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Pollution & Health


21 Feb 2013: Chinese Air Pollution Triggers
Steep Rise in Nitrogen Deposition

A spike in Chinese air pollution over the last three decades has caused a 60 percent increase in the levels of nitrogen pollutants that ultimately end up back on the nation’s land and in its water, a new study has found. In an analysis of 270 monitoring sites across the country, researchers found that the annual deposition of nitrogen, as measured in precipitation, had increased from 13.2 kilograms per hectare in 1980 to about 21.1 kilograms per hectare in 2010. Scientists say so-called nitrogen deposition occurs when nitrogen in the atmosphere is washed back to the planet’s surface by rain and snow in the form of pollutants such as nitrates and ammonium. Elevated nitrogen levels can trigger harmful ecological effects, from soil acidification to feeding algae blooms. According to the study, published in Nature, leaves of herbaceous and woody plants absorbed 33 percent more nitrogen in 2010 than in 1980, while rice, wheat, and maize crops on unfertilized fields had a 16 percent increase. The spike in pollution levels has been driven by an increase in industrial emissions, agricultural uses, and transportation.
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18 Feb 2013: BPA Levels Found in Humans
Unlikely to Pose Health Risk, Study Says

A new U.S. analysis suggests that concentrations of bisphenol A (BPA) in the blood of the general public are significantly lower than levels shown to cause toxicity or mimic estrogen in animal studies. In an analysis of 150 BPA exposure studies — covering more than 30,000 individuals in 19 countries — toxicologist Justin Teeguarden of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that BPA levels were consistently lower than levels believed to cause biological effects. According to the study, which was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, these findings suggest that animal studies may not be a good indicator of the human health effects of BPA, a synthetic chemical found in thousands of everyday products, from plastic bottles to cash register receipts. “At these exposure levels, exposure to BPA can’t be compared to giving a baby the massive dose of estrogens found in a birth control pill, a comparison made by others,” Teeguarden said.
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30 Jan 2013: Satellite Analysis Shows
Gulf Oil Spills Typically Underestimated

An analysis of satellite images has revealed that small oil spills that have become common in the Gulf of Mexico are often much larger than reported, U.S. scientists say. Using technology that calculates the size of oil slicks based on differences in the texture of water surface, as captured in publicly available satellite photos, a team of oceanographers at Florida State University (FSU) estimated that known human-caused spills in the Gulf were typically about 13 times larger than reported to the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center. The spills are typically the result of minor drilling mishaps or fuel discharges from ships. “There is very consistent underreporting of the magnitude of [oil] releases,” Ian MacDonald, a FSU scientist and team leader, told Nature. While these relatively minor oil spills may not cause significant environmental damage, the cumulative damage is not known since officials are unaware of the true extent of the spills, said John Amos, president of SkyTruth, a nonprofit organization that participated in the study.
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29 Jan 2013: Continued Beijing Air Pollution
Triggers Online Call for Clean Air Act

As Beijing residents continue to endure choking air pollution that far exceeds safe levels, an online poll has found overwhelming support for new clean air legislation. Ten hours after real estate mogul Pan Shiyi

Click to enlarge
Air Pollution over Beijing China January 2013

NASA
Haze over Beijing, January 2013
posted the poll on the popular social media platform Sina Weibo, 99 percent of respondents (more than 32,000 people) agreed that the government should enact a Clean Air Act, with many users offering specific measures to curb pollution, including car-free days, stricter auto emissions standards, and public health protections. The dangerous cloud of pollution that has hung over Beijing for about a month now covers roughly 1.3 million square kilometers, according to the government-run Xinhua news agency. In Beijing this week, visibility fell to 500 meters, and some city natives called it the “worst fog ever,” according to China Daily.
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28 Jan 2013: Megacities Alter Weather
Across Long Distances, Study Says

Heat generated in major metropolitan areas is altering the character of the jet stream and other atmospheric systems, at times affecting the weather thousands of miles away, a new study says. Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, a team of scientists reports that so-called “waste heat” produced from buildings, cars, and other sources is altering weather patterns and increasing winter temperatures across large areas of North America and northern Asia by as much as 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F). In parts of Europe, however, the changes to atmospheric circulation are causing temperatures to fall by as much as 1 degree C., the study found. “Although much of this waste heat is concentrated in large cities, it can change atmospheric patterns in a way that raises or lowers temperatures across considerable distances,” said Aixue Hu, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and one of the lead authors of the study. According to the study, this phenomenon is different than the so-called “heat island effect,” in which cities are warmer than surrounding areas as a result of heat collected and re-radiated by pavement, buildings, and other urban features.
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23 Jan 2013: BPA Alternative Also Disrupts
Development At Low Doses, Study Says

A synthetic chemical developed as an alternative to the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA), and now widely used in many products, also disrupts human development at low doses, according to a new study. Created after research indicated potential health risks associated with BPA — a component of polycarbonate plastics found in everything from plastic bottles to cash register receipts — bisphenol S (BPS) was found in the study to disrupt cellular responses to the hormone estrogen, altering biochemical pathways that affect cell growth and hormone release, according to researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. And like BPA, BPS triggers these effects at extremely low doses, the researchers found. According to UTMB's Cheryl Watson, lead author of the study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, BPS is active at doses in the range of parts per trillion or quadrillion.
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Interview: Charting a New Course
For America and the Environment

Time magazine once called him the “ultimate insider,” and indeed Gus Speth has had a long career as an establishment environmentalist. And so it might be
Gus Speth
Gus Speth
surprising that his latest book, America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy, offers a bleak picture of what U.S. environmentalism has accomplished and calls for an overhaul of the nation’s political economy. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Speth, now a professor at Vermont Law School, discusses the evolution of his own thinking on how to address environmental problems and his frustration with continued inaction on climate change. He also talks about the links he sees between economic fairness and environmental health; why he is encouraged by new movements and lifestyles emerging in local communities; and why he rejects what he calls America’s “growth fetish.” “The first thing about growth is it doesn’t deliver,” Speth says, “and it detracts us and deflects us from investing in the things that really do need to grow — like jobs, like education, like green energy technology.”
Read the interview
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21 Jan 2013: NASA Map Shows Air Pollution
Across Asia and the Middle East

New satellite data released by NASA provide dramatic visual evidence of the dangerous air quality reported from cities across Asia and the Middle East this month.

Click to enlarge
Nitrogen dioxide levels January 2013

NASA
Nitrogen dioxide levels, January 2013
Based on data collected from its satellite-based Ozone Monitoring Instrument, a map released by NASA scientists illustrates high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — shown in orange — over several major cities, including Istanbul, Tehran and New Delhi, during the first week of January. Satellite measurements of nitrogen dioxide concentrations are a good indicator of air quality since NO2 is produced by the same fossil fuel-burning processes that also send sulfur dioxide and aerosols into the atmosphere, such as from vehicles, industrial sites, and power plants. The high concentrations of NO2 shown in the NASA map, based on measurements from Jan. 1 to 8, coincided with reports from several cities of hazy skies, unhealthy air quality, and elevated cases of lung ailments.
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16 Jan 2013: Insecticides Pose Threat
To Bee Populations, Report Says

European scientists have found that imidacloprid, the world’s most widely used insecticide, poses “unacceptable” risks to bee populations, a finding that some groups hope will result in a ban on the chemical. Asked to assess the health risks of imidacloprid and two other neonicotinoids — clothianidin and thiamethoxam — as seed treatment or as granules, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that the chemicals should be used only on crops that are “not attractive to honeybees” because of possible risk of exposure through nectar and pollen. Some researchers have said the neonicotinoids make bees more vulnerable to pathogens and could be a factor in so-called “colony collapse disorder,” a phenomenon that has decimated honeybee populations for several years. A spokesman for Bayer, which manufactures imidacloprid, told the Guardian that the EFSA report does not alter existing risk assessments and warned against bans based on “an over-interpretation of the precautionary principle.”
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10 Jan 2013: Up to 50 Percent of Food
Is Wasted Worldwide, Report Says

As much as half of the food produced globally is wasted each year as a result of inefficient agricultural practices, inadequate storage facilities and transportation systems, and wasteful consumer habits, a new report says. While the world community produces about 4 billion metric tons of food annually, roughly 1.2 to 2 billion metric tons of that food — or 30 to 50 percent — is never consumed, according to the UK-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The causes of waste vary from region to region, the report says. In developing nations, much of the waste occurs at the local level as a result of inefficient harvesting, lack of transportation, and poor infrastructure and storage. In richer nations, the waste is often triggered by customer and retail behavior. For example, as much as 30 percent of UK vegetables are never harvested because their appearance doesn’t meet consumer standards. “This level of wastage is a tragedy that cannot continue if we are to succeed in the challenge of sustainably meeting our future food demands,” the report says.
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03 Jan 2013: Methane Leak Data Highlights
Concerns About Natural Gas Drilling

A pair of ongoing studies show unexpectedly high methane leakage from some oil and gas fields in the U.S., findings that underscore concerns that the climate benefits of the natural gas boom may be overstated. Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder say new data indicates that as much as 4 percent of methane from a production area in Denver is leaking into the atmosphere, echoing findings first reported in a much-disputed study published last year in the Journal of Geophysical Research. A separate field study in Utah suggested even higher methane leakage rates of 9 percent. The calculations were made based on aerial and ground-based measurements and atmospheric models that estimated the level of emissions required to produce the recorded concentrations. “We were expecting to see high methane levels, but I don’t think anybody really comprehended the true magnitude of what we would see,” said Colm Sweeney, of the federal Earth System Research Lab Aircraft Program.
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31 Dec 2012: Network of Smartphone-Based
Sensors Track Air Pollution Levels

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a network of smartphone-based air pollution monitors that allow individuals to track
UCSD Citisense smartphone
UCSD
CitiSense device
pollution levels in real time and feed a central database of air quality trends citywide throughout the day. The so-called CitySense devices are equipped with sensors that measure ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide, and a digital app that illustrates the color-coded results based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality ratings. During a four-week test, in which the phones were distributed to 30 volunteers, the system showed hotspots of elevated pollution that shifted over the course of the day. Ultimately, the developers hope to deploy hundreds of devices in order to generate a public database on air quality levels. “We want more data and better data, which we can provide to the public,” said William Griswold, a computer science professor at UC San Diego. “We are making the invisible visible.”
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Interview: What’s Damaging U.S.
Salt Marshes and Why It Matters

For centuries, salt marshes along the U.S. coast have been disappearing, with some experts estimating that 70 percent have been lost to development, rising seas,
Linda Deegan MBL
MBL
Linda Deegan
and other threats. One factor scientists always thought marshes could withstand was nutrient enrichment, such as the flow of nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers and septic systems. But a nine-year study led by Marine Biological Laboratory scientist Linda Deegan shows that an over abundance of nutrients may be contributing to the demise of these salt marshes. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, Deegan describes the study's implications and the vital services that would be lost if marshes disappear, from nourishing marine species to providing a barrier for coastal communities during storms such as Hurricane Sandy.
Read the interview
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Interview: Creating Clouds in a Lab
To Better Forecast Climate Change

At the CERN research laboratory in Switzerland, scientists are conducting experiments to help solve a key riddle: the role of clouds in future
Jasper Kirkby
CERN
Jasper Kirkby
climate change. Leading that study is British physicist Jasper Kirkby, who oversees complex experiments in a large steel chamber that are designed to help resolve one of the biggest uncertainties of climate change — how clouds form and what role they play in regulating Earth’s temperature. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Kirkby talks about the role that cosmic rays — charged particles that hit the Earth from outer space — may play in cloud formation, the pitfalls of geoengineering the planet by trying to mimic the formation of clouds, and why his experiments could help clear up uncertainties about climate change. “We’ve got to reduce that uncertainty if we’re to really sharpen our understanding for future climate projections,” says Kirkby.
Read the interview
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06 Dec 2012: Google Images Document
Devastation of 2011 Tsunami in Japan

As part of an ongoing project to digitally archive the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami in northeastern Japan, Google has published several new panoramic images that provide a sobering glimpse of the widespread devastation in communities across the region. The images, taken with the company’s Street View technology in four cities in the Tōhoku region, allows users to take a virtual tour of seriously damaged buildings before they are demolished. One panoramic view of a public housing project illustrates the height of the tsunami wave, which ruined everything up to the fourth floor of the building. Another image, of the condemned Ukedo Elementary School, shows the collapsed auditorium floor beneath the banner of a graduation ceremony that was never held. The images were added to Google’s “Memories for the Future” website, which is chronicling the affected areas from before and after the tsunami.
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Interview: Designing Green Cities
To Meet 21st Century Challenges

Landscape architect Martha Schwartz is a passionate believer in the role that landscape can play in urban sustainability. Great landscape design, she says, can
Martha Schwartz
Martha Schwartz Partners
Martha Schwartz
moderate extreme heat, recycle water, reduce energy use, lower carbon emissions, and attract people to urban areas. Following these principles, her London-based firm, Martha Schwartz Partners, has designed such projects as Dublin’s Grand Canal Square; Exchange Square, in Manchester, England; and Abu Dhabi’s Corniche beachfront area. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Schwartz, a professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, talks about the importance of incorporating cultural values in urban design, explains why the design of streets and parking lots is as important as the design of parks, and discusses why the U.S. lags behind many other nations in the greening of its cities.
Read the interview
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04 Dec 2012: Air Quality Improvements
Continue to Yield Health Benefits

While the rate of improvement of U.S. air quality has slowed during the last decade, even those small improvements have had a beneficial effect on life expectancy, according to new research. In a study of 545 counties across the U.S., researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that a slight decrease of fine particulate matter of 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter — known as PM2.5 — from 2000 to 2007 was associated with an average increase in life expectancy of 0.35 years. During that period, researchers say, concentrations of PM2.5 decreased by 10 micrograms per cubic meter. While that improvement in air quality was far less significant than the pollution reductions observed between 1980 and 2000, the new findings suggest that continued improvements have additional health benefits. “It appears that further reductions in air pollution levels would continue to benefit public health,” said Harvard researcher Andrew Correia, lead author of the study published in Epidemiology.
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03 Dec 2012: An Advocate's Novel Campaign
To Call Attention to Rhino Slaughter

A South African artist has launched an unorthodox campaign to call attention to the mounting slaughter of rhinoceroses — by sending toenail clippings to the Chinese embassy. Frustrated that petitions and other protests have done little to curb the poaching of rhinos for their horns, Mark Wilby decided to target the illegal markt in Asia, where the horns are believed to have healing properties. Rhino horns are composed largely of keratin, a protein also found in human nails and hair. Wilby, who is encouraging others to also send nails to the embassy address in Pretoria, concedes  the protest is “disrespectful,” but says he wants to put pressure on the Chinese government in hopes that it can help stop the killing of Africa’s rhinos. According to reports, nearly 600 rhinos have been killed illegally so far this year in South Africa alone. “I’m sending this to the Chinese Embassy in South Africa not because I’m blaming the Chinese government or the Chinese people,” he said in a video posted on YouTube. “I just don’t know who else to appeal to.”
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28 Nov 2012: Scientists Develop Standardized
Analysis of City Pollution Emissions

A team of Israeli researchers has developed a method to track pollution over the world’s mega-cities, a satellite-based process they say could help hold nations accountable for their pollution and promote cleaner
Smog over Beijing China
NASA
Smog over Beijing
industrial practices. Using data collected by three NASA satellite systems, the researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) collected pollution trends for 189 cities with populations exceeding 2 million. According to Pinhas Alpert, head of TAU’s Porter School of Environmental Study, the research represents the first standardized global analysis of the smog levels in the atmosphere over the world’s largest cities. Based on the data, collected from 2002 to 2010, cities in Northeast China, India, the Middle East, and Central Africa saw the steepest rise in aerosol concentrations, with an average increase of 34 percent. The greatest improvements occurred in Houston, with a 31 percent decrease in aerosol concentrations; Curitiba, Brazil, a 26 percent decrease; and Stockholm, a 23 percent decrease.
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19 Nov 2012: Breeding Birds in UK
Have Declined 20 Percent Since 1960s

The population of breeding birds in the UK has plummeted by 21 percent since 1966, losing more than 44 million birds in less than a half-century, according to the newly released State of the UK’s Birds 2012report. According to experts, the number of house sparrows has
Yellow wagtail
State of the UK's Birds 2012
The yellow wagtail
dropped from 30 million in 1966, when the first reliable bird-monitoring surveys were conducted, to about 10 million today — a loss of about 50 sparrows every hour. Once-abundant populations of the willow tit have all but disappeared in most regions of the UK, while numbers of the lesser spotted woodpecker and Arctic skua are now too few to number. Populations of farmland bird species are now half of what they were in 1970, according to the report, which draws on information from numerous bird surveys and databases. Land use changes and coastal water management have likely been key factors in these declines, as some species have had increasing difficulty finding suitable places to nest or forage, experts say.
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14 Nov 2012: Algal Biofuel Blend
Reaches Market at California Gas Stations

A U.S. company this week began pumping a mix of an algae-based biofuel and gasoline at gas stations in California, a pilot project the company hopes will be a first step in providing a large-scale alternative to fossil fuels. The fuel, known as Biodiesel B20, contains 80 percent petroleum and 20 percent algae grown by San Francisco-based Solazyme. The fuel is produced in a fermentation process at Solazyme’s Illinois plant that combines sugar with an organism company officials will not identify. According to the company, the new fuel blend produces 30 percent fewer particulates, 20 percent less carbon monoxide, and 10 percent fewer hydrocarbons than other biodiesel fuels. So far, the fuel is being sold for diesel vehicles at four gas stations in the Bay Area for $4.25 per gallon, which is also the average price right now for diesel fuel in California. But Propel Fuels, which is providing the infrastructure for the fuel delivery, hopes to make the fuel available at hundreds of California stations, said Matt Horton, Propel’s CEO.
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31 Oct 2012: U.S. Honeybees Have Developed
Resistance to Antibiotic, Study Says

Honeybees in the U.S. have developed widespread resistance to the antibiotic tetracycline, likely as a result of decades of exposure to preventive antibiotics in domesticated hives, a new study has found. In tests conducted on bees in several countries, scientists from Yale University say they identified eight tetracycline resistance genes in U.S. honeybees that were largely absent in bees found in places where the antibiotics are banned. In the U.S., the use of oxytetracycline — a compound similar to tetracycline — has been common since the 1950s to help prevent outbreaks of “foulbrood,” a bacterial disease that can devastate honeybee hives. “There’s a pattern here, where the U.S. has these genes and the other [countries] don’t,” said Nancy Moran, a lead author of the study published in the journal mBio. The authors warn that the treatment meant to prevent disease and strengthen honeybee hives in the U.S. may have actually weakened the bees’ ability to fight off other pathogens.
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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

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MOMA

MOMA
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.
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24 Oct 2012: Plastic Waste Increasing
On Remote Arctic Seabed, Cameras Reveal

Deep-sea cameras deployed to monitor biodiversity on the Arctic seabed have documented a significant rise in the amount of plastic waste and other litter on the remote sea floors of the Far North, according to a new study. While looking at many thousands of seabed photos taken in 2011 between Greenland and the Norwegian island of Spitzbergen, deep-sea expert Melanie Bergmann of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research was struck by the number showing plastic waste. In a detailed analysis of the photographs — which are taken every 30 seconds by a deep-sea observatory reaching depths of 2,500 meters — Bergmann and her colleagues found that while plastic waste was seen in only one percent of photographs taken in 2002, that number had jumped to 2 percent in 2011. Two percent may not seem like a high occurrence, Bergmann said, but the quantities observed in this remote Arctic region were greater than recorded in a deep-sea canyon near Lisbon, Portugal. According to the study, published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, about 70 percent of the plastic litter had come in contact with deep-sea organisms.
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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.”
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18 Oct 2012: Increased Nutrient Levels
May Drive Collapse of Salt Marsh, Study Says

Increasing levels of nutrients seeping from septic systems and lawn fertilizers may be driving the steady decline of salt marshes that has occurred along the U.S. East coast in recent decades, a new study has found.
Salt Marsh
David S. Johnson/MBL
While scientists had long believed that salt marshes have an unlimited capacity for removing nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, a long-term experiment by researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) at Woods Hole, Mass. found that nutrient enrichment can drive salt-marsh loss. Over nine years, the researchers added amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus to tidal waters flushing through salt marsh in an undeveloped coastal area consistent with the nutrient levels present in developed areas such as Cape Cod, Mass. and Long Island, N.Y. Within a few years, they observed wide cracks in the grassy banks of tidal creeks; eventually, the researchers say, the banks would collapse altogether into the creek. “The long-term effect is conversion of a vegetated marsh into a mudflat, which is a much less productive ecosystem,” said Linda Deegan, an MBL scientist and an author of the study published in Nature.
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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
Nuclear Power Reactor China
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.
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17 Oct 2012: Elevated Levels of CO2
May Impair Cognitive Abilities, Study Says

Elevated levels of carbon dioxide in indoor settings can have a detrimental effect on decision-making abilities and work performance, according to a new study. In a series of tests, U.S. researchers exposed 22 healthy adults to different levels of carbon dioxide concentrations (600 parts-per-million, 1,000 ppm, and 2,500 ppm) in an office-like room. Under each condition, the participants were asked to take a computer-based test that measured their decision-making abilities. According to the findings, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives , the participants’ performance declined notably on six of nine tests when CO2 levels were increased to 1,000 ppm; performance declined substantially on seven of the tests when levels were bumped to 2,500 ppm. Earlier research has associated increased student absences and poorer performance with higher CO2 levels, said William Fisk, a researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and co-author of the study. “But we never thought CO2 was actually responsible,” he said. “We assumed it was a proxy for other [pollutants].”
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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.
PERMALINK

 

10 Oct 2012: U.S. Supreme Court Refuses
Chevron Challenge of Ecuador Damages

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear Chevron Corp.’s challenge of an $18.2 billion judgment issued by an Ecuadorian court over large-scale damages caused by oil drilling in the Amazon. The Supreme Court decision is the latest development in a long legal battle that led to a ruling last year by an Ecuadorean court that Chevron had to pay the damages for massive oil dumping by Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001. Chevron was challenging a ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York that would have effectively opened the way for worldwide enforcement of the judgment against Chevron. An Ecuadorean court found that an oil consortium run by Texaco dumped billions of gallons of oil and toxic sludge in the Amazon rainforest from 1964 through 1992, badly polluting water supplies and causing health problems among some of the 30,000 plaintiffs in the Lago Ario region. Chevron vowed to continue to fight the Ecuadorean court’s decision, which it called “fraudulent” and tainted by judicial misconduct. Chevron contends that the decision is not enforceable under New York law.
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