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Environmental Policy

New analysis explores trends in global plastic consumption and recycling
January 28, 2015 03:35 PM - Gaelle Gourmelon, Worldwatch Institute

For more than 50 years, global production of plastic has continued to rise. Some 299 million tons of plastics were produced in 2013, representing a 4 percent increase over 2012. Recovery and recycling, however, remain insufficient, and millions of tons of plastics end up in landfills and oceans each year, writes Gaelle Gourmelon, Communications and Marketing Manager at the Worldwatch Institute, in the Institute’s latest Vital Signs Online article.

Fracking has been with us for more than 60 years. It is evolving.
January 28, 2015 07:50 AM - U.S. Geological Survey

Two new U.S. Geological Survey publications that highlight historical hydraulic fracturing trends and data from 1947 to 2010 are now available.

Hydraulic fracturing is presently the primary stimulation technique for oil and gas production in unconventional resource reservoirs. Comprehensive, published, and publicly available information regarding the extent, location, and character of hydraulic fracturing in the United States is scarce. 

“These national-scale data and analyses will provide a basis for making comparisons of current-day hydraulic fracturing to historical applications,” said USGS scientist and lead author Tanya Gallegos.

Success! Private sector Soy Moratorium effective in reducing deforestation in the Amazon
January 23, 2015 08:12 AM - Kelly April Tyrrell, University of Wisconsin - Madison.

Today, fewer chicken nuggets can trace their roots to cleared Amazon rain forest.

In 2006, following a report from Greenpeace and under pressure from consumers, large companies like McDonald's and Wal-Mart decided to stop using soy grown on cleared forestland in the Brazilian Amazon. This put pressure on commodity traders, such as Cargill, who in turn agreed to no longer purchase soy from farmers who cleared rain forest to expand soy fields.

The private sector agreement, a type of supply chain governance, is called the Soy Moratorium and it was intended to address the deforestation caused by soy production in the Amazon.

Why Certification is Critical for the Industrialization of Bamboo
January 19, 2015 12:35 PM - Contributing editor

We’ve been down this path before; a new species, a new crop, a new product. A silver bullet plant that can be grown on degraded land and provide exactly what industry needs. And yet typically such plants go one of two ways; the way of Jatropha, which after a few years of being touted as the miracle plant of the biofuel industry, simply faded into nothingness; or the way of oil palm, where industrialization boomed, and with it came a mile wide trench of environmental devastation.

No plant is inherently green. And bamboo is no different. It can be grown well, and sustainably. Or it can be the cause of deforestation, conversion of natural ecosystems, and subsequent environmental and social degradation.

So why is bamboo forging a path that is likely to be different? Simply, the foremost player currently responsible for the plant’s industrialization at a global and commercial scale is setting a benchmark of sustainability in front as they pioneer and grow the plant at scale, rather than in their wake as an after thought.

European study shows biofuel production can increase with low impacts
January 16, 2015 07:07 AM - EurActiv

EU countries could increase their production of biofuels with a minimum impact on the environment, Utrecht University scientists concluded in a study published on Tuesday (13 January). 

Biofuels are the main green alternative to fossil fuels used in transport, but they compete with feed crops that share the same agricultural land.

As a consequence, forests are being turned into farmland to increase the terrestrial surface for planting more food crops, a phenomenon known as indirect land use change (ILUC). 

Bolt EV concept car from GM could help mainstream electric cars
January 15, 2015 06:57 AM - Leon Kaye , Triple Pundit

Concept cars at automobile shows generally offer the following: great opps for selfies, dreams over driving a vehicle that will never exist and, of course, the occasional eye roll. But this week at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, one concept car dazzled because of its design and its potential to transform the automobile industry: General Motors’ (GM) Chevrolet Bolt EV, which could hit the market as soon as 2017.

The Bolt is a huge step closer toward the holy grail of electric vehicles (EVs): affordability and sustainability — the latter of which in this case is defined by range, the current bugaboo of most EVs. Sure, we love Tesla for its phenomenal design and range of 265 miles between charges. Unfortunately, the sticker price, which ranges between $70,000 and $90,000, is out of range of most of our budgets. GM’s Chevy Spark EV could be a car for the rest of us, with a price of about $20,000 after federal rebates. But with a range of about 82 miles, it fails to snag interest from most consumers due to that massive hurdle: “range anxiety.”

Melting Greenland ice sheet is biggest contributor to sea level rise
January 13, 2015 08:01 AM - Meg Sullivan, UCLA

As the largest single chunk of melting snow and ice in the world, the massive ice sheet that covers about 80 percent of Greenland is recognized as the biggest potential contributor to rising sea levels due to glacial meltwater.

Until now, however, scientists’ attention has mostly focused on the ice sheet’s aquamarine lakes — bodies of meltwater that tend to abruptly drain — and on monster chunks of ice that slide into the ocean to become icebergs.

Is meaningful action to address climate change possible given our economic systems?
January 12, 2015 06:19 AM - , Triple Pundit

It’s increasingly obvious that the global economic system, and particularly the current brand of U.S. capitalism, are not really compatible with the actions needed to combat climate change.

Naomi Klein makes this point clear in “This Changes Everything,” which is both a passionate and controversial polemic and a reasoned discussion of the issues and forces stalling, and indeed preventing, a comprehensive response to climate change.

The problem is not the political and ideological divisions or scientific “debate,” which are hard enough to deal with — it’s mainly about money, according to Klein. The book’s subtitle is compelling: Capitalism vs. The Climate. Simply put: “Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war.”

Denmark Sets New Wind Power World Record
January 9, 2015 08:47 AM - Leon Kaye , Triple Pundit

Denmark has long been one of the world’s leaders in wind power. The country of 5.6 million has set a goal of generating 50 percent of its power from clean energy sources by 2020 and aims to be entirely fossil fuel-free by 2050. Those goals, especially the one for 2020, are well achievable: Denmark has announced it scored 39.1 percent of its energy from wind in 2014.

Carbon capture and the UN Economic Commission for Europe
January 9, 2015 07:32 AM - EurActiv

The only way to limit global warming to less than two degrees is to combine renewable energy and energy efficiency with a large expansion in the use of carbon capture and storage, writes Christian Friis Bach.  Christian Friis Bach is executive secretary and under-secretary-general of UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

I will admit that just a few years back I was very sceptical. Today I am convinced that we must do it. We must capture the carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels.

Oil prices tumble. Coal resources are vast. Large new gas reserves have been found. Fossil fuels will be with us for many decades and will continue to underpin social and economic development around the world. We need to invest heavily in energy efficiency and in renewable energy sources, but the only way we can hope to limit global warming to less than two degrees is to combine it with a significant expansion of the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

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