Environmental Policy

Atmospheric aerosols and how they influence climate
October 7, 2013 05:57 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Climate models are evolving, and are getting more accurate, but they are still incomplete. Our atmosphere is very complex, and there are factors that even current models don't address, or address with an in-complete knowledge of the physical processes involved. This leads to inaccuracies that create uncertainty in the results of climatic projections. Aerosols are an important part of atmospheric dynamics, and their mechanisms of formation are not fully understood. University of Leeds experts have helped scientists get a step closer to understanding how aerosol particles are formed in the atmosphere and the effect these particles have on our climate. Working with scientists from the CLOUD experiment at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), in Geneva, climate change experts from the University have shown that amines — atmospheric vapours closely related to ammonia, largely derived from activities such as animal husbandry — combine with sulphuric acid to form highly stable aerosol particles at rates similar to those observed in the lower atmosphere.

What's holding up offshore wind energy in the US?
October 6, 2013 09:11 AM - Dave Levitan, Yale Environment 360

In June, after years of offshore wind power projects being thwarted in the United States, the first offshore wind turbine began spinning off the U.S. coast. The turbine was not a multi-megawatt, 400-foot behemoth off of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, or Texas — all places where projects had long been proposed. Rather, the turbine was installed in Castine Harbor, Maine, rising only 60 feet in the air and featuring a 20-kilowatt capacity — enough to power only a few homes. But it was a turbine — finally. Offshore wind power in the U.S. has struggled mightily to rise from the waves, even as other renewable energy industries have steadily grown. The country now has more than 60,000 megawatts of onshore wind, but still just the lone offshore turbine, a pilot project run in part by researchers at the University of Maine. Meanwhile, Europe has left the U.S. far behind, installing its first offshore turbine in 1991 and growing rapidly in the past decade. To date, the countries of the European Union have built 1,939 offshore turbines with 6,040 megawatts of capacity.

Climate models need to get small
October 5, 2013 07:27 AM - Jan Piotrowski, SciDevNet

Better observational data and geographically precise climate models are needed to allow scientists to predict the effects of rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at a local level, says a major climate change report. Deficiencies in these areas prevent reliable temperature and rainfall predictions being made on a regional scale, according to the report published this week (30 September) by Working Group I of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

China's Dam Environmental Problem
October 4, 2013 12:40 PM - Alison Singer, Worldwatch Institute

Although the Chinese government has acknowledged the extensive environmental issues resulting from the Three Gorges Dam, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has given the green light for construction for another massive hydro project. As the global leader in hydropower, China must adopt environmental policies that account for methane and carbon emissions as well as ecosystem disruptions and erosion potential.

Climate Change May Increase Mercury Content in Fish
October 4, 2013 09:02 AM - Editor, ENN

Mercury pollution can be a serious health threat as once mercury enters our body, it acts as a neurotoxin, interfering with the brain and nervous system. Mercury is emitted to the air by power plants and other industrial facilities and becomes a serious threat when it settles into oceans. As the mercury enters waterways, naturally occurring bacteria absorb it and the pollutant makes it way up the food chain as larger fish consume smaller fish. As an example, mackerel, swordfish, tuna, and grouper rank high when it comes to mercury content. We have known about the effects of mercury in fish for some time now, however, looming changes in climate could make fish accumulate even more mercury, according to a study in the journal PLOS ONE.

Australia and Canada Conservation
October 4, 2013 06:08 AM - Jeffrey Welll, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Care2

At first glance, Australia and Canada could not be more different. They are separated by more than 7,500 miles (12,000 km). One country is known for its hot, dry lands and kangaroos, and the other is known for its cold, wet forests and caribou. But at a symposium at the International Congress for Conservation Biology last July, which I co-chaired with my colleague Barry Traill, who directs The Pew Charitable Trusts' conservation work in Australia, presenters explored some interesting similarities and new ideas in conservation approaches between Australia's Outback region and Canada's Boreal Forest region. One of the reasons Traill and I were interested in comparing these two areas is because both are among the global areas identified as having the smallest "human footprint"—areas with the fewest roads, least number of people and other human-related disturbances. Another is that science and scientists have played a major role in both countries in ensuring that policymakers and the public have a clear understanding of the likely consequences that different policies could have on the biodiversity and ecological values of a region.

Government Shutdown Leaves Farm Bill on Table
October 3, 2013 04:08 PM - Editor, ENN

By now, you've probably heard that the US government has shutdown, as members of Congress have not been able to agree on a spending plan for the fiscal year. While big media topics include healthcare and fiscal issues, another item on the table is the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill officially expired as of October 1 and there is no agenda to extend or reauthorize the bill because of the standoff. Ironically, a handful of low-cost Farm Bill programs that could improve the health of Americans and save taxpayers billions in health care costs are among the political casualties. Daniel Z. Brito, senior Washington representative for the Union of Concerned Scientists' Food & Environment Program further explains the situation for farmers and consumers.

Phasing Down HFCs with the Montreal Protocol
October 3, 2013 03:39 PM - Mark W. Roberts and Avipsa Mahapatra, Triple Pundit

On September 27, U.S. President Barack Obama met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss how to improve ties on a number of issues between the countries, including how to support efforts to phase-down the super greenhouse gases HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons). HFCs, primarily used in refrigeration, air conditioning, and foam blowing, are extremely harmful to the climate as they are hundreds and thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2).

Running Hot and Cold in Iceland
October 3, 2013 02:19 PM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

Iceland's economy runs hot and then cold—and then hot and cold again! And Icelanders like it that way. Created from a volcano more than 50million years ago, Iceland's environment is one of the harshest yet one of the kindest when it comes to energy. The island nation sits atop this natural heat pack and is, as a result, poised to become the first country in the world to run 100% on renewable energy. This is because the volcano is still active bubbling and ulcerating perpetually altering the landscape. The Icelandic people extract warm water and store it in tanks to provide an unlimited supply of free central heating. The heated water is extracted and placed into tanks where it is converted to steam. The pressurized steam then turns the turbines, which operate the country’s geothermal power stations providing electricity to the people and businesses of Iceland. This is very important for high tech companies that require an enormous amount of power to operate their equipment. In fact, more than half of the energy required to operate their computer servers and other high tech equipment is in the form of cooling equipment to temper the heat generated by the computers for their operation. Technology giants are beginning to get it. Facebook has relocated its server farm to Sweden and Google is operating out of Finland. This leaves other companies like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and IBM to speculate.

An "Uncanny" Hobby
October 3, 2013 09:01 AM - David Church, The Ecologist

We all know the benefits of aluminum cans; they are light, easily moldable and can be held in a soft grip. But are they always responsibly disposed of? Can we do more to safely protect our green spaces from these metal objects? This article explores how a small scale project can help protect the local environment through recycling in the most responsible way.

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