Environmental Policy

Ice Sheets Apparently Can Grow Quickly in Cold Periods
September 15, 2012 08:25 AM - Kieran Mulvaney, Discovery News

How fast can glaciers and ice sheets expand and shrink in response to rapidly changing climatic conditions? It's a question that scientists have been pondering with particular interest of late, with Greenland's Peterman Glacier calving large amounts of ice two years in succession, and much of the island's surface ice melting earlier this summer. Because abrupt climate changes have occurred, across various spatial and temporal scales, at several previous points in the planet's history, scientists can look for prehistorical clues, to see what happened then and thus infer what might happen in a warming 21st century. A team of geologists has done just that, although it has looked for evidence not during previous warm spells, but by looking at two major cooling events in Earth's past.

UPS Earns Top Score Among U.S. Firms On Carbon Disclosure
September 14, 2012 07:04 AM - 3BL Media, Justmeans

For the second consecutive year, UPS (NYSE: UPS) has received the highest score in the 2012 Carbon Disclosure Project's "Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index" of S&P companies, receiving a 99 out of 100. UPS is one of only two U.S. companies to achieve the high score, reflecting the company’s commitment to transparency and leadership with regards to carbon reporting and performance in mitigating environmental impact. UPS is the only company from the Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P) Industrials sector to receive the highest score. Only four companies in the world received scores of 99 or higher. According to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), companies are scored on their climate change disclosure and high scores indicate good internal data management and understanding of climate change related issues affecting the company. Results from the 2012 Carbon Disclosure Project indicate that S&P 500 companies are making significant strides with regards to transparency and progress on carbon goals, narrowing the gap with Global 500 companies. The average performance score of the S&P 500 increased by 44% with assurance of emissions data nearly doubling, signaling a greater commitment to transparency and accuracy.

Climate models will need to evolve to account for climate change, report finds
September 13, 2012 10:02 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Climate trends and predictions are used to make decisions in more fields than one would expect. From farmers and fishermen, to insurance companies, to mayors and decision-makers concerned about emergency preparedness planning, to the general public, knowing about floods, droughts, heat waves and extreme storms help us prepare our businesses and daily activities. Because of climate change, we can no longer rely on historic norms and climate patterns that models use to predict future events. Despite recent progress in developing reliable climate models, there are still efficiencies to be gained across the large and diverse U.S. climate modeling community.

Mysterious Rise in Ocean Salinity
September 13, 2012 06:13 AM - RICHARD MATTHEWS, Global Warming is Real

Scientists have observed unexpected changes in the seawater salinity and they are increasingly concerned about the potential impact on ocean currents. The salinity of seawater can accelerate the water cycle which can cause extreme weather events like floods and drought. To investigate the issue of ocean salinity scientists have boarded the research vessel Knorr, which set sail on September 6, 2012. NASA’s Aquarius instrument is part of a separate research project that has been measuring seawater salinity from space since August 2011. In addition to ocean salinity, researchers are exploring the water cycle which involves the ways that water circulates between the Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, and land. This process involves precipitation and return to the atmosphere by evaporation and transpiration.

If Corporations Are People, Then Why Not Rivers?
September 12, 2012 09:12 AM - RP Siegel, Triple Pundit

In 1982, filmmaker Godfrey Reggio released a film called KOYAANISQATSI. The title is the Hopi word for "life out of balance," and it deals with the relationship between man and nature. I was reminded of this film when I read the news item about the government of New Zealand granting legal personhood to the Whanganui River.

Global Auto Production Driving to New Record
September 12, 2012 06:10 AM - Michael Renner | VITAL SIGNS ONLINE, Worldwatch Institute

Production of passenger vehicles (cars and light trucks) rose from 74.4 million in 2010 to 76.8 million in 2011—and 2012 may bring an all-time high of 80 million or more vehicles, according to new research conducted for our Vital Signs Online service. Global sales of passenger vehicles increased from 75.4 million to 78.6 million over the same period, with a projected 81.8 million in 2012. The major driver of increased production and sales are the so-called emerging economies, especially China. Rising sales translate into ever-expanding fleets. An estimated 691 million passenger cars were on the world's roads in 2011. When both light- and heavy-duty trucks are included, the number rises to 979 million vehicles, which was 30 million more than just a year earlier. By the end of 2012, the global fleet could top 1 billion vehicles—one for every seven people on the planet.

Wind Power and Climate Change
September 11, 2012 09:02 AM - ScienceDaily

Though there is enough power in Earth's winds to be a primary source of near-zero emission electric power for the world, large-scale high altitude wind power generation is unlikely to substantially affect climate. That is the conclusion of a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory climate scientist and collaborators who studied the geophysical limits to global wind power in a paper appearing in the Sept. 9 edition of the journal Nature Climate Change. "The future of wind energy is likely to be determined by economic, political and technical constraints rather than geophysical limits," said Kate Marvel, lead author of the paper and a scientist in the Laboratory's Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison.

Global Carbon Trading Takes a Big Step Forward
September 10, 2012 09:30 AM - RP Siegel, Triple Pundit

It has often been pointed out that our modern world could quickly become cleaner, safer, and more sustainable if only externalities, such as air pollution or carbon emissions, were internalized, so that they could be captured and factored into the economic equation. Then, as the argument goes, free market forces would provide the needed behavioral reforms and technological innovations.

What Caused the Significant Fish Mortality in Lake Erie?
September 8, 2012 08:23 AM - Miguel Llanos, NBC News

Tens of thousands of dead fish that washed up on Lake Erie beaches in Ontario, Canada -- and had locals wondering if something or someone had poisoned the water -- were likely killed by a lack of oxygen caused when lake sediment was stirred up, the province reported Friday. Water samples "do not show evidence of a manure spill or anything unusual in terms of contaminants," Ministry of Environment spokeswoman Kate Jordan told NBC News. Jordan said it wasn't known if the die-off was unprecedented, but that "it was a significant number -- tens of thousands." The fish were found along 25 miles of beach, with locals first coming across them on Monday.

Pillaging the Moon for the Promise of Space Energy
September 7, 2012 02:47 PM - Amy Shira Teitel, Discovery News

Between 1969 and 1972, Apollo astronauts brought just under 842 pounds of rocks and regolith back from the Moon. In 1985, engineers at the University of Wisconsin discovered significant amounts of Helium-3 in the lunar soil. Helium-3 is a stable isotope of helium -- the gas we use to fill party balloons with -- and is notable because it's missing a neutron, an important property that means we can used it in nuclear fusion reactions to produce clean energy. Unfortunately, our most plentiful stores of the isotope are a quarter of a million miles away. Current nuclear power plants use fission reactors, splitting uranium nuclei to release energy. This heat turns water into steam that drives a turbine to produce electricity. Unfortunately, radioactivity, spent nuclear fuel reprocessed into uranium, plutonium, and radioactive waste are by-products of this reaction. To get away from fission power, scientists have been working on nuclear fusion energy.

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