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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Beyond the Headlines

Air Date: Week of

Studies which scraped windshields and license plates in Denmark and England have shown up to an 80% decline in insects in the last 30 years, in a continuation of a worrying trend of insect disappearance. (Photo: Loren Chipman, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Environmental Health News editor Peter Dykstra joins Host Steve Curwood to discuss the worrying decline in insect populations, a new Republican call for climate action, and the new Chief of Staff at EPA. In the history calendar, it has been 13 years since Bill O’Reilly said in an interview that he believed in climate change, only to later double back.


CURWOOD: It's time for a look beyond the headlines now with Peter Dykstra. Peter's an editor with environmental health news that's EHN.org and daily climate.org on the line now from Atlanta, Georgia. Hi there, Peter. How ya been?

DYKSTRA: Hi, Steve. Welcome back. You know, everyone who has a car has had the experience of clearing carcasses of insects maybe by the hundreds at a time from the car windshield. A few of those critters may have given their lives for science.

CURWOOD: For science, Peter?

DYKSTRA: Yes, the tiniest roadkill was measured over a course of 20 years in a Danish study: the bugs on the windshield have declined. So they scraped many, many more bugs off in the 1990s than they did recently. And the decline is an alarming 80% in some cases. There was a corresponding drop in a study that was done in the UK of insects scraped off of license plates of cars.

Bugs on a Florida windshield (Photo: Tim Donovan, Florida Fish and Wildlife Service, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)

CURWOOD: Of course, we've seen research that's also been done in certain wild areas of Europe saying that bugs are gone down by 70, 80%.

DYKSTRA: Yeah. And it has some very, very serious implications. About three quarters of our food crops are pollinated by insects. There were birds like swallows, and Martin's in the European studies that were documented to have similarly plunged in population, because insects are their food source.

CURWOOD: That's right. What else to have for us, Peter?

DYKSTRA: There's some signs that at least a few key Republicans, including the House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, are beginning to warm to global warming.

Representative Kevin McCarthy is one of many Republican members of Congress beginning to acknowledge anthropogenic climate change, and has proposed several “Innovation Initiatives” including further funding for carbon capture technology, and the “Trillion Trees” initiative. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

CURWOOD: Really What's going on?

DYKSTRA: Well, we're in an election year with not only the presidency but one third of the Senate, the entire house of representatives and 11 governorships up for contention. Republicans are worried that the Democrats could retain the house while taking control of the Senate. And of course, there's the White House up for grabs as well. Republicans seem to be in the very first stages of acknowledging that not acknowledging climate change is a political liability. McCarthy and other Republicans are beginning to push innovation initiatives. They include carbon capture, which is, of course a gift to the coal industry. We've invested a few billion in it so far with little result, but they want to keep trying. And, of course, the worldwide trillion trees initiative that President Trump mentioned in his State of the Union address. The Republicans are all for that one too

CURWOOD: Something tells me that not all the Republicans are aboard this though.

DYKSTRA: Oh, not at all. There are nonprofits like the Club for Growth, an influential libertarian conservative group, and many members of Congress that want to battle back and want nothing to do with anything that smacks of energy conservation or efforts to curb climate change.

CURWOOD: Hey Peter, let's take a look back now and history and tell me what you see.

DYKSTRA: We want to go back to February 24, 2007. Bill O'Reilly the perpetually angry talk show host at Fox, up until a few years ago, sat for an interview with the late Mike Wallace on 60 minutes and in an uncharacteristic moment Riley says he believes in global warming.

Mandy Gunasekara, who prominently opposed the United States involvement in the Paris Climate Accord, and most recently founded a pro-Trump educational non-profit, was recently named Chief of Staff for the EPA. (Photo: Texas Public Policy Institute, Public Domain)

BILL O'REILLY: Global warming is here. All these idiots who run around and say it isn't here, that's ridiculous.

DYKSTRA: Now he hasn't he never said it after that. O'Reilly left Fox in 2017 in a sexual harassment scandal and Rupert Murdoch, Murdoch is still running the company was also an advocate for climate change at one point promising that his News Corp would become 100% carbon neutral. That's another promise that's been lost to ideology.

CURWOOD: Thanks Peter, Peter Dykstra is an editor with environmental health news at EHN.org and dailyclimate.org. We'll talk to you again real soon.

DYKSTRA: All right, Steve, thanks a lot. Talk to you soon.

CURWOOD: And there's more on these stories at the Living on Earth website, LOE.org.



The Guardian | “Car ‘Splatometer’ Tests Reveal Huge Decline in Number of Insects”

Learn more about the congressional Republican Innovation initiatives


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