Tag Archives: technology

US Gas Flaring Releases Five Times More Methane Than Previously Thought

“This study adds to the growing body of research that tells us that the oil and gas industry has a flaring problem,” said Jon Goldstein of EDF, which conducted related research on the practice.

By Jessica Corbett  Published 9-29-2022 by Common Dreams

Natural Gas flaring in West Texas oil field. Photo: Jonathan Cutrer/flickr/CC

Flaring, the process of burning natural gas escaping from fossil fuel wells, releases five times more methane than previously believed, according to an analysis of most U.S. operations, published Thursday in the journal Science.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Michigan, is based on data collected during 13 flights over three years at the Bakken oil and gas field in North Dakota as well as the Eagle Ford and Permian fields in Texas—which collectively have over 80% of all U.S. flaring operations. Continue reading

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Number of Ultrarich Hits All-Time High as Someone Dies From Hunger Every 4 Seconds

“Those with the power and money to change this must come together to better respond to current crises and prevent and prepare for future ones,” a coalition of charities asserted.

By Brett Wilkins  Published 9-20-2022 by Common Dreams

A Somali woman and her severely malnourished child wait for medical assistance from the African Union Mission in Somalia. Photo: UN

As a new analysis revealed that the global ranks of the superrich soared to a record number, a coalition of charity groups said Tuesday that hundreds of millions of people around the world are hungry—and that someone starves to death every four seconds.

At least 238 international and local charities from 75 countries signed an open letter noting that “a staggering 345 million people are now experiencing acute hunger, a number that has more than doubled since 2019.” Continue reading

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First Hit by Privatization, Puerto Rico in ‘Total Blackout’ as Fiona Makes Landfall

First Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017. Then the power grid was privatized in 2020. Now this.

By Jon Queally  Published 9-18-2022 by Common Dreams

NOAA satellite imagery as Hurricane Fiona, a Category 1 storm with sustained windspeeds of 85 mph, made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sunday, September 18, 2022. (Image: Satellite/NOAA)

A “total blackout” was reported on the island of Puerto Rico on Sunday as heavy rainfall and powerful winds pounded the island before Hurricane Fiona made landfall just before 4:00 pm local time.

Weather forecasters said the rainfall is likely to produce devastating landslides and severe flooding, with up to 25 inches (64 cm) expected in some areas. A Category 1 storm, with sustained winds of 85 mph, Fiona is nowhere near as powerful as Hurricane Maria which slammed the island in 2017, nearly five years to the day, as a Category 4 monster. Continue reading

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‘Hidden Killer’: Experts Urge Action After Study Shows How Air Pollution Causes Lung Cancer

“If you want to address human health, you have to address climate health first,” said Charles Swanton, who led the research team.

By Jessica Corbett  Published 9-11-2022 by Common Dreams

Steam rises from the cooling towers of the Jänschwalde lignite-fired power plant—which is to be taken off the grid and shut down by 2028 as Germany phases out coal. Photo: Julia Seeliger/flickr/CC

Experts emphasized the importance of more ambitiously addressing air pollution from fossil fuels after the presentation of a new breakthrough on lung cancer in Paris on Saturday.

Scientists at the Francis Crick Institute and University College London (UCL) shared their findings—part of the TRACERx lung study funded by Cancer Research U.K.—at the annual conference of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO).

“Our study has fundamentally changed how we view lung cancer in people who have never smoked,” said Cancer Research U.K. chief clinician Charles Swanton, who led and presented the research.

The way air pollution causes cancer differs from cigarettes and sunlight. Tobacco smoke and ultraviolet light damage the structure of DNA, creating mutations that cause cancer. Air pollution causes inflammation in the lungs, affecting cells that carry mutations.

“Cells with cancer-causing mutations accumulate naturally as we age, but they are normally inactive,” Swanton explained. “We’ve demonstrated that air pollution wakes these cells up in the lungs, encouraging them to grow and potentially form tumors.”

The team analyzed 463,679 individuals from England, South Korea, and Taiwan, and examined lung tissue samples from humans and mice following exposure to particulate matter, or PM2.5—air particles that are no larger than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.

They found higher rates of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutant lung cancer—and other types of cancers—in people who lived in areas with higher levels of PM2.5 pollution. They also found that, at least in mice, blocking a molecule which causes inflammation and is released in response to PM2.5 exposure prevents cancers from forming.

“According to our analysis, increasing air pollution levels increases the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and cancers of the mouth and throat,” noted Emilia Lim, co-first author and postdoctoral researcher at the Francis Crick Institute and UCL. “This finding suggests a broader role for cancers caused by inflammation triggered by a carcinogen like air pollution.”

“Even small changes in air pollution levels can affect human health,” she said, adding that 99% of the global population lives in areas that exceed annual World Health Organization (WHO) limits for PM2.5, “underlining the public health challenges posed by air pollution across the globe.”

The WHO—when updating guidelines on air quality last September for the first time in over 15 years—warned that “the burden of disease attributable to air pollution is now estimated to be on a par with other major global health risks such as unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking, and air pollution is now recognized as the single biggest environmental threat to human health.”

While most of the human population is exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution—which is tied to other health issues including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), dementia, and heart disease—research has repeatedly shown it’s often worse in the poorest communities.

One 2021 study found that air pollution reduces the average global citizen’s life by over two years. Citing an estimate that it is tied to more than eight million deaths worldwide per year, Swanton called air pollution a “hidden killer,” according to Agence France-Presse.

Swanton stressed in a statement that “the same particles in the air that derive from the combustion of fossil fuels, exacerbating climate change, are directly impacting human health via an important and previously overlooked cancer-causing mechanism in lung cells.”

“The risk of lung cancer from air pollution is lower than from smoking, but we have no control over what we all breathe,” the scientist said. “Globally, more people are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution than to toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke, and these new data link the importance of addressing climate health to improving human health.”

“It’s a wake-up call on the impact of pollution on human health,” he told The Guardian. “You cannot ignore climate health. If you want to address human health, you have to address climate health first.”

Tony Mok of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who was not involved in the study, similarly said in a statement that “as consumption of fossil fuels goes hand in hand with pollution and carbon emissions, we have a strong mandate for tackling these issues—for both environmental and health reasons.”

Like the scientists who conducted the study, Mok also pointed out how it could help with the prevention of lung cancer among nonsmokers.

“This research is intriguing and exciting as it means that we can ask whether, in the future, it will be possible to use lung scans to look for pre-cancerous lesions in the lungs and try to reverse them with medicines,” Mok said.

“We don’t yet know whether it will be possible to use highly sensitive EGFR profiling on blood or other samples to find nonsmokers who are predisposed to lung cancer and may benefit from lung scanning,” he added, “so discussions are still very speculative.”

Suzette Delaloge, head of the cancer prevention program at France’s Gustave Roussy institute, was also not involved in the research but discussed it with AFP in Paris this weekend.

“The study is quite an important step for science—and for society too, I hope,” she said, noting that it was “quite revolutionary, because we had practically no prior demonstration of this alternative way of cancer forming.”

“This opens a huge door, both for knowledge but also for new ways to prevent” cancer, added Delaloge. “This level of demonstration must force authorities to act on an international scale.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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Intense heat and flooding are wreaking havoc on power and water systems as climate change batters America’s aging infrastructure

Volunteers distributed bottled water after Jackson, Mississippi’s water treatment plant failed during flooding in August 2022.
Brad Vest/Getty Images

 

Paul Chinowsky, University of Colorado Boulder

The 1960s and 1970s were a golden age of infrastructure development in the U.S., with the expansion of the interstate system and widespread construction of new water treatment, wastewater and flood control systems reflecting national priorities in public health and national defense. But infrastructure requires maintenance, and, eventually, it has to be replaced.

That hasn’t been happening in many parts of the country. Increasingly, extreme heat and storms are putting roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure under stress. Continue reading

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Scientists Develop Malaria Vaccine With ‘World-Changing’ Potential

“We really could be looking at a very substantial reduction in that horrendous burden of malaria,” said one of the researchers involved.

By Kenny Stancil  Published 9-8-2022 by Common Dreams

Photo: GHTC/Wikimedia Commons/CC

Scientists from the University of Oxford have developed a malaria vaccine with “world-changing” potential, BBC News reported Wednesday, though getting shots into arms will require a renewed commitment to global health funding that advocates warn is in danger of being slashed.

Adrian Hill, director of the university’s Jenner Institute and co-inventor of the R21 jab, described it as “the best vaccine yet” against malaria. Continue reading

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FTC Files ‘Urgently Needed’ Suit Against Data Broker, Citing Threat to Abortion Patients

“This lawsuit highlights the very real threats that data surveillance poses to peoples’ safety, security, bodily integrity, and access to healthcare,” said the head of Public Citizen.

By Jessica Corbett  Published 8-29-2022 by Common Dreams

Earlier this year, the Tulsa Women’s Clinic was overflowing with patients, both from within Oklahoma and Texas. Now, it’s mostly empty as staff try their best to redirect patients to abortion providers in other states. Photo: Andrea Gallegos/Tulsa Women’s Clinic

Privacy and reproductive rights advocates on Monday welcomed the Biden administration’s lawsuit against Kochava Inc., which argues that the Idaho-based data broker’s practices endanger abortion patients in the post-Roe v. Wade era.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s late June Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision reversed Roe, while anti-choice forces have ramped up attacks on reproductive freedom, concerns have mounted about how data from devices like smartphones may be used to target patients and healthcare providers. Continue reading

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If you thought this summer’s heat waves were bad, a new study has some disturbing news about dangerous heat in the future

Parts of China suffered through a monthslong heat wave in summer 2022.
China Photos/Getty Images

David Battisti, University of Washington

As global temperatures rise, people in the tropics, including places like India and Africa’s Sahel region, will likely face dangerously hot conditions almost daily by the end of the century – even as the world reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, a new study shows.

The mid-latitudes, including the U.S., will also face increasing risks. There, the number of dangerously hot days, marked by temperatures and humidity high enough to cause heat exhaustion, is projected to double by the 2050s and continue to rise.

In the study, scientists looked at population growth, economic development patterns, energy choices and climate models to project how heat index levels – the combination of heat and humidity – will change over time. We asked University of Washington atmospheric scientist David Battisti, a co-author of the study, published Aug. 25, 2022, to explain the findings and what they mean for humans around the world. Continue reading

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‘Big Win’: Google Search and Maps Will Now Say If Clinics Provide Abortions

The update is “a big deal for users who’ve been misled by pregnancy crisis centers masquerading as abortion providers,” said Alphabet Workers Union. “But not enough—Google must *remove* these misleading results.”

By Jessica Corbett  Published 8-25-2022 by Common Dreams

Hundreds of Google workers have endorsed a petition urging Alphabet to stop supporting right-wing politicians and groups attacking reproductive freedom. (Photo: Democracy Now!/screenshot)

Pro-choice U.S. lawmakers and other critics of Google’s abortion-related search results welcomed the tech giant’s Thursday announcement of changes to better serve users seeking healthcare in a post-Roe v. Wade world.

In a letter to congressional Democrats and a statement to media outlets, Alphabet-owned Google reiterated its efforts to combat misleading advertisements and search results along with confirming that the company will clearly label whether medical facilities provide abortions. Continue reading

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‘Terrible Idea’: Biden Preparing to Shift Costs of Covid Treatments, Vaccines to Patients

“We must push back,” said one doctor. “Free provision of vaccinations, Paxlovid, and monoclonals has been critically important.”

By Kenny Stancil  Published 8-19-2022 by Common Dreams

Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Advocates for a more just healthcare system responded with alarm to Thursday reporting that the Biden administration is taking steps to stop paying for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments in the coming months, a move critics fear will lead to higher prices and more expensive coverage, enriching pharmaceutical and insurance giants at the expense of patients.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to meet with representatives from drug manufacturers, pharmacies, and state health departments on August 30 to “map out” how to shift the bill for coronavirus jabs and therapeutics from the federal government to individuals, according to The Wall Street Journal. Continue reading

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