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The Worldwatch Institute offers a unique blend of interdisciplinary research, global focus, and accessible writing that has made it a leading source of information on the interactions among key environmental, social, and economic trends. Our work revolves around the transition to an environmentally sustainable and socially just society—and how to achieve it.
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For Climate Change Mitigation, Don’t Forget the Peatlands
December 26, 2007 11:18 AM - Alana Herro , Worldwatch Institute
Protecting peatland areas can be a cost-effective way to reduce as much as 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report launched December 11 in Bali, Indonesia. “Just like a global phaseout of old, energy-guzzling light bulbs or a switch to hybrid cars, protecting and restoring peatlands is perhaps another key ”low hanging fruit’...for climate change mitigation,” said Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary General and the executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Bird Extinctions Likely to Rise with Climate Change
December 18, 2007 09:56 AM - Alana Herro, Worldwatch Institute
As warming temperatures push organisms to seek cooler climates at ever-higher altitudes, habitat areas are shrinking, putting many species of plants and animals at risk. This trend could have particularly dire consequences for the world’s bird populations, according to a new report in the journal Conservation Biology. “It’s like an escalator to extinction,” says lead author Cagan Sekercioglu, a senior research scientist with the Department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University. “As a species is forced upwards and its elevational range narrows, the species moves closer to extinction.”
Modern Warfare Causes Unprecedented Environmental Damage
December 17, 2007 02:08 PM - , Worldwatch Institute
Washington, D.C.— Modern warfare tactics, as seen in the American war in Vietnam, the Rwandan and Congolese civil wars, and the current war in Iraq, have greatly increased our capacity to destroy the natural landscape and produce devastating environmental effects on the planet, according to Sarah DeWeerdt, author of “War and the Environment,” featured in the January/February 2008 issue of World Watch.
Study: Policy Trumps Technological Change in Beating Greenhouse Gas Emissions
December 12, 2007 08:53 AM - Alana Herro, Worldwatch Institute
A new study finds that policy changes, not technological advances, are necessary to stem the tide of rising greenhouse gas emissions. And the amount of climate-changing pollutants emitted could grow more quickly in the next 50 years than the last half-century, according to report authors Richard Eckaus of MIT and Ian Sue Wing of Boston University and MIT. “Technological change will not necessarily reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Energy taxes or a system on energy use and trade in emissions permits are necessary,” Eckaus says.
Indonesia: Can’t See the Conference for the Trees
December 10, 2007 08:14 AM - Alana Herro , Worldwatch Institute
On November 28, the United Nations announced that it had reached its goal of planting 1 billion trees in 2007, just days before the landmark UN climate change conference began in Bali, Indonesia, on December 3. Indonesia, meanwhile, has planted some 79 million trees nationwide in just the last few weeks to offset emissions from the conference. With one of the fastest rates of deforestation in the world, the country has become a symbolic epicenter of a wide range of tree-related activities and discussions.
U.S. Emissions Reductions May Be Cheaper Than Thought
December 7, 2007 08:28 AM - Alana Herro, Worldwatch Institute
For years, the United States has resisted mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions because of the perceived cost to the national economy. But a new report suggests that significantly reducing U.S. carbon emissions could cost far less than the trillions of dollars some have projected. McKinsey & Co., a privately owned management consulting firm, predicts that making substantial emissions cuts may cost the economy only a few billion dollars, and that at least 40 percent of the reductions would actually bring economic savings.
Polluting Pulp Mill Draws Protest and Spurs World Court Case
December 6, 2007 09:17 AM - , Worldwatch Institute
Environmentalists from Argentina are continuing their more than two-year protest of an Uruguayan pulp mill along a river that separates the two countries. Protesters say the cellulose processing plant, which went into operation on November 9, will release pollutants into the Uruguay River and threaten local ecosystems and human health. Argentine authorities claim that the mill violates a bilateral treaty and have taken the issue to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, The Netherlands.
Chicago’s Alleys Turning Green
December 3, 2007 09:09 AM - Alana Herro, Worldwatch Institute
A new initiative will help make Chicago’s 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers) of alleyways more sustainable. The miniature streets behind homes and buildings, used mainly for garbage collection and parking access, keep main roads cleaner and less congested but are prone to flooding. The city’s innovative Green Alley Program promotes improved construction techniques and materials that can improve drainage, reduce runoff, and relieve strain on the city’s aging sewer system.
Does the Electricity You Use Demolish Mountains?
November 30, 2007 09:13 AM - Alana Herro, Worldwatch Institute
A new Web-based tool allows U.S. residents to learn how their local electricity consumption may be linked to the destruction of landscapes in the Appalachia region of the eastern United States. With “My Connection,” a feature from North Carolina-based Appalachian Voices, users can enter their ZIP codes and use Google Earth to view the decimated mountains from which their power provider obtains coal. “When you can show people they have a direct connection to it, it makes it that much more relevant to their day-to-day life,” Mary Anne Hitt, the executive director of Appalachian Voices, told the Wall Street Journal.
Coal Use Rises Dramatically Despite Impacts on Climate and Health
November 29, 2007 08:48 AM - , Worldwatch Institute
In 2006, coal accounted for 25 percent of world primary energy supply. Due to its high carbon content, coal was responsible for approximately 40 percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels, despite supplying only 32 percent of fossil fuel energy. Management of this plentiful but heavily polluting energy resource has tremendous implications for human welfare, the health of ecosystems, and the stability of the global climate.
World coal consumption reached a record 3,090 million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 2006, an increase of 4.5 percent over 2005. China led world coal use with 39 percent of the total. The United States followed with 18 percent. The European Union and India accounted for 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively.