Category Archives: Policy

The scientific assessment: global warming is actually science

penguin on diminished ice floeTruthout has published a book excerpt from Unprecedented, subtitled Can Civilization Survive the CO2 Crisis?

Author David Ray Griffin addresses the failure of United States’ Big Media to cover climate change fairly, quoting three scientists who explain why this is a mistake.

Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway:

[O]nce a scientific issue is closed, there’s only one “side.” Imagine providing a “balance” to the issue of whether the Earth orbits the Sun, whether continents move, or whether DNA carries genetic information. These matters were long ago settled in scientists’ minds. Nobody can publish an article in a scientific journal claiming the Sun orbits the Earth.

James Hansen also regards misapplied science to be a major problem in communicating scientific conclusions to the public. He wrote:

The scientific method requires objective analysis of all data, stating evidence pro and con, before reaching conclusions. This works well, indeed is necessary, for achieving success in science. But science is now pitted in public debate against the talk-show method, which consists of selective citation of anecdotal bits that support a predetermined position. Why is the public presented results of the scientific method and the talk-show method as if they deserved equal respect?

And he references John Oliver’s segment on the topic:

In May 2014, John Oliver humorously demonstrated on his fake TV news show, “Last Week Tonight,” what this would mean in a “Statistically Representative Climate Change Debate.” Having described the typical TV debate between a climate scientist and a climate denier, he pointed out that the debate should really be representative of the two positions. So after having two more people join the denier, Oliver brought in 96 more to join the scientist.

See for yourself – Oliver’s always interesting (and fun).

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Wow. Sen Menendez IS NOT opposed to GMO food!

EWG GE labeling won't cost moreI’m normally a Bob Menendez fan but WOW, today I’m so disappointed. The Senator wrote to tell me that he doesn’t believe that states should have the right to label GMOs. And he doesn’t believe in GMO labeling at the federal level either. In fact, Sen Menendez made it clear that he does not oppose the genetically engineered modifications of our foods.

The single reason states have started trying to pass their own GMO labeling laws is that the federal government won’t pass laws to allow United States citizens and residents to know what’s in our food. Vermont is the first state to require GMO labeling of all foods.

Here’s the letter Sen. Menendez sent me:

Dear Ms. Wei:

Thank you for contacting me to express your support for the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act. Your opinion is very important to me, and I appreciate the opportunity to respond to you on this critical issue.

As you may know, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act would amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to deem any food destined for human consumption as misbranded if it has been genetically engineered or contains genetically engineered ingredients, unless such information is clearly disclosed. The bill labels food as genetically engineered if it is an organism that is the product of intentional genetic engineering or contains any ingredients that are intentionally genetically engineered. This legislation has been introduced before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which I am not a member of. However, should the bill be presented for a vote before the full United States Senate, I will be sure to keep your views in mind.

As the Garden State, New Jersey has a proud reputation as a leader in many agricultural fields, and I am committed to preserving this legacy. While farmers have naturally modified crops to improve growth and yields for centuries, recent advances in genetic engineering have raised questions about the safety of some of these food products. I believe we must be prudent when approving genetically modified food but I also recognize that unnecessarily labeling inherently safe products, could actually risk confusing and misleading consumers. It is vitally important that we fully understand the impact of these practices on our food supply and our health while harnessing the advantages of modern science and innovation.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the implementation of food labeling set forth by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Foods that must be labeled include most prepared foods, such as breads, cereals, canned and frozen foods, snacks, desserts, and drinks. Foods that do not have to be labeled are called “conventional foods,” which include raw produce such as fruits, vegetables and fish. I continue to believe these standards should be regulated on the national level by objective scientific experts in the FDA rather than through a patchwork of state regulations that could have the unintended consequence of confusing consumers. Please know that I will continue to look for ways to ensure that Americans have access to appropriate and accurate nutritional information, without misleading consumers or imposing overly onerous requirements on food producers.

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of further assistance. You may also visit my website (http://menendez.senate.gov) to learn more about how I am standing up for New Jersey families in the United States Senate.

Learn more about why you should care and find out how the Non-GMO Project can help you get there.

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EPA Administrator and Mayor Baraka Launch Newark’s New Community Air Pollution Project Today

Newark Ironbound Air PollutantsOn Friday, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will join community members at Newark, New Jersey’s Ironbound Neighborhood Family Success Center (East) to launch a new community air monitor, a first of its kind citizen science project. Administrator McCarthy will discuss the agency’s work on air quality and how citizen science plays an important role in scientific analysis.

Fri 13 March 2015 @ 10:15 am
Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC)
Family Success Center – East
29 Cortland Street
Newark, NJ 07105

In 2010, A collaboration between Drew University and the ICC used GIS mapping technology to prove the need for air quality control in Newark. With support from an EPA CARE grant, student Zoe Crum mapped data the ICC helped gather to show, “industrial chemical emissions, Brownfield sites, and Superfund sites in conjunction with demographic analyses for the Ironbound.”

Twenty-five percent of Newark children suffer from asthma, three times the state average, and asthma accounts for the leading cause of absenteeism for Newark’s school age children. Accurate and timely information on air pollution is critical to protecting public health. With data in hand, residents have a better chance of taking effective action to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy.

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User friendly food-date labeling system can cut waste

eat or freeze by use by dateTwilight Greenaway writes in Civil Eats about the food waste being caused by a broken US food labeling system that is inconsistent and misunderstood. She examines solutions proposed in The Dating Game, a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. NRDC has already been “getting the word out about food waste” and “confusing expiration dates” for years now.

No matter how many times we’re reminded that 40 percent of the food we produce in the U.S. goes to waste, it still manages to be a pretty shocking number…

According to Dana Gunders, NRDC’s resident food waste expert, the date labeling system in the U.S. is “not a system at all.” Instead, she says: “It’s like the Wild West. Laws vary across states and, for most labels on a vast majority of products, the manufacturers choose whether to have a date at all, which kind to apply, what they interpret that label to mean, and how to determine when to set that date.”

The result? People are throwing away food on those dates because they believe it’s no longer safe to eat — up to 90 percent of us. And, conversely, we might be eating unsafe food because we’re placing more trust in those dates than we should.

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Wannabe NASA defunder Ted Cruz now in charge of NASA

Nasa climate graphic
Keith Cowing shared posts on the NASA Watch website about GOP darling Ted Cruz’ plans to defund the robust and highly informative NASA climate change research programs. On 12 Jan 2015 Keith posted:

The new Republican-led Congress is currently busy picking people to chair its many committees and subcommittees. Guess what! Tea Party hero Senator Ted Cruz is the new chair of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness. That means he will oversee NASA. Yep – the climate-denying Tea Party hero who tried to defund NASA is now in charge of NASA.

NASA Defunder Now Sets NASA’s Agenda in The Senate

8 Dumb Quotes About Science From New NASA Overseer Ted Cruz on Gizmodo

Keith notes:

Cruz is not a lightweight. You may not agree with him, but he is sharp. Last year there was a hearing on the threat of asteroids to Earth. Unlike all of the other senators who asked questions, Cruz looked straight at the witnesses without referring to notes (i.e. questions written by staffers) and asked a series of questions – some prompted by witness responses – without the usual fumbling you often see from Senators who have no idea what anyone is talking about (ala Bill Nelson). Yes, he got his partisan jabs in – but everyone does that. As such NASA is going to be up against someone who can run non-stop semantic circles around Charlie Bolden – if he is inclined to do so. Dava Newman’s confirmation hearing will be interesting should he decide to use the hearing as an opportunity to go after the Administration.

Sign the White House Petition to remove Ted Cruz from the position of NASA oversight of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness

And on 08 Jan 2015, Keith shared additional information in his post about Cruz and fellow Republican climate change denier Marco Rubio Political Climate Change Ahead for NASA and NOAA:

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee today announced who will chair its subcommittees in the 114th Congress. Ted Cruz (R-TX) will chair the subcommittee that oversees NASA, while Marco Rubio (R-FL) will chair the one with jurisdiction over NOAA.

Senate Commerce Names Subcommittee Chairs: Ted Cruz for NASA, Marco Rubio for NOAA

Second warmest December boosted 2014 to 34th warmest year for contiguous U.S; eight weather and climate disasters exceeded $1 billion in damages

2014 U.S. temperature exceeds 20th-century average for the 18th consecutive year

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, another climate denier, may be next-in-line to become chair of the Subcommittee on Science and Space, which oversees agencies like the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Climate Denier Ted Cruz Is Poised to Become a Lead Senator on Science, New Republic

I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it,” Rubio said on ABC’s “This Week.

Marco Rubio says human activity isn’t causing climate change, LA Times

Sign the White House Petition to remove Ted Cruz from the position of NASA oversight of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness

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Obama calls on NEPA to create awareness of environmental costs

enviro impact assessment
Source: NEXCO East
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was signed into law New Year’s Day of 1970 by President Nixon. And, it’s what Obama committed to use before Christmas 2014 for bringing commonsense guidance to every sort of government construction project. Wildlife Defenders writer Noah Matson points out: “NEPA is one of the most important environmental laws that most people have never heard of.”

Obama isn’t calling for government agencies to pick the most eco-friendly approach to development. But he wants NEPA protocol to be followed: it calls for an analysis of the environmental impact of every project being planned, giving government staff the chance to weigh the financial costs of building against the environmental ones. This brilliant approach will forever change the development game, as truth is an irresistibly compelling force and when people are forced to look upon it, they can’t avoid being transformed. Until now, environmental costs of construction have been disregarded through the simple expedient of ignoring that they exist.

Matson says:

One of the key ways that NEPA advances this policy is by instituting a sound, transparent planning approach to large-scale government decisions. Before taking an action that could have a significant effect on the environment, NEPA requires those involved to develop alternative ways to achieve the same goal, and to evaluate the environmental impacts (good and bad) that each different approach would have. For instance, if the goal is to enable commuters to travel between two cities, the alternatives might be a highway that cuts straight through a wetland, a longer highway going around it, or a new rail line. NEPA requires the agency to lay out and weigh the pros and cons of each approach.

We can expect GOP politicians to stand on their heads and bawl like babies to protest meaningful ecological analysis of any development project. They’re only about profit at this point; are owned by major corporate interests and have put concerns for nature, clean air and water on the shelf. But NEPA is a good thing, and pulling it more effectively into play is a characteristically impressive Obama policy move.

Other Resources:
View NEPA compliance documentation
More on NEPA by Environmental Law Institute

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