ENN Weekly: June 25th - 29th

ENN rounds up the most important and compelling environmental news stories of the week. In the news June 25th - 29th: Bald eagles rebound, desert dust spurs warming, tourism takes a toll, and much more.

Top Ten Articles of the Week
In the news June 25th - 29th: Bald eagles rebound, desert dust spurs warming, tourism takes a toll, and much more.

1. Desertification a Threat, According to UN Report
Desertification represents one of the "greatest environmental challenge of our times" and could set off mass migrations of people fleeing degraded homelands, a United Nations report warned Thursday. The report called on governments in arid regions to revise rules on land use to halt overgrazing and unsustainable irrigation practices. It also urged better coordinated policies to address the problem of desertification.

2. Mushrooms Become Source for Eco-Building
Eben Bayer grew up on a farm in Vermont learning the intricacies of mushroom harvesting with his father. Now the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute graduate is using that experience to create an organic insulation made from mushrooms. More at home on a pizza, mushrooms certainly aren't a typical building material, but Bayer thought they just might work when given the assignment two years to create a sustainable insulation.

3. Tourism Levy of 0.5 Percent Urged To Protect Wildlife
An extra 0.5 percent should be levied on all tourism revenues and spent on protecting animals and plants from threats ranging from loss of habitats to climate change, an environmental expert said on Monday. Such a charge on tourism, a global industry worth perhaps $6 trillion, would raise $30 billion a year to manage parks on land and at sea, said Peter Prokosch, head of GRID-Arendal, a foundation set up by Norway and the U.N. Environment Programme.

4. U.S. Bald Eagle Numbers Making Recovery
The American bald eagle, a national symbol once almost wiped out by hunters and DDT poisoning, has not only survived but is thriving. The Interior Department will announce on Thursday it is removing the majestic bird from the protection of the Endangered Species Act, capping a four-decade struggle for recovery. Government biologists have counted nearly 10,000 mating pairs of bald eagles, including at least one pair in each of 48 contiguous states.

5. EPA Proposes Tougher Smog Standards
Pollution standards are too weak to protect people from the air they breathe, the EPA's chief declared Thursday. He recommended tougher limits on the smog that makes children cough and asthmatics wheeze from Los Angeles to Houston to New York. Still, under pressure from big business, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson left the door open to keeping the rules as they are.

6. Earth's Inner Heat Keeps Cities Afloat
If it weren't for the hot rocks down below Earth's crust, most of North America would be below sea level, report researchers who say the significance of Earth's internal heat has been overlooked. Without it, mile-high Denver would be 727 feet below sea level, the scientists calculate, and New York City, more than a quarter-mile below. Los Angeles would be almost three-quarters of a mile beneath the Pacific.

7. Desert Dust Cuts Mountain Snow, May Spur Warming
Desert dust blown onto Rocky Mountain peaks has cut the duration of snow-cover by a month or more, and the same thing is probably happening in the Alps and Himalayas, researchers reported Monday. In a phenomenon likely to spur global warming, the reflective white of snow is replaced by darker dust deposits that absorb the sun's rays, heating up the lower atmosphere, said Tom Painter, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado.

8. U.S. House Passes Bill Affirming Global Warming Exists
The House of Representatives Wednesday, aiming to put an end to the debate over whether global warming is actually occurring, passed legislation recognizing the "reality" of climate change and providing money to work on the problem. By a vote of 272-155, the House approved an environmental funding bill for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 that would increase federal investments in basic research on climate change and establish a new commission to review scientific questions that need to be addressed.

9. Ex-EPA Chief Confronts Critics in Congress over Safe-Air Statements after 9/11
Ex-EPA chief Christie Whitman was bombarded by boos and a host of accusations Monday at a hearing into her assurances that it had been safe to breathe the air around the fallen World Trade Center. The confrontation between the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency and her critics grew heated at times. Some members of the audience shouted in anger, only to be gaveled down by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who chaired the hearing.

10. Live Earth Concerts To Deliver Climate SOS, Gore Says
Former Vice President Al Gore Thursday urged people worldwide to pressure their governments to cut global warming pollution by 90 percent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide by 2050. Gore said the July 7 Live Earth concerts -- to be held in Johannesburg, London, New Jersey, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, Sydney and Tokyo -- will ask people around the globe to sign the climate change pledge.

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