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Business Urges Governments to Step Up Fight Against Climate Change

MD Staff

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Heads of 50 major global businesses representing more than $1.5 trillion in total revenue today publish an open letter to world government leaders urging greater collaboration to accelerate outcomes in the race against climate change.

Leaders from the Forum’s Alliance of Climate Action CEOs are committed to using their positions to help meet the Paris Climate Agreement goals. Thirty of the companies that signed the open letter succeeded in reducing emissions by 9%, (more than 47 million metric tonnes in absolute terms) between 2015 and 2016, the equivalent of taking ten million cars off the road for one year.

The open letter is addressed ahead of the UNFCCC climate conference in Katowice, Poland, where government leaders will meet next week to review progress towards delivering on the goals set in 2015.

Alliance leaders call for greater public-private cooperation to accelerate effective carbon pricing mechanisms and policies to incentivize low-carbon investment and drive demand for carbon-reduction solutions. They also highlight the business case for cutting emissions to generate wider support in the private sector.

“If we have twelve years to avoid a ‘hothouse’ earth, we absolutely cannot pursue a business-as-usual approach. Business and government must forge new partnerships that are able to drive results much more quickly than our current international architecture allows,” said Dominic Waughray, Head of the Centre for Global Public Goods, World Economic Forum.

“Business has an increasingly vital role to play in accelerating the shift to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy. This will require partnerships with other companies, governments at all levels and civil society. It also requires bold leadership and good governance, which will allow long-term creation of shareholder value alongside long-term value for our society. We, as business leaders, are committed to climate action and stand ready to facilitate fast-track solutions to help world leaders deliver on an enhanced and more ambitious action plan to tackle climate change and meet the goals set out at the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement”, said Feike Sijbesma, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Managing Board, Royal DSM, and Chair of the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders

Among measures taken by members of the Alliance to drive climate action within their businesses:

BT: The UK-based telecom provider is aiming to buy 100% renewable energy by 2020, and to have reduced carbon intensity by 87% from 2017 levels by 2030. It is also aiming to help customers cut emissions by three times its own total carbon impact by 2030.

ENGIE: Having cut coal-fired capacity by 60% since 2016 by closing or selling plants, the France-based energy group has adopted an internal carbon price and is now focusing on low CO2e energy sources like natural gas and renewables, which will represent over 90% of its earnings by 2018.

ING Group: By 2025, the banking group will only finance existing utility clients that use coal for 5% or less of their energy mix. New clients will only be financed if they have near-zero reliance on coal. As of November 2017, 60% of all utilities project financing went towards renewables.

Ørsted: Changed its name in 2017 from Danish Oil and Natural Gas (DONG) Energy to signify its switch from oil and gas to renewable energy. The company has committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emission intensity from energy production by 96% by 2023, using a 2006 base-year.

Royal DSM: The Netherlands-based global business in health, nutrition and sustainable living was established in 1902 as a nationalized coal mining company. This year it has committed to an absolute GHG emissions reduction of 30% (2016-2030, Scope 1+2), among other by using 75% purchased renewable electricity by 2030. DSM uses an internal carbon price of €50 per ton of CO2e.

Signify: Formerly Philips Lighting, the company has committed to achieve net-zero carbon buildings by 2030 and to operate a 100% electric and hybrid lease fleet by 2030.

The Alliance of Climate CEOs has also provided input into the UNFCCC Talanoa Dialogue and companies will be looking for a clear signal from COP24 negotiations that governments are willing to strengthen their engagement with the private sector. When they meet in Davos in January 2019, a clear focus will be on setting goals for the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in September 2019 to further support the urgent action needed – a watershed moment for getting the planet on track to curb emissions and avoid global temperature rise beyond 1.5oC.

View from the C-Suite

José Manuel Entrecanales Domecq, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Acciona: “The second-best time to act against climate change is now; the best has already passed. It´s the moment to foster emission reduction, effective carbon prices, key partnership and climate risk management.”

Cees ‘t Hart, President and Chief Executive Officer, Carlsber: “We’re targeting carbon neutrality by 2030 and are excited to work alongside like-minded businesses in our drive to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, through climate leadership and action.”

John Flint, Chief Executive Officer, HSBC Holdings: “Climate change is a major threat to our environment, societies and economy. Decarbonization of the economy is not straightforward, but it can be achieved by urgent and combined efforts by government, business and policy-makers. HSBC is committed to climate action and has already made significant progress towards our commitment to provide $100 billion of sustainable finance”.

Chen Kangping, Chief Executive Officer, JinkoSolar: “This is the last chance we give to ourselves. Don’t be too late to take action when grid parity is just around the corner.”

Bernard J. Tyson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Kaiser Permanente: “We have a real opportunity to create synergistic public-private partnerships. Working together, we can solve these pressing climate change issues.”

Tex Gunning, Chief Executive Officer, LeasePlan: “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing every one of us. That’s why we’re committed to working with the entire stakeholder community to speed up the transition to zero emission mobility. Our ambition is to achieve net zero emissions from our entire fleet of 1.8 million vehicles by 2030.”

“Pollution is having dramatic impact on our climate, our landscapes, our flora and fauna, and our health. We need a higher environmental engagement and a shift towards systems that address the negative and positive externalities of products and businesses. Banks should stop financing dirty businesses and shift financial flows towards a low carbon and more circular economy,” said H.S.H. Prince Max von und zu Liechtenstein, Chief Executive Officer, LGT.

Henrik Poulsen, Chief Executive Officer, Ørsted: ”Green energy is now fully competitive with fossil energy. There is no economic reason for not accelerating the transition to green energy.”

Eric Rondolat, Chief Executive Officer, Signify: “Today’s weather anomalies are the result of a temperature rise of only 1 degree Celsius. Imagine the impact on our daily lives when temperature rises 2 degrees or more. We – both political and business leaders – need to act now and accelerate targeted integrated policy interventions that stimulate sustainable business and safeguard a healthy planet for future generations. The good news is that we can still limit global warming with the latest available technologies, so let’s step up climate action now for the benefit of all”.

Christian Mumenthaler, Group Chief Executive Officer, Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd.: “Climate change is impacting our societies and will cause irreversible damage if we don’t act. With our partners we need to make societies more resilient and build a low-carbon future”.

Erik Fyrwald, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of Syngenta International: “Climate change poses severe threats to food security, rural communities and economies. As one of the world’s leading agricultural companies we are investing more than US$1 billion every year to achieve a coherent approach to meet that challenge.”

The list of signatories includes:

  1. Ulrich Spiesshofer, President and Chief Executive Officer, ABB
  2. Pierre Nanterme, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Accenture
  3. José Manuel Entrecanales Domecq, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Acciona
  4. Oliver Bäte, Chief Executive Officer, Allianz
  5. Peter Oosterveer, Chief Executive Officer, Arcadis
  6. Gregory Hodkinson, Chairman, Arup Group
  7. Thomas Buberl, Chief Executive Officer, AXA
  8. Martin Brudermüller, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors and Chief Technology Officer, BASF
  9. Peter T. Grauer, Chairman, Bloomberg
  10. Gavin Patterson, Chief Executive, BT Group
  11. Ion Yadigaroglu, Managing Partner, Capricorn Investment Group
  12. Cees ‘t Hart, Chief Executive Officer, Carlsberg
  13. Patrick Allman-Ward, Chief Executive Officer, Dana Gas
  14. Kim Fausing, President and Chief Executive Officer, Danfoss
  15. Frank Appel, Chief Executive Officer, Deutsche Post DHL
  16. Francesco Starace, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, Enel
  17. Isabelle Kocher, Chief Executive Officer, ENGIE Group
  18. Jeffrey McDermott, Managing Partner, Greentech Capital Advisors
  19. Jean-François van Boxmeer, Chairman of the Executive Board and Chief Executive Officer, Heineken
  20. Ajit Gulabchand, Chairman and Managing Director, HCC
  21. Ratul Puri, Chairman, Hindustan Powerprojects (Hindustan Power)
  22. John Flint, Chief Executive Officer, HSBC Holdings
  23. Ignacio Sánchez Galán, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Iberdrola
  24. Salil S. Parekh, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Infosys
  25. Ralph Hamers, Chief Executive Officer, ING Group
  26. Chen Kangping, Chief Executive Officer, JinkoSolar
  27. Bernard J. Tyson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Kaiser Permanente
  28. Sandra Wu Wen-Hsiu, Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer, Kokusai Kogyo
  29. Jan Jenisch, Chief Executive Officer, LafargeHolcim
  30. Tex Gunning, Chief Executive Officer, LeasePlan
  31. Stefan Doboczky, Chief Executive Officer, Lenzing
  32. H.S.H. Prince Max von und zu Liechtenstein, Chief Executive Officer, LGT
  33. Michael H. McCain, President and Chief Executive Officer, Maple Leaf Foods
  34. Jean Raby, Chief Executive Officer, Natixis Investment Managers
  35. Henrik Poulsen, Chief Executive Officer, Ørsted
  36. Ross Beaty, Chairman, Pan American Silver
  37. Robert E. Moritz, Global Chairman, PwC International
  38. Feike Sybesma, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Managing Board, Royal DSM
  39. Frans van Houten, Chief Executive Officer, Royal Philips
  40. Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Schneider Electric
  41. Eric Rondolat, Chief Executive Officer, Signify
  42. Takeshi Niinami, Chief Executive Officer, Suntory Holdings
  43. J. Erik Fyrwald, Chief Executive Officer, Syngenta International
  44. Tulsi Tanti, Chairman, Suzlon Energy
  45. Christian Mumenthaler, Group Chief Executive Officer, Swiss Reinsurance
  46. Don Lindsay, President and Chief Executive Officer, Teck Resources
  47. Sergio P. Ermotti, Group Chief Executive Officer, UBS
  48. Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer, Unilever
  49. Anders Runevad, President and Chief Executive Officer, Vestas Wind Systems
  50. Svein Tore Holsether, President and Chief Executive Officer, Yara International

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Air pollution and climate change: Two sides of the same coin

MD Staff

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Erupting volcanoes, earthquakes, dust storms and meteorites smashing into the Earth’s crust are natural phenomena that can cause climate change and air pollution: dinosaurs may have met their end after a giant meteorite kicked up so much dust that it blocked out the sun for decades, reducing photosynthesis and preventing the growth of plants.

Adding to these potential threats, we have also been contributing to air pollution and global warming through our resource-intensive lifestyles. We’re producing and consuming more than ever before, and we’re generating more greenhouse gases as a result, as well as air pollutants in the form of chemicals and particulate matter, including “black carbon”.

Although they may seem to be two very different issues, climate change and air pollution are closely interlinked, so by reducing air pollution we also protect the climate. Air pollutants include more than just greenhouse gases—principally carbon dioxide but also methane, nitrous oxide and others—but there’s a big overlap: the two often interact with each other.

For instance, air pollution in the form of particulate matter from diesel engines is circulated around the globe, ending up in the most remote places, including the polar regions. When it lands on ice and snow it darkens them slightly, leading to less sunlight being reflected back into space, and contributing to global warming. The slightly warmer temperatures encourage plants in the sub-Artic region to grow a tiny bit bigger, and as they grow through the snow they cast a shadow, which, when multiplied over millions of small plants, also has the effect of darkening the Earth’s surface, leading to further warming.

The good news is that immediate changes to air pollution levels also have immediate effects. Quick action on reducing highly potent, short-lived climate pollutants—methane, tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons and black carbon—can significantly decrease the chances of triggering dangerous climate tipping points, like the irreversible release of carbon dioxide and methane from thawing Arctic permafrost.

Meanwhile, we should continue cutting down on the release of long-lived greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

A recent concern is trichlorofluoromethane, or CFC-11, which is to be phased out worldwide under the Montreal Protocol, the global agreement to protect the ozone layer. The industrial gas, used illegally, for example, in insulation material, also contributes to global warming.

Aerosols, the atmospheric pollutant with an effect on the climate

The October 2018 report by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the importance of keeping global temperature rises to 1.5˚C below pre-industrial era levels. Urgent action is need over the next 12 years if there is to be any chance of achieving this target.

Aerosols may be of either natural or anthropogenic origin and can influence climate in several ways: “through both interactions that scatter and/or absorb radiation and through interactions with cloud microphysics and other cloud properties, or upon deposition on snow- or ice-covered surfaces thereby altering their albedo and contributing to climate feedback,” says the Panel’s report.

It defines aerosols as “a suspension of airborne solid or liquid particles, with a typical size between a few nanometres and 10 μm that reside in the atmosphere for at least several hours.”

The report defines air pollution as “degradation of air quality with negative effects on human health or the natural or built environment due to the introduction, by natural processes or human activity, into the atmosphere of substances (gases, aerosols) which have a direct (primary pollutants) or indirect (secondary pollutants) harmful effect.”

Air pollution is the theme for World Environment Day on 5 June 2019. The quality of the air we breathe depends on the lifestyle choices we make every day. Learn more about how air pollution affects you, and what is being done to clean the air. What are you doing to reduce your emissions footprint and #BeatAirPollution?

The 2019 World Environment Day is hosted by China.

UN Environment

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Green Planet

Do The Harmless Pangolins Have To Become Extinct?

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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The pangolin is a timid little creature going about its nocturnal ways, slurping up ants and termites with a tongue longer than its body.  It has no teeth.  Its defense when threatened is to roll up into a ball shielded by its scales — an armor plating that is the cause of its woes.

Ranging in size from 3 to 73 pounds, there are eight distinct species of pangolin — their name originates in the Malay word ‘penggulung’ meaning the one that rolls up.  In 2014, the International Union for Conservation of Nature redlisted all pangolins, classifying the four Asian species ‘endangered’ — of these, the Chinese and the Malay (Sunda) are critically so.  Similarly threatened by decreasing numbers, the four African species were listed ‘vulnerable’.

The principal reason for their plight is their defense mechanism, the scales, which in some cultures are claimed to hold magical properties.  Thus in parts of Africa, a woman interested in a particular man is believed to be able to control him by burying a pangolin scale outside his front door.  In China and East Asia, the scales are considered to have medicinal benefits.

The meat is also considered a delicacy.  They have long been hunted in Central Africa for bushmeat but the numbers lost are not easy to calculate.  In 2018, an estimate of 400,000 to 2.7 million killed for food was reported by researchers using three different methods — hence the wide range.  The lead author of the study, Daniel Ingram of University College London,  expressed greater confidence in the lower number.

The third Saturday in February, which fell on the 16th this year, is World Pangolin Day.  Unfortunately, there was little cause for celebration as the following customs seizures from just the previous two months manifest.

On December 6, 2018 Malaysian customs officials had to incinerate 2.8 tons of pangolin scales of Cameroon and Ghanaian origin.  In January, Ugandan authorities confiscated a large store of scales along with ivory of Congolese origin.  Also in January on the 16th, 8.3 tons of pangolin scales were seized in Hong Kong from Nigerian cargo bound for Vietnam.  A raid on a warehouse in Koto Kinabalu, Malaysia, by customs officers on February 7 yielded 30 tons of frozen pangolins and pangolin parts.  

Adding to all of this is the largest haul globally in five years as reported by Singapore authorities on April 5th.  They discovered 12.9 tonnes of pangolin scales from an estimated 17,000 animals along with 390 lb of ivory in a shipping container destined for Vietnam.  Sadly, these efforts by authorities also attest to the ineffectiveness of the ban on all international trade in pangolins two years ago (2017) by the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). 

Making matters worse, the pangolins are mammals and (unlike rabbits!) happen to be slow breeding.  The gestation period is 5 months and mothers seldom give birth to more than one pangopup a year.  Pink and soft, the newborn pups are just 6 inches long, weighing about 12 ounces.  Their scales begin to harden the next day.  The baby is suckled for three months but insects supplement its diet after about a month.  It then takes two years to reach sexual maturity, all of which accounts for the slow replacement rate.

Their defense to roll up into a ball helps them very little for the poachers simply bag them.  Moreover, biologists know little about their physiology and behavior, knowledge that might help to protect them.  Being nocturnal and very shy, they are difficult to track in the wild.  And adding to the challenges of research, they unhappily stress easily and usually die in captivity.  

Poaching is almost impossible to stop unless the profit incentive stemming from the dubious medicinal benefits of the scales is removed — the April 5th seizure was worth $38 million.  The scales are the principal source of demand and as they are made merely of keratin, the same as in human fingernails and hair, it then becomes a matter of education to curb demand. 

For the gastronomic aspects, one example to follow could be shark fin soup.  It is a delicacy in China and so was expected at official banquets, until banned in July 2012 following pressure from environmental groups.  Sales have since plummeted.

Do pangolins have a chance?  Let’s hope so, or the little fellows will go the way of the African Northern White rhinoceros before we even get to know them.  Sudan the last white rhino male died on March 19, 2018.  As is often the case, it will take a sustained effort by environmental groups to persuade the Chinese, Vietnamese and other East Asian governments to act.

Author’s Note:  This article first appeared on Counterpunch.org 

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Dangerous Plastics Are a Threat to Us and Future Generations

Meena Miriam Yust

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Every day people make decisions about what to eat, sometimes opting for colorful fruits and veggies, sometimes finding the smell of bacon irresistible.  At the end of the day people are controlling their own health.  What is remarkable though, is the possibility that something one swallows today could have a lasting effect on future offspring – children, grandchildren, great grandchildren.  New research is finding a generational impact of certain chemicals.  This time it’s not the bacon we’re worried about – but plastics and the toxins within them.  

Twenty years ago, researchers  at Washington State University discovered accidentally that the now-infamous bisphenol A (BPA) was leaching out of plastic cages, harming the mice within.  The contamination caused abnormalities in mice eggs and fertility.  Numerous subsequent studies found BPA exposure affects adult fertility and health across species, including monkeys, fish, and humans.  Known to decrease sperm count in rats and to cause breast cancer in women, BPA was banned in 2012 by the FDA from being used in baby bottles and sippy cups.  Yet BPA is still used in many products, including epoxy resins used to coat canned foods.  A 2004 study of 2,517 people found that 93% had detectable quantities of BPA’s by-product in their urine. 

Since the toxic effects of BPA came to light, several replacement bisphenols were quickly brought to market by chemical companies and are now in widespread use.  Twenty years after the BPA toxicity discovery, by remarkable chance, the same Washington State University lab recently noticed again that something was amiss with their mice.  This time the mice were housed in cages comprised of replacement bisphenols, largely believed to be safer than BPA.  The researchers subsequently performed controlled studies with several of the replacement bisphenols including BPS, a widely used replacement.  

Results demonstrated that the new bisphenols behaved similarly to BPA, causing health problems including detrimental effects on fertility in both males and females, reported in Cell Biology in September 2018.  Scientist Sarah Hunt explained, “This paper reports a strange déjà vu experience in our laboratory.”  What the lab discovered once with BPA, it was seeing again with the replacements.  Perhaps most troubling were the long-lasting effects of the toxins.  Even if all bisphenols could be magically eliminated today, the toxic effects would still last about three generations through the germline of people already exposed.  This means bisphenols ingested today could affect the fertility of one’s great grandchildren.

The bisphenol case demonstrates that FDA bans do not necessarily solve the root problem.  Chemical companies tend to roll out similar chemicals to those that have been banned, because this is the easiest way to bring something to market quickly.  But more testing is needed before chemicals are released into the environment.  Long term problems such as generational infertility and cancer risk often cannot easily be examined in clinical trials, and environmental effects are not rigorously analyzed prior to release.  

The Washington State University study also proved that damaged and heated plastics are particularly deadly, as the damaged cages leached more toxins.  This should serve as a warning for those who microwave food in plastic containers for their families.  And it should remind us that discarded plastic bottles degrading in oceans and rivers are releasing toxins that cause irreversible infertility.

The current estimate of plastics in our oceans is approximately 150 million metric tons. By 2050, the amount is expected to ‘outweigh the fish,’ according to Jim Leape, co-director of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions.  A recent study has determined microplastics (small plastic particles) are present in every river and lake in Britain.  And they have been found in tap water, everywhere from the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, DC to the Trump Grill in New York.  A study of 159 drinking water samples on five continents found that 83% of those samples were contaminated.  Plastics are everywhere, from the highest mountains to the deepest parts of the ocean and Arctic.  Nanoplastics less than 50 nanometers long have even been found in plankton, which is ingested by fish that humans eat.

Scientists are finding that plastics are disrupting marine mammals’ ability to reproduce.  Many forms of plastic including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and Bisphenol A are endocrine disruptors, meaning they affect the hormonal systems of animals.  An orca of adult age called Lulu, researchers recently found, was barren as if she was a juvenile.  Analysis revealed very high levels of PCBs in her lipid tissues.  One orca pod off the coast of Scotland has not produced a calf in 25 years.  Despite bans on PCBs 30 years ago,  toxins remain in orca mothers’ milk, and are passed from mother to baby.  A recent study published in the journal Science predicts that half the world’s population of orcas will be extinct in just a few decades due to PCB poisoning.  Researchers have also found that despite the PCB ban in Europe, levels of PCBs have not decreased, indicated that they may be leaching out of landfills.  Hormone disruptors have also been found to impair male frogs’ fertility, and to cause tadpoles to more frequently develop ovaries rather than testicles, thus skewing the proportion of males to females.  Similar problems have been found in fish.  Reproductive risks associated with endocrine disrupting chemicals span species.

Bisphenol A is known to decrease sperm count and to cause cancer in many species.  Its counterpart replacement plastics (BPS, BPF, BPAF, BPZ, BPP, BHPF… to name just a few), researchers have recently discovered, are no better.  Whether these pollutants have already affected humans is anyone’s guess, but it would be wise to view statistics during the time period since plastics became popular, starting in the 1960s, and to see if there is a significant trend over time.  

It appears there is.  Notably, a 2017 study found that sperm counts per milliliter declined by more than 50% from 1973 to 2011, with total sperm counts down almost 60%.  Two other recent studies have demonstrated that over the past few decades in the U.S. and Europe, both sperm count and motility have decreased.

The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) recently debated a proposed legally binding treaty to address plastic pollution.  One objective of the proposed treaty was to phase out single use plastics by 2025.  Norway also suggested a global agreement for handling ocean plastic pollution.  Sadly, the U.S. was the largest voice against the proposed treaty and the proposed global waste disposal plan.  

Eventually a non-legally-binding agreement was reached in which the U.S. watered down the language to “significantly reduce” plastics by 2030, eleven years from now.  One UN delegate described the Trump representatives as “trying to remove all targets and timelines.”  

Meanwhile, the U.S. has been exporting large quantities of plastics overseas for years, historically mostly to China.  In the previous year, 70% was exported to China and Hong Kong.  But in 2018, China banned imports of plastic waste.  Since the ban the U.S. has looked to poorer nations for its overseas garbage dump.  Unearthed, Greenpeace’s research group, has found that in the first six months of 2018, almost half of U.S. plastic waste was sent to developing countries: Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam.  U.S. plastic waste exports to Thailand went up by nearly 2,000% this year.  

Most developing nations do not have sufficient recycling infrastructure to properly handle plastic waste.  On Earth Day 2018, the top producers of mismanaged ocean plastic waste were ranked by tons of waste.  The top five after China were Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.  In some cases as in parts of the Philippines, recycling is done laboriously by hand, picking bottles out of large dumps.  As this is very difficult and time consuming, large quantities find their way into oceans and rivers.  Sadly and not surprisingly, the Pasig River in the Philippines transports approximately 72,000 tons of plastic downstream, and has been declared “biologically dead” since 1990.  Instead of helping these countries to develop recycling infrastructure, we are sending them more toxic waste.

We might think we are kicking the can down the road by sending plastics overseas but they will wash right back up on the Hawaiian and California coast.  Beachgoers might witness solid litter washing ashore, or unearthed from the stomachs of dead whales.  Or they might not notice the pollution  — instead unknowingly consuming microplastics in their next Ahi Tuna sandwich.  On the East Coast, one might encounter them in a glass of water at the Trump Grill in New York.  There is only one world sink after all.  Tossing poison to the other end of the tub only works for so long – it will inevitably, over time, mix and wash back to your side of the water.  And when one of us is diagnosed with cancer, do we really know the cause? 

It is instructive to remember the orca Lulu, a mammal like us, who no longer produces eggs.  And to remember that if sperm counts continue to decline at the present rate, they will soon reach levels where it becomes difficult to have children.  By then, the world’s water supply may be irreversibly contaminated and an enforceable treaty will be too late.

Postponing a legally binding treaty may put us on the path of our fellow mammals the orcas, half of which already face inevitable extinction worldwide.  And we can not forget the tragedy of the orca Tahlequah, who last summer carried her dead calf for a record 17 days and 1,000 miles in mourning. 

Eleven years may be too late.  

Author’s note: this piece first appeared in CommonDreams.org

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