Environmental Policy

The dangers of chemicals used in food packaging
March 2, 2014 08:32 AM - Jo Adetunji, The Ecologist

The long-term effects of synthetic chemicals used in packaging, food storage and processing food could be damaging our health, scientists have warned. Jo Adetunji reports. We actually know very little about how chemicals affect bodily functions or promote disease, or at what life stage we are susceptible. In a paper published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the authors said most of these potentially damaging chemicals were found in "food contact materials". These include the coatings on the inside of cans, laminates on cartons, and glass jar seals.

Is Global Warming responsible for weather extremes?
March 1, 2014 07:59 AM - Fred Pearce, Yale Environment360

Scientists are trying to understand if the unusual weather in the Northern Hemisphere this winter — from record heat in Alaska to unprecedented flooding in Britain — is linked to climate change. One thing seems clear: Shifts in the jet stream play a key role and could become even more disruptive as the world warms. This winter’s weather has been weird across much of the Northern Hemisphere. Record storms in Europe; record drought in California; record heat in parts of the Arctic, including Alaska and parts of Scandinavia; but record freezes too, as polar air blew south over Canada and the U.S., causing near-record ice cover on the Great Lakes, sending the mercury as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius in Minnesota, and bringing sharp chills to Texas.

Melting summer ice in Antarctica
February 28, 2014 01:53 PM - , ClickGreen

Antarctica's Ross Sea is one of the few Polar Regions where summer sea-ice coverage has increased during the last few decades, bucking a global trend of drastic declines in summer sea ice across the Arctic Ocean and in two adjacent embayments of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. But now, a modeling study led by Professor Walker Smith of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science suggests that the Ross Sea's recent observed increase in summer sea-ice cover is likely short-lived, with the area projected to lose more than half its summer sea ice by 2050 and more than three quarters by 2100.

Illegal logging threatens sustainability in Mozambique
February 28, 2014 10:20 AM - , MONGABAY.COM

Illegal logging has spiked over the past five years in Mozambique, finds a new report by researchers at the University of Eduardo Mondlane. The report, published on the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's web site, assesses timber production, consumption, and exports, finding that nearly two-thirds of logging is currently illegal. The report notes that harvesting is exceeding sustainable levels, threatening the long-term viability of the industry and putting local livelihoods at risk.

Scientists advocate protective deep-sea treaty
February 28, 2014 10:00 AM - Nick Kennedy, SciDevNet

A new international agreement is needed to police the exploitation of the deep ocean because of the rising threats of deep-sea mining and bottom trawling for fish, say scientists. Speakers at a symposium this month (16 February) urged the UN to negotiate a new treaty for the deep ocean to supplement the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Electric cars and the grid
February 28, 2014 07:31 AM - Click Green Staff, ClickGreen

Car owners in the United States last year bought more than 96,000 plug-in electric cars, a year-on-year increase of 84 percent from 2012. However, this growing fleet will put a lot of new strain on the nation’s aging electrical distribution systems, like transformers and underground cables, especially at times of peak demand — in the evening when people come home from work.

Potential new source of renewable energy found in humidity
February 27, 2014 12:15 PM - Kristin Kusek, Harvard University

A new type of electrical generator uses bacterial spores to harness the untapped power of evaporating water, according to research conducted at the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. Its developers foresee electrical generators driven by changes in humidity from sun-warmed ponds and harbors.

One state addresses potholes through a new pothole alert system
February 27, 2014 10:43 AM - ENN Staff

As much of the northern hemisphere looks forward to the second half of the winter season, municipalities and regional governments are faced with rudimentary task of repairing potholes. Rutgers University instructor Wansoo Im, no doubt frustrated with the infrastructure meltdown himself, launched an app and website to map the biggest ones in his own home state of New Jersey. Aptly called NJPothole, the website plots potholes on maps to alert motorists (and maybe even municipal departments of public works dispatchers) of impending undercarriage attack.

Forest recovery following natural disaster
February 27, 2014 08:06 AM - Sue Nichols, Michigan State University

Recovering from natural disasters usually means rebuilding infrastructure and reassembling human lives. Yet ecologically sensitive areas need to heal, too, and scientists are pioneering new methods to assess nature's recovery and guide human intervention. The epicenter of China's devastating Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 was in the Wolong Nature Reserve, a globally important valuable biodiversity hotspot and home to the beloved and endangered giant pandas. Not only did the quake devastate villages and roads, but also the earth split open and swallowed sections of the forests and bamboo groves that shelter and feed pandas and other endangered wildlife. Persistent landslides and erosion exacerbated the devastation.

Greener chemical cleanups
February 26, 2014 12:14 PM - Marianne English Spoon, University of Wisconsin

Cleaning up oil spills and metal contaminants in a low-impact, sustainable and inexpensive manner remains a challenge for companies and governments globally. But a group of researchers at UW–Madison is examining alternative materials that can be modified to absorb oil and chemicals. If further developed, the technology may offer a cheaper and "greener" method to absorb oil and heavy metals from water and other surfaces.

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