The massive Indonesian fires
November 7, 2015 07:25 AM - lisa palmer, Yale Environment360
The fires that blazed in Indonesia’s rainforests in 1982 and 1983 came as a shock. The logging industry had embarked on a decades-long pillaging of the country’s woodlands, opening up the canopy and drying out the carbon-rich peat soils. Preceded by an unusually long El Niño-related dry season, the forest fires lasted for months, sending vast clouds of smoke across Southeast Asia.
Fifteen years later, in 1997 and 1998, a record El Niño year coincided with continued massive land-use changes in Indonesia, including the wholesale draining of peatlands to plant oil palm and wood pulp plantations. Large areas of Borneo and Sumatra burned, and again Southeast Asians choked on Indonesian smoke.
The new imperative in buildings, cleaner air!
November 6, 2015 06:59 AM - Bill Roth, Triple Pundit
A study just published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has linked a building’s indoor air quality directly to its occupants’ cognitive function. Cognitive function is defined as the cerebral activities that lead to knowledge including acquiring information, reasoning, attention, memory and language.
The revolutionary finding of this study is that lowering indoor air levels of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) improves human cognitive function. In other words: Cleaner air makes us smarter!
Rat poisons endanger California wildlife
November 5, 2015 08:13 AM - Center for Biological Diversity
Researchers at the University of California released a study today indicating that rat poisons increasingly pose a significant risk for California’s imperiled Pacific fishers, small, forest-dwelling mammals that are protected under the California Endangered Species Act. The study shows that increasing numbers of fishers are being exposed to, and dying from, greater varieties of rat poisons, or rodenticides, found at illegal marijuana farms. It also affirms reports and data from across the state that rodenticides continue to poison and kill numerous California wildlife species.
“These poisons are silently killing our country’s most majestic wildlife by indiscriminately causing animals to literally bleed to death from the inside out,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s time to ban these poisons from the market to protect fishers, bald eagles, great horned owls and kit foxes from a painful, gruesome fate.”
Nuclear waste site near St Louis threatened by landfill fire
November 3, 2015 07:49 AM - Véronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio, NPR
Imagine you are a parent, and that out of the blue, you get a letter from your child's school telling you not to worry — that they're ready to evacuate or shelter in place if an underground fire at a nearby landfill reaches radioactive waste on the same property.
That's pretty much what happened recently in suburban St. Louis.
Landfill fires are pretty common. But this one is different: It's only about a thousand feet away from nearly 9,000 tons of nuclear waste — and there's no barrier in between.
Volkswagen's "premium" brands cheated too
November 3, 2015 07:34 AM - Eurctiv
The Volkswagen emissions-cheating scandal widened Monday (2 November) as US regulators said the German automaker also included illegal "defeat devices" on its larger 3.0 liter diesel engines over the past three years.
But the Environmental Protection Agency said it had discovered in its investigation that various six-cylinder 3.0 liter diesel VW Touareg, Porsche Cayenne and Audis from the 2014-2016 model years and distributed in the United States had also been rigged with the software.
Southern Ocean ecosystems acidifying
November 2, 2015 10:42 PM - University of Hawaii
As a result of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, the chemistry of the Southern Ocean is expected to change so fast over the next few decades that tiny creatures at the base of the food web may soon struggle to form their shells. New research by scientists from UH Mānoa and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF) finds that, for some organisms, the onset of such critical conditions will be so abrupt, and the duration of events so long, that adaption may become impossible.
The study, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, uses a number of Earth System Models to explore how the uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide and the resulting ocean acidification will affect the Southern Ocean over the next century.
Should government buildings offer free Electric Vehicle charging?
November 2, 2015 06:49 AM - MARK BENSON , Electric Forum
As governments around the world continue to push the concept of electric vehicles there are growing calls for all government buildings to offer free EV charging. This would certainly kickstart the concerns regarding EV charging networks which seems to be at the forefront of the minds of many sceptics. So, how would this concept work and is it really viable?
Helping the electric vehicle industry
While many governments around the world are doing a significant amount of work behind the scenes to help the electric vehicle market, could they do more? It would be wrong to suggest that all government buildings do not offer any form of electric vehicle charging but for many people these services are few and far between. When you consider that countries such as the UK employ more than 50% of the workforce in public services there must be an enormous scope to assist the industry?
Global warming continuing
November 1, 2015 07:58 AM - UN News Centre
Earth has just had the hottest January-September on record, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said today, adding that the average air and sea temperatures in September logged the greatest rise above monthly average in the 136-year historical record.
According to a press release from WMO, the Global Climate Report from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the globally averaged air temperature over land and sea surface temperature for September was 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average temperature. Record warmth was observed across much of South America and parts of Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.
Assessing the health and economic consequences of Dieselgate
October 29, 2015 08:01 AM - MIT News
Volkswagen’s use of software to evade emissions standards in more than 482,000 diesel vehicles sold in the U.S. will directly contribute to 60 premature deaths across the country, a new MIT-led study finds.
In September, the Environmental Protection Agency discovered that the German automaker had developed and installed “defeat devices” (actually software) in light-duty diesel vehicles sold between 2008 and 2015. This software was designed to sense when a car was undergoing an emissions test, and only then engage the vehicle’s full emissions-control system, which would otherwise be disabled under normal driving conditions — a cheat that allows the vehicles to emit 40 times more emissions than permitted by the Clean Air Act.
That amount of excess pollution, multiplied by the number of affected vehicles sold in the U.S. and extrapolated over population distributions and health risk factors across the country, will have significant effects on public health, the study finds.
VW Dieselgate and EV priorities in Europe
October 28, 2015 04:03 PM - EurActiv
The pollution-cheating scandal that has engulfed auto giant Volkswagen is turning up the heat on the German government to make more determined headway in its self-declared "electromobility" goals, analysts say.
The "bitter irony" of the scam that has rocked the automobile sector around the world and plunged the once-respected carmaker into a major crisis, is that the billions of euros VW could potentially face in fines"could have been used to finance an entire electric car programme," complained Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks recently.
Over the past six years, Berlin has put up €1.5 billion for research into an electric car, the minister pointed out. And her ministry is looking into a series of measures to promote the electric car, such as tax incentives and purchase subsidies.