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A Fukushima-Sized Problem

August 27, 2014 - 12:45pm
A newly-exposed report by Diablo Canyon's lead nuclear inspector shows that the twin reactors are unsafe, writes Karl Grossman. An earthquake on nearby geological faults could trigger a Fukushima-scale accident causing 10,000 early fatalities. The owner's response? Apply to extend the site's operation for another 20 years. As aftershocks of the 6.0 Napa earthquake that occurred Sunday in California continued, the Associated Press revealed a secret government report pointing to major earthquake vulnerabilities at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plants which are a little more than 200 miles away and sitting amid a webwork of earthquake faults.

Levels of Air Toxics decreasing across US Cities

August 23, 2014 - 8:07am
More and more people are living in our cities. They are great places to live, exciting, good jobs, great night life, but also sometimes congestion and unhealthy air quality. The latter problems are improving, however. Efforts to make cities livable without driving are paying off. Bike lanes, bike sharing, and efforts to reduce auto traffic and congestion are helping to improve the air quality in our cities. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week released its Second Integrated Urban Air Toxics Report to Congress - the final of two reports required under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to inform Congress of progress in reducing public health risks from urban air toxics. "This report gives everyone fighting for clean air a lot to be proud of because for more than 40 years we have been protecting Americans – preventing illness and improving our quality of life by cutting air pollution - all while the economy has more than tripled," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "But we know our work is not done yet. At the core of EPA's mission is the pursuit of environmental justice - striving for clean air, water and healthy land for every American; and we are committed to reducing remaining pollution, especially in low-income neighborhoods."

Toxic Algae Scare Prompts Backlash Against Farms

August 18, 2014 - 10:25am
What do a no-drink order in Toledo and a backlash against factory farming have in common? A lot, as it turns out. Residents of Ohio's fourth-largest city were advised for multiple days earlier this month to refrain from drinking their tap water because it had been contaminated by toxic algae. As residents struggled to deal with their contaminated water supply, the culprit behind the problem became readily apparent: factory farms. The Ohio Agriculture Advisory Council (OAAC) is proposing a regulatory crackdown that could forever change industrial farming practices in this Midwestern state.

The cost of marine debris

August 12, 2014 - 4:53pm
Marine debris has many impacts on the ocean, wildlife, and coastal communities. A NOAA Marine Debris Program economic study released today shows that it can also have considerable economic costs to residents who use their local beaches. The study found that Orange County, California residents lose millions of dollars each year avoiding littered, local beaches in favor of choosing cleaner beaches that are farther away and may cost more to reach. Reducing marine debris even by 25 percent at beaches in and near Orange County could save residents roughly $32 million during three months in the summer.

Mercury in the oceans increasing

August 6, 2014 - 6:29pm
Although the days of odd behavior among hat makers are a thing of the past, the dangers mercury poses to humans and the environment persist today. Mercury is a naturally occurring element as well as a by-product of such distinctly human enterprises as burning coal and making cement. Estimates of "bioavailable" mercury—forms of the element that can be taken up by animals and humans—play an important role in everything from drafting an international treaty designed to protect humans and the environment from mercury emissions, to establishing public policies behind warnings about seafood consumption.

A Bridge to a Renewable Energy Future

August 5, 2014 - 5:18pm
"Doing all we can to combat climate change comes with numerous benefits, from reducing pollution and associated health care costs to strengthening and diversifying the economy by shifting to renewable energy, among other measures." (David Suzuki) The whole concept of renewable energy has gained high importance in the recent years, owing to the growing need of conservation. Every person needs to do their bit to save energy so that it can be sustained for the generations to come. Generally people think of solar, wind, and hydroelectric sources when they think of renewable energy. However, there is one more source of renewable energy that is created around the globe on a regular basis, which is waste. As this concept is still very new, there are only a few companies who have ventured into this field. However, companies like Northern California Compactor are pioneers in this field with the introduction of different trash compactors, which help industries manage their waste and trash in a better manner. This also helps industries generate renewable energy from these waste products.

The Danger of Solar "Super-Storms"

August 5, 2014 - 2:45pm
Watch out George Lucas fans, a Death Star may be in our horizons – and one would only have to look as far as our nearest stellar neighbor: the Sun. According to Mr. Ashley Dale of the University of Bristol, solar "super-storms" pose an imminent threat to the earth by disabling electricity and communication system – or worse. Thus, the celestial body that illuminates the world may very well be responsible for sending it into darkness. In this month's issue of PhysicsWorld, Mr. Dale writes: "Without power, people would struggle to fuel their cars at petrol stations, get money from cash dispensers or pay online. Water and sewage systems would be affected too, meaning that health epidemics in urbanized areas would quickly take a grip, with diseases behind centuries ago soon returning."

Study predicts climate change and pollution will combine to impact food production

August 2, 2014 - 10:50am
Many studies have shown the potential for global climate change to cut food supplies. But these studies have, for the most part, ignored the interactions between increasing temperature and air pollution -- specifically ozone pollution, which is known to damage crops. A new study involving researchers at MIT shows that these interactions can be quite significant, suggesting that policymakers need to take both warming and air pollution into account in addressing food security.

Drilling in the Dark

August 1, 2014 - 9:54am
As production of shale gas soars, the industry's effects on nature and wildlife remain largely unexplored, according to a study by a group of conservation biologists published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment on August 1. The report emphasizes the need to determine the environmental impact of chemical contamination from spills, well-casing failure, and other accidents. "We know very little about how shale gas production is affecting plants and wildlife," says author Sara Souther, a conservation fellow in the Department of Botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "And in particular, there is a lack of accessible and reliable information on spills, wastewater disposal and the chemistry of fracturing fluids. Of the 24 U.S. states with active shale gas reservoirs, only five maintain public records of spills and accidents." The 800 percent increase in U.S. shale gas production between 2007 and 2012 is largely due to the use of hydraulic fracturing. Also called fracking, the process uses high-pressure injection of water, laden with sand and a variety of chemicals, to open cracks in the gas reservoir so natural gas can flow to the well.

Groundwater depletion and western US water supply

July 24, 2014 - 5:34pm
A new study by NASA and University of California, Irvine, scientists finds more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought. This study is the first to quantify the amount that groundwater contributes to the water needs of western states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the federal water management agency, the basin has been suffering from prolonged, severe drought since 2000 and has experienced the driest 14-year period in the last hundred years.

Wind energy not growing in Europe as quickly as expected

July 23, 2014 - 12:30pm
Europe's installed wind capacity will increase at a slower rate to the end of the decade than previously estimated, due to regulatory uncertainty and weak economic growth, an industry association said on Wednesday (23 July). European Union countries will have a combined 192.4 gigawatts (GW) of installed wind energy capacity by 2020, 64% higher than 2013 levels, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) said in a report.

Two Years After Coming Into Effect, Australia Kills Carbon Tax

July 18, 2014 - 6:00pm
In a significant victory for Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the Australian Senate has voted to repeal the country's two-year-old carbon tax. Abbott made dismantling the tax one of the cornerstones of his campaign last September even as Australia remains one of the highest carbon emitters per capita in the industrialized world.

California getting tough with water wasters!

July 16, 2014 - 9:31am
Californians who waste water will have to pay up to $500 a day for their extravagance under new restrictions approved Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board. The move comes after the board concluded that voluntary conservation measures have failed to achieve the 20 percent reduction in water use that Gov. Jerry Brown was hoping for, reports The Associated Press. In fact, a survey by the board showed a 1 percent increase in water use in May compared to the same month a year ago.

Record Radiation in South America

July 11, 2014 - 10:00am
Astrobiologists from the United States and Germany recorded the highest known level of solar UV radiation to reach Earth's surface. This was around 10 years ago. On December 29, 2003, the UV Index (UVI) peaked, reaching the blistering number of 43.3 over the Andes Mountains in Bolivia. To put this in context, a beachgoer in the United States would expect a UVI of 8 or 9 on a summer day. Even with an 8 or a 9, one may not escape the day without sunburn. Nonetheless, it has taken scientists 10 years to detail a report of this data while taking into account all of the variables and anomalies monitored from an international network of dosimeters – or Eldonets (European Light Dosimeter Network) – that measure UV radiation worldwide. This system is comprised of more than 100 stations across 5 continents to account for variation in the atmosphere above each station.

Cell Phone Conservation

July 9, 2014 - 11:35am
Some of the world's most endangered forests may soon benefit from better protection, thanks to discarded treasures from the consumer society - mobile phones. A Californian technology startup, Rainforest Connection (RFCx), has developed a tool - made from recycled smartphones - that it says will pilot new ways to monitor and stop illegal logging and animal poaching throughout Africa's equatorial forests. RFCx has formed a partnership with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), an international scientific charity that works for the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. The two organisations are planning to install the anti-deforestation, anti-poaching technology in Cameroon this year.

Climate Change Decadal Pause Study – Accidental Climate Mitigation

July 8, 2014 - 12:13pm
Professors Jesse Thé and Roydon Fraser from the University of Waterloo are initiating a study on the potential cause of the decade long pause on global warming. This is an interview with Prof. Thé, as a disclosure is also ENN’s Editor-in-Chief. . ENN: What is causing this decade long pause on the average global temperature increase? Prof. Thé: First of all, note that the last decade was the warmest on record. While the maximum temperatures are not increasing as fast, we are not seen a real pause on temperature increase, just a significant reduction on its growth rate. Second, researchers are not certain and our work at this stage can only be placed in the scientific method as a hypothesis. Until we develop the full analysis, all my views in this interview are based on our hypothesis that the pause in the temperature increase is cause by the aerosol formation form the massive burning of coal in China (50% of global consumption of coal) and India.

EPA Proposes New Standards for Landfills, Hopes to Reduce Methane Emissions

July 2, 2014 - 9:49am
As part of the President's Climate Action Plan – Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing updates to its air standards for new municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. These updates would require certain landfills to capture additional landfill gas, which would reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and help further reduce pollution that harms public health.

Endangered Species Act may be significantly weakened by new policy

June 28, 2014 - 8:52am
The Center for Biological Diversity will file a legal challenge to an Obama administration policy, finalized today, that severely limits when a species qualifies for protection under the Endangered Species Act - a change that ignores both broad legal precedent and congressional intent. Under the Act a species qualifies for protection when it is "in danger of extinction in all or a significant of portion of its range." Both Congress and the courts have explained that the "significant portion of range" provision is vital for important conservation because it allows federal wildlife agencies to protect species before they are at risk of going extinct globally. But the newly finalized policy sharply restricts the use of this part of the Act, defining "significant" to mean that only when the loss of a part of a species' range threatens the survival of the whole species would wildlife agencies protect that species under the Act.

Solar Power Meets Half of Germany's Energy Demand

June 26, 2014 - 11:00am
A core facet of Chancellor Merkel's historic "Energiewende" clean energy transition, Germany has led the world in driving adoption of solar energy technology and systems. Although it is now pulling back hard on incentives, the market momentum created by its precedent-setting solar energy feed-in tariff (FiT) persists.

Wild Horses: Should they be considered a threatened species?

June 19, 2014 - 4:34pm
Equine advocates are taking a new approach to get wild horses much-needed protection by petitioning the Department of the Interior to have horses that roam on federal public lands listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The petition was filed by Friends of Animals (FoA) and the Cloud Foundation over concerns that if the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) doesn't change the course its on soon, the agency will mismanage these American icons into extinction.

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