Is the linear dose-response model valid?
August 18, 2013 07:41 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN
Scientists commonly use the linear dose-response model to estimate the potential health hazards of everything from radiation to asbestos, to toxic organic chemicals. There are some who question this model which usually takes data from extremely high-dose lab experiments with animals and extrapolates the observed effects using a liner line to a zero dose. What is wrong with this approach is that at least for some hazardous substances, there is a dose below which there is not only no adverse effect, there is a positive effect! Think of the metals in your multi-vitamins, for example. So why is the linear no threshold model used? Good question. Some may argue that is is inherently conservative, so it should be used to be sure we are protecting people. In two recently published peer-reviewed articles, toxicologist Edward Calabrese of the University of Massachusetts Amherst describes how regulators came to adopt the linear no threshold (LNT) dose-response approach to ionizing radiation exposure in the 1950s, which was later generalized to chemical carcinogen risk assessment. He also offers further evidence to support his earlier assertions that two geneticists deliberately suppressed evidence to prevent the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) from considering an alternative, threshold model, for which there was experimental support. Calabrese's articles appear in the July 26 and August 4 issues of Archives of Toxicology.
Pesticide risks need more research and regulation
August 16, 2013 09:47 AM - Editor, SciDevNet
Developing countries need stronger pesticide regulation and a better understanding of how pesticides behave in tropical climates, according to experts behind a series of articles published in Science today. They also need an international body to carry out regular pesticide safety assessments — ensuring they are used properly by farmers who are given thorough training in their use — and to monitor the safety of chemical levels in food, the experts say.
Finally: Obama Green Lights Solar Panels on White House
August 16, 2013 08:54 AM - Leon Kaye, Triple Pundit
Details are not yet final, but President Obama has finally allowed retrofitting the White House roof to allow for solar panels. No, this is not a plot from HBO's hit series Veep: it is finally happening. The final total of panels will range between 20 and 50 solar panels according to Think Progress and the Washington Post—perhaps enough to power a few flat screen TVs or power the equivalent of 15 seconds of flight on Air Force One. It is a step that is surely attracting all kinds of buzz in and outside of Washington, DC, one either seen as a token effort, a sign of leadership on sustainability, or as a yawner. The installation falls on the heels of a 2010 promise Obama had made to install a rooftop solar system.
Reducing soot and methane emissions may not make as big of an impact as previously thought
August 15, 2013 03:02 PM - Editor, ENN
Carbon dioxide is a heavy hitter when it comes to global climate change. But there are some other big players that contribute to rising temperatures as well including soot and methane. While some scientists have argued to cut these emissions, a new study suggests that targeting these emissions may make much less of an impact than previously thought. Methane, when assessed over the course of a century, warms the planet about 25 times as much as the same mass of carbon dioxide does. During the same time frame, soot boosts warming more than 1000 times as much as the same mass of CO2 does. With this evidence, it appears that these two pollutants contribute just as much as CO2. However, methane and soot don’t stick around for as long as CO2 does (methane lingers around for 12 years and soot usually a couple of weeks).
China's State Council has announced plans to make green industries central to the economy by 2015
August 15, 2013 08:58 AM - Jennifer Duggan, The Ecologist
China is to fast-track expansion and investment in energy saving technologies in an attempt to tackle its worsening pollution problems. China's cabinet, the State Council, recently announced plans to make the energy saving sector a "pillar" of the economy by 2015. In a statement the council said that under the new plan the environmental protection sector will grow by 15% on average annually, reaching an output of 4.5 trillion yuan (£474 billion/$438 billion USD). China's massive economic growth has come at a major cost to its environment and even its environmental ministry has described the country's environmental situation as "grim".
Don't Dismiss the Hyperloop Opportunity
August 15, 2013 06:05 AM - Patrick Kelly, Triple Pundit
On Monday, Elon Musk, the indomitable Silicon Valley entrepreneur, unveiled his plans for a Hyperloop transportation system. The idea is to build an elevated tube from LA to SF that will transport pods full of people and cars and cargo between the two cities at 800 mph. Simpsons geeks everywhere, from Ogdenville to North Haverbrook, erupted in a derisive chorus of “Monorail." The solar-powered trip will take 30 minutes and cost $20 and that's no joke. It will be cheaper, faster, safer and more environmentally friendly than any existing mode of transportation. What's not to like" To no one's surprise, Musk's plan garnered criticism, cynicism, and outright hatred from those who shroud themselves in pragmatism and an immutable love for incremental change. USA Today says "it won’t work". TIME went way out on a limb and came up with "4 reasons why it could tank".
2012 was a bad year for the Arctic
August 10, 2013 08:32 AM - Steve Williams, Care2
During 2012, the Arctic broke several climate records, including a level of unprecedented warmth that created rapid ice loss. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is warning in its "The State of the Climate in 2012" report that last year was one of the 10 hottest since the beginning of recording global average temperatures. In addition to this, Arctic sea ice melted to reach record lows during the annual summer thaw. To illustrate this, the report points out that in Greenland, around 97% of the region’s ice sheet melted: this a figure that is four times the expected figure based on the melt in previous years. We're still feeling the effects of this and continued warming today, with the North Pole Environmental Agency issuing a warning that the summer ice has melted so fast and by so much that a shallow lake has formed.
New York City Turns to Composting
August 8, 2013 12:43 PM - Debra Goldberg, ENN
In 2011, the United States produced 250 million tons of municipal solid waste, 56% of which was compostable materials. In New York City alone, more than 10,000 tons of trash is collected every day and shipped to landfills where organic materials decompose. Methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, is produced as a result of the decomposition. Behind industry and agriculture, landfills are the third-largest source of methane in the United States. New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg recognized this major environmental concern in his State of the City address, and called for food waste recycling, the city’s “final recycling frontier". Of course New York City isn’t the first to come up with such an ambitious plan. Cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, San Antonio, and Portland, Oregon have been composting as early as 2009. Today, San Francisco mandates that all residents separate organic material, adding a third bin to trash and recycling. The compost bins can include all food scraps, along with vegetation and solid paper products such as coffee cups and milk cartons. Overall, 78% of San Francisco’s waste is now diverted from landfills.
Deforestation ban working in Costa Rica
August 6, 2013 08:58 AM - Rhett A. Butler, MONGABAY.COM
Costa Rica's ban on clearing of "mature" forests appears to be effective in encouraging agricultural expansion on non-forest lands, finds a study published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The research, which was led by Matthew Fagan of Columbia University, is based on analysis of satellite data calibrated with visits to field sites in the lowlands of northern Costa Rica.
Marine ecosystems shifting in response to warming climate
August 6, 2013 06:19 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN
The climate is getting warmer, and terrestrial ecosystems are responding. Species move up mountain slopes to remain in the temperature regimes they prefer (if there is a mountain slope to move up!). What is happening in the oceans? The warming climate is affecting ocean temperatures too, thought the oceans have vast thermal mass, so changes might be expected to be occurring more slowly than on land. Oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth's surface, yet our knowledge of the impact of climate change on marine habitats is a mere drop in the proverbial ocean compared to terrestrial systems. An international team of scientists set out to change that by conducting a global meta-analysis of climate change impacts on marine systems. Counter to previous thinking, marine species are shifting their geographic distribution toward the poles and doing so much faster than their land-based counterparts. The findings were published in Nature Climate Change.