The World Cup Round-Up: The Ugly Truth behind the Beautiful Game?

cart1World Cup action is officially underway in cities across Brazil. But amidst all the excitement, there are some troubling reports. According to eyewitnesses, stray dogs are being “rounded up and removed” by dogcatchers in host cities like Recife. And with little space to house the dogs, Humane Society International (HSI) fears an “organized extermination”.

Unfortunately, this is not the first case of alleged animal culling for a major sporting event. Recently, Russia came under fire for “eradicating” dogs in the lead up to the 2014 Winter Olympics. The Associated Press reported that Russian authorities hired pest control firm Basya Services to “rid the streets of Sochi of 2,000 stray dogs”. Similarly, in 2008, the Beijing government collected thousands of cats in advance of the Summer Olympics Games. The cats were purportedly crammed into cages and left to die in secretive government pounds on the edge of the city.

Wendy Higgins, communications director at Humane Society International, argues that the exterminations are “a knee-jerk reaction to prepare cities for the global spotlight.” Some city officials believe that strays will overrun the streets, distressing visitors and hurting the city’s “clean” and “welcoming” atmosphere. Others fear that a stray dog or cat might “wander into an…event”, as during a rehearsal at Sochi’s Fischt Stadium. In the words of one official, “God forbid something like this happen[ed] at the actual opening ceremony…it [would] be a disgrace for the whole country.”

But culling stray dogs and cats is not only inhumane – it “does not solve the issue of overpopulation”. The real solution, according to animal welfare groups, is mass sterilization. In the words of Alexandra Rothlisberger, Senior Program Manager for HSI Latin America, “Long-term sterilization and vaccination are the only street dog management methods that effectively address the issue”. Given this reality, the HSI has sent a letter to Recife’s mayor urging him to implement a subsidized sterilization program. HSI is also supporting Brazilian animal organizations offering spaying and neutering services.

Of course, sterilization will not immediately reduce the stray population. Rather, it is a long-term solution to the overpopulation problem. Thus, in the interim, opening or expanding animal shelters is necessary. In Sochi, for example, numerous animal charities “stepped in” to create extra space. Dog lover and billionaire Oleg Diripaska also famously “fund[ed] a dog shelter close to the city, on the Black Sea”.

To learn more about animal welfare, and how you can help, please contact Humane Society International, The Fuzzy Pets Foundation, or our partners: the Animal House Shelter, City Dog Rescue, or the Austin Humane Society.

Flickr photo credit: Karunaker Rayker



The Clean Power Plan: Obama’s “Last Sweeping Effort to Remake America”

wind5Earlier this week, President Obama unveiled his latest plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change. Dubbed the “Clean Power Plan”, it calls for the power industry to cut carbon dioxide emissions 30% by 2030 (from 2005 levels).

To achieve this reduction, the plan establishes individual targets for states. The targets reflect each state’s economy, current emission levels, and capacity for cuts. For example, coal-dependent Kentucky has a target of 19%, while hydro-rich Washington has a target of 84%. The plan, like the Affordable Care Act, also gives states great flexibility in meeting their targets. Among other actions, states can shut down coal plants, invest in wind and solar power, install energy efficient technology, join a cap-and-trade program, or enact a state tax on carbon pollution.

From a purely environmental perspective, many are hailing the plan. After all, the United States’ roughly 1000 power plants account for nearly 40% of all US carbon emissions – and currently face no carbon pollution limits. They also emit harmful particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide, which are expected to decline by over 25% as a “co-benefit” of the plan.

Some also believe that the Clean Power Plan will shape climate change policy abroad. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, claims that she “fully expects [the US plan] to spur others in taking concrete action”. (This includes countries like Canada, which have largely tied their emissions targets to the US). Moreover, by sending “a strong signal that the US is serious about reducing carbon pollution”, the plan will “give Washington legitimacy in international talks next year to develop a framework for fighting climate change”.

But despite all the praise for Obama’s “most ambitious plan yet“, not all environmentalists are giving the plan a green thumbs up. First, some feel that the plan does not go far enough. They note that carbon emissions already fell 15% between 2005 and 2013, in part due to the “retirement of coal plants in favor of cleaner-burning natural gas”. This suggests that the 30% target by 2030 is “arguably easier to reach”. In the words of Andrew Revkin of the New York Times, the “Obama plan in effect takes twice as long (16 years) to cut as much carbon pollution as the country just did in 8 years”.

Furthermore, the Obama plan is limited to only one sector of the economy: power generation. According to the Food & Water Watch and the Institute for Policy Studies, this narrow scope will leave the US “far short of the IPCC’s goals for developed countries of economy-wide reductions of 15 to 40% below 1990 emission by 2020”. In fact, with these targets alone, US emissions will still exceed 1990 levels by 2030.

Finally, the Obama plan aims to phase fossil fuels (particularly coal) out of the US energy mix.  However, until economically competitive substitutes hit the market on a large scale, this may be a “waste of effort”. As highlighted by Steve Cohen, Executive Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, “The vast increases in fossil fuel based energy use in China and India alone virtually guarantee continued global warming. Only a lower-priced, reliable, and convenient replacement for fossil fuels will make a difference”.

So what can we make of this debate? Will the Clean Power Plan turn the “red, white, and blue” green? Certainly, by targeting the single largest source of carbon dioxide in the United States, the plan is a “creditable” start. And, without question, it is better than the status quo (no carbon regulations for power plants). However, the plan alone is not the panacea for global climate change. To make real headway, it must be complemented by investment in research, development, and dissemination of renewal substitutes.

To learn more about the Clean Power Plan, please contact the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, the US Climate Action Network, or our partners: Clean Air Cool Planet and the American Lung Association in California.

Flickr photo credit: Thunderbolt_TW