China to face up to its killer smog and chemical problem, a problem with which Western countries are all too familiar from their own experiences in the previous century.

As noted in Chai’s documentary, when it comes to dealing with these issues China finds itself in a comparable position to the West in the 1950s, quickly growing and struggling to contain the environmental fallout. Ending on a bright note, the documentary references London and Los Angeles, both of which were regularly choked by haze in the 1940s and 50s, but managed to massively curb their pollution levels once they faced them head on. In getting to grips with its own problems, China is going to need all the help it can get from international partners and institutions if it is to save some of the millions of lives expected to be lost to lung cancer over the coming decades. Given the increasing importance to the world economy of a healthy and plentiful Chinese workforce, their success or failure in this endeavor is of global significance.

Danish surplus-food stores show way for Hong Kong to cut food waste

Wasteful Hong Kong, which consigns more than 25,000 tonnes of food to landfills every week, could learn a lesson from Denmark, where a supermarket selling surplus food has been so popular it recently opened a second store.

After launching in Copenhagen’s gritty inner city district of Amager earlier this year, the Wefood project this month attracted long queues as it opened a second branch in Norrebro, a trendy neighbourhood popular with left-leaning academics and immigrants.

Hipsters rubbed shoulders with working-class mums as a cooking school founded by Claus Meyer – a co-founder of Copenhagen’s celebrated Noma restaurant – handed out cauliflower soup and bread made from surplus ingredients.

“It’s awesome that instead of throwing things out they are choosing to sell it for money. You support a good cause,” says Signe Skovgaard Sorensen, a student, after picking up a bottle of upscale olive oil for 20 kroner (HK$22).

“Isn’t it great?” pensioner Olga Fruerlund says, holding up a jar of sweets that she planned to give to her grandchildren for Christmas. The sweets “can last for a hundred years because there is sugar in them”, she adds.

Selling expired food is legal in Denmark as long as it is clearly advertised and there is no immediate danger to consuming it. “We look, we smell, we feel the product and see if it’s still consumable,” project leader Bassel Hmeidan says.

All products are donated by producers, import and export companies and local supermarkets, and are collected by Wefood’s staff, all of whom are volunteers. The store’s profit goes to charity.

Prices are around half of what they would be elsewhere, but even its biggest fans would struggle to do their weekly shop here. The products available depend on what is available from donors, resulting in an eclectic mix that changes from day to day.

One weekday afternoon, Wefood customers were greeted by a mountain of Disney and Star Wars-branded popcorn, while the fresh fruit section had been reduced to a handful of rotting apples.

In Hong Kong, food banks solicit food past its sell-by date from supermarkets and other stores, but the response has not been encouraging.

“Managers always like to tell of how some stores used to donate until they got sued. This is particularly true since strict liability is imposed on food products,” Wendell Chan, project officer at Friends of the Earth (HK), recently wrote in the South China Morning Post.

“We estimate that businesses throw out HK$60 million worth of food yearly when almost half of low-income families lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food,” he wrote.

Writing ahead of World Food Day on October 16, Chan said Hong Kong throws out more than 3,600 tonnes of food as waste every day.

Food waste has become an increasingly hot topic in recent years, with initiatives ranging from a French ban last year on destroying unsold food products, to a global network of cafes serving dishes with food destined for the scrap heap.

British-based The Real Junk Food Project also opened the country’s first food waste supermarket in a warehouse near the northern city of Leeds in September. With a greater focus than its Danish peer on feeding the poor, the British project urges customers to simply “pay as they feel”.

A United Nations panel said earlier this month that supermarkets’ preference for perfect looking produce and the use of arbitrary “best before” labels cause massive food waste that, if reversed, could feed the world’s hungry.

Nearly 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year, more than enough to sustain the one billion people suffering from hunger globally, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says.

Denmark has managed to reduce its food waste by 25 per cent over the past five years, partly due to the influential “Stop Wasting Food” group founded by Russian-born activist Selina Juul in 2008.

Juul grew up in the 1980s Soviet Union and says she was shocked by the amount of food being thrown away in Denmark when she moved there as a 13-year-old in 1993.

“Surplus food has become very popular,” she says of one of the measures advocated by the group: offering heavy discounts on items that are about to expire, which is now done by most Danish supermarkets.

Inspired by Juul, one of Denmark’s biggest discount chains, Rema 1000, has become an unlikely champion in the battle against food waste. Two of its main initiatives are about reducing waste after the product has been sold: the company stopped offering bulk discounts in 2008 so that single-person households would not buy more than they could eat.

Last year it reduced the size and price of some of its bread loaves for the same reason.

“The biggest problem with food waste is among the customers,” says John Wagner, the chief executive of the Danish Grocers’ Association. Regular supermarkets are becoming better at forecasting demand for different products, but they need to do more to inform their customers that a lot of food is edible beyond its expiry date.

Wefood next year plans to open in Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city, but Wagner says the brand is unlikely to become a major chain.

“The problem should be solved before we get to the point where we have to give the products to a store like Wefood,” he says.

Additional reporting by Mark Sharp
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Auditor finds massive increase in illegal dumping of construction waste in Hong Kong

The report from the Audit Commission came a week after the Office of the Ombudsman announced it would launch a probe into the environmental protection, planning and conservation departments handling of illegal landfilling

The Environmental Protection Department lost HK$4 billion in foregone revenue over the last decade due to “significant under-recovery” of costs in providing disposal and sorting facilities for construction waste, according to the government auditor.

The department was slammed for lax enforcement over the illegal dumping of construction and demolition (C&D) waste, with the number of reported cases across the city tripling from 1,500 in 2005 to 6,500 last year.

The report from the Audit Commission came a week after the Office of the Ombudsman announced it would launch a probe [1] into the environmental protection, planning and conservation departments handling of illegal landfilling and fly-tipping cases on private land.

“In 2014-15, only 33 per cent, 44 per cent and 63 per cent of the costs of providing disposal services at sorting facilities, public fill banks and landfills were respectively recovered from the charges,” the auditor stressed. “From 2006-07 to 2014-15, the estimated unrecovered cost totalled HK$3.81 billion.”

The auditor stressed that charge rates under the existing scheme had not been revised or reviewed since 2006, despite nearly 10 years of repeated requests by the Financial Services and Treasury Bureau. It has only recently agreed to do so based on a “user-pay principle”.

“The lack of revisions to the charge rates in the past years to recover the costs incurred had reduced the effectiveness of the charging scheme on providing economic incentives for producers of abandoned C&D materials to reduce generation … practise waste sorting,” it said.

The Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) currently charges HK$27 per tonne at public fill banks, HK$100 at sorting facilities and HK$125 at landfills.

The auditor urged the EPD to work with the CEDD to take measures to ensure fees and charges were “revised in a timely manner,” having regard to full-cost recovery principles, environmental implications and the impact on trade.

The EPD was also held to account for inadequacies in enforcing cases of illegal dumping.

It cited a trial scheme involving the installation of camera systems last year, in which 170 cases of illegal dumping of C&D materials was caught on tape. As of July 2016, the EPD had only taken prosecution action on 46 cases, the auditor said.

The slow progress was blamed on letters to vehicle owners being returned unclaimed, drivers or vehicle owners not providing details of cases and drivers claiming the dumping was carried out “under instruction”.

Both the directors of environmental protection and civil engineering and development said they agreed with the auditor’s report, pledging to strengthen actions to detect and prevent illegal dumping of waste and acknowledging that charging scheme needed to be adjusted.

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Hong Kong landfills overflow as household waste rises for fifth year running

The amount of waste dumped in the city’s overflowing landfills has risen for the fifth year in row with the bulk of it still coming from households, new data has shown.

Two-thirds, or 3.7 million tonnes, of the 5.5 million tonnes of solid waste discarded last year was comprised of municipal solid waste – rubbish generated domestically from homes, and commercial or industrial activities – most of it food, paper and plastics. The remaining 1.8 million tonnes was mainly comprised of waste from the construction sector.

The city discarded 3.57 million tonnes of municipal waste in 2014, 3.48 million tonnes in 2013, 3.4 million tonnes in 2012, 3.28 million in 2011 and 3.3 million in 2010.

Environmental authorities in 2014 implemented a blueprint to cut per capita municipal solid waste disposal by 20 per cent by 2017 and 40 per cent by 2022.

“Between 2010 and 2015, the amount increased at an average rate of 1.9 per cent per year, outpacing population growth of 0.8 per cent but slower than economic growth of 2.9 per cent,” according to a research brief by the Legislative Council secretariat.

A full set of official 2015 waste data will be released by the government before the end of the year.

Recycling rates for municipal waste dropped 23 per cent in the same period, driven by a sharp decline in plastic recycling caused by fluctuations in waste import and exports.

While household waste remained the lion’s share of the mix of municipal solid waste, the brief pointed out that this proportion was shrinking. The share from the commercial and industrial sector rose from 27 per cent in 2010 to 36 per cent last year.

Hahn Chu Hon-keung, who heads environmental advocacy for The Green Earth was “not optimistic” that the government would meet either target if waste charging was not legislated soon.

“At stake will be whether or not the government can get a bills committee formed for the waste charging bill before the end of the first quarter next year,” he said. “The volume of waste disposal is still increasing and whatever they’re doing now, it’s not stopping the bleeding.”

The Environment Bureau hopes to prepare the necessary legislative proposals for the implementation within the legislative term.

It has hinted at the need to introduce mandatory source separation for food waste to ensure diversion of food waste from landfills and to maximise the recycling potential of food waste.
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Canada pressed to make clean environment a constitutional right

A pioneering conservationist called on Canada this week to make clean environments a constitutional right — an idea forged decades ago and widely adopted but with mixed success around the world.

Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmentalist David Suzuki said these protections must be enshrined in Canada’s bill of rights to prevent their degradation at the hands of less environmentally oriented governments that periodically come to power.

In an interview with AFP, he pointed to former Tory prime minister Stephen Harper, who during a decade in office (2006-2015) “began to dismantle a lot of our environmental laws,” and to the US President-elect Donald Trump who has called global warming a hoax.

“We’ve now seen a monumental earthquake kind of change in the United States with the election of Donald Trump,” said Suzuki, who turns 80 in March.

“In one election we could see the overturning of decades of environmental legislation that worked.”

The idea of clean air, potable water and healthy food free from heavy metals, pesticides, and other pollutants as a human right emerged in the mid-1970s.

The collapse of fascist, colonial and communist regimes led to an unprecedented wave of constitution making; more than half of the world’s constitutions in fact were written during this period.

This, combined with awareness of environmental degradation and the inadequacy of state responses, lead to more than 80 nations enacting some form of constitutional protection for the environment.

Yet ecological sustainability remains elusive for most.

Regardless, Suzuki lamented having to fight over and over the same battles of the last 35 years to prevent oil drilling in sensitive areas, the construction of hydroelectric dams requiring extensive flooding, or supertanker traffic along Canada’s pristine Pacific coast.

“We thought we won 30, 35 years ago,” he said. “Now we’re having to fight the same battles over again.”

“We can’t keep doing this. We have to change the way we have a relationship to the world.”

Canada, he said, needs hard rules not subject to political oscillations. “We need to enshrine these rights in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” he told AFP.

– Hottest year on record –

Constitutional change does not come easy in Canada.

The constitution was patriated from colonial masters in Britain in 1982, but with the support of only nine of Canada’s 10 provinces.

Quebec, then under separatist leadership, refused to sign the document. Subsequent attempts to officially bring the French-speaking province under Canada’s wing provoked infighting that threatened to break up the nation.

Failing a constitutional amendment, Suzuki called for activists to redouble their efforts in the face of growing threats to past achievements.

“You’ve got to fight like mad,” he said. “You’ve got to be eco-warriors.”

To Americans musing about moving to Canada, he offered a stern message: “I’m not interested in rats deserting a sinking ship.”

“Now is the time for you to work your ass off to make sure that (the next four years) are going to be as good for the environment as possible, and work toward the next election,” he said.

On Wednesday, business and political leaders meeting in Marrakesh urged Trump not to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on fighting global warming.

It sets the goal of limiting average global warming to 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels by cutting greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. On Monday the UN said average temperatures were already up 1.2 degrees Celsius.

Countries including the United States have pledged to curb emissions under the deal by moving to renewable energy sources.

But Trump has vowed to boost oil, gas and coal.

Suzuki praised Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for championing the Paris accord, but questioned Ottawa’s paradoxical support for the construction of new pipelines to move Canadian oil to tidewater in order to reach new overseas markets.

“Why are we even talking about pipelines,” he said.

“If we’re serious about the Paris agreement, we have to get off the fossil fuels very, very rapidly. And in order to recover the cost of building a pipeline, you have to use it for 30, 35 years.”

China’s hairy crab scandal reveals depth of pollution crisis

Toxin-tainted crustaceans raise doubts over clean-up of showpiece lake

Every autumn, Hong Kong restaurants serve a seasonal delicacy: hairy crabs, shipped the same day from lakes around the Chinese city of Suzhou.

But the territory’s food safety inspectors recently made a shocking discovery: some crabs in this year’s consignment contained dangerous levels of cancer-causing chemicals. Even worse, the crabs appeared to come from Lake Tai, a model in China’s fight against pollution after a multiyear, multibillion-dollar clean-up.

Has the clean-up failed? Or is something else amiss? The answer, says crab breeder Wang Yue, lies in “bathing crabs”, which carry the Lake Tai name but have spent minimal time in its waters.

Mr Wang and his family tend hundreds of crabs in baskets hung from bamboo posts in shallow Lake Tai, also known as Taihu. He estimates the market for crabs has grown to three times what families like his can produce, so crabs grown elsewhere are brought to the lake for a few days so that they can be sold on at a premium — a practice known as giving them a “bath”.

“The crabs here are sweet and tasty because the water is fresh. But people in other cities don’t know the difference,” he said. “Some people can make a lot of money by pretending they come from Lake Tai.”

Lake Tai and nearby Yangcheng Lake provide top-quality hairy crabs. But so many are cultivated elsewhere — in nearby lakes, ponds dug into former rice fields or even under solar farms — that prices have been depressed and breeders on Lake Tai struggle to break even.

The bathing crabs affair appears to be a classic Chinese food safety story, where an explosion in production outpaces regulators’ ability to police quality. But the bigger problem is the long shadow cast by China’s polluters.

A showcase environmental clean-up has markedly improved water quality at Lake Tai. But the costly success does little to address China’s broader soil pollution crisis.

Over the past decade, central planners drew up blueprints to tackle smog, water pollution and soil pollution by closing or moving factories, regulating emissions and improving monitoring — the playbook used at Lake Tai.

The result has been a steady improvement in COD, a measure of the organic content in water and one of Beijing’s environmental targets. But the dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyls found in the crabs could come from poorly regulated waste incinerators or steel sintering elsewhere in the Yangtze Delta region, or wherever the bathing crabs are raised.

“It may be discharged as air emissions but if it showed up in crabmeat it’s because the emissions got into the water and the soil, the sediment,” said Ma Jun, a Chinese environmentalist. Persistent organic pollutants such as PCBs “are hard to decompose. They are persistent. They will stay in the environment for a long time.”

From Mr Wang’s weir, the water smells fresh. A bucket of snails on his porch and the egrets perching on the bamboo struts testify to the improvement in water quality.

It used to be much worse. In the 1990s, 1bn tonnes of rubbish, waste water, pig manure and fertiliser entered Lake Tai every year. Petrochemicals, smelting and textiles turned the waterlogged region into one of the wealthiest in China. Local governments turned a blind eye to polluters.

In 2007 a toxic algae bloom cut off drinking water to 2m people for 10 days. Weeks earlier, authorities arrested a local man campaigning against factories dumping waste in the lake. He was jailed for three years.

After the algae bloom, Beijing declared the lake a natural disaster zone and ordered it cleaned by 2012. It shut factories and moved foundries to industrial zones, installed waste water treatment plants and discouraged pig farm expansion. A widened channel to the Yangtze river helped water circulate.

“There are 35m to 40m people around this lake who rely on its water. So the government had to prioritise it,” said Fang Yingjun, head of Lüse Jiangnan Public Environment Concerned Center, a non-governmental organisation. “Every year we go to the same spot to check the water for algae and every year it’s better. It really is much better. So much money has been spent.”

It was not easy. The warm, shallow lake is the perfect spot for organic pollutants to trigger algae blooms. At 2,338 sq km, it is one and a half times the size of Greater London — big enough to hide plenty of sins.

“You can’t really see the polluted water any more but companies are still good at disguise,” said Wu Lihong, the campaigner who was jailed. Lake residents still spot underwater pipes leading from factories. This summer a secret landfill for waste from Shanghai was discovered on an island in the lake.

And while Beijing focused on Lake Tai, it also encouraged polluting factories to migrate from wealthier areas to the poor hinterland. Meanwhile, ecommerce and cheap airfares allowed new crab farms to spring up around China.

Bathing crabs are likely to remain a barometer of China’s ability to clean up its environment for years to come.

Ombudsman to probe Hong Kong government’s handling of illegal waste dumping cases on private land

Watchdog seeks public views and information on government’s control over landfilling and fly-tipping activities

The Ombudsman will launch a direct investigation into possible inadequacies of the environmental protection, planning and conservation departments in handling illegal landfilling and fly-tipping cases on private land.

The self-initiated probe by the government watchdog comes amid an increased frequency of such activities in the New Territories and on Lantau Island, where loopholes in planning and waste disposal regulations often fail to curb destructive activities.

“Even though actions were taken by the departments concerned, those actions were criticised as futile and ineffective by different sectors of the community,” the office of the watchdog said on Wednesday.

Ombudsman Connie Lau Yin-hing said the three government departments fell within the ambit of the investigation and that the focus of the probe would be on powers, responsibilities, mechanisms and procedures in regard to the control of such illegal landfilling and waste dumping. This would include their enforcement action and its outcomes.

“The aim is to identify inadequacies in the current legal framework, system and enforcement regime,” Lau’s office said.

In a bid to make the investigation “more comprehensive”, the watchdog is seeking views from the public and those affected from now until December 16.

Green groups have long raised concerns about private land – often old agricultural lots near or within ecologically sensitive sites such as country parks – being filled or dumped on in what they describe as “destroy first, develop later” tactics.

A massive “waste hill” in Tin Shui Wai drew public outcry earlier this year and exposed a thicket of government red tape and entangled bureaucracy in response and enforcement.

Meanwhile, a court fight with the government continues over private land dumping in Lantau’s Pui O coastal protection area.

Roy Ng Hei-man of the Conservancy Association welcomed the Ombudsman’s initiative and urged it to pitch real policy and regulatory changes.

“It’s a systematic problem. We have long held the view that amendments are needed in the waste disposal and town planning ordinances,” Ng said. “Those involved can still take advantage of many legal loopholes.”

One example, he said, was the waste disposal ordinance, which he stressed could not regulate illegal dumping on private land even in light of the environmental impact.

Ng also questioned why the Lands Department was left out of the investigation.

The departments said they would cooperate fully when the probe begins.

Nature already impacted by climate change: Study


Professor David Dudgeon says we can envisage that endemic species, such as the short-legged toad (bottom right) and Hong Kong paradise fish (bottom left) will be unable to adjust their ranges due to intense urbanisation. The Hong Kong newt (top right) and giant spiny frog (top left) will be threatened by warmer temperatures. Photos: Courtesy of the University of Hong Kong

Professor David Dudgeon speaks to RTHK’s Richard Pyne

A new study, published in the journal Science on Friday morning, says climate change is already affecting every aspect of life on Earth.

The research team, led by the University of Florida and with participation from the University of Hong Kong, examined 94 core ecological processes globally for evidence of impact from climate change.

These processes include things like species’ physiological and physical features, the time of year that animals breed and migrate, and the time of year plants flower and fruit. The researchers found 82 percent of these processes showed evidence of climate change.

They say the impact on people could range from increased pests and disease outbreaks to unpredictable changes in fisheries and decreasing agricultural yields.

Professor David Dudgeon, a co-author of the paper, told RTHK’s Richard Pyne that almost everything they’ve measured has shown a change as a result of the planet recording a one-degree rise in temperature.

“What you’re finding is that virtually everything that you look at is beginning to shift, and you would probably guess that as temperature rise increases the rate at which these shifts will take place will also increase,” he said. “We can imagine that perhaps the effects of climate change that will be felt soon have actually been underestimated and we’ll be seeing a lot more changes, more profound changes, than we would have expected.”

He said with this new research, we can begin to predict with some degree of confidence what’s likely to happen to certain species in Hong Kong. Species sensitive to temperature, for example, will shift their distribution to stay within a safe temperature zone.

Professor Dudgeon said mountain-top animals such as the giant spiny frog, which is already confined to the top of Tai Mo Shan, would have nowhere to go as temperatures rise.

He said projections for current carbon emissions would see temperatures rise by three to four degrees by the end of the century, which would mean the outlook for many species would be bleak and conservation intervention may be needed.

AGW Denialist and lobbyist Myron Ebell tapped to head the EPA

Myron Ebell was just tapped to head the EPA .

This is a short summary about him .

Choosing Myron Ebell means Trump plans to drastically reshape climate policies

Ebell is a well-known and polarizing figure in the energy and environment realm. His participation in the EPA transition signals that the Trump team is looking to drastically reshape the climate policies the agency has pursued under the Obama administration. Ebell’s role is likely to infuriate environmentalists and Democrats but buoy critics of Obama’s climate rules.

Ebell’s views appear to square with Trump’s when it comes to EPA’s agenda. Trump has called global warming “bullshit” and he has said he would “cancel” the Paris global warming accord and roll back President Obama’s executive actions on climate change (ClimateWire, May 27).

His lobbying clients in 2016 include Koch Companies Public Sector LLC, Southern Company Services, Dow Chemical Co. and Competitive Power Ventures Inc., according to public disclosures.


Tobbacco industry

The tobacco company Phillip Morris hired Ebell in the 1990s as Policy Director to mount a campaign to make regulating the tobacco industry “politically unpalatable”, and to advocate for acceptance of “safer cigarettes.”[12] As part of its “Control Abuse of Power” (CAP) project,[13] Ebell launched lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), respectively.

Media appearances

In 2001, Ebell stated his belief that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the EU and the rest of the world to harm America’s economy. He justified the allegation with a quote from European Commissioner Margot Wallström in her response to Bush’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol.[14] Ebell also called the UK’s Chief Scientist David King “an alarmist with ridiculous views who knows nothing about climate change”; he added that since all scientists in Europe and in other countries outside the USA were funded by governments, none of them could be seen as independent

This really is the end of the world as we know it. 2 degrees increase is already baked in. This is going to make it worse for all of us.

Chemical clue to why seabirds eat plastic

Plastic pollution in the sea gives off a smell that attracts foraging birds, scientists have found.

The discovery could explain why seabirds such as the albatross swallow plastic, causing injury or death.

The smell, similar to the odour of rotting seaweed, is caused by the breakdown of plankton that sticks to floating bits of plastic.

About 90% of seabirds have eaten plastic and may keep some in their bellies, putting their health at risk.

The rate of plastic pollution is increasing around the world, with a quarter of a billion tonnes of plastic waste recorded in the oceans in 2014.

Scientists think seabirds associate the smell of plastic with food – and are tricked into swallowing plastic waste.

“These seabirds actually use odours to find their way around in the world and to find food,” said Matthew Savoca, of University of California, Davis.

“We found a chemical on plastic that these birds typically associate with food, but now it’s being associated with plastic.

“And so these birds might be very confused – and tricked into consuming plastic as food.”

Cabbage smell

In experiments, scientists at the University of California put microbeads into mesh bags and dangled them in the ocean.

After three weeks at sea, they analysed the plastic for chemical signatures.

Nothing was found on new plastic samples, but three types of plastic in the sea acquired a distinctive chemical smell.

The chemical – dimethyl sulfide – has a characteristic sulphurous odour associated with boiling cabbage or decaying seaweed.

It is also produced in the oceans through the breakdown of microscopic algae or phytoplankton, which collects on plastic.

Seabirds with a keen sense of smell, including albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, can detect this odour, which they associate with food.

Thus, smells as well as visual cues – such as shiny plastic – may attract seabirds to plastic.

Co-researcher Prof Gabrielle Nevitt, also from UC Davis, said species such as petrels were likely to be affected by plastic ingestion.

“These species nest in underground burrows, which are hard to study, so they are often overlooked,” she said.

“Yet, based on their foraging strategy, this study shows they’re actually consuming a lot of plastic and are particularly vulnerable to marine debris.”

The researchers are calling for more research to see if other animals – such as fish, penguins and turtles – are also drawn to plastic by chemicals.

And they say it might be possible to develop plastics that either do not attract algae or break down more quickly in the environment.

Even knowing which species are most at risk based on the way they find food is informative – because it helps us – the scientific community – figure out how to best allocate monitoring and conservation effort to those species most at need,” said Dr Savoca.

The research is published in the journal Science Advances.