Right kind of collaboration is key to solving environmental problems
August 18, 2017 11:43 AM - Stockholm University

The coming decade may determine whether humanity will set a course toward a more socially and ecologically sustainable society. A crucial part of this goal is to develop a better understanding of how cooperation can be improved and become more effective, both within and among private stakeholders and public institutions.

“Collaborative governance is often highlighted as a solution to different environmental problems. For example, when small-scale fishermen agree to avoid overfishing or when states agree to reduce greenhouse gases. But we don’t know so much about how cooperation around environmental issues works in a complex world. Different actors want different things, different environmental problems are related to each other, and different groups have differing amounts of influence. Does cooperation actually lead to a better environment?” says Örjan Bodin, lecturer at the Stockholm Resilience Centre who conducts interdisciplinary research on better ways to handle diverse environmental problems.

Study: For food-waste recycling, policy is key
August 18, 2017 11:05 AM - Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Food scraps. Okay, those aren’t the first words that come to mind when you think about the environment. But 22 percent of the municipal solid waste dropped into landfills or incincerators in the U.S. is, in fact, food that could be put to better use through composting and soil enrichment.

Moreover, food-scrap recycling programs, while still relatively uncommon, are having a growth moment in the U.S.; they’ve roughly doubled in size since 2010. Now, a national study by MIT researchers provides one of the first in-depth looks at the characteristics of places that have adopted food recycling, revealing several new facts in the process.

Renewable Energy Prevented 12,700 Premature Deaths Over Nine-Year Period, Study Says
August 17, 2017 04:42 PM - Yale Environment 360

The expansion of wind and solar energy, and the resulting avoided emissions from fossil fuels, helped prevent up to 12,700 premature deaths in the U.S. from 2007 to 2015, according a new study in the journal Nature Energy.

Algal blooms cost Ohio homeowners $152 million over six years
August 17, 2017 11:48 AM - Ohio State University

In a new study, researchers at The Ohio State University estimate algal blooms at two Ohio lakes cost Ohio homeowners $152 million in lost property value over six years.

Meanwhile, a related study suggests that algae is driving anglers away from Lake Erie, causing fishing license sales to drop at least 10 percent every time a bloom reaches a moderate level of health risk. Based on those numbers, a computer model projects that a severe, summer-long bloom would cause up to $5.6 million in lost fishing revenue and associated expenditures by anglers.

Heavily used pesticide linked to breathing problems in farmworkers' children
August 16, 2017 04:49 PM - University of California – Berkeley

Elemental sulfur, the most heavily used pesticide in California, may harm the respiratory health of children living near farms that use the pesticide, according to new research led by UC Berkeley.

In a study of children in the Salinas Valley’s agricultural community, researchers found significant associations between elemental sulfur use and poorer respiratory health. The study linked reduced lung function, more asthma-related symptoms and higher asthma medication use in children living about a half-mile or less from recent elemental sulfur applications compared to unexposed children.

Smart electrical grids more vulnerable to cyber attacks
August 16, 2017 01:39 PM - Elsevier

Electricity distribution systems in the USA are gradually being modernized and transposed to smart grids, which make use of two-way communication and computer processing. This is making them increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks. In a recent paper in Elsevier’s International Journal of Critical Infrastructure Protection, Dr. Sujeet Shenoi and his colleagues from the Tandy School of Computer Science, University of Tulsa, US, have analyzed these security issues. Their report provides crucial keys to ensuring the security of our power supply.

"Sophisticated cyberattacks on advanced metering infrastructures are a clear and present danger," Dr. Shenoi pointed out. Such attacks affect both customers and distribution companies and can take various forms, such as stealing customer data (allowing a burglar to determine if a residence is unoccupied, for instance), taking power from particular customers (resulting in increased power bills), disrupting the grid and denying customers power on a localized or widespread basis.

Mercury is altering gene expression
August 15, 2017 12:33 PM - University of Geneva

The mercury found at very low concentrations in water is concentrated along the entire food chain, from algae via zooplankton to small fish and on to the largest fish — the ones we eat. Mercury causes severe and irreversible neurological disorders in people who have consumed highly contaminated fish. Whereas we know about the element’s extreme toxicity, what happens further down the food chain, all the way down to those microalgae that are the first level and the gateway for mercury? By employing molecular biology tools, a team of researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, has addressed this question for the first time. The scientists measured the way mercury affects the gene expression of algae, even when its concentration in water is very low, comparable to European environmental protection standards. Find out more about the UNIGE research in Scientific Reports.

Study Finds Drought Recoveries Taking Longer
August 14, 2017 05:19 PM - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

As global temperatures continue to rise, droughts are expected to become more frequent and severe in many regions during this century. A new study with NASA participation finds that land ecosystems took progressively longer to recover from droughts in the 20th century, and incomplete drought recovery may become the new normal in some areas, possibly leading to tree death and increased emissions of greenhouse gases.

In results published Aug. 10 in the journal Nature, a research team led by Christopher Schwalm of Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth, Massachusetts, and including a scientist from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, measured recovery time following droughts in various regions of the world. They used projections from climate models verified by observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA's Terra satellite and ground measurements. The researchers found that drought recovery was taking longer in all land areas. In two particularly vulnerable regions -- the tropics and northern high latitudes -- recovery took ever longer than in other regions.

Case study suggests new approach to urban water supply
August 14, 2017 05:14 PM - Massachusetts Institute of Technology

If you live in the developed world, safe water is usually just a faucet-turn away. And yet, global warming, drought conditions, and population growth in coming decades could change that, ushering in an era of uncertain access to water.

Now an MIT-based research team has evaluated those potential problems and, based on a case study in Australia, suggested an alternate approach to water planning. In a new paper, the researchers find there is often a strong case for building relatively modest, incremental additions to water infrastructure in advanced countries, rather than expensive larger-scale projects that may be needed only rarely.

Ozone Treaty Taking a Bite Out of Us Greenhouse Gas Emissions
August 14, 2017 01:34 PM - American Geophysical Union

The Montreal Protocol, the international treaty adopted to restore Earth’s protective ozone layer in 1989, has significantly reduced emissions of ozone-depleting chemicals from the United States. In a twist, a new study shows the 30-year old treaty has had a major side benefit of reducing climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S.

That’s because the ozone-depleting substances controlled by the treaty are also potent greenhouse gases, with heat-trapping abilities up to 10,000 times greater than carbon dioxide over 100 years.

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