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.
Facing Environmental Issues on the US, Mexico Border
August 9, 2012 11:22 AM - Allison Winter, ENN
From reducing mobile source emissions, to connecting households to drinking water and wastewater services, to clean-up efforts of streams and canals, the United States and Mexico have made a joint effort to protect both human health and the environment in their shared 2,000 mile border region. The bi-national entities along with various stakeholders created the Border 2012 agreement to help identify and control environmental concerns and public health challenges. As the agreement expires this year, a new Border 2020 agreement was renewed and signed today by US EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Mexico’s Secretary for the Environment and Natural Resources Juan Elvira Quesada.
U.S. Auto Industry Jobs Up Nearly A Quarter Million Since 2009 - Fuel Efficiency a Key Driver
August 9, 2012 07:09 AM - NRDC
With the launch of new federal vehicle fuel economy rules only about one week away, the American auto industry has grown by nearly a quarter million jobs (236,600) since June 2009 when the auto industry hit bottom, according to a new report available from DrivingGrowth.org. The report from DrivingGrowth.org finds that fuel efficiency is a major factor behind the gains in U.S. auto jobs. A website that tracks the revitalization of the U.S. auto industry, DrivingGrowth.org is sponsored by three leading U.S. environmental organizations: The Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. Manufacturing of motor vehicle and parts has grown by 165,100, or 26.4 percent since June 2009. Another 71,500 jobs have been added at U.S. auto dealerships. Automakers, their suppliers and their dealers are now looking ahead to a brighter future after the dark days of the recession.
Another Giant Leap for Mankind: Earth's Curiosity Touches Down on Mars
August 6, 2012 08:58 AM - National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NASA's most advanced Mars rover Curiosity has landed on the Red Planet. The one-ton rover, hanging by ropes from a rocket backpack, touched down onto Mars Sunday to end a 36-week flight and begin a two-year investigation. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft that carried Curiosity succeeded in every step of the most complex landing ever attempted on Mars, including the final severing of the bridle cords and flyaway maneuver of the rocket backpack. "Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars -- or if the planet can sustain life in the future," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030's, and today's landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal."
Extreme heatwaves 50 to 100 times more likely due to climate change
August 6, 2012 08:46 AM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM
A recent rise in deadly, debilitating, and expensive heatwaves was caused by climate change, argues a new statistical analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Climatologists found that extreme heatwaves have increased by at least 50 times during the last 30 years. The researchers, including James Hansen of NASA, conclude that climate change is the only explanation for such a statistical jump. "This is not a climate model or a prediction but actual observations of weather events and temperatures that have happened," Hansen, a prominent scientist and outspoken climate change activist, wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post.
BLM Analysis Reveals Massive Potential Damage From Las Vegas Water Grab
August 6, 2012 08:23 AM - Editor, Center for Biological Diversity
LAS VEGAS— The Bureau of Land Management today released its long-anticipated final environmental impact statement for the pipeline right-of-way for the Southern Nevada Water Authority's "groundwater development project." The project envisions unsustainably siphoning more than 37.1 billion gallons of groundwater per year from at least four valleys in central Nevada and pumping it 300 miles to the Las Vegas Valley.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution innovates to help track Arctic Ice
August 4, 2012 07:17 AM - Neila Columbo, Sierra Club Green Home
As the Arctic sea ice continues to melt, an initiative led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is trying to predict out future changes to the Arctic and how this will affect the environment. In 2004, John Toole and his research team at Woods Hole Oceanic Institute (WHOI) developed a new way to measure changes in the Arctic as part of the Arctic Observing Network, an international collaboration of scientists studying the Arctic polar climate and ecosystem. Computer models suggest significant impacts in this region will occur in the next few years, and it is of great concern to scientists to know how these shifts will affect ocean stratification and circulation, ecosystems, and global weather patterns. "The Earth's climate system is changing in response to the increase of carbon levels in the atmosphere. Computer models seem to suggest in the next 100 years or earlier, say by mid-century, the ice cover of the Arctic may disappear mid-summer each year, and some models suggests once it begins to disappear, it could go very quickly, perhaps over the course of ten years," says Toole. "The Arctic may function more like the Antarctic in the future with a highly seasonal ice cover — little in mid-late summer, and a broad, thin coverage in winter."
The US is now Exporting Coal - is this good?
August 3, 2012 06:56 AM - RP Siegel, Triple Pundit
We all know that the journey to a sustainable existence on this planet is going to be a difficult one. Indeed, it might well be what former Xerox CEO David Kearns said of the company’s quest for quality, "a race without a finish line." I say this because absolute sustainability is an ideal that can only be approached. But we need to accelerate our approach to it if we hope to continue to thrive here for generations to come. There will be difficult choices to make, and priorities to set, many of which, like in today's story, will involve trading off short term and long term benefits. At this point, thanks in large part to Wall Street, the game is heavily rigged on the side of the short term, and that is going to have to change if we are to have any hope of averting disaster in the brief time remaining, especially when it comes to climate change.
Update: Electric Car Sales
August 2, 2012 07:23 AM - Guest Author, Clean Techies
In a few weeks, we’ll come upon the four-year anniversary of when candidate Barack Obama proposed that America put 1 million plug-in electric vehicles on our roads by 2015. Even before the sale of the first Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf, most observers knew that hitting the seven-figure mark by 2015 was more aspirational than an actual goal. Recent sales numbers for EVs in the U.S. have revealed market challenges facing battery-powered cars. Last week, Nissan reported that June 2012 sales of its electric Leaf reached 535 units—less than one-third of the 1,708 LEAFs sold in June 2011. Throughout 2012, monthly sales numbers have hovered around the 500-unit mark. That’s a troubling sign for EVs because Nissan had announced that its sales would double from 9,674 in 2011 to nearly 20,000 units this year. If trends continue, Nissan’s Leaf-manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tennessee—expected to come online in December—could operate well below its capacity of 150,000 units annually.