Environmental Policy

ConEdison Study Reveals New Roles for Green Roofs
May 16, 2011 08:37 AM - Tina Casey, Triple Pundit

By now it's become widely accepted that green roofs can help reduce heating and cooling costs for buildings, and evidence is mounting that they can provide tangible benefits in other areas as well. The latest piece of information comes from New York, for a green roof constructed by ConEdison, the city’s electric utility. The study, conducted in partnership with the Columbia University Center for Climate Systems Research, reveals that green roofs could play a much larger than role than previously expected in helping cities find cost effective ways to deal with excess storm water. That, in turn, provides building owners with new opportunities to participate in urban sustainability planning.

Move used nuclear fuel to interim sites, says White House panel
May 16, 2011 06:54 AM - Eli Kintisch, SCIENCE

Draft recommendations from a White House commission on spent nuclear fuel released Friday include a call for one or more new aboveground interim storage sites in the United States. But the advice, which is subject to revision in a preliminary commission report due out in July, has already drawn fire from Republicans in the House of Representatives, foreshadowing a coming fight over nuclear waste. The Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future was formed by President Barack Obama last year to offer advice on how to deal with U.S. nuclear waste in the wake of the White House's 2009 decision to cancel plans for a permanent repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. "There do not appear to be unmanageable safety or security risks associated with current methods of storage at existing sites," one draft recommendation by the panel states. But "rigorous efforts" are required to maintain this state of affairs, said the commissioners in slides presented Friday. Yucca Mountain was intended to be a place where the radioactive fuel could cool for several decades and then be entombed permanently. The draft recommendations instead suggest a process involving separate sites for the two steps, as is done in Europe.

Japan’s U-Turn on Nuclear Power: Reaction
May 12, 2011 09:09 AM - Eli Kintisch, Science AAAS

Yesterday, Japan's prime minister, Naoto Kan, announced that the government was scrapping a planned expansion of nuclear power, which currently provides about a third of Japanese electricity. Instead, the government would redouble efforts to expand its renewable energy portfolio, Kan said. The turnaround followed Kan's urging last week that a reactor in Hamaoka, near an active seismic zone, be shut down; the company that runs the plant has agreed and is building a seawall to protect the plant from tsunamis when it reopens in 2 years.

Arctic nations eye future of world's last frontier
May 12, 2011 06:28 AM - Andrew Quinn, Reuters, WASHINGTON

Leaders of Arctic nations gather in Greenland this week to chart future cooperation as global warming sets off a race for oil, mineral, fishing and shipping opportunities in the world's fragile final frontier. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will join foreign ministers from seven other Arctic states in Greenland's tiny capital of Nuuk -- population 15,000 -- on Thursday for an Arctic Council meeting on the next steps for a region where warming temperatures are creating huge new challenges and unlocking untapped resources. The council includes the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark, which handles foreign affairs for Greenland, as well as groups representing indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic most directly affected as ice and snow retreat. "It's an important gathering, but also a symbol of some of the big challenges that the Arctic faces," U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told a Washington think-tank audience on Monday, noting that U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar would accompany Clinton to Nuuk. "There are very core interests that are at stake in the Arctic, but it is an opportunity to find new patterns of cooperation," he said.

Put up your data and step away from the car
May 11, 2011 03:31 PM - Kathleen Neil, Contributiing Editor,ENN

Your driving and charging habits mean a great deal to companies selling Electric Vehicles (EV), to government when developing policy, to firms developing wireless communications or charging stations and to utility companies that will be required to supply the electricity. All of them want to know when/where and how much electricity is needed and how it is obtained as more and more people buy EV. Most likely your decision to buy an EV might depend on how far you will be driving regularly. BEV gives more range, but HPEV save you from range anxiety. Either way, you are only going to spend the extra money to own an EV if you know you can drive/charge the way you want. Whether we like it or not, that means it is as important to us as it is to utilities, car companies or the government that good vehicle charging data become available. Americans have always been leery of intrusions into their privacy. Use data from personal electric vehicles, be they BEV or PHEV, will become only more important to the development of policy and marketing for greener driving goals. Think about your EV. You leave home one morning after having charged it up overnight. You go to work, where your employer provides a parking bay with an EV charger and charge it again. This charge will be what you need to get home, but what happens when your daughter calls and asks you to pick up your grandchild from daycare for her? Well, that's across town and you need extra battery range for that. But, you check your iPhone app and see that Walgreens has installed chargers at the store near daycare, so you figure you'll pick up your granddaughter and the two of you can get her the stuffed animal you promised her while the car charges again. Any other day maybe you’d only charge at home and work.

Brazil's forest code debate may determine fate of the Amazon rainforest
May 9, 2011 03:03 PM - Rhett Butler, MONGABAY.COM

Brazil's forest code may be about to get an overhaul. The federal code, which presently requires landowners in the Amazon to keep 80 percent of their land forest (20-35% in the cerrado), is widely flouted, but has been used in recent years as a lever by the government to go after deforesters. For example, the forest code served as the basis for the "blacklists" which restricted funds for municipalities where deforestation has been particularly high. To get off the blacklist, and thereby regain access to finance and markets, a municipality must demonstrate its landowners are in compliance with environmental laws.

What makes humans special? The Power of communication. New from BBC Earth
May 6, 2011 10:10 AM - Editor, BBC Earth

A human's need to communicate, can be observed from the first moments of life. The intuitive reaction of a newborn to cry, lays the stepping-stone for a process which at its heart, will enable every human to successfully communicate their experience of being alive. It has been said that words are man's greatest achievement. With the first utterances of symbolic language emerging 2.5 million years ago, slowly evolved by the first Homo sapiens — the solid foundations of modern articulation have decidedly been set. Yet many would argue that speech and language was developed not out of want, but out of need. Therefore in what ways do humans communicate”Świthout using words? Music has long been a way of communicating for necessity as well as pleasure. Such as the use of a lullaby to sooth, a folk song to warn and a chant to call to arms! But in what ways do we use rhythm and melody to communicate with nature itself?

Who is Top Banana in Sustainable Banana Business?
May 4, 2011 08:47 AM - Tina Casey, Triple Pundit

When it comes to fresh produce, establishing brand recognition is a tricky business. Many commercially grown fruits and vegetables are indistinguishable from one company to the next. Bananas are one standout exception largely thanks to the Chiquita company's groundbreaking ad campaign in the 1960's. The company also has a jump on sustainability marketing, having worked with the Rainforest Alliance since the 1990's. Now there's a new banana vying for attention in that arena: Dole has just announced that it is selling bananas from farms in South America that are certified by the Rainforest Alliance.

Air Quality Awareness
May 3, 2011 04:59 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Today is the beginning of Air Quality Awareness Week, a cooperative effort among EPA, state environmental agencies and the National Weather Service to remind the public to protect their health by paying attention to local air quality. With the onset of warmer weather, the EPA urges citizens to be aware of the increased risk of ground-level ozone air pollution and fine particle air pollution (when combined, often referred to as smog), and take health precautions when poor air quality is predicted. Air quality is defined as a measure of the condition of air relative to the requirements of one or more biotic species and or to any human need or purpose. Air quality indices (AQI) are numbers used by government agencies to characterize the quality of the air at a given location. As the AQI increases, an increasingly large percentage of the population is likely to experience increasingly severe adverse health effects. To compute the AQI requires an air pollutant concentration from a monitor or model. The function used to convert from air pollutant concentration to AQI varies by pollutant, and is different in different countries. Air quality index values are divided into ranges, and each range is assigned a descriptor and a color code. Standardized public health advisories are associated with each AQI range. An agency might also encourage members of the public to take public transportation or work from home when AQI levels are high.

Sea turtle declines not all due to human impacts
May 1, 2011 08:03 AM - Rebecca Kessler, ScienceNOW

Humans are pushing sea turtles to the brink of extinction by entangling them in fishing gear, tossing plastic garbage into their habitats, and building resorts on prime nesting beaches, among other affronts. That's the going hypothesis, anyway. But a new study suggests that our transgressions are peanuts compared to natural oceanic cycles, at least for loggerheads. The findings don't let people off the hook, the authors say, but they do provide new insight into the ways climate can shape turtle populations. Loggerheads lay their eggs on subtropical beaches around the world. After hatching, baby sea turtles head out to sea where they spend years maturing. When females reach breeding age—25 to 35 years old for loggerheads—they clamber ashore to lay eggs on the beach. Nest counts are the main source of demographic data for sea turtles, but it's hard to estimate population size from these counts. Between the mid-1990s and 2006, loggerhead nests in Florida—one of the species' nesting epicenters—declined from roughly 55,000 per year to around 30,000. That drop and declines elsewhere prompted U.S. federal agencies to propose upgrading most loggerheads from threatened to endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

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