Environmental Policy

EU considering requiring lower CO2 emissions on new cars
July 12, 2012 10:06 AM - EurActive

New cars and vans in the European Union will produce one-third less carbon dioxide within eight years, under proposed new rules set out on Wednesday (11 July) in Brussels. By 2020, the average emissions from new cars will have to be no more than 95g of carbon dioxide per kilometre driven, a cut of more than 40g from today's levels and of 35g/km compared with the 2015 target, if the proposed new regulations are accepted. Connie Hedegaard, climate chief of the European commission, said the goals were "ambitious but achievable" and would benefit consumers, through fuel cost savings, and help the EU's car-making industry compete with overseas manufacturers. She said: "What we are proposing is a fair and balanced regulation."

Nine Population Strategies to Stop Short of 9 Billion
July 11, 2012 10:01 AM - Cameron Scherer, Worldwatch Institute

Although most analysts assume that the world’s population will rise from today’s 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050, it is quite possible that humanity will never reach this population size, Worldwatch Institute President Robert Engelman argues in the book State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity. In the chapter "Nine Population Strategies to Stop Short of 9 Billion," Engelman outlines a series of steps and initiatives that would all but guarantee declines in birthrates—based purely on the intention of women around the world to have small families or no children at all—that would end population growth before mid-century at fewer than 9 billion people. "Unsustainable population growth can only be effectively and ethically addressed by empowering women to become pregnant only when they themselves choose to do so," Engelman writes. Examples from around the world demonstrate effective policies that not only reduce birth rates, but also respect the reproductive aspirations of parents and support an educated and economically active society that promotes the health of women and girls. Most of these reproduction policies are relatively inexpensive to implement, yet in many places they are opposed on the basis of cultural resistance and political infeasibility.

Egypt's Plans for Science
July 11, 2012 06:48 AM - Hazem Badr, SciDevNet

Egypt's newly elected president, Mohamed Morsi, has ambitious plans for science and is committed to linking research to local needs and boosting private sector science funding, officials say. "Morsi's main strategy is to 'localise' science," Mohamed Sharet, deputy director of the Education and Scientific Research Committee at the Egyptian parliament's lower house, and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), told SciDev.Net. This will require engaging researchers in solving public problems and linking science closely to the needs of local industry.

Long term temperature record reconstructed
July 10, 2012 06:36 AM - EurekAlert from Johannes Gutenberg University

Long term calculations prepared by Mainz scientists will influence the way current climate change is perceived. This important study is published in Nature Climate Change. An international team that includes scientists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) has published a reconstruction of the climate in northern Europe over the last 2,000 years based on the information provided by tree-rings. Professor Dr. Jan Esper's group at the Institute of Geography at JGU used tree-ring density measurements from sub-fossil pine trees originating from Finnish Lapland to produce a reconstruction reaching back to 138 BC. In so doing, the researchers have been able for the first time to precisely demonstrate that the long-term trend over the past two millennia has been towards climatic cooling. "We found that previous estimates of historical temperatures during the Roman era and the Middle Ages were too low," says Esper. "Such findings are also significant with regard to climate policy, as they will influence the way today's climate changes are seen in context of historical warm periods." The new study has been published in the journal "Nature Climate Change".

Copenhagen wins 'European Green Capital"
July 9, 2012 08:57 AM - Editor, Green Traveler Guides

The Danish city of Copenhagen has won the European Green Capital Award for 2014. Copenhagen was chosen for its achievements in "eco-innovation and sustainable mobility," for being a role model for the green economy in Europe and for engaging its citizens to feel they are part of the green solution.

Organic Tomatoes ARE More Nutritious!
July 9, 2012 06:30 AM - Akhila Vijayaraghavan, Triple Pundit

The debate about whether organic food has more nutrients might be finally settled, at least in the case of tomatoes. The latest research from the University of Barcelona shows that organic tomatoes have higher levels of antioxidants than chemically-grown ones. The research team studied and analysed the chemical structure of the Daniela variety of tomato. According to The Daily Mail: "They detected 34 different beneficial compounds in both the organic and conventional version... However they found that overall the organic tomatoes contained higher level of the polyphenols. The scientists says this difference between organic and conventional tomatoes can be explained by the manure used to grown them."

Arctic Sea Ice Continues its Summer Retreat
July 7, 2012 08:28 AM - THOMAS SCHUENEMAN, Global Warming is Real

A rapid decline for Arctic sea ice extent briefly hit daily record lows in June, led by extensive ice loss in the Bering, Kara, and Beaufort Seas, as well as Hudson and Baffin Bay. Snow extent was unusually low for both May and June, reinforcing the continuing pattern of rapid spring snow melt of the past six years. Average Arctic sea ice extent for June was 4.24 million square miles (10.97 million square kilometers), 456,000 square miles below the 1970-2000 average sea ice extent. Sea ice extent for June 2010, 2011, and 2012 has been the lowest in the satellite record.

Greenhouse Gases Focus
July 6, 2012 09:00 AM - Editor, ENN

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it will not further revise greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting thresholds under the Clean Air Act. Today’s final rule is part of EPA’s common-sense, phased-in approach to GHG permitting under the Clean Air Act, announced in 2010 and recently upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The final rule maintains a focus on the nation’s largest emitters that account for nearly 70 percent of the total GHG pollution from stationary sources, while shielding smaller emitters from permitting requirements. EPA is also finalizing a provision that allows companies to set plant-wide emissions limits for GHGs, streamlining the permitting process, increasing flexibilities and reducing permitting burdens on state and local authorities and large industrial emitters.

Fukushima Daiichi Meltdowns Could Have Been Avoided
July 6, 2012 07:28 AM - SCIENCEDaily

A report from a high-powered commission today blasted the government, regulators, and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) for not anticipating and preventing the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Multiple reactor meltdowns and massive radiation releases forced authorities to evacuate 150,000 people from around the plant and shattered confidence in Japan's nuclear industry and in the government's capacity to respond to a disaster. "The TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said parties. They effectively betrayed the nation's right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly 'manmade,' " states the report from the panel, chaired by Kiyoshi Kurokawa, former president of the Science Council of Japan. "We believe that the root causes were the organizational and regulatory systems that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions, rather than issues relating to the competency of any specific individual."

Concentrating Solar Power - No Resource Constraints
July 5, 2012 07:38 AM - ScienceDaily

A recently published study confirms that solar thermal power is largely unrestricted by materials availability. There are, however, some issues that the industry needs to look into soon, like replacing silver in mirrors. In the wake of Chinese export restrictions on rare earth metals, the dependence of some renewable technologies on scarce materials has gained attention. Several players in the wind and PV industry are struggling to get away from excessive use of restricted elements, such as indium or rare earth metals. Meanwhile, there has been a shared notion amongst solar scientists and industry that Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) should "probably" be less restricted, being built mainly on commonplace commodities like steel and glass.

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