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Our diets are fueling flames in the Amazon

The Hill - August 25, 2019 - By Shahir Masri

​The Amazon has made headlines this month as fires rip across the region. While this is the dry season for the area, during which fires are common, fires have nonetheless reached unprecedented highs this season — up 80 percent compared to last year. As the Amazon burns, the world has lit up with despair and outrage, with hashtags such as #PrayForTheAmazongoing viral. As the fires and emotional uproar continue, one naturally wonders "who is to blame?" Of course, the obvious cause is "human ignition," as these fires are mostly due to farmers and ranchers using flames to clear forests and shrublands (a common practice in tropical regions). However, the underlying reason for farming-related fires is also important to pursue.


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Climate policy is expensive, but so is climate change

​The Hill - July 29, 2019 - By Shahir Masri

As we approach election season, climate change is shaping up to be a prime topic for discussion — and it’s no coincidence. In recent years, we have seen record breaking wildfires, hurricanes, heat waves and floods rip across the country with alarming frequency. Youth climate movements, school walkouts and other demonstrations calling for government action on climate change have sprung up as a result. The 2018 U.S. midterm election even brought with it a team of fresh, young faces who are determined to make climate policy and energy innovation a core issue. Yet, as climate policy takes the stage, we’re already seeing discussions on the economic costs of such policy that make no mention of the glaring elephant in the room; namely, the cost of climate change. Simultaneously, age-old misconceptions pitting the environment against the economy resound.  


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On the Road for Climate Action: Stories from a Grassroots Outreach Project

Youth v. Gov, Jan 24, 2019 - Shahir Masri

As major climate reports continue to warn of impending and irreversible climate catastrophe, our window of opportunity to ensure a safe and habitable future is shrinking. Given this reality, I knew two years ago that I had to do something more than just work as a scientist. I had to think of a way to communicate science to the public and help mobilize action on climate change.

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Climate change is no longer a future problem

​The Hill - December 12, 2018 - By Shahir Masri

For years, climate change has been discussed in the context of tomorrow — a problem for future generations — with specific impacts left largely to the imagination. This may be changing now as apocalyptic climate-related disasters awaken the public to the realities that come with a warmer planet. We need only look a couple weeks back when California made headlines from wildfires that yet again set new state records, or to just six weeks ago when Hurricane Michael became the largest hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle. Let’s not forget the back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes that destroyed parts of Florida and Puerto Rico just a year ago, or Hurricane Harvey which left Houston underwater for days.


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Congress cannot ignore climate change as California burns

​​The Hill - November 18, 2018 - By Shahir Masri

It was only a year ago that California experienced its most intense wildfire season in the state’s history. In October came the TUBBS Fire, which became the state’s most destructive wildfire, claiming some 5,600 structures. It was followed shortly by the Thomas Fire, scorching over 280,000 acres and becoming California’s largest wildfire on record. Though a devastating year, 2018 has proven even worse. With summer came the state’s new “largest” wildfire — The Mendocino Complex Fire — which out-burned the Thomas Fire by over 180,000 acres. And just this month we saw the Camp Fire become California’s new “most destructive” wildfire — destroying 2,000 more homes and structures than the TUBBS Fire, and taking almost twice as many lives. What’s going on with the Golden State?


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Droughts and wildfires destroying the West don't have to be the 'new normal' 

The Hill - July 13, 2018 - By Shahir Masri

​As last year’s record-breaking wildfires ripped across the West, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) called it the “new normal.” He was echoing the words of climate scientists who forecast extreme weather as a consequence of climate change. Last year’s infernos arrived after three back-to-back hurricanes battered the Gulf, record blizzards descended on the East, and Hawaii all but drowned in the heaviest 24-hour downpour in our country’s history. As we arrive now full circle to summer, it looks as though we’re in for yet another round of Armageddon-like catastrophe, this time with Colorado front and center.


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Connecting the dots between natural disasters and climate change in the US

The Hill - June 15, 2018  - By Shahir Masri

​The last year has brought record-breaking natural disasters of all shapes and sizes to the U.S., from massive hurricanes in the Gulf to wildfires and flash-flooding in the Pacific. Though isolated in time and space, it would be an oversight to consider these events entirely unrelated. For years, climate scientists have been predicting more extreme weather as carbon emissions increase and global temperatures rise. And what we’re seeing is exactly that, producing wreckage well beyond your every-few-years event. Let’s have a look at the last 12 months.


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Chaotic winter in the Northeast — could this be a signature of climate change?

The Hill - March 12, 2018  - By Shahir Masri

In recent years natural disasters have become increasingly frequent in the U.S. Over the last year alone, Houston contended with one of the heaviest rain storms in U.S. history, the Florida Keys, Puerto Rico and neighboring islands were harshly affected by two back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes. Major parts of Pacific coastal states were incinerated by record wildfires. With the onset of winter came anticipated relief. However, climate-related disasters did not relent. They only relocated.

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The California fires are a climate-driven catastrophe
The Hill - December 14, 2017  - By Shahir Masri

In recent months, California has broken all the wrong records as major wildfire after major wildfire has ripped up and down the coastal state. As fall winds down in California, hot and dry conditions typically give way to cooler temperatures, more moisture, and scattered showers, thus putting an end to the long fire season. However, in recent years, and even decades, that trend has faded. This past October, California experienced the most destructive wildfire in the state’s recorded history, claiming over 5,600 structures and 22 lives. Not two months later, yet another major blaze — the Thomas Fire — became the fifth largest on record in the state, having already scorched some 230,000 acres and still burning.


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Hurricanes and the climate – is the worst yet to come?
The Hill - September 16, 2017  - By Shahir Masri
A few weeks ago we witnessed the dramatic saga unfold in Houston as Hurricane Harvey slammed the Texas coast. Lives were lost and entire neighborhoods vanished. According to scientists, Harvey dumped more rain than any previously recorded storm in the contiguous U.S. This week the nation braced again as Hurricane Irma swept through Florida. Are these storms just a fluke, or a sign of things to come? As a scientist who studies climate change, this question concerns me. 


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​Becoming Chemically Aware

Thrive Global - August 16, 2017  - By Shahir Masri

Recently, the University of California-Los Angeles Center for the Study of Women hosted a two-day landmark symposium titled “Chemical Entanglements.” Two years in the making, the event drew together experts, activists, journalists, and the public in order to address growing concerns about the health impacts of toxic chemicals. Not just your age-old traffic or industry pollutants, but exposures incurred from personal care products, furniture upholstery, cleaning agents, and other consumer products — from the items we are sold and told are safe. These are the silent and unsuspecting assassins, often disproportionately marketed to women.


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How a Citizens’ Lobby Will Empower You to Fight Climate Change

​Thrive Global - February 23, 2017  - By Shahir Masri

To those fighting for climate action in America and around the globe, the recent U.S. presidential election dealt a traumatic blow. It was no surprise in his run for the White House that President Trump considered climate change a non-issue, even a hoax. But many hoped a more realistic approach would surface once the dust settled. His cabinet nominations, including former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson and long-time EPA critic Scott Pruitt, however, suggest our hopes were in vain.


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In the wake of Hurricane Matthew — to spray or not to spray?
The Hill - November 1, 2016 - By Shahir Masri
Confronted by devastating Hurricane Matthew, Florida residents and city officials have even more to deal with than the obvious destruction and loss at hand. When floods and rain subside, stagnant puddles and newly formed ponds persist — a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. What this has meant previously is aerial spraying of highly toxic organophosphate pesticides (OPs). Just recall Hurricane Isabel in 2003, or Charley, Jeanne, Frances, and Katrina in 2004 and 2005. Don’t forget Hurricane Irene in 2011. In all instances, flooding resulted in real or anticipated increases in mosquito abundance, and aerial spraying of toxic OPs ensued.Out went the hurricanes and in came the pesticides. 

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What You Didn’t Know About Rice - Tips to Lower Arsenic Levels
Cyprus Organics - September 7, 2015 - By Shahir Masri

An element with widely recognized toxicity, arsenic is most often associated with groundwater contamination, particularly in places such as India. However, mounting evidence suggests that exposures in the United States are not to be trivialized. This is true in spite of the decades-old Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Safe Drinking Water Act. How can this be? Because arsenic in water isn’t the issue for most Americans, it’s the arsenic in food. And currently no U.S. regulations exist for monitoring arsenic in food. What is the main food to look out for, you ask? Unfortunately, a food that has become a staple in our diets; that is, rice. 


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Marine Plastic Contamination: Implications for Public Health and the Environment
Johns Hopkins Water Institute Magazine - June 18, 2014 - By Shahir Masri
GMO stands for “genetically modified organism.”  In the context of food, GMOs are plants or animals whose genetic information has been modified, or genetically engineered, usually to produce a greater yield or increase processing efficiency.  In other words, to increase company profits and usually reduce consumer costs.  Unfortunately, however, with such biotechnology has come concern for human health and the environment.  

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Canada: The Once Green Oil Machine
Climate Change Guide - October, 2013 - By Shahir Masri
Since the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s best selling book, Silent Spring, which essentially launched the environmental movement, the use of synthetic pesticides to control pests has been a major issue to the public as well as various heath and environmental groups.  Today, the toxicity of various pesticides is well recognized to reach beyond specific target organisms, affecting both wildlife as well as human health.  Specifically, exposure to pesticides has been associated with a variety of health problems, ranging from mild headaches and fatigue to more severe cancers, birth defects, reduced fertility, and nerve damage.  

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Pesticides in Food
Cyprus Organics - October 16, 2012 - By Shahir Masri
Since the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s best selling book, Silent Spring, which essentially launched the environmental movement, the use of synthetic pesticides to control pests has been a major issue to the public as well as various heath and environmental groups. Today, the toxicity of various pesticides is well recognized to reach beyond specific target organisms, affecting both wildlife as well as human health.  Specifically, exposure to pesticides has been associated with a variety of health problems, ranging from mild headaches and fatigue to more severe cancers, birth defects, reduced fertility, and nerve damage.  In spite of the damage caused by pesticides, however, the use of these toxic chemicals remains rampant in both the United States and abroad, and in some cases is even increasing.  

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Climate Change: Are We Paving the Way to Inaction?

The Berkeley Daily Planet - August 12, 2012 - By Shahir Masri
What will it mean to teach today’s students both sides of the “global warming debate?” Will this translate to a politically balanced and scientifically sound education? Well that is the consensus among members of California’s Los Alamitos School Board who now require the District to teach “controversial issues” such as global warming in a balanced way that presents both sides of the issue. Just because two theories surround an issue, however, does not make that issue controversial or mean that both theories deserve balanced attention. In the case of global warming, because theories surrounding the issue are not supported equally by the scientific community, these theories should not be given equal representation in the classroom.

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