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We start using something before we understand whether it’s safe. We begin to discover it’s not safe. Industry obscures the science and viciously battles off regulation for as long as possible, forecasting economic doom. Lots of people get sick and die while they do so. Finally some regulations are put in place. The costs of complying turn out to be lower than anyone predicted. The benefits turn out to be much greater than anyone predicted. The pollutant turns out to be more harmful than originally thought. Despite all of the above, industry continues battling efforts to further reduce the pollutant, while claiming credit for the benefits of reducing it as much as they were forced to.

Over and over and over, this story plays out. Yet with each new pollution fight, it’s as though we’ve never had all the previous ones. (See: chlorofluorocarbons, mercury, smog, phthalates, etc.)

— Dave Roberts on Kevin Drum article: New research finds Pb [lead] is the hidden villain behind violent crime, lower IQs, and even the ADHD epidemic. motherjones, 01.2013. (via kateoplis)

Over easy or sunny side up? Swedish cartoonist Olle Johansson on the news that Arctic sea ice has melted to its lowest level on record.
» 16-year-old scientist could turn Egypt’s plastic problem into a biofuel boom

A sixteen-year-old Egyptian student, Azza Abdel Hamid Faiad from the Zahran Language School in Alexandria has identified a new low-cost catalyst which can generate biofuel by breaking down plastic waste…

As we know plastic waste is a huge problem in the Middle East and for our oceans, but hopefully this idea will help convert the problem into a solution.

For her findings, Faiad was presented with the European Fusion Development Agreement award at the 23rd European Union Contest for Young Scientists — involving 130 competitors from 37 countries — held in Finland last year from 23 to 28 September.

Faiad is now looking to get her findings patented this year through the Egyptian Patent Office and scaling up the idea so that it can become a tangible project on the ground.

more: greenprophet, 16.07.12.
via grist, 17.07.12.

» A Major Legal Victory for Climate Science


“Though most attention last week focused on the Supreme Court ruling upholding federal reform of the health-care system, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued the most important judicial decision on climate change in five years. That decision upholds the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gases, and it is very good news for those who favor this approach.

In 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in the landmark case of Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, that a statute enacted by Congress in 1970 — the Clean Air Act — authorizes EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide. Not much happened for the balance of the Bush administration, but shortly after Barack Obama took office in January 2009, EPA issued an “endangerment finding” — a formal determination that greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health and welfare.  That finding is a prerequisite to further regulation.

With that in hand, EPA proceeded to issue a set of major new rules. Among other things, it and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued new standards (the first in decades) for fuel economy of automobiles and light trucks.  EPA also required major stationary sources of air pollution, such as power plants and factories, to obtain permits for their greenhouse-gas emissions.

Industries (led by the fossil fuel lobby) and states (led by Texas) that oppose such regulation reacted furiously. They filed more than 100 lawsuits against EPA.  Some claimed that the “Climategate” e-mails and a handful of errors in reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had cast doubt on the integrity of the climate science underlying the endangerment finding.  They also took an opposite tack, and said EPA’s regulations of stationary sources were too lax, because they regulated only the largest sources and not the millions of small sources that exceed certain statutory thresholds.

The court held a highly unusual two days of argument on February 28-29, 2012, in its largest courtroom, but still, many would-be spectators could not get in. The fate of the regulations hung in the balance as legions of lawyers argued before the three-judge panel — one appointed by President Reagan and two by President Clinton.

The suspense ended on June 26, with the unanimous opinion in what came to be known as Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA.  It was a complete win for EPA.”

Good read of the day at Columbia Earth Institute.

» We’re about to push the Earth over the brink, new study finds

There’s a new scientific paper out in the journal Nature called “Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere.” In a sane world, it would be front page news.

grist, 07.06.12.

» Traditional Chinese medicine may contain endangered animals, toxins, heavy metals

DNA tests reveal ‘natural’ remedies are anything but.

A recent study by researchers at Murdoch University in Australia investigated medicines seized at the Australian border and revealed some scary results: Of the 15 medicines they examined, some medicines failed to list ingredients entirely, while others listed illegal or carcinogenic ingredients.

takepart, 19.04.12.
via food inc. 

glad I have been a very ABC kid and refused to eat bitter traditional chinese medicine.

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