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On Andrew Wheeler and the EPA: Cautious, but Hopeful

Friday, July 27, 2018

Even small children are smart enough to get it: the environment, clean air and water matters where public health is concerned. 

According to Kathleen Rest, PhD, the executive director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, "Families and communities country-wide clearly value a clean environment and rely on strong science-based public standards to provide the protection they need, expect, and deserve."

If Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, and the new director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is truly sincere about his wish to return the EPA to its core mission, he must abandon Scott Pruitt's questionable efforts to restrict the agency from using the best available science tp protect public health.

There is clear scientific evidence that efficiency and emissions standards for vehicles have been working to cut emissions that impact public health, while also saving families money at the gas pump. Scott Pruitt ignored the evidence and wilfully disavowed years of work by the EPA when declaring his intention to roll back these standards and end the progress made on delivering cleaner cars of every size.

If Wheeler is serious, he will halt all efforts to roll back these successful standards. Thankfully, Wheeler has also vowed to be more transparent about his actions than Pruitt was. This will mean allowing reporters full and unfettered access to EPA scientists, affirming the rights of scientists to co, and fully complying with Freedom of Information Act requests.

The additional good news is that unlike Pruitt, Wheeler acknowledged the facts on climate change in a recent interview saying, "I do believe climate change is real. I do believe people have an impact on the climate." To support those efforts, it is essential that Wheeler restores science to its rightful place at the EPA and removes all implicit or explicit barriers for staff working on issues related to climate change. 

The Union of Concerned Scientists members are also asking Wheeler to stop Pruitt's efforts to weaken and delay the Clean Power Plan to limit power plant carbon emissions, especially when our nation is facing worsening climate impacts, including flooding, heat waves, and wildfires. 

Cutting carbon emissions from power plants will also decrease air and water pollution, which will bring significant public health benefits to communities around the country. 

Hopefully, Andrew Wheeler will live up to his commitment to return the EPA to its core values of protecting human health and the environment first and foremost, and fight to increase the EPA budget to the amount necessary to do its life- and planet- saving job properly.  

Fortunately for everyone, Congress rejected Donald Trump's and Scott Pruitt's repeatedly proposed fossil-fuel industry-protecting sweeping budget cuts to the EPA, first by 33 percent, and a second follow-up budget cut proposal of 25 percent. 

Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, and David Amess


Nature - The International Journal of Science, just released data clearly proving carbon emissions stayed relatively flat from 2014 to 2016, but grew by about 1.5 percent between 2017 and mid-2018.  

The July 24, 2018, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Scripps reported CO2 atmospheric concentrations had reached 410.69 parts per million (ppm), with 435.00 ppm considered the threshold dangerous for humans. The 1958 CO2 ppm was well under 320.00 ppm, with 270.00 to 280,00 ppm being the norm before the fossil fuel-centered industrial revolution.

According to a new article in the most recent Forbes, "Because human activity is pumping large amounts of fossil fuel-created carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, the world's oceans have been acting like a massive sponge by absorbing up to half of this CO2, which is especially threatening to sea life." 

CO2 concentrations haven't been this high in millions of years. Even more alarming is the rate of increase in the last five decades and the fact that CO2 stays in the atmosphere for hundreds or thousands of years. Crossing the 400 ppm milestone in 2013 was a wake-up call that our actions in response to climate change need to match the persistent risk in CO2. Climate change is a threat to life on Earth, and we can no longer afford to be spectators. 

Erika Podest, PhD     Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.

The good news: The seeds of a clean-energy revolution have been planted and are now growing like weeds. The renewable energy industry provided the fastest-growing segment of new US employment in the past 18 months, clearly suggesting that thoughtful communities are shifting away from fossil fuels, including coal-fired electricity at an accelerating pace.

The not so good news: The recent White House decision to impose a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels and parts is projected to cost the US approximately 25,000 full-time jobs this year alone, with the projected installation of these solar panels accounting for 130,000 more jobs.

The Biosyntrx Team has always been a committed supporter of the Union of Concerned Scientists, whose mission is to advance the science that supports a healthy planet and safer world for all. 

For those of you seriously interested in this subject, we recommend watching or re-watching the entertaining and brilliant 2017 TED Talk by Paul Hawken titled "Drawdown, Game On," which we featured in last week's Sunday Morning Stop at the Intersection of Science, Art, Music and Humanities blog column. 

Drawdown's amazing body of peer-reviewed research proves that the number one solution to lowering CO2 emissions and stopping global warming, out of the top 80 solutions researched by more than 100 scientists worldwide, is better educating women and providing family planning. We suspect our readers might also be very surprised about many of the top 10 or 20 solutions.