Environmental Policy

Politics of Climate Change: A Well-Oiled Machine
July 9, 2013 12:33 PM - Julie Gorte, Triple Pundit

The politics of climate change are a lot like the politics of gun control, at least in the sense that President Obama meant when he asked in April 2013 how Congress could fail to deliver gun control legislation when 90 percent of the American public wants it. Polling in 2013 shows that 87 percent of Americans would like their national government to make clean energy a priority; only 12 percent think that this should be a low priority. The same poll showed that 70 percent of Americans believe that climate policy should be a priority, and 59 percent think the US should reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions even if other nations do not. Yet year after year, our national policy mechanisms have stalled efforts to do both. What’s holding us back? Special interests are, and more specifically, fossil fuel interests are. In the year leading up to President Obama's first election, expectations that Congress would pass some sort of bill limiting greenhouse gas emissions were high. The percentage of Americans who said in public opinion polls that they believed that climate change was happening and that something should be done about it was rising in the wake of two dreadful hurricane seasons. At least one global warming bill had gotten out of committee in 2007 in the Senate, and in 2009 the House of Representatives passed the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security bill. Financial analysts were beginning to talk more about the costs of carbon emissions, often with the expectation that regulatory action was imminent.

Global Warming Down Under
July 9, 2013 05:39 AM - ScienceDaily

Green spaces, trees and bodies of water are must-have design features for future development in Sydney's suburbs after researchers found that by 2050 global warming combined with Sydney's urban heat island effect could increase temperatures by up to 3.7°C. The researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science found new urban developments, such as the multitude of new estates on Sydney edges expected to house more than 100,000 residents, were prone to the greatest temperature increases.

Mercury in the Environment: Legacy levels can persist for decades
July 8, 2013 02:07 PM - Allison Winter, ENN

Most of us are aware of the high levels of mercury found in fish. But where does this mercury come from? Humans have been using mercury since before the Industrial Revolution, but it is currently being emitted by coal-fired power plants and artisanal gold mining. And according to researchers at Harvard University, significant reductions in mercury emissions will be necessary because of the element’s persistence in surface reservoirs from past pollution.

Conifers threatened globally
July 8, 2013 10:36 AM - Population Matters

A third of the world's conifers, the biggest and longest-lived organisms on the planet, are at risk of extinction, with logging and disease the main threats, scientists said. The study of more than 600 types of conifers — trees and shrubs including cedars, cypresses and firs — updates a "Red List" on which almost 21,000 of 70,000 species of animals and plants assessed in recent years are under threat.

Fighting Global Warming: focussing on temperature is not enough
July 6, 2013 08:13 AM - ScienceDaily

So far, international climate targets have been restricted to limiting the increase in temperature. But if we are to stop the rising sea levels, ocean acidification and the loss of production from agriculture, CO2 emissions will have to fall even more sharply. This is demonstrated by a study published in Nature that has been carried out at the University of Bern. The ultimate objective of international climate policy is to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. To do this, greenhouse gases are to be stabilised at a level that is acceptable for humans and for the environment.

European Air Pollution still an issue
July 5, 2013 06:45 AM - EurActiv

The health effects of air pollution have been underestimated and Europe should revisit its laws to tackle the problem, UN scientists have concluded after a major review of new evidence. Sixty international scientists, commissioned by the World Health Organization, analysed eight years of studies to see how minute specks of soot, gases such as ozone and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and other pollutants from road and rail traffic, industry and indoor fires harm human health. In addition to premature deaths from respiratory and heart diseases, they found links to new conditions such as diabetes and still births and adverse effects on the cognitive development of children born to mothers exposed to even small levels of air pollution.

US Initiative to Combat Elephant and Rhino Poaching in Africa
July 4, 2013 08:35 AM - Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian , MONGABAY.COM

Barack Obama launched a new initiative against wildlife trafficking on Monday, using his executive authority to take action against an illegal trade that is fueling rebel wars and now threatens the survival of elephants and rhinoceroses. The initiative, announced as the president visited Tanzania on the final stop of his African tour, was the second time in a week Obama has used an executive order to advance environmental policy, after announcing a sweeping new climate change plan.

The connection of air pollution to lung cancer
July 3, 2013 08:31 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

It is widely known that smoking increases your risk of lung cancer. That is not the only risk factor, however. Air pollution plays a role as well. A study by Oregon State University suggests reducing air-polluting PAHs may lower levels of lung cancer deaths. High emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can be linked to lung cancer deaths in the United States and countries with a similarly high socioeconomic rank, including Canada, Australia, France, and Germany, according to a study by Oregon State University. Researchers reviewed a range of information from 136 countries, including average body mass index, gross domestic product per capita, the price of cigarettes, smoking rates, and the amount of PAHs emitted into the air. PAHs are a group of more than 100 chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic when inhaled or ingested. They most commonly come from vehicle exhaust and burning coal and wood.

Automobile Production Sets New Record in 2012
July 3, 2013 06:26 AM - Michael Renner and Maaz Gardez, Worldwatch Institute

World auto production set yet another record in 2012 and may rise even higher during 2013. According to London-based IHS Automotive, passenger-car production rose from 62.6 million in 2011 to 66.7 million in 2012, and it may reach 68.3 million in 2013. When cars are combined with light trucks, total light vehicle production rose from 76.9 million in 2011 to 81.5 million in 2012 and is projected to total 83.3 million in 2013.

IUCN Red List reports decline in world’s oldest and largest species
July 2, 2013 08:49 AM - Kathryn Pintus, ARKive.org

The latest update to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species highlights a worrying decline in many economically and medicinally valuable species, from small freshwater shrimps and cone snails to gargantuan conifers, some of the world's oldest and largest organisms. An impressive 4,807 species have been added to the IUCN Red List this year, bringing the total number of assessed species to 70,294, of which 20,934 are threatened with extinction.

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