Environmental News Roundup!

Plane Search Shows World’s Oceans Are Full of Trash

The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has been hampered by the huge amount of garbage that is floating in the ocean. Before major news outlets began covering every aspect of the search, ocean garbage patches never made global headlines. People searching for the missing plane were bewildered to see hundreds of objects off the Australian coast that turned out to be cargo container parts, plastic shopping bags, or discarded fishing equipment. About 90 percent of the debris in ocean garbage patches is plastic. All of this plastic has a disastrous effect on marine animals. Sea turtles and California gray whales are big unintentional consumers of plastic. This can lead to starvation or malnutrition when plastic builds up in the animal’s stomach causing the animal to feel full.

Wind Power Has Cut U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions by 4.4 Percent: Report

The rise of wind power in the United States is putting a big dent in carbon emissions. Wind generation avoided 95.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2013, which is equivalent to taking 16.9 million cars off the road. That equates to a 4.4 percent cut to power sector emissions. It was also found that the expansion of wind energy has helped reduce water consumption by 36.5 billion gallons, or about 116 gallons of water per U.S. resident. Elizabeth Salerno, American Wind Energy Association’s vice president for industry data and analysis said, “Every time a megawatt of wind power is generated, something else is not generated.” Two big factors could help boost the continued growth of wind power: the extension of the production tax credit, which gives a financial incentive for wind development, and possible changes to the EPA’s emission standards for existing power facilities.

Gulf Oil Spill “Not Over”: Dolphins, Turtles Dying in Record Numbers

Even four years after the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, several species of wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico are still struggling to recover. Bottlenose dolphins and sea turtles are dying in record numbers, and the evidence is stronger than ever that their demise is connected to the BP oil spill. Ongoing research shows that dolphins swimming in oiled areas are underweight, anemic, and showing signs of liver and lung diseases. Over 900 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead or stranded in the oil spill area since April 2010. Sea turtles are also being hit hard as a result of the oil spill. About 500 dead sea turtles have been found in the spill area every year since 2011. The full extent of the repercussions from the 2010 oil spill are still yet to be known.

New climate pragmatism framework prioritizes energy access to drive innovation and development

A new report  from climate and energy scientists has shown that expanding access to reliable energy offers better route to address global challenges. “Climate change can’t be solved on the backs of the world’s poorest people. They key to solving for both climate and poverty is helping nations build innovative energy systems that can deliver cheap, clean and reliable power.” The report is the first of the Climate Pragmatism project, led by Arizona State University’s Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes in partnership with The Breakthrough Institute. Given the pivotal relationship between abundant energy access and human development, climate change must be addressed within the context of poor nations gaining access to modern energy.

Climate change will ‘lead battles for food’, says head of World Bank

Head of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim urged campaigners and scientists to work together to form a coherent plan in the fight against climate change. He predicts that battles over water and food will arise within the next five to 10 years as a result of warming climates. “Is there enough basic science research going into renewable energy? Not even close. Are there ways of taking discoveries made in universities and quickly moving them into industry? No. Are there ways of testing those innovations? Are there people thinking about scaling [up] those innovations?” Kim said that there were four areas where the bank could help in the fight against global warming: finding a price for carbon; removing fuel subsidies; investing in cleaner cities; and developing climate-smart agriculture.

Self Watering Plants From Plastic Bottles!

A friend of ours passed along this eco-friendly invention you can try at home- check it out!

1Remove the guess work out of watering your plants.  This easy self watering bottle lets you see when to add water to the reservoir and promotes even distribution of water for a happy plant.

Items you will need

• Empty plastic bottle

• 2-Fabric strips

• 3/16 inch drill bit and drill

• Knife or saw to cut the bottle in half

 • Soil 

• Plant (African Violets work great)

 

Instructions2.jpg

Cut the bottle into two parts leaving enough room on the top half for your plant and soil.  Roll down the edge of the bottom, if necessary, to support the top half.  (this is necessary when using a one-liter bottle so the top does not slip down into the bottom.) (You can also roll the top edge to protect the leaf stems)

 

3.jpgDrill a  large hole in the lid, insert the fabric strips and screw it back on your top. Make sure the fabric comes up near the top edge to promote even wicking of the water up into your soil.

 

 

4Soak the fabric in water and wet it before adding the dirt to ensure capillary action of the water up the fabric.  Leave enough fabric hanging below the screw cap to sit in your water reservoir.

5

 

 

 

Remember: there are many shapes and sizes of plastic bottles that can be used to make self-watering planters.

Have fun!

Environmental News Roundup!

Climate impacts ‘overwhelming’ – UN

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a new report on the future impacts of climate change. The report has warned that the impacts of global warming are likely to be “severe, pervasive and irreversible”. Some of these impacts include a higher risk of flooding and changes to crop yields and water availability. Since the last IPCC report in 2007, scientists have found evidence that the impacts of global warming have nearly doubled. The oceans will become more acidic, threatening coral and the many different species they harbor. Land plants and animals will begin to move towards higher ground or towards the poles as the average global temperature rises. “Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri told journalists.

International Court of Justice finds Japanese whaling in Antarctic illegal

The International Court of Justice has found that Japan’s whaling program in the Artarctic (JARPA II) is not in accordance with three provisions of the Schedule to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Australia appealed to the court to help stop Japan’s whaling expeditions in the Southern Ocean for “scientific” purposes. Over the years, Japan has not yielded many useful scientific findings as a result of their whaling. Most the the whale meat was used for food in Japan.

In the ICJ’s report, “Examining Japan’s decisions regarding the use of lethal methods, the Court finds no evidence of any studies of the feasibility or practicability of non-lethal methods, either in setting the JARPA II sample sizes or in later years in which the programme has maintained the same sample size targets. The Court also finds no evidence that Japan examined whether it would be feasible to combine a smaller lethal take and an increase in non-lethal sampling as a means to achieve JARPA II’s research objectives.

EPA proposes greater protections for streams, wetlands under Clean Water Act

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule Tuesday that would give the federal government regulatory authority over millions of acres of wetlands and about 2 million miles of streams. The proposal would lead to stricter pollution controls on some of these areas and aims to resolve a long-running legal battle over how to apply the Clean Water Act to the nation’s intermittent and ephemeral streams and wetlands. Environmentalists argue that these waters are crucial to both fish and waterfowl. Land developers and some farmers, however, say the process of obtaining a federal permit to conduct their activities imposes an unnecessary burden on their operations. Under this rule, the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have to evaluate the environmental impact of an activity that could impair one of these waterways.

Bags of Mountain Air Offered in Smog-Addled Chinese City

Bags containing fresh mountain air were shipped into the city of Zhengzhou, capital of central China’s Henan province. The air originated from Laojun Mountain, about 120 miles away from the city. This was all part of a promotional stunt to show smog-laden city residents what they’re missing. China’s environmental ministry announced last week that Zhengzhou was among the country’s top 10 most-polluted cities. The city’s Air Quality Index (AQI) on Monday was 158, incredibly unhealthy to humans. For reference, the Monday AQI forecast for Bakersfield, CA, the most polluted city in the U.S., was 45.

U.S. drug firms move to bar antibiotic use in livestock growth

U.S. regulators said that 25 out of 26 drug-makers that sell antibiotics used in livestock feed for growth enhancement have agreed to follow new guidelines that will make it illegal to use their products to create beefier cattle and other over-sized animals. Companies such Eli Lilly & Co’s Elanco Animal Health unit, Bayer Healthcare LLC’s animal health division and Zoetic Inc – have agreed to start removing any growth promotion claims on their products’ labeling. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the guidelines this past December, as part of an effort to stem a surge in human resistance to certain antibiotics. Public health experts have become worried in recent years about the emergence of new strains of bacteria that cannot be controlled by a wide range of current antibiotics.

Environmental News Roundup!

Stanford scientist unveils 50-state plan to transform U.S. to renewable energy

Stanford University scientist Mark Jacobson has developed a 50-state roadmap for replacing coal, oil, and natural gas with wind, hydro, and solar energy. The idea is to transform the United States from dependence on fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy by 2050. Completely replacing fossil fuels with clean, renewable energies would significantly cut back on carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere that contribute to global warming. Estimates say that this would spare the lives of an estimated 59,000 Americans every year who die from exposure to air pollution. This interactive map lays out unique plans tailored maximize the renewable energy potential of each of the 50 states. You can check out this roadmap for yourself here!

Crews try to contain oil spill in Galveston Bay

A barge carrying nearly a million gallons of thick, sticky oil collided with a ship in Galveston Bay in Texas on Saturday, leaking an unknown amount of fuel into the Bay’s waters. Galveston Bay is a popular bird habitat in Texas, with the peak of the migratory shorebird season approaching. The barge was carrying 924,000 gallons of marine fuel oil, also known as special bunker. Officials believe only one of the barge’s tanks was breached, but that tank had a capacity of 168,000 gallons. Jim Suydam, spokeman for the General Land Office, described the type of oil the barge was carrying as “sticky, gooey, thick, tarry stuff. That stuff is terrible to have to clean up.”

Wind Farms Flourish Across The U.S. As Interest In Renewable Energy Skyrockets

In New York and many other big cities across the United States, you can have access to a program that will allow your home to be powered with wind energy through your local utility. Wind energy is expected to make up about 4.6% of total U.S. electric power generation by 2015, totaling about 77,000 megawatts of wind power capacity nationwide, U.S. Energy Information Administration data show. One megawatt of wind power is enough energy to provide electricity to around 300 homes. As of 2012, there were over 45,000 wind turbines in 39 states and Puerto Rico, providing enough electricity to power around 15 million homes. The U.S. Geological Survey has launched a new online mapping tool, called the WindFarm Mapping Application, which allows users to see how turbines are distributed across the country.

7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution

The World Health Organization has released a report estimating that around 7 million people died in 2012 as a result of exposure to air pollution. This accounts for one in eight of total global deaths in 2012. This study confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Reducing air pollution could literally save millions of lives. The new data reveal a stronger link between both indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and ischaemic heart disease, as well as between air pollution and cancer.

Regionally, low- and middle-income countries in South-East Asia and Western Pacific Regions had the largest air pollution-related burden in 2012, with 3.3 million deaths linked to indoor air pollution and 2.6 million deaths related to outdoor pollution. People in developing countries who mainly use solid fuels and biomass for heating and cooking inside their homes are the primary victims of indoor air pollution. Dr. Carlos Dora, WHO Coordinator for Public Health, said, “Excessive air pollution is often a by-product of unsustainable policies in sectors such as transport, energy, waste management and industry. In most cases, healthier strategies will also be more economical in the long term due to health-care cost savings as well as climate gains.”

Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals Linked to Fracking Found in Colorado River

Evidence that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) poses serious risks to drinking water quality and human health has arisen in the Colorado River. A team of researchers from the University of Missouri found evidence of hormone-disrupting activity in water located near fracking sites, including samples taken from the Colorado River near a dense drilling region. The Colorado River is a source of drinking water for over 30 million people. The researchers found that 11 chemicals commonly used in the fracking process are “endocrine disrupters” – compounds that can affect the human hormonal system and have been linked to cancer, birth defects, and infertility. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has said the state will sue any city that bans fracking within its borders. The long-term health impacts from water pollution as a result of fracking in Colorado will increase as long as fracking continues in the state.

Environmental News Roundup!

 Scientists 3D Print New Solar Panels Which Work Best When Cloudy

The commercial use of solar panels has been on the rise recently. In areas of the United States that receive a lot of sunshine, people are taking advantage and having panels installed on their homes. People who live in areas like Seattle, Britain, and Northern Europe cannot really partake in the rise of solar energy use. This week, British scientists at the National Physical Laboratory created solar panels which function best when it’s cloudy outside. They produce more energy when clouds are blocking the sun, than when the sun is out in full force. These new solar panels manage only 10% efficiency when placed in direct sunlight, while that number goes up to 13% when placed in cloudy conditions. These organic photovoltaic solar cells are made up of small organic molecules which act as semi-conductors when struck with solar radiation. These molecules can be easily dissolved into a solution and 3D printed into any shape, size, or color desired. The things that this technology can be used for in the future are endless.

Kentucky coal-ash dumping tracked by hidden cameras

Environmental groups plan to sue a Kentucky coal-ash plant for continuous dumping into the Ohio River, after a hidden camera they set up captured alleged illegal discharges of chemicals by the company. The Sierra Club says that their lawsuit against Louisville Gas & Electric (LG&E) is based on time-lapse photography from a camera the strapped to a tree. The hidden camera captured a year’s worth of images showing coal ask waste-water constantly being dumped into the Ohio River. The environmental groups also claim that LG&E has clearly violated the federal Clean Water Act and the terms of the utility’s permit, which allows for only occasional discharge into the river. According to the EPA, coal ash contains high levels of arsenic, lead, selenium, and other heavy metals that can cause cancer, birth defects, and respiratory problems.

Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr declares marine sanctuary, bans all commercial fishing

Palau’s President Tommy Remengesau Jr. has declared the small Pacific island nation will become a marine sanctuary, where no commercial fishing will take place. He has told a UN oceans conference that the country’s 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone will be a “100 per cent marine sanctuary”, and commercial operations will be banned within territorial waters. He said, “We have no choice – the ocean is our way of life. It’s our livelihood, it’s our culture, it’s our economy – I always say the economy is our environment and the environment is our economy.” Palau currently has commercial fishing contracts with Taiwan, Japan, and several companies. These contracts will soon be allowed to expire. Locals and tourists will still be able to fish, but no commercial scale operations will take place.

Palau is urging the UN to adopt a new Sustainable Development Goal to help protect the world’s oceans. The Sustainable Development Goals are a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals, which pledged countries reduce poverty and improve health and environmental protection by 2015. Deputy Secretary-General with the UN, Jan Elliason, has paid tribute to the Pacific and other island countries for raising awareness of the issue. “They have an acute sense of the dangers of climate change and the level of sea rise – becoming an existential threat for them. They are a bit like canaries in the coal mine, the canaries that warn us that now the oxygen is [running] out…they’re the first ones to leave. We should listen to those states.”

How Mismanagement of GMO Corn Created a Super Predator

The genetically-modified crop, “Bt corn”, was engineered to be poisonous to corn rootworms, a pest that used to cause billions of dollars in damage to corn crops. It worked well at repelling the insects for a while, but rootworms eventually evolved a resistance to Bt corn, largely due to industry and farmer resistance to proper management. According to scientists, the key to effective management were refuges set aside and planted with non-Bt corn. In these fields, rootworms would remain susceptible to the Bt toxin. By mating with any Bt-resistant worms that may have evolved in neighboring fields, they’d prevent resistance from building up in the gene pool. The scientists’ recommendations were eventually resisted by seed companies and the EPA itself, which set voluntary refuge guidelines at between 5 and 20 percent. A lot of farmers did not even follow those guidelines. Rootworm resistance was expected from the outset, but the Bt seed industry, seeking to maximize short-term profits, ignored outside scientists.

Climate change is putting world at risk of irreversible changes, scientists warn

The American Association for the Advancement of Science(AAAS) has made a rare policy intervention urging the US to act swiftly to reduce carbon emissions and lower risks of climate catastrophe. Usually the organization tries to stay away from the world of politics and public policy, but they felt they had to speak up and urge Americans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The AAAS said in a news report, “As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do, but we consider it our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risks and costs of taking action.”

The UN climate science panel, the IPCC, will gather in Japan next week to release reports outlining climate change’s effect on rainfall and heat waves, sea level and the oceans, fisheries and food security. The AAAS scientists are releasing their own assessment ahead of the UN conference because they were concerned that Americans had failed to take the risks associated with climate change seriously. “The sooner we make a concerted effort to curtail the burning of fossil fuels as our primary energy source and releasing the CO2 to the air, the lower our risk and cost will be.”

Mulch Madness

Everybody who likes gardening knows what mulch is. It’s the stuff that you put around your flower beds or herb gardens to enrich the soil with nutrients and hold in moisture. Mulch is usually made up of decaying leaves, bark, or compost. More people have been able to save time and money while improving the health of their soil by mulching.

Mulching can lessen the need for you to rake, bag, or haul away either leaves or clippings. Take the grass catcher off your lawn mower and mow over the leaves on your lawn. It is good to reduce your leaf clutter to dime-size pieces. With several passes of your mower, you can much nearly 18 inches of leaf clutter! Instead of using plastic bags to hold all the grass clippings from mowing, spread the clippings back into your lawn. Mulched grass clippings, which are 85% water and 5% nitrogen, can provide nearly 25% of fertilizer needs for your lawn. The grass clippings are eventually devoured by worms and microbes, recycling them back into the soil. Some people use plastic bagging to cover the soil around their plants in order to garner the same results as natural mulching. It is good to use natural mulch instead of a bag since it takes much less time than having to always set up the bags. Less plastic being used is also better for the environment!

Mulching keeps the soil moist and covered to keep the temperature down. You won’t have to take the time to empty your grass bag and dispose of the clippings. That means less space in a landfill and less money you have to pay for someone to dispose of your yard waste! Whether you are mulching leaves or returning lawn clippings back into the law, mulching can save you time, money, labor, and the health of your soil.

Environmental News Roundup!

Tesla Stores May Be Closed After N.J. Blocks Direct Sales

New Jersey has blocked the electric-car maker Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA) from direct auto sales in a move that will shut down the state’s only two stores on April 1. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, which includes members of governor Chris Christie’s cabinet, unanimously approved the proposal to block Tesla from selling in the state. This new measure comes as a huge blow to Tesla Motors, who sees New Jersey as an important location for reaching customers in the New York metro area. Tesla has also experienced difficulty selling its cars directly to consumers in Ohio, New York, Minnesota, Georgia, Arizona, Colorado, and Virginia. These states argue that independent retailers are better for shoppers and owners of vehicles. Thomas Moloughney, owner of a restaurant in New Jersey that offers free electric-vehicle charging in its parking lot said, “This board acted purely in the interests of big business and the dealerships, but they left the people of New Jersey behind. If they really wanted to be fair they would have had a public hearing.”

Cheap batteries will revolutionize the renewable energy market

Tesla auto company’s chief executive, Elon Musk, announced it would invest in a $4bn-$5bn factory doubling the world’s production of lithium-ion batteries. The aim is to slash battery prices by 30% in three years, and to halve them by 2020. Since battery cost is the main obstacle to electric cars, this has the potential to revolutionize the renewable energy market. It would allow electric cars with a 200-mile range to compete with the Ford Mondeo and other vehicles like it. There has also been research into nanotechnology, making technology very small. This allows a greater surface within a given size of battery, so that charging will be quicker, and storage capacity higher. If scale and technology work their magic, cheap batteries will disrupt many more industries than cars. Car batteries can be used to store electricity when it’s not in use. Battery packs in homes could be charged up when the sun shines and the wind blows, and then supply heat, light, and boiling water on winter evenings. Tesla’s new battery plant brings that prospect much closer.

Congress Designates the First Wilderness Area in Five Years

Over 32,500 acres of shoreline along Lake Michigan have been designated as wilderness by Congress. This is the first time that Congress has set aside land designated for wilderness in five years. Since the Wilderness Act went into effect in 1964, Congress has typically designated at least one wilderness area each session of Congress. But for the past few years, there’s been political deadlock on the matter. The last time Congress designated an area of land for wilderness was in 2009, when 2 million acres of land all across the country was protected. 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Wilderness Act. A wilderness area, unlike national parks, usually doesn’t have permanent roads, and bans permanent structures and motor vehicles of any kind. This new wilderness area along Lake Michigan covers 50 square miles. According to the National Park Service, the Wilderness Act defines these areas as: “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

Japan to halve bluefin tuna catch

Japanese media say the nation’s fisheries agency has decided to boost protection for juvenile bluefin tuna be halving Japan’s northern Pacific catch. Studies have shown a dramatic decline in tuna prized by eaters and producers of sushi. Japan had concluded that cuts agreed internationally last year proved to be insufficient. The country was also encouraging other nations to adopt bigger cuts. Conservation experts said that the moderate catch limits agreed to last year were insufficient to halt overfishing. Last year, a record 2.65 million tons of tuna was taken from the Pacific, amounting to 60% of the global catch.

San Francisco bans water bottles

San Francisco has taken a major step in achieving urban sustainability by banning water bottles across the city. On March 4, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to bar the city from buying plastic water bottles and to ban the distribution of plastic water bottles smaller than 21 ounces on city property beginning October 1 of this year. City marathons and other sporting events are excluded from this ban. Board President David Chiu said at the hearing, “We all know with climate change, and the importance of combating climate change, San Francisco has been leading the way to fight for our environment. That’s why I ask you to support this ordinance to reduce and discourage single-use, single-serving plastic water bottles in San Francisco.”

Environmental News Roundup!

 

‘Carbon bubble’ threatens stock markets, says MPs

The world’s financial markets could be creating a “carbon bubble” by overvaluing the fossil fuel assets of large companies. According to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), much of this coal and oil may have to be left in the ground to combat climate change. Multiple studies in recent years have warned that stock markets around the world have overvalued companies with large holdings of coal, oil, and gas. Less than half of £200 billion needed to deliver emissions cuts by 2020 is in place. Many different countries agreed at a UN meeting in Mexico in 2010 to limit global temperature rises to 2C. To achieve this, 60 and 80% of existing reserves of fossil fuels will need to remain in the ground, unused. Member of British Parliament Joan Walley said that, “The UK Government and Bank of England must not be complacent about the risks of carbon exposure in the world economy. Financial stability could be threatened if shares in fossil fuel companies turn out to be overvalued because the bulk of their oil, coal, and gas reserves cannot be burnt without further destabilizing the climate.”

Daylight Saving Time does not save energy

With the switch over to daylight saving time just around the corner, you might be wondering why we go through the effort of doing this every year. More daylight means there is more time to shop, drive, grill, and play golf. While Daylight Saving Time lets us have more fun outside later in the evening, it doesn’t cut down on our energy use, like it was originally intended to do. In fact, when we spring forward on March 9, it will not reduce our electricity use even by one half of 1 percent, says Michael Downing, a lecturer in English and author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time. One of the most comprehensive studies of household energy demand reported an increase in overall energy consumption during Daylight Saving Time ranging from 1 to 4 percent. In the past, the charcoal, golfing, and gas industries have lobbied for extending Daylight Saving Time. But what’s good for retail is bad for overall energy consumption.

Global Warming Slows Antarctica’s Coldest Currents

The deep, salty currents that carry oxygen and nutrients to the ocean depths have been disappearing over the past few decades. A shift from salty to fresh in Antarctica’s ocean waters in recent decades could explain the shutdown of the Southern Ocean’s coldest, deepest currents, new research finds. These cold current, called the Antarctic Bottom Water, are cold, salty rivers that flow from the underwater edge of the Antarctic continent north toward the equator, keeping to the bottom of the seafloor. These currents carry oxygen, carbon, and nutrients down to the bottom of the ocean. In the past 60 years, the ocean surface off of Antarctica became less salty as a result of melting glaciers and more precipitation.

According to Casimir de Lavergne, an oceanographer at McGill University, “Deep ocean waters only mix directly to the surface in a few small regions of the global ocean, so this has effectively shut one of the main conduits for deep-ocean heat to escape. If the warm waters aren’t able to release their heat to the atmosphere, then the heat is waiting in the deep ocean instead. This could have slowed the rate of warming in the Southern Hemisphere.”

U.S. Solar Jumps 41% in 2013 Driven by Residential Demand

Demand for solar power in the United States increased 41% last year driven by record growth in residential projects, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Developers installed 4.75 gigawatts of photovoltaic panels in 2013, making solar the biggest source of new generating capacity after natural gas. Demand next year will increase 26% as rooftop power plants become more common. Residential projects rose 60% over 2012 to 792 megawatts as homeowners embraced financing models such as leading that let consumers install panels at little to no upfront cost. According to Shayle Kann, vice president of research at GTM Research, “Residential solar in the U.S. is becoming the bedrock of demand for solar and is really a market segment that benefits from extremely attractive economics.”

Great Barrier Reef damage ‘irreversible’ unless radical action taken

The Great Barrier Reef will suffer irreversible damage by 2030 unless radical action is taken to lower carbon emissions, a new report says. Unless temperatures are kept below the internationally agreed limit of warming on pre-industrial levels, the reef will cease to be a coral-dominated ecosystem. Coral bleaching is now a serious threat to the reef, having not been documented in the region before 1979. The increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, 90% of which is absorbed by the oceans, has already caused a 30% rise in the hydrogen ions that cause ocean acidification. This process hinders the ability of corals to produce the skeletal building blocks of reefs.

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland said, “Corals can exist in temperatures 1C higher than the current summer maximum, but beyond that you get coral bleaching and mass mortality. Beyond 2C, you don’t really have coral dominated reefs anymore and there’s evidence that 1.5C is beyond the limits too.”

Understanding The Severity Of California Drought

http://static1.businessinsider.com/image/52f2a07eecad04fa2ec251aa-800-/california%20drought.pngSome Photos Of The Drought

How And Why The Drought Has Persisted (Youtube)

California is not unused to drought, but the severity of this particular drought is the worst on record. This Youtube link from Stanford University explains how a ridge of high pressure air off the coast of California has remained there most of the year, directing storms that would have provided California with much needed rain towards Alaska and Canada instead.

How The California Government Is Making Things Worse

The state isn’t really ready for the dry conditions, and part of the reason is water subsidies. For many years, Washington and Sacramento have subsidized the water farmers use to irrigate, enabling them to avoid agricultural practices that would be more resilient and efficient in the event of a drought. Meanwhile, urban residents, who collectively account for far less water consumption than do farmers, have been left with expensive water bills and rationing during dry years. Check out the article link for a fantastic infographic about how much water it takes to grow some of your food!

How NASA Is Helping To Track The Drought

NASA has partnered with the California Department of Water Resources and California State University to better track and understand the water crisis. They are using radar, aerial photos, and computer models to track various components related to drought.

The Effect On Farming

Ranchers are having to send much of their herd to slaughter because there is not enough grass to feed them, and remaining animals grow sick from drinking muddy shallow spring water. Almond growers are having to rip out trees or simply not produce anything this year in order to save what remains of their crop. Crop harvesting and other agricultural related jobs will be lost in the seasons to come given the drop in production, costing billions of dollars in revenue. The price of importing hay and other animal feed from other states has shot up, as well as water prices for citizens, as the state tries to save the agricultural sector.

The Cost Of Drought Once It Finally Rains

Probably just as bad as the massive wildfires that scorched miles of land and turned thousands from their homes earlier this year are the mudslides and flash floods that are likely to follow when it finally does rain. When the rain comes to a drought area, the water sweeps away the loose, dry dirt no longer held together by plants and moisture, causing rapid erosion and mudslides. This can cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and lost property. (News Article On Recent Rain 3.3.14)

The Cost Of California Drought On Your Grocery Bill

Given that it’s the top producing state nationally for lemons, limes, peaches, strawberries and a variety of vegetables including 80% of America’s broccoli, we could see a significant price increase as soon as tomorrow. In the spring, other parts of the country could pick up the slack with some crops, but others only ever come from the Golden State’s mild Mediterranean climate. Those include almonds, dates, figs, plums, raisin grapes, olives, clingstone peaches, pistachios, pomegranates, sweet rice, walnuts and kiwis. Cattle and dairy futures are seeing historic highs due to the drought as well. Other states in Southwest North America are also facing this drought, although not as fiercely.

Environmental News Roundup!

500,000 Cranes Are Headed for Nebraska in One of Earth’s Greatest Migrations

Towards the end of March, 80% of the world’s cranes will come together upon one 80-mile expanse of land. Cranes are some of the world’s oldest birds that are still living today. Being around since the Eocene period, which ended 34 million years ago, they have outlived millions of species. Every year around the same time, up to 600,000 cranes congregate along a stretch of the central Platte River in Nebraska. They come to eat the leftover grain in nearby cornfields in preparation for the long journey to their Arctic nesting grounds. This major migration is one of nature’s great spectacles that not many people know about.

Monsanto’s Roundup may be linked to fatal kidney disease, new study suggests

A new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health finds that a fatal, chronic kidney disease may be linked to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. Researchers suggest that Roundup, or glyphosate, becomes very toxic to the kidney once it is mixed with “hard” water or metals such as cadmium and arsenic that exist naturally in soil. Hard water contains metals such as iron, magnesium, strontium, and calcium. Hard water is normally more prevalent in areas of the world where people do not have access to clean drinking water. “This study helps to explain a global rash of fatal Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown etiology (CKDu) that has been found in rice paddy regions of northern Sri Lanka, for example, or in El Salvador, where CKDu is the second leading cause of death among males.” 96% of patients have been found to have consumed “hard or very hard water for at least five years, from wells that receive their supply from shallow regolith aquifers.”

No reliable evidence wind farms harm health, peak research body says

The National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia’s peak health research body, has found that there is no reliable evidence that wind farms harm human health. Claims that proximity to wind farms can lead to lack of sleep or annoyance are unsubstantiated. Council policy director Russell Marsh said that “the NHMRC draft position statement is in line with advice from the New South Wales and Victorian health departments, which have both stated that noise below the hearing threshold cannot affect people’s health.”

“Professor of public health at Sydney University Simon Chapman found complaints of illness were far more prevalent in communities targeted by anti-windfarm groups. His report concludes that illnesses being blamed on windfarms were more than likely caused by the psychological effect of suggestions that the turbines make people ill, rather than by the turbines themselves.”

New online tool tracks tree loss in ‘near real time’

A new global monitoring system has been launched that promises “near real time” information on deforestation across the globe. Global Forest Watch (GFW) uses information from hundreds of millions of satellite images along with data from people on the ground. The scale of deforestation since 2000 has been high – data from the University of Maryland says that the equivalent of 50 football fields of trees are cut down every minute of every day over the past 12 years. In an attempt to fight deforestation, the World Resources Institute (WRI) helped develop the GFW, using over half a billion high resolution images from NASA’s Landsat Program. High resolution images of global tree loss and gain are updated annually, and data on tropical forests at a resolution of 500 meters is updated monthly. This powerful tool can be used to hold large corporations accountable over their exploitation of natural resources. “From now on, the bad guys cannot hide and the good guys will be recognized for their stewardship,” said Dr. Andrew Steer from WRI.

Colorado Approves Limits on Air Pollution from Oil and Gas Drilling

Health and environment officials in Colorado have approved new rules to limit air pollution from oil and gas drilling in the state. Regulators said it is the nation’s first-ever plan to detect and reduce methane emissions. Methane, a very strong greenhouse gas, is released in large amounts during the production and transport of natural gas. These new regulations would require operators to perform frequent checks for leaks using infrared cameras and other technologies. These measures are more common sense than anything, only enforcing that operators ensure basic safety and function of their equipment. Governor John Hickenlooper said in a statement, “The new rules approved by (the commission), after taking input from varied and often conflicting interests, will ensure Colorado has the cleanest and safest oil and gas industry in the country and help preserve jobs.”