Environmental Policy

Plans to Remap Coastal Areas after Hurricane Sandy Announced this week
August 21, 2013 08:57 AM - Editor, ENN

Preliminary U.S. damage from Hurricane Sandy that hit the East Coast in October of last year is estimated to be near $50 billion, making Sandy the second-costliest cyclone to hit the United States since 1900. Full recovery from Sandy will take years, but plans for remapping altered seafloors and shorelines were announced yesterday by a joint collaboration between the USGS, NOAA, and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The project includes acquiring data to update East Coast land maps and nautical charts by conducting a new survey of coastal waters and shorelines.

Warning Labels for Gasoline Pumps?
August 20, 2013 01:28 PM - Allison Winter, ENN

Tobacco packaging warning messages have recently been required on cigarettes and other tobacco products in many countries worldwide in an effort to enhance the public's awareness of the harmful effects of smoking. In a similar fashion, a Canadian campaign is calling for all gasoline pumps to have warming labels on nozzles to inform consumers on the effects fuels have on climate change. Michelle Reeves at Our Horizon, the non-profit executing the campaign, states, "It's a cheap, simple idea that has the potential to change the way we think about, and address, climate change. They are modeled after cigarette package warning labels, which have been proven to work. Some people's behavior might change, but our ultimate goal is to create a shift in the political will to demand for alternatives, and create a space in the market for affordable alternative mobility solutions."

Light Ordinance in France has Benefits for Wildlife
August 19, 2013 11:56 AM - Editor, ENN

Last month, France implemented one of the world's most comprehensive "lights out" ordinances. Conditions include turning off shop lights between 1 a.m. to 7 a.m., shutting off lights inside office buildings within an hour of workers leaving the premises, and waiting only until sunset before turning lights on, on building facades. Over the next two years, regulations restricting lighting on billboards will also go into effect. These rules are designed to eventually cut carbon dioxide emissions by 250,000 tons per year, conserve energy consumption, and cut the country's overall energy bill by 200 million Euros ($266 million).

Living with Urban Wildlife: Non-lethal Control
August 19, 2013 08:49 AM - Toni V. Shephard, The Ecologist

The human population has surpassed seven billion and continues to increase by a quarter of a million people every day. That's 150 additional people every minute, all needing energy, water, food and space to inhabit. The inevitable and unrelenting urban expansion which results leaves precious few natural refuges for other species. No surprise then that habitat loss and degradation is the number one cause of global biodiversity loss. Yet, some versatile species - such as foxes, rats, pigeons and gulls - manage to not only survive but thrive in our artificial landscapes. Sadly, few people see these animals as triumphant vestiges of the natural world but rather unwelcome scroungers who dare to live in our midst. Toni V. Shephard notes that less and less of us are prepared to deal with 'pests' using the traditional method i.e. killing them, and offers her perspectives and solutions on human/wildlife conflict...

How much will climate change cost coastal cities?
August 19, 2013 06:06 AM - Jörg Dietze/Sustainable sanitation, SciDevNet

Global damage from flooding could cost coastal cities as much as US$1 trillion per year — and developing countries will be hardest hit, a study warns. According to the paper published today in Nature Climate Change, a "risk sensitive planning" strategy is needed to protect coastal cities, which are increasingly at risk because of climate change, subsidence and a growing population.

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".

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