The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
The globally-averaged temperature for September 2012 tied with 2005 as the warmest September since record keeping began in 1880. September 2012 also marks the 36th consecutive September and 331st consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average.
(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a legal complaint to the owner and operator of seventeen underground storage tanks at six gasoline stations in Western New York for violating federal regulations. The complaint, which seeks $42,295 in penalties, was issued to United Refining Company for violations at its Kwik Fill stations in Dunkirk, Westfield, Jamestown, Fredonia and Rochester, New York. In addition to paying penalties, the complaint requires the facilities to come into full compliance with the environmental regulations.
SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded more than $214,000 in grants to the Product Stewardship Institute, Inc. and the Monterey Bay Aquarium to reduce sources of marine debris in partnership with local students, governments and businesses.
According to the World Health Organization, about 20 percent of the world’s people live in regions that don’t have enough water for their needs. With the global population increasing by 80 million each year, a third of the planet will likely face water shortages by 2025. This looming water crisis is inextricably linked to food production because agriculture accounts for 70 percent of all fresh water used, and obtaining irrigation water in arid regions has serious environmental impacts. Drilling wells can deplete groundwater, and desalination is energy-intensive and leaves behind concentrated brine.
The Seawater Greenhouse, however, provides what may be an economical and sustainable way of producing fresh water and crops in hot, dry regions near the ocean
Today nearly two people in ten have no source of safe drinking water according to the U.N. Millions of people, most of them children, die from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation, and hygiene each year. But in some desert areas, where there is very little rain, fog and dew are abundant sources of humidity that are being harvested to produce fresh water.
“At one point the heat cover – it was above 100 degrees F, and it just killed all the fish in the lake through heat exposure. And we’ve experienced extreme heat waves. We’ve got four healthy seasons, winter, spring, summer and fall and now sometimes it comes too late – like right now it’s coming too late. I’ve seen a lot of new growth of vegetation come into our area. Other insects and other birds and animals start coming in. Tree beetles came in and ruined a lot of trees in Alaska and they had to be cut down. And due to all the water draining, there’s a high potential for forest fires. There have been a lot of forest fires in our area. Also a lot of ice is melting sooner when the end of the summer comes around.” – Sarah James, Gwich’in Alaska -
The extensive system of levees along the Mississippi River has done much to prevent devastating floods in riverside communities. But the levees have also contributed to the loss of Louisiana’s wetlands. By holding in floodwaters, they prevent sediment from flowing into the watershed and rebuilding marshes, which are compacting under their own weight and losing ground to sea-level rise. Reporting in Nature Geoscience, a team of University of Pennsylvania geologists and others used the Mississippi River flood of the spring of 2011 to observe how floodwaters deposited sediment in the Mississippi Delta. Their findings offer insight into how new diversions in the Mississippi River’s levees may help restore Louisiana’s wetlands.
New data which more accurately measures the rate of ice-melt could help us better understand how Antarctica is changing in the light of global warming. The rate of global sea level change is reasonably well-established but understanding the different sources of this rise is more challenging. Using re-calibrated scales that are able to ‘weigh’ ice sheets from space to a greater degree of accuracy than ever before, the international team led by Newcastle University has discovered that Antarctica overall is contributing much less to the substantial sea-level rise than originally thought.
Analysis of texture differences in satellite images may be an effective way to monitor changes in vegetation, soil and water patterns over time, with potential implications for measuring biodiversity as well, according to new research published Oct. 24 by Matteo Convertino from the University of Florida and colleagues in the open access journal PLOS ONE. The authors designed statistical models to estimate two aspects of biodiversity in satellite images: the number of species in a given region, or ‘species richness’, and the rate at which species entered or were removed from the ecosystem, a parameter termed ‘species turnover’.
Putting a speed limit on cargo ships as they sail near ports and coastlines could cut their emission of air pollutants by up to 70 percent, reducing the impact of marine shipping on Earth’s climate and human health, scientists have found. Their evaluation of the impact of vessel speed reduction policies, such as those proposed by the California Air Resources board, appears in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology. David R. Cocker III and colleagues explain that marine shipping is the most efficient form of transporting goods, with more than 100,000 ships carrying 90 percent of the world’s cargo. However, engines on these vessels burn low-grade oil that produce large amounts of air pollution. Because fuel consumption and smokestack emissions increase exponentially with speed, the authors explored how speed limits could reduce pollution.
Scaling up the production of biofuels made from algae to meet at least 5 percent — approximately 39 billion liters — of U.S. transportation fuel needs would place unsustainable demands on energy, water, and nutrients, says a new report from the National Research Council. However, these concerns are not a definitive barrier for future production, and innovations that would require research and development could help realize algal biofuels’ full potential. Biofuels derived from algae and cyanobacteria are possible alternatives to petroleum-based fuels and could help the U.S. meet its energy security needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide (CO2). Algal biofuels offer potential advantages over biofuels made from land plants, including algae’s ability to grow on non-croplands in cultivation ponds of freshwater, salt water, or wastewater. The number of companies developing algal biofuels has been increasing, and several oil companies are investing in them. Given these and other interests, the National Research Council was asked to identify sustainability issues associated with large-scale development of algal biofuels.
Here are some other links you may find worthwhile:
• Climate Change News Digest
• Climate Progress from Center for American Progress
• Rocky Mountain Institute “an independent, entrepreneurial nonprofit think-and-do tank™ that drives the efficient and restorative use of resources.”
At BPI Campus our Progressive Agenda is:
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2. The earth is our home, not our trash can.
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