Environmental Policy

European Union on Track to Reach 2020 Climate Goals
October 10, 2013 08:52 AM - Edouard Stenger, Clean Techies

According to the European Environment Agency, the European Union is already close to its 2020 climate objectives as it has decreased its emissions by no less than 18 percent between 1990 and 2012. Additionally, renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and many others were already accounting for 13 percent of the energy mix in 2011. The European Union have a comprehensive energy and climate plan as it has three objectives: 1. to slash its greenhouses gases emissions by 20 percent from 1990 to 2020 ; 2. to increase its energy efficiency by 20 percent ; 3. to increase its share of renewable energy sources to 20 percent of the mix by 2020.

Climate modeling update
October 10, 2013 06:30 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Climate models keep getting better but still can't predict with great certainty. So scientists run multiple models and look at the results of each model and calculate a consensus projection. The intent is to reduce the level of uncertainty by using a range of models with different types of shortcomings to hopefully improve confidence in the results. The seesaw variability of global temperatures often engenders debate over how seriously we should take climate change. But within 35 years, even the lowest monthly dips in temperatures will be hotter than we've experienced in the past 150 years, according to a new and massive analysis of all climate models. The tropics will be the first to exceed the limits of historical extremes and experience an unabated heat wave that threatens biodiversity and heavily populated countries with the fewest resources to adapt. Ecological and societal disruptions by modern climate change are critically determined by the time frame over which climates shift. Camilo Mora and colleagues in the College of Social Sciences' Department of Geography at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa have developed one such time frame. The study, titled "The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability," will be published in the October 10, 2013 issue of Nature and provides an index of the year when the mean climate of any given location on Earth will shift continuously outside the most extreme records experienced in the past 150 years.

Government Shutdown leaves Antarctic Research Operations in the cold
October 9, 2013 04:26 PM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced the suspension of all operations "not essential to the human safety and preservation of the property". This means that field and research activities will be wrapped up as the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) shifts into caretaker status. Funds for the program will dry up on or about October 14, 2013 as a result of the absence of appropriation and the Antideficiency Act just as the 2013-2014 summer austral program would have begun. Because much of the USAP work is dependent upon seasonal windows of opportunity, it will not be possible to restart many science activities for the remainder of the season. Researchers typically study birds, climate, weather and more in the remote and harsh climate.

Nitrogen Fixation
October 9, 2013 12:51 PM - Mrinalini Erkenswick Watsa , MONGABAY.COM

Nitrogen is colorless, odorless and tasteless, but all life on earth depends on it. Without it, our bodies cannot synthesize the nucleic acids that make up our DNA, or the protein-forming amino acids that are the very building blocks of our cells. Problematically, atmospheric nitrogen is relatively inert or nonreactive. This has created a unique biological dependency on a process called nitrogen fixation—where inert nitrogen from the atmosphere is converted into more reactive ammonia, a major component of soil fertilizers. A recent discovery has revealed just how reliant recovering forests are on nitrogen fixation, and how some forests can even manipulate it to speed up their abilities to 'heal' themselves. Many tropical forests today have been exploited for agriculture, mining, fossil fuel exploitation, and other human use.

Airport noise linked to heart disease
October 9, 2013 06:17 AM - EurekAlert

Exposure to high levels of aircraft noise is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, find two studies published on bmj.com today. Previous studies of exposure to aircraft noise have examined the risk of hypertension, but few have examined the risk of cardiovascular disease and results are inconsistent. So researchers based in London set out to investigate the risks of stroke and heart disease in relation to aircraft noise among 3.6 million residents living near London Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world. They compared hospital admissions and mortality rates for stroke, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease from 2001-05 in 12 London Boroughs and nine districts west of London. Levels of aircraft noise for each area were obtained from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Solar for Sure
October 8, 2013 03:52 PM - The Vote Solar Initiative, Clean Techies

Yesterday, Governor Brown signed into law AB 327, a comprehensive rate reform bill to create more certainty for Californians who want to go solar, ensuring rooftop solar is here to stay in California! The Governor issued a signing statement for AB 327 directing the CPUC to ensure that customers who go solar under the current 5% program cap will get to stay under current program rules for the life of their solar array. That's important direction for the agency as it implements the bill in 2014.

Plastics for Life
October 8, 2013 10:54 AM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

This is no news flash, but plastics don't biodegrade. And yet almost 50% of it never sees a landfill. Worse, approximately 80% of the plastic debris in our oceans comes from the land. Plastics inevitably become part of our ecosystem from top to bottom. Of course, we think of the most pure environments as those in the highest mountaintops. The springs percolate into the headwaters on our mountain peaks, cascade down, hopping rocks and tumbling through forests into lakes, eventually emerging into larger rivers and ultimately out into the oceans. Along the way human influence affects their purity. Generally, we have hypothesized that water starts pure and becomes more polluted with each tier of drainage but recent research suggests that we are not starting with as clean a slate as we thought.

Good news for European wildlife
October 8, 2013 06:16 AM - Luke Dale-Harris, The Ecologist

From Eastern Europe, Luke Dale-Harris argues that the extent to which the findings of a recently published report can be considered positive depend on one's perspective of rewilding......... A couple of weeks ago the unusual happened. Europe received positive news about the environment. Not just a claim that maybe things aren’t quite as bad as we previously thought, but the release of a report which shows, quite clearly, that for many species across large swathes of Europe, things haven't been better for decades.

Australian Environmental Politics in Denial
October 7, 2013 01:18 PM - Daniel Yeow, Worldwatch Institute

Australia seems to be going backwards in time with regard to environmental politics. A startlingly high number of people there deny climate change. Most Australians do believe in it, but in a country that no longer has a science minister, the newly-elected conservative government is populated by "leaders" who believe that it is some kind of conspiracy. The media that the average Australian consumes is overwhelmingly populated by sources which are owned by people of a highly conservative and libertarian belief. Libertarianism—the belief that people should be free to do as they wish so long as they do not impinge on the freedom of others, is a decidedly human-centric philosophy and as such, large-scale environmental problems are generally not well-handled. In the minds of people like Rupert Murdoch, among others, environmental regulations are an unnecessary burden on people's freedom, and even if you don't really believe that, if that's what you read in the newspaper every day, then that's what you will be led to believe.

Atmospheric aerosols and how they influence climate
October 7, 2013 05:57 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Climate models are evolving, and are getting more accurate, but they are still incomplete. Our atmosphere is very complex, and there are factors that even current models don't address, or address with an in-complete knowledge of the physical processes involved. This leads to inaccuracies that create uncertainty in the results of climatic projections. Aerosols are an important part of atmospheric dynamics, and their mechanisms of formation are not fully understood. University of Leeds experts have helped scientists get a step closer to understanding how aerosol particles are formed in the atmosphere and the effect these particles have on our climate. Working with scientists from the CLOUD experiment at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), in Geneva, climate change experts from the University have shown that amines — atmospheric vapours closely related to ammonia, largely derived from activities such as animal husbandry — combine with sulphuric acid to form highly stable aerosol particles at rates similar to those observed in the lower atmosphere.

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