Sustainability

Will Styrofoam Get the Plastic Bag Treatment?
January 4, 2016 07:09 AM - Kevin Mathews, Care2

Say farewell to Styrofoam take-out containers in the nation’s capital. It’s been a few years in the making, but Washington, D.C. has finally enacted a firm ban on polystyrene food and beverage containers. Henceforth, all restaurants will have to provide biodegradable alternatives if they want to send their patrons home with leftovers.

Solar gaining on coal in India
January 4, 2016 06:15 AM - Chris Goodall, Ecologist

A KPMG study shows that the cost of solar power in India, revealed by public auctions, is barely half a cent above that of cheap local coal , writes Chris Goodall, with generators bids falling well below 5p (UK) / 7¢ (US) per kWh. The idea put about at COP21 that India and other poor but sunny countries need coal to develop their economies is fast running out of steam.

When the accountants have fully loaded the network and other costs PV ends up as very slightly cheaper than using lndian-mined coal. And, of course, this advantage will grow as solar gets cheaper.

Commentators eager to arrest the move towards renewable energy are facing increasing difficulties finding arguments for the continued use of fossil fuel.

Good news about restoring river ecosystems
January 1, 2016 10:17 AM - Lizabeth Paulat, Care2, Care2

t is a commonly held belief that most ecosystems take about a lifetime to recover after damage is introduced by humans. However, researchers at Ohio State University are finding that initial recovery can be dramatic if the right conditions are present. The discovery was made while monitoring how dam removal impacted local species. 

The studies focus on the reintroduction of birds and salmon to the habitat. What they found was that if just birds were introduced, they tended to have low weight and poor numbers of offspring. However, when dams came down and salmon and fish were put together, both species flourished and impacted the surrounding ecosystem positively.

Los Angeles area natural gas leak continues
December 31, 2015 05:06 AM - Lowell Williams, Care2, Care2

Though it seems to be oddly absent from the mainstream media headlines, a massive methane gas leak in Southern California’s Aliso Canyon has prompted thousands of evacuations and, since Oct. 23, has pumped over 150 million pounds of the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. Even though the owners of the methane well, Southern California Gas Co., say this week that they have finally discovered the pipe associated with the leak, it will likely be months before a seal is entirely in place.

To truly underscore the seriousness of the Porter Ranch gas leak, the Environmental Defense Fund released an infrared aerial video this week showing the tremendous, continuous release of methane:

Methane gas, in its natural state, is also odorless. However, for safety reasons, foul-smelling additives are artificially included with the gas. In Porter Ranch, a Los Angeles neighborhood and the site of the leak, the additive smell’s intensity has affected the heath of many of residents — nose bleeds, nausea, headaches and dizzy spells have been reported.

This year's El NiƱo not giving up
December 30, 2015 05:12 AM - JPL-NASA

The current strong El Niño brewing in the Pacific Ocean shows no signs of waning, as seen in the latest satellite image from the U.S./European Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 mission. 

El Niño 2015 has already created weather chaos around the world. Over the next few months, forecasters expect the United States to feel its impacts as well. 

The latest Jason-2 image bears a striking resemblance to one from December 1997, by Jason-2's predecessor, the NASA/Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) Topex/Poseidon mission, during the last large El Niño event. Both reflect the classic pattern of a fully developed El Niño.

The economic benefits of mercury reductions
December 29, 2015 07:10 AM - Jennifer Chu, MIT News

Mercury pollution is a global problem with local consequences: Emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources travel around the world through the atmosphere, eventually settling in oceans and waterways, where the pollutant gradually accumulates in fish. Consumption of mercury-contaminated seafood leads to increased risk for cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairments.

In the past several years, a global treaty and a domestic policy have been put in place to curb mercury emissions. But how will such policies directly benefit the U.S.? 

Wind power on the rise in U.S.
December 22, 2015 07:22 AM - Jeff Brady, NPR

The U.S. wind power industry is celebrating after reaching a new milestone in November: 70 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity.

"That's enough to power about 19 million homes," says Michael Goggin, senior director of research at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

Space weather and the potential impacts on our infrastructures
December 19, 2015 07:10 AM - EUROPEAN COMMISSION JOINT RESEARCH CENTRE vie EurekAlert

The JRC has been looking into the risks of space weather impact on critical infrastructures. A new report explores the rail sector's vulnerability and the potential impacts, in particular through interdependencies with other infrastructures. Awareness among operators and regulators worldwide is currently limited and vulnerabilities across the rail sector need to be identified, authors say.

Solar activity affects the space environment surrounding the Earth. This so-called space weather can disrupt and damage critical infrastructure in space and on the ground, including satellites, aviation, road and marine transport, banking and power grids. Society relies on these infrastructures and services, which have become inter- dependent and are therefore more vulnerable to space weather. 

Climate change is impacting lakes faster than oceans
December 18, 2015 09:50 AM - JPL-NASA

Climate change is rapidly warming lakes around the world, threatening freshwater supplies and ecosystems, according to a new NASA and National Science Foundation-funded study of more than half of the world's freshwater supply.

Using more than 25 years of satellite temperature data and ground measurements of 235 lakes on six continents, this study -- the largest of its kind -- found lakes are warming an average of 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit (0.34 degrees Celsius) each decade. The scientists say this is greater than the warming rate of either the ocean or the atmosphere, and it can have profound effects.

The research, published in Geophysical Research Letters, was announced Wednesday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

Carmakers Are Ahead Of Emissions Standards
December 18, 2015 07:11 AM - Bill Chappell, NPR

Fuel economy is at record highs and carmakers have surpassed strict greenhouse gas emissions standards for the third straight year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which released a pair of annual reports about the U.S. fleet of cars and trucks Wednesday.

Overall, fuel economy for vehicles in the U.S. did not budge from last year's record high of 24.3 miles per gallon, the EPA says. The figure includes a new high of 20.4 mpg for trucks, vans and SUVs from model year 2014.

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