Although the recent UN General Assembly meetings in New York City included the largest gathering of world leaders ever to address climate change, the largest factor in our climate cycle was missing from the discussions — the ocean.
Disregard for the ocean as the primary driver of climate and weather might be forgiven 50 years ago, but now we know: the living ocean governs planetary chemistry; regulates temperature; generates most of the oxygen in the sea and atmosphere; powers the water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles; and holds 97 percent of Earth’s water and 97 percent of the biosphere. Quite simply, no ocean, no life. No blue, no green. If not for the ocean, there would be no climate to discuss or anyone around to debate the issues……
Whatever the rationale, it is not rational that Earth’s dominant feature is not sufficiently addressed in important policy discussions about energy, the environment, economy, health, and security. It is especially perplexing that the ocean is getting short shrift in the current climate policy discussions.
Much attention is given to the impact of burning of fossil fuels on accelerated warming, inundated shorelines, and adaptation strategies for where and how people will live in the future. Far less note is being accorded to the changes in ocean chemistry as excess carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean is increasing the acidity of the water. This is why it is so important to have Years of Living Dangerously helping to document the climate change impacts in our oceans and sharing it with the public. In Episode 5, Joshua Jackson travels to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to look at the devastating impacts of ocean warming on the world’s largest reef system, and he explores the predicted impact of ocean acidification. In the Philippines, he looks at the impact of climate change in a place where hundreds of millions of people rely on healthy reefs for food, income and protection from storms……..https://medium.com/@yearsoflivingdangerously/the-big-blue-elephant-in-the-room-29d1a0c5f423#.p6e58alfv
Obama blocks new oil, gas drilling in Arctic Ocean, USA Today WASHINGTON (AP) — The is blocking new oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean, handing a victory to environmentalists who say industrial activity in the icy waters will harm whales, walruses and other wildlife and exacerbate global warming.
US Military Plans to Dump 20,000 Tons of Heavy Metals and Explosives Into the Oceans Tuesday, 15 November 2016 By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report The US Navy has been conducting war-game exercises in US waters for decades, and in the process, it has left behind tons of bombs, heavy metals, missiles, sonar buoys, high explosives and depleted uranium munitions that are extremely harmful to both humans and marine life.
Truthout recently reported that the Navy has admitted to releasing chemicals into the oceans that are known to injure infants’ brains, as well as having left large amounts of depleted uranium in US coastal waters. Now, the Navy’s own documents reveal that it also plans to use 20,000 tons of heavy metals, plastics and other highly toxic compounds over the next two decades in the oceans where it conducts its war games.
According to the Navy’s 2015 Northwest Training and Testing environmental impact statement (EIS), in the thousands of warfare “testing and training events” it conducts each year, 200,000 “stressors” from the use of missiles, torpedoes, guns and other explosive firings in US waters happen biennially. These “stressors,” along with drones, vessels, aircraft, shells, batteries, electronic components and anti-corrosion compounds that coat external metal surfaces are the vehicles by which the Navy will be introducing heavy metals and highly toxic compounds into the environment.
Just some of the dangerous compounds the Navy will be injecting into the environment during their exercises are: ammonium perchlorate, picric acid, nitrobenzene, lithium from sonobuoy batteries, lead, manganese, phosphorus, sulfur, copper, nickel, tungsten, chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, trinitrotoluene (TNT), RDX [Royal Demolition eXplosive] and HMX [High Melting eXplosive], among many others.
“None of these belong in the ocean’s food web, upon which we all depend,” Karen Sullivan, a retired endangered species biologist who cofounded West Coast Action Alliance, which acts as a watchdog of Naval activities in the Pacific Northwest, told Truthout. “Nor will the Navy be willing to clean it up, or even contribute to medical tests for people whose health may suffer.”……http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/38374-us-military-plans-to-dump-20-000-tons-of-heavy-metals-and-explosives-into-the-oceans
REVEALED: Putin’s top secret deadly nuclear city where spies observe ‘poisoned’ locals http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/727223/Putin-s-top-secret-deadly-nuclear-city-where-spies-observe-poisoned-locals
A CITY of almost 82,000 people are living on a nuclear time bomb in one of the most toxic places on earth. By SIOBHAN MCFADYEN, Oct 31, 2016 And the residents of the Russian walled city of Ozyorsk in Chelyabinsk Oblast code named City 40 are living in fear of their lives with their every move being watched by Kremlin spies.
Brave locals are living in an experiment zone, on a toxic lake where almost of all of Vladimir Putin’s nuclear arsenal is stockpiled.
Around 15,000 people are employed by the Mayak plant, a plutonium handling facility which rose to prominence during the Cold War. The plant itself covers an area of approximately 50 miles and reprocesses spent fuel from the country’s nuclear submarines.
A new documentary called City 40 now available on Netflix shows for the first time the challenges being faced by the people who live there – many of whom are suffering from cancer. The narrator says: “Growing up as a kid I was aware of a strange place a closed place, a top secret place
“This is where almost all the reserve of Russia’s nuclear materials is stockpiled. “To get in there you would need a full-scale army operation. “Unauthorised access there cannot even be imagined.” The city itself is constantly under surveillance with very little information leaking out to the mainstream.
A narrator adds: “It’s cozy and a beautiful town but a closed one. “There are spies all over sneaking around gathering information. “My mother used to warn me ‘darling, never say where you are from. “‘Or a Black Maria will take us away and you’ll never see your parents again’.
“Once there was a spill of powder, the radioactive kind of powder. “An underground container of liquid radioactive waste exploded.”
According to reports around 10,000 people have disappeared off the census list in just eight years.
The last census was taken in 2010, it is unknown whether the people have died however many residents are extremely sick. A city dweller adds: “The local people will tell you that this lake is nicknamed the ‘lake of death’ because it has been so heavily contaminated with plutonium.
“Mostly people were dying of carcinogenic diseases. “Once can say this city was built on dead and ruined human bodies.”If someone refused to work they’d be taken to a prison camp and executed because they were introduced to state secrets.
“They created their own ideology. “We’re the saviours of the world, creators of the nuclear shield.” While the undercover film team have managed to gain access to the locals it is unknown whether they will go unpunished for revealing themselves to camera.
Tensions between the USA and Russia have peaked over recent weeks and it is believed the facility will no doubt be in full production mode. A narrator adds that most of the locals wouldn’t dream of leaving – not because they want to but because they can’t.
They added: “We are used to it and this is how we want to live. “It may be for the better, it may be for the worse, but for now just leave us alone please.”My mother told me ‘let state secrets stay secrets.”
Groundwater 90 tons of contamination cleaner Tri City Herald BY ANNETTE CARY email@example.com. 30 Oct 16 Hanford workers removed more than 90 tons of contaminants from groundwater beneath the nuclear reservation in the fiscal year that just ended, surpassing the amount removed the year before.
“There is an entire groundwater cleanup infrastructure our workers have been fine tuning to make sure we treat and remove the most amount of contamination practical,” said Michael Cline, director of the soil and groundwater division for the Department of Energy at Hanford.
In fiscal 2015 and 2016, a little more than 2.1 billion gallons of contaminated groundwater were pumped out of the ground for treatment at Hanford’s six “pump and treat” facilities.
But more contamination was removed in fiscal 2016 than the previous year, when the Department of Energy gave the total with fiscal 2015 not quite completed as exceeding 75 tons of contaminants removed……..
A Horrifying New Study Found that the Ocean is on its Way to Suffocating by 2030, The Inertia, Alexander Haro MAY 2, 2016 It seems that every week, a new study comes out showing just how much damage we’re doing to our planet. This last one’s a doozy, though: according to Matthew Long, an oceanographer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, if we continue along the road we’re on, the ocean could begin to suffocate in about 15 years. Actually.
The study was published a few days ago in Global Biogeochemical Cycles, which is not The National Enquirer and is a publication entirely based on science. Long’s not some quack, either. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool scientist with a Ph.D. in Oceanography from Stanford University, an M.S. in Environmental Engineering (Hydrology) from Tufts University, and a B.S in Environmental Engineering. That is a man who likes facts.
According to Ocean Scientists for Informed Policy, “ocean deoxygenation refers to the loss of oxygen from the oceans due to climate change.” It’s not up for debate, either: it is a cold and hard fact that both climate change and ocean deoxygenation are happening, and no amount of climate change deniers stamping their feet will change it.
“Long-term ocean monitoring shows that oxygen concentrations in the ocean have declined during the 20th century, and the new IPCC 5th Assessment Report (AR5 WG1) predicts that they will decrease by 3-6% during the 21st century in response to surface warming,” the website explains. “While 3-6% doesn’t seem like much, this decrease will be felt acutely in hypoxic and suboxic areas, where oxygen is already limiting. […] To put this in context, a highly optimistic emissions scenario of atmospheric CO2 levels of 550 ppm by 2100 would lead to a 1.2°C warming of the upper ocean. Therefore, these declines in oxygen are changes we should be prepared to see.”
So how does climate change affect the ocean? Well, the ocean is warming up, and a warm ocean doesn’t take in as much oxygen from the atmosphere, for starters. There’s the whole sea level rising issue, which is just way too big to go into here. But possibly the most concerning part of the whole thing has to do with phytoplankton, which are one of the smallest, most prolific, and really fucking important creatures on earth. If you believe National Geographic, “fish, whales, dolphins, crabs, seabirds, and just about everything else that makes a living in or off of the oceans owe their existence to phytoplankton, one-celled plants that live at the ocean surface. Phytoplankton are at the base of what scientists refer to as oceanic biological productivity, the ability of a water body to support life such as plants, fish, and wildlife.”
Warmer water doesn’t mix well with colder water. As the surface warms, the phytoplankton that float around up there most of the time don’t get down deep as often, and those little guys are responsible for about half of the oxygen in the ocean……….
According to the predictive study, vast portions of the Pacific–Hawaii and the western edge of the Americas included–will be seriously deprived of oxygen somewhere between 2030 and 2040, which would most likely mean massive die-offs of very important creatures.
Although Long’s study is far more telling than any other before it, it’s not really anything all that new. Back in 2010, Scripps Institution of Oceanography warned about the dangers of something called “oxygen minimum zones”, which are exactly what they sound like: large portions of the ocean, usually very deep, that don’t have enough oxygen to really sustain much life. “A major concern is that these so-called oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) will expand in the future as the upper ocean warms and becomes more stratified,” wrote Scripps scientist Ralph Keeling.
What does it all come down to? Well, more and more, it seems we’re already too far gone. Every day, we’re passing tipping points. Long, who seems a little frustrated that no one in charge is listening to him or anyone else that has been screaming about a host of environmental issues, made his point very clear. “This inexorable force of human-induced warming will clearly result in widespread ocean deoxygenation in the future,” he said.
And like it or not, our lust for carbon is causing it. “This latest study adds one more item to the list of insults we are inflicting on the oceans through our continued burning of fossil fuels,” said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University. “Ocean life and marine ecosystems must now simultaneously contend with the triple threat of warming waters, increased acidity, and now, we’re learning, lower oxygen levels. Any one of these challenges alone would be daunting. “We have yet another reason to be gravely concerned about the health of our oceans, and yet another reason to prioritize the rapid decarbonization of our economy.” http://www.theinertia.com/environment/a-horrifying-new-study-found-that-the-ocean-is-on-its-way-to-suffocating-by-2030/
Five years ago, the largest single release of human-made radioactive discharge to the marine environment resulted from an accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. Approximately 80 percent of the fallout happened over the Pacific Ocean. A new study explores the environmental consequences in the marine environment of the accident. It outlines the status of current research about the impact of the fallout on plant and animal life and what remains to be done as the radioactivity continues to spread.
Already few weeks ago a Japanese friend mentioned to me that he noticed very few insects this summer in Tokyo. This article now corroborates it.
If the wild life around Tokyo is that affected, how about the health of the people living there?
Frog having one eye only (photo by Eiki Sato, from October 10, 2016)
Ravages in Tokyo from the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi 250km away.
The documentary film “Paradise Phantom” just came out. This documentary is about the stationary observations on animals by Eiki Sato, a wildlife journalist. The screening of this film took place at a movie theater in Suginami-ku, Tokyo on September 25, 2016.
Sato filmed for 170 hours various animals in the wild places of Tokyo, for example the banks of the Arakawa river, the fields near sports stadiums and Tokyo plants. These are real paradises for many living creatures, such as kestrels, shrikes, bats, frogs, dragonflies, even the gray beetles, animals that are not on the global red list threatened species.
The documentary shows that since two years animals with abnormalities are being observed . The cause of these abnormalities would be the accumulated radioactivity in the soil of Tokyo, according to Eiki Sato.
During his observations Eiki Sato found many types of deformities, due to mutations: Various insects affected with malformed or missing wing, or with curled wings, or abnormal eyes, unabling them to fly. Mosquito with bent spine, dragonflies with mishaped eyes unable to fly high. Birds with affected eyes, or feathers, unable to fly. Many also cannot reproduce, their population sharply decreasing.
Could China build the world’s smallest nuclear power plant and send it to the South China Sea?
Nuclear plant under development could fit into a shipping container and make a small island economically viable, CNBC, Stephen Chen, 11 Oct 16 SCMP A top mainland research institute is developing the world’s smallest nuclear power plant, which could fit inside a shipping container and might be installed on an island in the disputed South China Sea within five years.
Although the small, lead-cooled reactor could be placed inside a shipping container measuring about 6.1 metres long and 2.6 metres high, it would be able to generate 10 megawatts of heat, which, if converted into electricity, would be enough to power some 50,000 households……The research is partially funded by the People’s Liberation Army.
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Nuclear Energy Safety Technology, a national research institute in Hefei, Anhui province, say they hope to be able to ship the first unit within five years.
“Part of our funding came from the military, but we hope – and it’s our ultimate goal – that the technology will eventually benefit civilian users,” Professor Huang Qunying,a nuclear scientist involved in the research, said.
The Chinese researchers admit their technology is similar to a compact lead-cooled thermal reactor that was used by the navy of the former Soviet Union in its nuclear submarines in the 1970s.
However, China would probably be the first nation to use such military technology on land.
While these “baby” reactors would able to generate large quantities of electricity and desalinate huge supplies of seawater for use as fresh water, they have also attracted serious environmental concerns.
If any one of them were to suffer a catastrophic problem, the radioactive waste would affect not only the countries nearby, but also spread around the world via the region’s strong sea currents…….
The lead-cooled reactor is part of China’s efforts to develop new-generation reactors for its rapidly expanding nuclear energy sector. Other technological approaches, such as molten salt reactors and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, are also under rapid development thanks to generous government funding.
China also has been considering building small floating nuclear power plants using conventional technology to generate electricity for the South China Sea islands.
A marine environment researcher at the Ocean University of China, in Qingdao, Shandong province, has warned that the inevitable discharge of hot, radioactive water from a nuclear plant into the ocean might alter the ecological system of an entire region around an island.
“Many fish and marine creatures will not be able to deal with the dramatic change of environment caused by massive desalination and the rise of sea temperatures caused by a nuclear reactor,” said the researcher, who declined to be named.
“If a nuclear disaster happened in the South China Sea, it would not have an immediate effect on people living on the mainland owing to it being a great distance away,” the researcher said.
“But the radioactive waste would enter the bodies of fish and other marine creatures and likely end up on our dining tables. Sea currents could also carry the waste to distant shores,” she said.
Before putting any nuclear power plant on a remote South China Sea island, the Chinese government should consider not only its political, military or economic benefits, but also carry out comprehensive scientific evaluations on its potential environmental impact, the researcher said. http://www.cnbc.com/2016/10/11/could-china-build-the-worlds-smallest-nuclear-power-plant-and-send-it-to-the-south-china-sea.html
Washington Should Stop Militarizing the Pacific military aggression is increasing the likelihood of a clash between China and the United States. But many policy makers in Washington ignore that Beijing has good reason to be troubled by the United States’ military footprint in its neighborhood. President Obama’s “pivot” to Asia — which includes doubling down on Washington’s already-robust military presence in the region — further stokes the potential for conflict between China and the United States.OCT. 9, 2016 WASHINGTON — Americans often assume that Chinese
Running out of Earth to live on, Korea Herald, [good pics and diagrams], 11 Oct 16
Ecological balance sheet reveals unsustainable lifestyle For more than 40 years, humanity’s demands have exceeded what our planet can regenerate. This year, people are using natural resources equivalent to 1.6 times that found on Earth. And for Koreans, the amount is 3.3 times that found on the planet.
This is according to the ecological balance sheet, known as the Global Ecological Footprint Report, released by the World Wild Fund for Nature, Korea (WWF-Korea) and the Global Footprint Network.
By Aug. 8, the world had used up all the natural resources that can be replenished in the year. It marked a day which environmental advocacy groups call “Earth Overshoot Day.”
For nearly half a century, humanity has been in such an ecological “overshoot,” and the amount of natural resources that can be replenished in a year are being used up quicker every year.
In dealing with this over-taxation of the Earth’s resources, humankind is borrowing from future capacity that cannot be regenerated, liquidating stocks of ecological resources and accumulating waste, primarily carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. ……http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20161010000777
These commendations are perhaps overly enthusiastic. They exaggerate Kazakhstan’s commitment to nuclear safety; actually, Kazakhstan’s leadership has done little to address pressing humanitarian issues at Semipalatinsk, failing to provide adequate funding for environmental clean up and adequate security for the site itself. How can the world talk about nuclear safety in Kazakhstan when it is the only place on Earth where thousands of people still live in and around an atomic test site? How can there be safety, when residual radioactivity and environmental damage are a normal part of life for people who live there? Nuclear security should mean more than the physical protection of nuclear materials. Nuclear security must also mean the physical protection of individual citizens from radioactivity.
Today, most of the abandoned Semipalatinsk territory is accessible to anyone who wishes to enter. Except for a 37-mile area “exclusion zone” at the Degelen Mountain complex, guarded by drones and other surveillance equipment, few signs indicate radiation danger. For the thousands living nearby, it is no secret that the former nuclear testing area is poorly secured. I have been conducting anthropological fieldwork in the region since 2009, living in Koyan, a remote village on the nuclear test site’s border. I know first hand the ease with which people make use of the territory. (“Koyan” and “Tursynbek,” the name of an ethnographic interlocutor mentioned later in this article, are pseudonyms, used to protect village residents and the interlocutor following the convention of confidentiality spelled out in the American Anthropological Association Code of Ethics on professional responsibility).
Koyaners, like most everyone else living in and around Semipalatinsk, use the test site in a number of ways: They drive across the dusty steppe during warmer months to visit relatives in nearby villages. In July and August, men, women, and children come back from the site, buckets brimming with wild strawberries they have picked from its shallow valleys. Many graze their herds of sheep, goats, horses, and cows on the Semipalatinsk pastures, sometimes near craters formed by underground explosions. Many of these places are known to contain radioactive “hot spots,” but since the area around Koyan is mostly unmarked, no one in the village is certain where the hot spots are. Koyaners are not privy to this information, because no one in the government shares it with them.
On a hot, sunny day in July 2015, Tursynbek, a burly stockbreeder and miner in his mid-50s, decided we should go out and measure radiation on our own. As we got in the car, he complained that when he has had a chance to ask scientists, who occasionally do research in the area, if there is radiation, they dismiss his concerns by saying, “There is nothing here; no radiation.” I made sure to bring my Geiger counter on this trip, and a short car ride later I was looking down from the rim of a nuclear crater, trying to hear the Geiger counter readings Tursynbek was shouting. His camouflage jacket was barely visible on the steep pitch, among the tall grasses; a rather sizeable water hole was beyond, inside the crater. He scanned the ground for radioactivity, his white paper sanitary mask pulled down under his chin, rather than over his mouth. The sanitary mask was meant to protect against small particles of plutonium or other radioisotopes that are dangerous when inhaled but can be stopped by a sheet of paper. But Tursynbek was not afraid. Tursybek knows this area well; he was born in Koyan and has decades of experience raising livestock, sheep, goats, cows, and horses, which includes grazing them on the test site.
Still, he had never been here on this kind of mission. As he climbed out, he eagerly used the Geiger counter to check the wreckage of the atomic landscape: trenches, mangled barbed wire enclosures, scattered cement blocks with clusters of electrical cables jutting from them. The frantic clicking of the Geiger counter disturbed the otherwise calm summer afternoon. Not far from us, Kazakhstan’s Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology (IRSE) wazik (van) carrying “geologists,” as the scientists are known to Koyaners, passed by. “They have never shared any of this information with us,” Tursynbek said motioning to the van and pointing at the .700 milliRem per hour reading displayed by the counter.
Normal background is between .008-.015 milliRem/hr. According to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Americans receive an average radiation dose of about 620 milliRem per year. Half of this dose comes from naturally occurring radiation found in soil, rocks (uranium), and air (radon). The other half comes from man-made sources, like radiation therapy, x-rays, and nuclear power plants. At the crater, five weeks is enough time to receive the average yearly dose of radiation described by the NRC. In one year that dose is equal to 6,136 milliRem.
Looking around the abandoned test site, it is almost never obvious what went on here, except at a few key experimental locations, which have decaying cement structures and other visible points of interest. The once high levels of security have long since disappeared. Yet for 40 years various technical sites at Semipalatinsk were used to experiment with different types of nuclear explosions. At “Ground Zero” for example, 116 aboveground tests were conducted, as part of a full-scale experiment designed to record damage done to animals (sheep, goats, cows, and pigs), plants and soil, building construction, military equipment, and people living in settlements found near the site. At other technical areas, more than 300 underground nuclear explosions were used to test their peaceful applications. Several of these high-yield tests produced nuclear craters and contaminated much of the area nearby.
Near the nuclear crater Tursynbek and I visited, only a small and badly faded radiation warning sign clung to a mangled barbed wire enclosure that once provided some level of protection. The plight of people who suffered from radiation exposure during the Soviet-era is well known in the country and abroad, even if the level of radioactive pollution and its impact on human health are hotly disputed, in local and international peer-reviewed scientific journals.
In an August 2015 editorial for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the United States, Kairat Umarov, highlighted the fate of 1.5 million Kazakh citizens whose lives continue to be affected by nuclear testing. He wrote with the optimism of a man hoping to promote a nuclear-weapons-free world. But Umarov ignored an obvious fact: The Nazarbayev government, lacking financial resources, has done very little to address the security problems at Semipalatinsk and has not spent a penny to clean up the area. Praise of the nation’s leadership for making Kazakhstan a non-nuclear state has come at a price: It has overshadowed and limited conversations about lack of oversight of Semipalatinsk and the toxic mess that the Soviet nuclear testing program left behind and continues to endanger thousands of citizens living in the area. Given this unresolved and underreported situation at Semipalatinsk, the international community should offer financial help and expertise for the cleanup of Semipalatinsk, or at the very least help with cordoning off the most contaminated areas of the site.
Inhaling particulate matter can cause an array of health troubles, according to health experts, including heart attacks and respiratory ailments.
But it’s not just the air. The graphite plant discharges pollutants into local waters…
IN YOUR PHONE, IN THEIR AIR A trace of graphite is in consumer tech. In these Chinese villages, it’s everywhere.Washington Post, Story by Peter Whoriskey Photos by Michael Robinson Chavez Videos by Jorge Ribas October 2, 2016 At night, the pollution around the village has an otherworldly, almost fairy-tale quality.
“The air sparkles,” said Zhang Tuling, a farmer in a village in far northeastern China. “When any bit of light hits the particles, they shine.”
By daylight, the particles are visible as a lustrous gray dust that settles on everything. It stunts the crops it blankets, begrimes laundry hung outside to dry and leaves grit on food. The village’s well water has become undrinkable, too.
Beside the family home is a plot that once grew saplings, but the trees died once the factory began operating, said Zhang’s husband, Yu Yuan.
“This is what we live with,” Zhang said, slowly waving an arm at the stumps.
Zhang and Yu live near a factory that produces graphite, a glittery substance that, while best known for filling pencils, has become an indispensable resource in the new millennium. It is an ingredient in lithium-ion batteries.
Smaller and more powerful than their predecessors, lithium batteries power smartphones and laptop computers and appear destined to become even more essential as companies make much larger ones to power electric cars.
The companies making those products promote the bright futuristic possibilities of the “clean” technology. But virtually all such batteries use graphite, and its cheap production in China, often under lax environmental controls, produces old-fashioned industrial pollution.
At five towns in two provinces of China, Washington Post journalists heard the same story from villagers living near graphite companies: sparkling night air, damaged crops, homes and belongings covered in soot, polluted drinking water — and government officials inclined to look the other way to benefit a major employer.
After leaving these Chinese mines and refiners, much of the graphite is sold to Samsung SDI, LG Chem and Panasonic — the three largest manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries. Those companies supply batteries to major consumer companies such as Samsung, LG, General Motors and Toyota.
Apple products use batteries made by those companies, too Continue reading
IN YOUR PHONE, IN THEIR AIR A trace of graphite is in consumer tech. In these Chinese villages, it’s everywhere. Washington Post, Story by Peter Whoriskey Photos by Michael Robinson Chavez Videos by Jorge Ribas October 2, 2016 “………IN THE AIR, IN THE WATER
Despite the name, only a small portion of a lithium-ion battery consists of lithium. Graphite is used to make the negative electrode and represents about 10 to 15 percent of the cost of a typical lithium-ion battery, according to analysts.
The demand for graphite has risen in parallel with the demand for more-powerful laptops, tablets and phones.
Ten years ago, for example, the battery of the best-selling Motorola Razr had a capacity of 680 milliamp-hours. Today, the batteries in the best-selling smartphones have three or four times that.
Lyu Guoliang, senior engineer at the graphite business association in Jixi, said the demand for graphite rose very rapidly in 2010, driven by the demand for lithium-ion batteries.
Graphite for batteries must be refined to high levels of purity, and the flakes must be reformed into tiny spherical or potato-like particles. This extra refining means that the refined graphite is worth 10 times as much as the raw material, said Lyu, and that made the business particularly attractive.
But without proper controls, mining and refining can cause pollution in two ways — by air and by water.
Graphite powder can quickly become airborne dust, drifting for miles. Without systems of tarps and fans to keep it under control, the resulting fine-particle pollution can cause an array of breathing difficulties, such as aggravating lung disease or reducing lung function, and has been linked to heart attacks in people with heart disease, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Graphite operations can also lead to pollution because their chemicals leak into local waters. According to industry sources, the purifying process, especially in China, is commonly done with acids, often hydrofluoric acid, a highly toxic substance.
This method is cheaper than the one used in other countries, where the graphite is purified by “baking,” — that is, heating it up. Riddle, of Asbury Carbons, said refining graphite that way is better for the environment but adds about 15 percent to the price. He said that for the past 20 years his company has insisted on purchasing only graphite refined this way.
“We had hoped more companies and users would follow our lead, but this has not been the case,” Riddle said.
Tracing your battery’s graphite
The lithium-ion battery industry has a massively complicated supply chain. Each consumer company has dealt with multiple suppliers — and their suppliers have dealt with multiple suppliers. This shows some of the connections within the industry. See companies’ responses to Washington Post’s investigation.
WAR AGAINST POLLUTION’
The Chinese government has shown increasing concern about the nation’s environmental woes.
After decades of extraordinary economic growth, the country’s air has become an acute health danger. A million or more Chinese die prematurely every year because of outdoor air pollution, according to multiple estimates, including the report known as the Global Burden of Disease, part of a project run out of the University of Washington. One of the critical groups of pollutants in the Chinese air is “particulate matter” — dust, soot, smoke — a category that includes the air pollutants emitted from graphite plants.
Meanwhile, water quality in China has deteriorated, too. In 2015, the portion of the country’s groundwater supplies classified as “bad” or “very bad” stood at over 60 percent, according to China Water Risk, a nonprofit group that tallies figures from China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection. More than a quarter of China’s key rivers were deemed by the government as “unfit for human contact,” according to the group.
According to a report on graphite mining shown on state-run CCTV, the rivers in Jixi show levels of lead and mercury that are many times the national limit. Given the array of industry in the area, however, it is impossible to say how much of the lead and mercury come from the graphite industry.
“We will resolutely declare war against pollution as we declared war against poverty,” Premier Li Keqiang announced in 2014.
About three years ago, the country’s environmental efforts focused on the graphite industry, and records indicate that more than a dozen companies were issued citations by provincial and city officials, mostly in Heilongjiang and Shandong provinces, where most of China’s graphite business is done.
For example, Aoyu, which operates the plants near Lyu Shengwen and Liu Fulan in Mashan, was cited for not controlling the dust and the water pollution. It was fined roughly $7,500 for those infractions and asked to make improvements, according to a database of government records kept by the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), a Beijing-based nonprofit.
Likewise, BTR faced similar enforcement efforts for air and water pollution.
So, too, has Hensen, a graphite producer in Shandong province that sells to BTR, according to its manager, who did not respond to emailed questions regarding the water pollution.
Guo, the BTR spokeswoman, said that the plant in question has been improved and won the approval of the local government. She attributed the complaints to the fact that BTR is an environmental leader within the industry. As a result, she said, “we think it is normal . . . that someone attacks BTR by improper means. . . . BTR will talk with local people. . . . We would like to prove to them that BTR doesn’t make pollution on the water and crops.”
An Aoyu official hung up on a reporter seeking comment about the pollution.
But not all of the graphite factories appear to have been targeted by the crackdown. For two of the five factories visited by Post journalists, no records of any government citations could be found in the IPE database.
And even at those places where polluters were cited by the government, neighbors said that if any improvements were made, they were short-lived or not substantial enough to clean up the problem. Villagers said some factories employ pollution prevention measures — such as tarps to keep graphite from flying away, or actions to prevent toxic sewage from flowing into local waters — only when the environmental officials are present.
“It was worse last year, but it’s still bad,” Li Jie said in Liumao. “Everything is mai tai.” The trouble, residents and some industry representatives said, is that while the government wants to protect the environment, they also want to protect the jobs at the graphite factories.
Hou Lin, 30, works at the Aoyu plant in Mashan as a safety manager. He walked by as some farmers were complaining to reporters about the pollution.
“The company pollutes a lot,” he agreed. “But people need to have jobs.”……………..Story by Peter Whoriskey. Photos by Michael Robinson Chavez. Videos by Jorge Ribas. Graphics by Lazaro Gamio andTim Meko. Design by Matt Callahan, Emily Chow and Chris Rukan. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/business/batteries/graphite-mining-pollution-in-china/
IN YOUR PHONE, IN THEIR AIR A TRACE OF GRAPHITE IS IN CONSUMER TECH. IN THESE CHINESE VILLAGES, IT’S EVERYWHERE. WASHINGTON POST, STORY BY PETER WHORISKEY PHOTOS BY MICHAEL ROBINSON CHAVEZ VIDEOS BY JORGE RIBAS OCTOBER 2, 2016 “…….BEING WATCHED
One of the main obstacles in clearing the pollution, villagers said, is the powerful alliance between local government officials and the owners of the graphite plants. The officials, the villagers said, protect the factories from environmental complaints.
At three of the five villages visited by Post journalists in May and June, a village official either tried to attend interviews or soon after inquired of the interviewees what had transpired in the interviews. Moreover, plant managers and party officials sometimes discouraged journalists from speaking with villagers.
After Post journalists visited the Haida Graphite plant in Pingdu, for example, a plant employee jumped in a car to follow their taxi off the property and through the village streets.
The taxi stopped twice in the village so The Post could interview more people. At each stop, the driver of the Haida car approached to within a few feet and blared the car horn continuously, making talking to villagers impossible. The driver relented only when The Post’s taxi left the area. Asked to comment later about the pollution complaints, a Haida official accused a Post reporter of “espionage” and refused to answer questions.
Similarly, after The Post visited a BTR graphite factory in Jixi, two cars with several men inside began following the reporters’ taxi. Three times, over several miles, the taxi pulled over to let them pass. Each time, the following cars pulled over and stopped behind the Post taxi. Confronted, the men in the cars told reporters that it was just a coincidence that they had stopped at the same time that the taxi did. The men said they were mapping out a bicycle race.
The intimidation has an effect on villagers.
Not far from the Hensen graphite plant in Laixi is a small factory that makes women’s underwear. Han Wenbing, 48, is the owner. A large man, proud of his workshop, he was eager to talk about the graphite pollution.
He readily invited reporters into his home, showing the dust quickly gathering on his kitchen table and showing how his well water, which had been fine for drinking, now is topped with a gray film.
But as he made his case against the graphite plant, his wife grew nervous — and then angry. To speak out would only cause trouble with the plant manager and village officials, she warned her husband.
“Yes, there is absolutely an impact [from the graphite], but we don’t want to be on TV,” she said. “This could offend the boss of the company, which could affect our lives. You [reporters] wash your hands and walk away, but we live here.”
Han nevertheless wanted to make his complaints known. Once his wife acquiesced, he offered to point out a field that showed some of the worst effects of the pollution. The field had been used by small farmers, he said, but industrial runoff had affected the soil so much that “not even the weeds can grow.”………Story by Peter Whoriskey. Photos by Michael Robinson Chavez. Videos by Jorge Ribas. Graphics by Lazaro Gamio andTim Meko. Design by Matt Callahan, Emily Chow and Chris Rukan. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/business/batteries/graphite-mining-pollution-in-china/
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