Environmental Policy

Finding Arctic Cyclones
January 17, 2014 12:18 PM - Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State University

From 2000 to 2010, about 1,900 cyclones churned across the top of the world each year, leaving warm water and air in their wakes – and melting sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. That's about 40 percent more of these Arctic storms than previously thought, according to a new study of vast troves of weather data that previously were synthesized at the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC). A 40 percent difference in the number of cyclones could be important to anyone who lives north of 55 degrees latitude – the area of the study, which includes the northern reaches of Canada, Scandinavia and Russia, along with the state of Alaska.

Washington DC leaking all over
January 17, 2014 09:56 AM - Tim Lucas, Duke University

More than 5,893 leaks from aging natural gas pipelines have been found under the streets of Washington, D.C., by a research team from Duke University and Boston University. A dozen of the leaks could have posed explosion risks, the researchers said. Some manholes had methane concentrations as high as 500,000 parts per million of natural gas -- about 10 times greater than the threshold at which explosions can occur.

Chemicals of Emerging Concern (CECs) identified in sewage sludge
January 16, 2014 04:17 PM - Richard Harth, Arizona State University

Thousands of chemicals serving a variety of human needs flood into sewage treatment plants once their use life has ended. Many belong to a class of chemicals known as CECs (for chemicals of emerging concern), which may pose risks to both human and environmental health. Arjun Venkatesan and Rolf Halden of Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute have been tracking many of these chemicals outlining a new approach to the identification of potentially harmful, mass-produced chemicals, describing the accumulation in sludge of 123 distinct CECs.

The girth of a tree
January 15, 2014 04:54 PM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

Thank goodness human growth rates don't match that of trees. For if it did then we would tip the scales of well over a ton by the time we reach retirement! Consider this new research from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) recently published in the journal Nature. According to the new study, trees put on weight faster and faster as they grow older. Because most trees' growth accelerates as they age this suggests that large, old trees may play an unexpectedly dynamic role in removing carbon from the atmosphere.

Waste Facility to Triple the Amount of Trash Recycled
January 15, 2014 01:28 PM - Paul Batistelli, Guest Contributor

A new plant in Glendale, Arizona promises to triple the amount of trash the city recycles each year when it begins operations in April. The facility, which is being built by Chicago-based company, Vieste, will be located on 6 acres of Glendale's landfill, just a few miles west of the University of Phoenix stadium. About two-thirds of the city's waste will be diverted to Vieste's facility where it will be sorted to find recyclables. The company's 40 to 50 employees will help sift through the piles of trash to find small recyclables such as plastic or glass. A large magnet will help pull metal objects from the garbage and screens will help sort through paper products. The building, which spans the size of three basketball courts, will also have ample room to sort through large recyclables and cardboard. Through its efforts, Vieste expects to recover 26,000 tons of recyclable products each year, which is more than double what the city recycles. Currently, Glendale only recycles items that residents place in recycling bins, which amounts to about 12,000 tons of materials each year.

The problem with older thermostats - Mercury
January 15, 2014 07:51 AM - NRDC

NRDC Study Shows More Than 1.8 Million Thermostats Containing 8 Tons of Mercury Need Safe Recycling In Illinois. The state should raise collection goals for mercury-laden thermostats to avoid contaminating the environment. There are more than 1.8 million thermostats containing eight tons of mercury in Illinois homes and buildings, according to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Clean Water Fund, which are calling for stronger state rules this year to speed up safe recycling of these thermostats.

Economic benefits of reducing nitrogen pollution
January 14, 2014 08:14 AM - Tom Marshall, Planet Earth Online

Falling levels of nitrogen in the atmosphere across Europe may be much more economically beneficial than previously believed, according to a recent study. Indeed, scientists think the UK alone benefits by around £65 million a year. Levels of atmospheric nitrogen have fallen by around a quarter in Europe since 1990, mostly because of tighter rules on emissions from engines and industry. Scientists are still working to understand the consequences. This is difficult, because excess nitrogen affects the benefits that nature gives us (known as 'ecosystem services') in many different ways – some positive and some harmful. For example, nitrogen is an important plant nutrient, which means services that depend on plant growth, such as crops and timber from woodlands, will benefit from more of it in the atmosphere. Conversely, falling nitrogen levels will harm these services - so cutting pollution costs the economy money.

Popularity of plug-in vehicles on the rise
January 13, 2014 09:30 AM - Eric Justian, Triple Pundit

Good news for those living at the intersection of manufacturing and environmentalism. Here in the U.S., sales of plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles almost doubled between 2012 and 2013 with an 84 percent jump to 96,600 of the vehicles sold. That’s 49,000 plug-in hybrids (like the Volt) and 47,600 pure battery powered plug-in vehicles sold.

How plants respond to climate change
January 12, 2014 08:24 AM - ScienceDaily

Swiss plants, butterflies and birds have moved 8 to 42 meters uphill between 2003 and 2010, as scientists from the University of Basel write in the online journal PLoS One. Climate warming is changing the distribution of plants and animals worldwide. Recently it was shown that in the past two decades, European bird and butterfly communities have moved on average 37 and 114 kilometers to the north, respectively.

EPA's New Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards Now Open for Public Comment
January 10, 2014 02:39 PM - Andrew Burger, Triple Pundit

Politically contentious as ever, climate change is back in the headlines, as a brutal, deep and prolonged southward shift in the polar vortex has put much of the continental U.S. in a deep freeze. In stark contrast, people living in the Southern Hemisphere – in Australia, Argentina and Brazil, for example – are trying to cope with heat waves, the threat of drought and power outages in major cities. While many are scrambling with the immediacy of such problems, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving forward with longer term, structural fixes to address climate change conceived by the Obama Administration. On Jan. 8, the EPA issued proposed new performance standards that would put an upper limit, or cap, on carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new, stationary power plants under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act.

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