The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.


James Hansen, NASA Scientist Who Raised Climate Change Alarm, Is Retiring

“After nearly half a century of research in planetary and climate science for NASA, James E. Hansen is retiring on Wednesday to pursue his passion for climate activism without the hindrances that come with government employment,” .

As , Hansen “first warned Congress about global warming in 1988.” Over time, he became more outspoken and active

Arkansas Oil Spill Sheds Light On Aging Pipeline System

The National Transportation Safety Board has investigated 20 pipeline accidents since 2000. Debbie Hersman, who heads the agency, says by and large the system is safe.

“But that still doesn’t mean that we should accept these accidents when they occur,” she says. “Particularly if you can demonstrate that they are preventable. And I will tell you, 100 percent of the accidents that we’ve investigated were completely preventable.”

Hersman says her investigators repeatedly find the same problems — for example, cracks and corrosion that were discovered by inspections but never fixed.

China’s Air Pollution Linked To Millions Of Early Deaths

More than 1 million people are dying prematurely every year from air pollution in China, according to a new analysis.

“This is the highest toll in the world and it really reflects the very high levels of air pollution that exist in China today,” says Robert O’Keefe of the in Boston, who presented the findings in Beijing this week.

In Missouri, Days Of Drought Send Caretakers To One ‘Big Tree’

The devastating drought in the Midwest last summer is a story often told by the numbers, with statistics on large crop failures, days without rain and thousands of parched acres.

This story is also about a tree — a bur oak in rural Columbia, Mo., that everyone calls “The Big Tree.” Although it’s survived all kinds of punishments during its 350 years on the prairie, last year’s record drought was especially tough.

German Prince Plans To Put Bison Back In The Wild

A small herd of European bison will soon be released in Germany’s most densely populated state, the first time in nearly three centuries that these bison — known as wisents — will roam freely in Western Europe.

The project is the brainchild of Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. He owns more than 30,000 acres, much of it covered in Norwegian spruce and beech trees in North Rhine-Westphalia.

For the 78-year-old logging magnate, the planned April release of the bull, five cows and two calves will fulfill a decade-old dream.

But the aristocrat’s neighbors aren’t all thrilled about his plan to release wisents, which have been living in an enclosure on his property for three years. They are slightly taller than their American cousins and weigh up to a ton. Questions remain about who will foot the bill if the European bison damage property or injure someone.

Federal Court Rejects Logging Industry Attack on Threatened Seabird

Marbled murrelets and their old-growth forest nesting habitat in the Pacific Northwest remain protected today, after a Washington, D.C. district court rejected both a proposal to eliminate all critical habitat protections and a direct challenge to protection of the murrelet as a threatened species.

The lawsuit is the timber industry’s third attempt in the past decade to eliminate murrelet protections, despite undisputed scientific evidence that murrelets are disappearing from the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. Several claims in the lawsuit will continue to be reviewed by the court in the coming months.

New models predict drastically greener Arctic in coming decades

New research predicts that rising temperatures will lead to a massive “greening,” or increase in plant cover, in the Arctic. In a paper published on March 31 in Nature Climate Change, scientists reveal new models projecting that wooded areas in the Arctic could increase by as much as 50 percent over the next few decades. The researchers also show that this dramatic greening will accelerate climate warming at a rate greater than previously expected.

Ozone masks plants volatiles, plant eating insects confused

Increases in ground-level ozone, especially in rural areas, may interfere not only with predator insects finding host plants, but also with pollinators finding flowers, according to researchers from Penn State and the University of Virginia. “Ozone pollution has great potential to perniciously alter key interactions between plants and animals,” the researchers said in a recent issue of Environmental Research Letters.

Rising temperature difference between hemispheres could dramatically shift tropical rain patterns

One often ignored consequence of global climate change is that the Northern Hemisphere is becoming warmer than the Southern Hemisphere, which could significantly alter tropical precipitation patterns, according to a new study by climatologists from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Washington, Seattle. Such a shift could increase or decrease seasonal rainfall in areas such as the Amazon, sub-Saharan Africa or East Asia, leaving some areas wetter and some drier than today.

‘A better path’ toward projecting, planning for rising seas on a warmer Earth

More useful projections of sea level are possible despite substantial uncertainty about the future behavior of massive ice sheets, according to Princeton University researchers. In two recent papers in the journals Nature Climate Change and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the researchers present a probabilistic assessment of the Antarctic contribution to 21st-century sea-level change. Their methodology folds observed changes and models of different complexity into unified projections that can be updated with new information. This approach provides a consistent means to integrate the potential contribution of both continental ice sheets — Greenland and Antarctica — into sea-level rise projections.

Study: Environmental policies matter for growing megacities

A new study shows clean-air regulations have dramatically reduced acid rain in the United States, Europe, Japan and South Korea over the past 30 years, but the opposite is true in fast-growing East Asian megacities, possibly due to lax antipollution rules or lack of enforcement. The U.S. Clean Air Act began requiring regulatory controls for vehicle emissions in the 1970s, and 1990 amendments addressed issues including acid rain. Similar steps in the European Union, Japan and South Korea over the past three decades have reduced nitrate and sulfate in rain — components contributing to acid rain, said Suresh Rao, Lee A. Reith Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering and Agronomy at Purdue University.

The effects of acid rain can propagate through aquatic ecosystems such as lakes, rivers and wetlands and terrestrial ecosystems including forests and soils, negatively impacting ecological health.


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