Latin America Analysis: Environmental Policy and Deforestation
February 21, 2013 01:06 PM - Carla Almeida, SciDevNet
In a year that was marked by bad news on the environmental front — the polar ice caps melting at an increasing rate, the decline in biodiversity, the failure to reach agreement on climate change, amongst other things — the release of data, at the end of 2012, showing a fall in deforestation in the Amazon, one of the most important biomes in the world, came as a relief. According to estimates by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) — a Brazilian organisation that conducts environmental surveillance programmes in the region — 4,600 km2 of jungle, in Brazilian territory, were deforested between August 2011 and July 2012. This is a drop of 27 per cent, compared with the same period, a year before. Brazil, where deforestation is seen as the main cause of carbon emissions, has set itself a voluntary goal to reduce illegal logging, annually, in the Amazon, to an annual maximum of 3,900 km2 by 2020. The latest figures would seem to indicate that the country is only four per cent shy of reaching its goal. Celebrations, however, have been short-lived. The Amazon's monthly deforestation alert system is already showing a marked increase in the area cleared in the last five months of 2012.
Renewable Energy Capacity Fuels Power Growth in January
February 21, 2013 06:02 AM - THOMAS SCHUENEMAN, Global Warming is Real
The latest Energy Infrastructure Update released yesterday by the Office of Energy Projects at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reports that the US had 1,231 megawatts (MW) of new in-service generating capacity come online in January of 2013 — all of it from renewable sources including wind, solar and biomass. The new capacity for January represents a three-fold increase from the 431 MW of new renewable generating capacity that came online in January of 2012. Wind energy led the pack with six new units providing 958 MW, followed by 16 new solar units generating 267 MW of electricity and six new biomass units for 6 MW of new generation. Nuclear, hydro and all fossil fuel sources, including coal, oil, and natural gas offered no new electrical generating capacity last month.
Food: Sustainability, Security, Self-reliance
February 20, 2013 12:34 PM - Caroline Allen, The Ecologist
Poor harvests and rising food costs have become a depressingly familiar news item, with unusual weather patterns affecting food production across the US, Russia and in the UK. At the same time, more and more people are struggling to feed themselves and their families.
Climate Change Adaptation for Agriculture, Forests
February 20, 2013 10:01 AM - Andrew Burger, Global Warming is Real
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on February 5 released "two comprehensive reports that synthesize the scientific literature on climate change effects and adaptation strategies for U.S. agriculture and forests." The effects of climate change will be profound and far-reaching, according to the two reports, which drew on more than 1,000 peer-reviewed studies carried out by scientists in federal service, universities, non-governmental organizations, industry, tribal lands and the private sector.
Over 35,000 march on Washington demanding climate action and rejection of Canada's 'carbon bomb'
February 19, 2013 09:16 AM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM
Yesterday over 35,000 people rallied in Washington D.C. for urgent action on climate change, which, according to organizers, was the largest climate march in U.S. history. Activists called on the Obama Administration to do much more to tackle climate change, including rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would bring carbon-heavy tar sands oil from Canada through the U.S. to a world market.
Economics of Coal Power Shifting
February 18, 2013 02:03 PM - Dan Ferber, Science
During the presidential campaign last fall, a single message was repeated endlessly in Appalachian coal country: President Barack Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency, critics said, had declared a "war on coal" that was shuttering U.S. coal-fired power plants and putting coal miners out of work. Not so, according to a detailed analysis of coal plant finances and economics presented here yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW). Instead, coal is losing its battle with other power sources mostly on its merits. Although the United States has long generated the bulk of its electricity from coal, over the past six years that share has fallen from 50 percent to 38 percent. Plans for more than 150 new coal-fired power plants have been canceled since the mid-2000s, existing plants have been closed, and in 2012, just one new coal-fired power plant went online in the United States. To investigate the reasons for this decline, David Schlissel, an energy economist and founder of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis in Belmont, Massachusetts, dove deeply into the broader economics of the industry and the detailed finances of individual power plants.
Rapid Expansion of EV Charging Stations Planned
February 18, 2013 06:29 AM - Tina Casey , Triple Pundit
The issue of electric vehicle range anxiety got a thorough airing last week, in the now notorious Tesla vs The New York Times battle. It started when Times reporter John Broder wrote a story about his recent Tesla Model S test drive. While acknowledging that the car itself is a thing of beauty (Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, to be precise) Broder detailed a litany of complaints about the driving experience on a 400-mile trip from Washington D.C. to Boston, primarily focusing on battery life and range. The whole thing ended ingloriously, short of the destination point with a spent battery and a tow truck involved. Of course, taking a 400 mile jaunt (actually more, considering that Broder detoured through New York City) along some of the most heavily traveled arteries in the U.S. during the dead of winter is a dicey proposition under any circumstances, but if Broder set out to demonstrate that electric vehicles are not ready for prime time, he ended up proving something else entirely.
Lead Pollution better, but still an issue
February 17, 2013 08:00 AM - University of California - Santa Cruz , via EurekAlert
Efforts to reduce lead pollution have paid off in many ways, yet the problem persists and will probably continue to affect the health of people and animals well into the future, according to experts speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston. "Things have substantially improved with the virtual elimination of leaded gasoline, restrictions on lead paint, and other efforts to limit releases of industrial lead into the environment. But the historic legacy of lead pollution persists, and new inputs of industrial lead are adding to it," said A. Russell Flegal, professor of environmental toxicology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Climate Change Responses Need Not be All or Nothing
February 16, 2013 08:28 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN
The dialog about climate change, man's role in causing it, and possible responses to limit it or even reverse it, takes on a crisis tone for many. Is this the best way to look at it, and is it the best way to achieve results? For some, this sort of dialog hardens positions and limits our collective ability to do anything. Is there an explanation for why this seems to be happening? An Ohio State University statistician says that the natural human difficulty with grasping probabilities is preventing Americans from dealing with climate change. In a panel discussion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting on Feb. 15, Mark Berliner said that an aversion to statistical thinking and probability is a significant reason that we haven’t enacted strategies to deal with climate change right now.
Marine pollution incidents kill thousands of seabirds - and it could be legal!
February 15, 2013 10:41 AM - Helene Jessop and Alec Taylor, The Ecologist
Between 29 January and 6 February 2013, more than 500 seabirds, mainly guillemots, were killed or rendered helpless by a mystery substance from a pollution event off the south coast of England. Shockingly, these deaths and injuries may have resulted from legal shipping activity. The substance was subsequently identified as a man-made synthetic polymer known as polyisobutene, or PIB. This same substance has also caused the deaths of thousands of other seabirds in recent years in the Irish and North Seas.