Friday, August 27, 2021

Families forced to eat locusts as Madagascar famine deepens

I am 78 and as far back as I can remember there have been pictures of starving African children in the media. In Africa, like everywhere else, there are climate cycles, with drought and rain alternating. But Africans generally do nothing about it. Creating water storages in wet times to store water for use in dry times seems to be mostly beyond them.

Australia too has long periods of savage drought but no Australians have to eat locusts. Australians live a typical Western lifstyle thanks to the proliferation of dams they have built to store water.

So blaming African starvation on climate is absurd. The only ones who are to blame are Africans themelves

Children in Madagascar are forced to eat locusts and cactus leaves as the climate-led famine worsens.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that 30,000 people in the island nation are enduring the highest internationally recognised level of food insecurity – level five – and the number will only grow over the coming months.

Southern Madagascar is experiencing its worst drought in four decades, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes in search of food, while those remaining have resorted to extreme coping measures for survival

Tamiry lives with her three children Torovelo, 12, Mbahomamy, six, and Manenjina, four, in Fandiova, one of the hardest-hit villages. To cope with extreme hunger, people are eating survival foods like locusts, cactus leaves, and a plant called ‘faux mimosa’ which is usually used to feed cattle.

She said: “In the morning, I prepare this plate of insects. I clean them up as best as I can given the near-total absence of water.

“Today we have absolutely nothing to eat except cactus leaves," added Bole, a mother of three.

She said her husband had recently died of hunger, as had a neighbour, leaving her with two more children to feed.

"What can I say? Our life is all about looking for cactus leaves, again and again, to survive."

WFP says it urgently needs US$78.6 million to provide life-saving food in southern Madagascar during the next lean season from September 2021 to March 2022.


Wildfire smoke may be contributing to premature births

This resesarch showed that there were slightly more preterm births in AREAS that got a lot of smoke exposure. There were no data on PEOPLE who got a lot of smoke exposure. So if poor people were more likely to live in polluted areas the results could simply reflect the characteristics of poor people, not the effects of smoke

As wildfires ravage the West, burning through millions of acres, they are producing blankets of smoke that are spreading far beyond the boundaries of the fires themselves. Now, new research indicates that the air pollution is endangering some of the most vulnerable: the unborn.

The findings, published this month in Environmental Research, suggested that from 2007 to 2012 in California, about 7,000 preterm births, or nearly 4 percent of all such births during those years, were associated with exposure to wildfire smoke.

It is the latest sign of the potential health risks of smoke from wildfires, which can include not only the soot and ash from burning trees and undergrowth but also the chemicals that are released when homes, cars and countless other things go up in flames when wildfires race through towns and neighborhoods.

Wildfire smoke can blunt the body’s immune response, causing anything from mild but annoying sore throats or coughing to serious cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Research published this month found that exposure to wildfire smoke last summer could be associated with thousands of additional Covid-19 infections and hundreds of deaths in the pandemic.

And by nearly every metric, wildfires in the United States are worsening. They are growing larger, spreading faster and reaching higher elevations. Their plumes are also reaching farther. Last month wildfire smoke from Canada and the West stretched across the United States, prompting health alerts in cities as far east as Toronto and Philadelphia.

The new research into premature infants, which focused only on California, found that a week of exposure was associated with a 3 percent increase in the risk of a preterm birth. In 2008 — the worst smoke year in the study period — the researchers found that wildfire smoke exposure was associated with more than 6 percent of all preterm births in California.

“We knew air pollution increased the risk of preterm birth, but this new work highlights the importance of pollutants associated with wildfire smoke, which might be different from other sources of air pollution, and are becoming more of an issue with climate change,” said Lara Cushing, an environmental health scientist at the U.C.L.A. Fielding School of Public Health who was not involved with the research.

Wildfire smoke contains high levels of the smallest, most dangerous type of soot. Exposure to these particles, known as PM 2.5, is believed to cause inflammation within the body, putting strain on the immune system and decreasing blood flow to organs, including the placenta, which can trigger contractions and delivery.

Preterm births, or births that occur between 20 and 36 weeks of pregnancy, are associated with a range of developmental delays and respiratory, vision and hearing problems and can contribute to chronic diseases into adulthood. They account for 10 percent of all births in the United States and are one of the leading causes of infant mortality.


Radical Environmental Groups Petition Government Agencies to Undermine Legal Hunting

Radical environmentalist groups that actively back Democrats have hunting in their crosshairs. And unsurprisingly, they’re exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to target this pastime.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Natural Resources Defense Council, two organizations who’ve made suing the government a cottage industry, are directly petitioning the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to undermine wildlife management practices, including hunting, here in the U.S.

If accepted by the government, they’ll undermine the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation that’s allowed our nation to successfully recover imperiled species and restore critical habitat.

CBD and NRDC are urging Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and USFWS Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams to “use their authority under the Lacey Act, Endangered Species Act, and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to move the petition forward.”

What does this mean? The groups desire to circumvent the legislative process via regulatory fiat to achieve their goals of undermining hunting.

“Pandemics caused by zoonoses – infectious diseases that jump from animals to people – are entirely preventable,” the USFWS petition reads. “These actions are necessary to help prevent the introduction and spread of zoonotic diseases into the United States, curtail the ongoing loss of biological diversity, and protect against calamitous consequences for both people and wildlife.”

The CDC one states, “The CDC has a significant opportunity to decrease the likelihood of zoonotic disease introduction and transmission in the United States and prevent future public health emergencies, but the agency must act boldly to address the wildlife trade, one of the root causes of zoonotic disease introduction and transmission. In addition, reducing trade in wildlife will reduce the exploitation of wildlife, which is the secondary driver of biodiversity loss, which also poses a significant threat to human health.”

Where does the threat to hunting appear? The petitioners believe “killing wildlife” poses a “grave disease risk”:

While dead animals and animal parts present a lesser risk of direct disease transmission, the process of capturing and killing wildlife to create wildlife parts and products maintains the overall risk associated with live animal trade.

What will stop this? Why, more government funding! They argue, “By prioritizing U.S. conservation funding and capacity building to transition jobs away from exploitation of mammals and birds the United States will be investing in an international effort that reduces disease risk.”

And from where? A bite out of U.S. conservation dollars, including the $1.1B generated last year, deriving from hunting and fishing expenditures? Bingo.

True Conservation Groups Respond

Conservation groups, including hunting organizations, have sounded the alarm.

Ducks Unlimited warned their followers and members about this effort, writing:

Anti-hunting groups want to infringe on your time-honored hunting traditions. If they have their way, you won’t be able to take game meat of any kind across state lines. What’s more, they want to send conservation funds - largely paid for by hunters - overseas. Don’t let them use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to upend your out-of-state hunting traditions.

Bruce Tague, vice president of governmental affairs at Sportsmen’s Alliance, said the contents appear harmless until readers comb through the details.

“Once those rules get modified—in this case, adding all mammals and almost all birds except for, like parakeets or a couple birds that are exempt—and then when you combine it with the current rules of the Lacey Act, it would ban interstate commerce, Tague said.

“You go deer or duck hunting or whatever out-of-state, and you cannot bring the hides, horns, feathers, carcasses, or meat back across those state lines, right?,” Brian Lynn, vice president of communications and marketing at Sportsmen’s Alliance, added. “It'd be a huge, huge blow to conservation, to hunting, and to wildlife management conservation.”

Lawrence Keene of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) also explained, “The petition doesn’t discriminate between a ban on species harvested internationally. It also targets hunters who take animals in other states and transport them home, even if they’ve been professionally prepared by a butcher or taxidermist to safeguard against the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.”


Hunting is the original socially-distanced activity.

There are multiple campaigns dedicated to “responsible recreation” encouraging it. In fact, the sport helped Americans cope with lockdowns and saw a much-needed resurgence in 2020.

This egregious move to undermine hunting through rules changes should infuriate everyone — hunters and non-hunters alike.

Secretary Haaland and Director Williams must do the right thing and reject these petitions. The future of conservation will be undermined if they proceed.


So much for a "green transition": Carbon emissions from power sector soar

Global carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector have surged past pre-pandemic levels to reach new highs, a new report examining trends during the first half of 2021 finds.

Why it matters: The report from Ember, a London-based environmental think tank, shows that the energy transition that needs to happen to limit the severity and pace of global warming is not taking place fast enough.

Instead of renewables, the economic recovery is being powered largely by carbon-intensive coal in many countries, particularly in Asia, while clean energy is gaining ground elsewhere but not at the rates required to meet the Paris Agreement's temperature targets.

The big picture: Global power sector emissions bounced back strongly from lows seen during the first half of 2020 to reach about 5% higher than the first half of 2019, the report finds.

The data indicates that while 57% of the growth in electricity demand compared to 2019 has come from wind and solar power, a large fraction — 43% — has been met by firing up coal power plants, especially in China.

Growth in clean energy use in many countries failed to keep pace with the increased emissions coming from coal power plants in countries such as China, Bangladesh, India, Mongolia and Vietnam, the report states.

According to the report, not a single country out of the 63 nations analysts examined has achieved a so-called "green recovery" for their power sector, which would entail both higher electricity demand and lower emissions.

Context: When compared to the International Energy Agency's roadmap for bringing global emissions to net zero by 2050, global electricity demand would need to rise by 50% by 2030, while simultaneously cutting power sector emissions by 57%.

Most of the emissions cuts prior to 2030 in the IEA's modeling would come from ending coal power, the Ember report notes, bluntly stating: "Coal power is rising when it needs to be rapidly falling."

The U.S., Japan and Australia do not meet Ember's definition of a green recovery, with a simultaneous increase in energy demand and decrease in emissions, though temporary factors, such as heavy rains boosting hydropower production, helped put Norway and Russia on their way there for now.

Mongolia had the fastest growth in electricity demand of the 64 countries in Ember's analysis, and 77% of its 17% increase in demand being met with increased coal use.

China had a similar increase in electricity demand compared to 2019, with a 14% increase. This meant that even a large addition of clean energy couldn't keep pace, with more than two-thirds of the increase in demand met with coal power.

Threat level: By the end of the year, power sector carbon dioxide emissions could be even higher, given that such emissions were 7% higher in June 2021 compared to the same month in 2019, Ember found.

The report left out some countries that might add even more to power sector emissions, such as Indonesia and the Philippines.
Yes, but: There is some hope for those looking for signs of an increasingly robust renewables sector, and that is that for the first time, wind and solar produced more than a tenth of global electricity, overtaking nuclear power.

The bottom line: While wind and solar are on the way up, the increase simply isn't fast enough to get to net zero emissions by 2050, and have a better chance of meeting the Paris targets.




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