Why not a price on carbon, a tax with cap-and-trade capabilities?

October 29, 2015

Tax on air pollutants with a cap-and-trade process worked wonders cleaning up acid rain in the U.S.  Is there any rational reason to oppose such a plan, in the U.S. or anywhere else, to help clean up carbon air pollution to slow or stop global warming?

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a call for a carbon pricing system. Who will listen?

It’s a feature story from World Bank, who seems to have figured out that global warming poses great threats to commerce and growing the world’s economies.

Heads of State, City, Regional and Business Leaders Unite to Call for Price on Carbon

October 19, 2015

For the first time Heads of State, city and provincial leaders have come together with the support of leading companies to urge countries and companies around the world to put a price on carbon pollution.

For the first time Heads of State, city and provincial leaders have come together with the support of leading companies to urge countries and companies around the world to put a price on carbon pollution.

  • Carbon pricing is a key building block to tackle climate change and drive investment in a low carbon future.
  • Launched today, the Carbon Pricing Panel is an unprecedented alliance of Global Leaders united to put a price on carbon pollution.
  • The number of implemented or scheduled carbon pricing instruments has nearly doubled since 2012, reaching an aggregate market value of about $50 billion.

What can be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect our environment, and help support people most vulnerable to climate change?

The answer is simple: A key element for any strategy to tackle climate change must be to put a price on carbon pollution. The transition to a cleaner future requires government action and the right incentives. Carbon pricing is a key building block to help cut pollution and drive investment in a low carbon future.

It’s a point recognized by leaders from Europe, across to Africa and Asia, who have today – for the first time – come together with the support of leading private companies to urge countries and businesses around the world to put a price on carbon.

Convened by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde, the high-level Carbon Pricing Panel is calling on their peers to follow their lead and put a price on carbon. They are joined in this effort by OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria.

The call by the leaders comes on the first day of the last round of negotiations ahead of the Paris climate talks in December. The leaders aim to seize the momentum generated by the Paris talks to spur further, faster action towards carbon pricing, as a necessary path to a low carbon, productive, competitive economy of the future.

Members of the Carbon Pricing Panel include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, French President François Hollande, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Governor Jerry Brown of California, and Mayor Eduardo Paes of Rio de Janeiro.

Private sector support is spearheaded by Anne Stausboll, CEO of US Institutional Investor CalPERS, Gérard Mestrallet, CEO of ENGIE of France, Anand Mahindra, Chairman and Managing Director of Mahindra Group of India, and Feike Sijbesma, Chairman and CEO of Netherlands-based Royal DSM.

” There has never been a global movement to put a price on carbon at this level and with this degree of unison. It marks a turning point from the debate on the economic systems needed for low carbon growth to the implementation of policies and pricing mechanisms to deliver jobs, clean growth and prosperity. The science is clear, the economics compelling and we now see political leadership emerging to take green investment to scale at a speed commensurate with the climate challenge. “

ImageJim Yong Kim
World Bank Group President

Summary map of existing, emerging and potential regional, national and sub-national carbon pricing instruments (ETS and tax)

Summary map of existing, emerging and potential regional, national and sub-national carbon pricing instruments (ETS and tax)

Around the world, about 40 nations and 23 cities, states and regions have implemented or are putting a price on carbon with programs and mechanisms covering about 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The number of implemented or scheduled carbon pricing instruments has nearly doubled since 2012, reaching an aggregate market value of about $50 billion.

And already more than 400 businesses around the world are using a voluntary, internal price on carbon as part of their investment strategies, with prices ranging from US$4 to over US$100 per ton of CO2. This is a tripling in the number of companies compared with last year reporting that they price their emissions.

Carbon pricing delivers a triple dividend.

Firstly, it is good for the environment and it reduces emissions – lowering social costs of health impacts on people, as well as tackling the global warming.  A price on carbon can help alleviate health and environmental problems like premature deaths from exposure to outdoor air pollution. According to the World health Organization, an estimated 3.7 million people die prematurely from outdoor air pollution.

Secondly, carbon pricing is an essential part of getting prices right for the move to a low carbon more resilient growth. It raises revenue efficiently, making it possible to reduce more distortionary taxes, and it allows for targeted support for clean energy solutions rather than harmful subsidies that do little for poor people or the environment.

And thirdly, it drives innovation and critically needed investments in low-carbon solutions, boosting private sector investment in clean tech research and development, and offering the prospect of job creation in the sectors of the future.

Why is is it important to act now on carbon pricing? Because strong public policy gives the private sector the certainty and predictability to make the necessary long-term investments in climate-smart development and prevent catastrophic impacts from climate change. Carbon pricing is the cornerstone of a package of policy measures designed to achieve emission reductions at lowest cost.

Today, countries and regions are learning from one another and creating a set of successful approaches to pricing carbon. Some early lessons are described in the World Bank Group publication The FASTER Principles for Successful Carbon Pricing – which lays out principles for effective, efficient and fair pricing of carbon.

Some examples include:

  • The Canadian province of British Columbia was an early mover on carbon pricing, with the creation of a carbon tax in 2008, with the tax used to cut income taxes and fund tax credits. Also, British Columbia is home to a growing clean technology sector, with more than 150 firms in 2013, accounting for 22% of Canada’s clean tech presence in a province with only 12% of Canada’s GDP. Several experts attribute this growth to the carbon tax.
  • California, Quebec and the European Union allocate a portion of their emissions trading scheme (ETS) auction revenues to designated green technology funds and innovation, to support sectors affected directly or indirectly by higher carbon costs.
  • In Chile, the government has passed legislation on a carbon tax – effective as of 2017 – as part of a much larger tax reform package with the explicit aim of providing additional resources for education and other social protection programs.
  • In Northeastern United States, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is expected to save people money on energy bills. The RGGI states have invested over $1 billion from ETS proceeds in energy-efficiency program, which are expected to return more than $2.3 billion in lifetime energy bills savings to 1.2 million participating households. Also, from 2008-2012, RGGI invested more than $130 million to help energy and electricity customers in need.

The high level panel provides political momentum to complement the voices of government and industry leaders in the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC), a working coalition that is being formed on the back of support for carbon pricing from 74 countries and 1,000 companies, at the 20014 UN summit on climate change.

Putting a price on carbon can be done in many ways: using an emissions trading system (ETS), like the one in Europe, or introducing carbon taxes and fees, like in Sweden and Norway. Most importantly, the “polluter pays” principle applies – those who are responsible for the pollution face the cost of it.

Annals of global warming: Would you worry if it shrinks your paycheck?

October 26, 2015

Then worry.

Scientists estimate the impact of climate change on the world economy - from Nature Magazine

Scientists estimate the impact of climate change on the world economy – from Nature Magazine via MarketWatch

MarketWatch’s Silvia Ascarelli wrote:

Your grandchildren may pay a bigger price for global warming than you thought.

A hotter Planet Earth will cool down national economies, according to fresh research from scientists at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Average U.S. income could shrink 36% by 2100 because of climate change from what it would be without global warming, they say. That is more than other, earlier studies have suggested.

But not all countries will suffer. Russia, Canada and countries in Northern Europe should benefit from warmer temperatures, according to the scientists’ models, because they have yet to reach what the scientists called the optimal average temperature for an economy — 55 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly where the U.S. is now.

“We were surprised at how important temperature is for the global economy,” said Solomon Hsiang, an associate professor of public policy at Berkeley and one of the co-authors of the study along with Marshall Burke, an assistant professor in earth system science at Stanford, and Edward Miguel, Oxfam professor in environmental and resource economics at Berkeley.

Global per capita gross domestic product will be down 23% at the turn of the next century if global warming isn’t slowed, the study found. The impact will be more severe in China — average income will shrink 43%—and Mexico, where average income could plunge 73%.

More at MarketWatch.

Should we worry? Can we afford global warming?

No, Earth Day does not celebrate Lenin, who was anti-environmentalist – 2015 debunking of the annual Earth Day/Lenin hoax

April 20, 2015

This is mostly an encore post, repeated each year on April 22 and Earth Day — sad that it needs repeating; anti-environmentalists don’t appear to learn much, year to year.  (Yes, some of the links may be dated; if you find one not working, please let me know in comments.)

You could write it off to pareidolia, once.

Like faces in clouds, some people claimed to see a link. The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, coincided with Lenin’s birthday. There was no link — Earth Day was scheduled for a spring Wednesday, when the greatest number of college students would be on campus.

Link to permanent Earth Day site, at EarthDay.org

Link to permanent Earth Day site, at EarthDay.org

Now, years later, with almost-annual repeats of the claim from the braying right wing, it’s just a cruel hoax.  It’s as much a hoax on the ill-informed of the right, as anyone else. Many of them believe it.

No, there’s no link between Earth Day and the birthday of V. I. Lenin:

One surefire way to tell an Earth Day post is done by an Earth Day denialist: They’ll note that the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, was an anniversary of the birth of Lenin.

Coincidentally, yes, Lenin was born on April 22 (new style calendar; it was April 10 on the calendar when he was born — one might accurately note that Lenin’s mother always said he was born on April 10).

It’s a hoax. There is no meaning to the first Earth Day’s falling on Lenin’s birthday — Lenin was not prescient enough to plan his birthday to fall in the middle of Earth Week, a hundred years before Earth Week was even planned.

About.com explains why the idea of a link between Earth Day and Lenin is silly:

Does Earth Day Promote Communism?
Earth Day 1970 was initially conceived as a teach-in, modeled on the teach-ins used successfully by Vietnam War protesters to spread their message and generate support on U.S. college campuses. It is generally believed that April 22 was chosen for Earth Day because it was a Wednesday that fell between spring break and final exams—a day when a majority of college students would be able to participate.

U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, the guy who dreamed up the nationwide teach-in that became Earth Day, once tried to put the whole “Earth Day as communist plot” idea into perspective.

“On any given day, a lot of both good and bad people were born,” Nelson said. “A person many consider the world’s first environmentalist, Saint Francis of Assisi, was born on April 22. So was Queen Isabella. More importantly, so was my Aunt Tillie.”

April 22 is also the birthday of J. Sterling Morton, the Nebraska newspaper editor who founded Arbor Day (a national holiday devoted to planting trees) on April 22, 1872, when Lenin was still in diapers. Maybe April 22 was chosen to honor Morton and nobody knew. Maybe environmentalists were trying to send a subliminal message to the national subconscious that would transform people into tree-planting zombies. One birthday “plot” seems just about as likely as the other. What’s the chance that one person in a thousand could tell you when either of these guys were born.

My guess is that only a few really wacko conservatives know that April 22 is Lenin’s birthday (was it ever celebrated in the Soviet Union?). No one else bothers to think about it, or say anything about it, nor especially, to celebrate it.

Certainly, the Soviet Union never celebrated Earth Day. Nor was Lenin any great friend of the environment.  He stood instead with the oil-drillers-without-clean-up, with the strip-miners-without-reclamation, with the dirty-smokestack guys.  You’d think someone with a bit of logic and a rudimentary knowledge of history could put that together.

Gaylord Nelson, Living Green image

Inventor of Earth Day teach-ins, former Wisconsin Governor and U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson

The REAL founder of Earth Day, Wisconsin’s U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, usually recognized as the founder and father of Earth Day, told how and why the organizers came to pick April 22:

Senator Nelson chose the date in order to maximize participation on college campuses for what he conceived as an “environmental teach-in.” He determined the week of April 19–25 was the best bet; it did not fall during exams or spring breaks, did not conflict with religious holidays such as Easter or Passover, and was late enough in spring to have decent weather. More students were likely to be in class, and there would be less competition with other mid-week events—so he chose Wednesday, April 22.

In his own words, Nelson spoke of what he was trying to do:

After President Kennedy’s [conservation] tour, I still hoped for some idea that would thrust the environment into the political mainstream. Six years would pass before the idea that became Earth Day occurred to me while on a conservation speaking tour out West in the summer of 1969. At the time, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, called “teach-ins,” had spread to college campuses all across the nation. Suddenly, the idea occurred to me – why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?

I was satisfied that if we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force this issue onto the political agenda. It was a big gamble, but worth a try.

At a conference in Seattle in September 1969, I announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment and invited everyone to participate. The wire services carried the story from coast to coast. The response was electric. It took off like gangbusters. Telegrams, letters, and telephone inquiries poured in from all across the country. The American people finally had a forum to express its concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air – and they did so with spectacular exuberance. For the next four months, two members of my Senate staff, Linda Billings and John Heritage, managed Earth Day affairs out of my Senate office.

Five months before Earth Day, on Sunday, November 30, 1969, The New York Times carried a lengthy article by Gladwin Hill reporting on the astonishing proliferation of environmental events:

“Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam…a national day of observance of environmental problems…is being planned for next spring…when a nationwide environmental ‘teach-in’…coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned….”

Nelson, a veteran of the U.S. armed services (Okinawa campaign), flag-waving ex-governor of Wisconsin (Sen. Joe McCarthy’s home state, but also the home of Aldo Leopold and birthplace of John Muir), was working to raise America’s consciousness and conscience about environmental issues.

Lenin on the environment? Think of the Aral Sea disaster, the horrible pollution from Soviet mines and mills, and the dreadful record of the Soviet Union on protecting any resource. Lenin believed in exploiting resources and leaving the spoils to rot in the sun, not conservation; in practice there was no environmental protection, but instead a war on nature, in the Soviet Union.

So, why are all these conservative denialists claiming, against history and politics, that Lenin’s birthday has anything to do with Earth Day?

Can you say “propaganda?” Can you say “political smear?”

2015 Resources and Good News:

2014 Resources and Good News:

2013 Resources and Good News:

Good information for 2012:

Good information from 2011:

Good information from 2010:

2014’s Wall of Shame:

2013 Wall of Shame:

Wall of Lenin’s Birthday Propaganda Shame from 2012:

Wall of Lenin’s Birthday Propaganda Shame from 2011:

Wall of Lenin’s Birthday Propaganda Shame from 2010:

Spread the word. Have you found someone spreading the hoax, claiming Earth Day honors Lenin instead? Give us the link in comments.

December 31, 2014: Bright Idea Day, anniversary of the Day the Lights Went On

December 31, 2014

Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, here at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub we celebrate a variety of historically holy days.  December 31, by tradition, is Bright Idea Day, the anniversary of the day Thomas Edison demonstrated for the public a working light bulb, in 1879.

100,000 people gather in Times Square, New York City, tonight, and millions more around the world, in festivities for the new year made possible by the work of Thomas Alva Edison.

Here it is, the invention that stole sleep from our grasp, made clubbing possible, and launched 50,000 cartoons about ideas:

The light bulb Thomas Edison demonstrated on December 31, 1879, at Menlo Park, New Jersey - Wikimedia image

The light bulb Thomas Edison demonstrated on December 31, 1879, at Menlo Park, New Jersey – Wikimedia image (GFDL)

The light bulb. It’s an incandescent bulb.

It wasn’t the first bulb. Edison a few months earlier devised a bulb that worked with a platinum filament. Platinum was too expensive for mass production, though — and Edison wanted mass production. So, with the cadre of great assistants at his Menlo Park laboratories, he struggled to find a good, inexpensive filament that would provide adequate life for the bulb. By late December 1879 they had settled on carbon filament.

Edison invited investors and the public to see the bulb demonstrated, on December 31, 1879.

Thomas Edison in 1878, the year before he demonstrated a workable electric light bulb. Library of Congress image

Thomas Edison in 1878, the year before he demonstrated a workable electric light bulb. CREDIT: Thomas Edison, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left, 1880. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction number LC-USZ62-98067

Edison’s successful bulb indicated changes in science, technology, invention, intellectual property and finance well beyond its use of electricity. For example:

  • Edison’s Menlo Park, New Jersey, offices and laboratory were financed with earlier successful inventions. It was a hive of inventive activity aimed to make practical inventions from advances in science. Edison was all about selling inventions and rights to manufacture devices. He always had an eye on the profit potential. His improvements on the telegraph would found his laboratory he thought, and he expected to sell the device to Western Union for $5,000 to $7,000. Instead of offering it to them at a price, however, he asked Western Union to bid on it. They bid $10,000, which Edison gratefully accepted, along with the lesson that he might do better letting the marketplace establish the price for his inventions. Other inventive labs followed Edison’s example, such as the famous Bell Labs, but few equalled his success, or had as much fun doing it.  (Economics teachers:  Need an example of the marketplace in action?)
  • While Edison had some financial weight to invest in the quest for a workable electric light, he also got financial support, $30,000 worth, from some of the finance giants of the day, including J. P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts who established the Edison Light Company.
  • Edison didn’t invent the light bulb — but his improvements on it made it commercial. “In addressing the question ‘Who invented the incandescent lamp?’ historians Robert Friedel and Paul Israel list 22 inventors of incandescent lamps prior to Joseph Wilson Swan and Thomas Edison. They conclude that Edison’s version was able to outstrip the others because of a combination of three factors: an effective incandescent material, a higher vacuum than others were able to achieve (by use of the Sprengel pump) and a high resistance lamp that made power distribution from a centralized source economically viable.”
  • Edison’s financial and business leadership acumen is partly attested to by the continuance of his organizations, today — General Electric, one of the world’s most successful companies over the past 40 years, traces its origins to Edison.

Look around yourself this evening, and you can find a score of ways that Edison’s invention and its descendants affect your life. One of the more musing effects is in cartooning, however. Today a glowing lightbulb is universally accepted as a nonverbal symbol for ideas and inventions. (See Mark Parisi’s series of lightbulb cartoons, “Off the Mark.”)

Even with modern, electricity-saving bulbs, the cartoon shorthand hangs on, as in this Mitra Farmand cartoon.

Fusilli has an idea, Mitra Farmand, Fuffernutter

Brilliant cartoon from Mitra Farmand, Fuffernutter

Or see this wonderful animation, a video advertisement for United Airlines, by Joanna Quinn for Fallon — almost every frame has the symbolic lightbulb in it.

Electrification of America, and the consequent spread of electric lighting and electrical machines to make domestic and industrial life more productive, and the spread of great public works to enable these and other inventions to spread, were made possible by a people roughly united in advancing progress, what historians now call “the progressive agenda” and the great advances of the Progressive Era.

Could we get such agreement among workers, corporate bosses and many levels of government today? When we celebrate anniversaries, like the demonstration of the light bulb, we celebrate the united polity that made such things possible, too.

Other resources:

Patent drawing for Thomas Edison's successful electric lamp. Library of Congress

Thomas Edison’s electric lamp patent drawing and claim for the incandescent light bulb CREDIT: “New Jersey–The Wizard of Electricity–Thomas A. Edison’s System of Electric Illumination,” 1880. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number LC-USZ62-97960.

Yeah, this is mostly an encore post. ‘Tis the season for tradition, especially good, wise tradition.

Even More, in 2012 and 2013:

World Malaria Report 2014: Dramatic progress (no call for DDT)

December 9, 2014

World Malaria Report 2014 dropped this week.  It’s the annual report from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the fight against malaria, the problems, critical needs — and this year, wonderful news of progress.

Cover of WHO's World Malaria Report 2014, a child, and the red blood cells the malaria parasites attack.

Cover of WHO’s World Malaria Report 2014, a child, and the red blood cells the malaria parasites attack.

Copies of the report in .pdf format come in English, French and Spanish.  A host of supplemental materials and statistical compilations accompany the report every year.

The World Malaria Report 2014 summarizes information received from malaria-endemic countries and other sources, and updates the analyses presented in the 2013 report.

It assesses global and regional malaria trends, highlights progress towards global targets, and describes opportunities and challenges in controlling and eliminating the disease. The report was launched in the United Kingdom Houses of Parliament on 9 December 2014.

The press release on the report, from WHO:

Scale-up in effective malaria control dramatically reduces deaths

News release

The number of people dying from malaria has fallen dramatically since 2000 and malaria cases are also steadily declining, according to the World malaria report 2014. Between 2000 and 2013, the malaria mortality rate decreased by 47% worldwide and by 54% in the WHO African Region – where about 90% of malaria deaths occur.

New analysis across sub-Saharan Africa reveals that despite a 43% population increase, fewer people are infected or carry asymptomatic malaria infections every year: the number of people infected fell from 173 million in 2000 to 128 million in 2013.

“We can win the fight against malaria,” says Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, WHO. “We have the right tools and our defences are working. But we still need to get those tools to a lot more people if we are to make these gains sustainable.”

Between 2000 and 2013, access to insecticide-treated bed nets increased substantially. In 2013, almost half of all people at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa had access to an insecticide-treated net, a marked increase from just 3% in 2004. And this trend is set to continue, with a record 214 million bed nets scheduled for delivery to endemic countries in Africa by year-end.

Access to accurate malaria diagnostic testing and effective treatment has significantly improved worldwide. In 2013, the number of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) procured globally increased to 319 million, up from 46 million in 2008. Meanwhile, in 2013, 392 million courses of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), a key intervention to treat malaria, were procured, up from 11 million in 2005.

Moving towards elimination

Globally, an increasing number of countries are moving towards malaria elimination, and many regional groups are setting ambitious elimination targets, the most recent being a declaration at the East Asia Summit to eliminate malaria from the Asia-Pacific region by 2030.

In 2013, 2 countries reported zero indigenous cases for the first time (Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka), and 11 countries succeeded in maintaining zero cases (Argentina, Armenia, Egypt, Georgia, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan). Another 4 countries reported fewer than 10 local cases annually (Algeria, Cabo Verde, Costa Rica and El Salvador).

Fragile gains

But significant challenges remain: “The next few years are going to be critical to show that we can maintain momentum and build on the gains,” notes Dr Pedro L Alonso, Director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme.

In 2013, one third of households in areas with malaria transmission in sub-Saharan Africa did not have a single insecticide treated net. Indoor residual spraying, another key vector control intervention, has decreased in recent years, and insecticide resistance has been reported in 49 countries around the world.

Even though diagnostic testing and treatment have been strengthened, millions of people continue to lack access to these interventions. Progress has also been slow in scaling up preventive therapies for pregnant women, and in adopting recommended preventive therapies for children under 5 years of age and infants.

In addition, resistance to artemisinin has been detected in 5 countries of the Greater Mekong subregion and insufficient data on malaria transmission continues to hamper efforts to reduce the disease burden.

Dr Alonso believes, however, that with sufficient funding and commitment huge strides forward can still be made. “There are biological and technical challenges, but we are working with partners to be proactive in developing the right responses to these. There is a strong pipeline of innovative new products that will soon transform malaria control and elimination. We can go a lot further,” he says.

While funding to combat malaria has increased threefold since 2005, it is still only around half of the US$ 5.1 billion that is needed if global targets are to be achieved.

“Against a backdrop of continued insufficient funding the fight against malaria needs a renewed focus to ensure maximum value for money,” says Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. “We must work together to strengthen country ownership, empower communities, increase efficiencies, and engage multiple sectors outside health. We need to explore ways to do things better at all levels.”

Ray Chambers, who has served as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria since 2007, highlights the remarkable progress made in recent years. “While staying focused on the work ahead, we should note that the number of children dying from malaria today is markedly less than 8 years ago. The world can expect even greater reductions in malaria cases and mortality by the end of 2015, but any death from malaria remains simply unacceptable,” he says.

Gains at risk in Ebola-affected countries

At particular risk is progress on malaria in countries affected by the Ebola virus. The outbreak in West Africa has had a devastating impact on malaria treatment and the roll-out of malaria interventions. In Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the 3 countries most severely affected by the epidemic, the majority of inpatient health facilities remain closed, while attendance at outpatient facilities is down to a small fraction of rates seen prior to the outbreak.

Given the intense malaria transmission in these 3 countries, which together saw an estimated 6.6 million malaria cases and 20 000 malaria deaths in 2013, WHO has issued new guidance on temporary measures to control the disease during the Ebola outbreak: to provide ACTs to all fever patients, even when they have not been tested for malaria, and to carry out mass anti-malaria drug administration with ACTs in areas that are heavily affected by the Ebola virus and where malaria transmission is high. In addition, international donor financing is being stepped up to meet the further recommendation that bednets be distributed to all affected areas.

Note to editors

Globally, 3.2 billion people in 97 countries and territories are at risk of being infected with malaria. In 2013, there were an estimated 198 million malaria cases worldwide (range 124-283 million), 82% of which were in the WHO African region. Malaria was responsible for an estimated 584 000 deaths worldwide in 2013 (range: 367 000 – 755 000), killing an estimated 453 000 children under five years of age.

Based on an assessment of trends in reported malaria cases, a total of 64 countries are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal target of reversing the incidence of malaria. Of these, 55 are on track to meet Roll Back Malaria and World Health Assembly targets of reducing malaria case incidence rates by 75% by 2015.

The World malaria report 2014 will be launched on 9 December 2014 in the United Kingdom Houses of Parliament. The event will be co-hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (APPMG) and Malaria No More UK.

Contacts for press queries will be found at the link above.

Canadian-educated, Dr. Margaret Chan of the Peoples Republic of China heads the World Health Organization.

Canadian-educated, Dr. Margaret Chan of the Peoples Republic of China heads the World Health Organization, the world’s leading anti-malaria organization.

You may note that the press release says nothing about DDT, the pesticide most famous in the malaria fight after World War II.  WHO abandoned its ambitious campaign to eradicate malaria from the Earth, in the mid-1960s, when it was discovered that mosquitoes in central Africa and other malaria-endemic regions near the tropics were already resistant or immune to the pesticide.  DDT had been used by super-mosquito fighter Fred Soper, in campaigns by the Rockefeller Foundation and WHO, to knock down mosquito populations temporarily, to get breathing room to beat malaria.  While the populations were temporarily reduced, health workers would frantically work to diagnose and completely treat to a cure, malaria infections in humans. Then, when the mosquito populations came roaring back, the bugs would have no well of disease from which to draw parasites for new infections.

Soper’s methods used DDT sprayed on walls of homes, to specifically get those mosquitoes that bite humans. Anopheles spp. mosquitoes carry malaria parasites through a critical part of the parasites’ life cycle; those mosquitoes typically bite from about dusk to just after midnight.  After a blood meal, mosquitoes pause to rest on nearby vertical structures — walls in this case — to squeeze out excess water from the blood they’ve ingested, so they’re light enough to fly.  When the mosquito encounters DDT on the walls, the hope is that the DDT kills the mosquito, ending the transmission cycle.

A brutal public relations campaign in Africa, the U.S. and Europe through the late 1990s to now, has vilified science writer Rachel Carson for her indictment of DDT in Silent Spring, her brilliant book on the dangers of indiscriminate use of untested new chemicals.

So it’s important to note that the world’s leading organization that fights malaria makes no call for more DDT.  Professional health care workers worldwide have not been hornswoggled by pro-DDT, anti-environment, anti-science, anti-WHO propaganda.  That’s good news, too.


December 2: Millard Fillmore’s Guano Day!

December 1, 2014

Why December 2?

(You couldn’t make this stuff up if you were Monty Python.)

English: Millard Fillmore White House portrait

Millard Fillmore’s White House portrait, via Wikipedia

President Millard Fillmore, in the State of the Union Address, December 2, 1850

Peruvian guano has become so desirable an article to the agricultural interest of the United States that it is the duty of the Government to employ all the means properly in its power for the purpose of causing that article to be imported into the country at a reasonable price. Nothing will be omitted on my part toward accomplishing this desirable end. I am persuaded that in removing any restraints on this traffic the Peruvian Government will promote its own best interests, while it will afford a proof of a friendly disposition toward this country, which will be duly appreciated.

Did any other U.S. President spend so much time thinking about guano?  Did any president ever mention it in a State of the Union Address?  The curious case of Millard Fillmore, Seer, just grows.

Guano, or bird poop (and its relative, bat poop), contains phosphorus, which is an essential element for life.  Consequently, it turns out to be a key ingredient in effective agricultural fertilizers.  In international competition for supremacy in farming and farm exports, guano became a key resource to fight over, in the 19th century.

It’s almost safe to say the fights were economic; but guano did play a key role in wars in South America (see Andrew Leonard’s article, noted below).

Fillmore figured out that the substance had great importance, coupled that with the rather esoteric knowledge that sea birds tended to deposit guano in great abundance on certain islands, often unoccupied, and ordered the U.S. Navy to claim islands found to contain guano deposits that were not claimed by other nations.

By the American Civil War, the importance of phosphorus to the production of gun powder became an issue for the armies of the North and South.  Millard Fillmore had set the stage for the North to win an important advantage in gun powder production, just one of many that led to the defeat of the South.

It’s one more thing we should thank Millard Fillmore for doing. Our study of history should inform us that it is, indeed, important for politicians to understand the importance of guano.

Fillmore knew his guano.

Take a moment on December 2 to toast Millard Fillmore’s prescience, on Guano Day!


Trickle down economics made Kansas business dry up

September 30, 2014

Kansas voters are angry; they elected Sam Brownback governor on his promises that slashing state budgets and slashing taxes for the wealthy would make Kansas prosperous.

Now the roads are bad, schools are suffering, and many other state services can’t be done.  Kansas is crumbling, and the state government is too broke to do anything about it.

Which explains this picture, in Mother Jones:

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback meets with Kansas farmers about why the roads to get their crops to market are so bad, breaking their trucks and costing them time and money. Illustration by Roberto Parada, in Mother Jones Magazine.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback meets with Kansas farmers about why the roads to get their crops to market are so bad, breaking their trucks and costing them time and money. Illustration by Roberto Parada, in Mother Jones Magazine.

I do love that illustration. It tells an important story.

From the story, by Patrick Caldwell:

That the RGA had been forced to mobilize reinforcements in Kansas spoke to just how imperiled Brownback had become. After representing Kansas for nearly two decades in Congress, he had won the governorship in 2010 by a 30-point margin. Once in office, Brownback wasted no time implementing a radical agenda that blended his trademark social conservatism with the libertarian-tinged economic agenda favored by one of his most famous constituents, Charles Koch, whose family company is headquartered in Wichita and employs more than 3,500 people in the state. Other GOP governors elected in the tea party wave, such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, garnered more ink for their brash policy maneuvers, but in many ways Brownback had presided over the most sweeping transformation.

Early in his tenure, he said he wanted to turn Kansas into a “real, live experiment” for right-wing policies. In some cases relying on proposals promoted by the Kansas Policy Institute—a conservative think tank that belongs to the Koch-backed State Policy Network and is chaired by a former top aide to Charles Koch—Brownback led the charge to privatize Medicaid, curb the power of teachers’ unions, and cull thousands from the welfare rolls.

“[Brownback] said, ‘I’ll be glad to campaign for you coming up, but I want all of my guns pointed in the same direction,’ meaning there’s no room for difference of opinion. From there on it was chilling.”

But his boldest move was a massive income tax cut. Brownback flew in Reagan tax cut guru Arthur Laffer to help sell the plan to lawmakers, with the state paying the father of supply-side economics $75,000 for three days of work. Brownback and his legislative allies ultimately wiped out the top rate of 6.45 percent, slashed the middle rate from 6.25 to 4.9 percent, and dropped the bottom tier from 3.5 to 3 percent. A subsequent bill set in motion future cuts, with the top rate declining to 3.9 percent by 2018 and falling incrementally from there. Brownback’s tax plan also absolved nearly 200,000 small business owners of their state income tax burdens. Among the “small” businesses that qualified were more than 20 Koch Industries LLCs. “Without question they’re the biggest beneficiaries of the tax cuts,” says University of Kansas political scientist Burdett Loomis.

Laffer told me that “what Sam Brownback has done is and will be extraordinarily beneficial for the state of Kansas,” but many Kansans beg to differ. Brownback had said that his tax cut plan would provide “a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.” Instead, the state has gone into cardiac arrest. “The revenue projections were just horrendous once the tax cuts were put into place,” Loomis says. The state’s $700 million budget surplus is projected to dwindle into a $238 million deficit. Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s downgraded the state’s bond rating earlier this year as a result. “The state’s on a crisis course,” says H. Edward Flentje, a professor emeritus of political science at Wichita State University who served alongside Brownback in the cabinet of Kansas Gov. Mike Hayden in the 1980s. “He has literally put us in a ditch.”

Conservatives once celebrated Brownback’s grand tax experiment as a prototype worthy of replication in other states and lauded Brownback himself as a model conservative reformer (“phenomenal,” Grover Norquist has said). “My focus,” Brownback said in one 2013 interview, “is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, ‘See, we’ve got a different way, and it works.'” By this fall it was hard to imagine anyone touting the Brownback model, especially with the Kansas governor at risk of going down in defeat—in the Koch brothers’ backyard, no less—and dragging the entire state ticket down with him. The Wall Street Journal recently dubbed Brownback’s approach “more of a warning than a beacon.”

More at the website.

Income inequality, failure of trickle down economics, dramatic tax cut disasters, all come home to roost at some point. Kansans, it appears, are ready to change things.

How about the rest of the nation?



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