Environmental Policy

Smooth Dogfish need protection too!
July 11, 2013 06:46 AM - WCS

It may have happened to you. You're out for a sail and you spot a fin in the water. Someone begins his best impression of the familiar pulsating cello line as another person jokes, "We gotta get a bigger boat," and talk turns to the film whose release one weekend 38 years ago forever changed our nation's relationship to sharks. Now, after studying sharks and their conservation for more than two decades, I assert that these fascinating predators suffer from an identity crisis: Sharks are greatly maligned for their fierce reputation yet, in reality, are among the most vulnerable animals on the planet. Nearly four decades after the release of Jaws, it remains difficult to convince the average beach-goer and even some of my friends and relatives that sharks in fact have much more to fear from us than we do from them. Yet it is true. Overfishing of sharks and their close relatives skates and rays across the globe has in recent decades led to sharp declines in shark numbers. Some species have been reduced by more than 80 percent. Much of that reduction is tied to the international trade in shark fins. The fins of as many as 70 million sharks end up in the coveted Asian delicacy shark fin soup each year. At the same time, some of the most heavily fished sharks and closely related skates and rays are prized primarily for their meat.

How can glaciers calving make so much noise?
July 11, 2013 06:36 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Icebergs in situ make little noise, right? What about when the calve? There is growing concern about how much noise humans generate in marine environments through shipping, oil exploration and other developments, but a new study has found that naturally occurring phenomena could potentially affect some ocean dwellers. Nowhere is this concern greater than in the polar regions, where the effects of global warming often first manifest themselves. The breakup of ice sheets and the calving and grounding of icebergs can create enormous sound energy, scientists say. Now a new study has found that the mere drifting of an iceberg from near Antarctica to warmer ocean waters produces startling levels of noise. Results of the study are being published this month in Oceanography. A team led by Oregon State University researchers used an array of hydrophones to track the sound produced by an iceberg through its life cycle, from its origin in the Weddell Sea to its eventual demise in the open ocean. The goal of the project was to measure baseline levels of this kind of naturally occurring sound in the ocean, so it can be compared to anthropogenic noises.

The Sea could provide much of Scotland's power!
July 10, 2013 06:02 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

What is one of the greenest ways to generate lots of electricity? What if we could harness the immense energy in ocean currents? Tidal power has been developing rapidly as a viable means of generating electricity. Scotland is nearly surrounded by ocean and strong currents are common. A new study, led by Oxford University researchers, provides the first reliable estimate of the maximum energy that could be generated from Pentland Firth. The 1.9GW figure is considerably lower than some early estimates as it takes into account factors such as how many tidal turbines it would be feasible to build, how a series of turbines would interact with each other, and averages out variations caused by the fortnightly and seasonal cycle of the tides. Tidal turbines stretched across Pentland Firth, which separates the Orkney Islands from mainland Scotland, could generate up to 1.9 gigawatts (GW) of power — equivalent to almost half of Scotland's electricity needs.

New conservation complex will protect critically endangered gorillas
July 9, 2013 03:07 PM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

In Cameroon, populations of Cross River gorillas can be found in the Lebialem Highlands: a biodiversity hotspot in one of the wettest places on earth. A new cluster of protected areas will protect Cross River Gorillas and an important watershed for the benefit of all Cameroonians. Estimates on the number of Cross River gorillas (Gorilla gorilla diehli) remaining is 250—300 in the wild. Their range is very fragmented. Due to human population growth and agricultural encroachment, the gorillas are being forced into higher altitudes with steep slopes, unsuitable for farming.

Chesapeake Bay "Dead Zones" Reduce Diversity and Abundance of Near-bottom Species
July 9, 2013 01:37 PM - Allison Winter, ENN

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and even though President Obama has declared it a "national treasure" in 2009, this watershed is becoming emptier with fewer shellfish and fish populations mainly due to upstream pollution. Consequently, a 10-year research study conducted by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) indicates that low oxygen levels reduce diversity and catch rates of species that live and feed near the Bay bottom.

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.

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