The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
Representatives of 59 Midwestern groups asked the Environmental Protection Agency today to consider the cumulative effects of mining across the Lake Superior basin, including from the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine.
The organizations, including tribal and conservation groups and businesses in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, sent a formal letter (posted below) to the EPA asking the agency to prepare a cumulative effects assessment that would weigh how long-term mining activities, including mining in sulfur-bearing rock, would affect the Lake Superior basin.
Industrial agriculture could be hitting fundamental limits in its capacity to produce sufficient crops to feed an expanding global population according to new research published in Nature Communications.
The study by scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln argues that there have been abrupt declines or plateaus in the rate of production of major crops which undermine optimistic projections of constantly increasing crop yields. As much as “31% of total global rice, wheat and maize production” has experienced “yield plateaus or abrupt decreases in yield gain, including rice in eastern Asia and wheat in northwest Europe.”
The declines and plateaus in production have become prevalent despite increasing investment in agriculture, which could mean that maximum potential yields under the industrial model of agribusiness have already occurred. Crop yields in “major cereal-producing regions have not increased for long periods of time following an earlier period of steady linear increase.”
Conservative groups may have spent up to $1bn a year on the effort to deny science and oppose action on climate change, according to the first extensive study into the anatomy of the anti-climate effort.
The anti-climate effort has been largely underwritten by conservative billionaires, often working through secretive funding networks. They have displaced corporations as the prime supporters of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations which have worked to block action on climate change. Such financial support has hardened conservative opposition to climate policy, ultimately dooming any chances of action from Congress to cut greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet, the study found.
Biologists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have for the first time shown that amphipods from the warmer Atlantic are now reproducing in Arctic waters to the west of Spitsbergen. This surprising discovery indicates a possible shift of the Arctic zooplankton community, scientists report in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series. The primary victims of this “Atlantification” are likely to be marine birds, fish and whales. The reason is that the migrating amphipods measure around one centimetre, and so are smaller than the respective Arctic species; this makes them less nutritious prey.
It is increasingly recognized that climate change has the potential to threaten people and nature, and that it is imperative to tackle the drivers of climate change, namely greenhouse gases. One way to slow climate change is to increase the number of trees on Earth, as they, through photosynthesis, take up the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, converting it to carbon products which are stored in the vegetation (in the form of wood, roots, leaves) and oxygen. New forests continue to accumulate carbon for hundreds of years. Therefore, forestation projects are one way of generating ‘carbon credits’, which are tradable units on the carbon market. The more carbon is stored in the vegetation, the more profitable such projects are.
As China increases its forests, a Michigan State University (MSU) sustainability scholar proposes a new way to answer the question: if a tree doesn’t fall in China, can you hear it elsewhere in the world? In this week’s journal Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, MSU’s University Distinguished Professor Jianguo “Jack” Liu dissects the global impact of China’s struggle to preserve and expand its forests even as its cities and population balloon.
Because China’s supersized global role makes each domestic decision a world event, Liu shows how China’s efforts to sustain forests influences other countries, and in turn how those changes may rebound to China. He is the author of “Forest Sustainability in China and Implications for a Telecoupled World.”
A UT Arlington landscape architect and his graduate students have published three case studies for the 2013 Case Study Investigation Series for the Landscape Architecture Foundation that help show environmental, economic and social benefits of notable projects in that sector. The case studies analyze the benefits of Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, the University of Texas at Dallas Campus Landscape Plan and Buffalo Bayou Promenade in Houston. In the case of Klyde Warren Park, the research team said the park has contributed to increased property values for nearby property, increased physical activity among patron and helps reduce carbon dioxide in its urban setting.
In the midst of a winter cold snap, a study from researchers in the United States and Greece reveals an overlooked side effect of economic crisis — dangerous air quality caused by burning cheaper fuel for warmth. The researchers, led by Constantinos Sioutas of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, show that the concentration of fine air particles in one of Greece’s economically hardest hit areas has risen 30 percent since the financial crisis began, leading to potential long-term health effects.
These fine particles — measuring less than 2.5 microns in diameter (approximately 1/30th the diameter of a human hair) — are especially dangerous because they can lodge deep into the tissue of lungs, according to the EPA.
For years, scientists have assumed that if mercury is high and increasing in fish in the North American and European Arctic, the same is true of fish elsewhere in the Arctic. But a team of scientists from the U.S., Russia, and Canada has discovered that assumption is wrong in much of the continental Arctic.
In addition to differences in mercury processes as a result of diverse atmospheric, geological, and biological conditions, “It turns out that the economic decline of the former Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991, appears to have been good for the Arctic environment in that part of the world,” said Leandro Castello, an assistant professor of fish and wildlife conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech.
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