Supreme Court and the Obama Administration's Climate Plans
March 16, 2016 08:15 AM - michael b. gerrard, Yale Environment360
Two unexpected and shocking events have left heads swimming about the fate of President Obama’s signature initiative on climate change, the Clean Power Plan, which aims to replace many coal-fired power plants — the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States — with cleaner sources of energy.
Last Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on the Clean Power Plan until the litigation against it is finally resolved, suspending implementation of the plan for the foreseeable future. The vote was 5-4, along the customary ideological lines, and it led to great concern, bordering on quiet despair, among proponents of the plan. who now believed that the Supreme Court would ultimately strike it down. Opponents of the plan, including the coal industry, rejoiced.
The court’s order blocking Obama’s Clean Power Plan provides an opportunity for the U.S. to show other nations it has a flexible approach to cutting emissions, David Victor writes.
Recycled water may be a solution to the California drought
March 15, 2016 08:37 AM - 3BL Media, Care2
The severity and impact of the drought remains top-of-mind among Californians. They are eager for long-term solutions that can help the state to achieve a water-secure future. California residents are overwhelmingly supportive of using treated wastewater, or recycled water, in their everyday lives, according to a statewide survey released today by Xylem Inc. The survey found that 76 percent of respondents believe recycled water should be used as a long-term solution for managing water resources, regardless of whether or not a water shortage continues.
Nearly half, or 49 percent of respondents, are very supportive of using recycled water as an additional local water supply and another 38 percent are somewhat supportive. The survey defined recycled water as former wastewater that has been treated and purified so that it can be reused for drinking purposes. Of survey respondents, 42 percent are very willing to use recycled water in their everyday lives and an additional 41 percent are somewhat willing. These findings confirm that there is a significant number of Californians who support the use of recycled water.
“We conducted this survey in an effort to better understand public perception about recycled water, and are very encouraged by the findings,” said Joseph Vesey, Xylem Senior Vice President who leads the Company’s North American commercial business. “With overwhelming support from the public, California is well-positioned to lead the U.S. in accelerating the availability and acceptance of recycled water. The state has the opportunity to champion a flexible framework that recognizes the unique needs of local communities as they work to establish water resource strategies that include sustainable solutions, such as recycled water.”
Time to re-think the diesel
March 11, 2016 08:00 AM - Richard Howard / Policy Exchange, The Ecologist
Low Emissions Zones have their place in cleaning up the UK's worst air pollution hotspots, writes Richard Howard. But we also need to adopt fiscal measures to encourage a shift away from diesel vehicles, at once delivering cleaner air, increased tax revenues, and lower carbon emissions.
If we are to clean up air pollution in London and the rest of the UK, then Government needs to recognise that diesel is the primary cause of the problem, and to promote a shift away from diesel to alternatives.
There is an air pollution crisis taking place in London and many of the UK's other major cities.
Oregon Kicks Dirty Coal Habit
March 7, 2016 07:41 PM - Kevin Mathews, Care2
Oregon is ready to kick its filthy coal habit, and now it has passed a law to hold itself to this pledge. The Clean Energy and Coal Transition Act blocks the state’s largest power companies from purchasing coal-based electricity by 2030. By taking this important step, the state will effectively double its reliance on renewable energy in the upcoming decades. Moreover, Oregon’s energy should be approximately 80% carbon-free by the year 2040.
The legislation makes Oregon the first state to commit to ditching coal completely. As such, it is easily one of the most progressive energy policies in the United States. Hawaii’s goal to go 100% renewable by 2045 and California’s ambitious 2020 wind and solar goals deserve some credit, too, though.
Oregon’s coal plan is not only exciting because of its unprecedented nature, but because it was a genuinely collaborative effort from all sorts of people in the state. Legislators, citizens, environmental groups, Governor Kate Brown and even the state’s two largest utility companies (Portland General Election and Pacific Power) teamed together to work out new energy goals.
Beavers return to Britain
February 28, 2016 09:46 AM - Nigel Willby & Alan Law, University of Stirling, The Ecologist
Beavers are Britain's native aquatic engineers and their return to sites in Scotland and England is doing wonders for the local environment, write Nigel Willby & Alan Law: restoring wetlands, recreating natural river dynamics and ecology, filtering farm pollutants from water, and improving habitat for trout and other fish.
In Knapdale, damming by beavers transformed a small pond into a wetland of a type and complexity probably unseen in Britain for centuries. On the Bamff estate on Tayside, we found that grazing by beavers trebled the number of wetland plants in 9 years.
Beavers have recently made a tentative return to Britain.
VW Emissions cheating scandal update
February 25, 2016 07:36 AM - Leon Kaye , Triple Pundit
Volkswagen is still struggling to move past the emissions-software scandal that has plagued its reputation for the better part of a year. Ever since the news officially broke that an array of its diesel passenger cars were outfitted with deceptive software, VW’s reputation has been pretty much at bottom ratings.
It’s not like the company hasn’t tried to regain public trust: To disgruntled consumers who bought one of the affected cars, it’s offered a combo of Visa cards and credit at dealerships. To dealers stuck with stock frozen by the publicity, the company offered to buy back used vehicles at full price. And in response to hundreds of class-action suits coming up on the horizon, the company recently suggested that it may be willing to buy back those vehicles that can’t be fixed. Fixing, VW lawyer Robert Giuffra explained in court in January, requires coming up with new software, and that may still be a long way off — too long for some earlier vehicles caught in the debacle.
Smart water management could help produce much more food
February 16, 2016 08:17 AM - IOP Publishing via ScienceDaily
Improved agricultural water management could halve the global food gap by 2050 and buffer some of the harmful climate change effects on crop yields. For the first time, scientists investigated systematically the worldwide potential to produce more food with the same amount of water by optimizing rain use and irrigation. They found the potential has previously been underestimated. Investing in crop water management could substantially reduce hunger while at the same time making up for population growth. However, putting the findings into practice would require specific local solutions, which remains a challenge.
Bad air quality is deadly
February 13, 2016 07:18 AM - UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA via EurekAlert
New research shows that more than 5.5 million people die prematurely every year due to household and outdoor air pollution. More than half of deaths occur in two of the world's fastest growing economies, China and India.
Power plants, industrial manufacturing, vehicle exhaust and burning coal and wood all release small particles into the air that are dangerous to a person's health. New research, presented today at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), found that despite efforts to limit future emissions, the number of premature deaths linked to air pollution will climb over the next two decades unless more aggressive targets are set.
"Air pollution is the fourth highest risk factor for death globally and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease," said Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health in Vancouver, Canada. "Reducing air pollution is an incredibly efficient way to improve the health of a population."
Are we impacting the future of our planet for thousands of years?
February 9, 2016 09:12 AM - Oregon State University/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
The Earth may suffer irreversible damage that could last tens of thousands of years because of the rate humans are emitting carbon into the atmosphere.
In a new study in Nature Climate Change, researchers at Oregon State University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and collaborating institutions found that the longer-term impacts of climate change go well past the 21st century.
“Much of the carbon we are putting in the air from burning fossil fuels will stay there for thousands of years — and some of it will be there for more than 100,000 years,” said Peter Clark, an Oregon State University paleoclimatologist and lead author on the article. “People need to understand that the effects of climate change on the planet won’t go away, at least not for thousands of generations.”
LLNL’s Benjamin Santer said the focus on climate change at the end of the 21st century needs to be shifted toward a much longer-term perspective.
Air pollution in Europe and the EU lack of action
February 3, 2016 06:40 AM - Jean Lambert, Molly Scott Cato & Keith Taylor, The Ecologist
Air pollution from vehicles is killing tens of thousands of people every year in the UK alone, write Jean Lambert, Molly Scott Cato & Keith Taylor, an outrage set into stark focus by VW's 'test cheating'. The EU's response? To relax tests and allow cars to be more polluting - with the full support of the UK government.
Rather than clamping down on the car industry's irresponsible approach to pollution, EU governments and the Commission instead want to rewrite existing law, providing loopholes which will allow cars to legally pollute more.
Faced with a public health crisis, responsible for nearly half a million premature deaths in Europe each year, we would expect an emergency response.