Environmental Policy

Arctic Sea Ice Continues its Summer Retreat
July 7, 2012 08:28 AM - THOMAS SCHUENEMAN, Global Warming is Real

A rapid decline for Arctic sea ice extent briefly hit daily record lows in June, led by extensive ice loss in the Bering, Kara, and Beaufort Seas, as well as Hudson and Baffin Bay. Snow extent was unusually low for both May and June, reinforcing the continuing pattern of rapid spring snow melt of the past six years. Average Arctic sea ice extent for June was 4.24 million square miles (10.97 million square kilometers), 456,000 square miles below the 1970-2000 average sea ice extent. Sea ice extent for June 2010, 2011, and 2012 has been the lowest in the satellite record.

Greenhouse Gases Focus
July 6, 2012 09:00 AM - Editor, ENN

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it will not further revise greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting thresholds under the Clean Air Act. Today’s final rule is part of EPA’s common-sense, phased-in approach to GHG permitting under the Clean Air Act, announced in 2010 and recently upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The final rule maintains a focus on the nation’s largest emitters that account for nearly 70 percent of the total GHG pollution from stationary sources, while shielding smaller emitters from permitting requirements. EPA is also finalizing a provision that allows companies to set plant-wide emissions limits for GHGs, streamlining the permitting process, increasing flexibilities and reducing permitting burdens on state and local authorities and large industrial emitters.

Fukushima Daiichi Meltdowns Could Have Been Avoided
July 6, 2012 07:28 AM - SCIENCEDaily

A report from a high-powered commission today blasted the government, regulators, and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) for not anticipating and preventing the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Multiple reactor meltdowns and massive radiation releases forced authorities to evacuate 150,000 people from around the plant and shattered confidence in Japan's nuclear industry and in the government's capacity to respond to a disaster. "The TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said parties. They effectively betrayed the nation's right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly 'manmade,' " states the report from the panel, chaired by Kiyoshi Kurokawa, former president of the Science Council of Japan. "We believe that the root causes were the organizational and regulatory systems that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions, rather than issues relating to the competency of any specific individual."

Concentrating Solar Power - No Resource Constraints
July 5, 2012 07:38 AM - ScienceDaily

A recently published study confirms that solar thermal power is largely unrestricted by materials availability. There are, however, some issues that the industry needs to look into soon, like replacing silver in mirrors. In the wake of Chinese export restrictions on rare earth metals, the dependence of some renewable technologies on scarce materials has gained attention. Several players in the wind and PV industry are struggling to get away from excessive use of restricted elements, such as indium or rare earth metals. Meanwhile, there has been a shared notion amongst solar scientists and industry that Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) should "probably" be less restricted, being built mainly on commonplace commodities like steel and glass.

Fish and Soybean Farmers to Shake Hands?
July 3, 2012 12:10 PM - Samantha Neary, Triple Pundit

The open ocean aquaculture industry may have just made a new friend — the soy industry. The Soy Aquaculture Alliance is ever closer to making an agreement to use soy as feed in open ocean fish farming pens in federal waters, a move that would reportedly impact the marine environment as well as the diets of both fish and consumers — and not necessarily in a good way. According to a new report by Food & Water Watch, an independent public interest organization funded through members, individual donors, and foundation grants, a collaboration between these two industries could be devastating to ocean life and consumer health.

Pakistan unveils sustainable development strategy
July 3, 2012 09:31 AM - T.V. Padma, SciDevNet

Pakistan's new national sustainable development strategy (NSDS) boasts a 'green action agenda' and proposes to set up a knowledge management system that is based on science, technology and innovation.

The real disappointment of the Rio+20 Conference
July 3, 2012 07:12 AM - EurActiv

World leaders attending the recent Rio+20 conference agreed to promote sustainable consumption and production, but analysts say getting businesses and buyers to do just that will require far more than words on paper. To the immense disappointment of environmental groups and even some multinational corporations, Rio+20 failed to produce binding commitments or a plan on how to strike a balance between consumer demand and the availability of natural resource. "The current deal on the Rio table is really scraping the barrel — with woolly definitions, old ideas and missing deadlines," said Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth's director of policy and campaigns. "It doesn’t come close to solving the planetary emergency we're facing."

Los Angeles City Council OKs Plastic Bag Ban
July 1, 2012 08:58 PM - Scott Sincoff, ENN

The "City of Angels" is now taking a larger step in environmentalists’ fight against the United States’ plastic usage. Los Angeles, California has become the biggest city in the U.S. to implement a ban on plastic bags at supermarket checkout counters. The legislation—approved 13-1 by Los Angeles City Council on May 24th—was a victory for environmentalists and was the government’s way to tell city residents that they need to do their part in the effort to protect the environment. Los Angeles will also start charging ten cents per paper bag in supermarkets as well. The plan will be phased over a 16-month period in L.A.’s approximately 7,500 supermarkets.

The Story of Fair Trade Tea - Why it's so important
July 1, 2012 06:30 AM - Fair Trade USA, Triple Pundit

Pour a cup of tea, let it steep, and then take a sip as you ponder this fact: After water, tea is the most popular beverage in the world, with 15,000 cups drunk per second. Tea is everywhere — in our cafes, our kitchens, our offices, schools and stores — but how many of us really know the story of each leaf as it travels from field to cup? The tea supply chain is a complex trade network with many different players. Each and every farmer, worker, exporter, importer, processor, auctioneer, buying agent, retailer, café worker and tea drinker in the chain played an important role in bringing you the world’s favorite beverage.

Would more trees in the Arctic absorb carbon, or cause more to be released?
June 27, 2012 05:55 AM - Tom Marshall, Planet Earth Online

Trees colonising formerly open tundra as the climate warms could cause Arctic ecosystems to release vast amounts of stored soil carbon into the atmosphere, a new paper argues. Many climate models have assumed that trees taking over the Arctic, and the enormous increase in plant biomass this would bring, would cause these landscapes to absorb much more carbon than they did before, helping restrain the effects of climate change. But this study suggests that's far from certain. In Scandinavia at least, when tundra heath turns into birch woodland it seems it could release much of the carbon stored in the soil into the air. This will more than counterbalance the fact that a forest holds around twice as much carbon in its biomass. So far from holding climate change in check, accelerated tree growth, and colonisation of treeless landscapes, could speed it up.

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