Environmental Policy

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution innovates to help track Arctic Ice
August 4, 2012 07:17 AM - Neila Columbo, Sierra Club Green Home

As the Arctic sea ice continues to melt, an initiative led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is trying to predict out future changes to the Arctic and how this will affect the environment. In 2004, John Toole and his research team at Woods Hole Oceanic Institute (WHOI) developed a new way to measure changes in the Arctic as part of the Arctic Observing Network, an international collaboration of scientists studying the Arctic polar climate and ecosystem. Computer models suggest significant impacts in this region will occur in the next few years, and it is of great concern to scientists to know how these shifts will affect ocean stratification and circulation, ecosystems, and global weather patterns. "The Earth's climate system is changing in response to the increase of carbon levels in the atmosphere. Computer models seem to suggest in the next 100 years or earlier, say by mid-century, the ice cover of the Arctic may disappear mid-summer each year, and some models suggests once it begins to disappear, it could go very quickly, perhaps over the course of ten years," says Toole. "The Arctic may function more like the Antarctic in the future with a highly seasonal ice cover — little in mid-late summer, and a broad, thin coverage in winter."

The US is now Exporting Coal - is this good?
August 3, 2012 06:56 AM - RP Siegel, Triple Pundit

We all know that the journey to a sustainable existence on this planet is going to be a difficult one. Indeed, it might well be what former Xerox CEO David Kearns said of the company’s quest for quality, "a race without a finish line." I say this because absolute sustainability is an ideal that can only be approached. But we need to accelerate our approach to it if we hope to continue to thrive here for generations to come. There will be difficult choices to make, and priorities to set, many of which, like in today's story, will involve trading off short term and long term benefits. At this point, thanks in large part to Wall Street, the game is heavily rigged on the side of the short term, and that is going to have to change if we are to have any hope of averting disaster in the brief time remaining, especially when it comes to climate change.

Update: Electric Car Sales
August 2, 2012 07:23 AM - Guest Author, Clean Techies

In a few weeks, we’ll come upon the four-year anniversary of when candidate Barack Obama proposed that America put 1 million plug-in electric vehicles on our roads by 2015. Even before the sale of the first Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf, most observers knew that hitting the seven-figure mark by 2015 was more aspirational than an actual goal. Recent sales numbers for EVs in the U.S. have revealed market challenges facing battery-powered cars. Last week, Nissan reported that June 2012 sales of its electric Leaf reached 535 units—less than one-third of the 1,708 LEAFs sold in June 2011. Throughout 2012, monthly sales numbers have hovered around the 500-unit mark. That’s a troubling sign for EVs because Nissan had announced that its sales would double from 9,674 in 2011 to nearly 20,000 units this year. If trends continue, Nissan’s Leaf-manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tennessee—expected to come online in December—could operate well below its capacity of 150,000 units annually.

EPA and Flame Retardants
July 31, 2012 11:44 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Decabromodiphenyl ether is not much of a household word. It has been used in some flame retardants but its environmental effects are far from clear. In its quest to identify possible substitutes for a toxic flame retardant chemical known as decabromodiphenyl ether, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a draft report on potential alternatives. This comprehensive assessment, developed with public participation under EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program, profiles the environmental and human health hazards on 30 alternatives to decaBDE, which will be phased out of production by December 2013.

Humpback Whales alter migration pattern, stay in Antarctic waters longer
July 31, 2012 06:31 AM - ScienceDaily

Large numbers of humpback whales are remaining in bays along the Western Antarctic Peninsula to feast on krill late into the austral autumn, long after their annual migrations to distant breeding grounds were believed to begin, according to a new Duke University study. The study, published July 30 in the journal Endangered Species Research, provides the first density estimates for these whales in both open and enclosed habitats along the peninsula in late autumn.

Pacific Coral Triangle 'at risk of collapse'
July 30, 2012 04:20 PM - Nora Gamolo, SciDevNet

The Coral Triangle, a roughly triangular marine zone in the Indo-Pacific region that is considered to have the world's richest concentration of marine biodiversity, is facing potential ecological collapse due to heavy pressure inflicted by human activities, according to a new report. The warning appears in a collaborative study, 'Reefs at Risk Revisited in the Coral Triangle', produced by a consortium led by the World Resources Institute, a global environmental think-tank based in Washington DC, United States. It serves as a status report on the wellbeing of coral reefs in or near the six countries comprising the triangle.

Electric Car Sales Still Slower Than Expected
July 30, 2012 06:28 AM - Brad Berman, Clean Techies

In a few weeks, we'll come upon the four-year anniversary of when candidate Barack Obama proposed that America put 1 million plug-in electric vehicles on our roads by 2015. Even before the sale of the first Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf, most observers knew that hitting the seven-figure mark by 2015 was more aspirational than an actual goal. Recent sales numbers for EVs in the U.S. have reveal market challenges facing battery-powered cars. Last week, Nissan reported that June 2012 sales of its electric Leaf reached 535 units—less than one-third of the 1,708 LEAFs sold in June 2011. Throughout 2012, monthly sales numbers have hovered around the 500-unit mark. That’s a troubling sign for EVs because Nissan had announced that its sales would double from 9,674 in 2011 to nearly 20,000 units this year. If trends continue, Nissan’s Leaf-manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tennessee—expected to come online in December—could operate well below its capacity of 150,000 units annually.

Is it Safe to Eat that Fish you caught?
July 29, 2012 09:25 AM - ROWAN SHARP/ecoRI

On a recent afternoon, a few hours before dusk, Brian Watson, of South Providence, sat in a red fabric lawn chair on the wooden dock at India Point Park. Watson was fishing for bluefish and striped bass — "blues and stripers" — as he has for the past seven years, and he always eats his catch. Does he worry about the safety of taking fish from heavily urban waters? "If the water wasn’t good, they wouldn't let us fish," he said.

Hybrid Polar/Grizzly Bears showing up in the Arctic
July 28, 2012 07:52 AM - YALE Environment 360

Two Canadian biologists have reported sighting a handful of grizzly bears and hybrid grizzly/polar bears at unusually high latitudes in the Arctic, indicating that the interbreeding of the two bear species is becoming more common as the climate warms and grizzlies venture farther north. The sightings of three grizzly bears and two hybrid bears, made in late April and May, represent an unprecedented cluster of these animals at such high latitudes. The biologists even took DNA samples from a grizzly bear at 74 degrees North latitude. The report of the sightings comes on the heels of a recently published analysis of newly sequenced polar bear genomes, suggesting that climate change and genetic exchange with brown bears helped create the polar bear as we know it today. The genetic mixing that the Pennsylvania State and University of Buffalo analysis identified happening in the past — in which polar bears would interbreed with grizzly bears as the polar bears' sea ice habitat shrunk — is now happening again, according to bear biologists.

Mineral Rush in Greenland; Independence May be Around the Corner
July 27, 2012 09:33 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Greenland is an autonomous territory of the Kingdom of Denmark. The Danish government had ruled over it until 1979 when the island was granted home rule. However, the Danes still control Greenland's foreign affairs, defense, police, justice system, and financial policy. Recently, however, Greenland has been courted by multinational companies and foreign leaders looking to exploit its rare minerals and potential oil reserves. The new attention brought to the island is leading Greenland's premier, Kuupik Kleist, to seriously consider moving toward full independence.

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