Environmental Policy

Los Angeles area natural gas leak continues
December 31, 2015 05:06 AM - Lowell Williams, Care2, Care2

Though it seems to be oddly absent from the mainstream media headlines, a massive methane gas leak in Southern California’s Aliso Canyon has prompted thousands of evacuations and, since Oct. 23, has pumped over 150 million pounds of the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. Even though the owners of the methane well, Southern California Gas Co., say this week that they have finally discovered the pipe associated with the leak, it will likely be months before a seal is entirely in place.

To truly underscore the seriousness of the Porter Ranch gas leak, the Environmental Defense Fund released an infrared aerial video this week showing the tremendous, continuous release of methane:

Methane gas, in its natural state, is also odorless. However, for safety reasons, foul-smelling additives are artificially included with the gas. In Porter Ranch, a Los Angeles neighborhood and the site of the leak, the additive smell’s intensity has affected the heath of many of residents — nose bleeds, nausea, headaches and dizzy spells have been reported.

The economic benefits of mercury reductions
December 29, 2015 07:10 AM - Jennifer Chu, MIT News

Mercury pollution is a global problem with local consequences: Emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources travel around the world through the atmosphere, eventually settling in oceans and waterways, where the pollutant gradually accumulates in fish. Consumption of mercury-contaminated seafood leads to increased risk for cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairments.

In the past several years, a global treaty and a domestic policy have been put in place to curb mercury emissions. But how will such policies directly benefit the U.S.? 

Bison get Christmas gift from Governor of Montana
December 23, 2015 08:24 AM - NRDC

In a big step forward for wild bison and all Montanans, today Governor Steve Bullock agreed to expand year-round habitat for wild bison in Montana outside Yellowstone National Park.  Historically, thousands of wild bison have been hazed or slaughtered as they migrated from Yellowstone into Montana in the spring. This decision represents a significant change in bison management.

Following is a statement from Matt Skoglund, Director of the Northern Rockies Office at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“Giving wild bison from Yellowstone year-round habitat in Montana is a welcome holiday offering from Governor Bullock. While I’d certainly love to see the state go further, this decision is a big step forward for wild bison in Montana, and it will show that wild bison and people can successfully share the Montana landscape outside Yellowstone National Park. When you consider this from a science, economics, public opinion, or common sense perspective, it makes sense for Montana to give wild bison from Yellowstone year-round habitat in the state.”

NASA finds much higher methane emissions in Arctic winters
December 22, 2015 05:28 AM - JPL, NASA

The amount of methane gas escaping from the ground during the long cold period in the Arctic each year and entering Earth's atmosphere is likely much higher than estimated by current carbon cycle models, concludes a major new study led by San Diego State University and including scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

The study included a team comprising ecologists Walter Oechel (SDSU and Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom) and Donatella Zona (SDSU and the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom) and scientists from JPL; Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colorado; and the University of Montana, Missoula. The team found that far more methane is escaping from Arctic tundra during the cold months when the soil surface is frozen (generally from September through May), and from upland tundra, than prevailing assumptions and carbon cycle models previously assumed. In fact, they found that at least half of the annual methane emissions occur in the cold months, and that drier, upland tundra can be a larger emitter of methane than wet tundra. The findings challenge critical assumptions in current global climate models. The results are published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Climate change is impacting lakes faster than oceans
December 18, 2015 09:50 AM - JPL-NASA

Climate change is rapidly warming lakes around the world, threatening freshwater supplies and ecosystems, according to a new NASA and National Science Foundation-funded study of more than half of the world's freshwater supply.

Using more than 25 years of satellite temperature data and ground measurements of 235 lakes on six continents, this study -- the largest of its kind -- found lakes are warming an average of 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit (0.34 degrees Celsius) each decade. The scientists say this is greater than the warming rate of either the ocean or the atmosphere, and it can have profound effects.

The research, published in Geophysical Research Letters, was announced Wednesday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

Push for more hydrogen fueling stations for fuel cell cars in California
December 17, 2015 06:40 AM - Sandia Labs

Drivers are seeing more hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) on the road, but refueling stations for those vehicles are still few and far between. This is about to change, and one reason is a new testing device being validated at California refueling stations that will greatly accelerate station commissioning.

Developed by U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Sandia National Laboratories and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Hydrogen Station Equipment Performance device, or HyStEP, could reduce the time to commission new stations from months to just one week. HyStEP is funded by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office as part of the Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure Research and Station Technology (H2FIRST) project.

Epson paper-recycling printer coming soon
December 14, 2015 06:42 AM - Leon Kaye , Triple Pundit

Printing boarding passes is sooooo 2005. Seriously, does anyone still print? My handy HP all-in-one printer collects more dust than print jobs. While it is true that most paper comes from managed forests, most of us just do not really have the need to print — a trend the paper industry, including the Paper and Packaging Board, whines about endlessly.

But sometimes we do need to print — for example, editing is easier for me to do on paper than staring at that laptop screen. And as an office tactic, distributing handouts at a meeting is a way to keep those rude colleagues’ eyes on the whiteboard and hands off their smartphones.

COP21 ends with agreement to limit and reduce emissions - will it work?
December 13, 2015 09:55 AM - Fred Pearce, Yale Environment 360

Climate negotiators meeting here in Paris have achieved a deal that could change the world. Conference chair and French foreign minister Laurent Fabius crowed that he had presided over a "historical turning point." Even when the hype has died down, that may turn out to be true. Even climate scientists who on Friday had sharply criticized an earlier draft of the text were convinced.  

The Paris Agreement commits the world to capping global warming to "well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C." To achieve that, it requires the world to "reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible" and "to undertake rapid reductions thereafter, in accordance with best available science." 

What is the future of coal power production?
December 10, 2015 08:14 AM - Fred Pearce, Environment360

Is Paris the beginning of the end for coal? Coal burning is declining fast in both of the world's two largest carbon dioxide emitters, China and the the United States, with resulting declines in the emissions of both countries. The fuel looks incompatible with a world that warms by no more than two degrees Celsius, bringing calls for its rapid phaseout as the world is "decarbonized." 

But, with or without a deal here in Paris later this week, will the calls be heeded? Has the demise of King Coal been greatly exaggerated?  

In the U.S., "coal has gone from boom to bust," says Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. The black stuff's share of electricity generation has sunk from 53 percent to 35 percent in just five years.
 

Equity and Emission Trading in China, a new analysis by MIT
December 7, 2015 01:29 PM - MIT Sloan School of Management

As representatives from more than 190 countries convene in France for the second week to address ways to slow global warming, an MIT-led team has published a paper outlining a set of options for incorporating equity considerations in a national Emissions Trading System (ETS) for China that could reduce carbon emissions while minimizing economic impact on poorer or less-developed regions.

The paper, “Equity and Emission Trading in China,” published in the journal Climatic Change, outlines a sophisticated menu aimed at Chinese policymakers showing how the burden of reducing carbon emissions could be shared or divided across the country’s provinces under a market-based carbon pricing system.

“Emission trading systems have been shown to be highly effective when they are allowed to work, but one of the toughest challenges involves how to distribute the cost,” said lead author Valerie Karplus, Assistant Professor of Global Economics and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “We compare alternative schemes for allocating emissions rights that can effectively de-couple who pays for reductions from where the reductions actually occur.”

 

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