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Zika? Or Should We Say "Eureka!"?

What can we do to fight Zika?

Zika was first discovered in Uganda in 1947 and was seen as a mild illness. Current events, however, tell a different story. Zika is now one of the most feared diseases, potentially causing cases of microcephaly and Guillian-Barré syndrome. Microcephaly is a condition that causes a baby to be born with a small head and can lead to improper brain development, while Guillain-Barré syndrome can result in muscle weakness and breathing problems.

Zika started out in small areas, but now has spread to over 20 different countries. One of the reasons Zika has spread so much is climate change. Global temperatures have increased, and so has the amount of rain. This type of weather makes it easier for mosquito-borne illnesses to develop. Zika originates from a mosquito called the Aeded aegypti, which thrives in warm and wet climates. Further climate damage could play a future role in spreading the Zika virus.

Although there is no official cure for Zika, there are some ways you can protect yourself. 

It is highly suggested for pregnant woman to refrain from travel at all costs. If you are planning to travel soon, it is important to wear long-sleeved shorts and long pants. Use insect repellants that contain DEET or picaridin. Keep doors and windows closed and use air conditioning. Basically, avoid getting mosquito bites as much as you can.

Latin America Cleans Up as Renewable Energy Deals Surge

The smog-laden skyline of Mexico City may not be a poster child for air pollution much longer. Demand for clean energy is on the rise in Latin America, particularly in Mexico, Brazil, and Chile.

Clean-energy acquisitions nearly tripled in the region last year--the highest growth rate in the world, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). An increasing demand for electricity coupled with stricter environmental policies has resulted in renewable energy deals valued at $7.6 billion, up from $2.7 billion in 2014, the consulting firm said in its annual Power & Renewables Deals report.

"There is increasing interest in the region," Arthur Ramos, a partner at PwC's strategic consulting unit Strategy& told BloombergBusiness. "Multinationals are taking stronger positions in Latin America where there is a perspective of lack of power supply in the long term. And many countries are offering low risk models of energy contracts for investors."

In total, mergers and acquisitions in Latin America shot up 56 percent to $12.4 billion last year. Only the Asia Pacific region brokered more deals.

China has already jumped on the investment bandwagon. The Chinese power company Three Gorges Corp. bought the Jupia and Ilha Solteria hydropower plants in Brazil for $3.7 billion, the largest acquisition in the region. Sempra Energy, the San Diego-based natural gas company, came in second with its acquisition of the remaining stake in its Mexican joint venture Gasoductos de Chihuahua for $1.5 billion.

Deforestation: The Shrinking Forests of Our Planet

Illegal fires used to clear a forest,

When we think of forests, we think of those in the Amazon, China, Congo, Canada and many more places throughout the world. People throughout history have been drawn to forests, intrigued by the mysteries, adventures, and animals hidden within them. Forests today cover about 30 percent of the earth's surface, but each year we lose an area equivalent to the size of Panama.  

Deforestation is the driving force behind the loss of our forests. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, deforestation can be defined as the “permanent removal of standing forests.” There are numerous reasons this occurs. These reasons do vary but deforestation can intentionally or accidently occur.

So how does this affect you? Deforestation has a tremendous impact on everything around us. The effects are plentiful and include loss of habitats, increased greenhouse gases, soil erosion, and the destruction of homeland for natives.

It estimated that in 100 years, there will be no more forests on our planet if we continue at the current rate. The benefits from these forests are irreplaceable and essential to our survival. For example, 20 percent of our oxygen comes from the Amazon, and these forests help regulate the water cycle and keep the soil rich with nutrients. The removal of forests caused by deforestation accounts for 12-17 percent of global annual greenhouse gases emitted into our atmosphere.

CO2 on the Rise, When Will Leaders React?

 In our world, there has never been a greater threat to humanity since the emergence of climate change. Last week, the UN Meteorological Organization released a report that CO2 levels on our planet are rising at an uncontrollable rate. If that’s not concerning enough, most of the major greenhouse gases emitted into our atmosphere reached an all-time high level in the year 2013.

Eventually, these gases will become more catastrophic and inflict widespread devastation to the point where the planet can no longer cope. In fact, the rise of these gases on earth are the leading cause of climate change, resulting in changes in the earth’s atmosphere and temperature as well as widespread drought, flooding, and devastating storms. And while one may think that CO2 only affects the atmosphere, that’s wrong too! Higher CO2 levels drastically change our oceans and raise the acidity of the water. With a greater output in the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, our planet will not have the ability to convert these gases back into the air that we breathe. Although invisible, the effects from these gases will eventually force animals to migrate or go extinct, increase the probability of war, cause drought and famine, and ultimately threaten our very existence as a species.

North Carolina's Huge Risks with Rising Sea Levels

Despite the obvious danger that rising sea levels pose to communities on the Gulf Coast, tensions over climate change are flaring most acutely in the beach towns of North Carolina. In 2010, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) established the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission (NCRC) to study the effects of rising sea levels by 2100. Lawmakers were dismayed when the report predicted a 39-inch rise in sea level by 2100.

By the summer of 2011, realtors and community members living on North Carolina’s Outer Banks saw the figures and were shocked. Even worse, the state was already developing a website to enable residents to check the vulnerability of their property. In response to this news, realty organizations fought back against the commission’s report, arguing that its scientific methods were questionable, lacking an assessment of economic impact, and devoid of any maps.

Leading by Example

Opinions on climate change have thundered across the media since President Obama's announcement to set a national standard for power plants and the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) they emit. Opponents of action on climate change portray the plan as a tax on Americans, while supporters praise the action as a step forward, but also warn that more is needed. 


Well, Obama aims to accomplish a lot more on the global stage.

On May 28 the President gave the commencement speech at West Point that acted as a comprehensive outline of his administration’s national security policy. One key message Obama conveyed was that “American influence is always stronger when we lead by example.” He continued to criticize political leaders that deny climate change.

Obama's Step Forward in Combating Climate Change

Monday marked a very significant day for environmentalists, with the EPA unveiling a sweeping new set of regulations designed to reduce carbon emissions nationwide. The proposal, which has yet to be implemented, lays out a formal plan for cutting carbon emission levels by 30% by 2030. It assigns target pollution goals for each state, while giving each state a variety of options to achieve them, including but not limited to shutting down some of its power plants, installing forms of efficient alternative energy, and joining cap-and-trade programs which would create a maximum cap on pollution and a market to buy and sell pollution permits.

The new proposal has not been without its share of criticism, however. Many who live in states where coal mining is a major industry have harshly criticized the regulations, calling them “job killers” that will inevitably lead to the economy’s demise. They claim that such regulations will prove harmful to the average person, as the regulations are predicted to raise the cost of electricity, albeit by less than a single percentage point.

Furthermore, some Republicans have become increasingly defiant, stating that they will simply not enforce the new regulations if they are passed. Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana has actively denounced the bill, claiming that he would oppose the proposed rules and instead look for more practical solutions that would not entail cutting any jobs. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is expected to follow suit, which seems logical given his track record in Texas for refusing to put into place any pollution compliance laws related to climate change.

Climate Activists Walk Out of UN Climate Conference

Activist Walk Out of UN Climate Conference

Time is running out for countries to forge a new global agreement to address climate change.  The intent of the COP19, this year’s meeting of the  UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw, Poland, was to lay the foundation of a new agreement.  The hope was that then, world leaders would commit to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at a UN Climate Summit in 2014 in New York, with climate accords signed in Paris in 2015 – to come into force by 2020. 

However, hundreds of activist walked out of COP19 to protest a lack of progress. The walkout was organized by groups such as Greenpeace, Oxfam,, the International Trade Union Confederation, ActionAid International, WWF and Friends of the Earth. Here's a Democracy Now report on the walkout:

Their action followed a walk out by a group of 133 developing nations from an important negotiation. The issue at the core of this controversy is centered on how much responsibility nations that have emitted the most greenhouse gas should have to compensate developing nations that are receiving the brunt of damage from climate induced extreme weather.

Climate Change: A National Security Threat

Thinking of climate change and its subsequent effects as a national security threat is a growing global trend. A Pew Research Center study from June shows that climate change is viewed as the number one threat to national governments according to a selection of international respondents. Pew stated that "[p]ublics around the world are concerned about the effect of global climate change and international financial instability." U.S. respondents ranked global warming behind North Korea's nuclear program, Islamic extremist groups and Iran's nuclear program. This is in stark contrast to countries around the world that viewed climate change as a top priority. It is the top concern in every country in Latin America and in the top three in most European countries.

While the American public might rank climate change behind other national security issues, the U.S. military does not. A recent report by the U.S. Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) stated that climate change is a bigger national security threat than the country's dependence on foreign oil. Retired Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney, of the American Security Project, stated in an interview that "rising sea levels and extreme drought could be just as dangerous as terrorists and crises."

Giving a Big Story the Cold Shoulder

It's summer - time for barbecues, family vacations, and July 4th fireworks.

Unfortunately, summer has also become a time for wildfires, drought, triple-digit heat waves, catastrophic storms, and other deadly reminders of the impact climate change has on our planet.

This May, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million for the first time in 3 million years. That number offers a stark indicator that current initiatives to slow climate change are failing.

The scientific evidence is mounting. Last year was the hottest year on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency described 2012′s extreme heat as part of a longer-term trend of hotter, drier, and potentially more extreme weather.

The heat was apparent at Georgetown University where President Barack Obama sweated under a hot summer sun as he laid out his next steps on climate change before a cheering crowd of mostly college students saying, "I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that's beyond fixing."

Obama raised the stakes on the Keystone XL pipeline decision, noting the "net effects of climate impact will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project will go forward." He identified climate change as the major challenge of the century.