• Why Population Matters to the environment

    Environmentalists agree on the issues facing us, including collapsing diversity, climate change and resource insecurity. We also agree on the causal factors, including pollution, invasive species, resource over-exploitation, waste, population growth, global industrialisation, unsustainable consumption and poor business practices. Solutions are harder. None will solve all our problems and all face obstacles and opposition. Technological solutions, such as biofuels, fracking, shale oil, GM foods and nuclear have side effects, while renewables have limited scope. Environmentally conscious lifestyles, including less waste, travel and consumption, are increasingly adopted, but the impact may by limited given the billions seeking to improve their low living standards. Changes to corporate and governmental practices have occurred, but are far from universal, particularly in the developing world. In my lifetime, human numbers have grown from 3 billion in 1960 to 7 billion today. By 2085, they are projected to grow to 10 billion. One can argue about the impact this makes, but it clearly does not help. We believe that a smaller population would help us to preserve the environment and live within the limit of renewable resources, as part of a comprehensive approach to the environment and sustainability. Most would agree that improving living standards for the poor, women's rights and access to health, including family planning, are desirable and they all tend to lead to women choosing to have smaller families. We would argue that aid for family planning to developing countries should be prioritised, both for environmental reasons and because it contributes to poverty alleviation, women’s empowerment and better health. While individual consumption in those countries is low, growing populations do affect the environment and they will not always be poor as the world industrialises. >> Read the Full Article
  • A world of sonic wonder

    The First wonder, Speaking Sands For nearly a century, man has been baffled by the sound of singing sand dunes. The songs they emit are almost as diverse as the countless theories about how they occur. The sound is produced when the sand on the surface of dunes avalanches. It was once thought that these sounds were produced by the friction between the grains. More recent studies have revealed that the sound continues after the sand has stopped moving and the song that the dunes sing varies depending on the time of year. Some researchers now theorise that the sound is caused by the reverberation between dry sand at the surface and a band of wet sand within the dune, hence it changes seasonally. There are approximately thirty locations around the world where these booming dunes can be heard; the earliest records seem to date to Marco Polo’s time in the Gobi Desert. However you don’t need to adventure among the dunes to hear them sing; the strange sound, said to be like the drone of a low flying propeller plane, has reportedly been heard up to ten kilometres away from its source. >> Read the Full Article
  • Climate change and population growth making US water problems worse

    Climate change and population growth in the United States will make having enough fresh water more challenging in the coming years, an expert on water shortages said on Wednesday. "In 1985-1986 there were historical (water level) highs and now in less than 25 years we are at historical lows. Those sorts of swings are very scary," said Robert Glennon, speaking at the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference in Erie, Pennsylvania. Glennon, a professor at Arizona State University and the author of "Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It," said that that according to climate experts, shorter, warmer winters mean less ice and greater exposure to the air, leading eventually to more water evaporation. "We think about water like the air -- infinite and inexhaustible but it is very finite and very exhaustible," Glennon said. "When you have a shorter ice season you have great exposure to the air and more evaporation. As temperatures go up it is very troubling," Glennon said. "The cycles are going to become more acute which is very troubling." >> Read the Full Article
  • Egypt Losing its Mighty Nile Drop by Drop

    Leaking water pipes, evaporation and a rapidly growing population may be significant concerns for those trying to manage and plan water supplies in Egypt, but compounding such problems – and forcing Egyptians to rethink how they use water – is the threat posed by downstream countries which also want to take more water from the Nile, say observers. "Egyptians have to adapt to less water every day," said Rida Al Damak, a water expert from Cairo University. >> Read the Full Article
  • Water use growing twice as fast as population!

    Like oil in the 20th century, water could well be the essential commodity on which the 21st century will turn. Human beings have depended on access to water since the earliest days of civilization, but with 7 billion people on the planet as of October 31, exponentially expanding urbanization and development are driving demand like never before. Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, said Kirsty Jenkinson of the World Resources Institute, a Washington think tank. Water use is predicted to increase by 50 percent between 2007 and 2025 in developing countries and 18 percent in developed ones, with much of the increased use in the poorest countries with more and more people moving from rural areas to cities, Jenkinson said in a telephone interview. >> Read the Full Article
  • EPA delays pollution rule for coal plants, but only until December

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Friday it will postpone its final rule aimed at slashing air pollution from coal plants for a month, but made it clear it plans to move forward on the regulations. The EPA said it needs the extra time to review 960,000 comments it received on its draft rule, but plans to finalize it by Dec 16. A group of 25 states has launched a court case over the rule, seeking a delay of at least a year for what they argue is an expensive measure that will shut down old coal-fired power plants. Analysts have said American Electric Power and Duke Energy could see shutdowns because of the rule, which would require many plants to install scrubbers and other anti-pollution technology. But the EPA, which has also been sued by environmental groups to finalize the rule, said the regulation is needed to prevent illnesses and deaths caused by air pollution. "In a court filing today, EPA made clear its opposition to efforts to delay this historic, court ordered standard by a full year," the agency said in a statement. >> Read the Full Article
  • California approves carbon market rules

    California regulators on Thursday approved final regulations for a carbon market that is one of the biggest U.S. responses to climate change. The state believes the market for greenhouse gases, which starts in 2013, will let it address global warming in a low-cost way and become the center of alternative energy industries, like solar, although some businesses fear higher energy prices. The most populous U.S. state is moving ahead with the plan years after federal regulators rejected a similar idea for the nation, partly on concerns of the effect on businesses. The California Air Resources Board voted 8-0 to adopt the market regulations, which officials said are critical to the state's goal of cutting carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 -- about a 22 percent reduction from forecasted business-as-usual output. Power companies and factories will be able to trade a gradually decreasing number of permits to emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the so-called cap-and-trade plan, which counts on market forces leading companies to find the cheapest way to cut emissions. >> Read the Full Article
  • Commentary: U.S. House of Representatives Passes Bill To Weaken EPA Clean Air Rules

    Two bills are currently working they way through the U.S. Congress in an attempt to stay activation of new air pollution regulations propagated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, namely additions to the NESHAP, Cement MACT, and Boiler MACT standards scheduled to take effect in the next few months. The new regulations will require most facilities to install updated dust collection systems to meet more stringent emissions levels. The pair of bills, the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011 and the EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011, are part of a larger effort by conservatives to curtail the so-called "aggressive" agenda of the EPA. Several different EPA rule sets are covered by the bill, but the main three are the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs), Boiler MACTs (Maximum Available Control Technology), and Cement MACTs which covers emissions from the manufacture of cement. The standards are either new, or updates to existing EPA regulations. The EPA NESHAPs cover the six basic air pollutants the EPA regulates, carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter e.g. dusts smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), lead, and ozone. These rules were recently revised to include stricter limits. >> Read the Full Article
  • Shenyang, a Major Chinese Industrial City, Turns Green

    Shenyang is a large city in Northeastern China, not far from the border with North Korea. It is a centrally important industrial city with a population of 8 million that is currently leading the charge for environmentally-friendly practices in urban China. It was at one point heavily polluted with perpetual gray skies and black soot in the air. It was home to some of the country's largest iron and steel plants with a forest of smokestacks and chimneys. The city has undergone a massive transformation by reducing its air pollution, expanding green spaces, and implementing stricter environmental policies. >> Read the Full Article
  • House votes to delay air pollution rules on boilers

    The House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday to delay Environmental Protection Agency limits on pollutants from industrial boilers, its latest move to hinder air rules designed to protect public health. The vote was 275 to 142 for the legislation. All Republicans present voted for the bill as did 41 Democrats. Republicans have a majority in the House. "We're not saying, 'Let's walk away and not protect the American people,'" said Representative Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky. "We're simply saying, 'Let's hold back for just a moment, let's go back and revisit this rule.'" House Republicans and the business community have launched a campaign to delay the EPA's raft of air pollution rules on everything from mercury to greenhouse gases, saying they destroy jobs and add costs to companies struggling to recover. The extent to which Republican voters support the delay of EPA air pollution rules, however, may be faltering. A survey released on Wednesday by Democratic and Republican pollsters suggested the majority of Republican voters do not want the EPA rules stopped or delayed. >> Read the Full Article