Sustainability

Good News about Los Angeles Air Pollution
June 5, 2013 07:28 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

The emission reduction requirements on automobiles and trucks are resulting in improving air quality in the Los Angeles area. They have significantly reduced Ozone concentrations, a principal component of the smog that has been so common in the area. Another benefit is that these reductions have altered the pollution chemistry in the atmosphere, making the eye-stinging "organic nitrate" component of air pollution plummet, according to a new study led by a scientist from NOAA's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder. For the study, being published online in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, the scientists analyzed new data from research aircraft along with archived data going back a half-century to produce a comprehensive study of air pollution in the Los Angeles region.

China’s Growing Arctic Presence
June 4, 2013 12:20 PM - Ed Struzik, Yale Environment360

China's recent admission to the Arctic Council under observer status reflects a new reality: the world's economic powers now regard development of natural resources and commerce in an increasingly ice-free Arctic as a top priority. When China — along with Japan, South Korea, Singapore, India, and Italy — was granted permanent observer status in the Arctic Council last month, it left many experts wondering whether a paradigm shift in geopolitics is taking place in the region. Until recently, security issues, search and rescue protocols, indigenous rights, climate change, and other environmental priorities were the main concerns of the intergovernmental forum, which includes the eight voting states bordering the Arctic and several indigenous organizations that enjoy participant status. But the admission of China and other major Asian economic powers as observer states is yet another strong sign, experts say, that the economic development of an increasingly ice-free Arctic is becoming a top priority of nations in the region and beyond.

What poses the greater risk, traffic accidents or air pollution?
June 4, 2013 06:20 AM - EurActiv

When a London anti-pollution organisation polled British lawmakers about the greatest risks to public health, most MPs were wrong, ranking traffic accidents or heavy drinking ahead of air pollution as a leading killer of Britons. "The vast majority of over 100 members of Parliament responding to our survey displayed a shocking level of ignorance about the health impact of air pollution," said Simon Birkett, head of Clean Air in London, an advocacy group. “"n particular, over two-thirds of Conservative MPs responding said air pollution has less impact than road traffic accidents," he said on releasing the survey results on 23 May.

Indigenous Knowledge
June 3, 2013 01:38 PM - Suman Sahai, SciDevNet

It is time to stop discounting traditional expertise and make use of this vast and valuable resource, argues Indian scientist Suman Sahai. Science and technology have always been an important part of growth and development plans. But accepted 'scientific expertise' is Western, standardised and homogenous. From this viewpoint, the vast body of scientific expertise developed in diverse societies and cultures is discounted and ignored. Referred to as indigenous or traditional knowledge, this is a knowledge system distilled from generations of scientific work anchored in rural and tribal communities. It is different to the Western system of empirical, lab-based science — but is equally valid and efficacious.

Data from NASA's Landsat 8 now available in almost real time
June 3, 2013 06:19 AM - Editor, MONGABAY.COM

Data from NAA's Landsat 8 is now freely available, enabling researchers and the general public to access images captured by the satellite within twelve hours of reception. The data is available to download at no charge from GloVis, EarthExplorer, or via the LandsatLook Viewer. Landsat 8 launched this February and has been capturing images since April. The satellite orbits Earth every 99 minutes and captures images of every point on the planet every 16 days, beaming 400 high resolution images to ground stations every 24 hours. Landsat features nine spectral bands, which include three visible light bands, two near-infrared bands, and two shortwave infrared (SWIR) bands, among others, as well as two thermal sensors, which are used for a wide range of applications, including monitoring environmental change, detecting fires, and watching crops. Google is one of the biggest commercial users of Landsat images, which feed into Google Earth, but other users include scientists and conservationists involved in tracking deforestation and forest degradation.

Ending Poverty, Environmental Protection Strongly Linked
June 2, 2013 08:07 AM - WWF

Taxes, incentives, regulations, subsidies, trade and public procurement need to be realigned to favour sustainable consumption and production patterns if the world wants to end poverty, according to the UN High Level Panel charged with setting the new direction for global development. "Without environmental sustainability we cannot end poverty," said the UN's High Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda. The report of the 26-member panel, which included UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Queen Rania of Jordan and Unilever CEO Paul Polman, has the potential to influence over USD 25 trillion of development spending and marks a clear break from the practice of treating development and sustainability as separate topics.

Southeast Asian Brick Kilns Must Reduce Air Pollutant Emissions
June 1, 2013 07:58 AM - Smriti Mallapaty, SciDevNet

South Asia's brick sector needs to retrofit its existing kilns with cleaner and more efficient technology, a recent (May 9—10) workshop in Kathmandu heard. Organised by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, Mexico's National Institute of Ecology, and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Nepal, the workshop was attended by entrepreneurs from Latin America, Africa and Asia. South Asia produces over 250 billion bricks annually compared to China's production of one trillion bricks. But South Asia's outdated clamp kilns, moveable bull trench kilns and fixed chimney kilns are inefficient, polluting and labour-unfriendly.

Formaldehyde Exposure Protection
May 31, 2013 03:10 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Pure formaldehyde is a gas and is commonly found as a s decomposition product from adhesives which are used to make a wide range of building materials and products. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause adverse public health effects including eye, nose and throat irritation, other respiratory symptoms and, in certain cases, cancer. When treated with phenol, urea, or melamine, formaldehyde produces, respectively, hard thermoset phenol formaldehyde resin, urea formaldehyde resin, and melamine resin. These polymers are common permanent adhesives used in plywood and carpeting. hence there is a potential for wide spread public exposure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed two rules to help protect Americans from exposure to the harmful chemical formaldehyde, consistent with a Federal law unanimously passed by Congress in 2010. These rules ensure that composite wood products produced domestically or imported into the United States meet the formaldehyde emission standards established by Congress.

Stagnant Air, Emissions Contribute to Poor Air Quality in New England
May 31, 2013 06:10 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Much of New England is experiencing poor air quality that is expected to continue for another day or two. USEPA reports that unhealthy air quality, due to ground-level ozone, is expected for most of Conn., R.I., central and southern Mass. (including Springfield, Worcester, Cape Cod and the Islands), coastal N.H. and most of coastal Maine for Friday, May 31, 2013. Elevated smog levels are expected to continue through Saturday. "We expect Friday to be another unhealthy air quality day in many parts of southern and coastal New England," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "On these days, EPA and the medical community suggest that people limit their strenuous outdoor activity. Further, everybody can help reduce smog-forming emissions by driving less and by setting air conditioner thermostats a few degrees higher." The ozone standard is 0.075 parts per million (ppm) on an 8-hour average basis. Air quality alerts are issued when ozone concentrations exceed, or are predicted to exceed, this level.

Asia-Pacific Analysis: Rain harvesting can avert crisis
May 30, 2013 04:17 PM - Crispin Maslog, SciDevNet

To ensure South-East Asias's growing population has enough water to drink, we need to collect more rain, says Crispin Maslog. The world's next major crisis will be a lack of water for home use, including drinking water, many scientists predict. Humans can survive around 40 days without food, but much less than that without water to drink. The scarcity of water for domestic use is becoming a critical problem, especially in rural parts of developing countries. Surface water in rivers, streams or lakes, and groundwater, are increasingly becoming contaminated with pollutants from factories, households, farms and mines. Wells dug deeper to extract groundwater are drying up.

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