Environmental Policy

Virgin Atlantic: Emissions from Steel Mills Could Fuel Airplanes
September 16, 2016 01:32 PM - by Leon Kaye, Triple Pundit

After five years of research and development, Virgin Atlantic and one of its clean-technology partners, Illinois-based LanzaTech, developed a source of jet fuel made of waste gases from steel mills. According to the companies, this new source of jet fuel passed extensive tests that both delivered on performance and promise to result in carbon emissions savings of 65 percent compared to conventional jet fuel.

This discovery comes at a time when airlines, seeking to mitigate what is a carbon-intensive business, have long dabbled with jet fuel blended with algae and other biofuels. The Dutch carrier KLM experimented with algae fuel blends, has flown transatlantic flights using blends of kerosene and cooking oil, and is still apparently committed to sourcing these fuels when available. Alaska Airlines also considered using recycled cooking oil to reduce its carbon emissions. Earlier this year, United kicked off flights between San Francisco and Los Angeles using a biofuel-conventional blend. Aviation fuel using feedstock from Brazilian sugarcane is also touted as an option.

Renewables have the economic advantage over fossil fuels
September 16, 2016 11:00 AM - Alex Kirby, Ecologist

A new energy market analysis shows the average cost of electricity from renewables is already lower than from fossil fuels, writes Alex Kirby. And as renewables eat deeper into the 'market share' of coal and gas power plants, so the entire economics of fossil fuel power generation will unravel.

The cheapest way of generating energy today is to use renewable fuels - and the authors of a new analysis predict that renewables are set to enjoy even more of an advantage within a few years.

The study by the Carbon Tracker Initiative says renewable power generation costs are already lower on average worldwide than those of fossil fuels.

Experts anticipate significant continued reductions in wind energy costs
September 13, 2016 01:37 PM - DOE / Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory via EurekAlert!

Technology advancements are expected to continue to drive down the cost of wind energy, according to a survey of the world's foremost wind power experts led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Experts anticipate cost reductions of 24%-30% by 2030 and 35%-41% by 2050, under a median or 'best guess' scenario, driven by bigger and more efficient turbines, lower capital and operating costs, and other advancements.

Increased ocean acidification is due to human activities, say scientists
September 8, 2016 05:24 PM - Massachusetts Institute of Technology via ScienceDaily

Oceanographers from MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution report that the northeast Pacific Ocean has absorbed an increasing amount of anthropogenic carbon dioxide over the last decade, at a rate that mirrors the increase of carbon dioxide emissions pumped into the atmosphere.

The scientists, led by graduate student Sophie Chu, in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, found that most of the anthropogenic carbon (carbon arising from human activity) in the northeast Pacific has lingered in the upper layers, changing the chemistry of the ocean as a result. In the past 10 years, the region's average pH has dropped by 0.002 pH units per year, leading to more acidic waters. The increased uptake in carbon dioxide has also decreased the availability of aragonite -- an essential mineral for many marine species' shells.

Future fisheries can expect $10 billion revenue loss due to climate change
September 7, 2016 11:20 AM - University of British Columbia via EurekAlert!

Global fisheries stand to lose approximately $10 billion of their annual revenue by 2050 if climate change continues unchecked, and countries that are most dependent on fisheries for food will be the hardest hit, finds new UBC research.

Climate change impacts such as rising temperatures and changes in ocean salinity, acidity and oxygen levels are expected to result in decreased catches, as previous research from UBC's Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries has found. In this study, the authors examined the financial impact of these projected losses for all fishing countries in 2050, compared to 2000.

Toxic air pollution nanoparticles discovered in the human brain
September 7, 2016 09:46 AM - Oxford University

A team involving Oxford University scientists has, for the first time, discovered tiny magnetic particles from air pollution lodged in human brains – and researchers think they could be a possible cause of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers led by Lancaster University found abundant magnetite nanoparticles in the brain tissue of 37 individuals aged three to 92 who lived in Mexico City and Manchester. This strongly magnetic mineral is toxic and has been implicated in the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) in the human brain, which are associated with neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's disease.

The results have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Climate change has less impact on drought than previously expected
August 31, 2016 03:47 PM - University of California – Irvine via ScienceDaily

As a multiyear drought grinds on in the Southwestern United States, many wonder about the impact of global climate change on more frequent and longer dry spells. As humans emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, how will water supply for people, farms, and forests be affected?

A new study from the University of California, Irvine and the University of Washington shows that water conserved by plants under high CO2 conditions compensates for much of the effect of warmer temperatures, retaining more water on land than predicted in commonly used drought assessments.

According to the study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the implications of plants needing less water with more CO2 in the environment changes assumptions of climate change impacts on agriculture, water resources, wildfire risk, and plant growth.

Study assesses climate change vulnerability in urban America
August 31, 2016 07:17 AM - George Washington University via EurekAlert!

Flooding due to rising ocean levels. Debilitating heat waves that last longer and occur more frequently. Rising rates of diseases caused by ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes, such as Lyme disease, Chikungunya, and Zika. Increasing numbers of Emergency Room visits for asthma attacks due to higher levels of ground-level ozone. Impacts of climate change such as these will affect cities across the country.

One of the first efforts to systematically assess how cities are preparing for climate change shows that city planners have yet to fully assess their vulnerability to climate change, leaving serious risks unaddressed. In their evaluations to-date, they see infrastructure and risks to specific human populations as the primary areas of concern. Despite these concerns, expert assessments of urban climate vulnerability often do not address the real risks that local planners face.

Obama Creates the World's Largest Marine Reserve
August 30, 2016 07:12 AM - Steve Williams, Care2

The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, first named a national monument by President George W. Bush in 2006, is a massively important marine nature reserve.

Designated a World Heritage site, the region surrounding the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands teems with more than 7,000 marine and land species — some of which are unique to the area, including endangered whales and sea turtles. As a result, the region has been deemed irreplaceable by scientists.

Study finds shark fins & meat contain high levels of neurotoxins linked to Alzheimer's disease
August 29, 2016 04:45 PM - University of Miami Rosenstiel School via EurekAlert!

In a new study, University of Miami (UM) scientists found high concentrations of toxins linked to neurodegenerative diseases in the fins and muscles of 10 species of sharks. The research team suggests that restricting consumption of sharks can have positive health benefits for consumers and for shark conservation, since several of the sharks analyzed in the study are threatened with extinction due to overfishing.

Fins and muscle tissue samples were collected from 10 shark species found in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for concentrations of two toxins--mercury and β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA). "Recent studies have linked BMAA to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)," said Deborah Mash, Professor of Neurology and senior author of the study.

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