Environmental Policy

Future cost of water is no small change
March 25, 2014 12:22 PM - Dr. Lynn A. Wilson, Kaplan University

Water scarcity was, until recently, considered by most of the developed world to be like James Hilton's Lost Horizon: "far away, at the very limit of distance." However, the convergence of aquifer depletion from increasing agricultural, industrial and municipal water use with more frequent and intense extreme weather events creates an urgency to develop new, reliable sources of fresh water to "drought-proof" communities through a combination of desalinization technologies, water recovery and reuse programs and PPP (public private partnerships). The race is on to provide fresh water to satisfy ever-increasing human demands. In order to make responsible decisions, changing conditions require rethinking water policy and distribution.

World’s river systems: Stressed OUT
March 24, 2014 02:16 PM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

According to the World Resources Institute (WRI) many, if not most of the world’s rivers are stressed. Determining a systems water stress is based upon measuring the ratio of total water withdrawals to the available renewable supplies within the catchment area. Rivers are an indispensible resource for our communities and ecosystems and we are hugely dependent upon them for agriculture, industry and our natural systems. A stressed river system can severely threaten regional water security and economic growth, and potentially contribute to political instability—especially in the absence of an adequate water-management plan.

Chernobyl: thirty years hence...
March 24, 2014 09:26 AM - Rachel Nuwer/Smithsonian, Ecologist

It's not just people, animals and trees that suffer from radiation at Chernobyl, writes Rachel Nuwer, but also decomposer fungi and microbes. And with the buildup of dead wood comes the risk of catastrophic fire - which could spread radiation far and wide. Nearly 30 years have passed since the Chernobyl plant exploded and caused an unprecedented nuclear disaster. The effects of that catastrophe, however, are still felt today.

Wetlands and methane emissions
March 23, 2014 09:59 AM - Tim Radford, The Ecologist

Scientists think the amount of methane emitted to the atmosphere from freshwater ecosystems will increase as the climate warms, reports Tim Radford. And that will trigger further warming. This highlights another mechanism by which the global carbon cycle may serve to accelerate rather than mitigate future climate change. British scientists have identified yet another twist to the threat of global warming. Any further rises in temperature are likely to accelerate the release of methane from rivers, lakes, deltas, bogs, swamps, marshlands and rice paddy fields.

Road to environmental destruction
March 21, 2014 11:40 AM - ENN Editor

Roads are considered connectors of human development providing opportunities for economic success and communication but the flip side of this network is that it has also brought enormous destruction to our fields and forests. With forest destruction comes increased human development and ecological degradation. Recent mapping and modeling has been done to document and measure forest destruction in an initiative by the Ames Research Center of NASA and ENN affiliate, Mongabay.

Floods in Britain: a sign of things to come?
March 20, 2014 11:52 AM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

A new investigation of long-term weather records suggests that the recent flooding in the south of England could signal the onset of climate change. The research, from UWE Bristol, Loughborough University and the University of East Anglia has produced a new index of flooding trends called the Fluvial Flood Indices. This enables widespread flooding and weather patterns to be viewed in the context of the last 150 years, revealing that four of the six most severe flood episodes since 1871 have occurred in the last 30 years.

Forest Peoples at risk from 'carbon grab'
March 20, 2014 10:52 AM - Oliver Tickell, Ecologist

A new 'carbon grab' is under way as governments and corporations seize valuable rights to the carbon stored in standing forests, with UN and World Bank support. But there's no benefit for forest communities - who even risk expulsion to make way for 'carbon plantations'. As the United Nations and the World Bank prepare to develop world carbon markets as a tool to halt deforestation under so-called REDD+,new research warns of a new 'carbon grab' in the making.

No more stinky cotton!
March 19, 2014 10:18 AM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

Following the eradication of the cotton boll weevil in the late 1990s cotton growers began to notice an influx of a new pest, stink bugs. Stink bugs feed on bolls on the bottom portion of the plant, puncturing squares causing young cotton bolls to drop and staining, matting and shrinking cottonseeds through heavy stink bug feeding. Injured locks or bolls may fail to open. Resultantly damage caused by stink bugs introduce bacteria, such as Pantoea agglomerans and fungi that cause boll rots. Currently stink bugs are ranked among the most damaging insect pests of cotton in the southeastern United States.

The cold hard glacial truth
March 18, 2014 03:46 PM - Tom Robinette, University of Cincinatti

Lewis Owen has been scraping out icy fragments of history's truth from one of the most glaciated regions on Earth for the past 25 years. His frequent excursions to Tibet and the Himalayas have led the University of Cincinnati professor of geology to some cold, hard facts. Owen knows climate change is immortal — fluctuating across millennia, patiently building toward moments when circumstances are ripe for apocalypse. It was true thousands of years ago, when rapid climate change had profound effects on landscapes and the creatures that lived on them. That scenario could be true again, if the past is ignored.

COLLEGIATE CORNER: Offshore oil drilling: is it really necessary?
March 18, 2014 10:32 AM - Christian Ramirez, Class of 2015, Wakefield High School, Arlington, VA

As we all know, oil is a very important energy resource the world needs for its everyday life. It is known that not only do most of the countries on the planet use it, but also it is a scarce resource, which means that in the near future, there will no longer be enough available oil that could be drilled and processed for future endeavors. The demand for oil has increased significantly throughout the past few years and other ways of obtaining this resource must be used more often. A form of oil drilling has emerged which is dangerous and is known as offshore drilling. Sounds like a good plan at first, going to the ocean where more oil can be found and at a faster rate, but is it really worth it? There should be an alternate to offshore drilling because of the many horrific and unfair problems that it brings to Americans, animals, and the overall environment.

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