Sustainability

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.

The real disappointment of the Rio+20 Conference
July 3, 2012 07:12 AM - EurActiv

World leaders attending the recent Rio+20 conference agreed to promote sustainable consumption and production, but analysts say getting businesses and buyers to do just that will require far more than words on paper. To the immense disappointment of environmental groups and even some multinational corporations, Rio+20 failed to produce binding commitments or a plan on how to strike a balance between consumer demand and the availability of natural resource. "The current deal on the Rio table is really scraping the barrel — with woolly definitions, old ideas and missing deadlines," said Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth's director of policy and campaigns. "It doesn’t come close to solving the planetary emergency we're facing."

Sea Turtles don't adapt well to hotter beaches
July 2, 2012 08:11 AM - ScienceDaily

For eastern Pacific populations of leatherback turtles, the 21st century could be the last. New research suggests that climate change could exacerbate existing threats and nearly wipe out the population. Deaths of turtle eggs and hatchlings in nests buried at hotter, drier beaches are the leading projected cause of the potential climate-related decline, according to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change by a research team from Drexel University, Princeton University, other institutions and government agencies. Leatherbacks, the largest sea turtle species, are among the most critically endangered due to a combination of historical and ongoing threats including egg poaching at nesting beaches and juvenile and adult turtles being caught in fishing operations. The new research on climate dynamics suggests that climate change could impede this population's ability to recover. If actual climate patterns follow projections in the study, the eastern Pacific population of leatherback turtles will decline by 75 percent by the year 2100.

The Story of Fair Trade Tea - Why it's so important
July 1, 2012 06:30 AM - Fair Trade USA, Triple Pundit

Pour a cup of tea, let it steep, and then take a sip as you ponder this fact: After water, tea is the most popular beverage in the world, with 15,000 cups drunk per second. Tea is everywhere — in our cafes, our kitchens, our offices, schools and stores — but how many of us really know the story of each leaf as it travels from field to cup? The tea supply chain is a complex trade network with many different players. Each and every farmer, worker, exporter, importer, processor, auctioneer, buying agent, retailer, café worker and tea drinker in the chain played an important role in bringing you the world’s favorite beverage.

Africa's Savannas May Become Forests
June 29, 2012 06:43 AM - ScienceDaily

A new study published today in Nature by authors from the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and the Goethe University Frankfurt suggests that large parts of Africa's savannas may well be forests by 2100. The study suggests that fertilization by atmospheric carbon dioxide is forcing increases in tree cover throughout Africa. A switch from savanna to forest occurs once a critical threshold of CO2 concentration is exceeded, yet each site has its own critical threshold. The implication is that each savanna will switch at different points in time, thereby reducing the risk that a synchronous shock to the earth system will emanate from savannas.

Would more trees in the Arctic absorb carbon, or cause more to be released?
June 27, 2012 05:55 AM - Tom Marshall, Planet Earth Online

Trees colonising formerly open tundra as the climate warms could cause Arctic ecosystems to release vast amounts of stored soil carbon into the atmosphere, a new paper argues. Many climate models have assumed that trees taking over the Arctic, and the enormous increase in plant biomass this would bring, would cause these landscapes to absorb much more carbon than they did before, helping restrain the effects of climate change. But this study suggests that's far from certain. In Scandinavia at least, when tundra heath turns into birch woodland it seems it could release much of the carbon stored in the soil into the air. This will more than counterbalance the fact that a forest holds around twice as much carbon in its biomass. So far from holding climate change in check, accelerated tree growth, and colonisation of treeless landscapes, could speed it up.

Sea Level Rise may continue for Centuries
June 26, 2012 04:35 AM - Staff, ClickGreen

Sea levels around the world can be expected to rise by several meters in coming centuries, if global warming carries on, according to new research. The study is the first to give a comprehensive projection for this long perspective, based on observed sea-level rise over the past millennium, as well as on scenarios for future greenhouse-gas emissions. "Sea-level rise is a hard to quantify, yet critical risk of climate change," says Michiel Schaeffer of Climate Analytics and Wageningen University, lead author of the study. "Due to the long time it takes for the world's ice and water masses to react to global warming, our emissions today determine sea levels for centuries to come."

Climate change threatens Botswana's main tourist attraction
June 23, 2012 06:18 AM - Justice Kavahematui, SciDevNet

Botswana urgently needs policies to facilitate climate change adaptation to protect the Okavango Delta, the country's most lucrative tourist attraction, according to a new study. Recent statistics from the Bank of Botswana show that tourism is the country's second largest source of income, contributing US$753 million to GDP in 2011. The Delta is one of the most popular destinations for visitors to the country. Wame L. Hambira, from the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Botswana in Gaborone, warned that unless government policies take account of current and forecasted climate shifts, the tourism sector could be badly damaged, with serious implications for the wider economy.

Rio+20 closing statement - opportunity to act on a sustainable future lost
June 22, 2012 06:35 AM - WWF

With negotiations at an end, WWF Director General Jim Leape today issued the following closing statement about the Rio+20 summit: "This was a conference about life: about future generations; about the forests, oceans, rivers and lakes that we all depend on for our food, water and energy. It was a conference to address the pressing challenge of building a future that can sustain us. Unfortunately, the world leaders who gathered here lost sight of that urgent purpose. With too few countries prepared to press for action, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff chose to drive a process with no serious content — to the planet’s detriment."

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