Policy & Politics
Five Questions for Bill McKibben:
On the Road for ‘Do the Math’ Tour
Bill McKibben — author, climate activist, and founder of 350.org — is in the midst of a 21-city “Do the Math” tour to build grassroots support for combating climate change.
The target of the campaign is the fossil fuel industry, and McKibben and 350.org are calling for universities, colleges, and governments to divest themselves of oil and coal company assets. Yale Environment 360
caught up with McKibben by email in Boston recently and asked him five questions about his tour.
12 Nov 2012:
U.S. Could Be World’s Largest
Oil Producer Within a Decade, Report Says
Advances in drilling for unconventional fossil fuels could make the U.S. the world’s biggest oil producer within a decade, a shift that could transform the global flow of energy for all regions of the world, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). According to the organization’s World Energy Outlook
, the U.S. could become a net exporter of natural gas by 2020 as a result of advances in drilling, including for shale gas, and “almost self-sufficient” in energy by 2035. In addition, once North America becomes a net oil exporter and no longer reliant on countries such as Saudi Arabia, nearly 90 percent of Middle Eastern oil will be exported to China and other Asian nations. While the report projects that energy demand worldwide will increase by one-third by 2035, it also suggests that the global market can achieve energy savings equivalent to nearly 20 percent of total current demand during that period. “In other words, energy efficiency is just as important as unconstrained energy supply,” said Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the IEA. “And increased action on efficiency can serve as a unifying energy policy that brings multiple benefits.”
09 Nov 2012:
U.S. Pledges Stronger Role
in Stemming Global Trade in Wildlife
The Obama Administration has vowed renewed commitments to help stem the international trade in wildlife
, including the use of U.S. intelligence agencies to track poaching of elephants, rhinos, and other
African savanna elephant bull.
animals in Africa and Asia. Speaking to a group of conservationists and diplomatic leaders on Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said an expanding middle class worldwide has spawned a booming demand for rare species and animal parts that is being supplied by increasingly violent organized gangs and corrupt officials who terrorize communities and overwhelm local law enforcement. In addition to decimating the natural world, Clinton said, this booming trade has dire economic impacts and poses a growing threat to the security of nations worldwide, including U.S. interests. In a series of initiatives, the U.S. will bolster intelligence efforts to track poaching and assess its security impacts and work with other nations to expand and strengthen law enforcement.
07 Nov 2012:
Green Ballot Initiatives
Rejected by Voters in California, Michigan
Two closely watched state ballot initiatives endorsed by environmental groups went down to defeat on Tuesday, as voters in California rejected a proposal that would have required the labeling of all genetically modified crops and Michigan voters soundly defeated a measure that would have required stricter renewable standards on electric utilities. In California, Prop. 37 was backed by the organic food industry and consumer groups but faced rising opposition in recent weeks in the form of a $44 million advertising campaign funded largely by the biotechnology sector, including agribusiness giant Monsanto. While advocates said they have the right to know what’s in the their food, opponents warned voters that the initiative would cost families hundreds of dollars annually in higher grocery costs. According to the Los Angeles Times
, the measure was losing, 57 percent to 42 percent, with most precincts reporting. In Michigan, a ballot initiative that would have required utilities to generate 25 percent of their power
from green sources by 2025 also triggered a major ad blitz by opponents, including the state’s utilities.
05 Nov 2012:
China and Russia Block
Proposal to Protect Antarctic Waters
International talks to protect large areas of the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica collapsed last week
after several nations, including China, blocked the proposal over concerns about fishing access, according to reports. Representatives from 25 member states — including China, Russia, the U.S., the European Union — gathered in Australia to negotiate plans that would have protected approximately 4 million square kilometers in the Southern Ocean, including provisions that would have banned industrial fishing operations. Some regions would have also been set aside for scientific research into the effects of climate change on polar ecosystems. According to The Australian newspaper
, China and Russia were among the nations that rejected the plans. Alex Rogers, a conservation biologist at the University of Oxford, told Nature
that the stalled talks reflect a wider “global dichotomy” about how to manage marine resources, with some states looking to impose greater conservation and management policies and others targeting increased exploitation. “Time really is running out on these issues,” he said. “If we don’t get protection in place now, exploitation of these systems will increase.”
In New York, The Rising Threat Of
Flooding Was Predicted for Years
While climate experts hesitate to say Hurricane Sandy was caused by climate change, scientists for years have predicted that such devastating events would become increasingly common as sea levels rise and ocean
Rising Currents: A 2010 exhibit showed visions of New York adapting to climate change.
temperatures become warmer. For more than a decade, reports have warned that climate change will likely trigger more intense hurricanes and more frequent and severe flooding in low-lying areas
, such as occurred in New York and New Jersey. And with sea levels projected to rise by as much as six inches per decade by mid-century and as much as several feet by 2100,
experts say New York City’s flood zone will continue to expand
. In Sandy's wake, New York officials are starting to discuss projects that might withstand such surges
, including building a levee system or barriers.
30 Oct 2012:
Vulnerability of Infrastructure
Revealed During Hurricane Sandy
The storm that crippled the New York City region has revealed the extreme vulnerability of its transportation and electricity infrastructure
and highlights the need to better protect subways, tunnels, low-lying roads, and power substations as sea levels rise
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Flooding in New York City’s Financial District
and storms produce higher seawater surges in the future. New York City and the surrounding area experienced unprecedented damage to its transportation infrastructure
, with the subway system knocked out for an estimated four to five days, several major tunnels flooded, regional rail lines crippled, and highways and roads underwater. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday morning that the city and the state may have to consider building a levee to protect lower Manhattan
, where waters rose 10 feet above flood stage. Other experts suggested that other significant steps will have to be taken to protect New York City, including building sea gates that would keep surging storm waters out of New York Harbor. Climate scientists said that the impact of hurricanes can be expected to become more severe
as temperatures increase and sea levels rise by an estimated three to six feet this century.
23 Oct 2012:
French Panel Rejects Study
That Linked GM Corn to Cancer in Rats
An independent state panel in France has rejected the findings
of a recent controversial study that linked genetically modified corn to cancer in rats, but the panel did recommend long-term research into the risks of genetically engineered food. In the report, requested by the French government, the Higher Biotechnologies Council (HCB) found “no causal relationship” between an increase in tumors in rodents and the consumption of GM corn or the widely used herbicide, Roundup, both of which are produced by the biotech giant Monsanto. The study, published in September
in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology
, had claimed that the consumption of Roundup-tolerant GM corn increased the incidence of cancer in rats. On the contrary, the HCB researchers said
, “the data are insufficient to establish scientifically a causal link... or to support the conclusions or pathways suggested by the authors.” To address public concerns, however, the panel did recommend that a “long-term, independent, transparent study, with adversarial views, be undertaken under government auspices.”
17 Oct 2012:
Chinese Report Acknowledges
Nuclear Safety Concerns at Reactors
In a new report, the Chinese government has laid out a plan to upgrade the security at its nuclear power reactors
over the next decade, suggesting that the country may be ready to resume a planned expansion of
Feng Li/Getty Images
Inspector at a Zhejiang construction site
its nuclear sector halted in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. The Ministry of Environmental Protection report indicates that roughly 80 billion yuan ($12.75 billion) will be required by 2015 to upgrade radioactive-contamination controls at the nation’s plants to international standards. Making the challenge more complicated, the report said, is the variety of reactors in place across China and “multiple standards of safety.” “The current [nuclear] safety situation isn’t optimistic,” the report said. The report recommended the phasing out of older nuclear reactors and an increased emphasis on research and development into nuclear safety and radioactive waste handling. While not specifying any timeline, the report suggested the nation is getting closer to restarting the approval process for new plants, which was suspended in 2011 following the nuclear crisis in Japan.
16 Oct 2012:
Online Atlas Illustrates
Critical Areas for World’s Seabirds
A new online atlas provides the first global inventory of ocean sites critical to the world’s seabirds, a free digital resource that its creators hope will help guide protective policies and the creation of conservation areas globally. The site (www.birdlife.org/datazone/marine
was created by the group BirdLife International, identifies 3,000 important sites that are critical to seabirds, from penguins to sandpipers, including breeding grounds, foraging areas, and migration routes. These so-called “important bird areas” (IBAs) comprise about 6.2 percent of the world’s oceans, according to BirdLife International. While seabirds are particularly vulnerable to threats
because of the great distances they travel across international waters, many conservation groups have cited a lack of data as a reason for inaction in protecting these areas, Ben Lascelles of BirdLife International told Reuters
15 Oct 2012:
‘Rogue’ Geoengineering Scheme
In Pacific Violated UN Rules, Groups Say
A project sponsored by a controversial U.S. businessman dumped about 100 tons of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean this summer, an experiment in geoengineering that environmental groups say violated international agreements, The Guardian has reported
. According to the report, satellite images appear to confirm that the iron dumped from a fishing boat sponsored by Russ George, the former CEO of Plankton Inc., triggered a nearly 10,000-squre-kilometer plankton bloom off Canada’s west coast. Some researchers believe this technique could emerge as a critical strategy in reducing the effects of climate change since such blooms are capable of sucking carbon out of the atmosphere and ultimately trapping it deep in the ocean. The experiment took place west of the islands of Haida Gwaii, where George convinced the council of an indigenous village to approve the project. Critics say it should not have taken place without proper scientific assessment and violated existing UN resolutions. Scientists say it is unclear whether such iron fertilization damages ocean ecosystems, triggers toxic tides, or worsens the effects of ocean acidification.
12 Oct 2012:
New Disney Paper Policy
Promises Responsible Use and Sourcing
The Walt Disney Co., the world’s largest publisher of children’s books, has announced a dramatic shift in how the company will use and source paper
, vowing to minimize the amount of paper it uses overall and eliminate its purchase of irresponsibly harvested timber products. In an announcement, the multinational media company, which had been under pressure from forest activists, said it would increase its use of recycled paper and paper products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and will avoid products coming from what it called “high conservation-value” and “high carbon-value” forests. In addition, executives say they will work with the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and other groups to identify "regions with poor forest management and high rates of deforestation,” including Indonesia, where rampant deforestation for pulp and paper products is decimating rainforests. The policy shift comes two years after RAN launched a campaign against Disney, citing evidence that its publishing arm, which produces 50 million books and 30 million magazines annually, was using hardwood pulp likely sourced in Indonesia rainforests
11 Oct 2012:
Norway Proposes CO2 Tax Hike
To Increase Climate Mitigation Funds
Norway has announced plans to nearly double its carbon tax
on the nation’s offshore petroleum sector to create a £1 billion fund to help combat the effects of climate change, including in developing nations. In a draft budget released this week, government officials proposed a climate program that would increase the tax on oil companies from about £24 per ton of carbon dioxide to £45 (Nkr410) per ton. The plan would allocate about £1 billion (Nkr10 billion) to promote green energy initiatives, reduce carbon emissions, and improve food security in developing countries. In addition, Norway would pledge about £44 million to help developing nations preserve tropical forests, which play a critical role in storing carbon. Norway has previously helped fund efforts to reduce deforestation in Brazil, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. These new plans come as the oil-rich nation looks to expand its oil exploration into the Barents Sea between Norway and Russia.
11 Oct 2012:
Group Calls for Swift Growth
Of Carbon Capture-and-Storage Facilities
An industrial group says that to avoid “dangerous climate change” an additional 55 facilities that capture carbon from power plants and store it underground must be built by 2020
. The group, the Global CCS Institute, said that only one new carbon-capture-and-storage (CCS) plant was built in the past year, bringing the current number to 75. The institute acknowledged that the goal of building 130 CCS plants by 2020 was unlikely, but argued that the technology is a proven method of reducing carbon dioxide emissions
and vital to future strategies to slow global warming. The institute said that just eight of the 75 plants now in operation have achieved a greater reduction in CO2 emissions that all other greenhouse gas reduction efforts instituted in the UK and Australia. CCS Institute President Brad Page said that governments should treat CCS technology as they do other low-carbon initiatives, like solar and wind power, which often receive subsidies and other government aid designed to encourage the growth of renewable energy.
09 Oct 2012:
Facing Opposition at Home,
UK Looks to Build Wind Project in Ireland
Faced with growing opposition to land-based wind turbines in England, UK officials are looking to build hundreds of wind farms in Ireland
that would generate electricity exclusively for the UK. Government officials say the £8 billion proposal, which includes the construction of more than 700 turbines in a rural area west of Dublin, would provide more than 3 gigawatts of electricity to the UK and help the nation meet its green energy goals. Officials say the project already has the approval of the government of Ireland, where there is less public resistance to wind turbines. More than 1,100 turbines are now operating in Ireland, most of which are located at 176 land-based wind farms. Costs for the proposed project are estimated at about €8 billion, about two-thirds of which would be for construction of the wind farms, with the other third used to install two large underwater cables beneath the Irish Sea. Officials say the project could be operational by 2018.
03 Oct 2012:
Major Policy Shifts Needed
To Maintain Decline in U.S. CO2 Emissions
A decline in U.S. carbon emissions in recent years is unlikely to continue over the long term
unless there is a significant shift in how the nation produces and uses its energy, according to a new analysis. While several factors have triggered a 9 percent decline in annual carbon emissions in the U.S. since 2005 — including a decrease in the use of coal-fired electricity as a result of the natural gas boom — the most significant factor has been the economic recession, according to the group Climate Central. As the economy recovers, any reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will likely be offset by increased incomes that drive an greater demand for vehicles, electrical appliances, and other consumer products.
calculates that U.S. carbon emissions can be reduced 38 percent below 2005 levels by 2035 if several hypothetical changes occur. These include the number of miles driven remaining at today’s level and average vehicles achieving fuel efficiency of 55 miles-per-gallon; significant gains being made in the efficiency of energy-consuming equipment; and natural gas continuing to reduce the share of coal-burning technologies.
02 Oct 2012:
Genetically Modified Cow
Reportedly Lacks Allergy-Causing Protein
Scientists in New Zealand have produced a genetically modified cow whose milk lacks a protein that causes allergic reactions in people
, particularly children. Researchers at the government-owned AgResearch
Genetically modified Daisy
lab used a cloning procedure — the same one used to create Dolly the Sheep in 1996 — to produce a cow named Daisy that lacks a whey protein known as BLG, or beta-lactoglobulin protein, which provokes an allergic reaction in two to three percent of infants. Stefan Wagner, a scientist on the cloning team, said he and his colleagues now plan to investigate whether the BLG-free milk causes allergic reactions and whether the BLG-free cows will produce less milk than normal cows. Meanwhile, some scientists say that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is moving too slowly
to decide whether to allow the production and sale of food from genetically engineered animals. These include a genetically altered salmon that grows much faster than regular salmon, and so-called enviropigs engineered to digest plant phosphorous more efficiently, which could cut feed costs and reduce levels of polluting phosphorous in manure.
01 Oct 2012:
Organized Crime Groups Drive
Increase in Illegal Logging, Report Says
Illegal logging accounts for 15 to 30 percent of the global logging trade
, with an increasing number of illegal operations in the world’s tropical regions being driven by organized crime, a new report says. According to the report
, released by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and INTERPOL, the illegal logging trade is now worth between $30 billion and $100 billion each year and is undermining global efforts to protect forests in the world’s most important tropical regions, including the Amazon, central Africa, and Southeast Asia. “Illegal logging is not on the decline, rather it is becoming more advanced as cartels become better organized, including shifting their illegal activities in order to avoid national and local police efforts,” wrote Achim Steiner and Ronald Noble, the heads of UNEP and INTERPOL, respectively. In the Brazilian state of Pará, for example, illegally obtained permits allowed logging cartels to steal an estimated 1.7 million cubic meters of forest in 2008. A year later, Brazilian investigators uncovered a scam involving 3,000 companies illegally exporting logged timber as allegedly “eco-certified” wood.
26 Sep 2012:
European Solar Capacity
Grew in 2011 Despite Subsidy Cuts
Installed solar capacity continued to grow across Europe in 2011
despite a decline in subsidies for green energy continent-wide, according to a new report. Roughly 18.5 gigawatts of new solar photovoltaic energy capacity were installed in the European Union during 2011, about two-thirds of the world’s increase in PV capacity, according to the Joint Research Center of the European Commission
. The EU’s overall PV capacity increased to 52 gigawatts, supplying about 2 percent of the continent's electricity needs, according to the report. Although European companies remain world leaders in the development and production of photovoltaic technology, the report projects that they will suffer in future years in the face of increased competition, particularly from Chinese companies. And while Europe remained the leading region worldwide in terms of renewable energy investment last year, the rate of investment grew faster in Asia, particularly in India, Japan, and Indonesia, the report said.
24 Sep 2012:
Air Pollution in Europe
Shortening Lives of Urban Dwellers
Air pollution in Europe is shortening lifespans by an average of eight months
and by as much as two years in the most polluted cities and regions, according to a report from the European Environment Agency (EEA). While the European Union has cut emissions of many harmful pollutants over the last decade, the report finds that nearly a third of urban dwellers are still exposed to harmful levels of airborne particulate matter
, tiny pollutants small enough to penetrate the respiratory system and cause serious health ailments. About 21 percent of city dwellers are exposed to particulate matter above EU health standards. And 17 percent were exposed to higher levels of ozone, which can cause respiratory problems. “In many countries, air pollutant concentrations are still above the legal and recommended limits that are set to protect the health of European citizens,” said Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the EEA. According to the report, humans living in industrial regions of Eastern Europe face the highest exposure to harmful pollutants.
24 Sep 2012:
Majority of Undecideds Say
Global Warming Important in U.S. Election
The majority of undecided voters in the U.S. presidential race say that the candidates’ views on global warming will be an important factor in determining how they vote, according to a new poll
. While very few participants called global warming their single-most important issue, about 61 percent of undecided voters say it will be one of several important issues that influence their decision. Probable voters for President Obama were far more likely to consider global warming important (75 percent) than likely Mitt Romney voters (32 percent), according to the poll, which was conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. From two-thirds to three-quarters of undecided and likely Obama voters also said they believe the president and Congress should be “doing more” about global warming. Only about a third of likely Romney voters said the president or Congress should be doing more.
21 Sep 2012:
U.S. Fishing Catch Reached
17-Year High in 2011, NOAA Says
U.S. commercial fishermen landed more than 10.1 billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2011, a 17-year high attributed in part to policies aimed at rebuilding fisheries nationwide, according to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
. The annual catch was 22.6 percent greater than 2010 and, with a value of $5.3 billion, a 17-percent increase in value compared with a year earlier. Officials say catch increases are evidence that fish populations are increasing due to better fisheries management. While all nine of NOAA’s fishing regions saw an increase in catch volume and value, much of the overall increase was a result of increased catches of Gulf of Mexico menhaden, Alaskan pollock, and Pacific hake. NOAA said key fisheries remain at risk
, with disasters declared for the cod fishery in New England, oyster and blue crab fisheries in Mississippi, and Chinook salmon in Alaska’s Yukon and Kukokwin rivers.
Interview: Shining a Light
On Africa’s Elephant Slaughter
With the mass killing of African elephants sharply escalating recently as global prices for ivory have risen, few articles have conveyed the scope and brutality of
that trade as vividly as the one written earlier this month
by Jeffrey Gettleman, East Africa bureau chief for The New York Times.
In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Gettleman describes how weeks in the field helped him piece together a picture of an elaborate ivory trade that is fueled largely by Chinese demand and involves elements of the military from the Congo, South Sudan, and Uganda — all of which receive some funding or training from the U.S. government. As Gettleman, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, explains, the decimation of elephant herds is emblematic of a larger problem that plagues Africa’s people and its once-rich natural heritage: state failure. “That’s why so many elephants are getting killed in central Africa because it’s probably the most unstable part of Africa and has huge areas that are just completely lawless,” says Gettleman. Read the interview
19 Sep 2012:
Fuel Consumption in New Cars
Can Be Halved by 2030, Report Says
With advanced technologies and innovative government policies, fuel consumption in new vehicles can be cut in half by 2030
, saving billions of dollars in fuel costs worldwide and significantly reducing CO2 emissions, a new report by the Paris-based International Energy Agency says. According to the report
, many of the technologies that could significantly improve fuel efficiency over the next two decades are already commercially available but are not widely used. For these technologies to penetrate markets globally, the report says, governments will have to introduce stronger policies, including tougher fuel economy standards and financial incentives. The report notes that strong fuel efficiency standards have been adopted in some major markets, including the U.S., the European Union, and China, but that most of the world’s emerging markets lag far behind. The report also recommends increased research, development, and demonstration of emerging technologies, including waste heat recovery devices.
Video: Debating the Complex
Impacts of Natural Gas Fracking
At a recent panel discussion at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, a group of experts tackled the controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and questions about its impacts on the environment, human health, and the U.S.’s energy future. During the discussion, which can be viewed here
, former Shell Oil president John Hofmeister said the gas made accessible by fracking is more than a “bridge fuel.” Natural gas, he said, is “a highway to the future, and yes, a highway to a clean, more sustainable future.” But environmental activist Bill McKibben countered that the fracking boom is stunting the U.S.’s emerging green energy sector and does nothing to stem climate change. “Fracked gas is not a bridge into the future,” he said, “but a rickety pier out further into the lake of hydrocarbons.” Watch the video
18 Sep 2012:
San Francisco Plan Would Give
Consumers Option of 100% Green Power
City officials in San Francisco, Calif. are considering a $19.5 million program that would give consumers the option of buying 100-percent renewable power
at a higher cost. The so-called CleanPowerSF plan, which would be done in partnership with Shell Energy North America, would also invest about $2 million into the exploration of local green energy generation possibilities. If approved, city officials say, the program would slash carbon emissions during the first year by nearly 10 times the amount already achieved by the city’s green energy initiatives. According to the proposal, which is subject to a vote by the city’s Board of Supervisors, the program would increase utility bills for average customers by about $9 per month. About half of the city’s residents would automatically be enrolled in the program, but would have the chance to opt out at no charge within five months, city officials say. Neighboring Marin County has already initiated a similar program with Shell that allows customers the option of choosing renewable power.
18 Sep 2012:
Explosive Urban Growth
To Put Major Strain on Biodiversity
The world’s urban areas will expand by more than 1.2 million square kilometers by 2030
, nearly tripling the area of urban development that existed worldwide in 2000, according to a new study. That development surge, researchers say, will coincide with construction of new roads, buildings, and energy and water systems, causing considerable habitat loss in critical biodiversity hotspots — including many regions that were relatively undisturbed by development only a decade ago. Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, researchers from Yale, Texas A&M, and Boston University predicted that nearly half of that urban expansion will occur in Asia, particularly in China and India. Urban growth will occur fastest in Africa, they say, with a projected six-fold increase in land development compared with 2000. “Given the long life and near irreversibility of infrastructure investments, it will be critical for current urbanization-related policies to consider their lasting impacts,” said Karen Seto, an associate professor at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and lead author of the study.
17 Sep 2012:
Forest Mortality in U.S. Declines
As Beetles Run Out of Food, Report Says
Tree deaths caused by insect infestation and disease in the western U.S. declined significantly last year
, largely because mountain pine beetles have devoured so many
A mountain pine beetle
forests that they are running out of food, according to a report by the U.S. Forest Service
. Researchers reported that about 6.4 million acres of forest died nationally in 2011, compared with 9.2 million acres in 2010 and a peak mortality of 11.8 million acres in 2009. Scientists say about 60 percent of the mortality was caused by one pest, the mountain pine beetle, a native insect that has decimated lodgepole and ponderosa pine forests across western North America because warmer winters are not killing off beetle larvae. While the researchers say a critical factor in the decline has been a reduced number of available lodgepoles, they say ponderosa pine and high-elevation white bark pine remain at risk. The greatest forest mortality was reported in Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. “Native insects and diseases run in cycles, and right now we are grateful the trend is downward,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. He added, however, that forests still face significant threats, including from climate change and new invasive species.
14 Sep 2012:
Japanese Set Goal
To Phase Out Nuclear Power by 2040
The Japanese government says it will seek to phase out all nuclear power plants by 2040
, although officials suggested that the target remains flexible. The new energy strategy, which places a 40-year lifespan on nuclear reactors and limits construction of new plants, would continue a national shift away from nuclear power following last year’s disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power station. Earlier this year Japan suspended operations at the last of its 50 nuclear power stations
over public safety concerns. Most of the plants remain off-line. In announcing the new plan, Motohisa Furukawa, Japan’s minister of state for national policy, left open the possibility that five reactors that will be younger than 40 at the end of the 2030s will be allowed to remain in operation. In addition, Furukawa indicated that the central government would ultimately bow to a newly formed nuclear panel over such policy questions, the New York Times
reported. Nuclear power provided nearly 30 percent of the nation’s electricity before the 2011 disaster, and many have questioned whether the country can meet its power needs without a nuclear sector.
07 Sep 2012:
Key Asian Species Need
Urgent Recovery Plans, Group Says
The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has called on Asian nations to work together to save a handful of critically endangered species
, including tigers, Asian rhinos, orangutans, Asian vultures,
Batagur turtles, and the Mekong giant catfish. Speaking at the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Conservation Congress in South Korea, WCS President Christian Samper called on delegates to intensify recovery plans or face the possible extinction of some of these iconic species. The WCS painted a stark portrait of the situation: Only 3,200 Asian tigers remain in the wild, Sumatran and Bornean orangutans are experiencing steep declines, only about 40 Javan rhinos survive, Asian vultures have declined by more than 90 percent across the Indian subcontinent, populations of Mekong giant catfish have declined by more than 80 percent since 1990, and numerous species of Bagatur turtles across Asia are on the brink of extinction because of hunting and harvesting of eggs.