Pollution

Illegal gold mining in Brazil exposing indigenous peoples to high levels of mercury
April 5, 2016 11:52 AM - Sarina Kidd / Survival International, The Ecologist

Illegal gold mining in the Amazon has a devastating effect on indigenous peoples, writes Sarina Kidd. First the miners bring disease, deforestation and even murder. Then long after they have gone, communities are left to suffer deadly mercury poisoning. Now the UN has been called on to intervene.

In Brazil, new statistics reveal alarming rates of mercury poisoning amongst the Yanomami and Yekuana. 90% of Indians in one community are severely affected, with levels far above that recommended by the WHO.

Mercury poisoning is devastating tribal peoples across Amazonia, Survival International has warned.

 

Scotland shuts down its last coal-fired electric power plant
April 2, 2016 08:16 AM - s.e. smith, Care2

After nearly 50 years of service, Scotland’s last coal-fired power plant — Longannet Power Station — has finally gone offline, putting an end to over 100 years of burning coal for electricity.

It’s an important moment for Scottish Power, which looks ahead to clean power initiatives with the goal of going all-renewable by 2020,

But it’s also a very symbolic action for the world. Hopefully other nations will follow suit, creating a domino effect as country by country eliminates its coal plants — like the one above — in favor of renewable alternatives.

The past, present and future of African dust
March 28, 2016 07:19 AM - National Center for Scientific Research

So much dust is scattered across the planet by the winds of the Sahara that it alters the climate. However, the emission and transport of this dust, which can reach the poles, fluctuate considerably. Although many hypotheses have been put forward to explain this phenomenon, no unambiguous relationship between this dust and the climate had been established until now. According to research carried out by a French-US team of researchers from LATMOS(CNRS/UVSQ/UPMC), CNRM(CNRS/Météo-France) and SIO3, meteorological events such as El Niño and rainfall in the Sahel have an impact on dust emission, by accelerating a Saharan wind downstream of the main mountain massifs of Northwest Africa. The scientists have also developed a new predictive model showing that emissions of Saharan dust will decline over the next hundred years. Their work is published in the 24 March 2016 issue of the journal Nature.

Supreme Court and the Obama Administration's Climate Plans
March 16, 2016 08:15 AM - michael b. gerrard, Yale Environment360

Two unexpected and shocking events have left heads swimming about the fate of President Obama’s signature initiative on climate change, the Clean Power Plan, which aims to replace many coal-fired power plants — the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States — with cleaner sources of energy.

Last Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on the Clean Power Plan until the litigation against it is finally resolved, suspending implementation of the plan for the foreseeable future. The vote was 5-4, along the customary ideological lines, and it led to great concern, bordering on quiet despair, among proponents of the plan. who now believed that the Supreme Court would ultimately strike it down. Opponents of the plan, including the coal industry, rejoiced.
 

The court’s order blocking Obama’s Clean Power Plan provides an opportunity for the U.S. to show other nations it has a flexible approach to cutting emissions, David Victor writes.

Recycled water may be a solution to the California drought
March 15, 2016 08:37 AM - 3BL Media, Care2

The severity and impact of the drought remains top-of-mind among Californians. They are eager for long-term solutions that can help the state to achieve a water-secure future.  California residents are overwhelmingly supportive of using treated wastewater, or recycled water, in their everyday lives, according to a statewide survey released today by Xylem Inc. The survey found that 76 percent of respondents believe recycled water should be used as a long-term solution for managing water resources, regardless of whether or not a water shortage continues.  

Nearly half, or 49 percent of respondents, are very supportive of using recycled water as an additional local water supply and another 38 percent are somewhat supportive.  The survey defined recycled water as former wastewater that has been treated and purified so that it can be reused for drinking purposes.  Of survey respondents, 42 percent are very willing to use recycled water in their everyday lives and an additional 41 percent are somewhat willing.  These findings confirm that there is a significant number of Californians who support the use of recycled water.

“We conducted this survey in an effort to better understand public perception about recycled water, and are very encouraged by the findings,” said Joseph Vesey, Xylem Senior Vice President who leads the Company’s North American commercial business. “With overwhelming support from the public, California is well-positioned to lead the U.S. in accelerating the availability and acceptance of recycled water.  The state has the opportunity to champion a flexible framework that recognizes the unique needs of local communities as they work to establish water resource strategies that include sustainable solutions, such as recycled water.”

Sponge cuts oil spill clean-up cost
March 15, 2016 07:22 AM - Emiliano Rodriguez Mega, SciDevNet

A simple but super-absorbent artificial sponge could lower the cost of cleaning up crude oil spills in developing countries.

A team of researchers, based at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, found that simple sponges made from polyurethane foam soaked up oil spills better than more expensive sponges treated with nanoparticles.

Desert cactus purifies contaminated water for aquaculture, drinking and more
March 14, 2016 07:27 AM - American Chemical Society via EurekAlert!

Farm-grown fish are an important source of food with significant and worldwide societal and economic benefits, but the fish that come from these recirculating systems can have unpleasant tastes and odors. To clean contaminated water for farmed fish, drinking and other uses, scientists are now turning to an unlikely source -- the mucilage or inner "guts" of cacti.

Time to re-think the diesel
March 11, 2016 08:00 AM - Richard Howard / Policy Exchange, The Ecologist

Low Emissions Zones have their place in cleaning up the UK's worst air pollution hotspots, writes Richard Howard. But we also need to adopt fiscal measures to encourage a shift away from diesel vehicles, at once delivering cleaner air, increased tax revenues, and lower carbon emissions.

If we are to clean up air pollution in London and the rest of the UK, then Government needs to recognise that diesel is the primary cause of the problem, and to promote a shift away from diesel to alternatives.

There is an air pollution crisis taking place in London and many of the UK's other major cities.

Oregon Kicks Dirty Coal Habit
March 7, 2016 07:41 PM - Kevin Mathews, Care2

Oregon is ready to kick its filthy coal habit, and now it has passed a law to hold itself to this pledge. The Clean Energy and Coal Transition Act blocks the state’s largest power companies from purchasing coal-based electricity by 2030. By taking this important step, the state will effectively double its reliance on renewable energy in the upcoming decades. Moreover, Oregon’s energy should be approximately 80% carbon-free by the year 2040.

The legislation makes Oregon the first state to commit to ditching coal completely. As such, it is easily one of the most progressive energy policies in the United States. Hawaii’s goal to go 100% renewable by 2045 and California’s ambitious 2020 wind and solar goals deserve some credit, too, though.

Oregon’s coal plan is not only exciting because of its unprecedented nature, but because it was a genuinely collaborative effort from all sorts of people in the state. Legislators, citizens, environmental groups, Governor Kate Brown and even the state’s two largest utility companies (Portland General Election and Pacific Power) teamed together to work out new energy goals.

Well-maintained roadways improve fuel efficiency
March 1, 2016 07:09 AM - MIT News

Most people know that properly inflated tires can improve a vehicle’s fuel efficiency, but did you know that properly maintained roadways can improve fuel efficiency across an entire pavement network?

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