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Why climate skeptics are less likely to wear coronavirus masks

There are many ways in which the coronavirus pandemic intersects with climate change — so many that Grist launched a whole newsletter about them. This week, the pollsters at Morning Consult unveiled another link between the two issues: Concern about climate change correlates with the way people are responding to the virus.

The poll, conducted online between April 14 and 16 on a national sample of 2,200 adults, found that people who said that they are not concerned about rising temperatures are less likely than the general public to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (The poll was weighted for age, educational attainment, gender, race, and region and has a margin of error of 2 percentage points.)

Forty-four percent of all the adults surveyed said they “always” wear a mask to grocery stores, public parks, and other public places. Fifty-four percent of folks who said they’re concerned about climate change said they always wear masks, but just 30 percent of people who are unconcerned about climate change said they always wear masks in public places. That’s a 24-point difference.

The survey defined climate-concerned adults as people who said they’re worried about climate change and agree that it’s driven by human activity. Climate-unconcerned respondents were those who said they were “not too concerned” or “not concerned at all” about climate change. (Must be nice!)

The disparity between climate hawks and climate skeptics was also evident in responses to other survey questions about disinfecting and social distancing, albeit on a smaller scale. The researchers said that the relatively small gap between climate concerned and unconcerned adults on the question of social distancing — a modest 8 percent — could be due to the fact that local, state, and federal officials started getting out the message about distancing earlier and were clearer about it than they were about disinfecting surfaces and wearing masks. (The CDC only advised Americans to start wearing masks in public in early April.)

Morning Consult cites experts who say there could be two reasons why people who aren’t concerned about climate are less likely to take steps to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. A general skepticism of science and scientists is one of them. Previous polling has shown a partisan disparity in the way people regard scientists, primarily environmental scientists. In a 2019 poll, 43 percent of Democrats had “a great deal” of confidence in scientists, compared to 27 percent of Republicans. Much of conservatives’ mistrust of science is the result of a long, deliberate disinformation campaign from fossil fuel companies. Now, many of the same conservative pundits and leaders (including the president) who have sown doubt about climate change are also spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.

Concerns about personal autonomy can also help explain the divide in the poll, Emma Frances Bloomfield, an assistant professor in communication studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told Morning Consult. “Everything that science asks us to do is really sacrificing personal convenience for community convenience and well-being,” Bloomfield said. “And for a lot of people, the coronavirus is invisible, just like climate change is invisible.”

The pandemic has asked a lot of Americans. The climate crisis will surely ask more of us. The question, as we get deeper into the pandemic and more Americans are affected or know someone who has been touched by COVID-19, is whether authority-averse and science-skeptical adults will start drawing connections between their personal choices and scientist’s warnings, or if the pandemic will force everyone deeper into their ideological foxholes.


Why climate skeptics are less likely to wear coronavirus masks

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Amazon climate strikers demand stronger coronavirus protections for warehouse workers

The country is grinding to a halt, but Amazon warehouses are still churning out packages at a breakneck pace. Amazon employees at 19 different facilities have been hit by the virus. Workers in fulfillment centers and warehouses have been asked to follow new safety protocols, but masks and other protective equipment are in short supply, and the cramped nature of many of those facilities don’t allow for effective social distancing.

Despite all this, the tech giant owned by the richest man on Earth is only offering paid sick leave to employees who have been put into quarantine or have tested positive for coronavirus. Amazon is in the process of hiring 100,000 new employees to keep up with a surge in demand from Americans ordering stuff from the confines of their homes. To raise awareness about unfair working conditions for the company’s frontline workers, Amazon warehouse employees are organizing strikes and protests. “How can we be essential workers when our lives are not essential?” an Amazon employee at a facility in Chicago said in a video on Monday.

This isn’t the first time Amazon has responded to a global crisis with measures its employees deem inadequate. A group of tech employees within the company came together last year to put pressure on Amazon leadership to adopt a more aggressive plan to reduce the company’s carbon footprint and end web service contracts with oil and gas companies. When Jeff Bezos unveiled a plan to reach the goals of the Paris climate agreement 10 years early, employees with the group, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, publicly criticized the CEO for not being aggressive enough, risking their jobs in the process.

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Now, some of those same employees are speaking out in support of the workers on strike. In a letter on Medium, the Amazon climate group drew parallels between the two global disasters. “This pandemic — like the climate crisis — stresses our society, its systems, and institutions. Both crises threaten everybody, but not equally,” the letter said.

“Climate Justice demands that we no longer view Earth and our fellow human beings as expendable resources to be exploited for the gain of a few,” said Maren Costa, a principal user experience designer at Amazon, in a separate statement.

The show of solidarity is a prime example of how the climate movement can uplift wider efforts to achieve justice for blue-collar Americans. Green groups have overlooked working-class people, especially minorities, in the past. That’s due in no small part to the fact that the environmentalism movement has historically had some racist strains. But lately, traditional green groups and justice organizations have been coming together more often to advocate for a more inclusive climate agenda. The momentum for a Green New Deal, an idea popularized by New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is evidence of that progress (though even that initiative caused some friction between climate and labor advocates).

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 5,000 Amazon corporate and tech workers had signed an open letter to Bezos calling for better protections for workers. They’re demanding paid sick leave regardless of COVID-19 diagnosis, childcare pay and subsidies for affected workers, hazard pay, and other measures. “While Amazon has made some limited coronavirus accommodations, it needs a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety of all of its workers and the larger public,” the letter said. Solidarity; you love to see it.

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Amazon climate strikers demand stronger coronavirus protections for warehouse workers

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Coronavirus has city dwellers heading for the hills. Here’s why they should stay put.

In the beginning of March, as the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in New York City, Anne Hilton Purvis, a realtor with Coldwell Banker Village Green — a real estate company that serves Upstate New York — started getting calls from clients. They were looking for “a lot of short-term rentals — three months, six months, some people wanted to buy something cash,” she said. At first, Purvis, who is a family friend of this reporter, advised prospective buyers to reach out to Airbnb hosts who might be offering up longer stints instead of daily or weekly listings.

But as the state’s outbreak worsened, and the governor imposed restrictions culminating in a shutdown of the state’s nonessential businesses, she realized it was time to stop showing houses to urbanites trying to flee the big city. “In the short term, if we can follow the rules and stay where we are, that might make this thing not so prevalent,” she said.

Cities across the United States, and New York City especially, are dealing with explosive virus transmission rates and dwindling hospital resources. It makes sense that city dwellers are itching to flee urban areas: Density, as the New York Times recently reported, is the Big Apple’s Achilles’ heel in its fight to contain COVID-19. But there are a number of reasons why they should suppress that urge.

The suburbs and rural areas aren’t necessarily safer from coronavirus than cities are. While cities do have higher populations and higher levels of social contact, living in the suburbs or countryside still requires some contact with other people —which provides opportunities for the virus to spread. Epidemiological sparks in cities can migrate to the suburbs and beyond as people move around. So it’s not really a question of if coronavirus will start circulating in earnest in Upstate New York and other rural and suburban areas, but when. Once it does, rural Americans are at a disadvantage — they’re further from hospitals and have fewer medical resources available to them. Not to mention more than one in five older Americans, who are especially susceptible to coronavirus, live in rural areas. If you leave a city for the countryside, you’re putting them at risk.

A pandemic-fueled mass exodus out of cities doesn’t just potentially put a massive strain on suburban and rural resources, it also adds fuel to another looming crisis: climate change. Density is actually good for us when there isn’t a pandemic afoot (aka the vast majority of the time). It allows for robust mass transit networks, efficient housing, bike lanes, and foot traffic. All of that, in turn, is good for mitigating climate change.

It may sound counterintuitive, since cities have historically suffered from dangerous pollution problems, but city dwellers actually have smaller carbon footprints than folks living in rural places. One report found that average emissions in NYC were less than a third of the U.S. average, mostly because New York’s famously cramped apartments use less energy than the large houses enjoyed by other Americans and because New Yorkers use public transportation instead of driving everywhere. A different study found that the average Manhattan household produces 32 metric tons of carbon each year, while households in a nearby suburb produce 72.5 metric tons on average.

If that isn’t evidence enough to convince urbanites to resist the temptation to trade their tiny dwellings for a pastoral lifestyle, they should consider this: Singapore and Hong Kong, denser cities than New York, have been generally successful in containing the coronavirus thanks to early testing, dogged contact tracing, and mass compliance from its citizens. Much of America is under mandatory social distancing measures right now not because cities are inherently bad, but because the federal government handled the outbreak poorly and Americans are loath to give up their personal freedoms.

So if you’re a city dweller who cares about reducing the spread of COVID-19 and slowing down climate change, stay where you are. Purvis knows that’s not an easy pill to swallow. “We’re a country that doesn’t like to follow rules,” she said. “But the only way to make the virus go away and not hit so many people is if we do follow all of the rules.”

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Coronavirus has city dwellers heading for the hills. Here’s why they should stay put.

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The pope might make destroying the earth a sin. Will Catholics listen?

Pope Francis is not your average pope. He’s weighed in on prison reform and women’s rights, and he wrote a whole encyclical on climate change in 2015. On Friday, at the 20th World Congress of the International Association of Penal Law, Francis waded into the climate change debate again with an unusual idea: perhaps environmental destruction should be classified as an official sin.

During his speech, Francis said he was thinking about adding “ecological sin against the common home” to the catechism, the book that summarizes Catholic belief. “It is a sin against future generations and is manifested in the acts and habits of pollution and destruction of the harmony of the environment,” he said.

Some theology experts think the pope’s interest in the environment is a reflection of his social justice beliefs. “Climate change will impact the poor and marginalized first and worst across the world who have the least capacity to adapt or to recover from disasters,” Erin Lothes Biviano, associate professor of theology at the College of St. Elizabeth, told E&E News. “It’s viewed not as an environmental problem, but an environmental and social problem.”

But will Catholics accept the idea that destroying the environment is an offense against God? The pope’s past efforts to integrate environmental stewardship into the Catholic faith haven’t always convinced his flock. A survey conducted a year after he published his climate-themed encyclical found that the call to action backfired among conservative Americans. Right-leaning Americans were less worried about rising temperatures after hearing his message. Only 22.5 percent of Americans who had even heard of the encyclical expressed concern over climate change. And the Pope actually lost some credibility with conservative Catholics.

Francis might not be the climate influencer advocates hoped he’d be. But that doesn’t necessarily mean all Catholics are ignoring his message. Emma Frances Bloomfield, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Las Vegas and the author of a book called Communication Strategies for Engaging Climate Skeptics, says it all depends on whether people believe the environment is related to faith.

Folks who see environmental conservation and religion as two entirely separate spheres will likely ignore Francis’ emphasis on the subject. But for religious people who are already inclined to think the two go together, an authority figure like the pope pushing for stewardship might be highly effective. “The idea of casting environmental damage as an ecological sin really amplifies how important the pope and Catholics think environmental damage is,” she said. “If Pope Francis really solidifies it as part of the catechism it can encourage Christians who are uncertain about the environment to consider it more strongly.”

In other words, preaching to the choir may actually be useful … when the pope does it.

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The pope might make destroying the earth a sin. Will Catholics listen?

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Cry of the Kalahari – Mark Owens & Delia Owens


Cry of the Kalahari

Mark Owens & Delia Owens

Genre: Nature

Price: $9.99

Publish Date: October 15, 1992

Publisher: HMH Books

Seller: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

“A remarkable story beautifully told…Among such classics as Goodall’s In the Shadow of Man and Fossey’s Gorillas in the Mist .”— Chicago Tribune Carrying little more than a change of clothes and a pair of binoculars, two young Americans, Mark and Delia Owens, caught a plane to Africa, bought a thirdhand Land Rover, and drove deep into the Kalahari Desert. There they lived for seven years, in an unexplored area with no roads, no people, and no source of water for thousands of square miles. In this vast wilderness the Owenses began their zoology research, working along animals that had never before been exposed to humans. An international bestseller, Cry of the Kalahari is the story of the Owenses’s life with lions, brown hyenas, jackals, giraffes, and the many other creatures they came to know. It is also a gripping account of how they survived the dangers of living in one of the last and largest pristine areas on Earth.

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Cry of the Kalahari – Mark Owens & Delia Owens

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Trump issues Earth Day message without mentioning climate change

This story was originally published by The Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Donald Trump issued on Monday an Earth Day proclamation that omitted any mention of climate change or the cavalcade of environmental threats posed by deforestation, species loss, and plastic pollution. The president chose instead to praise the benefits of a “strong market economy.”

In response, one leading climate scientist said Trump’s environmental policy was “in many cases the antithesis of protection.” The executive director of the Sierra Club said Trump was “the worst president for the environment our nation has ever had.”

Trump praised the “abundant beauty and life-sustaining bounty” of the American environment but did not echo growing warnings from scientists over rising temperatures or the precipitous decline of many species.

“Environmental protection and economic prosperity go hand in hand,” Trump said in his message for Earth Day, a global event held to support environmental protection annually since 1970.

“A strong market economy is essential to protecting our critical natural resources and fostering a legacy of conservation. My administration is committed to being effective stewards of our environment while encouraging opportunities for American workers and their families.”

Trump added: “At the same time that our nation is experiencing historic economic and job growth, our air and water quality ranks among the highest in the world.” He stated that his administration has “expanded support for conservation of land, water and wildlife.”

Last year, U.S. government scientists issued a 1,000-page climate change assessment that warned the country faces hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses due to rising temperatures, flooding, and wildfires. Thousands of Americans are expected to die in worsening heatwaves, with diseases such as West Nile, dengue fever, chikungunya, and Lyme set to expand in range as temperatures rise and rainfall patterns change.

“The fact that they’re not mentioning what many consider to be the gravest existential threat facing humanity is a good indication of the priorities of this administration,” said Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University.

“The clear priority of the administration is extracting unsustainable short-term profits from the environment, which is in many cases the antithesis of environmental protection. This is not surprising.”

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, called Trump “the worst president for the environment our nation has ever had,” adding: “He has regularly and consistently prioritized the profits of corporate polluters over clean air, clean water and the health of our communities.

“The fact that he continues to ignore the climate crisis endangers the nation and will be viewed by history with scorn.”

Trump has routinely disparaged climate science and has attempted to dismantle every major policy aimed at lowering planet-warming emissions, favoring a watered down alternative his administration admits would cause an extra 1,400 deaths a year from air pollution. In June 2017, he announced the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris climate deal.

The administration has thrown open vast tracts of public land and almost all U.S. waters to oil, gas, and coal mining, removed protections from some prized landscapes, and scrapped rules that stopped mining waste being dumped into rivers.

Trump, who recently erroneously claimed that wind turbines cause cancer, has repeatedly stated that the U.S. has some of the cleanest air and water in the world.

In fact, while the U.S.’s air is generally far healthier than growing economic powers such as China and India, the American Lung Association has pointed out that 4 in 10 Americans still live in counties with harmful levels of smog.

Millions of Americans are also exposed to drinking water containing industrial chemicals, while lead in water remains a widespread issue five years after the notorious contamination in Flint, Michigan.

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Trump issues Earth Day message without mentioning climate change

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The Koch brothers hate public transit. But they can’t always stop projects in their tracks.

The infamous Koch brothers have bankrolled climate deniers, propped up polluting industries, and even tried to turn the black community pro-fossil fuel. But, as a recent New York Times story shows, the billionaire conservatives have been steadily exerting pressure against public transit as well.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative lobbying group funded by the Koch family, has rallied against public transit works across the country. With a mix of political ads and door-to-door campaigning, the organization managed to get a transit tax increase shot down in Little Rock in 2016. Koch-linked groups have successfully watered down legislation in Indianapolis and blocked efforts in Florida.

This spring, the organization financed conservative activists in Nashville, Tennessee, to oppose a mass transit referendum. The plan would have increased the city’s sales tax in order to fund a light rail system, eight new bus lines, and 19 transit centers in the city. The anti-transit campaigners knocked on 6,000 doors and made 42,000 phone calls, all while repeating the anti-tax party line. The referendum, once a sure bet, failed, with almost 64 percent of voters rejecting it. Public transit experts were disappointed, but unsurprised.

Yonah Freemark, a transport researcher and doctoral student at MIT, says that the Koch effort has been around for years. “They have been focusing on regions without a strong transit constituency [or] historical support for transit investment,” he says. That’s perhaps why Americans for Prosperity has not focused as much on Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles — but has targeted relatively conservative cities.

While it might seem puzzling that any group would be stridently opposed to public transit, the Kochs have both financial and ideological reasons to reject transit spending. The New York Times cited their extensive financial interest in the automotive industry, combined with a libertarian and anti-tax ideology.

“It’s part of their overall agenda of conservatism, and part of an ideology tied up with cities and transit being bad, and suburbs as good,” says Jeff Wood, a transit consultant and blogger based in San Francisco.

Luckily for transit enthusiasts, the Kochs have not always been successful, even in sprawling cities with a sizable Republican base. Phoenix, Arizona, successfully expanded its light rail system in the face of opposition from the organization’s state branch.

And the Nashville plan had other, compounding factors. Mayor Megan Barry, who introduced the referendum in October 2017, became embroiled in a sex scandal with her head of security and eventually resigned in March. Her resignation further ignited the already bitter conflict between pro- and anti-transit activists.

So transportation experts are still hopeful that the Koch brothers will not derail many more projects. “Despite the fact that we have these people going out and running smear campaigns against public services, the large majority of such referenda have passed,” says Freemark. In 2016, large transit plans were passed in Atlanta, Seattle, Raleigh, and Los Angeles. “Americans are not universally buying into these tactics,” he concludes.

Wood is similarly optimistic, and believes that the Nashville failure can inform future efforts. “I think we are going to see other places learn from this,” he says. “I don’t think this ideology can win forever.”

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The Koch brothers hate public transit. But they can’t always stop projects in their tracks.

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Media fails on climate and extreme weather coverage, except for this guy

Everyone knows that the country got gobsmacked by hurricanes last year. But if you rely on mainstream media for news, you might not know that climate change had anything to do with those storms or other extreme weather events — unless you’ve recently paid close attention to Al Roker.

Climate scientists tell us that as the climate warms, hurricanes will get more intense. Yet the major broadcast TV news programs mentioned climate change only two times last year during their coverage of the record-breaking hurricanes (yes, two times). The climate-hurricane link came up once on CBS, once on NBC, and not at all in the course of ABC’s coverage of the storms, Media Matters found. All in all, major U.S. TV news programs, radio news programs, and newspapers mentioned climate change in just 4 percent of their stories about these devastating hurricanes, according to research by Public Citizen.

So it’s probably no surprise that many major media outlets also neglected to weave climate change into their reporting on last year’s heat waves and wildfires.

Will coverage be any better this year?

Al Roker has given us reason to feel slightly optimistic. Last week, Roker, the jovial weather forecaster on NBC’s Today show, demonstrated one good way to put an extreme weather event into proper context. While discussing the devastating flooding that recently hit Ellicott City, Maryland, he explained that heavy downpours have become more common in recent decades thanks to climate change, using a map and data from the research group Climate Central to support his point:

As we roll into summer — the start of the season for hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, and heat waves — that’s just the kind of connect-the-dots reporting Americans need.

The New York Times helped set the scene with a map-heavy feature highlighting places in the United States that have been hit repeatedly by extreme weather. “Climate change is making some kinds of disasters more frequent,” the piece explained, and “scientists also contend that climate change is expected to lead to stronger, wetter hurricanes.”

It’s one thing to report on how climate change worsens weather disasters in general, as the Times did in that piece, but much more rare for media to make the connection when they cover a specific storm or wildfire. Roker did it, yet many other journalists remain too squeamish. They shouldn’t be; science has their back.

In addition to what we know about the general link between climate change and extreme weather, there’s a growing body of peer-reviewed research, called attribution science, that measures the extent to which climate change has made individual weather events more intense or destructive.

Consider the research that’s been done on Hurricane Harvey, which dumped more than 60 inches of rain on the Houston area last August. Just four months after the storm, two groups of scientists published attribution studies: One study estimated that climate change made Harvey’s rainfall 15 percent heavier than it would have been otherwise, while another offered a best estimate of 38 percent.

Broadcast TV news programs failed to report on this research when it came out, but they should have. And the next time a major hurricane looms, media outlets should make note of these and other studies that attribute hurricane intensity to climate change. Scientists can’t make these types of attribution analyses in real time (at least not yet), but their research on past storms can help put future storms in context.

Of course, in order to incorporate climate change into hurricane reporting, journalists have to report on hurricanes in the first place. They failed miserably at this basic task when it came to Hurricane Maria and its devastation of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Maria got markedly less media coverage than hurricanes Harvey and Irma, according to analyses by FiveThirtyEight and researchers from the MIT Media Lab. The weekend after Maria made landfall in September, the five major Sunday morning political talk shows spent less than a minute altogether on the storm. And just last week, when a major new study estimated that Maria led to approximately 5,000 deaths in Puerto Rico, as opposed the government’s official death count of 64, cable news gave 16 times more coverage to Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet and her canceled TV show than to the study.

Hurricane Maria overwhelmingly harmed people of color — Puerto Rico’s population is 99 percent Latino, and the U.S. Virgin Islands’ population is 98 percent Black or African-American — so it’s hard not see race as a factor in the undercoverage of the storm.

The lack of reporting on Maria sets a scary precedent, as climate disasters are expected to hurt minority and low-income communities more than whiter, wealthier ones. Unless mainstream media step up their game, the people hurt the most by climate change will be covered the least.

Ultimately, we need the media to help all people understand that climate change is not some distant phenomenon that might affect their grandkids or people in faraway parts of the world. Only 45 percent of Americans believe climate change will pose a serious threat to them during their lifetimes, according to a recent Gallup poll. That means the majority of Americans still don’t get it.

When journalists report on the science that connects climate change to harsher storms and more extreme weather events, they help people understand climate change at a more visceral level. It’s happening here, now, today, to all of us. That’s the story that needs to be told.

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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Media fails on climate and extreme weather coverage, except for this guy

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The planet wants you to stop eating so much meat and dairy

A new, comprehensive analysis came to a regrettable conclusion for all you cheeseburger lovers out there: The earth has a beef with your meat and dairy consumption.

A vegan diet is “probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth,” the University of Oxford’s Joseph Poore, the lead researcher, told the Guardian. He says that giving up meat and dairy makes a “far bigger” difference than cutting down on flying or getting an electric vehicle.

The researchers found that meat and dairy production is responsible for 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. The study, published in the journal Science, represents the most comprehensive analysis of farming’s environmental impact to date. It assessed the production of 40 different foods (representing 90 percent of all that we eat) at 40,000 farms across the world, analyzing their impact on land use, greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and air and water pollution.

If we gave up meat and dairy, we could reduce farmland by more than 75 percent worldwide and have enough food for everyone to eat, the analysis shows.

The results support what the science had already been telling us, even though the researchers took a new approach of gathering data farm by farm. Previous work had used national data to quantify farming’s impact. “It is very reassuring to see they yield essentially the same results,” Gidon Eshel, a Bard College food researcher who wasn’t involved in the Science analysis, told the Guardian.

While this is a confirmation of what we’ve been hearing for years, we also know that getting the entire world to switch to veganism is a hard sell. And in fact, after a few years of decline, meat eating is on the rise again: Americans are predicted to eat a record-shattering amount of red meat and poultry this year. It’s never too late to join the reducetarian movement, meat lovers.

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The planet wants you to stop eating so much meat and dairy

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We’re ignoring the biggest Pruitt scandal: He’s making pollution worse

It’s hard to look away from the scandals engulfing EPA chief Scott Pruitt. The guy dined with a cardinal accused of sexual abuse and demoted employees who disagreed with him, just to scratch the surface. The bigger issue, though, is that he keeps protecting polluters instead of the environment.

Pruitt has made it easier for power plants to avoid upgrading to cleaner equipment, a new analysis from Rachel Leven and Fatima Bhojani at the Center for Public Integrity shows. That leaves Americans breathing dirtier air.

And even bigger changes are ahead for the New Source Review, the EPA program requiring companies to use up-to-date pollution controls. Here’s what we know:

CPI reports that 145 coal plants lacking pollution controls put out 580,000 total tons of sulfur dioxide last year, a pollutant that contributes to asthma and other breathing problems. While an EPA loophole lets coal plants built before 1978 get away with that, 38 of the 145 plants were built after ’78.
The Obama-era EPA cracked down on coal plants, forcing them to retrofit their factories and cut down on pollution. In Pruitt’s first year, those demands dropped to just 12 percent of what was done under Obama.
Ol’ Scotty is planning another gift for big polluters: an overhaul of the New Source Review. He’s already made a couple of tweaks, like asking regulators not to double-check companies’ pollution estimates. An EPA document last year argued for reforming the program, calling it a potential “burden.”

You know what’s also a burden? Air pollution, which isn’t really improving in the U.S. these days. But since Pruitt’s LinkedIn profile calls him the “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” I guess he’s just doing his job.

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We’re ignoring the biggest Pruitt scandal: He’s making pollution worse

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