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

How El Niño will change the world’s weather in 2014

The global El Niño weather phenomenon, whose impacts cause global famines, floods – and even wars – now has a 90% chance of striking this year, according to the latest forecast released to the Guardian.

El Niño begins as a giant pool of warm water swelling in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, that sets off a chain reaction of weather events around the world – some devastating and some beneficial.

India is expected to be the first to suffer, with weaker monsoon rains undermining the nation’s fragile food supply, followed by further scorching droughts in Australia and collapsing fisheries off South America. But some regions could benefit, in particular the US, where El Niño is seen as the “great wet hope” whose rains could break the searing drought in the west.

A superbug resistant to “last-resort” antibiotics has made its way into the food supply

A dangerous “superbug” has made its way into the North American food supply for the first time, Canadian researchers announced Wednesday. Routine testing of raw squid, imported from South Korea, revealed a strain of bacteria resistant to carbapenems, a class of antibiotics used to treat life-threatening infections.

This is concerning because carbapenems are a “last resort” antibiotic, one doctors turn to when common antibiotics fail. Health officials have been watching them closely; in April, the World Health Organization warned that antibiotic resistance had become a serious, global threat to public health, listing the spread of carbapanem resistance as a main reason for that.

Carbapanem-resistant bacteria have been detected in the environment and in animals used for food, but this is the first time they’ve been found in food itself. That raises the stakes considerably, Joseph Rubin, assistant professor of veterinary microbiology at the University of Saskatchewan and head of the research team, explained, because it means “the risk of exposure in the public goes beyond people with travel histories and beyond people who have been previously hospitalized” — a select group — to the general public.

Double trouble for the Mediterranean Sea: Acidification and warming threaten iconic species

Scientist finalise their findings about the threat of Mediterranean Sea warming and acidification on key species and ecosystems after a 3.5 year study1 in Barcelona this week. They have found that this sea is warming and acidifying at unprecedented rates — the main reason is emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. This increases the CO2 in the atmosphere causing warming of the atmosphere and the ocean as well as acidification of its waters due to uptake of CO2 by surface waters.

This is of particular importance to the Mediterranean coastal societies with 300 million inhabitants (living and visiting), unique ecosystems, love of seafood and its role as a focus for tourist worldwide.

Research professor Patrizia Ziveri, from Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the UAB and the coordinator of the project says “We knew next to nothing about the combined effects of warming and acidification in the Mediterranean until this study, now we know that they are a serious double threat to our marine ecosystems.”

Florida, Kentucky Rivers Poisoned by Coal Ash

Coal ash is the toxic waste left over after the coal gets burned to generate electricity. Despite being chock-full of dangerous pollutants like mercury, arsenic (a known carcinogen), lead, selenium and cadmium, utility corporations store it all over the country in massive, unlined pits. These pits leak pollution into groundwater and streams – water that nearby communities often rely on for drinking supplies. These pollutants also build up in ecosystems, and most are dangerous even in very small amounts.

While the Clean Water Act does protect waterways from pollution, there are no federal safeguards specific to coal ash pollution. Household garbage, in fact, is better regulated than toxic coal ash. Coal ash has already contaminated more than 200 lakes, streams, rivers and drinking water aquifers across the country.

In Kentucky, time-lapse photography from a camera strapped to a tree captured a year’s worth of images proving that dangerous coal ash wastewater from Louisville Gas & Electric’s Mill Creek Generating Station has been pouring unabated into the Ohio River. In May, The Sierra Club and Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in federal court against the utility company.

Obama Administration Agrees to Stronger Protections for Salmon From Pesticides

Seattle, WA —

A coalition of advocates for alternatives to pesticides, conservation organizations, and fishing groups have reached a significant agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agreement restores reasonable no-spray buffer zones to protect salmon and steelhead from five broad-spectrum insect killers—diazinon, chlorpyrifos, malathion, carbaryl, and methomyl.

Court Upholds the San Pedro River’s Right to Water

Phoenix, AZ —

Arizona Superior Court Judge Crane McClennen today reversed and vacated the Arizona Department of Water Resources’ (ADWR) approval of a massive groundwater pumping project that would have drained the Upper San Pedro River in Southern Arizona.  The court concluded that ADWR had violated state law by approving the project without evaluating whether the pumping project conflicts with pre-existing water rights held by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to protect the ecological health of the river.


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