Environmental Policy

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
August 25, 2013 08:56 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN, Electric Forum

Electric vehicles will catch on when there are enough charging stations to make their widespread use really practical, and manufacturers will offer more EV's for sale when there is a market for them! I love driving my Tesla Model S, but have to admit that for some overnight trips I take an older internal combustion engine powered car since it is still hard to find a hotel with a charging station that I can plug in to for a battery top-off. So which comes first, more electric cars, or more charging stations? There has been a massive increase in the number of electric vehicles and complimentary products released into the marketplace over the last few weeks. There is now growing suspicion that a number of EV manufacturers, and electric car charging companies, have been holding back products and services until they deemed the market was open to new ideas and new products. This may seem a little bizarre when you consider that the EV businesses will want to see as quick a return as possible or on their investments but every day now we see new products and new services being released. While the Tesla Model S certainly caught the headlines when released earlier this year we have also seen BMW introduce its first mainstream electric vehicle, Chevrolet look to reduce the headline cost of its vehicles and earlier this week we saw the introduction of a foldaway electric car. At this moment in time there is a constant flurry of new innovations and new products to the marketplace and while they are catching the headlines today we can only hope the industry does not run out of steam.

Sea Levels dropped in 2010 -2011, why?
August 22, 2013 06:21 AM - ScienceDaily

In 2011, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the University of Colorado at Boulder reported that between early 2010 and summer 2011, global sea level fell sharply, by about a quarter of an inch, or half a centimeter. Using data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) spacecraft, they showed that the drop was caused by the very strong La Nina that began in late 2010. That La Nina changed rainfall patterns all over our planet, moving huge amounts of Earth's water from the ocean to the continents. The phenomenon was short-lived, however. A unique and complex set of circumstances came together over Australia from 2010 to 2011 to cause Earth's smallest continent to be the biggest contributor to the observed drop in global sea level rise during that time, finds a new study co-authored and co-funded by NASA.

Plans to Remap Coastal Areas after Hurricane Sandy Announced this week
August 21, 2013 08:57 AM - Editor, ENN

Preliminary U.S. damage from Hurricane Sandy that hit the East Coast in October of last year is estimated to be near $50 billion, making Sandy the second-costliest cyclone to hit the United States since 1900. Full recovery from Sandy will take years, but plans for remapping altered seafloors and shorelines were announced yesterday by a joint collaboration between the USGS, NOAA, and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The project includes acquiring data to update East Coast land maps and nautical charts by conducting a new survey of coastal waters and shorelines.

Warning Labels for Gasoline Pumps?
August 20, 2013 01:28 PM - Allison Winter, ENN

Tobacco packaging warning messages have recently been required on cigarettes and other tobacco products in many countries worldwide in an effort to enhance the public's awareness of the harmful effects of smoking. In a similar fashion, a Canadian campaign is calling for all gasoline pumps to have warming labels on nozzles to inform consumers on the effects fuels have on climate change. Michelle Reeves at Our Horizon, the non-profit executing the campaign, states, "It's a cheap, simple idea that has the potential to change the way we think about, and address, climate change. They are modeled after cigarette package warning labels, which have been proven to work. Some people's behavior might change, but our ultimate goal is to create a shift in the political will to demand for alternatives, and create a space in the market for affordable alternative mobility solutions."

Light Ordinance in France has Benefits for Wildlife
August 19, 2013 11:56 AM - Editor, ENN

Last month, France implemented one of the world's most comprehensive "lights out" ordinances. Conditions include turning off shop lights between 1 a.m. to 7 a.m., shutting off lights inside office buildings within an hour of workers leaving the premises, and waiting only until sunset before turning lights on, on building facades. Over the next two years, regulations restricting lighting on billboards will also go into effect. These rules are designed to eventually cut carbon dioxide emissions by 250,000 tons per year, conserve energy consumption, and cut the country's overall energy bill by 200 million Euros ($266 million).

Living with Urban Wildlife: Non-lethal Control
August 19, 2013 08:49 AM - Toni V. Shephard, The Ecologist

The human population has surpassed seven billion and continues to increase by a quarter of a million people every day. That's 150 additional people every minute, all needing energy, water, food and space to inhabit. The inevitable and unrelenting urban expansion which results leaves precious few natural refuges for other species. No surprise then that habitat loss and degradation is the number one cause of global biodiversity loss. Yet, some versatile species - such as foxes, rats, pigeons and gulls - manage to not only survive but thrive in our artificial landscapes. Sadly, few people see these animals as triumphant vestiges of the natural world but rather unwelcome scroungers who dare to live in our midst. Toni V. Shephard notes that less and less of us are prepared to deal with 'pests' using the traditional method i.e. killing them, and offers her perspectives and solutions on human/wildlife conflict...

How much will climate change cost coastal cities?
August 19, 2013 06:06 AM - Jörg Dietze/Sustainable sanitation, SciDevNet

Global damage from flooding could cost coastal cities as much as US$1 trillion per year — and developing countries will be hardest hit, a study warns. According to the paper published today in Nature Climate Change, a "risk sensitive planning" strategy is needed to protect coastal cities, which are increasingly at risk because of climate change, subsidence and a growing population.

Is the linear dose-response model valid?
August 18, 2013 07:41 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Scientists commonly use the linear dose-response model to estimate the potential health hazards of everything from radiation to asbestos, to toxic organic chemicals. There are some who question this model which usually takes data from extremely high-dose lab experiments with animals and extrapolates the observed effects using a liner line to a zero dose. What is wrong with this approach is that at least for some hazardous substances, there is a dose below which there is not only no adverse effect, there is a positive effect! Think of the metals in your multi-vitamins, for example. So why is the linear no threshold model used? Good question. Some may argue that is is inherently conservative, so it should be used to be sure we are protecting people. In two recently published peer-reviewed articles, toxicologist Edward Calabrese of the University of Massachusetts Amherst describes how regulators came to adopt the linear no threshold (LNT) dose-response approach to ionizing radiation exposure in the 1950s, which was later generalized to chemical carcinogen risk assessment. He also offers further evidence to support his earlier assertions that two geneticists deliberately suppressed evidence to prevent the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) from considering an alternative, threshold model, for which there was experimental support. Calabrese's articles appear in the July 26 and August 4 issues of Archives of Toxicology.

Pesticide risks need more research and regulation
August 16, 2013 09:47 AM - Editor, SciDevNet

Developing countries need stronger pesticide regulation and a better understanding of how pesticides behave in tropical climates, according to experts behind a series of articles published in Science today. They also need an international body to carry out regular pesticide safety assessments — ensuring they are used properly by farmers who are given thorough training in their use — and to monitor the safety of chemical levels in food, the experts say.

Finally: Obama Green Lights Solar Panels on White House
August 16, 2013 08:54 AM - Leon Kaye, Triple Pundit

Details are not yet final, but President Obama has finally allowed retrofitting the White House roof to allow for solar panels. No, this is not a plot from HBO's hit series Veep: it is finally happening. The final total of panels will range between 20 and 50 solar panels according to Think Progress and the Washington Post—perhaps enough to power a few flat screen TVs or power the equivalent of 15 seconds of flight on Air Force One. It is a step that is surely attracting all kinds of buzz in and outside of Washington, DC, one either seen as a token effort, a sign of leadership on sustainability, or as a yawner. The installation falls on the heels of a 2010 promise Obama had made to install a rooftop solar system.

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