“Climate change isn’t for the birds” – Politico, 8 September 2014

In addition to affecting food supplies and increasing the likelihood of natural disasters, climate change is drastically impacting wildlife, especially our birds.

Earlier this month, the National Audubon Society published a study, which concluded that half of North America’s bird species will be endangered, and could go extinct, at the century’s end, due to the effects of climate change.

The bald eagle and Baltimore oriole are at a huge risk for endangerment, and Louisiana, Utah, Vermont, Nevada, Idaho, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Washington DC’s state birds are as well. The Audubon’s report comes after a draft of the UN’s climate change report was disclosed, which cautioned about the effects of climate change on people and ecosystems.

President Obama and the EPA are doing everything they can to stop climate change in its tracks, including introducing the Climate Action Plan and the Clean Power Plan Proposal, which are aimed at curbing power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions. Of course, there is pushback from Republicans, conservatives, and coal states, like Colorado, Kentucky, and Michigan where politicians contend that new climate regulations will deplete jobs and increase consumer’s expenses on energy.

For the report, the Audubon studied species prevalent to the US and Canada. Of the 588 species the Audubon chose, the Audubon found that by 2080, 314 of them will be in danger of extremely diminished populations because they will be without over half of their livable geographic range. The lives of these birds are indelibly linked to their physical environment.

Moreover, renewable energy — wind and solar power — also has a lasting impact on birds. Many conservatives and conservationists are calling this, “Obama’s war on birds.”

According to a report published last year by the journal Biological Conservation, around 140,000 to 328,000 birds are killed yearly through contact with wind turbines. In 2013, the Interior Department granted 30-year permits to wind farms that allowed for accidentally killing or injuring bald and golden eagles. There have also been reports of a California-based solar power plant that causes birds to catch on fire while flying.

Conservatives are using the repercussions of renewable energy on birds as more political fodder against Obama and his climate policy. Perhaps this is rightfully so, as Obama hasn’t specifically incorporated flora, fauna, and their ecosystems into his climate policy. At the same time, however, if conservative policymakers — any policymakers, at that — are concerned about the birds, then they should make efforts to integrate climate change into conservation planning. It works both ways.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

September 10, 2014

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“Climate Change and Infected Bushmeat Threaten Women on Frontlines of the Ebola Crisis” – Vice, 24 September 2014

The origin of the rapidly spreading Ebola virus in Sierra Leone has been linked to two cases: 1. From a woman in Kailahun, Sierra Leone who served wild game to herself and her husband — the animal was carrying the virus; and 2. From another Sierra Leonean woman, a traditional healer who was working in Guinea with Ebola victims.

Sierra Leone’s government has been emphasizing the fact that Ebola is mainly growing from human to human contact, however, many believe the Ebola outbreak in Guinea began with bats. Bats are hunted for food in the region and are called “bushmeat.”

In the region, women are expected to handle food for the family. This issue, coupled with the impact climate change has had on food supplies — where women are often forced to seek out infected bushmeat — shows that women are bearing the brunt of two crises in Africa: the Ebola virus and climate change.

Seasonal drought, larger storms, and landslides are beginning to have a lasting influence on agricultural production in the region, and are encouraging families to hunt for wild animals. The same has occurred in the past in Malaysia and Bangladesh, where climactic changes caused epidemics because humans and agriculture began encroaching on bat habitats. As the effects of climate change continue to set in, food will likely become more difficult to grow, especially in western equatorial Africa.

The governments of Guinea and Sierra Leone have reported that 55-60 perfect of the people who have died from Ebola are women, while the Liberian government have revealed that 75 percent have been women. According to the Liberian Health Ministry, Ebola has largely affected more women due to their duties as caregiver — they have more contact with both diseased meat and diseased people.

However, the World Health Organization and Imperial College London published a new report denying the women’s death tolls, stating that there is no large difference between the sexes. The fatality rate is estimated to be 71 percent. The WHO’s goal is for the virus to stop spreading within six to nine months; the CDC calculates that the virus can transmit to 1.4 million people within four months.

Many view the Sierra Leone government as mis-informative: while they stress that the virus is transmitted from person-to-person, they fail to educate families on where the virus originated from, and fail to inform these families about the existence of infected bushmeat.

Another strain of Ebola has broken out in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the WHO has tracked the source to a pregnant woman who was preparing infected bushmeat.

Across the world, and particularly in the US, climate change has become a hot button topic — even Leonardo DiCaprio addressed the budding issue in front of the UN. When speaking on climate change, we discuss the massive amounts of carbon dioxide emissions China and India release into the air; we discuss the growing number of natural disasters and the general climactic upheaval; and we discuss the effect that climate change will have on our food supplies, and on the economies of poorer nations. Now, we are actually seeing how the effects of climate change are reaching the world’s poorer, outlying nations. Moreover, we are seeing how climate change is affecting the caregivers of families and leaving many children as orphans.

This is an increasingly prevalent duality that deserves our attention. If the celebrity of Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t direct our attention to the worsening impact of climate change, then hopefully this situation will.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

September 24, 2014

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“Six Threats Bigger Than Climate Change” – Wall Street Journal, 28 August 2014

US Secretary of State John Kerry is concerned about climate change and rightfully so. The habits of people across the world have managed to impact our climate, causing large fluctuations in temperatures and more natural disasters, which significantly hit the world’s poorest nations and damage the global food supply. But yes, there are, as Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso points out, foreign policy issues that are just as important, or more important, than climate change.

Barrasso cites the following international issues that pose greater challenges to America than climate change: ISIS in Iraq; pulling out troops in Afghanistan and the subsequent terrorism; relations with Russia; Iran’s nuclear program; US assistance in Syria; and North Korea’s nuclear program.

While we concede that these are all very substantial concerns, Barrasso frames his argument as one or the other. We shouldn’t be concerned with climate change and new climate policy; we should completely focus our efforts on foreign policy and helping the world. Maybe Kerry made a lapse in judgement by stating that climate change is “the biggest challenge of all that we face right now,” but climate change is indeed a huge problem that can affect, and is affecting, our world.

Obama’s efforts to be diplomatic in regards US foreign policy seem to be a more long-term approach to the issues rather than making swift, rash decisions that could end badly. Conversely, Obama is able to make such swift political and economic issues in the US — such as using his power of executive order to push through new climate policy — because this is his home turf. Barrasso’s points are valid, but they seem to miss a key point — what change is Obama bringing to his own country, and why doesn’t change in America come first?

Though the US has lost a bit of its credibility recently, we have always been seen as the world’s savior and we’re always expected to lend a hand. That is an admirable trait and part of our identity as America, but perhaps it’s time that we — simultaneously, not exclusively — take care of our own for a bit. After all, juggling multiple goals and objectives is the President’s modus operandi.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

September 2, 2014

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