In today's On the News segment: If Republicans have their way, soon it may be much harder for states to take on massive industries; China is waging a war on coal; in some areas, almost half of the insect pollinator species have disappeared; and more.
Thom Hartmann here - on the best of the rest of.... Science and green news....
You need to know this. While Republican lawmakers in our country continue to deny the proven science of climate change, China is waging an all-out war on coal in that nation. According to a recent article over at the ThinkProgress blog, China cut coal usage by three percent in 2014, five percent in 2015, and they're projecting another three percent decline in 2016. That may not sound like a lot, but China's across-the-board cuts are far stronger than the disjointed, and often disputed, climate action plans we see here in the US. At the rate they are going, and the rate that Republicans in the States are blocking meaningful climate action, pretty soon the climate deniers here won't be able to use China's pollution as an excuse not to clean up our own. In addition to cleaning up their coal usage, that nation has announced the beginning of their cap-and-trade system and their electric grid "Green Dispatch" system, which will require low and zero-carbon sources to be utilized before using dirty energy like coal. That policy has helped slash their coal use, and will continue to cut carbon emissions. As Joe Romm explained over at ThinkProgress, "China is using the equivalent of only half its coal plants." And he added, "the utilization rate will continue to drop as China enacts the policies President Xi Jinping announced in the United States last September." While that's great news for our planet, it should be embarrassing for our country. Our legislators love to talk about how we should be leading the world with American exceptionalism, but we're really only exceptional when it comes to denying the basic science that pretty much every other nation in the world already accepts. We need big ideas and big policy changes, and all of that starts by voting in lawmakers who will accept the science and fight for big solutions to our climate crisis.
Republicans are all in favor of states' rights. That is, until states exert their rights in a way that threatens the profits of industries like Monsanto. But according to a recent article over at CommonDreams.org, soon it may be much harder for states to take on such massive industries. Last week, the Senate Agricultural Committee advanced a bill that would overrule mandatory GMO labeling laws that were passed at the state level, and replace them with voluntary labeling measures. Of course, Republicans continue to claim that requiring companies to change labels would result in higher food prices, but organizations like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) dispute that claim. Scott Faber of EWG said, "The truth is, food companies change their labels all the time to highlight innovations or make new claims." He added, "Adding a few words to the back of the package as part of a routine label change will have no impact on the cost of making food." Thankfully, this measure is still a ways off from becoming reality, so it's up to us to tell Congress that they shouldn't stand in the way of our right to know what's in our food.
Want to get healthier? Drink more water. According to a recent study from the University of Illinois, "For people who want to control their weight or reduce their intakes of sugar, sodium and saturated fat, tap water may be just what the doctor ordered." And researchers found that the more someone increased their water consumption, the more they decreased their intake of unhealthy substances. They wrote, "The majority of people who increased their consumption of plain water by 1 percent reduced their total daily calorie intake, as well as their consumption of saturated fat, sugar, sodium and cholesterol." By adding an extra two or three cups of water per day, people were able to increase those benefits even more. One of the easiest ways to reduce empty calories is to replace sugary drinks with plain water, and now we learn that switch has far more benefits than a slimmer waistline.
In some areas, almost half of the insect pollinator species have disappeared. That's because pesticides are wiping out the bee and butterfly populations that pollinate much of our planet's food. According to a new study discussed in The Huffington Post, "Although bees and butterflies are at the highest risk of extinction, other animals like moths, wasps, beetles, birds and bats are also contributors to pollination." And, they are all equally threatened by pesticides, pollution and loss of habitat. In an interview with The Associated Press, a bee expert from the University of Maryland said, "Everything falls apart if you take pollinators out of the game." He added, "If we want to say we can feed the world in 2050, pollinators are going to be part of that." In other words, if we want to have the fruits, nuts and vegetables needed to feed future generations, we must stop using the pesticides that are wiping out these important insects. For the sake of our species, we better get busy saving the bees.
And finally ... A new study says that one of the best ways to protect livestock is to stop killing the wolves that sometimes threaten them. According to biologists at Washington State University, wolves that hunt in packs actually prefer wild animals to sheep or cattle. But lone wolves that don't have the pack's hunting ability opt for livestock that might be easier to catch. By studying nearly 1,500 samples of wolf scat - aka wolf poop - scientists were able to determine that wolf packs that stay in one area are more aware of wildlife, and often opt for that wild prey even when livestock is available. By breaking up wolf packs, including by killing their leaders, hunters actually increased the likelihood that livestock would be killed within the following year. Researchers suggest providing a bit more protection for livestock closer to home, and they recommend ranchers help promote a rich community of wild animals that wolves can eat. They wrote, "Removal measures do not solve the problem in the long run." In other words, killing wolves isn't just cruel and wrong, breaking up these packs will do more damage to wolves and livestock in the future.
And that's the way it is for the week of March 7, 2016. I'm Thom Hartmann on Science and Green News.