Environmental Policy

NASA Confirms Man's role in Global Warming
January 31, 2012 06:52 AM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

A new NASA study confirms the fact that greenhouse gases generated by human activity - not changes in solar activity - are the primary force driving global warming. The study offers an updated calculation of the Earth's energy imbalance, the difference between the amount of solar energy absorbed by Earth's surface and the amount returned to space as heat. The researchers' calculations show that, despite unusually low solar activity between 2005 and 2010, the planet continued to absorb more energy than it returned to space. James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City, led the research. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics recently published the study.

Obama's Forest Service Weakens National Forest Wildlife Protections
January 30, 2012 09:13 AM - Editor, Center for Biological Diversity

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Forest Service today released a new proposal for the nation's 193-million-acre national forest system that will weaken rules protecting fish and wildlife from logging, livestock grazing, mining and off-road vehicles. The new proposal, which was released as part of the final environmental impact statement for the rule, is the Forest Service's fourth attempt since 2000 to revise nationwide regulations governing national forests. All three previous attempts were challenged in court by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, and all three prior attempts were found unlawful. Like the 2000, 2005 and 2008 rules, the Obama administration's planning rule would decrease longstanding protections for wildlife on national forests.

Palm Oil Biodiesel and greenhouse gas emissions
January 30, 2012 06:43 AM - Editor, MONGABAY.COM

Greenhouse gas emissions from palm oil-based biodiesel are the highest among major biofuels when the effects of deforestation and peatlands degradation are considered, according to calculations by the European Commission. The emissions estimates, which haven't been officially released, have important implications for the biofuels industry in Europe. As reported by EurActiv, the data from the E.U. shows emissions from biofuels produced from palm oil (105g of carbon dioxide equivalent per megajoule of fuel), soybeans (103g CO2e/mj), and rapeseed (canola) (95g CO2e/mj) are higher than conventional gasoline (87.5g CO2e/mj). Sunflower (86g CO2e/mj) and biodiesel produced from palm oil with methane capture (83g CO2e/mj) are only slightly better than conventional crude oil, according to the data.

Cooling Lagoons aim to reduce thermal discharges to marine ecosystems, improve efficiency
January 29, 2012 07:16 AM - Tafline Laylin, Green Prophet

Gulf countries that lack freshwater resources rely deeply on seawater desalination to meet their daily needs and cool down thermal generation plants. According to Gulf News, the United Arab Emirates alone uses four trillion litres of Gulf seawater each year to cool down its power plants, foundries and desalination plants. The byproduct of these operations produces a hot briny fluid that is then pumped back into the Gulf, seriously compromising coral reefs and the overall marine ecosystem. But Crystal Lagoons — the same people who were behind the worlds largest artificial lagoon planned for the Red Sea, is marketing a new closed-loop cooling system that would ensure that no more water would have to be extracted from the Gulf to cool down industrial plants! Thermal power plants require water for cooling, but disposing of that water back into the Gulf is not only harmful to the marine ecosystem, according to Crystal Lagoons, it is also a waste of thermal energy.

The World is Still Consuming Dolphins and Other Marine Mammals
January 27, 2012 02:24 PM - David A Gabel, ENN

Not too long ago, a big problem with the fishing industry was that dolphins were being captured in the large nets used to harvest tuna. They would get mixed in and their meat would be ground up and served with the tuna in the tuna can. When people caught on, they were outraged. Now tuna fish providers offer their tuna cans with labels which say dolphin free. But not everything is so peachy for the dolphin in other parts of the world. According to a new study from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Okapi Wildlife Associates (Okapi), dolphins and other marine mammals are still being eaten. In fact, since 1990, 114 countries claim to consume one or more of at least 87 species of marine mammals.

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.

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