Environmental Policy

Carbon emissions set to hit new record high in 2013
November 20, 2013 10:21 AM - Jeremey Hance, MONGABAY.COM

The amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere in 2013 is expected to hit a new high of 36 billion tonnes, according to a Carbon Budget released today by the Global Carbon Project (GCP). This is a 2.1 percent rise from 2012 based on data from the same group.

Plug up the COAL; keep it in the ground!
November 19, 2013 12:43 PM - reprint from UNEP Climate Change Conference

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary UNFCCC, Speaks to the World Coal Association in Warsaw: invest in renewables and leave most of your coal underground. The path forward begins in the past, recognizing that coal played a key role in the history of our economic development. From heating to transportation to the provision of electricity, coal has undoubtedly enabled much of our progress over the last 200 years.

Study estimates 400,000 seabirds are killed by gillnets
November 19, 2013 08:57 AM - Jordanna Dulaney, MONGABAY.COM

A recent study from the Biological Conservation journal brings shocking news: every year across the globe, an estimated 400,000 seabirds are killed by gillnets. Gillnets, a common term for any net used to entangle and catch fish, are used all over the world, and at any depth. These nets, whether used in subsistence or commercial fishing, trap anything that swims through them. When unintended marine wildlife, or "bycatch," is caught in these nets, the results can be significant.

Fukushima fallout
November 19, 2013 07:08 AM - Chris Busby, The Ecologist

A new study finds that radioactive Iodine from Fukushima has caused a significant increase in hypothyroidism among babies in California, 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean. The Fukushima catastrophe has been dismissed as a potential cause of health effects even in Japan, let alone as far away as California. A new study of the effects of tiny quantities of radioactive fallout from Fukushima on the health of babies born in California shows a significant excess of hypothyroidism caused by the radioactive contamination travelling 5,000 miles across the Pacific. The article will be published next week in the peer-reviewed journal Open Journal of Pediatrics.

Atmosphere locked in time
November 18, 2013 11:23 AM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

Amber has long been appreciated for its ability to preserve a moment in time as it encapsulated plant matter, bugs and other organisms. As a tool for ecosystem reconstruction, scientists have learnt a great deal. But recently researchers led by Ralf Tapper of the University of Innsbruck, have begun using amber and other fossil plant resins to reconstruct the composition of Earth's atmosphere from the last 220 million years. The results suggest that atmospheric oxygen was considerably lower in the Earth's geological past than previously assumed.

Children's Congenital Heart Defects Linked to Environmental Toxins
November 18, 2013 11:06 AM - Editor, ENN

Approximately 8 out of every 1,000 newborns have congenital heart defects – abnormalities in the heart's structure that happen due to incomplete or irregular development of the fetus' heart during the first stages of the mother's pregnancy. While some are known to be associated with genetic disorders, the cause of most of these heart defects is unknown. However, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2013, heart defects in children may be associated with their mothers' exposure to specific mixtures of environmental toxins during pregnancy. Researchers examined patterns of congenital heart defects incidence and presence of environmental toxicants in Alberta, Canada. The ongoing research seeks to determine if pregnant women's proximity to organic compounds and metals emitted in the air impacts the risk of heart defects in their children.

2012 death toll for bats reaches 600,000 due to wind turbines
November 18, 2013 09:14 AM - Editor, ENN

Efforts to promote and develop new forms of sustainable energy have pushed wind power to the forefront. However, this type of power comes with a cost – as it often interferes with birds' and bats' migration, killing hundreds of thousands of these winged species. According to a new study from the University of Colorado Denver, more than 600,000 bats were killed by wind energy turbines in 2012. This has serious environmental repercussions as bats help pollinate crops and help control harmful insect pests.

Do drivers appreciate all the advantages of electric vehicles?
November 18, 2013 07:17 AM - BOB SHETH, Electric Forum

If we take a look at the electric vehicle market today and compare it with that of just 10 years ago the differences are enormous. This is an industry which has come on in leaps and bounds and while great progress has been made there is still more improvement in the pipeline. We have seen lighter cars introduced, we have seen better battery capacity and we have seen an array of innovative ideas to reduce the costs of running your electric vehicle. Even though there has been a major increase in the number of electric vehicles sold around the world, is there now a need to educate gasoline/petrol drivers about the benefits of electric vehicles? In many ways the electric vehicle sector has spent so much time improving technology that it has forgotten to educate the wider driving public about the benefits of this new mode of transport. When we say "new mode of transport" many people will not be aware that electric vehicles have been around in some shape or form for over 100 years!

How studying natural disasters can help us plan for future ones
November 17, 2013 09:05 AM - EurekAlert

Were you one of the many people who got stuck in an airport when the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010? It wasn't a major eruption, and it happened a long way from the heart of Europe. But it cost society an absolute fortune by paralysing air traffic across northern Europe. According to Felix Riede, an associate professor of prehistoric archaeology at Aarhus University and the project manager of the Laboratory for Past Disaster Science, global warming and the increasing frequency of natural disasters constitute a huge challenge to modern society, which has a heavy infrastructure and increasing population density. Until now the solutions have involved expensive state intervention and technology-aided approaches, but Riede believes that the past contains a wealth of unexploited resources which could also provide solutions.

Scientists Develop New Technique to Predict Wildfires
November 15, 2013 09:54 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Last year, over 9 million acres were burned in the US alone due to wildfires. While wildfires can be caused by natural events, they often burn out of control and may get to a point where they become uncontrollable, even when managed by firefighters. Despite their sparks of uncertainty and paths of destruction, researchers have found a way to predict wildfire growth through the lifetime of their blazes. Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., and the University of Maryland, have developed a technique that combines cutting-edge simulations of the interaction of weather and fire with newly available satellite observations of active wildfires. This is the first time computer modeling offers the promise of continually-updated daylong predictions.

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