March 2022

1. Risks for elderly living near fracking sites

Longxiang Li et al., “Exposure to unconventional oil and gas development and all-cause mortality in Medicare beneficiaries,” nature energy (27 Jan 2022).  go.nature.com/3s7Tday

See, also, Nina Lakhnai, “Living near fracking sites raises risk of premature death for elderly, US study finds,” The Guardian (27 Jan 2022).  bit.ly/34mBTX0

Elderly people living near or downwind from unconventional oil and gas wells such as fracking sites are more likely to die prematurely, according to a major new US study.  Compared with traditional drilling, unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD) is linked to higher levels of exposure to toxic air pollution and poor water quality, as well as noise and light pollution which can be harmful to human health. The impact of fossil fuel extraction – including by unconventional methods – has disproportionately affected low income communities and people of color.

2.  Current rising oil prices vs long-term stranded fossil assets

Axel Dalman, Mike Coffin and Mark Fulton, “Managing Peak Oil: Why rising oil prices could create a stranded asset trap as the energy transition accelerates,” Carbon Tracker (27 Jan 2022). bit.ly/3KRIqKl

See, also, Jillian Ambrose, “Rocketing demand for fossil fuels could deal blow to climate goals, report says,” The Guardian (27 Jan 2022).  bit.ly/3GhNQux

Global oil prices have climbed to $90 a barrel, which could tempt investors to pile more cash into long-term fossil fuel projects, dashing the world’s hopes to limit carbon emissions in line with climate targets and wasting billions in investment, according to a report.

Recent price rises could mean more potential projects appear to be lucrative investments in the short-term, the report by the financial thinktank Carbon Tracker says. But the analysis suggests demand for fossil fuels could begin to dwindle by the time these projects begin, creating “a nightmare scenario” for investors and climate campaigners.

But the increase was unlikely to last over the lifetime of a long-term fossil fuel investment, Carbon Tracker said, because government climate commitments combined with the rapid switch to electric vehicles and renewable energy would drive down demand for oil sharply from the late 2020s to 2040.

3.  High risks from BFA

ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND, BREAST CANCER PREVENTION PARTNERS, CLEAN WATER ACTION, CONSUMER REPORTS, ENDOCRINE SOCIETY, ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP, HEALTHY BABIES BRIGHT FUTURES, MARICEL MAFFINI, AND LINDA BIRNBAUM, New food additive petition asking FDA to remove or restrict its approvals of bisphenol A (CASRN 80-05-7) pursuant to 21 USC § 348 with expedited review (27 Jan 2022).   bit.ly/3uvpjzJ

See, also, Tom Perkins, “Americans exposed to toxic BPA at levels far above what EU considers safe – study,” The Guardian (6 Feb 2022).  bit.ly/334Gyge

“A comprehensive review of recent studies into a chemical often used in plastics and resins has revealed that the average American is exposed to levels of the dangerous compound that are 5,000 times higher than what the European Union now considers safe.

The main exposure route for bisphenol-A (BPA) is via plastic and metal food packaging, and that has prompted a call for strong new limits on its use.

In a petition sent last week to the US Food and Drug Administration, consumer advocates and food safety scientists led by the Environmental Defense Fund warned that the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) December review clearly shows that BPA exposure levels in the US represent a “high health risk” for Americans of all ages.”

4.  Top corporations use misleading climate pledges to greenwash image

New Climate Institute and Carbon Market Watch, Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor:  ASSESSING THE TRANSPARENCY AND INTEGRITY OF COMPANIES’ EMISSION REDUCTION AND NET-ZERO TARGETS (February 2022).  bit.ly/35Wg55y

The Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor assesses the climate strategies of 25 major global companies, critically analysing the extent to which they demonstrate corporate climate leadership. We evaluate the integrity of climate pledges against good practice criteria to identify good examples for replication, and highlight areas where
improvement is needed.

See, also, Fiona Harvey, “World’s biggest firms failing over net-zero claims, research suggests,” The Guardian (6 Feb 2022).  bit.ly/3B1JIh6

5.  Getting the minerals we need for renewable energy

 World Bank Group, Minerals for Climate Action: The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition (2020).  bit.ly/3BasVJ4

“The demand for base and niche minerals to help build clean energy technologies are expected to rise substantially up to 2050, increasing in both absolute and percentage terms from 2018 production levels. Although clean energy technologies are distinct, they all share a common feature: Higher material intensity in comparison to fossil-fuel-based electricity generation.  Regardless of which technology-based mitigation scenario is achieved to keep global warming under 2 degrees or beyond, the rapid and large-scale deployment of renewable energy will lead to significant increases in mineral demand because of how these technologies produce and store electricity.

Based on the model presented in this report, large relative increases in demand of up to nearly 500 percent are estimated for certain minerals, especially those concentrated in energy storage technologies, such as lithium, graphite, and cobalt.  Even those minerals whose relative demand increases are smaller (for example, copper) still face large increases in absolute demand.  Different energy technologies require different types of minerals, either to build their structures or frames, or as components in the technology used to generate electricity, such as the PV cells in solar PV and magnets or motors in wind turbines. Therefore, the technology pathway that emerges from the clean energy transition will shape the types of minerals that will experience the largest increases in demand. That said, regardless of which low-carbon technology pathway is selected, overall mineral demand will still increase.”   [from Conclusion of Report]

 See, also, David Roberts, “The minerals used by clean-energy technologies:  From aluminum to zinc,” volts (8 Feb 2022).  bit.ly/34KQ7S1

6.  Adjusting size and distribution of ice glaciers in world

Millan, R., Mouginot, J., Rabatel, A. et al. Ice velocity and thickness of the world’s glaciers. Nat. Geosci. 15, 124–129 (2022).  bit.ly/3GBxo8v

Abstract:  The effect of climate change on water resources and sea-level rise is largely determined by the size of the ice reservoirs around the world and the ice thickness distribution, which remains uncertain. Here, we present a comprehensive high-resolution mapping of ice motion for 98% of the world’s total glacier area during the period 2017–2018. We use this mapping of glacier flow to generate an estimate of global ice volume that reconciles ice thickness distribution with glacier dynamics and surface topography. The results suggest that the world’s glaciers have a potential contribution to sea-level rise of 257 ± 85 mm, which is 20% less than previously estimated. At low latitudes, our findings highlight notable changes in freshwater resources, with 37% more ice in the Himalayas and 27% less ice in the tropical Andes of South America, affecting water availability for local populations. This mapping of glacier flow and thickness redefines our understanding of global ice-volume distribution and has implications for the prediction of glacier evolution around the world, since accurate representations of glacier geometry and dynamics are of prime importance to glacier modelling.

See, also, Raymond Zhong, “Glaciers’ Water supply May Peak Sooner Than Expected,” The New York Times (8 Feb 2022).  nyti.ms/3B6ItgI

 7.  Sea level rise on US coastal waters, projected to 2150

 National Ocean Service, NOAA, 2022 Sea Level Rise Technical Report: Updated projections available through 2150 for all U.S coastal waters. bit.ly/3rTpB1J

The first update since 2017, offers projections out to the year 2150 and information to help communities assess potential changes in average tide heights and height-specific threshold frequencies as they strive to adapt to sea level rise.

Sea level along the U.S. coastline is projected to rise, on average, 10 – 12 inches (0.25 – 0.30 meters) in the next 30 years (2020 – 2050), which will be as much as the rise measured over the last 100 years (1920 – 2020).

Current and future emissions matter. About 2 feet (0.6 meters) of sea level rise along the U.S. coastline is increasingly likely between 2020 and 2100 because of emissions to date. Failing to curb future emissions could cause an additional 1.5 – 5 feet (0.5 – 1.5 meters) of rise for a total of 3.5 – 7 feet (1.1 – 2.1 meters) by the end of this century.

See also, Oliver Milman, “US sea level to rise as much in next 30 years as in past century – study,” The Guardian (16 Feb 2022).  bit.ly/3sIg3WM

8.  Mass migration and climate refugees in Mexico and Central America

Mayors Migration Council, Climate Migration in Mexican and Central American Cities (by C40 CITIES and Columbia University Climate School (February 2022).   bit.ly/3uVKhbp

See, also Diane Taylor, “Prepare for mass migration to cities in climate crisis, UK mayors warn,” The Guardian (16 Feb 2022).   bit.ly/3vaVC7N

“Mass migration to some of the world’s cities due to the climate emergency is already under way and the World Bank has estimated that unless significant action is taken, 216 million people could be on the move by 2050. In 2020, 30 million people were displaced due to the climate crisis, and 70% of people internally displaced due to the climate crisis are living in urban areas. The World Bank predicts that more than 1 billion people are at risk of being driven from their homes for climate-related reasons.

The report, launched during UN Migration Week, uses several countries in Latin America as case studies for what is happening to cities as a result of the climate emergency, and makes recommendations to ameliorate the gloomy projections about the impact of climate emergency-linked migration across the world.

9.  The greenwashing (a/k/a BS) from the oil majors continues

Mei Li, Gregory Trencher, Jusen Asuka, “The clean energy claims of BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell: A mismatch between discourse, actions and investments,” PLOS ONE (16 Feb 2022). bit.ly/34EHmcB

See, also, Damian Carrington, “Oil firms’ climate claims are greenwashing, study concludes,” The Guardian (16 Feb 2022). bit.ly/3gOQ2PJ

“The research, published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, examined the records of ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and BP, which together are responsible for more than 10% of global carbon emissions since 1965. The researchers analysed data over the 12 years up to 2020 and concluded the company claims do not align with their actions, which include increasing rather than decreasing exploration.

The study found a sharp rise in mentions of “climate”, “low-carbon” and “transition” in annual reports in recent years, especially for Shell and BP, and increasing pledges of action in strategies. But concrete actions were rare and the researchers said: “Financial analysis reveals a continuing business model dependence on fossil fuels along with insignificant and opaque spending on clean energy.”

10.  Destruction by subsidies

Financing Our Survival: Building a Nature Positive Economy through Subsidy Reform, Prepared by The B Team and Business for Nature, based on study by Doug Koplow and Ronald Steenblik (February 2022).  bit.ly/3BrLFDT

The world is spending at least $1.8 trillion a year, equivalent to 2% of global GDP, on subsidies that are driving the destruction of ecosystems and species extinction.

See, also Patrick Greenfield, “World spends $1.8tn a year on subsidies that harm environment, study finds,” The Guardian (17 Feb 2022).  bit.ly/3LIpKgk



EDITORS NOTE (August 2021) re revision to Reports section

In August 2021, we revised the Reports section of the magazine.   In the past we used the Reports section to provide digests of generally long, complex and usually technical discussions of environmental issues or developments.  The authors of these reports were typically environmental agencies, non-government organizations (NGOs), or academics.  The intent was to make these reports more accessible to a wide, general audience so readers could get a sense of what the reports covered and what they concluded. Readers then could connect to the link for the reports and delve further into the details and findings.

Over the past dozen years publications of technical reports have included executive summaries, often written in simpler language than the reports themselves.  At the same time there has been a rapid growth in environmental studies across the globe and just finding relevant or interesting reports through the internet is a challenge.

So we have converted the Reports section to a list of ten of the most interesting, long form examples of writing on key environmental issues and developments.  We will include the information necessary to find the writing — authors, title and link to publication — and we will add a short subheading to provide more clues about what is covered in the writing, much like a subheading expands on the headline for a newspaper article.  We interpret the term “reports” liberally to include almost any format that provides us with data, information, and opinion on environmental matters.  For instance, in the first of these new reports, we included a website, The Geography of Future Water Challenges, derived from a written report by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency with the same name and found at bit.ly/3fgSK0n

On one level this list of reports will do for long-form writing what our News section does for newspaper articles.

With the explosion of information across the internet, just finding what’s out there can be difficult.  We hope this new version of the Reports is helpful.

As with the other material in the irish environment magazine, the focus is on environmental matters on the island of Ireland, and that necessarily requires coverage of developments in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.  We will also continue to include material from across the globe as developments everywhere can inform developments anywhere.


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