Environmental Policy

Rising temperatures are curbing ocean's capacity to store carbon
July 6, 2017 05:01 PM - Massachusetts Institute of Technology

If there is anywhere for carbon dioxide to disappear in large quantities from the atmosphere, it is into the Earth’s oceans. There, huge populations of plankton can soak up carbon dioxide from surface waters and gobble it up as a part of photosynthesis, generating energy for their livelihood. When plankton die, they sink thousands of feet, taking with them the carbon that was once in the atmosphere, and stashing it in the deep ocean.

Volvo to Drop Combustion Engines and Take All its Cars Electric in 2019
July 5, 2017 04:35 PM - Yale Environment 360

The Swedish-based carmaker, Volvo, will build only electric or hybrid-electric cars beginning in 2019, making it the first big auto company to abandon conventional gasoline-powered engines. 

The legendary auto manufacturer, now a wholly owned subsidiary of a Chinese company, had earlier set a goal of selling one million electric cars and hyrids by 2025. “This is how we are going to do it,” President and CEO Hakan Samuelsson said in a statement. 

Bolstering public support for state-level renewable energy policies
July 5, 2017 03:39 PM - Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Since the 1980s, the United States has often been a world leader in supporting renewable energy technologies at the state and federal level. Thirty-seven states have enacted binding or voluntary renewable portfolio standards (RPS) requiring that a portion of the electricity mix come from renewable sources by a given date. But since 2011, adoption of such standards has slowed, and in the past several years there have been many attempts — some of them successful — to weaken, freeze, or repeal renewable energy laws.

Given the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, increased federal investment in renewable energy is unlikely for the foreseeable future. As a result, state-level renewable energy policies will likely be central to driving new deployment. Past research has shown that public opinion plays a crucial role in facilitating a political consensus around new policies in U.S. states. If that’s true for renewable energy policies, then people’s views may have a major influence on future actions taken by their states. 

How does municipal waste collection affect climate change?
July 4, 2017 04:14 PM - Technical University of Madrid

Researchers from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid suggest a new methodology to assess the environmental impact of the containers used for the collection of urban waste.

An inappropriate design of a container system might unnecessarily aggravate the impact on environment when collecting and transporting the urban waste. This is the major conclusion of a team of researchers from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid after carrying out a systematic evaluation process of the urban containerization system.

Possible new threat to Earth's ozone layer
July 4, 2017 08:01 AM - NOAA

The Montreal Protocol has been hailed for controlling chlorine-based chemicals that created a vast hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. But new research by British and American scientists suggest a chemical not controlled by the international treaty poses a potential risk to the Earth’s protective ozone layer.

Industrial farming disrupts burn-regrowth cycle in grasslands, study finds
June 29, 2017 06:06 PM - University of California – Irvine

The world’s open grasslands and the beneficial fires that sustain them have shrunk rapidly over the past two decades, thanks to a massive increase in agriculture, according to a new study led by University of California, Irvine and NASA researchers published today in Science.

Analyzing 1998 to 2015 data from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, the international team found that the total area of Earth’s surface torched by flames had fallen by nearly 25 percent, or 452,000 square miles (1.2 million square kilometers). Decreases were greatest in Central America and South America, across the Eurasian steppe and in northern Africa, home to fast-disappearing lions, rhinoceroses and other iconic species that live on these fire-forged savannas.

Ten million tonnes of fish wasted every year despite declining fish stocks
June 29, 2017 08:19 AM - University of British Columbia

ndustrial fishing fleets dump nearly 10 million tonnes of good fish back into the ocean every year, according to new research.

The study by researchers with Sea Around Us, an initiative at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and the University of Western Australia, reveals that almost 10 per cent of the world’s total catch in the last decade was discarded due to poor fishing practices and inadequate management.  This is equivalent to throwing back enough fish to fill about 4,500 Olympic sized swimming pools every year.

NOAA and international partners plan upgrade of global weather and ocean observing system
June 27, 2017 08:18 AM - NOAA

NOAA met with ocean observations experts from six nations and 13 global organizations in May 2017 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to plan for the redesign of the Tropical Pacific Observing System by the year 2020 (TPOS 2020).

TPOS is an ocean-based monitoring network comprised of a variety of observing technologies, operated by NOAA and other foreign partners.  This network provides the essential ocean data needed to understand important environmental phenomenon and develop weather and climate forecasts for the US and countries around the world.

Biodiversity loss from deep-sea mining will be unavoidable
June 26, 2017 04:49 PM - Duke University

Biodiversity losses from deep-sea mining are unavoidable and possibly irrevocable, an international team of 15 marine scientists, resource economists and legal scholars argue in a letter published today in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The experts say the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which is responsible under the UN Law of the Sea for regulating undersea mining in areas outside national jurisdictions, must recognize this risk. They say it must also communicate the risk clearly to its member states and the public to inform discussions about whether deep-seabed mining should proceed, and if so, what standards and safeguards need to be put into place to minimize biodiversity loss.

Air Pollution Casts Shadow over Solar Energy Production
June 26, 2017 04:09 PM - Ken Kingery via Duke University

Global solar energy production is taking a major hit due to air pollution and dust.

According to a new study, airborne particles and their accumulation on solar cells are cutting energy output by more than 25 percent in certain parts of the world. The regions hardest hit are also those investing the most in solar energy installations: China, India and the Arabian Peninsula.

The study appears online June 23 in Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

"My colleagues in India were showing off some of their rooftop solar installations, and I was blown away by how dirty the panels were," said Michael Bergin, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke University and lead author of the study. "I thought the dirt had to affect their efficiencies, but there weren't any studies out there estimating the losses. So we put together a comprehensive model to do just that."

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