Environmental Policy

Solar panels study reveals impact on Earth
July 13, 2016 01:55 PM - Lancaster University via ScienceDaily

Researchers have produced the first detailed study of the impact of solar parks on the environment, opening the door to smarter forms of farming and better land management.

Environmental Scientists at Lancaster University and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology monitored a large solar park, near Swindon, for a year.

They found that solar parks altered the local climate, measuring cooling of as much as 5 degrees Centigrade under the panels during the summer but the effects varied depending on the time of year and the time of day.

As climate controls biological processes, such as plant growth rates, this is really important information and can help understand how best to manage solar parks so they have environmental benefits in addition to supplying low carbon energy.

Weathered oil from DW Horizon spill may threaten fish embryos and larvae development
July 12, 2016 04:03 PM - Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

A research team led by scientists at the University of California, Riverside and the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science have found that ultraviolet light is changing the structure of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil components into something more toxic, further threatening numerous commercially and ecologically important fishes. The DWH oil spill, in which more than three million barrels of crude oil got released in 2010 into the northern Gulf of Mexico, is the worst oil disaster in US history, contaminating the spawning habitats for many fishes.

"Ours is the first experiment evaluating the effects of DWH oil on the genetic responses of mahi-mahi embryos and larvae," said Daniel Schlenk, a professor of aquatic ecotoxicology, who led the study published in Environmental Science and Technology. "It is also the first experiment of this nature on a lifestage and species that was likely exposed to the oil. We found that the weathering of oil had more significant changes in gene expression related to critical functions in the embryos and larvae than the un-weathered oil. Our results predict that there are multiple targets of oil for toxicity to this species at the embryonic life stage."

Regulating particulate pollution
July 12, 2016 07:16 AM - Nancy W. Stauffer, MIT Energy Initiative

An MIT analysis of how best to reduce fine particulate matter in the atmosphere has brought some surprising results. Due to past regulations, levels of key emissions that form those harmful particles are now lower than they were a decade ago, causing some experts to suggest that cutting them further might have little effect. Not true, concludes the MIT study. Using an atmospheric model, the researchers found that new policies to restrict the same emissions would be even more effective now than they were in the past. Further analysis elucidated the chemical processes — some unexpected — that explain their findings. Their results demonstrate the importance of tailoring air pollution policies to specific situations and of addressing a variety of emissions in a coordinated way.

Horrible algae bloom in Florida blamed on the government
July 10, 2016 09:12 AM - Greg Allen/NPR

About a hundred miles north of Miami on the Atlantic Coast, the town of Stuart is a picturesque waterfront community — with homes, restaurants and parks overlooking the St. Lucie Estuary. But in many areas now, when you approach the water, the first thing you notice is the smell.

"There's no way to describe it," says John Skinner, a boat salesman in Stuart.

But he still tries. "I would say hundreds of dead animals that have been baking in the sun for weeks."

 

Paris bans old cars on weekdays
July 3, 2016 08:29 AM - ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, NPR

Paris was at the forefront of public bike-sharing schemes, and it now has electric car-sharing schemes and is something of a laboratory for mobility. As of today, motorists with cars built before 1997, and motorcycles built before 2000, will no longer be able to drive them in the city during daylight hours on weekdays.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says keeping old cars out of the city will help lower pollution levels. But not everyone is happy about it.

Marc Vernhet makes his living driving tourists around Paris in the classic French car known as the Deux Chevaux, or two-horse power. Peugeot Citroen no longer makes the model, but for collectors, it's a nostalgic symbol of the good old days. Vernhet says tourists from all over the world want to ride in them.

 

Vermont will be the first US State to Label GMOs
June 30, 2016 06:40 AM - Gina-Marie Cheeseman , Triple Pundit

Vermont will soon be the first state in the nation to require labels on genetically modified (GMO) foods. Its GMO-labeling law, the first passed in the nation, goes into effect on July 1. Maine and Connecticut have since passed their own GMO-labeling laws. But they won’t go into effect until neighboring states pass similar legislation.

Household fuels exceed power plants and cars as source of smog in Beijing
June 27, 2016 03:40 PM - Princeton University via EurekAlert!

Beijing and surrounding areas of China often suffer from choking smog. The Chinese government has made commitments to improving air quality and has achieved notable results in reducing emissions from the power and transportation sectors. However, new research indicates that the government could achieve dramatic air quality improvements with more attention on an overlooked source of outdoor pollution -- residential cooking and heating.

"Coal and other dirty solid fuels are frequently used in homes for cooking and heating," said Denise Mauzerall, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and public and international affairs at Princeton University. "Because these emissions are essentially uncontrolled they emit a disproportionately large amount of air pollutants which contribute substantially to smog in Beijing and surrounding regions."

Judge rules: no right to know hazardous pesticide ingredients
June 16, 2016 07:45 AM - Oliver Tickell, The Ecologist

A federal judge has ruled that the US Environmental Protection Agency is under no obligation to force pesticide makers to disclose supposedly 'inert' ingredients in their products - even where those ingredients are seriously hazardous to health or environment.

A Plan to Mute Ocean Noise for Marine Life
June 15, 2016 06:37 AM - Laura Goldman, Care2

Imagine trying to relax in your home while being bombarded with the explosive sounds of shotgun blasts as well as freight trains rumbling by. For many whales, dolphins and other marine life that depend on their hearing to survive, there is no way to escape the loud, human-made noises in their ocean home. The main culprits are vessels like cargo ships, along with sonar guns used by the U.S. Navy and air guns used in seismic oil and gas exploration. Their blasts are so loud that they are known to change the behavior of blue whales. But now, in what Michael Jasny, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Marine Mammal Protection Project, Land & Wildlife Program, referred to as “a sea change in the way we manage ocean noise off our shores,” NOAA has announced it plans to take action to reduce the noise in entire marine ecosystems.

Environmental crimes increasing according to the UN
June 13, 2016 06:44 AM - Lizabeth Paulat, Care2

A new report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Interpol has highlighted the sophistication and growth of environmental crimes across the world. These crimes range from the illegal trade of wildlife, illegal mining, illegal forestry and fishing. And despite our growing global attention towards conservation, these crimes have jumped 26 percent in the past two years alone. 

The report highlights the criminal fluidity of these trades. They say that transnational crime rings are no longer focusing on just one flow of illicit trade; rather, “criminals coordinate, evade or even shift their focus from drugs, human trafficking, counterfeit products and arms to any new opportunity – hazardous waste and chemicals, forest products, pangolins, giant clams, minerals and illegally extracted gold.”

According to the UNEP, the reasons behind this rise is linked to both increasing demand, primarily in Asia, as well as poverty in the regions where the smuggling of these goods take place. Local wildlife authorities across Africa, which often scrape by on a minimal budget, must constantly adapt to new methods and new extremes employed by poachers.

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