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.
What's holding up offshore wind energy in the US?
October 6, 2013 09:11 AM - Dave Levitan, Yale Environment 360
In June, after years of offshore wind power projects being thwarted in the United States, the first offshore wind turbine began spinning off the U.S. coast. The turbine was not a multi-megawatt, 400-foot behemoth off of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, or Texas — all places where projects had long been proposed. Rather, the turbine was installed in Castine Harbor, Maine, rising only 60 feet in the air and featuring a 20-kilowatt capacity — enough to power only a few homes. But it was a turbine — finally. Offshore wind power in the U.S. has struggled mightily to rise from the waves, even as other renewable energy industries have steadily grown. The country now has more than 60,000 megawatts of onshore wind, but still just the lone offshore turbine, a pilot project run in part by researchers at the University of Maine. Meanwhile, Europe has left the U.S. far behind, installing its first offshore turbine in 1991 and growing rapidly in the past decade. To date, the countries of the European Union have built 1,939 offshore turbines with 6,040 megawatts of capacity.
Climate models need to get small
October 5, 2013 07:27 AM - Jan Piotrowski, SciDevNet
Better observational data and geographically precise climate models are needed to allow scientists to predict the effects of rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at a local level, says a major climate change report. Deficiencies in these areas prevent reliable temperature and rainfall predictions being made on a regional scale, according to the report published this week (30 September) by Working Group I of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
China's Dam Environmental Problem
October 4, 2013 12:40 PM - Alison Singer, Worldwatch Institute
Although the Chinese government has acknowledged the extensive environmental issues resulting from the Three Gorges Dam, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has given the green light for construction for another massive hydro project. As the global leader in hydropower, China must adopt environmental policies that account for methane and carbon emissions as well as ecosystem disruptions and erosion potential.