Wednesday, November 18, 2020

'We are not winning': Red Cross warns of human crisis from climate change

An amusing article below. Its first two words are the key to understanding it: "Natural disasters".

It is about NATURAL disasters. Linking them to global warming is pure speculation: Unprovable. And there is no attempt to canvass other causes of an increase -- better reporting etc. It is just kneejerk writing, with no evidence of real thought. It is so crass that it discredits the Red Cross

Natural disasters force 100 million people a year to seek aid and that number is expected to double within 30 years as climate change intensifies floods, droughts and storms.

The Red Cross's World Disaster Report rated climate change as the greatest global challenge, finding disasters triggered by extreme weather and climate-related events had risen 35 per cent since 1990.

Releasing the report on Tuesday, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies secretary-general Jagan Chapagain called on the international community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fund infrastructure and services to mitigate the impact of global warming, starting with the most vulnerable communities.

"Climate and weather-related disasters are causing massive humanitarian impacts across the world, directly affecting 1.7 billion people in the past decade alone," he said.

"Even though we are winning small victories every day, in the big picture, we are not winning at all. We – as a global community – are not on track to make the changes that need to be made and to make them in time."

Weather and climate-related disasters have killed more than 410,000 people in the past 10 years, the vast majority in low and lower-middle-income countries, according to the Red Cross, with heatwaves the biggest killer, followed by storms.

Last year, nearly 24 million people were displaced due to weather-related events, largely floods and storms. Bushfires affected more than 14,000 people around the world and more than half were in Australia.

Locally, an estimated 9500 people were affected by the Black Summer fires, which scientists say were intensified by climate change, with 34 deaths, 3000 homes lost and health costs of $2 billion, according to the recent natural disasters royal commission.

The commission found extreme weather had already become more frequent and intense because of climate change, and further global warming over the next 20 to 30 years was "inevitable".

The World Bank in 2018 forecast that unchecked global warming, with no further emissions reductions, would create droughts, floods and storms that would drive an estimated 140 million to internal migration across Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America.

Australian Red Cross international director Michael Annear said poorer communities around the world were most exposed to climate risks and should be the "first priority" for assistance.

"We need to urgently scale up planning for disasters and support these communities so that they can prepare more effectively for disasters and expand existing community resilience."

In May, Africa was hit by a "triple disaster", with flooding, a locust plague and coronavirus stretching community coping mechanisms and disaster management capacities in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, the Red Cross said.

That same month, India sweltered in 50 degree heatwaves and Cyclone Ampham hit India and Bangladesh, where 3 million people were evacuated, more than 100 killed and thousands of houses damaged or destroyed across the two countries.

Red Cross climate change director Maarten Van Aalst said the data used by Red Cross to compile its report was "part of a best-practice collection of disaster information" including from the international Emergency Events Database, the World Bank and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, where he is a lead author.

The glyphosate saga

Paul Driessen

Big Media, Big Tech, Big Academia, the Deep State and the Cancel Culture clearly aligned with the Democrat Party, to resist, block, impede and impeach a duly elected President Trump, during and after the 2016 election and the 2020 election cycle. Computer “glitches” that too often operated in only one direction, backroom ballot counting, improper ballot harvesting and backdating, and other actions have increased concerns that the integrity of America’s elections and democracy is threatened.

Equally worrisome is growing evidence that the integrity of our courtroom proceedings and jury verdicts is also at risk. Indeed, many of the same forces arrayed against fair and honest elections have also combined to influence jurors (and judges), making them more inclined to support huge verdicts in favor of “victims of greedy corporations” that deliberately put dangerous products on the market.

In some of the most notorious lawsuits in decades, lawyers representing cancer patients have succeeded in persuading San Francisco area juries to award clients $78 million to $1 billion per person in compensatory and punitive damages – based on highly questionable assertions that the victims’ use of the chemical glyphosate in Roundup weed killer was the sole reason they got cancer.

Bayer AG acquired glyphosate creator and Roundup manufacturer Monsanto in 2018 and is thus the defendant in the cases. The verdicts, plus lack of success so far with appeals to the California Supreme Court, persuaded Bayer to settle tens of thousands of other pending cases for $10.9 billion (of which the mass-tort law firms will get some 40%), but without admitting any wrongdoing.

The Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals is reviewing another appeal, and the US Supreme Court could (and should) weigh in on how the trials were conducted, which evidence was permitted or excluded during the trials, and serious questions of collusion and tampering with original experimental data.

Federal District Court judges reduced the awards to less outrageous amounts. However, the way they and plaintiff lawyers conducted the trials raises serious questions of bias and even fraud – as detailed in my Fall 2020 Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons paper and in scores of articles referenced in it.

Glyphosate was introduced in 1974 and is licensed in 130 countries; it’s the world’s most widely used herbicide. Millions of homeowners, gardeners and farmers use it regularly to control weeds.

Respected consumer protection organizations like the US Environmental Protection Agency, European Food Safety Authority, Food and Agriculture Organization, and Health Canada (some 3,300 studies in all) have concluded that glyphosate is safe and non-carcinogenic. The still ongoing U.S. Agricultural Health Study has followed some 52,000 farmers and other pesticide applicators and 32,000 of their spouses for two decades – 80% of whom use glyphosate. The study has found no glyphosate-cancer link.

Cancer epidemiologist Dr. Geoffrey Kabat says glyphosate is “environmentally benign” and has an acute toxicity level lower than that of table salt, vinegar, chocolate or coffee.

Only one agency, the France-based International Agency for Cancer Research, says otherwise. It calls glyphosate a “probable” human carcinogen, based primarily on two mice studies, and has been accused of manipulating even those studies (while ignoring contradictory studies) to get its desired results.

IARC does not do its own research. Instead, it relies on third-party “exposure tests” in laboratory animals to determine whether a chemical, food or occupational activity might cause cancer – even if only at extremely high levels that no animal or human would ever be exposed to in the real world. It refuses to utilize actual “risk assessments” – the modern approach that examines the exposure level at which a substance might actually have an adverse effect on laboratory animals, and presumably people.

The agency’s glyphosate review was proposed by a US government statistician who then helped design the study and served as special advisor to the IARC “working group” that evaluated it. He allegedly did this while also being paid as an advisor to the anti-chemical Environmental Defense Fund, on unspecified “other issues” for law firms involved in the glyphosate cases, and now as an expert witness in the cases.

Former National Cancer Institute statistician Dr. Robert Tarone discovered that IARC’s glyphosate review panel based its carcinogenicity finding on just two studies of mice that for two years were fed diets containing up to 30,000 ppm glyphosate! In the male mice, they found cancerous tumors in 1 of 49 mice at 0 ppm, 0 of 49 mice at 500 ppm, 1 of 50 mice at 5,000 ppm, and 2 of 50 mice at 30,000 ppm. In other words, they found the same rates cancer at 0 and 5,000 ppm and only one more tumor at 30,000 ppm. Data excluded from IARC’s report found no tumors in female mice, even at 30,000 ppm!

And yet, incredibly, the IARC ruling is being used by predatory tort lawyers to claim that glyphosate causes leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, lung, brain and thyroid cancer, heart and kidney disease, nerve damage, multiple sclerosis, respiratory illness, birth defects and infertility.

Just as bad, judges in the cases thus far nevertheless allowed plaintiff lawyers to present the IARC findings, and inflame juries with lurid tales of corrupt corporate criminals and admittedly tragic stories of clients suffering from cancer allegedly from using Roundup The judges prevented Bayer attorneys from presenting evidence from EPA and other agencies that glyphosate is safe and non-carcinogenic.

Equally amazing, the mass-tort lawyers were permitted to assert (and persuade jurors) that their clients were afflicted with cancer solely because of glyphosate – and not from any of the more than 500 other chemicals, substances, industrial processes and occupations that IARC has ruled are definite, probable or possible human carcinogens ... even though their clients were almost certainly exposed to many of them.

At no point, it appears, were defense attorneys able to ask questions about the cancer-victim plaintiffs’ family cancer histories; eating, exercise and sleeping habits; consumption of high-fat foods versus fruits and vegetables; and other lifestyle choices that play significant roles in whether people get cancer.

At no point, it appears, were victims asked how often they might have been exposed to sunlight, asbestos, processed meats, acetaldehyde in alcoholic beverages or any of the 116 other substances and activities in IARC’s list of definite human carcinogens. Nor were they asked about their exposure to anabolic steroids, malathion, red meat, emissions from high-temperature food frying or any of the 78 other substances and agents (besides glyphosate) in IARC’s list of probable human carcinogens (or 314 possible carcinogens).

Even more astonishing, the plaintiffs and their lawyers were never compelled to explain how they and their doctors and other experts were able to conclude that family history, lifestyle choices and exposure to dozens or even hundreds of other substances on IARC’s lists of human carcinogens caused or contributed to their cancer – and that their cancer was due solely to their exposure to glyphosate.

Just as outrageous, juries were permitted to grant massive punitive damage awards – which require clear evidence that Bayer (and Monsanto) had deliberately engaged in harmful conduct with malice or deception. In view of all the issues and facts presented here, in my medical journal paper and by many other sources, assertions of malice or deception are simply not supported by any persuasive evidence.

Collusion, corruption, fraud and billion-dollar payoffs have become an epidemic, in courtrooms and regulatory agencies, in medical and scientific journals, and beyond. They make it essential that the US Supreme Court take these cases on appeal – perhaps under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals.

That 1993 decision requires that scientific evidence must be relevant, reliable, peer-reviewed, and confirmed by more than just circumstantial links between an alleged cause and the injury in question. That standard is especially important where, as seems to be the case with glyphosate, the evidence and expert testimony resulted from research conducted for the purpose of litigation.

With looming litigation likely to include breakfast cereals “contaminated” with traces of glyphosate or GMO grains, the Supremes should set guideline for how far law firms can go in setting up and pursuing cases, influencing judges and jurors, and working (colluding) with regulatory agencies, activist groups, expert witnesses, journalists and others in fomenting, litigating and supporting their lawsuits.

Transparency and integrity are essential, in litigation, elections, legislation, regulation and climate science.

Via email

Trump officials push on with oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic

It remains to be seen how strong drilling interest in the refuge might be from major U.S. oil concerns, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron For one thing, infrastructure and roads have been purposefully kept out of the refuge and would require investment. Historically low oil prices may also preclude investing in expansion. The area is estimated to contain as much as 11.8 billion barrels of recoverable crude.

a man wearing a hat© AFP via Getty Images
Hilcorp Energy Co., Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips already produce oil and gas in Alaska’s north slope. Chevron partnered with BP on the only test well ever drilled in the refuge more than three decades ago.

Major banks including Goldman Sachs JPMorgan Chase Citigroup Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo are among the two dozen financial firms that have said they will not fund any new oil and gas development in the Arctic Refuge as part of their own climate-change initiatives.

Smaller participants might be likely to bid on leases. For instance, some Alaska Native tribal corporations have already expressed an interest in conducting seismic tests to identify oil reserves on the coastal plain, the Washington Post reported.

“This call for nominations brings us one step closer to holding a historic first Coastal Plain lease sale, satisfying the directive of Congress in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and advancing this administration’s policy of energy independence,” Chad Padgett, the Bureau of Land Management’s Alaska state director said in a statement.

Opponents have said that extracting oil from the refuge would exacerbate the climate crisis, violate the human rights of indigenous Alaskans who live off the land and is “fraught with financial risk,” given the likelihood of long legal battles over refuge leases. A group of more than 250 signatories, mostly representing environmental, indigenous and investing interests, expressed such concern in a letter released in September.

Opening up the refuge follows a host of fossil fuel-favorable policy moves during the Trump administration, including the roll back of more than 125 environmental regulations or policies. Some of these protections had been in place for decades, spanning administrations from both parties.

Those in favor of the rollbacks have said they are expensive for business and unevenly enforced. But the industry has also spent mightily in Washington to make its case. Lobbying data from the Center for Responsive Politics showed that during the 2017-2018 midterm election cycle, corporations, individuals and trade groups in the fossil fuel industry spent $265,773,915 in lobbying and $93,392,002 in contributions to national-level candidates, parties and outside groups, bringing the total spending by the industry to more than $359 million in two years.

Still in the works are plans to open up much of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska to drilling and narrowing the definition of critical habitat for endangered species, including when companies are liable for killing migratory birds.

The government also plans to auction off oil and gas rights to more than 383,000 acres of federal land in the Lower 48 in the next two months, Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigner for the advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity, told the Washington Post.

No, Climate Change Is Not ‘Straining Budgets’ in Colorado Towns

The Colorado Sun published a misleading and scientifically deficient article titled, “The high cost of climate change is already straining the budgets of Colorado towns.”

To reach that conclusion, the article ignored real-world climate data reported by NASA, NOAA, and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In reality, climate change is reducing the frequency and severity of events the Colorado Sun claims is straining Colorado budgets.

The Sun article chronicles recent drought and wildfires in Colorado, as well as an active Spring 2019 avalanche season, laying the blame for these events on climate change. Objective facts tell a different story.

False Link Between Drought and Climate Change

During the past few years, Colorado has indeed experienced below-average rainfall. But neither the severity nor the duration of current conditions is unusual. As shown in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chart reproduced below, periods of low rainfall happen from time to time. Colorado is currently experiencing one of those low-rainfall periods. However, there is no long-term trend of lower rainfall. In fact, the three individual periods during which Colorado experienced its least rainfall occurred between 1900 and 1955. No period since 1955 has been as dry for Colorado as those three separate events that occurred between 65 and 120 years of global warming ago.

The Sun article points to rivers and streams in Colorado allegedly being 13% to 20% lower since the year 2000 compared to the 20th century average. However, this has nothing to do with any asserted changes in precipitation. Rather, as shown by the chart below, Colorado’s rivers and streams are experiencing diminishing stream flow as a result of Colorado’s 33% increase in population – and hence, water demand – since the year 2000.

Scientists at Colorado State University (CSU) confirm the causal relationship between Colorado’s population growth and reduced streamflow. As CSU scientists report, “Much of the state’s water history has been shaped by population growth. In particular, a tenfold increase in residents from 1900 to 2010 (U.S. Census Bureau, n.d.) was paralleled by a similar increase in competition and demand for the water in Colorado’s nine major watersheds and four major aquifers.”

Unfortunately, global warming will not cause an end to Colorado’s recurring and preexisting cycles of above- and below-average rainfall. However, the fact that global warming is not ending the long-term Colorado drought cycle does not mean we can now blame drought cycles on climate change. This is especially the case given that NOAA data clearly show recent droughts are shorter and less severe than was the case several decades ago.

Even if recent Colorado drought had been unusually severe, it would still be improper to place the blame on climate change. With or without climate change, locations have experienced – and will continue to experience – periods during which rainfall is significantly less abundant than average. However, as shown in Climate at a Glance: Drought, the United Nations IPCC reports with “high confidence” that precipitation has increased over mid-latitude land areas of the Northern Hemisphere, including the United States, during the past 70 years, while IPCC has “low confidence” about any negative trends globally. In other words, if and when Colorado experiences an unusually severe drought (which is bound to happen sometime), such drought will run counter to overall global trends in a modestly warming world.

Indeed, as also documented in Climate at a Glance: Drought, the United States set a new record in 2017 for the smallest percentage of its land area experiencing “very dry” conditions. Then, in 2019, the United States broke the record set in 2017. Again, any regional drought that might affect Colorado would run counter to national and global trends, and thus would be difficult to blame on climate change.

False Link Between Wildfires and Climate Change

After falsely asserting that climate change is causing more frequent and severe drought in Colorado, the Sun article asserts that such drought is responsible for recent wildfires in the state. While drought is the primary climate factor influencing wildfires, global and national wildfire data show no increase in the frequency or severity of wildfires. This should come as no surprise, given the above-documented lack of worsening drought conditions.

As documented in Climate at a Glance: U.S. Wildfires, U.S. wildfires in recent decades are far less frequent and less severe than was the case during the first half of the 20th century – 70 years of global warming ago. The chart below, showing data reported by the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center, documents the decline.

Moreover, NASA satellite instruments document an ongoing decline in global wildfires. Indeed, NASA satellites have measured a 25% decline in global lands burned since 2003. It defies logic to blame any asserted uptick in wildfires that may occur in a given region on climate change when wildfires throughout the world are becoming less frequent and extreme as the climate modestly warms.

To the extent that some wildfires still occur, they are becoming less frequent and severe. Moreover, recent wildfires in the western United States are more a product of environmental activists imposing unprecedented obstacles on sound forest management than climate change.




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