Environmental Policy

With Effective Roadmaps and Political Will, Governments Can Create Healthier, Livable Cities
December 18, 2012 10:45 AM - Cameron Scherer, Worldwatch Institute

By harnessing an innovative mix of tools and approaches, governments can strengthen the economies of urban areas and improve their overall livability, according to research presented in the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity. Today, nearly 1 billion of the world’s poor live in urban areas that are dangerously overcrowded and lack adequate access to basic sanitation and clean water, with wide-ranging health and environmental impacts. But even in wealthier countries, governments face serious challenges in making their cities more inclusive, sustainable, and livable. In 2010, informal urban settlements, known more commonly as slums, housed approximately one-third of the urban population of developing countries. "Slum populations are often viewed as an eyesore, but few realize that the urban poor are at the core of a city’s economy, accounting for a large share of employment and performing essential functions for the city," said Eric Belsky, Managing Director of Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and State of the World 2012 contributing author.

How Can the Performance of Batteries in Electric Cars be Improved?
December 18, 2012 06:10 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

I have been driving a Chevy VOLT for a year and a half. I have more than 26,000 miles on it, and have used 100 gallons of gasoline. That works out to more than 250 mpg. Of course, I have been charging the VOLT at home every night, and at the office during the day but my electric bills at both places are not noticeably higher. It would be nice if the electric range were a bit longer, but the gasoline engine on board that charges the batteries guarantees that I can keep driving as long as I need to. What are the limiting factors to increasing the range of the lithium ion batteries? Researchers led by Ohio State University engineers examined used car batteries and discovered that over time lithium accumulates beyond the battery electrodes — in the "current collector," a sheet of copper which facilitates electron transfer between the electrodes and the car's electrical system. This knowledge could aid in improving design and performance of batteries, explained Bharat Bhushan, Ohio Eminent Scholar and the Howard D. Winbigler Professor of Mechanical Engineering. "Our study shows that the copper current collector plays a role in the performance of the battery," he said.

Vegetables in Israel Carry Heavy Pesticide Residue
December 16, 2012 08:14 AM - Miriam Kresh, Green Prophet

Are Israelis eating a mouthful of pesticides for breakfast? If there's one food group that Israelis love, it's vegetables. In fact, all over the Middle East, vegetables are treated with love and presented at table in infinite artful ways. And people are picky about their produce, carefully inspecting each tomato and cucumber before consenting to buy. But health hazards lurk on the well-loved produce. According to Haaretz, 11% of produce tested by the Israel Health Ministry showed unacceptably high levels of pesticide residues. Of over 5000 samples taken from 108 kinds of foods, 56% had traces of different pesticides.

EPA Reviews PM2.5 Standards, Expects Counties to Comply by 2020
December 14, 2012 02:50 PM - Allison Winter, ENN

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized an update to its national air quality standards for PM2.5 today, setting the annual health standard at 12 micrograms per cubic meter. PM2.5 is the term used for particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers (which is approximately 1/30th of the width of a human hair). It is a harmful fine particle pollutant that comes from wood burning, soot, power plants, and motor vehicles.

The Incredible Elephants of the Sahara
December 14, 2012 09:20 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

African elephants are known for hanging around rivers and mashes in the savanna and the edge of jungles. However, their range actually extends well into the north, all the way up to the Sahara desert. In Mali’s Gourma region, around the city of Timbuktu, there exists a species of desert-adapted African elephant (Loxodonta Africana). Every year, they undertake an amazing migration across an area of 32,000 square kilometers (over 12,000 square miles) in search of food and water. This annual journey was recently recorded by researchers from the group Save the Elephants, University of British Columbia, and Oxford University, who attached GPS collars to nine of the elephants and tracking them by satellite. Their report documents the elephants’ record-breaking trek to survive in the largest and harshest elephant range in the world.

Lawsuit Targets $3 Billion in U.S. Funding for Fossil Fuel Project in Australia's Great Barrier Reef
December 14, 2012 08:52 AM - Editor, Center for Biological Diversity

Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the U.S. Export-Import Bank's nearly $3 billion in financing for a massive Australian fossil fuel facility in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Construction and operation of the liquefied natural gas facility will threaten sea turtles, dugongs and many other protected marine species, as well as the Great Barrier Reef itself.

Britain Lifting Ban on Shale Gas Exploration
December 14, 2012 06:10 AM - EurActive

Britain lifted its ban on shale gas exploration this week despite environmental fears as it aims to become a European leader in a sector that has transformed the U.S. energy market. The approval of shale gas fracking from Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey comes approximately a year and a half after UK authorities halted the unconventional exploration process after it set off earth tremors at one site. Shale reserves have been viewed as a way to counter the UK's fall in natural gas production. Europe's largest gas consumer, Britain in May 2011 put a temporary stop to hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" for shale gas after earth tremors were measured near the site close to Blackpool.

The Future of New York After Sandy
December 14, 2012 05:56 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

It will take tens of billions of dollars to repair the damage of Superstorm Sandy. Will this be the norm of the future as climate changes and the sea level rises? If it is the new norm then repairs though necessary are not enough and a change in planning is necessary. Coastal storms will more likely cause flooding. How do you then spend limited funds to both repair New York and its environs and to improve coastal defenses against flooding? This is not just physical barriers but how people live in the area they want to live in.

Nepal, Bhutan to assess air pollutants
December 13, 2012 06:32 AM - Smriti Mallapaty

The Himalayan countries of Nepal and Bhutan will, in 2013, have two permanent air monitoring observatories set up by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) as part of a programme to reduce black carbon and other short-lived climate-forcing pollutants (SLCPs). There has been increasing international attention on SLCPs — small particles and gases like black carbon, methane, and ozone — because of their warming effect on climate. Acting in decades — rather than the centuries taken by greenhouse gases like carbon di-oxide — SLCPs negatively impact human health and agricultural output. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition, launched by the United Nations Environment Programme in 2011 to reduce SLCPs, has now grown to 33 member-countries.

NRDC’s Plan To Reduce Power Plant Emissions
December 12, 2012 08:40 AM - Gina-Marie Cheeseman, Triple Pundit

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a proposal to reduce power plant pollution by 26 percent by 2020 and 34 percent by 2025. The plan's key component is that the EPA, partnering with states, would set new carbon pollution standards under the Clean Air Act. The benefits of the plan, if carried out, outweigh the costs by 15 times as much. The price tag in 2020 would be $4 billion, but benefits would be $25 to 60 billion, six to 15 times greater than the costs.

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