Sustainability

Climate change killing harp seal pups
August 20, 2013 04:55 PM - Alexander Holmgren, MONGABAY.COM

As sea ice levels continue to decline in the northern hemisphere, scientists are observing an unsettling trend in harp seal young mortalities regardless of juvenile fitness. While a recent study found that in harp seal breeding regions ice cover decreased by up to 6% a decade from 1979 on, a follow-up study in PLoS ONE compared the rate of harp seal strandings to total ice cover from 1992 to 2010. The data showed a direct relationship between the two, with seal pup strandings rising sharply as ice cover was reduced.

Warning Labels for Gasoline Pumps?
August 20, 2013 01:28 PM - Allison Winter, ENN

Tobacco packaging warning messages have recently been required on cigarettes and other tobacco products in many countries worldwide in an effort to enhance the public's awareness of the harmful effects of smoking. In a similar fashion, a Canadian campaign is calling for all gasoline pumps to have warming labels on nozzles to inform consumers on the effects fuels have on climate change. Michelle Reeves at Our Horizon, the non-profit executing the campaign, states, "It's a cheap, simple idea that has the potential to change the way we think about, and address, climate change. They are modeled after cigarette package warning labels, which have been proven to work. Some people's behavior might change, but our ultimate goal is to create a shift in the political will to demand for alternatives, and create a space in the market for affordable alternative mobility solutions."

Reducing Food Waste While Feeding the Hungry
August 20, 2013 12:40 PM - Carol Dreibelbis, Worldwatch Institute

According to a report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) last year, 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten. Americans throw away about US$165 billion worth of food each year—or about 9 kilograms of food per person each month—which then ends up in landfills, where it accounts for about a quarter of U.S. methane emissions.

Light Ordinance in France has Benefits for Wildlife
August 19, 2013 11:56 AM - Editor, ENN

Last month, France implemented one of the world's most comprehensive "lights out" ordinances. Conditions include turning off shop lights between 1 a.m. to 7 a.m., shutting off lights inside office buildings within an hour of workers leaving the premises, and waiting only until sunset before turning lights on, on building facades. Over the next two years, regulations restricting lighting on billboards will also go into effect. These rules are designed to eventually cut carbon dioxide emissions by 250,000 tons per year, conserve energy consumption, and cut the country's overall energy bill by 200 million Euros ($266 million).

How much will climate change cost coastal cities?
August 19, 2013 06:06 AM - Jörg Dietze/Sustainable sanitation, SciDevNet

Global damage from flooding could cost coastal cities as much as US$1 trillion per year — and developing countries will be hardest hit, a study warns. According to the paper published today in Nature Climate Change, a "risk sensitive planning" strategy is needed to protect coastal cities, which are increasingly at risk because of climate change, subsidence and a growing population.

Big Owls need big trees!
August 16, 2013 03:57 PM - Wildlife Conservation Society

The last great primary forests of Russia's Far East are known for their tigers and bears, but they are also the domain of giant owls. A new study finds that the health of the rare Blakiston’s fish owl is intrinsic to that of these northern forests. The birds rely on old-growth forests along streams for both breeding and to support healthy populations of their favorite prey: salmon. Large trees provide breeding cavities for the enormous bird, which has a 6-foot wingspan. When these massive trees die and topple into streams, they disrupt water flow, forcing the gushing river around, over, and under these new obstacles. The result is stream channel complexity: a combination of deep, slow-moving backwaters and shallow, fast-moving channels that provide important microhabitats critical to salmon in different developmental stages.

Pesticide risks need more research and regulation
August 16, 2013 09:47 AM - Editor, SciDevNet

Developing countries need stronger pesticide regulation and a better understanding of how pesticides behave in tropical climates, according to experts behind a series of articles published in Science today. They also need an international body to carry out regular pesticide safety assessments — ensuring they are used properly by farmers who are given thorough training in their use — and to monitor the safety of chemical levels in food, the experts say.

Finally: Obama Green Lights Solar Panels on White House
August 16, 2013 08:54 AM - Leon Kaye, Triple Pundit

Details are not yet final, but President Obama has finally allowed retrofitting the White House roof to allow for solar panels. No, this is not a plot from HBO's hit series Veep: it is finally happening. The final total of panels will range between 20 and 50 solar panels according to Think Progress and the Washington Post—perhaps enough to power a few flat screen TVs or power the equivalent of 15 seconds of flight on Air Force One. It is a step that is surely attracting all kinds of buzz in and outside of Washington, DC, one either seen as a token effort, a sign of leadership on sustainability, or as a yawner. The installation falls on the heels of a 2010 promise Obama had made to install a rooftop solar system.

West Antarctica warming during end of last ice age examined
August 16, 2013 06:22 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

The Earth goes through natural cooling and warming trends, not to be confused with man's impact on climate. Ice Ages have occurred and waned. The pace of warming at the end of an ice age has been the subject of debate. It turns out that in Antarctica the pace of warming at the end of the last ice age was far from uniform. West Antarctica began emerging from the last ice age about 22,000 years ago — well before other regions of Antarctica and the rest of the world, according to a team of scientists who analyzed a two-mile-long ice core, one of the deepest ever drilled in Antarctica. Scientists say that changes in the amount of solar energy triggered the warming of West Antarctica and the subsequent release of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the Southern Ocean amplified the effect and resulted in warming on a global scale, eventually ending the ice age.

Reducing soot and methane emissions may not make as big of an impact as previously thought
August 15, 2013 03:02 PM - Editor, ENN

Carbon dioxide is a heavy hitter when it comes to global climate change. But there are some other big players that contribute to rising temperatures as well including soot and methane. While some scientists have argued to cut these emissions, a new study suggests that targeting these emissions may make much less of an impact than previously thought. Methane, when assessed over the course of a century, warms the planet about 25 times as much as the same mass of carbon dioxide does. During the same time frame, soot boosts warming more than 1000 times as much as the same mass of CO2 does. With this evidence, it appears that these two pollutants contribute just as much as CO2. However, methane and soot don’t stick around for as long as CO2 does (methane lingers around for 12 years and soot usually a couple of weeks).

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