Sustainability

Oceanic litter is widespread
July 8, 2014 08:18 AM - Harriet Jarlett, Planet Earth Online

Litter is now found in even the most remote areas of the oceans, say scientists trying to understand how much rubbish is lying at the bottom of Europe's seas. The new study, published in Plos One, shows for the first time that there seems to be no area of the ocean left untouched by human litter. Using 588 video clips collected by unmanned submarine vehicles for geological mapping and marine biology studies, the team found that plastics waste like shopping bags is the most prevalent.

Conserving water and climate change
July 6, 2014 06:47 AM - Springer Science+Business Media, via ScienceDaily

There's more to trying to slow down climate change than just cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Technology, policies or plans that aim to do so should also take environmental factors such as water usage into account. A more integrated approach might make some options considerably more attractive than others, especially when implemented in arid countries such as Australia, advise Philip Wallis of Monash University in Australia and colleagues, in an article in Springer's journal Climatic Change. The researchers considered the example of Australia to show how water usage influences the appeal of certain preferred mitigation options. They analyzed 74 options that were ranked in the influential "Low Carbon Growth Plan for Australia" in 2010, and together could help Australia cut its 2000 emission levels by 25 percent by 2020.

Sea Grass in coastal New England waters under attack by Nitrogen
July 5, 2014 08:29 AM - ecoRI News staff

A federally funded scientific study on regional seagrass health recently released by The Nature Conservancy points to nitrogen pollution — from sewage and fertilizers — and warmer water temperatures as the killer threats to seagrasses throughout the coastal waters of southern New England. Seagrass is vital habitat for fish and shellfish and is important for water quality.

Ocean health depends more on whales than we thought
July 4, 2014 06:51 AM - University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Baleen and sperm whales, known collectively as the great whales, include the largest animals in the history of life on Earth. Though large in size, whales have long been considered too rare to make much of a difference in the ocean, and the focus of much marine ecological research has been on smaller organisms, such as algae and planktonic animals. While these small organisms are essential to life in the sea, they are not the whole story. As great whales recover from centuries of overhunting, scientists are beginning to appreciate their roles as ecosystem engineers of the ocean.

How to Make Your Home Smart and Energy Efficient
July 2, 2014 07:43 AM - Jessica Oaks, Triple Pundit

You may not realize it, but at this very moment, you’re probably wasting electricity. Don’t feel too bad though; the fact of the matter is, most people are using more electricity than they need. The home is filled with electronic devices, and keeping track of them all can be a real hassle. Most of us tend not to think about it. After all, what damage can possibly be done by leaving the lights on in a room or setting the thermostat a couple of degrees cooler? Well, more than you probably think. When it comes to electrical usage, one should think of the age-old economic theory, the Tragedy of the Commons. The principle is simple: Individuals acting rationally and in their own self-interest can actually act against the best interests of the group, by wasting a common resource needed by the collective whole. You may not believe that you’re using an exorbitant amount of electricity, but over time, this usage adds up. And this usage burdens the electrical grid and increases your spending. Thankfully, by being conscious of this fact, you can make changes that benefit your wallet, and the community as well.

Is Oceanic Plastic being eaten by fish?
July 1, 2014 07:38 AM - ANGUS CHEN, ScienceNOW

Millions of tons. That's how much plastic should be floating in the world's oceans, given our ubiquitous use of the stuff. But a new study finds that 99% of this plastic is missing. One disturbing possibility: Fish are eating it. If that’s the case, "there is potential for this plastic to enter the global ocean food web," says Carlos Duarte, an oceanographer at the University of Western Australia, Crawley. "And we are part of this food web."

World’s Protected Areas Not Protecting Biodiversity
June 30, 2014 02:53 PM - Wildlife Conservation Society

Scientists from James Cook University, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland, Stanford University, BirdLife International, the International Union for Nature Conservation, and other organizations have warned that the world's protected areas are not safeguarding most of the world's imperilled biodiversity, and clear changes need to be made on how nations undertake future land protection if wildlife is going to be saved. These findings come at a time when countries are working toward what could become the biggest expansion of protected areas in history. The authors of the new study found that 85 percent of world's 4,118 threatened mammals, birds, and amphibian species are not adequately protected in existing national parks, and are therefore vulnerable to extinction in the near term. The new study appears in the esteemed international journal PLOS Biology.

Why can't we recover precious metals from landfills?
June 30, 2014 08:17 AM - CleanTechies, Clean Techies

Mining for precious metals like gold, silver, and copper is extremely costly. Not only does it require a huge amount of energy and have a devastating impact on the environment, it also puts human life at risk. Still, these metals are what enable our precious smartphones and tablets to work so efficiently, so we have to get them from somewhere. But what if that somewhere was old gadgets we no longer want instead of deep within the Earth?

Endangered Species Act may be significantly weakened by new policy
June 28, 2014 07:52 AM - Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity will file a legal challenge to an Obama administration policy, finalized today, that severely limits when a species qualifies for protection under the Endangered Species Act - a change that ignores both broad legal precedent and congressional intent. Under the Act a species qualifies for protection when it is "in danger of extinction in all or a significant of portion of its range." Both Congress and the courts have explained that the "significant portion of range" provision is vital for important conservation because it allows federal wildlife agencies to protect species before they are at risk of going extinct globally. But the newly finalized policy sharply restricts the use of this part of the Act, defining "significant" to mean that only when the loss of a part of a species' range threatens the survival of the whole species would wildlife agencies protect that species under the Act.

EPA Proposes Approval of New Climate-Friendly Refrigerants
June 27, 2014 03:56 PM - USEPA Newsroom

In support of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to increase the options for refrigerants in the United States that offer better climate protection without harming the ozone layer. This is the agency's first action that addresses refrigerants under the Climate Action Plan, which calls on EPA's Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program to identify and approve additional climate-friendly chemicals.

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