Asbestos is the biggest workplace safety threat 

Asbestos is officially Canada’s number one workplace killer. The Globe and Mail reported today that the mineral accounted for more than one third of total workplace death claims approved across Canada last year and nearly one third since 1996. The data shows that the 368 deaths from asbestos represent more fatalities than highway accidents, fires and chemical exposure combined. “The indications are that we can expect an increase [in asbestos-related diseases] to continue for at least another decade or so. And that’s assuming we as a nation ban it now. If we don’t do that, we can expect it to continue to rise indefinitely, but perhaps at a lower rate,” Coling Soskolne, a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta, told the Globe and Mail. As of now, the Canadian government continues to allow the import of asbestos-containing products, such as pipes and brake pads.


The next great extinction looms

A special analysis by the well-regarded scientific journal, Nature, shows 41 per cent of all amphibians, 26 per cent of mammal species and 13 per cent of birds are currently under threat of extinction. Many of these species are already close to extinction, but the report raises concerns over many more animals rated as “endangered,” such as bonobos, bluefin tuna and loggerhead turtles. The study blames human activities, such as the spread of agriculture, the introduction of invasive species, pollution and overfishing. Climate change will only exacerbate the problem. “The trouble is that in coming decades, the additional threat of worsening climate change will become more and more pronounced and could then kill off these survivors,” Derek Tittensor, a marine ecologist at the World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge, told the Guardian.


Employees can now use work email accounts to unionize

U.S. federal regulators decided on Thursday that employees are allowed to organize unions using their company email accounts in their free time. The National Labor Relations Board overturned a Bush-era policy that banned employees from discussing work-related issues during non-work hours, ThinkProgress reported last week. The ruling settled a case between a sign language interpretation service called Purple Communications and the Communications Workers of America. The ruling only applies to employees who already have a company email address and allows employers to ban email use during non-work hours under special circumstances.


Coal markets are drying up

Congressional Republicans may be losing their self-imposed war against Obama’s coal policy as coal prices in Asia begin to plummet amid slowing demand and oversupply. Cheaper coal from Indonesia and Australia is starting to edge out American producers and green groups have successfully blocked proposed export terminals in Washington state and Oregon. To top it off, China, the world’s biggest consumer of coal, has pledged to cap its greenhouse gas emissions, the World Bank is funding fewer coal projects and hedge funds are becoming increasingly cautious of coal investments, Politico reported last weekend.


Emission impossible

Corporate Knights’ assistant editor Ashley Renders pointed out that we don’t know enough about how much carbon global corporations are emitting in their supply chains. Emissions created by indirect activities, such as vehicles not owned by the company, outsourced activities and waste disposal, make up an important part of a company’s emissions. Reporting on these emissions is on the rise. But since they are difficult to measure, there is a need for standardization and regulation to make sure companies are providing the right information. Measuring how much carbon is produced in a company’s global supply chain is particularly challenging, but is critical to understanding the full threat posed by climate change.

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