Environmental Policy

Why Biodiversity Loss Deserves as Much Attention as Climate Change
January 27, 2012 01:58 PM - Akhila Vijayaraghavan, Triple Pundit

Biodiversity loss is probably a challenge that is often ignored as climate change looms. Currently the world is losing species at a rate that is 100 to 1000 times faster than the natural extinction rate, further, it is currently seeing the sixth mass extinction. The previous mass extinction occured 65 million years ago, and was caused by ecosystem changes, changes in atmospheric chemistry, impacts of asteroids and volcanoes. For the first time in history, the current extinction is caused by the competition for resources between a single species Homo sapiens and all others. A recent conference arranged by the Danish Ministry of Environment in the University of Copenhagen, provided an opportunity to influence the process of organizing a UN Biodiversity Panel. More than 100 scientists and decision makers from the EU countries gathered and came to the conclusion that drastic measures should be taken to decelerate current loss of biodiversity.

The Era Of Cheap Water Is Over: Deloitte
January 27, 2012 06:50 AM - Editor, Justmeans

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL) today launched the Water Tight 2012 report, which explores the future of the global water sector in the year ahead. The report examines how major global trends such as population growth, increasing economic development, and urbanization, coupled with the changes in climate patterns, underscore the importance of effective public policy and private sector water stewardship in managing this finite and shared resource. The growing demand for water is making conservation and efficient use central issues, particularly as governments, utilities, and the private sector come under increasing pressure to be stewards of this precious and shared resource. The report states that a clearer water pricing will play an important role in how customers better manage their water usage. "There is a compelling case for utilities either to increase water prices or create a better pricing system that addresses scarcity issues, allows them to invest in the replacement of ageing infrastructure, and provides them with a satisfactory financial return," says James Leigh, Global Leader for Water, DTTL. "Increasing water prices, however, is a difficult political decision, as domestic water usage is considered a basic human right. As such, raising awareness of water related issues and educating the public about the necessity of more effective water pricing is crucial."

Protecting original wetlands far preferable to restoration
January 26, 2012 04:38 PM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM

Even after 100 years have passed a restored wetland may not reach the state of its former glory. A new study in the open access journal PLoS Biology finds that restored wetlands may take centuries to recover the biodiversity and carbon sequestration of original wetlands, if they ever do. The study questions laws, such as in the U.S., which allow the destruction of an original wetland so long as a similar wetland is restored elsewhere.

The Green Side of the State of the Union
January 26, 2012 06:57 AM - Raz Godelnik, Triple Pundit

Listening to the State of the Union last night, I couldn't help but notice that energy has become a hot issue — it was mentioned far more times than most other issues. I checked later on and saw I wasn’t wrong — energy was mentioned 23 times, setting a new record (at least for this century) and coming third after jobs/employment (35 times) and taxes (34 times). This is pretty impressive, but still, when I turned off the radio in my car by the end of the speech, trying to digest what I've just heard, I was left with mixed feelings. The reason was that while President Obama spoke about providing strong support for cleantech, he also includes support for dirtier energy resources like offshore oil and shale gas, as part of his vision of developing "every available source of American energy." So he ended up providing both good news and bad news for those hoping he will lead America to a more sustainable future.

Arsenic cancer risk still high decades later in Chile
January 25, 2012 06:53 AM - Amy Norton, Reuters, NEW YORK

People exposed to very high levels of arsenic in Chilean drinking water back in the 1950s and 60s are still showing a higher-than-normal risk of bladder cancer -- years after the arsenic problem was brought under control, a new study shows. The findings are not surprising, researchers say, since the cancer would take decades to emerge. But the results underscore the importance of continuing to screen high-risk people for bladder cancer, according to lead researcher Dr. Fernando Coz, a professor of urology at the Universidad de Los Andes in Santiago de Chile. The study, reported in the Journal of Urology, focused on people in the Antofagasta region of Chile. In the 1950s and 60s, drinking water in the region became contaminated with high levels of arsenic. Arsenic is semi-metallic element found in rock, soil, water and air. It is also released into the environment through industrial activities, and can be found in products like paints, dyes and fertilizers. High exposure has been linked to several cancers, including tumors of the bladder, liver and lungs.

U.S. CO2 emissions to stay below 2005 levels
January 24, 2012 07:18 AM - Reuters

U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions will be 7 percent lower than their 2005 level of nearly 6 billion metric tons in 2020 as coal's share of electricity production continues a steady descent over the next two decades, according to new government data. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released an early version of its annual energy outlook on Monday, which predicted a slowdown in growth of energy use over the next two decades amid economic recovery and improved energy efficiency. The report highlights the fact that carbon-intensive coal generation will see a major decline in the power sector in the coming decades, which will ensure energy-related CO2 emissions will not exceed 2005 levels at any point before 2035. The report also showed that emissions per capita would fall an average of 1 percent per year from 2005 to 2035 as the new federal standards, state renewable energy mandates and higher energy prices would temper the growth of demand for transportation fuels.

Biofuel breakthrough
January 22, 2012 08:45 AM - Paula Leighton, SciDevNet

Brown seaweed's potential as a vast source of biofuels has been highlighted with the announcement that scientists have found a way of converting all its major sugars into ethanol. A team reported in Science today (19 January) that it has engineered a microbe that will convert the sugars to ethanol, overturning one of the main obstacles to making the use of brown macroalgae, or seaweed, as a biofuel feedstock competitive. The prospective ethanol yield from brown seaweed is approximately two times higher than that from sugarcane and five times higher than maize, from the same area of cultivation. But its full potential cannot be reached because of the inability of industrial microbes to break down alginate, one of the three most abundant sugars in brown seaweed, commonly known as kelp, which is the most widely grown seaweed in the world.

Obama's Calculus for Terminating the Keystone Pipeline
January 20, 2012 10:53 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Election years are always a terrible time to make big decisions. Everything leaders do is influenced by calculations regarding their re-election. Whether something is right or wrong often matters less than what will bring about more votes. The decision by the Obama Administration to put to rest the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project is no exception. However, this in itself does not mean the decision is without its merits.

Globally, 9 of the 10 warmest years on record occurred since 2000
January 20, 2012 06:43 AM - Reuters

The global average temperature last year was the ninth-warmest in the modern meteorological record, continuing a trend linked to greenhouse gases that saw nine of the 10 hottest years occurring since the year 2000, NASA scientists said on Thursday. A separate report from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the average temperature for the United States in 2011 as the 23rd warmest year on record. The global average surface temperature for 2011 was 0.92 degrees F (0.51 degrees C) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline temperature, researchers at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies said in a statement. The institute's temperature record began in 1880. The first 11 years of the new century were notably hotter than the middle and late 20th century, according to institute director James Hansen. The only year from the 20th century that was among the top 10 warmest years was 1998.

Trucks and Diesel Air Pollution
January 19, 2012 10:21 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

It is annoying to be driving behind a truck especially one that smells of diesel combustion products. Doing something about that is desirable but it will come at a tremendous cost. trucks are bought and used for years. It is not something that you replace quickly because it is costly. A common trend in environmental reporting is to put things in terms of jobs vs. the environment. For the port cities such as LA environmental protection has become more important than jobs. Once upon a time a new truck might cost $20,000. Now they are six figures which hurts the small independent truckers in particular.

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