Tighter Rules on Coal Dust Exposure Backed by the GAO
August 18, 2012 08:29 AM - SCIENCE
After an extensive review—including a visit to a working coal mine in Pennsylvania—a U.S. government watchdog agency has concluded that mine safety regulators relied on sound science in proposing a new rule designed to reduce miners' exposure to coal dust. Industry groups had challenged the research underlying the 2010 proposal, and late last year Congress asked its investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), to look into the matter. Since 1968, more than 75,000 U.S. coal miners have died from lung diseases caused by coal mine dust, today's GAO report notes. And recent studies have suggested that so-called black lung disease is on the rise, threatening more than 85,000 miners working in 26 states. In a bid to reduce the threat, in October 2010 the Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) proposed reducing allowable concentrations of coal mine dust, lowering the standard from 2.0 milligrams of dust per cubic meter of air (mg/m3) to 1.0 milligram per cubic meter.
Belo Monte mega-dam halted again by high Brazilian court, appeal likely but difficult
August 17, 2012 08:21 AM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM
A high federal court in Brazil has ruled that work on the Belo Monte dam in the Brazilian Amazon be immediately suspended. Finding that the government failed to properly consult indigenous people on the dam, the ruling is the latest in innumerable twists and turns regarding the massive dam, which was first conceived in the 1970s, and has been widely criticized for its impact on tribal groups in the region and the Amazon environment. In addition the Regional Federal Tribunal (TRF1) found that Brazil's Environmental Impact Assessment was flawed since it was conducted after work on the dam had already begun.
Cold-Blooded species may adapt to climate change faster than thought
August 17, 2012 07:22 AM - ScienceDaily
In the face of a changing climate many species must adapt or perish. Ecologists studying evolutionary responses to climate change forecast that cold-blooded tropical species are not as vulnerable to extinction as previously thought. The study, published in the British Ecological Society's Functional Ecology, considers how fast species can evolve and adapt to compensate for a rise in temperature. The research, carried out at the University of Zurich, was led by Dr Richard Walters, now at Reading University, alongside David Berger now at Uppsala University and Wolf Blanckenhorn, Professor of Evolutionary Ecology at Zurich.
Slipping Sustainability Through The Back Door
August 16, 2012 08:37 AM - Jennifer Schwab, Sierra Club Green Home
aguna Niguel, CA — America is going green, but not the way environmentalists had planned it. The unlikely hero is none other than Corporate America, which is giving consumers the green whether they realize it or not. Why? Because it's good for the customer, it's good business, and let's face it, as MGM Senior Vice President of Environment and Energy Cindy Ortega articulates, "It is also good for employee morale and retention — people want to work for companies who care about the world around them."
Challenges facing the future of Antarctica
August 15, 2012 10:32 AM - British Antarctic Survey
A century ago, Antarctica was one of Earth's last frontiers, but now the continent is under threat from human activity. An international team of experts, including scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), has set out the current and future conservation challenges facing the Antarctic in a Policy Forum article published this week in the journal Science. The team analysed the effectiveness of the existing Antarctic Treaty System for protecting the region from the threats of climate change and, as technology improves, increasing prospects of use of the Antarctic's natural resources.
Costco, the Genuine Retail CSR Leader
August 14, 2012 09:01 AM - Leon Kaye, Triple Pundit
Could Costco possibly be the most genuine leader when it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and governance? Retailers across the country constantly crow about the achievements they have made on a bevy of issues from more sustainable fish (Safeway) to solar installations (Walmart). Other retailers are yanking the chains on pork producers to cease the cruel use of gestation crates and of course just about everyone is on the organic and local produce bandwagon. These shifts in business practices are great news for fish, pigs and of course, the environment and our health. But what about people who work in these stores, who stack, haul and crate the fish, pork and produce, whether they are free range, cruelty-free, duty free, or not?
Record Burmese Python found in the Florida Everglades
August 14, 2012 07:15 AM - Megan Gannon, MSNBC
A double record-setting Burmese python has been found in the Florida Everglades. At 17 feet, 7 inches (5.3 meters) in length, it is the largest snake of its kind found in the state and it was carrying a record 87 eggs. Scientists say the finding highlights how dangerously comfortable the invasive species has become in its new home. "This thing is monstrous, it's about a foot wide," said Kenneth Krysko, of the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida. "It means these snakes are surviving a long time in the wild, there's nothing stopping them and the native wildlife are in trouble."
Rate of Arctic summer sea ice loss is much greater than predicted
August 13, 2012 01:12 PM - EurActiv
Sea ice in the Arctic is disappearing at a far greater rate than previously expected, according to data from the first purpose-built satellite launched to study the thickness of the Earth's polar caps. Preliminary results from the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 probe indicate that 900 cubic kilometres of summer sea ice has disappeared from the Arctic ocean over the past year. This rate of loss is 50% higher than most scenarios outlined by polar scientists and suggests that global warming, triggered by rising greenhouse gas emissions, is beginning to have a major impact on the region. In a few years the Arctic ocean could be free of ice in summer, triggering a rush to exploit its fish stocks, oil, minerals and sea routes.
Black Carbon from Slash and Burn Practices Still a Problem in Brazil
August 13, 2012 06:44 AM - Rachel Nuwer, Science
Although nearly 40 years have passed since Brazil banned slash-and-burn practices in its Atlantic Forest, the destruction lingers. New research reveals that charred plant material is leaching out of the soil and into rivers, eventually making its way to the ocean. So much of this "black carbon" is entering the marine ecosystem that it could be hurting ocean life, although further tests will be needed to confirm this possibility. People have used fire to shape Earth's vegetation for millennia. In Brazil's Atlantic Forest, Europeans began burning trees to make way for settlements and agriculture in the 16th century. What once blanketed 1.3 million square kilometers and ranked as one of the world's largest tropical forests had shrunk to 8% of its former size by 1973, when protective laws were put in place.
Extreme Drought Impacting Crop Yields
August 11, 2012 07:32 AM - NBC News wire reports
Federal forecasters are predicting record prices for corn and soybeans, raising fears of a new world food crisis as the worst U.S. drought in half a century continues to punish key farm states. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday said production of U.S. corn and soybeans is expected to be down 17 percent from its forecast last month of nearly 13 billion bushels, and 13 percent lower than last year. It was the second month in a row when the USDA has cut its production estimate. Corn prices briefly surged to a record on the USDA's forecast, but then retreated because the government said demand for the grain would fall due to its soaring cost.