World Economic Forum Report

The world’s biggest worries are environmental disasters, not economic collapse
For the second year running, business and political leaders think the world’s biggest threat is extreme weather, according to the latest Global Risks Report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) published today.

In recent years, economic risks such as market collapses, fiscal crises, and systemic financial failures, have dropped down the list of concerns, replaced with fears about the environment. WEF, which runs the annual conference in Davos for global elites, found that three of the five most likely global risks for 2018 were environmental—extreme weather, natural disasters, and failure to mitigate climate change.

Update: Here is a related article on Global Risks from Wharton faculty.

Expediting Infrastructure = Sacrificing Environment

The Trump speech on Tues. included a discussion of infrastructure, which for the most part received no press coverage owing to the many other topics he tackled spontaneously.

From Reuters:  Trump infrastructure push rolls back environmental rules

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday rolled back rules regarding environmental reviews and restrictions on government-funded building projects in flood-prone areas as part of his proposal to spend $1 trillion to fix aging U.S. infrastructure.

Trump’s latest executive order would speed approvals of permits for highways, bridges, pipelines and other major building efforts. It revokes an Obama-era executive order aimed at reducing exposure to flooding, sea level rise and other consequences of climate change.

Update: Here is another take on the same topic from The Hill. [Thanks to Chris Jones for the citation.]

Effects of BP Oil Spill on Ocean Floor

BP Oil Spill Left Rhode Island-Sized ‘Bathtub Ring’ on Seafloor. Some details:

New research shows that the BP oil spill left an oily “bathtub ring” on the sea floor that’s about the size of Rhode Island.The study by UC Santa Barbara’s David Valentine, the chief scientist on the federal damage assessment research ships, estimates that about 10 million gallons of oil coagulated on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico around the damaged Deepwater Horizons oil rig. Valentine said the spill left other splotches containing even more oil. The rig blew on April 20, 2010, and spewed 172 million gallons of oil into the Gulf through the summer. Scientists are still trying to figure where all the oil went and what effects it had.

Major Environmental Disaster in Canada

The recent dam failure details are described here: Tailings Ponds are the Biggest Environmental Disaster You’ve Never Heard Of. The lead in to the story:

The scale is hard to imagine: gray sludge, several feet deep, gushing with the force of a fire hose through streams and forest—coating everything in its path with ashy gunk. What happened on Monday might have been one of North America’s worst environmental disasters in decades, yet the news barely made it past the Canadian border.

Last Monday, a dam holding waste from the Mount Polley gold and copper mine in the remote Cariboo region of British Columbia broke, spilling 2.6 billion gallons of potentially toxic liquid and 1.3 billion gallons of definitely toxic sludge out into pristine lakes and streams. That’s about 6,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water and waste containing things like arsenic, mercury, and sulphur. Those substances are now mixed into the water that 300 people rely on for tap, hundreds from First Nations tribes rely on for hunting and fishing, and many others rely on for the tourism business.

This article describes some of the consequences: Millions of Fraser River salmon head for waters of B.C. mine disaster

Environmental Impacts of Disasters

News from Charles Kelly, with the AON Benfield UCL Hazard Centre in the U.K. He noted this new 15 page paper — Working Paper 29: Strategic Environmental Impact Assessments and Disasters:  Building Back Smarter, by C. Kelly, He notes that some of the other titles in this series of disaster studies and management working papers may also be of interest, if you haven’t come across them before. All are free to download.

“Keystone Pipeline Would Have Minimal Environmental Impact”

This new report is sure to garner a lot of attention in both the U.S. and Canada. See Report: Keystone pipeline would have minimal environmental impact

A new State Department report on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline finds that the project would have a minimal impact on the environment, an assessment likely to increase pressure on the White House to approve it. But the report sets no deadline for doing so.

Given this evaluation of environmental impact, President Barack Obama and his administration will face increased pressure to approve the project, which enjoys widespread support among Republicans, and some measure of support among Democrats and allies of the administration, like labor unions.