Environmental Policy

Slowing down the floodwaters
January 29, 2014 10:41 AM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

Putting something called "Natural Engineering" to work in a five-year research project, Newcastle University in cooperation with the Environment Agency are discovering the benefits utilizing the land's natural defenses to slow river flow downstream and prevent flooding. Slowing down water in anticipation of flooding events is being tested all over the world. Strategies include the use of retention basins; wetlands development; levee systems and floodwalls but Newcastle University researchers directed by Dr. Mark Wilkinson are employing additional water retention strategies further up in the catchment system. The Belford Burn is a small catchment system located in Northumberland, a community just south of the Scottish border.

Flood insurance increases delayed in Senate
January 28, 2014 11:45 AM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

The floodgates have opened on the legislative debate surrounding flood insurance. On Monday, followed by remarks by Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ, the Senate voted 86-13 to begin debate to delay the increases mandated by the 2012 law for four years. Proponents of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act say that the price of coverage is too high for many policyholders making their homes unaffordable. Fifty five percent of Americans live within 50 mile of the coast. The National Flood Insurance Program insures more than 5.5 million properties across all 50 states. Rate increases affecting premiums all over the country. Proponents say that while The 2012 Biggert-Waters law was intended to make the flood insurance program fiscally solvent, it forces changes that are far too large and fast causing people to lose their homes. Menendez acknowledges, "The flood insurance program needs to be put on a more solvent trajectory, (but) we first need to understand the scope of these changes and be sure the mapping process used to set these rates is accurate. We need to understand the impact that these dramatic changes in Biggert-Waters will have on the housing market before it's too late.

Linking Alzheimer's to environmental contributors
January 28, 2014 09:16 AM - Robin Lally, Rutgers University

Scientists have known for more than 40 years that the synthetic pesticide DDT is harmful to bird habitats and a threat to the environment. Now researchers at Rutgers University say exposure to DDT, banned in the United States since 1972 but still used as a pesticide in other countries, may also increase the risk and severity of Alzheimer's disease in some people, particularly those over the age of 60.

UN - Business needs to play full part in tackling climate change
January 27, 2014 03:21 PM - UN News Center

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon kept up the drumbeat for business to play its full part in tackling climate change and promoting sustainable development for a second day today, telling the World Economic Forum in Davos that investments now will generate major savings for tomorrow. "The finance community is a key player. We need trillions of dollars of investment to move from the brown to the green economy," the United Nations chief told a session on Climate, Growth and Development, citing four areas for action. "First, we need investors, banks and other financial service providers to increase finance flows into low-carbon energy and climate-resilient infrastructure, including through setting portfolio targets and increasing the deployment of climate bonds. Second, we need to decrease the flow of finance to carbon-intensive and obsolete technologies and business practices."

Control of the lion fish
January 24, 2014 09:32 AM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

A recent Oregon State University study shows that controlling the invasive lionfish in the western Atlantic Ocean is likely to allow for recovery of native fish. The lionfish is estimated to have wiped out 95% of native fish in some Atlantic locations. This Atlantic invasion is believed to have begun in the 1980s and now covers an area larger than the United States.

EV's only in city centers?
January 24, 2014 07:35 AM - Bob Sheth, Electric Forum

Should governments give serious consideration to electric car only city centres? Over the last 12 months the subject of electric car only city centres has been discussed on numerous occasions although so far no government has been brave enough to push through any formal regulations. The authorities continue to encourage the use of electric vehicles within city centres, assisting with creating a network of recharging stations, but perhaps they could be doing more? Only a few days ago we wrote about an expert in the field of electric vehicles who is suggesting that financial incentives should be focused towards commercial operations such as taxis and vehicle fleets. The idea is that taxis and vehicle fleets cover the most mileage per annum compared to your traditional motorist and therefore electric vehicles will be more visible under this particular strategy.

Human response to climate
January 22, 2014 10:22 AM - B. Rose Huber, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

Throughout history, humans have responded to climate. Take, for example, the Mayans, who, throughout the eighth and 10th centuries, were forced to move away from their major ceremonial centers after a series of multi-year droughts, bringing about agricultural expansion in Mesoamerica, and a clearing of forests. Much later, in the late 20th century, frequent droughts caused the people of Burkina Faso in West Africa to migrate from the dry north to the wetter south where they have transformed forests to croplands and cut the nation's area of natural vegetation in half.

Great Lakes evaporation hypothesis up in the air
January 21, 2014 03:24 PM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

The recent Arctic blast gripping the nation will likely contribute to a rise in Great Lakes water levels in 2014, new research from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University shows. Research conducted by the two schools through the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA) shows the correlation between periods of high and low evaporation and its effect on ice cover. Years with high ice cover were usually followed by cooler summer water temperatures and lower evaporation rates, but these same high-ice winters were preceded by high evaporation rates during the autumn and early winter indicating a two-way connection between ice cover and evaporation. While ice cover reduces evaporation from what would otherwise be exposed lake surface water, it also reduces lake temperature generating ice cover.

Is plant virus linked to honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)?
January 21, 2014 08:27 AM - Jim Sliwa, American Society for Microbiology

A viral pathogen that typically infects plants has been found in honeybees and could help explain their decline. Researchers working in the U.S. and Beijing, China report their findings in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology. The routine screening of bees for frequent and rare viruses "resulted in the serendipitous detection of Tobacco Ringspot Virus, or TRSV, and prompted an investigation into whether this plant-infecting virus could also cause systemic infection in the bees," says Yan Ping Chen from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, an author on the study.

Should activities in public space be limited? The UK approach.
January 21, 2014 07:02 AM - Josie Appleton, The Ecologist

Laws handing sweeping new powers to police and private security to restrict access to Britain's public space will extinguish the diversity of civic life, writes Josie Appleton. Time for us to rediscover and defend our freedoms! Councils and the police will have an almost free hand to determine the use of all public spaces from civic squares to rural footpaths. The idea of public space, as it developed in the modern period, was space for the free use and enjoyment of the citizenry. The temper and character of public space should be determined not by any private or public authority, but by the ways in which people choose to use it. A bill currently passing through the UK Parliament will mean the death-knell of this principle.

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