Archive | October 2015

Jonathan Patz to Discuss Climate Change and Global Health

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GHI Director Jonathan Patz will be at the Minocqua Brewing Company for the monthly “Science on Tap-Minocqua” series, a science cafe that brings UW researchers to Wisconsin’s Northwoods and lets attendees start a conversation on everything from fisheries, to loons, to Vitamin D.

Patz’s talk, titled “Human Health and a Changing Climate” will start an important discussion on how a warmer world means more than melting ice caps and rising seas.

“Climate Change poses serious harms to our health,” says Patz. “Climate change actions, however, offer enormous health benefits. I’d go so far as to say that achieving a clean energy society may be the greatest public health opportunity we’ve had in more than a century.”

Patz, who spent 15 years as the lead author for the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), will touch on these topics, as well as field questions from the audience — an interaction that makes Science on Tap-Minocqua such an important extension of the Wisconsin Idea, says Susan Knight, interim director of Trout Lake Station.

It will be livestreamed

Wednesday October 7th, 2015, 6:30 pm (CST) Duration: 120 minutes

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Now Finalized, but You Can’t Read It Quite Yet

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October 5, 2015

The final version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was just agreed upon at a big, multinational meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, attended by trade negotiators from the 12 Pacific Rim countries involved in the deal. The TPP, which is supported by President Barack Obama, and whose biggest players are the United States and Japan, has been in the works for about eight years. But its text has not been made available for public consumption, and still has to be put to a strictly yes-or-no vote in Congress before it can take effect.

No specific timeline for that vote exists, although according to The Washington Post, Obama legally he has to wait at least 90 days to sign the agreement now that he has notified Congress, and the text must be public for 60 of those days. That means the full text of the TPP might be shown to the public in early November.

As we’ve mentioned before, the TPP, like most international trade deals, is meant to enable free trade between member countries. With this particular agreement, Obama hopes to further the United States’ ability to set global standards for trade, rather than allow the agenda to be set by that other economic juggernaut of the Pacific, namely China.

The centerpiece of today’s announcement is the fact that the deal will knock out 18,000 tariffs, which is probably good news if you’re a consumer, and definitely good news if you’re a shipping magnate.

But a few provisions in leaked versions of the TPP have sparked outrage among the public. One such example is the concept of “investor-state dispute settlements,” which allow international companies to bring their grievances to legally-binding tribunals, which could potentially override laws in member countries. The TPP has also raised concerns about a possible overhaul of intellectual property law, as some fear an expansion of US laws restricting companies from manufacturing cheaper generic drugs will keep drug costs up worldwide.

While the newly agreed-upon draft remains shrouded in secrecy, the official summary released by the Obama administration this week does address the previous controversy about those two issues, albeit sort of vaguely.

In the case of intellectual property, the summary’s section on pharmaceuticals doesn’t exactly make it clear what will happen to drug profiteers like most-hated-man-in-America Martin Shkreli. The summary simply states that the agreement “contains pharmaceutical-related provisions that facilitate both the development of innovative, life-saving medicines and the availability of generic medicines.”

Presumably this availability of generics will be helped along by the elimination of “patent linkages,” a provision that scared Politico’s Michael Grunwald when it appeared in a previous leaked version of the TPP. Today, Grunwald tweeted that it sounds like these linkages were “stripped out” of the new version of the deal.

The US Trade Representative has also put up a page offering alternative talking points about investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS). In response to critics who claim the ISDS provision would allow international companies to undermine environmental and consumer safety laws in the US, the Trade Representative says the administration has been “upgrading” the agreement, presumably to avoid any such nightmare scenarios. The site also offers a few factoids for context: 51 trade agreements already have investor-state dispute settlements in place; “only” 13 ISDS cases have been brought against the US in the past; and so far, the US has always won.

The summary itself is light on details about ISDS, however. But there is a very specific line saying that the tribunals will need to go out the window if the dispute involves “a claim challenging a tobacco control measure of the Party.” In other words, a built-in exemption to TPP means that tobacco companies won’t be among the entities with the power to challenge laws in signatory countries.

For what it’s worth, North Carolina Republican Senator Thom Tillis is pretty upset about this provision aimed at the tobacco industry, writing in a statement Monday that, “the Obama Administration has decided to use the TPP as a laboratory for partisan politics by discriminating against specific agricultural commodities.”

In the wake of the TPP announcement, an anti-globalization group called “Flush the TPP” has issued a call to action, scheduling a protest to run from November 14-18 in Washington, DC. The group says protesters will be urging the government to stop making deals like these, and to come up with “alternative international agreements that put people and the planet first.”

By Mike Pearl, Staff Writer for VICE
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U.S. Passenger Airlines Report After-tax Net Profit of $5.5 Billion for 2nd Quarter of 2015

U.S. Department of Transportation Releases 2nd Quarter (April-June) of 2015 Airline Financial Data

U.S. scheduled passenger airlines reported an after-tax net profit of $5.5 billion in the second quarter of 2015, up from $3.1 billion in the first quarter of 2015 and up from $3.6 billion in the second quarter of 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today.

The 26 U.S. scheduled service passenger airlines reported an after-tax net profit as a group for the ninth consecutive quarter.

In addition to the after-tax net profit of $5.5 billion based on net income reports, the scheduled service passenger airlines reported $8.2 billion in pre-tax operating profit in the second quarter of 2015, up from $5.1 billion in the first quarter of 2015 and up from $5.5 billion in the second quarter of 2014. The airlines reported a pre-tax operating profit – as a group – for the 17th consecutive quarter.

Net income and operating profit or loss are two different measures of airline financial performance. Net income or loss may include non-operating income and expenses, nonrecurring items or income taxes. Operating profit or loss is calculated from operating revenues and expenses before taxes and other nonrecurring items.

Total operating revenue for all U.S. passenger airlines in the April-June second-quarter of 2015 was $43.9 billion. Airlines collected $33.2 billion from fares, 75.7 percent of total second-quarter operating revenue.

Total operating expenses for all passenger airlines in the second-quarter of 2015 were $35.8 billion, of which fuel costs accounted for $7.9 billion, or 22.1 percent, and labor costs accounted for $11.0 billion, or 30.7 percent.

In the second quarter, passenger airlines collected a total of $962 million in baggage fees, 2.2 percent of total operating revenue, and $773 million from reservation change fees, 1.8 percent of total operating revenue. Fees are included for calculations of net income, operating revenue and operating profit or loss.

Baggage fees and reservation change fees are the only ancillary fees paid by passengers that are reported to BTS as separate items. Other fees, such as revenue from seating assignments and on-board sales of food, beverages, pillows, blankets, and entertainment are combined in different categories and cannot be identified separately.

See BTS Airline Financials Release for summary tables and additional data. See airline financial data press releases and the airline financial databases for historic data.

South Carolina Flooding Is The Scary New Reality For Businesses

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By Alexander C. Kaufman, Business Editor, The Huffington Post

“Businesses confront a lot of challenges and have a wide range of risks, but this is large and it is growing. It’s just one you can’t ignore.”

In South Carolina, where heavy weekend rainfall caused the worst flooding in a millennium, the local economy has ground to halt. Rescue workers are evacuating those trapped in flooded neighborhoods of the counties surrounding Columbia, the state’s capital. Officials have also warned other residents to stay home during the cleanup. In many parts of the state, customers can’t shop and employees can’t work.

The floods resulted from Hurricane Joaquin, which never made landfall over South Carolina but combined with other weather systems, soaking the region on Sunday. Nine people have died. It’s unclear how costly the damage will be.

Such extreme events are expected to become more common in the coming years, as the already-irreversible effects of climate change take hold. And bad weather is not good for business.

“It’s a reality of doing business, it’s a reality of life for all of us,” Cynthia McHale, the director of insurance at the sustainability nonprofit Ceres, told The Huffington Post on Monday. “We’re in for a lot of rough weather, among other things.”

Wildfires that destroy property and uproot residents. Heat waves that, as refrigerators and air conditioners roar, cause outages on power grids. Droughts that make water for agriculture and manufacturing even more scarce.

“You need to know the climate change risks to you and your business and, in the case of floods, have an emergency plan for the evacuation of employees,” McHale said. “At some point, you may decide you can’t continue to operate your business where you have been.”

Businesses can even feel ripple effects from storms and floods halfway around the world.

In 2011, deadly deluges in Thailand damaged factories in Bangkok’s bustling manufacturing sector, disrupting supply chains for multinationals such as Apple, Toyota and Unilever. More than 800 people died in the floods, which caused nearly $46 billion in property damages, according to the World Bank.

To be sure, businesses around the world have awakened to the new realities of climate change and the need to mitigate its effects.

Earlier this month, during a series of announcements in New York for Climate Week, business leaders put pressure on political officials to curb carbon emissions.

An unlikely coalition of big corporations — including Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson and Walmart — formed to set dates by which they would completely convert to using renewable energy. Since last year, the number of companies vowing to wean off fossil fuels by setting internal carbon pricing has tripled.

Even bankers are waking up to the need for radical change. In a joint statement released last week, a group of six colossal U.S. banks called for a “strong global climate agreement” during the United Nations’ conference in Paris in December.

“It’s really gargantuan, it really is,” McHale said of climate risks. “I understand that businesses confront a lot of challenges and have a wide range of risks, but this is large and it is growing. It’s just one you can’t ignore.”

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NOAA: July 2015 Warmest Month Ever Recorded for the Globe and Ocean Surface

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) reports the July 2015 average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.46°F (0.81°C) above the 20th century average, making it the all-time highest monthly temperature in the 1880–2015 record, at 61.86°F (16.61°C), surpassing the previous record set in 1998 by 0.14°F (0.08°C).

The July globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.35°F (0.75°C) above the 20th century average, also the highest temperature for any month in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set in July 2014 by 0.13°F (0.07°C). Global oceans at the surface also registered record warmth for July, and the January-July 2015 also recorded warm temperatures.

The average Arctic sea ice extent for July was 350,000 square miles (9.5 percent) below the 1981–2010 average. This was the eighth smallest July extent since records began in 1979 and largest since 2009, according to analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center using data from NOAA and NASA.

Antarctic sea ice during July was 240,000 square miles (3.8 percent) above the 1981–2010 average. This was the fourth largest July Antarctic sea ice extent on record and 140,000 square miles smaller than the record-large July extent of 2014.
Global highlights: Year-to-date (January–July 2015)

The year-to-date temperature combined across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.53°F (0.85°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for January–July in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set in 2010 by 0.16°F (0.09°C).

The year-to-date globally-averaged land surface temperature was 2.41°F (1.34°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for January–July in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record of 2007 by 0.27°F (0.15°C).

The year-to-date globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.21°F (0.67°C) above the 20th century average. This was also the highest for January–July in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record of 2010 by 0.11°F (0.06°C). Every major ocean basin observed record warmth in some areas.