Environmental Policy

Massachusetts Leads the Divestment Charge
January 27, 2013 07:48 AM - LESLIE FRIDAY/ecoRI News

Harvard University is a world leader in higher education, but sophomore Chloe Maxmin wants her college to also blaze trails battling climate change. The social studies and environmental science major helps coordinate Divest Harvard, an offshoot of a 350.org-sponsored campaign pushing colleges, local governments, nonprofits and pensions to divest from the 200 companies with a majority of the fossil-fuel reserves. Maxmin's group started speaking to students in August about the urgency for action on global climate change while pitching divestment as a powerful financial tool. The group then launched a successful petition drive that placed divestment on last November’s student ballot and earned 72 percent support for a non-binding referendum urging Harvard to steer its $31 billion endowment away from fossil fuels. Divest Harvard's next step is to meet Feb. 1 with Harvard's Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility to pitch its case.

Breakthrough Treaty on Limiting Mercury Emissions
January 26, 2013 08:18 AM - Yojana Sharma, SciDevNet

A legally binding global treaty to curb mercury in the environment, agreed after a week of gruelling negotiations in Geneva, will also include a funding facility to assist developing countries in phasing out the toxic heavy metal in industrial processes and in artisanal gold mining in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Minamata Convention on Mercury, named after the Japanese port where people suffered serious health effects from mercury pollution in the 1950s, was agreed by more than 140 countries after week-long talks in Geneva leading up to all-night negotiations on Saturday (19 January).

European Carbon Market in trouble
January 25, 2013 05:45 AM - EurActive

EU carbon prices briefly slid 40% to a record low after politicians opposed plans to support the market, raising concerns prices could hit zero and sending a warning to European governments to pull together in lowering carbon emissions. Prices in the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS) on Thursday (24 January) dropped to €2.81 a metric tonne after a vote in the European Parliament's energy and industry committee opposing a scheme known as "backloading" - or supporting prices by extracting allowances from the market and reinjecting them later. In volatile trade, they later climbed back above €4.

From Light Green to Sustainable Buildings
January 23, 2013 05:04 PM - Supriya Kumar, Worldwatch Institute

As more people move to urban areas in search of economic opportunities, the number of buildings that are needed to house them continues to rise. It is estimated that by 2030, an additional 1.4 billion people will live in cities, of which 1.3 billion will dwell in cities of developing countries. The increasing number of buildings has long-term impacts on both the environment and natural resources. Fortunately, a variety of policy tools hold promise for promoting sustainability in buildings, according to Kaarin Taipale, contributing author of the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity. The buildings in which we live and work are a major consumer of energy, responsible for some 30—40 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions, a similar share of total solid waste, and 12 percent of all fresh water used. With the rate of urbanization reaching record levels, there will be more construction and buildings than ever before.

EPA Finalizes Vapor Intrusion Regulations
January 23, 2013 03:38 PM - Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, Sive Paget & Riesel, P.C.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") recently finalized the first of several pending guidance documents and regulations governing the evaluation and mitigation of vapor intrusion at contaminated sites, a growing area of focus that has thus far been regulated primarily on the state level. EPA’s new guidance requires regional EPA offices to address vapor intrusion risks during the five-year reviews for most completed Superfund cleanups.

Rise of the Dead in Israel
January 23, 2013 08:37 AM - Tim Wall, Discovery News

The Dead rose in Israel last week, but it wasn’t the Rapture or a zombie apocalypse. Heavy rains caused the Dead Sea to rise by 10 centimeters (4 in.), reported the Times of Israel.

Europe is Worried that Oil Shale will be a big economic advantage for the US
January 23, 2013 06:14 AM - EurActive

A US industrial boost following its ability to tap abundant shale gas reserves is provoking fears that imperilled energy-intensive European businesses will find it harder than ever to compete. But calls for the EU to deliver a 'silver bullet' and emulate the US by tapping shale gas through 'fracking' remain controversial because of environmental and logistical concerns. Partly due to its shale reserves, the United States is expected to become almost self-sufficient in oil and gas by 2035 and will overtake Russia in gas production by 2015 and Saudi Arabia in oil production by 2017, a recent International Energy Agency forecast shows.

NASA Images Reveal 'Kuwait on the Prairie'
January 22, 2013 10:03 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Last month, we published a story about newly released NASA satellite images and we were amazed at the quality and detail of the pictures. Looking at the United States at night, we expect to see patches of light around major cities and brightness from dense populations along the coasts. But after studying the photos, Rovert Krulwich a correspondent for NPR, reports on a mysterious patch of light that shows up in North Dakota. With a population of under 700,000 for the whole state, and a state who’s largest industry is agriculture, what can these lights possibly be from?

President Obama Promises Action on Climate Change
January 22, 2013 05:57 AM - Bill DiBenedetto, Triple Pundit

President Obama's forceful pledge to "respond to the threat of climate change" during his second inaugural address Monday was both specific and somewhat surprising. Also bold and welcome. Coming in the wake of the federal government's 1146-page National Climate Assessment ten days earlier, which makes for some pretty scary reading, his statements underscored in a major way why climate change has to be an urgent national priority. That's because failing to act will "betray our children and future generations," Obama said.

Overpopulation Is Huge Concern - Alexandra Paul's TEDX Talk
January 20, 2013 02:43 PM - Jesse Thé – Editor-in-Chief

Every major global issue requires spearheading by influential individuals. Global warming had Al Gore and the famine in Ethiopia in the 80s had the fundraising supergroup Band Aid. At long last, the issue of overpopulation is being raised by someone with good exposure in the media. Alexandra Paul, host of the PBS documentary JAMPACKED and star of over 75 films and televisions shows, including the series Baywatch, gave a speech on overpopulation to the TEDX event in Topanga, California. Link to the story for a link to the video. Alexandra explains correctly that modern man first showed up on earth 200,000 years ago. By 1830 there were 1 billion people on the planet. Therefore, it took 200,000 years for humans to put the first billion humans on earth. The second billion we added in just 100 years. Now, we add 1 billion people every 12 years.

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