Environmental Policy

Genetically Modified Plants To Resist Intense Drought
January 17, 2012 04:23 PM - David Allouche, NoCamels

Israeli agro-biotechnology company, Rosetta Green, has developed a new technology to develop plants that are better able to withstand prolonged periods of severe drought. The company aims to develop new plant varieties resistant to harsh climatic condition, maintaining an increased yield. The company, based in Rehovot, Israel, experimented on tobacco plants that were irrigated with seawater instead of freshwater. The genetically modified plants created by the company were able to grow under seawater irrigation, as opposed to the control group of plants. According to the company's CEO, Amir Avniel, "the frequent droughts afflicting the world in recent years and the motivation to expand to arid lands containing brackish water require the development of plant varieties resistant to drought and irrigation with salt water." Rosetta Green is using a technology that can identify MicroRNAs, which are short RNA molecules that play an important role in the regulation of key genetic traits in major crops. The MicroRNAs identified by the company were used to develop prototype plants with significantly improved drought tolerance.

Singapore Panel Makes Recommendations for Mitigating Flash-Flooding
January 17, 2012 11:58 AM - Sara Stefanski, ENN

Storm water run-off, a major problem which has affected Singapore for two consecutive years, is thought to be partially due to urbanization of the country, and recommendations have been made for mitigation of this serious issue. An expert panel consisting of 12 members was created after last year's flash flooding across eastern and central Singapore to research potential solutions, and the panel explains that urbanization — that is, more concrete, buildings and roads due to a growing population — is one of the reasons behind the recent increase in storm water run-off which causes the flooding. Today Online mentions that the panel performed additional analysis as a joint effort with the Meteorological Services, and observed that there are clear trends in recent decades towards higher rainfall in terms of intensity and frequency. These findings are consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) findings.

South Florida Alliance Gears Up for Climate Change
January 17, 2012 09:57 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Global action against climate change is often difficult and excruciatingly slow. For the United States, policies to combat a warming Earth are at a virtual standstill. That is why it comes down to local and regional alliances to work together to make a difference. In the US, there are few areas more vulnerable to climate change than southern Florida. It is an area that will be easily inundated with flooding should seas continue to rise and hurricanes continue to batter them. Now, four south Florida counties have teamed together to prepare their communities for the menace that is to come.

Selling Whales to Save Them?
January 17, 2012 09:00 AM - Kieran Mulvaney, Discovery News

When it comes to commercial whaling, things are rarely as simple as they seem. The fact that it continues, 30 years after the International Whaling Commission (IWC) voted for an indefinite moratorium, suggests that there has been some kind of failure on the part of environmentalists and other opponents of whaling; yet the number of whales being killed by whalers today is a fraction of what it was three decades ago, and a barely noticeable blip when set against the size of the industry at its peak. And although the whaling nations' self-assigned quotas may be higher than they were a few years ago, the actual catches fall some way short of those quotas.

What Really Are the Best Ways to Cut Gasoline Use?
January 16, 2012 10:07 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

The United States has implemented a variety of policies in the effort to cut back gasoline use. For example, the Obama Administration has invested federal dollars into GM's electric vehicles. The EPA has introduced new fuel economy standards which are to be implemented over time, gradually becoming stricter. The government has also promoted the expansion of biofuels in automobile fuel. However, a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has shown that these policies are not only cost-effective, but do not sufficiently curb fuel usage. What is to be done to reduce fuel use and greenhouse gases from vehicle emissions?

Obama Deals a Blow to Ocean Wildlife With Plan to Move Ocean Agency to Interior Department
January 16, 2012 09:08 AM - Editor, Center for Biological Diversity

SAN FRANCISCO— President Barack Obama today announced a plan to take the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) out of the Commerce Department and house it within the Department of the Interior. Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity, issued the following statement in response...

Atmospheric Particles causing more rain
January 16, 2012 07:09 AM - Reuters, London

A rise in the atmosphere of aerosols - miniscule particles which include soot, dust and sulphates - has led to more rainfall in certain parts of the world and could provide vital clues for future climate predictions, a scientific study shows. A deeper understanding of rainfall patterns would aid scientists' ability to predict changing trends in the climate. Aerosols can be produced from burning coal or gas, industrial and agricultural processes or by the burning of forests. As well as being harmful for human health, they are blamed for causing air pollution such as smog and smoke. "For a range of conditions, increases in aerosol abundance are associated with the local intensification of rain rates," said the study published in Nature Geoscience by scientists from Israel's Weizmann Institute, NASA, and other institutions.

Ohio city questions future fracking wells
January 14, 2012 08:22 AM - Kim Palmer Cleveland, Ohio

Alarmed over a string of earthquakes linked to deep wells in nearby Youngstown, authorities in Mansfield, Ohio have threatened to block construction of two similar waste disposal wells planned within their city limits. Ohio has over 170 active disposal wells, though only recently has it become permissable to use them for disposal of out-of-state waste from fracking, a controversial process to drive gas and oil out of underground rock. Now, fresh questions about their safety are being raised in the wake of 11 earthquakes that struck Youngstown last year, all centered near wells used for disposal of fracking waste. In Mansfield, city officials are reconsidering plans to allow two new 5,000 foot waste disposal wells to be built. Last spring, an Austin, Texas-based company, Preferred Fluids Management, obtained a drilling permit for the wells. The city wants Preferred Fluids Management to pay for the testing of every tanker of fluid previously discarded in the Mansfield wells and a full geological survey of the area. Otherwise, officials said, the city will fight the drilling.

Jobs for the Poor? Save the Wild for $1 a Day
January 13, 2012 04:14 PM - Tim Wall, Discovery News

The best things in life aren't really free. Fresh air, clean water, and bountiful crops all depend on healthy ecosystems. But research published in BioScience pointed out that the communities which steward those environmental resources often do not receive payment for their services.

Good news for rhinos in Nepal
January 12, 2012 08:59 AM - Kathryn Pintus, ARKive.org

Conservationists in Nepal have reason to celebrate, as it has been reported that no Indian rhinos were killed by poachers in the country in 2011. With three of the world's five rhino species classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, conservation efforts are more important than ever. Sadly, 2011 also brought with it the news of the extinction of two rhino subspecies, the Vietnamese rhino and the western black rhino. Yet the latest news from Nepal demonstrates how well-managed, targeted conservation action can contribute to the survival of a species.

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