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.

New report addresses how we can slow climate change
October 27, 2015 06:44 PM - UCLA

Top environmental researchers from UCLA joined a team of 50 University of California experts in issuing a new report today with solutions to stabilize Earth’s climate this century. 

The report, Bending the Curve, was released Tuesday at the UC Climate Neutrality Initiative Summit in San Diego, and provides 10 scalable solutions to reduce global greenhouse emissions. 

Why are diesel cars so popular in Europe?
October 27, 2015 08:04 AM - EurActiv

An estimated annual 'tax gap' subsidy of some €16 billion for diesel over petrol has made Europe the world's largest market for diesel cars - but the Volkswagen scandal has put the national tax schemes supporting this industry at risk.

“There is no reason to keep subsidising this sector," Carlos Calvo, policy analyst at Transport & Environment, told EurActiv on Monday (26 October). The efficiency of petrol-fuelled cars has improved significantly in recent years, while the diesel industry has reduced its nitrogen-oxide emissions only very slowly.

Oceans need more protected areas

Despite global efforts to increase the area of the ocean that is protected, only four per cent of it lies within marine protected areas (MPAs), according to a University of British Columbia study.

UBC Institute for Ocean and Fisheries researchers found that major swaths of the ocean must still be protected to reach even the most basic global targets.

In 2010, representatives from nearly 200 countries met in Nagoya, Japan, and adopted the United Nations' Aichi Targets, in a bid to stem the rapid loss of biodiversity. The countries committed to protecting at least 10 per cent of the ocean by 2020.

How will rising sea levels impact the Phillippines?
October 22, 2015 09:18 AM - International Development Research Centre via ScienceDaily

More than 167,000 hectares of coastland -- about 0.6% of the country's total area -- are projected to go underwater in the Philippines, especially in low-lying island communities, according to research by the University of the Philippines.

Low-lying countries with an abundance of coastlines are at significant risk from rising sea levels resulting from global warming. According to data by the World Meteorological Organisation, the water levels around the Philippines are rising at a rate almost three times the global average due partly to the influence of the trade winds pushing ocean currents.

On average, sea levels around the world rise 3.1 centimetres every ten years. Water levels in the Philippines are projected to rise between 7.6 and 10.2 centimetres each decade.

Ecotourism can put wild animals at risk
October 9, 2015 01:59 PM - UCLA Newsroom

Ecotourism, in which travelers visit natural environments with an eye toward funding conservation efforts or boosting local economies, has become increasingly popular in recent years. In many cases it involves close observation of or interaction with wildlife, such as when tourists swim with marine animals. Now, life scientists have analyzed more than 100 research studies on how ecotourism affects wild animals and concluded that such trips can be harmful to the animals, whose behaviors may be altered in ways that put them at risk.

Solar powered water purification
October 8, 2015 06:48 AM - Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office

Deep in the jungles of the Yucatan peninsula, residents of the remote Mexican village of La Mancalona are producing clean drinking water using the power of the sun.

For nearly two years now, members of the community, most of whom are subsistence farmers, have operated and maintained a solar-powered water purification system engineered by researchers at MIT.

The system consists of two solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity; these, in turn, power a set of pumps that push water through semiporous membranes in a filtration process called reverse osmosis. The setup purifies both brackish well water and collected rainwater, producing about 1,000 liters of purified water a day for the 450 residents.

Arctic butterflies adapt to warming climate by getting smaller
October 7, 2015 06:39 AM - AARHUS UNIVERSITY via EurekAlert!

New research shows that butterflies in Greenland have become smaller in response to increasing temperatures due to climate change. 

It has often been demonstrated that the ongoing rapid climate change in the Arctic region is causing substantial change to Arctic ecosystems. Now Danish researchers demonstrate that a warmer Greenland could be bad for its butterflies, becoming smaller under warmer summers. 

Outsourcing manufacturing to China and the climate
October 6, 2015 07:40 AM - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

In a study published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, scientists from three universities demonstrate that buying a product made in China causes significantly higher carbon dioxide emissions than purchasing the same product made elsewhere. The study, titled "Targeted opportunities to address the climate–trade dilemma in China," is available here.

"The amazing increase in Chinese manufacturing over the past 15 years has driven the world economy to new heights and supplied consumers in developed countries with tremendous quantities of lower-cost goods," said co-author Steven J. Davis, UCI assistant professor of Earth system science. "But all of this has come at substantial cost to the environment."

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