Environmental Policy

Thousands of Homes Keep Flooding, Yet They Keep Being Rebuilt Again
August 30, 2016 07:06 AM - Katherine Bagley, Yale Environment 360

The U.S. National Flood Insurance Program, which holds policies for more than 5 million homes, is $23 billion in debt after a string of natural disasters this century. As climate change further strains the program, analysts say it is time to shift its focus from rebuilding to mitigating risk.

More than 2,100 properties across the U.S. enrolled in the National Flood Insurance Program have flooded and been rebuilt more than 10 times since 1978, according to a new analysis of insurance data by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). One home in Batchelor, Louisiana has flooded 40 times over the past four decades, receiving $428,379 in insurance payments. More than 30,000 properties in the program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have flooded multiple times over the years. Those homes, known as “severe repetitive loss properties,” make up just 0.6 percent of federal flood insurance policies. But they account for 10.6 percent of the program’s claims — totaling $5.5 billion in payments.

The new data illustrates the serious problems facing the nation’s flood insurance program. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which currently provides policies for more than 5 million American homes, is $23 billion in debt following a string of major natural disasters over the last decades, including as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

Is your makeup killing sharks?
June 30, 2016 06:50 AM - Natalia Lima, Care2

Most animal lovers wouldn’t dream of harming an animal for fashion. Fur? No, thank you. Leather? I don’t think so. Yet they might be unknowingly killing sharks — and highly endangered kinds on top of that — for their beauty routine.

Unbeknownst to most, one little ingredient in products like sunscreens, moisturizing lotions, lip balms, lipsticks and face creams is responsible for the death of over three million sharks annually.

Killer ingredient

“Squalene is a naturally occurring compound found in large quantities in the liver of sharks,” explains the shark protection group Shark Trust. “A sharks’ large oily liver helps to control its position in the water column, however many cosmetics companies use the oil (and an associated compound called squalane) as a base for their moisturizing and skin care creams, lipstick and gloss, as it is non-greasy and softens skin.”

Renewable Energy Closes "The Gap"
June 2, 2016 10:04 AM - REN 21 , The Ecologist

The Renewables Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century - shows that renewables are now firmly established as competitive, mainstream sources of energy in many countries around the world, closing the gap between the energy haves- and have-nots

Who gets to influence the climate negotiations?
June 1, 2016 01:24 PM - Pavlos Georgiadis, Renee Karunungan and Anna Pérez Català, The Ecologist

The influence of fossil fuel corporations was strongly questioned by developing countries in the post-Paris meeting of the climate change negotiations in Bonn last week. Climate Trackers Pavlos Georgiadis, Renee Karunungan and Anna Pérez Català highlight the key issues that were debated. 

A number of developing countries, led by Ecuador, Guatemala and Bolivia are now calling for concrete measures to define how the public policy making process interacts with the private sector in climate change negotiations. What they want is special attention to be given to concerns over potential conflicts of interest between the industry and the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The Great Green Wall of Africa
May 12, 2016 05:49 PM - Llowell Williams, Care2

Though a border wall with Mexico is currently a matter of serious discussion in the United States, the aim of which is to prevent the physical movement of people (with few other apparent “benefits”), some walls can actually bring together and preserve communities, rather than divide them.

In only five years, the UN says, around 60 million Africans may be displaced as their land ceases to be arable, a potential humanitarian disaster the scale of which would be unprecedented. This would be devastating to a huge portion of the African continent not only ecologically and economically but socially as well.

That’s where Africa’s ingenious Great Green Wall comes in.

Experts at the United Nations say without action, desertification may claim two-thirds of Africa’s farmlands in under a decade. The Great Green Wall, however, was conceived as a wide-reaching strategy to halt Northern Africa’s rapidly advancing Sahara Desert.

The Great Green Wall, once complete, will stretch an incredible 4,400 miles from Senegal in West Africa to the East African nation of Djibouti. Instead of bricks and mortar, the wall will be made of trees and other vegetation, including plants that can be eaten or used to create medicine.

VW agrees to buy back or "fix" 500,000 cars in North America
April 22, 2016 12:23 PM - Jan Lee, Triple Pundit

With only days to go before the deadline, Volkswagen AG (VW) and the U.S. government reached a partial settlement over how to deal with the automaker’s “dieselgate” emissions scandal.

Volkswagen agreed to fix or buy back some 500,000 vehicles caught up in the crisis. What wasn’t agreed upon is how much the company should pay in fines and compensation to consumers affected by the crisis.

 

Educating Consumers About Buying Sustainably
April 18, 2016 07:02 AM - Gina-Marie Cheeseman , Triple Pundit

Sustainability is a word tossed around much these days. But do consumers really care about buying sustainably? The answer is yes. More and more consumers are interested in sustainability, as surveys show.  A 2011 consumer survey by Nielsen found that 66 percent of socially-conscious consumers cited environmental sustainability as the most important issue from a list of 18 issues.

So, how do you increase awareness of buying sustainably among consumers? The key is getting information to them. A study by Michigan State University researchers, published in 2014 in the Business and Economics Journal, looked at consumer awareness of fair trade information. The researchers found that informed consumers “are better positioned to make sound decisions and take the appropriate actions to address sustainability issues.” Providing access to “complete and accurate sources of information allows consumers to draw the connection between their consumption behaviors and social, and environmental sustainability,” the researchers concluded.

As EV sales slow, focus shifts for some to heavy duty vehicles
March 25, 2016 08:25 AM - cheryl katz Yale Environment360

Low gasoline prices and continuing performance issues have slowed the growth of electric car sales. But that has not stymied progress in electrifying larger vehicles, including garbage trucks, city buses, and medium-sized trucks used by freight giants like FedEx.

The clang of garbage cans will still probably wake people way too early in the morning. But in Santa Rosa, California, at least, the roaring diesel engine will be quiet, replaced by a silent, electric motor. 
 

New research on the Rio Grande and impacts of long drought
March 23, 2016 11:00 AM - USGS Newsroom

New research can help water managers along the Rio Grande make wise decisions about how to best use the flow of a river vital for drinking water, agriculture and aquatic habitat. These studies also show how conditions from the prolonged drought in the West have affected the Rio Grande watershed.

The Rio Grande forms the world’s longest river border between two countries as it flows between Texas and Mexico, where it is known as the Rio Bravo. The river runs through three states in the U.S., beginning in southern Colorado and flowing through New Mexico and Texas before it forms the border with Mexico.

Parts of the Rio Grande are designated as wild and scenic, but most of the river is controlled and passes through several dam and reservoir systems during its 1,896 mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico. The river is managed through a complex system of compacts, treaties, and agreements that determine when and how much water is released along the river’s length.

 

Bicycle ownership going downhill
February 17, 2016 06:54 AM - Tania Rabesandratana, SciDevNet

Bicycle ownership around the world is declining amid rising wealth levels and increased use of motorised vehicles in developing countries, a study has found.

Four out of ten households on the planet own a bike, according to a paper based on surveys from 150 countries between 1989 and 2012. But the growing popularity and affordability of motorised transport, such as cars and scooters, “have disfavoured bicycle use”, the researchers say.

China in particular experienced a collapse in bike ownership rates since 1992, when 97 per cent of households had bikes. However, this dropped to 63 per cent by 2009, the study shows, with ownership rates in most other countries either flat or decreasing.

In Togo, bike ownership has remained stable at around 34 per cent of households between 1998 and 2010, but in Paraguay ownership rates dropped from 57 per cent of households in 1996 to 39 per cent in 2002, the paper states.

These trends could be expected as the number of motor vehicles per person has increased over the past decade at a rate “never seen before in human history”, in particular in China, India and parts of Africa, says Marc Shotten, a transport specialist at the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility in the United States.

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