ENN rounds up the most important and compelling environmental news stories of the week. In the news April 17th - 21st: Rabbit restoration, development versus ecology, rogue rodents, cleaner manure, and much more.
The Week's Top Ten Articles
In the news April 17th - 21st: Rabbit restoration, development versus ecology, rogue rodents, cleaner manure, and much more.
1. Rabbit Restoration Effort Under Way
The numbers of New England cottontail rabbits are on the decline in Maine, with only 300 of the animals remaining in a small range in the southern end of the state.
2. Development Jockeys with Ecology on Shanghai Island
Lao Yu has visions of a better life as the bulldozers rumble onto his rural island home where a new city will sprout up near marshes teeming with wildlife and wipe away cabbage and tomato fields.
3. Tiny Owl May Be Taken Off Endangered List
A tiny desert owl is set to be taken off the federal government's endangered species list, drawing praise from developers but protests from environmentalists.
4. As Massive South Korean Land Plan Nears End, Critics Cry Foul
Massive earthmovers and trucks roar as they dump rocks the size of cars into the sea off South Korea's west coast in a map-altering reclamation project at the center of a bitter environmental dispute.
5. Falcon Smugglers Swoop to Profits, Endanger Birds
Smuggling is driving many species of falcon towards extinction in an illicit market where prized birds can sell for a million dollars each, an expert said on Thursday.
6. Capturing Big Animals is Big Business in South Africa
Almost unique in the world, South Africa's privately owned wildlife and game breeding has been a growth industry, although there are signs it has peaked with prices declining partly because of the large supply of animals.
7. South American Rodents Found in Seattle
A water-loving rodent native to South America that has destroyed thousands of acres of wetlands in the southeast has been spotted near Lake Washington.
8. Study Finds Melting Sea Ice a Danger to Walruses
Arctic researchers who discovered a surprising number of abandoned baby walruses say melting sea ice may be the culprit, according to a study in the April issue of Aquatic Mammals.
9. Environmentalists Urge Malaysia to Save 130 Million-Year-Old Rainforest
A 130 million-year-old tropical rainforest in Malaysia is under threat from logging, environmental activists warned Thursday, as they launched a campaign calling for greater efforts to protect the national heritage.
10. New Technology Could Help Clean Manure
A new technology being promoted by Green Mountain Power and the University of Vermont might clean up manure before it's spread on farm fields, reducing the chances for air and water pollution.
Guest Commentary: Community and Trade
By Steven J. Moss, San Francisco Community Power
“Cap and trade” has become the rallying cry for many environmentalists seeking a solution to global climate change. Under a cap and trade approach, which is already widely employed as part of traditional air quality programs, limits would be imposed on the amount of greenhouse gases a polluter can emit. Polluters who can reduce their emissions below their assigned cap can sell these “excess” reductions to those who exceed their limits. The idea is that businesses that can reduce their emissions at the least cost will do so first, to the benefit of everyone. While cap and trade schemes must be carefully crafted to be successful ”“ and the limits imposed must result in the needed emission reductions ”“ they can be an efficient way of achieving environmental goals.
What’s missing from cap and trade programs as currently used in domestic air quality programs is flexibility and community. In most cases trading across different types of polluting sources ”“ predominately stationary and mobile ”“ or different types of emissions ”“ such as particulate matter versus nitrogen oxide -- is prohibited. For example, a factory can’t get credit for reducing emissions by providing a free low emission shuttle which results in fewer employee car trips. This restriction constrains the pool of potential emission reduction strategies
Existing cap and trade programs likewise don’t provide ways for communities to participate in emission reduction efforts. For example, a city or a neighborhood can’t declare no-drive days, and sell the resulting pollution reductions in the emissions market. This limitation acts to wall-off grassroots efforts from obtaining economic gains by doing the right thing. Tons of polluting and greenhouse gas emissions (will) remain unabated as a result. And hard-pressed communities, which may have a disproportionate reliance on old, excessively polluting vehicles and be subjected to greater amounts of polluting activities, are locked-out of a potential source of much-needed revenue.
These weaknesses should be corrected in any domestic cap and trade programs adopted to address global climate change. A common market should be created for polluting air and greenhouse gas emission programs, in which trades can be made across all emissions sources and types. This can be accomplished through a few analytical steps.
A relative value would have to be assigned to a unit reduction for all “evil” emissions. For example, a unit reduction of particulate matter might be worth ten times a unit reduction of carbon dioxide based on the public health, environmental, and economic damage caused by the different molecules.
Emission reduction strategies, from smoke stack scrubbers to electrifying diesel motors could then be certified to result in a specific set of emission reductions. For instance, if a community turned in all its diesel-powered leaf blowers it would receive a pre-established emission credit per blower. These credits could then be sold on the emissions market, the proceeds to be invested in publicly-provided services. To guard against cheating, as well as address the difficulty of obtaining precise emission reduction estimates for a diverse set of actions, the reductions assigned to different activities could be discounted, with random audits imposed to ensure compliance with the paid for reduction strategy.
Enabling communities to participate in polluting air and greenhouse gas cap and trade markets would create a multitude of benefits. It would unlock a reservoir of small but cumulatively important emission reductions. It would enable communities, particularly low income ones, to generate much-needed revenues for public services. And perhaps most importantly, it would engage neighborhoods and individuals in what up until now has been widely considered an abstract problem about which there may be little we can do.
Photo: An Eastern Cottontail. Credit: William R. James/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.