Policy & Politics
19 Jun 2013:
Study Maps Likely Wildlife
Migration Corridors as Climate Warms
The southeastern U.S., eastern Canada, and the Amazon Basin could become three of the more heavily used wildlife thoroughfares as species are forced to relocate
Click to enlarge
University of Washington
Wildlife corridors in the southeastern U.S.
in response to warming temperatures in the future, according to a new study
. In an analysis of how nearly 3,000 species of mammals, birds, and amphibians in the Western Hemisphere will have to travel to find more hospitable climes — and the human-built barriers, such as cities and agricultural land, that could stand in their way — scientists from the University of Washington found that some regions will see far more animal movement than others. In the southeastern U.S., the Appalachian Mountains are expected to provide a conduit for species movement, as are northern regions of the eastern U.S., including the area around the Great Lakes, according to the study. According to the study, published in Ecology Letters
, the findings can help guide suitable conservation and land use planning along these critical migration corridors.
14 Jun 2013:
Nicaragua Approves New Canal
Linking Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
Nicaragua has approved plans to build a $40 billion cross-country canal
linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, a project that would rival the Panama Canal but is raising major concerns about impacts on regional
water supplies and the environment. Lawmakers yesterday granted Hong-Kong-based HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. a 50-year concession to study, and possibly construct, a 180-mile canal that advocates say would better accommodate the massive cargo ships and supertankers needed to handle the increased trade between Asia and the Americas. Major questions remain, however, about whether the canal will ever be built. Environmental advocates warn that water needed to operate the massive infrastructure project would deplete the region’s freshwater supplies.
13 Jun 2013:
Population Could Be 11 Billion
By End of the Century, UN Report Says
A new United Nations report projects that the world population could reach nearly 11 billion by 2100
, about 8 percent more than predicted just two years ago. The projected increase largely stems from the fact that the fertility rate in Africa has declined more slowly than expected, with demographers now forecasting that the number of people on the continent could nearly quadruple this century, from from about 1.1 billion today to about 4.2 billion. “The fertility decline in Africa has slowed down or stalled to a larger extent than we previously predicted, and as a result the African population will go up,” said Adrian Raftery, a professor of statistics and sociology at the University of Washington, who helped develop the statistical method used in the report. The total world population passed 7 billion in 2011. According to the new report, 8 of the top 10 increases in national populations by 2100 will occur in Africa, led by Nigeria, where the number of people is expected to jump from 184 million to 914 million.
11 Jun 2013:
Growing Number of Pests
Developing Resistance to GM Crops
An increasing number of pest species are developing resistance to crops genetically engineered to be toxic to insects
, according to new research. In an analysis of 77 studies conducted in eight countries, a team of U.S. and French scientists found that five of 13 major pest species had become resistant to so-called Bt cotton or corn plants, which are genetically modified to exude a bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis
, that is toxic to insects. While researchers say all insects inevitably adapt to threats such as pesticides, the study found that farmers who planted non-Bt crops in nearby “refuges” were more likely to slow that resistance. “Either take more stringent measures to delay resistance, such as requiring larger refuges, or this pest will probably evolve resistance quickly,” said Bruce Tabashnik, a professor at the University of Arizona and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Biotechnology
. The total land area planted annually with Bt crops has increased from 1.1 million hectares in 1996 to more than 66 million hectares in 2011.
10 Jun 2013:
Carbon Emissions Increased
1.4 Percent in 2012, IEA Reports
Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions increased by 1.4 percent in 2012
, a pace that could lead to a temperature increase of as much as 5.3 degrees C (9 degrees F) over pre-industrial times, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest World Energy Outlook
. Despite significant improvements in some regions, including the U.S. and Europe, a record 31.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide were emitted worldwide during the year, including a 5.8-percent increase in Japan
, where more fossil fuels were burned to compensate for reductions in nuclear power. While the rate of emissions growth in China was dramatically lower than in recent years, it still emitted 3.8 percent more carbon dioxide in 2012 than in 2011. In its report, the IEA encouraged four strategies to prevent what it says will be a catastrophic temperature increase: improved energy efficiency in buildings, industry, and transportation; a reduction in construction and use of coal-fired plants; reduced methane emissions; and a partial phaseout of fossil fuel consumption subsidies.
06 Jun 2013:
Carbon Emissions in Brazil
Dropped 39% from 2005 to 2010, Report Says
Greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil fell by nearly 39 percent from 2005 to 2010
, largely because of reductions in the amount of forest loss, according to a new government report. Overall, Brazil emitted the equivalent of 1.25 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2010, which was more than 10 percent lower than 1990 levels. About 76 percent of the reductions were the product of a dramatic decline in deforestation across the Amazon and surrounding savannahs, according to the government inventory. That decline was driven by the country’s conservation policies, including stricter enforcement of land use laws, expansion of protected regions, and stronger local incentives to achieve environmental goals. For the first time, agriculture accounts for the largest share of emissions. In fact, rising emissions from agriculture and the energy sector threaten to offset improvements achieved through reduced forest loss, experts warn.
30 May 2013:
Nuclear Power Has Prevented
1.84 Million Premature Deaths, Study Says
The use of nuclear power from 1971 to 2009 prevented more than 1.8 million premature deaths
related to air pollution and 64 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, a new study says. Using historical production data and estimates of mortality per unit of electricity generated, scientists from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University calculated that replacing nuclear energy sources with fossil fuel-burning sources during that period would have caused about 1.84 million premature deaths. By midcentury, they project, nuclear power could prevent an additional 420,000 to 7 million deaths, depending on which fossil fuels it replaces, and 80 to 240 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions. “By contrast, we assess that large-scale expansion of unconstrained natural gas use would not mitigate the climate problem and would cause far more deaths than the expansion of nuclear power,” said Pushker A. Kharecha, who, along with NASA’s James Hansen, co-authored the study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology
. The study calculated that nuclear power plant accidents caused about 4,900 deaths during the same period.
29 May 2013:
Genetically Modified Salmon
Can Breed with Wild Fish and Thrive
Fast-growing, genetically modified salmon can interbreed with wild brown trout and produce offspring that grow rapidly and out-compete other wild salmon in streams
, according to a new study. Researchers from Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, found that so-called “Frankenfish” — which are close to being approved for sale in the United States
— can easily interbreed with brown trout in the wild, creating offspring that aggressively compete for food with salmon. In settings that simulated real streams, the offspring of the genetically modified (GM) salmon and brown trout were so aggressive that they suppressed the growth of GM salmon by 82 percent and wild salmon by 54 percent. “These findings suggest that complex competitive interactions associated with transgenesis and hybridization could have substantial ecological consequences for wild Atlantic salmon should they ever come into contact [with GM salmon] in nature,” the researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B
. The creator of the GM salmon, Aqua Bounty, said the risks were minimal since all the GM salmon will be female, sterile, and produced in tanks on land.
28 May 2013:
Electricity Availability Growth
Must Double to Achieve Global Access
The rate of expansion of access to electricity will have to double over the next 17 years
if the world's population is to achieve 100 percent access to modern energy, a new report says. While about 1.7 billion people became connected to electricity sources worldwide between 1990 and 2010, that increase barely outpaced population growth during that period, according to Sustainable Energy for All, a group lead by the World Bank and the United Nations. More than 1.2 billion people still do not have access to electricity, and 2.8 billion still rely on burning wood or other biomass for household fuel, a source of pollution that causes about 4 million premature deaths annually. Achieving universal access to modern energy will require investments of $45 billion annually, which is five times the current levels. If combined with an expansion of renewable energy sources and improved efficiencies, however, achieving this growth in energy access would increase CO2 emissions by less than 1 percent, the report says.
24 May 2013:
Majority of Earth’s Population
Faces Water Shortages by Mid-Century
A conference of 500 of the world’s leading water scientists issued a stark declaration
at the end of a four-day meeting in Germany, warning that within two generations a majority of the people on the planet will face problems obtaining ample supplies of clean water. At the meeting, “Water in the Anthropocene,” the scientists said that the of over-pumping of underground aquifers, soaring populations, pollution, the over-use of fertilizers, and climate change are seriously threatening supplies of freshwater
around much of the globe. Continuing on the current path will mean that most of Earth’s population “will be living under the handicap of severe water pressure,” the scientists said, adding, “This handicap will be self-inflicted and is, we believe, entirely avoidable.” The conference proposed a wide range of solutions, including better study and monitoring of water supplies, basic reform in irrigation and agriculture, and innovation in the institutions that set national and global water policy.
23 May 2013:
China Poised to Launch
Much-Anticipated Carbon-Trading Project
China has revealed details of a carbon cap-and-trade pilot project that will be launched next month, a much-anticipated market attempt to rein in carbon dioxide emissions by the world’s biggest emitter. The first phase of the program, which will be implemented in the southern city of Shenzhen, will cover 638 companies
that produce 38 percent of the city’s carbon emissions, according to the city branch of the government’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). The system will impose caps on the companies’ CO2 emissions and establish a market for the buying and selling of emissions permits. Eventually, the program will be expanded to include the transportation, manufacturing, and construction sectors, the Guardian
reports. By 2014, the experimental scheme will be expanded into six other designated cities and provinces, including Beijing and Shanghai. Earlier this week, the Chinese newspaper 21st Century Business Herald
reported that the NDRC is contemplating a nationwide system to control CO2 emissions by 2020.
21 May 2013:
Large Majority of Americans
Believe Global Warming Should be a Priority
Roughly 70 percent of Americans say global warming should be a priority for President Obama and Congress and 61 percent support requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax that would be used to help reduce the national debt, according to a new survey
by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. In a national survey conducted in April, 87 percent of respondents said that the president and Congress should make developing clean sources of energy a priority, 68 percent favored regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and 71 percent supported providing tax rebates for people who buy solar panels and energy-efficient vehicles. Seventy percent said global warming should be at least a “medium” priority, while 28 percent said it should be a low priority. The poll showed that 7 in 10 Americans support funding more research into green energy sources.
10 May 2013:
U.S. Web Tool Aims to Bolster
Research on Climate and Health Links
The Obama Administration this week introduced an online tool
to improve research into the link between climate change and human health and promote innovative responses to future threats. As climate change triggers more extreme weather events and temperature shifts, it is becoming increasingly important to determine how these changes will affect respiratory illnesses, infectious diseases, allergies, and other human ailments, said Tom Armstrong, executive director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Writing on the department’s blog
, Armstrong said the so-called Metadata Access Tool for Climate and Health
, or MATCH, will provide an accessible portal of metadata from more than 9,000 health, environment and climate science data sets. “MATCH will help researchers and public health officials integrate the latest information from across environmental and health disciplines in order to inform more effective responses to climate and health threats,” he said.
01 May 2013:
Program Targeting Diesel
Emissions Will Be Cut by 70 Percent
A federal program that has cleaned up or removed 50,000 high-polluting diesel engines from U.S. roads is scheduled to be cut by 70 percent under President Barack Obama’s latest budget.
The program eliminated 230,000 tons of soot and smog-causing pollutants, slashed more than two million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and saved 205 million gallons of fuel. But the program’s budget has faced steady cuts in recent years, falling from $50 million in fiscal year 2011, to $20 million in 2013, to a proposed $6 million in fiscal year 2014. The diesel cleanup program has succeeded in removing only a fraction of the 11 million dirty, pre-2006 diesel vehicles on the road. But environmentalists say that the program has been successful in helping clean the air in low-income communities that often are situated near ports, highways, and other areas with high diesel traffic.
29 Apr 2013:
Ocean off the U.S. Northeast
Was Warmest in 150 Years, Report Says
Sea surface temperatures along the northeastern U.S. were warmer in 2012 than during any year in the last 150 years
, a new report finds. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) latest Ecosystem Advisory for the Northeast Shelf
, sea surface temperatures across the region — which extends from Cape Hatteras, N.C., to the Gulf of Maine — averaged 14 degrees C (57.2 degrees F) last year, significantly higher than the average temperature over the last three decades, which was 12.4 degrees C (54.3 degrees F). It was also the biggest one-year increase since records were first kept in 1854. While the data historically has been collected by ship-board instruments, NOAA now also incorporates satellite remote-sensing technology. “Changes in ocean temperatures and the timing and strength of spring and fall plankton blooms could affect the biological clocks of many marine species, which spawn at specific times of the year based on environmental cues like water temperature,” said Kevin Friedland, a NOAA scientist.
26 Apr 2013:
NASA Tests Affirm Viability
Of Biofuel-Powered Commercial Jets
In recent test flights, NASA researchers have confirmed that commercial airliners can safely fly on an alternative jet fuel blend
and that under some conditions the biofuel mix produced 30 percent fewer emissions than
Contrails from a NASA DC-8 aircraft
typical jet fuel. After flying DC-8 aircraft using a biofuel blend containing 50 percent camelina plant oil
, scientists from Langley Research Center in Virginia say they observed no noticeable difference in the jets’ engine performance. And specially equipped planes that measured the exhaust emissions from the jets’ contrails found the biofuel blend produced fewer emissions, according to NASA. “In terms of these fuels being acceptable for use in commercial aircraft, they’re quite acceptable,” Bruce Anderson, a senior research scientist at Langley Research Center, told the Associated Press. “But we’re still digging into the data.” But while camelina plant oil might eventually emerge as an attractive biofuel source, since it can be grown in arid regions, researchers noted that it is currently cost-prohibitive. Currently, Anderson said, camelina oil costs about $18 per gallon, compared to $4 per gallon for typical jet fuel.
25 Apr 2013:
Metal Demand Could Increase
Nine-Fold as Developing Economies Grow
Global demand for metals could increase nine-fold in the coming years
as the world’s developing economies continue to grow, a trend that could have profound negative environmental impacts, a new UN report says. As populations in these countries continue to adopt modern technologies, and nations increasingly construct metal-intensive renewable energy projects, the need for raw metal materials will likely be three to nine times larger than the current global demand, said Achim Steiner
, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). While the current demand is typically met by mining for more metals, large-scale mining operations can have adverse environmental consequences, and the supply of some rare earth metals is running low. Saying that there is an urgent need for a more sophisticated approach to recycling the planet's increasingly sophisticated products, the UN suggested
that mining companies be enlisted to help sort out valuable metals when the products reach the end of their usefulness.
22 Apr 2013:
Green Energy Investments
To Triple by 2030, Analysis Predicts
Annual investment in renewable energy is predicted to triple between now and 2030
, according to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. In an analysis
of several factors shaping the global energy future —
First Solar Inc.
including economic conditions, market demands, and the evolution of technologies — the group predicted that annual spending may increase from $190 billion last year to $630 billion by 2030. A key factor in the growth is the plunging cost of wind and solar energy, which in the short term has bankrupted many manufacturers. The Bloomberg report also forecast significant growth in hydropower, geothermal, and biomass sources of energy. In the most likely scenario, 70 percent of new power generation capacity between 2012 and 2030 would come from renewable sources — with wind and solar accounting for 30 and 24 percent, respectively — while only 25 percent would come from fossil fuel sources.
18 Apr 2013:
Reducing Short-Lived Pollutants
Could Slow Sea Level Rise, Study Says
Reducing the emissions of four critical pollutants in the coming decades could at least temporarily slow the rate of global warming and reduce projected sea level rise by as much as 50 percent
, according to a new study. Building on previous research that found that reducing the emissions of four short-lived pollutants — tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons, black carbon, and methane — could slow the rate of global warming by 50 percent, the new study projects that sea-level rise could, in turn, be reduced by 24 to 50 percent by 2100, depending on the level of emissions cuts. Unlike carbon dioxide, which persists in the atmosphere for centuries, these four pollutants remain in the atmosphere anywhere from a week to a decade, so altering their atmospheric concentrations can have a more immediate effect on the global climate, scientists say. “Society can significantly reduce the threat to coastal cities if it moves quickly on a handful of pollutants,” said Aixue Hu, a researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change
16 Apr 2013:
U.S. Offshore Seismic Testing
Threatens Many Marine Species, Study Says
The proposed use of seismic air guns in the search for offshore oil and gas reserves along the U.S. East Coast could injure or kill nearly 140,000 marine animals
annually and disrupt the vital activities of other species,
Moira Brown/New England Aquarium
North Atlantic right whale
a new study says. The seismic testing, in which guns filled with compressed air are fired repeatedly over deep-sea target areas to provide energy companies an image of the deposits below, would threaten marine species of all sizes, from tiny fish eggs to large whales, according to an analysis by the conservation group Oceana
. The group said that the powerful air gun blasts, which it describes as “100,000 times more intense than a jet engine,” could disturb the breathing, feeding, and mating habits for dolphins and whales and cause injury or death to endangered species such as the North Atlantic right whale. The analysis comes as the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management completes a study of the potential impacts of seismic activities from Delaware to Florida. Oil industry officials point to other research that shows seismic testing is unlikely to threaten marine mammals.
15 Apr 2013:
Renewable Energy Generated
70 % Of Portugal’s Electricity in Quarter
Portugal generated more than 70 percent of its electricity
from renewable sources of energy during the first quarter of 2013, a record amount fueled largely by hydroelectric and wind energy sources, according to a report from the country’s grid operator. Hydroelectric generation provided 37 percent of the nation’s electricity from January to March, a 312-percent increase compared to last year, while wind energy accounted for 27 percent, a 60-percent increase, Redes Energéticas Nacionais (REN) reported
. While favorable weather helped drive the record levels in wind and hydroelectric power, the results also reflect Portugal’s investment in renewable energy projects
— including wind farms, hydroelectric, solar and wave energy — and an improved electricity grid that allows green energy providers to connect into the system. Nearly 45 percent of the country’s electricity will come from green sources this year compared with just 17 percent five years ago, ThinkProgress reports.
12 Apr 2013:
Many Marine Mammal Species
Have Rebounded Since U.S. Protections
Forty years after the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), no marine mammal species in U.S. waters has been extirpated and the populations of
many marine animals are more abundant
than in 1972,
a new study says. While many species, including the endangered right whale, remain at significant risk, the populations of other species — including gray seals in New England and sea lions and elephant seals on the Pacific coast — have “recovered to or near their carrying capacity,” scientists say. “At a very fundamental level, the MMPA has accomplished what its framers set out to do, to protect individual marine mammals from harm as a result of human activities,” said Andrew Read, a professor at Duke University and co-author of the study, published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
. Passed at a time when numerous species were on the edge of extinction, the MMPA imposed strict regulations against commercial killing and the incidental bycatch of marine mammals by the fishing industry.
11 Apr 2013:
Marine Council's ‘Eco-Labeling’
Process Is Too Lenient, Report Says
The process by which the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certifies seafood as sustainable is too lenient and discretionary
, allowing for “overly generous interpretations” from third-party certifiers and adjudicators, a new report says. Launched in 1997, the UK-based MSC administers a well known eco-labeling process to inform consumers which fisheries are sustainable and provide incentives for better fisheries management. But in an analysis of 19 formal complaints against the council, a group of researchers found that several of the fisheries that received the MSC’s “sustainable” label — accounting for 35 percent of labeled seafood — apparently do not meet the council’s standards. For example, they found that Canada’s longline fishery for swordfish resulted in an extraordinary amount of incidental bycatch of other species, with the annual catch of 20,000 swordfish also netting 100,000 sharks, 1,200 endangered loggerhead turtles, and 170 leatherback turtles, according to the report, published in the journal Biological Conservation
10 Apr 2013:
New Satellite-Based System Will
Track Illegal Deforestation in Real Time
A coalition of organizations has unveiled a digital tool its developers say will help governments, environmental groups, and local communities monitor illegal logging in the world’s forest regions in close to real time. Using satellite technology, data sharing, and a global network of local contributors, the so-called Global Forest Watch 2.0 system will enable users to track forest loss that has occurred within the last 30 days
and allow local forest managers to upload geo-referenced photographs to support data on deforestation. Developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and other contributors — including Google, the University of Maryland, and the United Nations Environment Program — the technology was unveiled this week at a UN forum on forests and will be available next month
. WRI hopes the system will allow government leaders and companies to make more timely forest management decisions
05 Apr 2013:
South Africa Game Reserve
Poisons Rhino Horns to Halt Poachers
Officials at a private game reserve in South Africa say they have injected into the horns of more than 100 rhinos a parasiticide that will make humans sick if they ingest the horns
. As the rhinos’ death toll continues to escalate in South Africa
, where nearly 700 animals were
Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images
Injured rhino in South Africa
poached last year to supply a growing black market for their horns, officials say bold action was necessary. “Despite all the interventions by police, the body count has continued to climb,” Andrew Parker, chief executive of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin Association, a group of private landowners, told the Guardian
. “Everything we’ve tried has not been working and for poachers it has become a low-risk, high-reward ratio.” The group is trying to increase that risk by injecting a mix of parasiticides and pink dye into the horns of tranquilized rhinos. The poison is not lethal to humans, Parker said, but anyone who consumes it will be extremely ill. Demand for rhino horns in Southeast Asia
, where the horns are believed to have healing powers, has triggered a surge in the killing of rhinos.
04 Apr 2013:
U.S. Company Shelves Solar
Thermal Plant as Utility Cancels Contract
U.S.-based BrightSource Energy has shelved its second major solar thermal project this year as the company and Pacific Gas and Electric terminated the utility’s contract to buy power generated by the plant in south-central California. In an email, a BrightSource spokesman said the $2.9 billion Hidden Hills project, which would have been built in Inyo County near the Nevada border, was suspended due to “uncertainty around the timing of transmission upgrades,” Bloomberg News reports
, although regulators' environmental concerns also seemed to play a role. Like another project canceled by BrightSource earlier this year, the 500-megawatt Hidden Hills
plant would have utilized thousands of mirrors reflecting sunlight onto central towers to produce steam. The California Energy Commission, which was reviewing the project, found last year that the solar installation would have “significant” environmental impacts
, suggesting that the use of photovoltaic solar panels would be “environmentally superior.” Officials at BrightSource, which recently completed a solar thermal plant in the Mojave desert, disputed that analysis.
28 Mar 2013:
California City to Require
Solar Energy Systems on All New Homes
A city in southern California this week passed a zoning regulation that requires developers to install solar power systems on every new house they build
. Beginning next year, all new homes built on lots at least
7,000 square feet in size in Lancaster, Calif. will be required to produce at least one kilowatt of solar electricity. Developers also have the option of purchasing solar energy credits from other developments within the city limits. The new zoning rules are the latest initiative
in Mayor Rex Parris’s quest to make Lancaster, which has a population of 150,000 and abundant sunshine, the “solar capital of the universe.” Since 2008, the city has also introduced an initiative to attract utility-scale solar developers to the city, proposed a transmission project to deliver solar-generated power to other communities, and created a solar financing program for homeowners, businesses, and nonprofits.
26 Mar 2013:
China’s Utility Giants
Vulnerable to Water Scarcity, Report Says
China’s five largest power utilities, which depend on water-intensive, coal-fired stations to generate electricity, are vulnerable to water supply disruptions because they are centered in the country’s water-scarce northern regions, a new report says. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance
, the five power generators — Huaneng, Datang, Huadian, Guodian, and China Power Investment — operate hundreds of gigawatts of thermal plants in the industrial northeast, where water resources are increasingly strained. Eighty-five percent of China’s power-generating capacity is in water scarce regions, said Maxime Serrano Bardisa, one of the report’s coauthors. The report said that major technical and policy shifts will be required to avert serious disruptions, including the addition of systems that use less water, such as closed-cycle or air-cooled systems. Such improvements could cost the utilities $20 billion in retrofit costs, the report said.
22 Mar 2013:
Expansion of Chinese City Poses
Environmental and Safety Risks, Critics Say
An ambitious plan to expand the western Chinese city of Lanzhou into a regional industrial hub is raising concerns over what critics call lax government oversight of the environmental and safety impacts, including worries that it will siphon huge amounts of water from an already parched region
and devastate nearby mountains. Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province, is a city of 3.6 million and a gateway to Tibet and the Xinjiang region. It is known as one of the most polluted cities in China, and now the government is working to expand the city’s footprint by at least 70 percent, according to Caixin Online
. That expansion involves the flattening of mountaintops, and the additional 1 million people and increased industrial activity will draw water from the already polluted and over-stressed Yellow River. Opponents of the plan say buildings will also be constructed on loose soil that will be vulnerable to collapse. “It was a rash decision to begin construction on the new city before receiving environmental approvals or seeking opinions from the Lanzhou public,” said Zhao Zhong, a local activist.
20 Mar 2013:
High-Speed Trains Provide
Environmental, Social Benefits, Study Says
Bullet trains fuel real-estate booms, improve quality of life, reduce air pollution and traffic congestion, and provide a “safety valve” for crowded cities, especially in the developing world, according to a study by Chinese and U.S. economists. The study was based on China’s rapidly expanding high-speed rail network, but the researchers said the benefits experienced there would be similar for California’s proposed high-speed rail system
. Bullet train systems connecting China’s largest cities to nearby smaller cities have made these “second tier” cities more attractive for workers and alleviated traffic congestion and pollution in megacities, according to the study, carried out by economists at Tsinghua University and the University of California, Los Angeles. The study found that the trains created a new category of exurbs within 60 to 470 miles of urban centers such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, helping keep people from moving to already crowded megacities. The study was published in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences