To Stop Climate Change, Educate Girls and Give them Birth Control

Climate change is a ubiquitous hydra, a many-headed beast that affects everyone and everything in some form. Solutions to climate change range from the effective and the practical to the potentially catastrophically dangerous—but, in this somewhat heated debate, a potent weapon in our arsenal is falling by the wayside: the empowerment of women.

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Robin George Andrews (@squigglyvolcano and robingeorgeandrews.com) is a volcanologist and science writer whose work appears in IFLScience, Forbes, and elsewhere.

Last year a coalition of scientists, economists, policymakers, researchers, and business people published Project Drawdown, a compendium of ways to prevent carbon dioxide from escaping skywards. Drawing from a plethora of peer-reviewed research, the document ranks 80 practical, mitigating measures—along with 20 near-future concepts—that could push back the oncoming storm.

Ranked in order of carbon emissions locked down by 2050, the usual suspects made the list. A moderate expansion of solar farms (number 8), onshore wind turbines (number 2), and nuclear power (number 20) would all save tens of billions of tons of equivalent carbon dioxide emissions. Increasing the number of people on plant-rich diets (number 4) and using electric vehicles (number 26) are effective carbon-cutting measures often proposed by climate hawks, and rightly so. The top spot went to managing refrigerants like HFCs, which are incredibly effective at trapping heat within our atmosphere.

But two lesser-known solutions also made this most practical of lists: the education of girls (number 6) and family planning (number 7). This is a stunning revelation, one that couldn’t be more pertinent, and yet, for the most part, discussions of mitigation and de-carbonization focus heavily on other matters, from the perceived perils and bona fide benefits of nuclear power, to just how quickly solar power is proliferating.

The link between the education of girls and a smaller carbon footprint isn’t as intuitively obvious as, say, phasing out fossil fuels. But dig a little deeper, and the evidence is overwhelming. It’s clear that getting more girls into school, and giving them a quality education, has a series of profound, cascading effects: reduced incidence of disease, higher life expectancies, more economic prosperity, fewer forced marriages, and fewer children. Better educational access and attainment not only equips women with the skills to deal with the antagonizing effects of climate change, but it gives them influence over how their communities militate against it.

Although the education of girls in a small number of countries is at, or approaching, parity with boys, for most of the planet, this remains distressingly elusive. Poverty, along with community traditions, tends to hold back girls as boys are prioritized.

Then there's family planning, something that’s indivisible from the education of girls. The planet is overpopulated, and the demands of its citizens greatly exceed the natural resources provided by our environment.

Contraception and prenatal care is denied to women across the world, from those in the United States, to communities in low-income nations. It’s either not available, not affordable, or social and/or religious motives ensure that it’s banned or heavily restricted. As a consequence, the world’s population will rise rapidly, consume ever more resources, and power its ambitions using fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide will continue to accumulate in the atmosphere.

The education of girls and family planning can be considered as a single issue involving the empowerment of women in communities across the world. Drawdown calculated that, by taking steps toward universal education and investing in family planning in developing nations, the world could nix 120 billion tons of emissions by 2050. That’s roughly 10 years’ worth of China’s annual emissions as of 2014, and it’s all because the world's population won't rise quite so rapidly.

It's farcical that this isn’t forming a major part of the debate over climate change mitigation. It’s not entirely clear why this is the case, but I’d suspect that regressive societal attitudes, along with the tendency of commentators to focus on the battle between different energy sectors, play suppressive roles in this regard.

Project Drawdown isn't the only group that has recently tied population growth to climate change. A study published last summer also found that having just one fewer child is a far more effective way for individuals in the developed world to shrink their carbon footprint than, say, recycling or eating less meat. For women in wealthy countries, these decisions are often freely made, and fertility rates in those countries are already fairly low. In low-income countries, such individual agency—not to mention contraception—is frequently absent, and fertility rates remain high.

Just as policymakers, climate advocates, and science communicators should pay attention to Drawdown’s findings, individuals should also do what they can to make sure such a solution comes to pass. Non-government organizations, like Hand In Hand International, Girls Not Brides, and the Malala Fund aren’t just uplifting women, but they’re helping to save the planet too, and they deserve support.

It's a grim assessment of civilization that, in 2018, humans are still grappling with gender equality. The world would clearly benefit if women were on par with men in every sector of society. We shouldn’t need any more convincing, but the fact that the social ascension of women would deal a severe blow to anthropogenic warming should be shouted from the rooftops.

Incidentally, the solutions in Drawdown also had associated economic benefits or costs associated with them. If 10 percent of the world's electricity was generated using solar farms, then it’d save $5 trillion by 2050, for example. No such value could be put to educating girls and family planning—two human rights with incalculable benefits.

WIRED Opinion publishes pieces written by outside contributors and represents a wide range of viewpoints. Read more opinions here.

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Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/to-stop-climate-change-educate-girls-and-give-them-birth-control/

Macron awards US scientists grants to move to France in defiance of Trump

Frances president awards millions of euros to 18 American scientists to relocate in effort to counter Donald Trump on the climate change front

Eighteen climate scientists from the US and elsewhere have hit the jackpot as Frances president, Emmanuel Macron, awarded them millions of euros in grants to relocate to France for the rest of Donald Trumps presidential term.

The Make Our Planet Great Again grants a nod to Trumps Make America Great Again campaign slogan are part of Macrons efforts to counter Trump on the climate change front. Macron announced a contest for the projects in June, hours after Trump declared he would withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord.

More than 5,000 people from about 100 countries expressed interest in the grants. Most of the applicants and 13 of the 18 winners were US-based researchers.

Macrons appeal gave me such a psychological boost, to have that kind of support, to have the head of state saying I value what you do, said winner Camille Parmesan, of the University of Texas at Austin. She will be working at an experimental ecology station in the Pyrenees on how human-made climate change is affecting wildlife.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Parmesan described funding challenges for climate science in the US and a feeling that you are having to hide what you do.

Trump has expressed skepticism about global warming and said the Paris accord would hurt US business by requiring a reduction in climate-damaging emissions.

We will be there to replace US financing of climate research, Macron told the winners in Paris on Monday.

If we want to prepare for the changes of tomorrow, we need science, he said, promising to put in place a global climate change monitoring system among other climate innovations.

The research of the winning recipients focuses on pollution, hurricanes and clouds. A new round of the competition will be launched next year, alongside Germany. About 50 projects will be chosen overall, and funded with 60m ($70m) from the state and French research institutes.

Initially aimed at American researchers, the research grants were expanded to other non-French climate scientists, according to organizers. Candidates need to be known for working on climate issues, have completed a thesis and propose a project that would take between three to five years.

The time frame would cover Trumps current presidential term.

Some French researchers have complained that Macron is showering money on foreign scientists at a time when they have been pleading for more support for domestic higher education.

Macron unveiled the first winners at a startup incubator in Paris called Station F, where Microsoft and smaller tech companies announced projects to finance activities aimed at reducing emissions.

Mondays event is a prelude to a bigger climate summit Tuesday aimed at giving new impetus to the Paris accord and finding new funding to help governments and businesses meet its goals.

More than 50 world leaders are expected in Paris for the One Planet Summit, co-hosted by the UN and the World Bank. Trump was not invited.

Other attendees include Arnold Schwarzenegger, who took a spin on a Parisian electric bike Monday to call attention to health problems caused by pollution.

The Hollywood star and former California governor argued that Trumps rejection of the Paris climate accord doesnt matter, because companies, scientists and other governments can pick up the slack to reduce global emissions.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/11/macron-awards-grants-to-us-scientists-to-move-to-france-in-defiance-of-trump

Animal agriculture is choking the Earth and making us sick. We must act now | James Cameron and Suzy Amis Cameron

Film-maker James Cameron and environmentalist Suzy Amis Cameron writes that to preserve Americas majestic national parks, clean air and water for future generations leaders must be pressed to address foods environmental impact

Our collective minds are stuck on this idea that talking about foods environmental impact risks taking something very intimate away from us. In fact its just the opposite. Reconsidering how we eat offers us hope, and empowers us with choice over what our future planet will look like. And we can ask our local leaders from city mayors to school district boards to hospital management to help, by widening our food options.

On Monday and Tuesday, the city of Chicago is hosting a summit for the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy to discuss climate solutions cities can undertake. Strategies to address and lower foods impact should be front and center.

Animal agriculture is choking the Earth, and the longer we turn a blind eye, the more we limit our ability to nourish ourselves, protect waterways and habitats, and pursue other uses of our precious natural resources. Raising livestock for meat, eggs and milk generates 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the second highest source of emissions and greater than all transportation combined. It also uses about 70% of agricultural land, and is one of theleading causes of deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution.

On top of this, eating too much meat and dairy is making us sick, greatlyincreasing our risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, several major cancers (including breast, liver and prostate) and obesity. Diets optimal for human health vary, according to David Katz, of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, but all of them are made up mostly of whole, wholesome plant foods.

So what gives? Why cant we see the forest for the bacon? The truth can be hard to swallow: that we simply need less meat and dairy and more plant-based options in our food system if were to reach our climate goals.

Still
The Avatar movie set had plant-based menus. Photograph: 20th Century Fox/Everett/Rex Features

This can start with individual action. Five years ago, our family felt hopeless about climate change, and helpless to make meaningful change. But when we connected the dots on animal agricultures impact on the environment, coupled with the truth about nutrition, we took heart because it gave us something we could actually do.

To create change at the scale needed, this will take more than individual choice we need to get climate leaders on board about the impact of food. Cities and counties have used their buying power to transition fleets from diesel to electric, and we need to do the same with how we purchase food. We have done this in our own community, moving the lunch program of Muse School, in Calabasas, California, and the Avatar movie set to plant-based menus. Scaling up initiatives like these can make a big difference: if the US reduced meat consumption by 50%, its the equivalent of taking 26 million cars off the road. We think thats damn hopeful.

Decision-makers on all levels can make it easier for us to eat better, by expanding access to food options that are good for our health, affordable, and climate-friendly. Nationwide, cities and school districts have adopted food purchasing policies that include environment, health and fair labor standards. The city of Chicago is a recent adopter of this Good Food Purchasing Program, and so the solutions-focus of the summit is the perfect place to discuss how food can move us toward climate goals. In the same breath that we discuss fossil fuels, we should be talking animal ag, or were missing a big part of the problem and a big part of the solution.

Yes, food is inherently personal. Its the cornerstone of holidays, it fuels high school athletes and long workdays, and it nourishes nursing mothers and growing children. And yes, Americans love meat and cheese. But more than that, we love our majestic national parks, family beach vacations and clean air and water for our children and grandchildren.

As individuals, we can make choices on how to better nourish our families, and as citizens, we can encourage local leaders to make choices that will allow us to enjoy our land and natural resources now and in the future.

James Cameron is a film-maker and deep-sea explorer. Suzy Amis Cameron is a founder of Muse School and Plant Power Task Force.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/04/animal-agriculture-choking-earth-making-sick-climate-food-environmental-impact-james-cameron-suzy-amis-cameron

Cutting Down on Cow Burps to Ease Climate Change

In a cream-colored metal barn two hours north of Wellington, New Zealand, a black-and-white dairy cow stands in what looks like an oversize fish tank. Through the transparent Plexiglas walls, she can see three other cows in adjacent identical cubicles munching their food in companionable silence. Tubes sprout from the tops of the boxes, exchanging fresh air for the stale stuff inside. The cows, their owners say, could help slow climate change.

Livestock has directly caused about one-quarter of Earth’s warming in the industrial age, and scientists from the U.S. departments of agriculture and energy say bigger, more resource-heavy cattle are accelerating the problem. Contrary to popular belief, cows contribute to global warming mostly through their burps, not their flatulence. So about a dozen scientists here at AgResearch Grasslands, a government-owned facility, are trying to develop a vaccine to stop those burps. “This is not a standard vaccine,” says Peter Janssen, the anti-burp program’s principal research scientist. “It’s proving to be an elusive little genie to get out of the bottle.”

The effort isn’t entirely altruistic. Grasslands is dedicated to boosting New Zealand’s dominant agriculture and biotech industries, and the country’s biggest company, Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd., a $14 billion dairy processor, has vowed to increase its milk exports without increasing carbon emissions. But 2017 is set to be the third-hottest year on record—the top two were 2016 and 2015—so the globe can use all the help it can get, business-minded or not. “It’s essential to reduce global livestock emissions in order to reduce climate change consistent with what countries signed up to under the Paris Agreement,” says Andy Reisinger, deputy director of the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre.

Janssen.
Photographer: Jake Mein for Bloomberg Businessweek

Janssen and his team are trying to purge cow stomachs of methanogens, the microbes that convert hydrogen into methane, a potent greenhouse gas. It’s an unexpectedly delicate and difficult task, because cows rely on a host of other bacteria, fungi, and protozoa in their guts to digest the grasses they eat. Researchers have tried feeding them oregano, tea extracts, probiotics, antibiotics, seaweed (too toxic), coconut oil (too expensive), chloroform (too carcinogenic), and even leftover grains from beer brewing (which made cows poop more nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas).

So far no vaccine has progressed far enough to be given to the cows in the cubicles, where methane output can be measured. The vaccine must first be successfully tested in the lab and on sheep. Although the scientists have figured out how to produce the desired antibodies in the cows, the animals continue to merrily burp. Janssen’s team is looking for proteins they can use to concoct a stronger vaccine, one that will better prime the cows’ immune systems to attack methanogens. A single methanogen genome has 2,000 proteins, so they’ve narrowed their search to a handful of candidates, which they think could knock out the gassiest microbes.

A cow is led into the methane measurement center.
Photographer: Jake Mein for Bloomberg Businessweek

The hunt for a vaccine costs about $1.4 million a year, about two-thirds of which comes from the New Zealand government. Industry supplies the rest. The money is part of a $7.5 million pool for curbing farming gases meant to address New Zealand’s status as the world’s highest per capita methane emitter. Janssen says it may take five years or longer to create the right vaccine, but it will do much more to reduce bovine emissions than a treatment that Dutch company DSM is developing for bucket-fed cows. That’s because the vaccine will work just as well for grazers. “There aren’t too many ruminants in the world where the animals never get to eat grass,” he says, noting that even cows fattened with feed in a controlled environment typically start out in pastures.

DSM used computers to create a methane-blocking molecule called 3-nitrooxypropanol, or 3-NOP, that appears to cut burped methane by about a third when sprinkled on a cow’s food. The company, whose annual research and development budget is $500 million, is waiting for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is likely to take at least two more years. “For developed countries, this is the most promising technology at this point,” says Alexander Hristov, a Penn State professor of dairy nutrition who’s tested 3-NOP for DSM. The New Zealanders are leading the vaccine hunt, he says, but they haven’t developed a proven product they can offer to farmers.

Dairy cows at Massey University, which supplies cows for AgResearch.
Photographer: Jake Mein for Bloomberg Businessweek

Janssen, a bespectacled man with the lanky limbs of a longtime mountain explorer, says his team is also working on substances similar to 3-NOP that could be given in pill form. A complicating factor: No one knows how low-methane a cow can go without hurting its health or productivity. Trials suggest cows that burp less seem to cope fine, but scientists want to make sure there are no unintended consequences, such as reduced milk quality or quantity. “We need to understand where that tipping point is,” Janssen says.

Humans are the final hurdle. Canadian scientists created low-polluting pigs almost a decade ago, but people wouldn’t buy the genetically modified pork. “Farmers will produce what the consumer demands,” says Tim McAllister, who’s conducting trials of 3-NOP and other methane-reduction techniques for the Canadian government at the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre in Alberta. Soaring global demand for meat makes climate concerns pressing. North of Wellington, the cows seem content in their tanks, turning to watch as Janssen strides between their boxes. For now, their burps are packed with methane, but they may not have to be.

    BOTTOM LINE – Researchers are painstakingly hunting for compounds that can quell methane-packed cow burps but will still have to sell regulators and the public on the science.

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-29/cutting-down-on-cow-burps-to-ease-climate-change

    Researcher’s linking of 59,000 suicides in India to climate change ‘particularly worrisome’ under Trump

    The Washington Post’s coverage of a study linking climate change and suicide managed to hold off for three paragraphs before bringing up President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, making the study’s findings “particularly worrisome” if you buy into them, that is.

    Read more: http://twitchy.com/brettt-3136/2017/08/01/researchers-linking-of-59000-suicides-in-india-to-climate-change-particularly-worrisome-under-trump/

    Canary Island tourists warned to avoid toxic ‘sea sawdust’ algae

    Global warming helping spread of micro-algae, forcing the closure of several beaches including popular Teresitas at Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

    Tourists have been warned to avoid blooms of toxic micro-algae that have been proliferating in hot weather in the sea off Spains Canary Islands.

    Tenerife in particular is awash with visitors at this time of year but some of those having a dip in the Atlantic ocean have come out scratching themselves after brushing up against the tiny algae.

    The spreading algae have produced a greenish-brown hue in the waters off some beaches in the tourist haven.

    Since the end of June we have seen episodes of massive efflorescence, or bloom, of microalgae, sometimes reaching as far as bathing beaches, said Jose Juan Aleman, director of public health for the Canaries.

    The algae are a type of bacteria, trichodesmium erythraeum, also known as sea sawdust, said Aleman.

    Its proliferation is a natural, temporary phenomenon which is going to disappear in due course, he added, suggesting global warming was helping the algae spread.

    The bacterium contains a toxin which can lead to skin irritation, dermatitis, hence one must avoid coming into contact with it in the water and on the sand.

    With the islands last year welcoming more than 13 million foreign tourists, local authorities were keen to reassure sun-seekers.

    Generally it has not been necessary to close the beaches, said Aleman.

    Bill Entwistle (@bemahague)

    No swimming, algae alert @playasanjuan @tenerife pic.twitter.com/0sqIeAblqu

    July 22, 2017

    However, AFP found that several have been closed to swimmers over recent weeks, including the popular Teresitas beach at Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

    Marta Sanson, professor of plant biology at Tenerifes La Laguna university, said that ideal conditions are allowing proliferation of these micro-algae.

    Those include an increase in water temperature as well as a dust cloud sweeping in off the Sahara which is rich in iron, a nutrient which micro-organisms like.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/08/canary-island-tourists-warned-to-avoid-toxic-sea-sawdust-algae

    Great Barrier Reef: Australia must act urgently on water quality, says Unesco

    Draft decision says Australia would not, at this rate, meet interim or long-term targets in the Reef 2050 report

    Unesco has expressed serious concern about the impact of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef and warned Australia it will not meet the targets of the Reef 2050 report without considerable work to improve water quality.

    The criticism was contained in a draft decision published as part of the agenda for the upcoming world heritage committee meeting (pdf), which will take place in Krakow, Poland, in the first two weeks of July.

    It suggested the Great Barrier Reef should remain off the danger list, despite back-to-back coral bleaching events affecting about two-thirds of the reef and the latest data showing a sharp decline in coral cover in the north.

    The draft decision also praised the Australian and Queensland governments for initial work done to implement the Reef 2050 plan that included establishing a $1.28bn investment strategy, most of which will be spent on improving water quality.

    However, the report said progress on reducing the number of agricultural pollutants flowing into the reef had been slow and Australia would not, at this rate, meet either its interim or long-term targets to improve water quality.

    It strongly encouraged Australia to accelerate efforts to ensure meeting the immediate and long-term targets of the plan, which are essential to the overall resilience of the property, in particularly regarding water quality.

    It also said climate change remained the most significant overall threat to the future of the reef, and recommended that the committee express its serious concern at the coral bleaching and mortality that occurred in 2016 and at the second event underway in early 2017.

    While the long-term effects of these events cannot be fully evaluated yet, their scale serves to underline the severity of the threat to the property from climate change, Unesco said. At the site level, there is a need to consider how these mass bleaching events influence the effectiveness of the [Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan] in its current form, notably in relation to the most urgently needed measures and improvements that contribute to the propertys resilience.

    Meeting those water quality targets would require a ten-fold increase in investment to $10bn over the next 10 years, the leading expert on water quality for the reef, Jon Brodie, said.

    It would also involve transitioning farmland in the Great Barrier Reef catchment from sugar cane plantations, which use fertilisers that cause much of the water pollution in the reef, to a less high-intensity form of agriculture, such as grazing.

    Theres things that could be done for the water quality part but its hard to see this government doing them, Brodie told Guardian Australia. The federal government is unfortunately just writing the Great Barrier Reef off. Other things are more important to them, like the support of farmers in Queensland, and the coal industry.

    Brodie said improving water quality would not be enough by itself to save the reef, which faces its most direct threat from climate change.

    But unlike climate change, Brodie said, the quality of water flowing into the reef is directly under the control of existing Australian legislation. Improving water quality cannot prevent future bleaching events, but it can improve the capacity of the reef to recover.

    The environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, welcomed the Unesco draft decision on Saturday, which he said confirms the Reef 2050 plan has been effective.

    The draft decision points to the importance of the reefs resilience despite the challenges faced from coral bleaching, he said.

    Frydenberg acknowledged the committees push for accelerated action on water quality and said international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was critical for reefs worldwide, including the Great Barrier Reef. He cited Australias continued commitment to the Paris agreement, which the US president, Donald Trump, abandoned on Friday, as evidence of Australias efforts.

    Unesco is expected to release a second report on the impact of climate change on the health of all world heritage listed reefs before the July meeting.

    Richard Leck, oceans campaigner for the World Wildlife Fund, said that while the impacts of water quality and land clearing on the health of the reef were significant, climate change remained the major threat.

    If the global climate warmed by 1.5 degrees, Leck said, the Great Barrier Reef would not survive. We need to have climate policies that will actually protect the reef and currently our climate policies are nowhere near sufficient to get the action required to save the reef, he said.

    The Australian Marine Conservation Society seconded that concern, and called on the Queensland government to immediately introduce land clearing laws, scrapped under the Newman government, to reduce the amount of runoff flowing into the reefs catchment.

    The Palaszczuk government tried to reintroduce land-clearing laws in 2016 but failed to get them past parliament.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/03/great-barrier-reef-australia-must-act-urgently-on-water-quality-says-unesco