Environmental Policy

Australia passes $23.78 a ton carbon tax, trading, and permits
November 8, 2011 06:41 AM - James Grubel, Reuters, CANBERRA

Australia passed landmark laws on Tuesday to impose a price on carbon emissions in one of the biggest economic reforms in a decade and injecting new impetus into December's global climate talks in South Africa. Tuesday's vote in the upper house Senate made Australia the second major economy behind the European Union to pass carbon-limiting legislation. Tiny New Zealand has a similar scheme. Its impact will be felt right across the economy, from miners and liquefied natural gas (LNG) producers to airlines and steel makers, and is aimed at making firms more energy efficient and push power generation toward gas and renewables. The vote is a major victory for embattled Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who staked her political future on what will be the most comprehensive carbon price scheme outside of Europe, despite deep hostility from voters and the political opposition. "Today Australia has a price on carbon as the law of our land. This comes after a quarter of a century of scientific warnings, 37 parliamentary inquiries, and years of bitter debate and division," Gillard told reporters in Canberra.

Climate change imperils global prosperity, UN warns
November 6, 2011 10:10 AM - Population Matters

A new report from the United Nations Development Program warns that if drastic measures are not taken to prepare nations for the impacts of climate change, the economic progress of the world's developing countries could stall or even be reversed by 2050. This year's annual report, approaches the issue of climate change and environmental degradation from the standpoint of economic development and the eradication of poverty. "Even if someone's a climate skeptic, this report says, 'Put that aside for a second,' " said William Orme, a spokesman for the United Nations agency. "If you believe in something like a moral commitment to the global community and in getting people out of poverty, we must address these environmental problems." Each region of the world faces unique challenges between now and 2050, the report warns, but most are linked to environmental complications arising from climate change.

Democrats block Long-Term Surface Transportation Extension Act
November 4, 2011 06:15 AM - Timothy Gardner, Reuters, Washington, DC

Democrats on Thursday blocked the first major bill in the Senate that would have delayed the Environmental Protection Agency's clean air rules. The bill, which needed 60 votes to pass, got only 47 votes. Joe Manchin from West Virginia, who faces reelection next year, was the lone Democrat to vote for the bill. His state is rich in coal, the fuel that could see added costs from a raft of upcoming EPA rules on power plants and industry. The lone Republican to vote against the bill was Olympia Snowe of Maine. The bill, called the Long-Term Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011 and sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch, was promoted by Republicans as a jobs measure that would have allowed businesses to hire by reducing regulatory uncertainty. Democrats disagreed. "This is not a jobs bill," said Senator Barbara Boxer, the chairman of the chamber's Committee on Environment and Public Works. "If you can't breathe, you can't work."

Shale gas fracking 'probable' cause of Lancashire quakes
November 3, 2011 11:48 AM - Juliette Jowit and Hanna Gersmann, guardian reporters, Ecologist

Controversial 'fracking' technique to extract gas from the ground was the 'highly probable' cause of earth tremors, report finds Two earthquake tremors in north-west England earlier this year were probably caused by controversial operations to extract gas nearby, a report by the company responsible has concluded. The two tremors, which were felt by people just outside Blackpool, but did not cause any known damage, were reported in April and May, measuring 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale. Since the second event, Cuadrilla Resources has stopped "fracking" operations — where water is injected into rocks at high pressure to extract gas from the cracks. The report, by a team of European seismic experts not usually employed by the company, concluded it was 'highly probable' that the two main tremors and a series of aftershocks were caused by Cuadrilla's operations at the Preese Hall-1 Well in Lancashire.

Why Population Matters to the environment

Environmentalists agree on the issues facing us, including collapsing diversity, climate change and resource insecurity. We also agree on the causal factors, including pollution, invasive species, resource over-exploitation, waste, population growth, global industrialisation, unsustainable consumption and poor business practices. Solutions are harder. None will solve all our problems and all face obstacles and opposition. Technological solutions, such as biofuels, fracking, shale oil, GM foods and nuclear have side effects, while renewables have limited scope. Environmentally conscious lifestyles, including less waste, travel and consumption, are increasingly adopted, but the impact may by limited given the billions seeking to improve their low living standards. Changes to corporate and governmental practices have occurred, but are far from universal, particularly in the developing world. In my lifetime, human numbers have grown from 3 billion in 1960 to 7 billion today. By 2085, they are projected to grow to 10 billion. One can argue about the impact this makes, but it clearly does not help. We believe that a smaller population would help us to preserve the environment and live within the limit of renewable resources, as part of a comprehensive approach to the environment and sustainability. Most would agree that improving living standards for the poor, women's rights and access to health, including family planning, are desirable and they all tend to lead to women choosing to have smaller families. We would argue that aid for family planning to developing countries should be prioritised, both for environmental reasons and because it contributes to poverty alleviation, women’s empowerment and better health. While individual consumption in those countries is low, growing populations do affect the environment and they will not always be poor as the world industrialises.

Climate change and population growth making US water problems worse
October 27, 2011 07:14 AM - Kim Palmer, Reuters, ERIE, Pa

Climate change and population growth in the United States will make having enough fresh water more challenging in the coming years, an expert on water shortages said on Wednesday. "In 1985-1986 there were historical (water level) highs and now in less than 25 years we are at historical lows. Those sorts of swings are very scary," said Robert Glennon, speaking at the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference in Erie, Pennsylvania. Glennon, a professor at Arizona State University and the author of "Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It," said that that according to climate experts, shorter, warmer winters mean less ice and greater exposure to the air, leading eventually to more water evaporation. "We think about water like the air -- infinite and inexhaustible but it is very finite and very exhaustible," Glennon said. "When you have a shorter ice season you have great exposure to the air and more evaporation. As temperatures go up it is very troubling," Glennon said. "The cycles are going to become more acute which is very troubling."

Egypt Losing its Mighty Nile Drop by Drop
October 26, 2011 08:27 AM - Editor, Green Prophet

Leaking water pipes, evaporation and a rapidly growing population may be significant concerns for those trying to manage and plan water supplies in Egypt, but compounding such problems — and forcing Egyptians to rethink how they use water — is the threat posed by downstream countries which also want to take more water from the Nile, say observers. "Egyptians have to adapt to less water every day," said Rida Al Damak, a water expert from Cairo University.

Water use growing twice as fast as population!
October 26, 2011 07:04 AM - Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters, Environment Correspondent WASHINGTON

Like oil in the 20th century, water could well be the essential commodity on which the 21st century will turn. Human beings have depended on access to water since the earliest days of civilization, but with 7 billion people on the planet as of October 31, exponentially expanding urbanization and development are driving demand like never before. Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, said Kirsty Jenkinson of the World Resources Institute, a Washington think tank. Water use is predicted to increase by 50 percent between 2007 and 2025 in developing countries and 18 percent in developed ones, with much of the increased use in the poorest countries with more and more people moving from rural areas to cities, Jenkinson said in a telephone interview.

EPA delays pollution rule for coal plants, but only until December
October 22, 2011 10:10 AM - Roberta Rampton, Reuters, WASHINGTON

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Friday it will postpone its final rule aimed at slashing air pollution from coal plants for a month, but made it clear it plans to move forward on the regulations. The EPA said it needs the extra time to review 960,000 comments it received on its draft rule, but plans to finalize it by Dec 16. A group of 25 states has launched a court case over the rule, seeking a delay of at least a year for what they argue is an expensive measure that will shut down old coal-fired power plants. Analysts have said American Electric Power and Duke Energy could see shutdowns because of the rule, which would require many plants to install scrubbers and other anti-pollution technology. But the EPA, which has also been sued by environmental groups to finalize the rule, said the regulation is needed to prevent illnesses and deaths caused by air pollution. "In a court filing today, EPA made clear its opposition to efforts to delay this historic, court ordered standard by a full year," the agency said in a statement.

California approves carbon market rules
October 21, 2011 07:09 AM - Rory Carroll, Reuters, SACRAMENTO

California regulators on Thursday approved final regulations for a carbon market that is one of the biggest U.S. responses to climate change. The state believes the market for greenhouse gases, which starts in 2013, will let it address global warming in a low-cost way and become the center of alternative energy industries, like solar, although some businesses fear higher energy prices. The most populous U.S. state is moving ahead with the plan years after federal regulators rejected a similar idea for the nation, partly on concerns of the effect on businesses. The California Air Resources Board voted 8-0 to adopt the market regulations, which officials said are critical to the state's goal of cutting carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 -- about a 22 percent reduction from forecasted business-as-usual output. Power companies and factories will be able to trade a gradually decreasing number of permits to emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the so-called cap-and-trade plan, which counts on market forces leading companies to find the cheapest way to cut emissions.

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