Environmental Policy

Google Earth Improves Estimates of Fish Catches
November 27, 2013 09:10 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

The basic idea of a fish trap is that when a fish swims inside through it's opening, it cannot get out, therefore trapping the fish and making it easier for populations to collect a decent catch. People around the world use different kinds of fish traps depending on the local conditions and behavior of the fish they are trying to catch. One type of fishing trap known as weirs that jut out from coastlines is now facing scrutiny as Google Earth images reveal the traps be snaring six times as many fish than what is officially reported.

Ammonia threatens national parks
November 27, 2013 09:09 AM - ENN, Staff

Ammonia emissions have become a serious concern for scientists at Harvard University. Of particular note, thirty eight U.S. national parks are experiencing “accidental” fertilization” at or above a critical threshold for ecological damage according the study recently published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

Will electric vehicles tax the power grid?
November 27, 2013 06:47 AM - Phil Covington, Triple Pundit

The adoption of plug-in vehicles, both gasoline-electric hybrids as well as full battery electric vehicles, continues to gain pace. At the end of August this year, 59,000 such vehicles had been sold in the USA, surpassing sales of plug-in vehicles for the whole of 2012. This trend will likely continue as manufacturers increasingly roll out new product offerings. Next year, VW will launch an electric version of the Golf, Mercedes will offer U.S. buyers an electric version of their European B-Class, while BMW will launch the i3, the first of their electric-drive "i" sub-branded vehicles.

Climate change signals a whale of a shift in feeding patterns
November 26, 2013 09:08 AM - Rebecca Kessler, Yale 360

Every summer and fall, endangered North Atlantic right whales congregate in the Bay of Fundy between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to gorge on zooplankton. Researchers have documented the annual feast since 1980, and well over 100 whales typically attend, a significant portion of the entire species. Only this year, they didn't. Just a dozen right whales trickled in—a record low in the New England Aquarium's 34-year-old monitoring program. And that comes on the heels of two other low-turnout years, 2010 and 2012.

Tuna and Sharks, a tale of two fishes
November 26, 2013 07:19 AM - The Ecologist staff, The Ecologist

ICCAT, the Atlantic tuna commission, sets science-based bluefin tuna catch quotas in the Mediterranean - but fails to protect for vulnerable sharks, or clamp down on rule breakers. The EU, represented in the meeting by European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, strongly backed respect for science. After years of mismanagement, ICCAT followed for the first time last year the scientific recommendations and set an annual quota at 13,400 tonnes for bluefin tuna fisheries in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean. In spite of the lack of a new assessment this year, there was strong pressure from several countries to increase the quota, disregarding scientific advice. The EU, represented in the meeting by European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, strongly backed respect for science. Proposals to increase the quotas were finally discarded.

80,000 acres swallowed up
November 25, 2013 02:58 PM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

The United States has lost approximately 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands between 2004 and 2009 according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Much of this loss is blamed on development and has occurred in freshwater regions. Additionally, more than 70% of the loss is from the Gulf of Mexico. According to the EPA wetland loss in the eastern U.S. is happening at a rate double that of what is being restored.

The linkage of CO2 to long term climate change
November 25, 2013 06:07 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Carbon dioxide is known to contribute to climate. When levels of CO2 increase, the atmosphere reacts with rising temperatures. The linkage here is well understood, and accepted as a proven hypothesis. It follows that if we reduce our emissions of CO2 that atmospheric levels will gradually reduce and the impacts to global temperatures will also be reduced. New research by Princeton University has shed light on this and indicates that there is a lingering effect of CO2 that could have long term consequences. The study suggests that it might take a lot less carbon than previously thought to reach the global temperature scientists deem unsafe. The Princeton researchers simulated an Earth on which, after 1,800 billion tons of carbon entered the atmosphere, all carbon dioxide emissions suddenly stopped. Scientists commonly use the scenario of emissions screeching to a stop to gauge the heat-trapping staying power of carbon dioxide. Within a millennium of this simulated shutoff, the carbon itself faded steadily with 40 percent absorbed by Earth's oceans and landmasses within 20 years and 80 percent soaked up at the end of the 1,000 years.

Warsaw climate talks end with tepid agreement
November 24, 2013 06:36 AM - Union of Concerned Scientists

Delegates from more than 190 nations at the annual U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiation in Warsaw, Poland today reached agreement on a pathway to Paris in 2015, where they have committed to adopt a new, comprehensive, post-2020 agreement to address the climate crisis. Countries also agreed to pursue limited near-term actions to reduce emissions. Overall, the collective impact of these decisions in reducing emissions is less than what is needed, but some progress was achieved. "We came to Warsaw hoping to see agreement on a process that will provide the right footholds on the climb to a post-2020 climate agreement in 2015, and we’re leaving with a mixed bag," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). "Negotiators provided the bare minimum to move forward on the climate deal, but the talks made gains on the international technology mechanism and hit it out of the ballpark with REDD+."

Plastic Bags - Recycle them or ban them?
November 23, 2013 07:25 AM - Margaret Badore, Care2

California has become an interesting test-case for both approaches to one plastic problem. Back in 2006, California passed a law that mandated a system for recycling plastic shopping bags. Today, supermarkets and other large stores have receptacles where plastic bags can be returned for recycling. However, a recent report from the Associated Press found that it’s difficult to measure how successful this program has been. They found that the data collected by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery has not been analyzed since 2009, when about 3 percent of bags made it to recycling. The department did provide reporters with the raw data: “Retailers reported purchasing 62.3 million pounds of bags in 2012, down from 107.4 million in 2008. They reported 4 million pounds of bags and 27 million pounds of mixed bags and plastic film were returned for recycling in 2012.

Innovation in EV technology from BMW
November 22, 2013 08:20 AM - Move Forward, Electric Forum

In years gone by it seemed that EV manufacturers, EV retailers and recharging network providers were happy to be at loggerheads with each other rather than working together. We saw an array of charging technologies hit the market with different protocols and different companies decided to go in very different directions. Slowly but surely, as the electric the industry continues to develop, recharging network providers are now looking to work with electric vehicle manufacturers. The latest such deal involves the BMW i3 which is the company's first all-electric production vehicle. So, what will BMW i3 owners have access to and why do many believe it is a revolutionary deal for not only BMW but the electric vehicle market?

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