The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
(1/24/13) SAN FRANCISCO: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced progress on a coordinated five-year federal investment of more than $100 million to address health risks posed by pervasive uranium contamination on the Navajo Nation. EPA joined five other federal agencies in releasing a report today outlining the results of their Five-Year Plan. Since 2008, EPA has spent more than $50 million to clean up mines, provide safe drinking water, and demolish and replace contaminated homes. In addition to federal funds, EPA has used the Superfund law to compel responsible parties to perform an additional $17 million in mine investigations and cleanups.
(PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 16, 2013) Total toxic air releases in 2011 declined 8 percent from 2010, mostly because of decreases in hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions, even while total releases of toxic chemicals increased for the second year in a row, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report published today. In EPA’s mid-Atlantic Region – Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia – TRI data indicate a decrease of 32.5 million pounds or 13.8 % of chemical releases as compared to 2010.
WASHINGTON – EPA today released “America’s Children and the Environment, Third Edition,” a comprehensive compilation of information from a variety of sources on children’s health and the environment. The report shows trends for contaminants in air, water, food, and soil that may affect children; concentrations of contaminants in the bodies of children and women of child-bearing age; and childhood illnesses and health conditions. The report incorporates revisions to address peer review and public comments on draft materials released in 2011.
Through June of 2012, renewable energy was right behind natural gas in terms of the most new energy generating capacity being installed in the United States, with wind making up most of the renewables push. And now Business Insider has flagged the numbers for the remainder of the year.
Last week, they reported that wind ultimately pulled ahead of natural gas to become the leading installer of new capacity in 2012, at 10,689 total megawatts.
Longer, warmer growing seasons associated with a changing climate are altering growing conditions in temperate rain forests, but not all plant species will be negatively affected, according to research conducted by the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station. Research featured in the January 2013 issue of Science Findings — a monthly publication of the station — reveals a complex range of forest plant responses to a warming climate.
In the coming decades, climate change will lead to more frequent and more intense Midwest heat waves while degrading air and water quality and threatening public health. Intense rainstorms and floods will become more common, and existing risks to the Great Lakes will be exacerbated. Those are some of the conclusions contained in the Midwest chapter of a draft report released last week by the federal government that assesses the key impacts of climate change on every region in the country and analyzes its likely effects on human health, water, energy, transportation, agriculture, forests, ecosystems and biodiversity.
With more than 40 million people living under exceptional drought conditions in East Africa, the ability to make accurate predictions of drought has never been more important. In the aftermath of widespread famine and a humanitarian crisis caused by the 2010-2011 drought in the Horn of Africa — possibly the worst drought in 60 years — researchers are striving to determine whether drying trends will continue. While it is clear that El Niño can affect precipitation in this region of East Africa, very little is known about the drivers of long-term shifts in rainfall. However, new research described in the journal Nature helps explain the mechanisms at work behind historical patterns of aridity in Eastern Africa over many decades, and the findings may help improve future predictions of drought and food security in the region.
The Arctic sea ice has not only declined over the past decade but has also become distinctly thinner and younger. Researchers are now observing mainly thin, first-year ice floes which are extensively covered with melt ponds in the summer months where once metre-thick, multi-year ice used to float. Sea ice physicists at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), have now measured the light transmission through the Arctic sea ice for the first time on a large scale, enabling them to quantify consequences of this change.
Warmer temperatures due to climate change could cause soils to release additional carbon into the atmosphere, thereby enhancing climate change – but that effect diminishes over the long term, finds a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change. The study, from UNH professor Serita Frey and co-authors from the University of California-Davis and the Marine Biological Laboratory, sheds new light on how soil microorganisms respond to temperature and could improve predictions of how climate warming will affect the carbon dioxide flux from soils. The activities of soil microorganisms release 10 times the carbon dioxide that human activities do on a yearly basis. Historically, this release of carbon dioxide has been kept in check by plants’ uptake of the gas from the atmosphere. However, human activities are potentially upsetting this balance.
When people wash their hands with antibacterial soap, most don’t think about where the chemicals contained in that soap end up. University of Minnesota engineering researchers do. A new University of Minnesota study determined that the common antibacterial agent, called triclosan, used in soaps and many other products is found in increasing amounts in several Minnesota freshwater lakes. The findings are directly linked to increased triclosan use over the past few decades.
Hydraulically fractured natural gas wells are producing less wastewater per unit of gas recovered than conventional wells would. But the scale of fracking operations in the Marcellus shale region is so vast that the wastewater it produces threatens to overwhelm the region’s wastewater disposal capacity, according to new analysis by researchers at Duke and Kent State universities. Hydraulically fractured natural gas wells in the Marcellus shale region of Pennsylvania produce only about 35 percent as much wastewater per unit of gas recovered as conventional wells, according to the analysis, which appears in the journal Water Resources Research.
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:
1. People matter more than profits.
2. The earth is our home, not our trash can.
3. We need good government for both #1 and #2.
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