Environmental Policy

Rhode Island school sets an example in waste reduction
September 3, 2013 06:23 AM - KEVIN PROFT/ecoRI News

Sophia Academy is an all-girls middle school on Branch Avenue with less than a hundred students. During the 2011-12 school year, the academy’s 62 girls sent 10,000 Styrofoam lunch trays to the landfill. "We did some simple 'tray math' in class," said Alyssa Wood, science teacher at the school. Wood had her students multiply the 180-day school year by the 62 students enrolled at Sophia Academy, almost all of whom receive a free or reduced lunch. The students were amazed by the result, she said.

Oceanic plume of radioactivity predicted to reach US by 2014
September 2, 2013 06:21 AM - JEREMY HSU, LIVESCIENCE.COM via Discovery News

A radioactive plume of water in the Pacific Ocean from Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, which was crippled in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, will likely reach U.S. coastal waters starting in 2014, according to a new study. The long journey of the radioactive particles could help researchers better understand how the ocean’s currents circulate around the world. Ocean simulations showed that the plume of radioactive cesium-137 released by the Fukushima disaster in 2011 could begin flowing into U.S. coastal waters starting in early 2014 and peak in 2016. Luckily, two ocean currents off the eastern coast of Japan — the Kuroshio Current and the Kuroshio Extension — would have diluted the radioactive material so that its concentration fell well below the World Health Organization’s safety levels within four months of the Fukushima incident. But it could have been a different story if nuclear disaster struck on the other side of Japan.

EV Tax incentives can't last forever
August 31, 2013 07:31 AM - MOVEFORWARD, Electric Forum

At this moment in time there seems to be no stopping the electric vehicle industry which is going from strength to strength. Sales are increasing, more automobile manufacturers are joining the party and motorists seem more at ease with electric vehicles there than they ever have been. While one of the reasons the industry has been kick started over the last couple of years is tax incentives and financial incentives some governments around the world, would you still buy an electric vehicle with no tax incentives today? The likelihood is that the vast majority of EV enthusiast would not buy an electric vehicle today without the tax incentives and financial attractions offered by governments around the world. This is an industry which is still very much in its infancy, the technology is still developing and perhaps many people are still yet to fully appreciate the impact which petrol/gasoline vehicles have upon the environment.

Deadly effects of air pollution detailed in MIT study
August 29, 2013 06:02 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

We know that pollution is bad for us, don't we? And we guess that living in areas with high levels of pollution is probably not good for our health, but we need to live near our job, and populated areas offer more employment opportunity, recreational and cultural opportunities and other advantages. But at what cost? And what can we do to reduce the levels of pollution without significantly changing the life styles we have all become accustomed to? Before we consider draconian changes, we would like to know just how bad it is. Researchers from MIT's Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment have come out with some sobering new data on air pollution's impact on Americans' health. The group tracked ground-level emissions from sources such as industrial smokestacks, vehicle tailpipes, marine and rail operations, and commercial and residential heating throughout the United States, and found that such air pollution causes about 200,000 early deaths each year. Emissions from road transportation are the most significant contributor, causing 53,000 premature deaths, followed closely by power generation, with 52,000.

Turn ON the dark!
August 28, 2013 06:14 AM - Paul Bogard, Yale Environment360

As evidence mounts that excessive use of light is harming wildlife and adversely affecting human health, new initiatives in France and elsewhere are seeking to turn down the lights that flood an ever-growing part of the planet. Last month, France — including the City of Light — grew darker late at night as one of the world's most comprehensive lighting ordinances went into effect. From 1 a.m. to 7 a.m., shop lights are being turned off, and lights inside office buildings must be extinguished within an hour of workers leaving the premises. The lighting on France’s building facades cannot be turned on before sunset. Over the next two years, regulations restricting lighting on billboards will go into effect. These rules are designed to eventually cut carbon dioxide emissions by 250,000 tons per year, save the equivalent of the annual energy consumption of 750,000 households, and slash the country’s overall energy bill by 200 million Euros ($266 million).

New report calls for immediate action to tackle aviation emissions
August 27, 2013 08:56 AM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

A new scientific report released today highlights the critical importance of taking early action when implementing measures to reduce the climate impact of rapidly increasing emissions from aviation. With a decision expected shortly on how and when to tackle international aviation emissions, today's report increases the pressure on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) (the United Nations agency responsible) not to defer a decision on the adoption of a market-based measure (MBM).

Clean up at site contaminated by dry cleaners advances
August 27, 2013 06:19 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Dry cleaners seem to be everywhere. We all use them, and couldn't imagine keeping our non-washable garments in top shape. Unfortunately, some of these businesses experience leaks of cleaning solution which can cause serious soil and groundwater contamination. One such site in New Jersey is being remediated under the federal Superfund program. This happens when those responsible for the contamination are no longer in business, and can't be made to fund the clean up. This site is estimated to cost more than 18 million dollars to remediate! The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a plan to clean up contaminated soil and ground water at the site (White Swan Cleaners/Sun Cleaners Superfund site) in Wall Township, Manasquan Borough and Sea Girt, New Jersey. Previous dry cleaning operations in Wall Township caused the contamination of the soil and ground water with volatile organic compounds, including perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE). Exposure to these chemicals can have serious health impacts, including liver damage and increased risk of cancer. The plan proposed will require the excavation and treatment of contaminated soil and the treatment of some ground water.

The Promise of Fusion Power - update
August 26, 2013 02:43 PM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Wouldn't it be great to have abundant, clean power that doesn't contribute to climate change? That is the promise of fusion power. Practical fusion power remains elusive, but advances in creating self-sustaining fusion reactions and harnessing its power continue to occur. In the early morning hours of Aug.13, Lawrence Livermore's National Ignition Facility (NIF) focused all 192 of its ultra-powerful laser beams on a tiny deuterium-tritium filled capsule. In the nanoseconds that followed, the capsule imploded and released a neutron yield of nearly 3x1015, or approximately 8,000 joules of neutron energy -- approximately three times NIF's previous neutron yield record for cryogenic implosions. The primary mission of NIF is to provide experimental insight and data for the National Nuclear Security Administration's science-based stockpile stewardship program. The experiment attained conditions not observed since the days of underground nuclear weapons testing and represents an important milestone in the continuing demonstration that the stockpile can be kept safe, secure and reliable without a return to testing.

Trinidad and Tobago: A Biodiversity Hotspot Overlooked
August 26, 2013 02:02 PM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM

The two-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean (just off the coast of Venezuela) may be smaller than Delaware, but it has had an outsized role in the history of rainforest conservation as well as our understanding of tropical ecology. Home to an astounding number of tropical ecosystems and over 3,000 species and counting (including 470 bird species in just 2,000 square miles), Trinidad and Tobago is an often overlooked gem in the world's biodiversity. "In the last 100 years, work in these forests was instrumental in deciphering principles we now take for granted. For example: echolocation in bats, animal chemical defenses and mimicry," Nigel Noriega, the director of Sustainable Innovation Initiatives (SSI) told mongabay.com adding that the "Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve is under consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is on record as the world's oldest legally protected forest reserve geared specifically towards a conservation purpose.

Planting trees in deserts to fight climate change
August 26, 2013 06:16 AM - Earth System Dynamics, SciDevNet

Planting trees in coastal deserts could capture carbon dioxide, reduce harsh desert temperatures, boost rainfall, revitalise soils and produce cheap biofuels, say scientists. Large-scale plantations of the hardy jatropha tree, Jatropha curcas, could help sequester carbon dioxide through a process known as 'carbon farming', according to a study based on data gathered in Mexico and Oman that was published in Earth System Dynamics. Each hectare of the tree could soak up 17-25 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, they say, at a cost of 42-63 euros (about US$56-84) per tonne of gas, the paper says. This makes the technique competitive with high-tech carbon capture and storage.

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