Environmental Policy

A new tool against illegal logging: tree DNA technology goes mainstream
April 22, 2013 08:47 AM - Tanya Dimitrova, MONGABAY.COM

The role of tree DNA tracking is increasing in the fight against illegal logging as evidenced by prosecution cases in USA and Germany. Modern DNA technology offers a unique opportunity: you could pinpoint the origin of your table at home and track down if the trees it was made from were illegally obtained. Each wooden piece of furniture comes with a hidden natural barcode that can tell its story from a sapling in a forest all the way to your living room.

US Greenhouse Gas Emissions are Down
April 21, 2013 10:01 AM - ANDREW BURGER, Global Warming is Real

Anthropogenic US greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) amounted to a CO2-equivalent 6,702.3 million metric tons in 2011, down 1.6 percent from 2010 and 6.9 percent below 2005 levels. Longer term, US GHG emissions have increased at an annual average rate of 0.4 percent since 1990, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 18th annual US Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks (Inventory) report, which was released April 15. A decrease in the carbon intensity of fuels used in electricity generation due to increased use of natural gas as opposed to coal, a "significant increase in hydropower" generation, and "relatively mild winter conditions, especially in the South Atlantic Region of the US" were the main factors underlying the drop in national GHG emissions in 2011, according to the EPA’s "The Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2011."

Nitrogen Fertilizer Dangers
April 20, 2013 06:42 AM - Dan Charles, NPR

My first reaction when I heard details of this week's deadly fertilizer explosion in Texas was horror. My second thought was, "Maybe I shouldn't have pushed to change that headline." National Geographic magazine just published in its May issue my article about how nitrogen fertilizer has shaped our planet. The article, with Peter Essick's beautiful pictures, describes fertilizer's critical role in providing our food, but also its toll on water, air and wildlife. When the article went up online, the headline read, at first, "The Curse of Fertilizer." I didn't like it. It seemed only half of the story. I complained, and the headline soon changed to "A Mixed Blessing" — just as news broke that the West Fertilizer Co. plant had caught fire and exploded, destroying much of the small town of West, Texas. The blast killed at least a dozen people — including emergency workers who were trying to fight the fire — and injured more than 100 others.

Wildlife Sanctuaries Along Coasts and Sea Level Rise
April 19, 2013 06:18 AM - Science Daily

A new report on the potential effects of climate change on NOAA's Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary uses existing observations and science-based expectations to identify how climate change could affect habitats, plants and animals within the sanctuary and adjacent coastal areas. It also outlines new management recommendations for the sanctuary, and sanctuary officials called it the first step toward addressing them. They also said the report issued by the sanctuary, Climate Change and the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary: Interpreting Potential Futures, will provide a foundation of information and identify key issues facing the sanctuary.

Seismic Airgun Testing for Oil and Gas Threatens Marine Life and Coastal Economies
April 16, 2013 06:50 AM - Editor, Oceana

According to government estimates, 138,500 whales and dolphins will soon be injured and possibly killed along the East Coast if exploration companies are allowed to use dangerous blasts of noise to search for offshore oil and gas. The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is considering allowing geophysical companies, working on behalf of oil and gas companies, to use seismic airguns to search for offshore oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean, from Delaware to Florida. These airguns use compressed air to generate intense pulses of sound, which are 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine.

Is Ice Loss by Glaciers Abnormal?
April 15, 2013 06:36 AM - Science Daily

In the last few decades, glaciers at the edge of the icy continent of Antarctica have been thinning, and research has shown the rate of thinning has accelerated and contributed significantly to sea level rise. New ice core research suggests that, while the changes are dramatic, they cannot be attributed with confidence to human-caused global warming, said Eric Steig, a University of Washington professor of Earth and space sciences. Previous work by Steig has shown that rapid thinning of Antarctic glaciers was accompanied by rapid warming and changes in atmospheric circulation near the coast. His research with Qinghua Ding, a UW research associate, showed that the majority of Antarctic warming came during the 1990s in response to El Niño conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

EU Looking Favorably on Shale Gas Development
April 11, 2013 06:09 AM - Anne Glover, EurActiv

The EU’s chief scientific advisor has said that evidence allows the go-ahead for extracting shale gas, the energy source at the centre of a European policy tug-of-war. The EU executive launched a green paper on 27 March, setting out Europe's energy and climate aims for 2030, with Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger taking a favourable position on shale gas. "I am in favour of producing shale gas, particularly for safety reasons, and to reduce gas prices," he said. "In the United States, which is a big producer of shale gas, the price of gas is four times less than in Europe."

Global Forest Watch 2.0 will help monitor our forests
April 10, 2013 06:36 AM - Editor, MONGABAY.COM

World Resources Institute (WRI) today unveiled a long-awaited tool that could revolutionize global forest monitoring, reports the UN Forum on Forests, which is meeting this week in Istanbul, Turkey. Global Forest Watch 2.0 is a platform that combines near-real time satellite data, forestry data, and user-submitted information to provide the most complete picture of the world's forests ever assembled. The system has been developed over the last several years as a collaborative effort between WRI and other partners, including Google, the University of Maryland and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Tyson Foods and Ammonia
April 8, 2013 05:03 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Tyson foods is all about chickens. Well that is not quite so. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a Clean Air Act (CAA) settlement with Tyson Foods, Inc. and several of its affiliate corporations to address threats of accidental chemical releases after anhydrous ammonia was released during incidents at facilities in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska, resulting in multiple injuries, property damage, and one fatality. Ammonia, in this case is often used for refrigeration systems.

EU to require efficiency increases for boilers
April 8, 2013 06:22 AM - Editor, EurActiv

A below-the-radar vote in an obscure EU committee to set new efficiency standards for central heating boilers has sealed energy savings that could equal 10% of Europe's energy consumption by 2020, green groups say. After more than five years of haggling, the Ecodesign directive's regulatory committee in March voted through a text setting minimum green requirements for boilers and water heaters, which also forces them to be labelled for their energy savings potential. Stéphane Arditi, a senior policy officer for the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), told EurActiv that the ensuing emissions reductions would be "massive".

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