Sunday, February 17, 2019

EPA announces plan to limit cancer-linked chemicals, critics say it’s not enough

The old PFOS scare again

That the chemical concerned gets into people and animals one way or another has been known for decades.  But the concentrations found are extremely minute -- measured in a few parts per billion. So how toxic is it?  It certainly seems to be seriously toxic to a range of animals but evidence of toxicity to people is slight.  And don't forget that this has been under investigation for a long time.

Additionally, it has been estimated that there is by now some PFOS in every American, so bad effects should be pretty evident by now.  But they are not.

Note that the controversy is about PFOS in general use -- as part of domestic items.  People who are for one reason or another exposed to exceptionally high levels of it could well have problems. And there do appear to have been some instances of that.

But the scare has been sufficient for American manufacturers to stop production of the stuff (as from 2002) and the levels in people have gone into steady decline.  So if it is a problem, it has been dealt with.  It is only residues that are claimed as the  problem

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday said it will start work by the end of the year on a long-awaited plan to set national drinking-water limits for two harmful chemicals linked to cancer, low infant birth weight, and other health issues.

But environmentalists and Democratic lawmakers criticized the plan, saying it in effect delayed desperately needed regulation on a clear public health threat from chemicals that are commonly used in cookware, pizza boxes, stain repellents, and fire retardants.

EPA officials described their proposal as the “first-ever nationwide action plan” to address the health effects of human-made chemicals known as poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs. There are currently no federal regulations on the production or monitoring of that class of about 5,000 chemicals, which are manufactured and used in a wide variety of industries and products. Studies have shown that they can linger in the human body for years, causing harmful health effects.

“The PFAS action plan is the most comprehensive action plan for a chemical of concern ever undertaken by the agency,” said Dave Ross, EPA’s assistant administrator for water, in a telephone call with reporters Thursday. Andrew Wheeler, the EPA’s acting administrator, who is now President Trump’s nominee to head the agency, called the plan a “pivotal moment in the history of the agency.”

The American Chemistry Council, an industry lobbying group, voiced support for the plan. “We continue to support strong national leadership in addressing PFAS and firmly believe that EPA is best positioned to provide the public with a comprehensive strategy informed by a full understanding of the safety and benefits of different PFAS chemistries,” it said in a statement.

Critics called on the agency to move more quickly, citing 2016 action by the Obama administration on two of the chemicals that suggested the urgency of the risk.

“While EPA acts with the utmost urgency to repeal regulations, the agency ambles with complacency when it comes to taking real steps to protect the water we drink and the air we breathe,” said Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment Committee.

After a public outcry over tests showing dangerous levels of PFASs in communities around the United States, particularly around military bases and fire stations, the EPA under the Obama administration in 2016 proposed creating a national standard for limiting the levels in drinking water of two of the most prevalent varieties of PFAS chemicals, known as PFOA and PFOS.

It also issued a health advisory recommending that water utilities and public health officials monitor levels of the two chemicals in public water supplies and notify the public if the combined levels of those chemicals reached 70 parts per trillion. A draft report released last year by the Department of Health and Human Services recommended that the “minimal risk level” for exposure to those two chemicals should be less than half that amount.

Given the available data on the effect of PFAS chemicals, environmentalists criticized the EPA’s response as inadequate to the threat.

Scott Faber, an expert on chemical policy with the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization, called it a “drinking water crisis facing millions of Americans.” But the EPA, he said, is “just not treating the crisis the way it deserves.”

In particular, critics of the EPA have sited the role of Nancy Beck, a former lobbyist with the American Chemistry Council, in a slowdown of the agency’s response to addressing PFASs.

But Wheeler did not offer a clear timeline of when such a standard might be completed. Such regulatory processes can often take years.


Warmism as fun for kids

Thousands of schoolchildren hit the streets of Britain today as they went on strike from school to protest over climate change - but the Prime Minister slammed them for 'wasting lesson time'.

Youngsters walked out of lessons for the Youth Strike 4 Climate protests in 60 towns and cities across the UK from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands, leaving many parents concerned they would face a £60 fine for truancy.

Parents have been divided on social media over whether their children should go on strike one day before half-term, amid concerns over the walkouts in London being hijacked by hard-line climate groups and career activists.

Some of the teenagers in Westminster stood on the statues of former prime ministers David Lloyd George and Sir Winston Churchill at Parliament Square, with others carrying placards bearing Socialist Worker logos.

Young people boarded an open top city tour bus, climbing to the top deck to bringing roads in the area to a standstill. Hundreds of pupils, holding signs, chanted 'We're not moving' as they blocked traffic from moving.

Students want the Government to declare a climate emergency and take active steps to tackle the problem, tell the public more about the size of the ecological crisis and reform the curriculum so it is an educational priority.

The pupils began to slope off at 3.30pm - the usual time for the school bell - after bringing Whitehall to standstill

But in their wake came more than a hundred taxis to cause gridlock in protest at plans to ban the iconic black cabs from certain roads.

Scores of vehicles were parked around Parliament Square, while surrounding roads were brought to a total standstill.

The protest comes after similar roadblocks by taxis in the past months on London Bridge and Tottenham Court Road.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas described the students' as 'inspiring' as she joined a protest, but school leaders and Education Secretary Damian Hinds have warned students they should not miss lessons to take part in the strikes.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Theresa May urged pupils to stop timewasting, saying it was 'important to emphasise that disruption increases teachers' workloads and wastes lesson time that teachers have carefully prepared for'.

Parents could be fined £60 if they allow their child to take an unauthorised absence in some areas where schools are under pressure from councils - despite others actively encouraging children to make banners and attend. 

Some schools backing the protests posted pictures on social media of their children attending rallies, while Devon County Council said it 'fully welcomes and supports the aims of young people across the UK' today.

Among the banners held by pupils holding demonstrations across the country today were 'global warming isn't cool', 'there is no Planet B', 'when did the children become the adults' and 'don't burn our future'.

However, the National Association of Head Teachers has told members to not authorise truancy and instead help children 'engage with social issues' in other ways, such as discussions in class or at lunchtime.

The Government has insisted the issue is a matter for individual headteachers to deal with, but it is understood ministers would not expect absence to be granted simply for a protest.

Some have critised the protest, including Toby Young, former director of the New Schools Network, who said: 'Calling this a strike is ridiculous. What are they going to do? Down pencils? This is just truanting.'

The Youth Strike 4 Climate movement has already seen strikes in Australia, Switzerland and Belgium, and has been inspired by Greta Thunberg, 16, who protests every Friday outside Sweden's parliament to urge leaders to tackle climate change.

The strikes come in the wake of a UN report which warned that limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, beyond which climate impacts become increasingly severe, requires unprecedented action.

That includes cutting global carbon dioxide emissions by almost half within 12 years. They also want recognition that young people have the biggest stake in the future, should be involved in policymaking, and that the voting age should be lowered to 16.

In Parliament Square, two students brandishing a bottle of champagne climbed on to the roof of the number 11 bus to Fulham Broadway. Traffic around the square in central London was at a standstill after students blocked traffic by sitting in the roads.

Some young protesters climbed to the top of traffic lights around Parliament Square bearing banners and placards. Others climbed the statues in the square, including the one of Churchill, while placards were hung from the statue of Lloyd George, with one reading: 'you can have capitalism or you can have the planet'.

Mounted police and other officers tried to move the protesters off the roads and on to the pavements.

Some students at the protest in Parliament Square were seen drinking alcohol from bottles disguised by paper bags. Others ripped up homemade signs, chanting 'f*** Theresa May'.

What are the Youth Strike 4 Climate protests about?

The walk-out is being organised by the Youth Strike 4 Climate movement, which has been encouraging children and their parents on social media to join in.

Students in the UK are demanding the Government declare a climate emergency and take active steps to tackle the problem, communicate the severity of the ecological crisis to the public and reform the curriculum to make it an educational priority.

They also want recognition that young people have the biggest stake in the future, should be involved in policymaking, and that the voting age should be lowered to 16.

Campaigners have put together a slick public relations operation, providing children with template letters to schools which can be signed by their parents. There are also campaign leaflets and model messages which can be uploaded and shared on Whatsapp and Facebook.

One 14-year-old London schoolgirl, whose parents both support her decision to skip school to protest, said: 'Brexit won't matter if we don't have a world to live in'.

Pupils from across the country met in the capital to 'take a stand against emissions' as the crowds chanted 'Oh Jeremy Corbyn' and there was a return of 'f*** Theresa May'.

But not everyone saw it that way - with some claiming they 'just wanted the day off school' - labelling the protest as 'bulls***.'

The protesters marched from Parliament Square to Downing Street holding hundreds of placards as traffic was brought to a standstill.

One motorist said: 'They ought to be in school, these are the kind that won't even want to work like the rest of us.'


The truth about cheese: The terrible costs of our favourite food

It might be hard to swallow, but if you think cheese is better than meat for both animal welfare and the environment, you need to think again

MY NAME is Graham, and I’m a cheesoholic.

I’m generally quite restrained at the table, but I can’t resist cheese. Hard, soft, runny, smoked, blue, British, continental, pasteurised, unpasteurised. If there is cheese on offer, I will keep on eating it until one of us is defeated. I eat it for breakfast and snack on it at night.

Recently, my cheese habit has become even more central to my diet. Last year I quit meat, finally fed up by its environmental and animal welfare record. It wasn’t easy, but what was there to fill the void? Why, my old friend cheese! Halloumi, paneer and parmesan are now my beef, chicken and pork.

I’m happy to live without meat. But lately I have been wrangling with my conscience again. Cheese is made from milk, and milk comes from cows. Cattle farming is appalling for the climate. Cows belch out vast amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that no known technology can stop from being vented into the atmosphere. Most dairy farming is a form of factory farming, with all the attendant animal rights issues. I haven’t kept a record, but I am sure my cheese consumption has gone up since I swore off meat. So have I just swapped one environmental and animal welfare sin for another – one that is possibly even worse?

This is an uncomfortable question for many people. A number of my colleagues said, half-jokingly, “please don’t do that story”. They were saying they would rather not know. They were right.


Green New Deal goes backwards in CA

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that he would be ending the state’s plan to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The project, he said, would “cost too much” and “take too long” to be feasible.

Speaking to his constituents during his State of the State address Tuesday, Newsom said:

Let’s level about the high speed rail. I have nothing but respect for Gov. [Jerry] Brown, and Gov. [Arnold] Schwarzenegger’s vision. I share it. There’s no doubt that our state’s economy and quality of life depend on improving transportation. But let’s be real. The current project, as planned, would cost too much and, respectfully, take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency. Right now there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were.

The project was already years behind schedule, and, before its cancellation, was not due to be complete until 2033. Newsom did not, however, cancel a portion of this rail line that will stretch from Bakersfield to Merced and is already under construction. Newsom promised that this portion of rail, which he admitted critics called a “train to nowhere,” would cut down on pollution and commute time for people in California’s Central Valley.

He promised that this part of the project would be more transparent going forward.

The loss of a high speed rail line between two major cities will likely be seen as a step in the wrong direction for proponents of the Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal, published by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Thursday, called for building out “high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary” as well as creating “affordable public transit available to all, with goal to replace every combustion-engine vehicle.” Ocasio-Cortez has since denied that parts of the document her campaign released on Thursday were actually part of the official Green New Deal that she backed.


Heat on Australian Bureau of Meteorology over data records rewrite</>

Odd that Warmist revisions of the temperature record always make the past colder.  If the revisions really were corrections for errror, we would expect that some records of the past would show up as warmer occasionally.  It doesn't happen.  The "errors" are systematic. Jennifer Marohasy has shown on a few occasions that their "adjustments" are unreasonable.  Her comment on the latest fandango is here

The Bureau of Meteorology has rewritten Australia’s temperature records for the second time in six years, greatly increasing the rate of warming since 1910 in its controversial homogenised data set.

Rather than the nation’s temperature having increased by 1C over the past century, the ­bureau’s updated homogenised data set, known as ACORN-SAT, now shows mean temperatures have risen by 1.23C.

Bureau data shows the rate of mean warming since 1960 has risen to 0.2C a decade, putting the more ambitious IPCC target of limiting future warming to 1.5C close to being broken.

Homogenisation of temperature records is considered necessary to account for changes in instrumentation, changes in site locations and changes in the time at which temperatures were taken. But the bureau’s treatment of historical data has been controversial. In recent years there have been claims that the organisation was treating temperature records in such a way that left it exposed to accusations that ideological pursuits had trumped good scientific practice.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott unsuccessfully pushed for a forensic investigation into the bureau’s methods.

A number of reviews of the ­bureau’s network equipment and its temperature data handling have been carried out. A technical panel found the homogenisation methods used were largely sound.

But a key recommendation, to include confidence levels or error margins in the data, remains ­unfulfilled. A BoM spokesman said work was under way on a number of scientific papers looking at uncertainty and confidence intervals for temperature data ­observations, adjustments and national averages. “This work will be made available to the public following ­thorough peer review,” the spokesman said.

The bureau had fiercely defended the accuracy of its original ACORN-SAT data. But more ­recent analysis, including the ­removal of rounding errors, has effectively increased the rate of warming by 23 per cent, compared with the earlier homogenised ACORN version-one data.

Detailed technical information on the ACORN-SAT ­update was published late last year, but there has been no public ­announcement of the revised data, which is now considered the official national average temperature record. A bureau review of the ­homogenised data said the new version had “increased ­robustness and greater spatial ­coherence”.

The updating of the ACORN-SAT data coincided with the ­release last October of a new version of US weather agency NOAA’s global land temperature data set.

A bureau spokesman said ACORN-SAT version two was the bureau’s “improved official homogeneous temperature data set”. The new data set benefited from “the numerous scientific and technological advances which have occurred over the past six years, as well as the ­insights and recommendations from an independent ACORN-SAT technical advisory forum”.

“It also contains new data which was not previously available when the bureau developed the first data set,” he said.

The bureau said the updates had been independently peer-­reviewed, and the findings were that the methodology was “rigorous and reliable”.

Scientist Jennifer Marohasy said that while version two of the data had used the same set of 112 stations as had been used in version one, the data had been remodelled relative to the raw data and also relative to the remodelled version one.

The bureau said the data in version two was subjected to two rounds of homogenisation, as had been the case with version one. “In total, 22 of the 966 ­adjustments applied in version two of the ACORN-SAT data set arose from this second-round procedure,” the bureau said.

A technical analysis of ACORN-SAT 2 by the bureau said 1910-2016 trends in Australian temperature were about 0.02C a decade higher than those found in version one. It said rounding errors in version one accounted for much of the new trend.

Dr Marohasy said the bureau had not explained how it could have generated a 23 per cent increase in the rate of warming, just through updating the official ACORN-SAT ­record.

The maximum-temperature trend from 1910 to 2016 at the 112 ACORN-SAT weather stations is now an increase of 0.116C a decade. It was 0.09C a decade in the earlier homogenised data.

The minimum-temperature trend is now an increase of 0.13C a decade, compared with 0.109C in ACORN-SAT 1.

The bureau said improved ­accounting for the widespread relocation of sites out of towns during the 1990s and 2000s, and the incorporation of recent data from new sites, were also substantial contributors.

Dr Marohasy said movement of sites was meant to be part of the adjustments made in the first version of the data.

“The incorporation of data from new sites may account for some of the 23 per cent increase,” Dr Marohasy said, “because the bureau have opened new sites in hotter western NSW, while closing higher-altitude weather stations, including Charlotte Pass in the Snowy Mountains.”

She said there had been no proper analysis of the effect of changing from manual to automatic weather stations.

The bureau said no evidence was found of a significant systematic impact arising from the change from manual to automatic weather stations. It said that ACORN-SAT 2 had increased robustness and greater spatial coherence, especially for minimum temperatures.

The new data records are likely to be seized upon by green groups in the lead up to the federal election.



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