Environmental Policy

Wasted heat from air conditioners causes warmer nighttime temperatures
June 12, 2014 08:01 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

With summer temperatures fast approaching, households across the country are installing and prepping air conditioning units in anticipation of hot, sticky weather. However, a potentially brutal cycle may be in store if summertime extreme-heat days are projected to become more frequent and intense as a result of climate change. According to a new study conducted in Phoenix by Arizona State University researchers, so much wasted heat is emitted by air conditioning units that it actually raises the city's outdoor temperature at night by 1-2.7 degrees! Consequently, these warmer temperatures may encourage individuals to further their demands and energy use of their air conditioners. The research, published last month in the Journal of Geophysical Research, investigates the effects of air-conditioning systems on air temperature and examines their electricity consumption for a semiarid urban environment.

Using too much fertilizer is bad for crops AND bad for climate!
June 12, 2014 06:30 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Using too much fertilizer is a very bad idea. It doesn't help crops, and in fact can be harmful to them. Excess fertilizer runs off and contributes to river and stream contamination and a new study shows that it is bad for the climate too! But farmers sometimes think that if some is good, more MUST be better! Helping farmers around the globe apply more precise amounts of fertilizer nitrogen is a great objective that can improve crop yields, reduce pollution, and combat climate change. That's the conclusion of a study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In the paper, researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) provide an improved prediction of nitrogen fertilizer's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural fields.

FDA and EPA issue updated draft advice for fish consumption
June 10, 2014 10:32 AM - US EPA Newsroom

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today issued updated draft advice on fish consumption. The two agencies have concluded pregnant and breastfeeding women, those who might become pregnant, and young children should eat more fish that is lower in mercury in order to gain important developmental and health benefits. The updated draft advice is consistent with recommendations in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Playing God with plants!
June 9, 2014 02:55 PM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Plants make and store energy from the sun using a process called photosynthesis. This process has evolved on planet earth over millions of years. How can we mess with plant DNA to improve on what nature has evolved? Three research teams--each comprised of scientists from the United States and the United Kingdom--have been awarded a second round of funding to continue research on news ways to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis. The ultimate goal of this potentially high-impact research is to develop methods to increase yields of important crops that are harvested for food and sustainable biofuels. But if this research is successful, it may also be used to support reforestation efforts and efforts to increase the productivity of trees for the manufacture of wood and paper and thousands of other products that are derived from wood and chemicals extracted from trees. Another reason why photosynthesis is an important research topic: It has made the Earth hospitable for life by generating food and oxygen.

Good news for rivers in Britain
June 8, 2014 11:11 AM - Cardiff University via ScienceDaily

Scientists from Cardiff University have found that Britain's urban rivers are the cleanest they've been in over two decades. The 21-year study of over 2,300 rivers measured the presence of clean-river invertebrates - a yardstick for river health - which during the days of heavy industry and poor sewage treatment had declined considerably, but now appear to be making a comeback. Although climate change has warmed British rivers by around 1-2 degrees over recent decades, the findings suggest that improved pollution control has managed to offset its damaging effects on river ecosystems. This indicates that society can prevent some undesirable climate change effects on the environment by improving habitat quality.

World Cup mascot helps score for Brazilian three-banded armadillos
June 6, 2014 09:01 AM - Fred Furtado, SciDevNet

A call by Brazilian scientists to protect the endangered mascot of the 2014 World Cup, the Brazilian three-banded armadillo, seems to have been heeded by the Brazilian government. On 22 May, the Brazilian government published an action plan to conserve this armadillo, which is unique to Brazil. The document proposes increasing the protected areas where the armadillo lives, enhancing financial incentives to prevent three-banded armadillo hunting and increasing education about the importance of protecting this species.

China and Coal
June 6, 2014 06:56 AM - Alex Kirby, The Ecologist

Coal consumption in China is likely to dwindle rapidly, writes Alex Kirby, leaving its own mining sector and foreign coal exporters in serious trouble. Australia and Indonesia are at greatest risk as China may soon stop importing any coal at all. Investors need to dispel any belief that Chinese coal demand is insatiable, and integrate this transition into their decision-making. Analysts believe that China - the world's largest producer and consumer of coal, accounting for almost half of global consumption - could be close to making an abrupt, drastic change of track.

CO2 emissions in EU down significantly
June 5, 2014 03:47 PM - EurActiv

The European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 19.2% compared to 1990s levels, according to the European Environment Agency. EU emissions dropped 1.3% in 2012, reaching their lowest level ever recorded, according to data reported to the United Nations by the EEA. The bloc's greenhouse gas output decreased by 1082 megatonnes since 1990, more than the combined emissions of Italy and United Kingdom in 2012.

Boreal forests and Climate Change: Better management practices needed
June 5, 2014 12:28 PM - Paul Sutherland, MONGABAY.COM

Greenhouse gas emissions from human activity have caused global air and sea surface temperatures to rise approximately 0.8 Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) since the beginning of the 20th century, contributing to a plethora of problems worldwide from rising sea levels to desertification. A new study published in Conversation Letters finds that global temperatures may start to increase even faster if more is not done to protect Earth’s boreal forests.

UN urges action on World Environment Day
June 5, 2014 08:00 AM - UNEP

Barbados, a small Caribbean island at the cutting edge of the fight against climate change, will be hosting this year's World Environment Day, leading United Nations-wide efforts to draw attention to the plight of the world's small islands potentially in peril of being lost to sea-level rise. "On World Environment Day, millions of individuals, community groups and businesses from around the world take part in local projects —from clean up campaigns to art exhibits to tree-planting drives," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day, marked every year on 05 June.

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