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Some Amazon Tree Species Found to Have Existed for Millions of Years

Some Amazon rainforest tree species are more than eight million years old found a genetic study published in the December 2012 edition of Ecology and Evolution. Christopher Dick of the University of Michigan and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), Simon Lewis of the University of Leeds, Mark Maslin of University College London, and Eldredge Bermingham of STRI analyzed the age of 12 widely distributed Amazon tree species. They found that nine of the species emerged prior to the Pliocene Epoch some 2.6 million years ago, seven dated to the Miocene Epoch (5.6 million years ago), and three were more than eight million years old. >> Read the Full Article

EPA Reviews PM2.5 Standards, Expects Counties to Comply by 2020

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized an update to its national air quality standards for PM2.5 today, setting the annual health standard at 12 micrograms per cubic meter. PM2.5 is the term used for particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers (which is approximately 1/30th of the width of a human hair). It is a harmful fine particle pollutant that comes from wood burning, soot, power plants, and motor vehicles. >> Read the Full Article

Lawsuit Targets $3 Billion in U.S. Funding for Fossil Fuel Project in Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the U.S. Export-Import Bank's nearly $3 billion in financing for a massive Australian fossil fuel facility in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Construction and operation of the liquefied natural gas facility will threaten sea turtles, dugongs and many other protected marine species, as well as the Great Barrier Reef itself. >> Read the Full Article

Study links pesticides used by sheep farmers to long-term brain damage

A long-running campaign to highlight the health impacts of a dangerous chemical used by farmers in the UK has been vindicated by the conclusions of a major new study. Several hundred farmers in the UK are believed to have suffered debilitating health problems from exposure to organophosphate pesticides (OPs). A large number of them were sheep farmers, following government orders in the 1980s and 90s to treat their animals with the chemical to protect against the spread of a disease called sheep scab. >> Read the Full Article

Britain Lifting Ban on Shale Gas Exploration

Britain lifted its ban on shale gas exploration this week despite environmental fears as it aims to become a European leader in a sector that has transformed the U.S. energy market. The approval of shale gas fracking from Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey comes approximately a year and a half after UK authorities halted the unconventional exploration process after it set off earth tremors at one site. Shale reserves have been viewed as a way to counter the UK's fall in natural gas production. Europe's largest gas consumer, Britain in May 2011 put a temporary stop to hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" for shale gas after earth tremors were measured near the site close to Blackpool. >> Read the Full Article

The Future of New York After Sandy

It will take tens of billions of dollars to repair the damage of Superstorm Sandy. Will this be the norm of the future as climate changes and the sea level rises? If it is the new norm then repairs though necessary are not enough and a change in planning is necessary. Coastal storms will more likely cause flooding. How do you then spend limited funds to both repair New York and its environs and to improve coastal defenses against flooding? This is not just physical barriers but how people live in the area they want to live in. >> Read the Full Article

Last Turbine Installed at World's Largest Offshore Wind Farm

Construction of the 125th and last turbine at the London Array Offshore Wind Farm has been completed, marking the end of major construction activities at the massive 630MW renewable energy site. Turbine installation began in January 2012 and has been completed by MPI Discovery, A2SEA's Sea Worker and Sea Jack. With all turbines in place and 55 connected and supplying power to the national grid, the wind farm is on track to be fully operational in Spring 2013. The wind farm has been generating energy since October 2012 when the first turbine began producing power. >> Read the Full Article

Breweries Jump on the Sustainability Bandwagon

If there is one thing that can unite people across the political spectrum, beer is probably second only to puppies. That's why a new report from the New York-based think tank, A Clean Future, caught our eye. The report is called Leading Sustainability Practices in the Brewing Industry, and on one level, it simply provides a thorough rundown of sustainable practices that have been mainstreamed into the brewing industry, from small craft breweries to global giants like AB-InBev (formerly Anheuser-Busch). >> Read the Full Article

Frankincense

Frankincense has been traded on the Arabian Peninsula and in North Africa for more than 5000 years. Frankincense is tapped from the very scraggy but hardy Boswellia tree by slashing the bark, which is called striping, and allowing the exuded resins to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called tears. Current rates of tapping frankincense - which according to the Bible was given to the baby Jesus by the three wise men at Christmas and which will feature in thousands of Nativity plays in coming days - are endangering the fragrant resin's sustained production, ecologists have warned. Writing in the December issue of Journal of Applied Ecology, ecologists from the Netherlands and Eritrea say that over tapping the trees results in them producing fewer, less viable seeds. >> Read the Full Article

Nepal, Bhutan to assess air pollutants

The Himalayan countries of Nepal and Bhutan will, in 2013, have two permanent air monitoring observatories set up by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) as part of a programme to reduce black carbon and other short-lived climate-forcing pollutants (SLCPs). There has been increasing international attention on SLCPs – small particles and gases like black carbon, methane, and ozone – because of their warming effect on climate. Acting in decades – rather than the centuries taken by greenhouse gases like carbon di-oxide – SLCPs negatively impact human health and agricultural output. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition, launched by the United Nations Environment Programme in 2011 to reduce SLCPs, has now grown to 33 member-countries. >> Read the Full Article