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Coal ash and hog manure could flood vulnerable communities in Hurricane Florence’s path

North Carolina is home to 31 coal ash pits where Duke Energy stores an estimated 111 million tons of toxic waste produced by coal-fired power plants. The state is also home to thousands of manure pits, known euphemistically as “lagoons,” which hold approximately 10 billion pounds of wet waste generated each year by swine, poultry, and cattle operations.

A handful of news outlets are reporting about the danger of coal ash and hog manure spilling into North Carolina’s waterways in the wake of Hurricane Florence. Bloomberg covered the serious environmental and public health risks and the Associated Press warned of a potential “noxious witches’ brew of waste.”

There’s precedent for these concerns. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd, which struck North Carolina as a Category 2 storm, washed 120 million gallons of hog waste into rivers, Rolling Stone later reported. As AP noted this week, that was just one part of the mess caused by Floyd:

The bloated carcasses of hundreds of thousands of hogs, chickens and other drowned livestock bobbed in a nose-stinging soup of fecal matter, pesticides, fertilizer and gasoline so toxic that fish flopped helplessly on the surface to escape it. Rescue workers smeared Vick’s Vapo-Rub under their noses to try to numb their senses against the stench.

The media has been amping up its coverage of potential Hurricane Florence damage. But so far they’re missing an important part of the story — that African-Americans and other communities of color could be hit particularly hard by the resulting pollution. They’re also failing to note how the Trump administration has been loosening regulations and oversight in ways that could make coal ash and hog-waste spills more likely.

There’s an environmental justice component to this story

After Floyd, North Carolina taxpayers bought out and closed down 43 hog factory farms located in floodplains in order to prevent a repeat disaster. But when Hurricane Matthew hit the Carolinas as a Category 1 storm in 2016, at least 14 manure lagoons still flooded.

Even if they’re not widespread, hog-waste spills can still be devastating to those who live nearby — and many of the unfortunate neighbors are low-income people of color.

Two epidemiology researchers at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill published a paper in 2014 with a very straightforward title: “Industrial Hog Operations in North Carolina Disproportionately Impact African-Americans, Hispanics and American Indians.” They wrote, “Overflow of waste pits during heavy rain events results in massive spills of animal waste into neighboring communities and waterways.”

A Hurricane Floyd-flooded hog waste lagoon.JOHN ALTHOUSE / AFP / Getty Images

Tom Philpott explained more about that research in Mother Jones in 2017:

As the late University of North Carolina researcher Steve Wing has demonstrated, [North Carolina’s industrial hog] operations are tightly clustered in a few counties on the coastal plain—the very part of the state that housed the most enslaved people prior to the Civil War. In the decades since, the region has retained the state’s densest population of rural African-American residents.

Even when hurricanes aren’t on the horizon, activists are pushing to clean up industrial hog operations. “From acrid odors to polluted waterways, factory farms in North Carolina are directly harming some of our state’s most vulnerable populations, particularly low-income communities and communities of color,” Naeema Muhammad of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network said last year.

Poor and rural communities of color are heavily affected by coal ash dumps as well. The New York Times reported last month on an environmental-justice campaign against coal ash pollution in North Carolina. Lisa Evans, a lawyer with the environmental group Earthjustice, told the Times, “Coal ash ponds are in rural areas, particularly in the Southeast. Those communities have less power and less of a voice.”

The Trump administration recently loosened coal ash rules

The first major rule finalized by Andrew Wheeler, acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency, loosened Obama-era requirements for coal ash disposal. The change, which will save industry millions of dollars a year, could lead to more dangerous pollution. The Washington Post reported about this in July:

Avner Vengosh, a Duke University expert on the environmental impacts of coal ash, said that scaling back monitoring requirements, in particular, could leave communities vulnerable to potential pollution.

“We have very clear evidence that coal ash ponds are leaking into groundwater sources,” Vengosh said. “The question is, has it reached areas where people use it for drinking water? We just don’t know. That’s the problem.”

The Trump administration is also going easy on factory farms like the industrial hog operations in North Carolina. Civil Eats reported in February that there’s “been a decline in the number of inspections and enforcement actions by the [EPA] against concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) since the final years of the Obama administration.” Last year, more than 30 advocacy groups filed a legal petition calling on Trump’s EPA to tighten rules to protect communities from factory farms.

North Carolina Republicans aren’t helping things either — they’ve gone easy on coal plants and hog operations. And in 2012, the GOP-controlled state legislature actually passed a law banning state officials from considering the latest sea-level rise science when doing coastal planning. ABC reported on the development at the time:

The law was drafted in response to an estimate by the state’s Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) that the sea level will rise by 39 inches in the next century, prompting fears of costlier home insurance and accusations of anti-development alarmism among residents and developers in the state’s coastal Outer Banks region. …

The bill’s passage in June triggered nationwide scorn by those who argued that the state was deliberately blinding itself to the effects of climate change. In a segment on the “Colbert Report,” comedian Stephen Colbert mocked North Carolina lawmakers’ efforts as an attempt to outlaw science.

“If your science gives you a result you don’t like, pass a law saying the result is illegal. Problem solved,” he joked.

As Hurricane Florence bears down on North Carolina, journalists should make sure that their stories include the people who will be hurt the most by waste spills and other impacts, as well as the businesses and lawmakers who have been making such environmental disasters much more likely to occur.

Lisa Hymas is director of the climate and energy program at Media Matters for America. She was previously a senior editor at Grist.

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Coal ash and hog manure could flood vulnerable communities in Hurricane Florence’s path

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John McCain was a climate hero, too

Dozens of epitaphs written over the weekend proclaim the late U.S. Senator John McCain as an American hero. But history may miss one of his greatest achievements: His decades-long call for climate action.

The death of McCain, Arizona’s senior senator, former prisoner of war, avid outdoorsman, and two-time Republican presidential candidate, marks the end of an era of free-thinking moderate conservatives who embraced conservation as a core value.

On the campaign trail in 2000, McCain received question after question from young people on climate change. After looking into it, he realized something major had to be done. In a 2007 interview with Grist, McCain explains his reasoning succinctly: “Suppose we’re wrong, and there’s no such thing as greenhouse gas emissions, and we adopt green technologies. All we’ve done is give our kids a better planet.”

Before Barack Obama’s environmental policies, before the Paris Agreement, there was McCain-Lieberman — the 2001 cap-and-trade proposal that McCain championed during a time when the country would soon be consumed with fighting a global war on terrorism. McCain-Lieberman never passed the Senate, but it remains the most important bipartisan U.S. climate legislation ever proposed, inspiring cap-and-trade schemes that have been implemented around the world.

On the 2008 campaign trail, this time as the GOP’s presidential nominee, he delivered what might be one of the most accurate, urgent, and passionate speeches ever given by a major American political figure on climate change. The entire address is worth reading in full, if only to lament how far his rhetoric seems from the realm of possibility today after a decade of Republican backsliding on this most-important of issues.

For example, the most stalwart of climate champions could have written this particular passage:

We have many advantages in the fight against global warming, but time is not one of them. Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming, or the precise timeline of global warming, we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters, and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring. We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great. The most relevant question now is whether our own government is equal to the challenge.

Of course, McCain also had his own share of backsliding on climate. His insistence on market-based climate solutions made him a frequent opponent of Obama’s regulatory approach. His nomination of Sarah Palin — the Alaska governor who popularized the “drill, baby, drill” chant — as his running mate in 2008 played a major role in unleashing a wave anti-science populism that led to our country’s present leadership. In his final days, McCain said picking Palin was one of his biggest regrets.

But McCain wasn’t afraid to bravely stand up to his own party and advocate for the environment, especially during the Trump era. McCain was one of the few Republicans strongly speaking out against the planned withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement — traveling to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to make his plea that the U.S. keep its commitment. And last year, McCain was still cheering on climate activists and chose to buck his party’s anti-science stances and uphold an Obama-era methane rule.

In this moment of deep division and existential challenges facing our country and our world, we’d do well to emulate McCain’s spirit of courage and ability to stand up for urgent climate action even when other problems seem all-encompassing. In his final months, when asked what he’d like to be remembered for, he wanted people to say that “he served his country.”

John McCain served his planet, too.

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John McCain was a climate hero, too

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Why Alaska might seriously consider a carbon tax

Alaska isn’t exactly the first state you’d expect to embrace a price on carbon. Yet the state legislature will likely be weighing one after the November elections. When carbon taxes keep getting scrapped by blue states like Washington and Oregon, why would such a plan succeed in Alaska: a red state where oil companies are a major economic lifeline?

Necessity is one explanation. Alaskans have been at the forefront of climate change for decades now, facing melting permafrost, coastal erosion, and rising seas. And dealing with these problems — building new infrastructure and relocating communities, for instance — is expensive. By 2030, climate change could add another $3 to $6 billion in costs to public infrastructure alone. A carbon tax could help pay for the state’s ballooning climate costs.

Last year, Governor Bill Walker, an Independent, established a group to figure out how to address the state’s climate issues. The Climate Change Strategy and Climate Action for Alaska Leadership Team — a group of 20 scientists, policy wonks, indigenous representatives, and oil executives — recently released a draft proposal. Lo and behold, it includes a carbon tax.

The plan is expected to reach Walker’s desk in mid-September, marking the first time the state has seriously considered a price on carbon. The details of the proposal are vague at this point, and it’ll be some time before discussion about the tax really ramps up. The governor isn’t expected to throw his support behind a controversial tax during election season.

The leadership group wants a price on pollution for practical reasons: Alaska doesn’t have a lot of revenue. With just 700,000 people, it’s one of the least populous states in America. And its residents don’t pay income or sales taxes.

If Alaska manages to implement a carbon tax — and that won’t be easy — it could tackle two huge problems at once, says Chris Rose, a member of the leadership team and the founder of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project.

“Maybe a carbon tax can be the tax that we employ to deal with our revenue shortfall and climate change at the same time,” he says.

A solid majority of Alaskans, 63 percent, said they support taxing fossil fuel companies while equally reducing other taxes, according to data released this week from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. That’s not precisely the kind of proposal Rose’s team is cooking up, but it indicates that Alaskans have something of an appetite for a carbon tax.

Rose is also buoyed by the fact that the state’s residents are used to the idea of paying for pollution. Alaskans have to take either their own garbage to the landfill or pay out of pocket for a company pick it up.

“Likewise,” he says, “I don’t think people would have as much objection to paying a fee for emitting carbon dioxide if they really understood that CO2 is the primary cause of climate change.”

Next up for the Climate Change Strategy and Climate Action for Alaska Leadership team? Educating the public about the benefits of a carbon tax. That way, when the Alaska legislature starts considering one, its constituents know what’s at stake.

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Why Alaska might seriously consider a carbon tax

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Baltimore voters will decide on the future of their water

Water bills in Baltimore are out of control. Between 2010 and 2017, the typical household’s annual water and sewer bill jumped from $347 to $720. Residents have even turned to buying bottled water and purchasing gym memberships just to use the showers, because its more affordable than using their tap.

Like many cities on the East Coast, Baltimore’s aging water infrastructure is in need of major investments. To repair and update its systems, the city has raised water prices. Companies have been pushing privatization while many residents, particularly in neighborhoods that are working class communities of color, have had their water shut off.

But just this week, two water-related bills were approved to make it to the ballot this fall. One bill would make it illegal for the city to turn over its public water utility to a private company. The other would create a racial equity fund to ensure that city services treat all residents fairly.

Several companies have approached Baltimore asking to lease or manage the city’s water service. Privatization is often an appealing move to cash-strapped cities, but Baltimore has turned down efforts so far. A Food & Water Watch study of the 500 largest community water systems in the U.S. found that private utilities typically charge close to 60 percent more for water than their public counterparts.

If voters pass the bill this fall, Baltimore will become the first major U.S. city to ban the privatization of its water. “Hopefully other cities across the country will follow our lead,” says City Councilman Brandon Scott, who introduced another measure that he hopes will help improve water service in the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.

Scott’s bill would help fund an equity assessment program that would mandate city agencies and services to evaluate and address any disparities based on race, gender, or income.

Under the program, the city would take a look at how water cutoffs and high water bills impact different communities. If they see that those water bill issues are impacting poor people, people of color, or women more frequently, then they’ll have to make changes, Scott says.

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Baltimore voters will decide on the future of their water

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A new GOP carbon tax proposal is a long shot, but it’s a shot worth taking

There’s a very small chance that President Trump, later this year, could sign into law the country’s first-ever federal climate change legislation — and it might actually be a good thing.

I know, I know. I hear you. Yes, this is the same Trump who bailed on the Paris climate agreement last year. But there’s now a possibility that he could have the opportunity to meet its goals anyway.

According to E&E News, Florida congressman Carlos Curbelo — a Republican — will introduce legislation next week that calls for a gradually escalating carbon tax specifically designed to accelerate the decarbonization of the U.S. economy.

Starting in 2020, the proposal would require fossil fuel companies and manufacturers to pay a fee of $23 per ton for their carbon emissions, rising slightly faster than inflation. It’s a relatively low tax to start, but it could ramp up significantly over time. The fee would rise an additional $2 each year emissions targets aren’t met — a clever twist. Preliminary modeling shows that the policy would be sufficient to meet former President Obama’s climate target under the Paris Agreement — a 26 to 28 percent reduction in U.S. emissions by 2025, compared with 2005 levels.

There’s a catch, though. In exchange for the fee, the proposal would completely eliminate the gasoline tax and press pause on the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions (that’s in jeopardy anyway under the changing Supreme Court). It would also devote most of its revenue to building new transportation infrastructure nationwide. That it raises money at all is controversial — most Republicans in favor of a carbon tax want a completely revenue-neutral proposal.

In the midst of a tough reelection race in his Florida district, Curbelo (a member of the Grist 50) is bucking his own party by even proposing the legislation. It’s a long shot, but with the right mix of ideas, it just might work. Even if this specific bill doesn’t find its way to Trump’s desk, another one could, like the plan put forth by two Republican former Secretaries of State last year.

Almost 10 years after the last major attempt at climate legislation, the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, failed in Congress, there’s reason to believe that this time, Republicans will lead the way.

The vast amount of America’s renewable energy is now produced in Republican-voting districts, and recent polling shows that Republicans nationwide are more willing than ever to support a carbon tax — especially one that will boost the growth of innovative technologies and reduce the burden of uncertainty on businesses that deploy them.

And the renewable industry seems to think Republicans are its best shot. In the 2016 election cycle, the industry’s political donations went disproportionately to Republicans for the first time. So far in 2018, that financial gulf has widened, and now favors Republicans roughly 2-to-1. More and more, renewable energy is a bread-and-butter right-wing issue.

Still, passing climate legislation is a tall order for an administration led by someone who has said climate change is a hoax. And, this week, congressional Republicans planned a symbolic resolution against carbon taxes that could be divisive — 42 Republican members have joined Curbelo in a bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, and this vote would be the first chance for them to show real support. But now that Republicans control all three branches of government, it’s up to them to craft the next steps for environmental policy, for better or worse.

There are, of course, some serious flaws with Curbelo’s idea. In contrast to recent Democratic-led carbon pricing proposals, Curbelo’s bill is decidedly less aggressive. Taken as a standalone policy, replacing the gasoline tax with a carbon tax will do little to address transportation emissions, now the leading source of carbon pollution in the United States. To put the transportation sector’s emissions on a diet, there’d need to be accompanying incentives for electric vehicles and public transit.

That said, the final text of the bill has not yet been released, and these details could change.

Before you dismiss this GOP plan, remember the unyielding truth of climate change: We can’t wait for the perfect moment or the perfect piece of legislation. We have to do as much as we can, as soon as possible.

According to a report released this week, even a modest carbon tax would substantially improve the prospects for solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower — and may help spawn a next-generation nuclear renaissance.

The most effective ways to address climate change are big and complex: reversing the demise of tropical forests, reducing food waste, encouraging family planning, shifting away from coal and natural gas. A carbon tax really only addresses that last one. But the other efforts can move forward alongside the push for a carbon tax, as part of a broad-based, radical rethink of civilization at a critical moment in our history.

Curbelo is turning the debate away from the science and toward solutions, and that should be celebrated. Now, let’s hope the other party leaders follow his lead.

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A new GOP carbon tax proposal is a long shot, but it’s a shot worth taking

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This year’s global hurricane boom could go into overdrive

The powerful weather pattern known as El Niño has been blamed for massive wildfires, crippling droughts, and global food shortages. And it’s looking increasingly likely that another one is on the way.

The latest outlook from the National Weather Service, out Thursday, says there’s a 70 percent chance that El Niño will arrive before the end of the year. Summertime outlooks for El Niño are generally pretty accurate, so it’s a big deal that the weather pattern is still in the forecast.

Another El Niño would carry far-reaching consequences for the world’s weather, one of which may have already arrived: Hurricanes and typhoons have been popping up more often than normal this year. (Both are place-specific names; the meteorological term for these storms is tropical cyclone.) El Niño warms the waters of the Pacific Ocean, providing additional fuel for tropical cyclones and increasing their activity by about 15 percent.

As of Thursday, according to Grist’s analysis of available weather data, cyclone activity in the Pacific Ocean is running about 42 percent above normal; in the Indian Ocean, it’s about 40 percent above normal. But in the Atlantic, it’s a whopping 370 percent above normal. Some of this is just random chance, but at least in the Pacific, the early signs of El Niño have already arrived.

All this has already led to several cyclone disasters in a season that’s just getting started.

In May, Cyclone Mekunu struck Oman, bringing two years’ worth of rainfall in a few hours and creating a huge swath of temporary lakes in one of the driest deserts on Earth. This week, more than 600,000 people were evacuated in China’s Fujian province before Typhoon Maria made landfall. Meanwhile storm-weary Puerto Rico received a scare from Hurricane Beryl, before it fizzled shortly after reaching the Caribbean.

Earlier this month, Typhoon Prapiroon kicked off a record-breaking torrential downpour in southern Japan. More than 70 inches of rain have fallen — about four-months worth in 11 days — a precipitation level on par with what Texas experienced during Hurricane Harvey last year. More than 200 people have died so far as a result, and the damage is so widespread that Japanese officials are comparing it to the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

To be clear, El Niño is a natural, cyclical phenomenon that the Pacific Ocean has undergone for millennia. And just because there’s an El Niño brewing doesn’t mean every rainstorm everywhere is connected to it. But there’s growing evidence that climate change is starting to make stronger El Niños happen more often. And that evidence, combined with the fact that climate change is increasing cyclone-related rainfall intensity anyway, is easily enough implicate human activity in the worst of  floods that occur against the backdrop of an El Niño year.

We need to look back only to 2015 — the last visit from El Niño — to find the busiest tropical cyclone season in recorded history. So far, this year is just a storm or two off that pace.

Over the past 15 years, the National Weather Service has called for an impending El Niño in their July outlooks six times. They’ve been wrong only once, in 2012. Sure, they could be wrong this year, but don’t bet on it. If the building El Niño arrives, global air temperatures will surge, lagging a few months behind the warmer oceans. That would give 2019 a good shot at knocking off 2016 as the warmest year on record. With a strong El Niño, global temperatures might even tiptoe across the 1.5 degree-Celsius mark — temporarily crossing a major milestone that climate campaigners are fighting to prevent.

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This year’s global hurricane boom could go into overdrive

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Chinese companies apparently broke an international ozone agreement. What happens next?

The Montreal Protocol is hailed as a major climate victory. The 1987 international agreement completely phased out ozone-damaging chemicals like CFC-11 — formerly used as a refrigerant — and likely saved the ozone layer from complete collapse.

Imagine the surprise, then, when National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers in May detected a 25 percent increase in atmospheric CFC-11 since 2012.

“From the moment these emissions were first detected, the parties to the Montreal Protocol have been in near constant communication with an intense focus on identifying the complete scope of any illegal production,” says head of U.N. Environment Erik Solheim in an email.

The nonprofit Environment Investigation Agency now thinks it caught the culprit: Chinese foam insulation manufacturers. An EIA investigation released Monday found evidence of 18 companies across 10 Chinese provinces using CFC-11. By the researchers’ estimates, this would likely account for most of the emissions spike NOAA detected.

Many Chinese companies use CFC-11 in manufacturing foam insulation, according to a New York Times piece published ahead of the investigation. A refrigerator factory owner admitted to the practice, saying it was a cheaper choice and that until recently, some manufacturers weren’t aware of the environmental impacts.

So then, what happens next to enforce the ozone-saving treaty?

First off, a meeting of the parties who signed on to the agreement is underway. Discussing how to act on the apparent treaty violation is high on the agenda, according to Keith Weller, head of U.N. Environment News and Media.

If necessary, trade restrictions could be enacted, explains Durwood Zaelke, founder of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development who’s been involved in the Montreal Protocol since its inception. But, he says the initial approach is usually kinder.

“The question becomes, what do you need if you’re the violator to bring yourself back into compliance?” Zaelke says. “We are here to offer you whatever that is.” That could mean offering  support on how to shift to a safer alternative to CFC-11, for instance.

Zaelke is pretty optimistic that this approach will be successful, since it’s what the treaty’s parties have used to address past violations.

But direct enforcement will have to come from within China — ideally from the highest levels of government, says University of California Los Angeles law professor Alex Wang. He says recent pollution crackdowns in the country suggest potential for action on CFC-11.

“China has been building its enforcement apparatus in air pollution,” he explains. “You could imagine it being shifted to this issue.”

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Chinese companies apparently broke an international ozone agreement. What happens next?

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The Drug Hunters – Donald R. Kirsch & Ogi Ogas


The Drug Hunters
The Improbable Quest to Discover New Medicines
Donald R. Kirsch & Ogi Ogas

Genre: History

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: December 13, 2016

Publisher: Arcade Publishing

Seller: Perseus Books, LLC

The surprising, behind-the-scenes story of how our medicines are discovered, told by a veteran drug hunter. The search to find medicines is as old as disease, which is to say as old as the human race. Through serendipity— by chewing, brewing, and snorting—some Neolithic souls discovered opium, alcohol, snakeroot, juniper, frankincense, and other helpful substances. Ötzi the Iceman, the five-thousand-year-old hunter frozen in the Italian Alps, was found to have whipworms in his intestines and Bronze-age medicine, a worm-killing birch fungus, knotted to his leggings. Nowadays, Big Pharma conglomerates spend billions of dollars on state-of the art laboratories staffed by PhDs to discover blockbuster drugs. Yet, despite our best efforts to engineer cures, luck, trial-and-error, risk, and ingenuity are still fundamental to medical discovery. The Drug Hunters is a colorful, fact-filled narrative history of the search for new medicines from our Neolithic forebears to the professionals of today, and from quinine and aspirin to Viagra, Prozac, and Lipitor. The chapters offer a lively tour of how new drugs are actually found, the discovery strategies, the mistakes, and the rare successes. Dr. Donald R. Kirsch infuses the book with his own expertise and experiences from thirty-five years of drug hunting, whether searching for life-saving molecules in mudflats by Chesapeake Bay or as a chief science officer and research group leader at major pharmaceutical companies.

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The Drug Hunters – Donald R. Kirsch & Ogi Ogas

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Here’s how many people Pruitt’s environmental policies could kill

If the Trump administration is good at anything, it’s proposing rollbacks to environmental protections. “Proposing” is the key word here — though EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has tried to weaken or get rid of more than 40 rules, he hasn’t been very successful. Many of his attempted rollbacks have faced challenges in court.

If all these deregulations actually came to pass, we’d see astounding effects on public health: an additional 80,000 deaths and well over a million cases of respiratory illness over the next decade. And that’s an “extremely conservative” estimate, according to Harvard professors who tabulated the numbers in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week.

We’ve seen estimates of the health impact of environment rollbacks before, but here, the numbers have been collected in one place. The researchers lifted most of the estimates from reports published back when these life-saving regulations were originally proposed or implemented.

Air pollution could introduce some of the most threatening health problems. Back in October, Pruitt pledged to repeal the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era rule that aimed to cut the power industry’s emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Without that plan, the researchers foresee a rise in exposure to particulate matter, resulting in 36,000 deaths and 630,000 childhood respiratory illness cases over the next 10 years.

Another major contributor to breathing issues: Pruitt’s plan to revive a loophole that would allow diesel trucks to use engines that create 450 times more soot than their newer counterparts. If implemented, that could lead to an estimated 900,000 cases of respiratory illness over the next decade, as well as 41,000 premature deaths.

Other rollbacks that pose major health threats include watering down rules for coal-fired power plant waste and adding a two-year delay to the implementation of the Obama-era Clean Water Rule.

So, about that hope we mentioned. The courts have the chance to keep many of these rules — and these lives — intact. While Pruitt is seen as a master deregulator, he’s been faulted for crafting sloppy rules, some of which have gotten struck down. For example, when Pruitt tried to keep methane regulations from going into effect, a federal appeals court struck it down, calling the move “unreasonable” and “arbitrary.”

And more of his attempts are headed to court. Just this week, for instance, a coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the suspension of water regulations.

The Harvard authors note that this kind of policymaking takes a lot of time to come to fruition. “Fortunately for those interested in public health,” they write, “the regulatory process will take many years. Whoever is sworn in as President in January 2021 will have a large effect on whether the Trump administration’s full environmental agenda goes into effect.”

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Here’s how many people Pruitt’s environmental policies could kill

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Lost in Math – Sabine Hossenfelder


Lost in Math
How Beauty Leads Physics Astray
Sabine Hossenfelder

Genre: History

Price: $17.99

Publish Date: June 12, 2018

Publisher: Basic Books

Seller: Hachette Digital, Inc.

A contrarian argues that modern physicists’ obsession with beauty has given us wonderful math but bad science Whether pondering black holes or predicting discoveries at CERN, physicists believe the best theories are beautiful, natural, and elegant, and this standard separates popular theories from disposable ones. This is why, Sabine Hossenfelder argues, we have not seen a major breakthrough in the foundations of physics for more than four decades. The belief in beauty has become so dogmatic that it now conflicts with scientific objectivity: observation has been unable to confirm mindboggling theories, like supersymmetry or grand unification, invented by physicists based on aesthetic criteria. Worse, these “too good to not be true” theories are actually untestable and they have left the field in a cul-de-sac. To escape, physicists must rethink their methods. Only by embracing reality as it is can science discover the truth.


Lost in Math – Sabine Hossenfelder

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