26 Jun 2012:
Elevated Ozone Levels
Trigger Heart Risks for Healthy Adults
Exposure to ozone at levels sometimes present in the world’s most polluted cities can trigger potentially dangerous changes to human cardiovascular systems, according to a new study
. In a series of tests conducted
Mexico City smog
on 23 healthy adults, scientists found evidence of cardiac inflammation and heart rhythm disturbance after exposure to air containing ozone at 0.3 parts per million for two hours — about the same dose they would receive if exposed to ozone levels exceeding the U.S. standard of 0.075 parts per million over eight hours. According to the findings, published in the journal Circulation
, the blood levels of several inflammatory agents increased — more than doubling in some cases — after ozone exposure. This finding “caught us by surprise,” said Robert Devlin, a toxicologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and lead author of the study. “We think it’s one of the more important and significant findings.” Heavily polluted cities such as Beijing and Mexico City often have extremely high ozone levels, and ozone in U.S. cities such as Los Angeles and Houston can reach levels equal to those used in the experiment.
19 Jun 2012:
Major World Cities
Cite Progress in CO2-Reduction Effort
Speaking at the Rio+20 sustainability summit, the mayors of New York City and Rio de Janeiro will announce that 48 of the world’s largest cities are taking steps to cut 248 tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020
, the equivalent of removing 44 million cars from the road for a year. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes said that four-dozen cities in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
are reducing emissions by launching energy efficiency programs, capturing methane in landfills, installing more efficient street lighting, and other initiatives. They cite the CO2 reductions as proof that cities can make significant progress on slashing greenhouse gases even in the absence of a global agreement on cutting carbon emissions. “We’re not arguing with each other about emissions targets,” Bloomberg told reporters in a teleconference. “What we’re doing is going out and making progress.” Bloomberg and Paes said that 59 cities have committed to cut their carbon emissions by a total of 1 billion tons by 2030, equivalent to the combined greenhouse gas emissions of Canada and Mexico.
19 Jun 2012:
Being Killed at Alarming Rate, Report Says
At least one person is killed per week in disputes over environmental protection or land rights as the competition for natural resources globally becomes increasingly violent, according to a new report
. In a survey of incidents worldwide, the group Global Witness estimated that 711 environmental activists, journalists or community members have been killed during the last decade over disputes involving land and forest rights. In 2011 alone, the number was 106, which was twice the number of killings in 2009. The report's authors say it provides a stark reminder of a “hidden crisis” and highlights a culture of impunity and a lack of oversight in many countries. The greatest number of killings reportedly occurred in Brazil, Colombia, the Philippines and Peru. “It is a well-known paradox that many of the world's poorest countries are home to the resources that drive the global economy,” the report said
. “Now, as the race to secure access to these resources intensifies, it is poor people and activists who increasingly find themselves in the firing line.”
07 Jun 2012:
Environmental Tipping Point
Is Nearing, International Study Says
The rapid warming of the planet, a soaring human population, the steady loss of biodiversity, over-exploitation of energy resources, and the degradation of the world’s oceans are driving the world toward an ecological tipping point,
according to a new study in Nature
. Twenty-two scientists from five nations compared the major changes taking place today with previous ecological shifts — such as the end of the last Ice Age 14,000 to 18,000 years ago — that triggered mass extinctions of some species, expansions of others, and the creation of new global ecosystems. The paper said that while there is still considerable uncertainty as to whether the world is now approaching such a “state shift,” many signs point to a future of ecological upheaval. “Given all the pressures we are putting on the world, if we do nothing different, I believe we are looking at a time scale of a century or even a few decades for a tipping point to arrive,” lead author Anthony Barnosky
, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, said in an interview.
29 May 2012:
Wind Farms Consider
Radar Systems to Prevent Bird Deaths
The operators of large California wind farms are considering the use of advanced radar and telemetry systems to reduce the number of birds killed
by spinning turbines located in critical migration pathways. The so-called avian radar systems, which
American Bird Conservancy
have been deployed at wind farms in Texas and Europe, would be able to identify birds early enough to shut down the turbines, at least briefly, to prevent collisions. Advocates say the systems could prevent large-scale killings of many migratory songbird species, as well as the critically endangered California condor and the federally protected golden eagle. According to the Los Angeles Times
, one possible customer for the radar systems is the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which operates a wind farm that is under federal investigation following the discovery of several dead golden eagles at the site. “Renewable energy operators are coming around to the view that they have to do something,” said Gary Andrews, chief executive of De Tect Inc., a manufacturer of such systems. The systems, however, are expensive, at $500,000 per unit, and existing technologies typically have difficulty differentiating among bird species.
23 May 2012:
Street Lights Can Cause
Long-Term Ecological Changes, Study Says
The presence of artificial street lights can alter the behavior of ground-dwelling invertebrates and insects
and ultimately change the structure and function of some ecosystems, according to a new study. In a series of tests in Cornwall in western England, researchers from the University of Exeter used 28 traps to capture 1,200 animals on the ground beneath street lights and in darker areas between the lights. According to their findings, published in the journal Biology Letters
, invertebrate predators and scavengers were more common underneath the lights, even during the daylight hours. Thomas Davies, a researcher at the University of Exeter and lead author of the study, said these findings suggest that nocturnal behavior is affecting habitat preference overall, and could have implications for critical ecosystem services, including pollination and the breakdown of organic matter. “It’s amazing how long we’ve been using street lighting and artificial lighting, and how little research has been done on the impact of those lights on the environment,” he told BBC News
30 Apr 2012:
Australia Lists Koala As
Threatened Species for First Time
The Australian government has added the koala to the list of threatened species
in parts of the country for the first time, saying the iconic species is under threat from habitat loss, urban expansion, disease, and climate change. Following a three-year study, Environment Minister Tony Burke announced
that koalas will be listed as vulnerable in Queensland, where populations have declined by 40 percent in two decades; New South Wales, where numbers have dropped by one-third; and the Australian Capital Territory. In addition to the listing, which will impose restrictions on development in areas where the species is threatened, the government committed $300,000 for koala monitoring and habitat research. Not only are koalas facing declining food sources as eucalypt plants are aggressively cleared for development, but scientists say the nutritional value of remaining eucalypts has diminished as a result of climate change. While the government says there are about 200,000 remaining koalas nationwide, the Australian Koala Foundation estimates there are likely fewer than 100,000.
16 Mar 2012:
Africa Could Produce
More E-Waste Than Europe by 2017
Africa, typically a dumping ground for electronic waste from other nations, could produce more e-waste than the European Union by 2017
, experts say. Across Africa, a combination of population growth and increased access to mobile phones and other technology will produce a surge in e-waste over the next five years, Miranda Amachree of Nigeria’s National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency told reporters at the Pan-African Forum on E-Waste. While the continent has long received thousands of tons of waste for disposal from developing nations, a recent report by the UN Basel Convention found as much as 85 percent of Africa’s e-waste is now local. That report
found that in five West African nations ten times as many people have personal computers as a decade ago, and 100 times as many people have cellphones. In those countries alone, as much as 1 million tons of domestic e-waste is now generated per year. Katharina Kummer Peiry, of the Basel Convention, said African nations must “move towards more formal recycling in order to ensure precious metals are properly extracted from, say, mobile phones.”
08 Mar 2012:
New York Roof Study Shows
Drastic Cooling with White Surfaces
A New York City roof covered in a white synthetic membrane was on average 43 degrees F cooler than surrounding black tar and asphalt roofs
during times of peak heat last summer, according to a study by scientists from Columbia University and NASA. On the
hottest day of the summer — July 22, 2011, when the city set a record for electricity usage during a heat wave — the dark surfaces of some city roofs reached 170 degrees F, while temperatures on the white test roof peaked at less than 130 degrees F. The city’s CoolRoofs initiative
is working to install “living roofs” with plants and to convert many tar and asphalt roofs to a white color using membranes or white paint. The goal, the city says, is to help reduce the urban “heat island” effect, which can boost temperatures by 5 to 7 degrees F, especially at night. Lowering the heat island effect would reduce demand for air conditioning and cut illnesses and deaths during heat waves. Converting roofs to white is cheaper than planting “living roofs,” the researchers noted. “Bright is the new black,” said Stuart Gaffin, a Columbia scientist and lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
15 Feb 2012:
Short-term Exposure to Pollutants
Increases Heart Attack Risk, Study Says
A new report says that even short-term exposure to major air pollutants increases the risk of heart attack
. In an analysis of more than 100 studies conducted worldwide, researchers from the Paris Cardiovascular Research Center found that increased exposure to pollutants — including fine particles, coarse particles, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide — consistently increased the health risks after even short-term exposure, or less than seven days. While the risk from pollutant exposure was relatively small, compared with factors such as high blood pressure, the number of people breathing these pollutants worldwide is so large that a sizable number of people are at risk, the study said. In the case of fine particles, the researchers found that heart attacks increased 2.5 percent for every incremental increase in pollution levels. In other words, if fine particle levels reached 10 micrograms per cubic meter in one city, and 20 micrograms in another, the rate of heart attacks would be 2.5 percent greater in the second city, according to the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
. Most of the pollutants are associated with the burning of fossil fuels for transportation or industry. In a separate study, MIT researchers found that air pollution associated with China’s steep industrial growth caused health care costs to jump from $22 billion in 1975 to $112 billion in 2005
13 Feb 2012:
Electric Vehicles in China
Pollute More Than Gas-Fueled Cars
The use of electric cars in China produces more particulate matter pollution than gasoline-fueled vehicles
, according to a new study. In an analysis of five vehicle technologies in 34 major Chinese cities, U.S. researchers found that the power generated to run electric cars produces significantly greater particulate matter emissions because 80 percent of China’s electricity comes from coal-burning power plants. While those plants are typically located far from population centers, the researchers nevertheless found that the difference in pollution is so great that electric vehicles are still more harmful to the public health per-kilometer traveled than conventional vehicles. The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology
, emphasizes that electric vehicles are a cleaner option if powered by a clean energy source. “In China and elsewhere, it is important to focus on deploying electric vehicles in cities with cleaner electricity generation and focusing on improving emissions controls in higher polluting power sectors,” said Chris Cherry, a researcher at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and lead author of the study.
10 Feb 2012:
Wastewater Reuse Could Increase
U.S. Supplies 27 Percent, Report Says
Advanced treatment of municipal wastewater could increase available water supplies in the U.S. by 27 percent, according to a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences
. Of the 32 billion gallons of municipal wastewater discharged each day nationwide, about 12 billion gallons of effluent is emptied into an ocean or estuary, the report said. Existing treatment technologies would allow municipalities to reuse that water for a variety of purposes — including irrigation, industrial use and drinking water — while posing no increased risk of exposure to microbial or chemical contaminants than in some existing drinking water systems. As reported in the New York Times
, an increasing number of U.S. communities are utilizing wastewater reuse technologies — including a pilot plant in San Diego that produces about 1 million gallons of clean drinking water daily — or are considering it. According to the National Academy report, increased stress on water supplies as a result of climate change and population growth will require many municipalities to consider alternative sources of water.
17 Jan 2012:
China Sets First-Ever Cap
On Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The Chinese government has ordered five cities and two provinces to set caps on greenhouse gas emissions
in preparation for a series of regional carbon markets. Last week, China’s National Development and Reform Commission urged Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing and Shenzhen, as well as the provinces of Hubei and Guangdong, to set “overall emissions control targets
” and submit strategy proposals on how to achieve them. A plan developed by Guangdong — which commits the province to achieving 20 percent of its total energy consumption from non-fossil fuels by 2015 — has already been approved by the central government. The province must also cut its “carbon intensity,” or the CO2 emissions per unit of economic growth, by 19.5 percent. China as a whole, which has already passed the U.S. as the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has committed to reducing its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent by 2020.
16 Jan 2012:
Mandatory Roof Gardens Urged
As Solution to Singapore Flooding
A panel formed to study solutions to increased flooding in Singapore has urged the government to require green roofs
on new and retrofitted buildings. The 12-member panel, which was created after torrential rains caused flash flooding across eastern and central Singapore last year, said improved weather modeling and infrastructure improvements are needed to handle a surge in stormwater runoff caused by urbanization in Singapore. In the meantime, however, the panel urged simpler steps to reduce and delay flooding, including better storage tanks, porous pavements, and rain gardens. Such rooftop gardens, which are often added to reduce heat or for aesthetic reasons, can absorb six to 34 liters of water per square meter
and limit water flow, local contractors said. After flash floods inundated large areas of Singapore last June for the second consecutive year, a government official warned that the nation’s drainage system is not equipped to handle the region’s “changing” weather patterns
28 Dec 2011:
Map Projects When U.S. Cities
Will Achieve Grid Parity for Solar
If energy cost trends remain consistent — with the price of retail electricity rising and solar power falling — solar energy could become cheaper than power from the grid
in most major U.S. metropolitan areas by 2027,
according to a recent projection. In a new map published on the Energy Self-Reliant States website
, energy policy analyst John Farrell has predicted which U.S. cities will achieve so-called “grid parity” first — and the order in which other cities will follow through 2027. Farrell, a researcher with the group, Local Self-Reliance, based his projections on recent regional retail rates for electricity, which have seen the cost of solar energy decline by an average of 7 percent per year and the cost of retail electricity increase by 2 percent annually. If that trend holds, Farrell predicts that San Diego will become the first city to achieve grid parity, in 2013, followed by New York in 2015. By 2020, 17 metropolitan areas nationwide will have reached grid parity; the number will jump to more than 40 by 2027, he projects.
29 Nov 2011:
Map Shows Population Density
As Planet Reaches 7 Billion People
With the world’s population now surpassing 7 billion
, a Boston-based design firm has published a map illustrating the planet’s population density, including
detailed visualizations of the most densely populated cities. Dencity, created by Fathom Information Design
, uses circles of various sizes and hues to represent population density, with larger, darker circles showing areas with fewer people, and smaller, lighter circles representing the world’s most crowded cities and regions. China, home to eight of the world’s 20 most populated cities, contains a series of tightly packed orange and yellow dots. Likewise, the populous nations of India and Pakistan are almost uniformly dense until they reach political boundaries or geographic features, such as the Himalayas. Meanwhile, the larger, darkly hued dots illustrate less populated regions, including Saharan Africa and Siberia.
29 Nov 2011:
Carbon Sinks in Estuaries
Have Been Degraded by Industrial Activity
The ability of the world’s estuaries, salt marshes, and mangrove swamps to sequester carbon has been seriously degraded by industrial activity
, according to a study by Australian researchers. Scientists at the University of Technology, Sydney, examined layers of estuary sediment in Sydney’s Botany Bay for the past 6,000 years. They found that sea grass abundance has declined sharply, while quantities of micro-algae have soared. Increasing nitrogen deposition and pollution are the main culprits in destroying seagrass beds, which have the capacity to store as much as 100 times more carbon than micro-algae. The researchers dated the sediments using radiocarbon dating and determined the plant makeup of the Botany Bay estuary by examining isotopic ratios of seagrass versus micro-algae. Reporting in the journal Global Change Biology
, lead researcher Peter Macreadie said the results show the importance of preserving and restoring so-called “blue carbon habitats” in wetlands and estuaries. The partial loss of these carbon sinks has “severely hampered the ability of nature to reset the planet’s thermostat.”
21 Nov 2011:
Garbage Pickers Protest
New Wave of Trash Incinerators
A growing coalition of poor workers who earn a living by scouring trash heaps for recyclables in the world’s poorest cities are protesting new incinerators being built
to convert that trash into electricity. While the UN has encouraged the incinerators as a means of generating electricity and preventing methane emissions — and the Kyoto Protocol provides nations carbon credits for such projects — many workers say they depend on picking recyclable materials from the waste heaps for their livelihoods. In New Delhi this month, hundreds of waste workers gathered outside UN offices to protest 21 proposed incinerator projects for which India hopes to receive carbon credits. Similar coalitions are forming in Brazil, South Africa, and Colombia. In India alone, an estimated 1.7 million people earn a living by picking through garbage.
21 Oct 2011:
Database Highlights Projects
That Convert Runoff into Public Resources
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has launched a public database
of 479 projects that use green infrastructure techniques to divert and process urban stormwater before it reaches rivers, lakes, estuaries and other waterways. By using such methods as rain gardens, green roofs, and bioretention — which replicates the uptake and storage of chemicals and sediment by wetlands — designers say the projects have improved the quality of water in their cities and towns, while converting urban stormwater into a valuable resource for communities. Most of the projects listed — including the restoration of an Atlanta brownfield site into a public park and the transformation of a dilapidated Bronx playground into a recreation area that captures and filters stormwater — represent redevelopment or retrofits that have returned unproductive or out-of-use space to the public. Significantly, ASLA found that the deployment of such “green infrastructure” strategies tended to lower development costs, primarily by doing away with expensive, hard runoff-treatment options.
10 Oct 2011:
Urban Growth in China
Will Test Social Welfare System, Report Says
A new report predicts that more than 100 million people will move from China’s countryside into cities and towns over the next decade, a wave of urbanization that could strain the nation’s social welfare system. According to the government’s National Population and Family Planning Commission, China’s total urban population will likely reach more than 800 million by 2020
, compared with about 670 million in 2010, as an increasing number of rural residents seek higher incomes in China’s cities. The report, based on a survey of migrant populations in 106 cities, warns that China’s “overall urban capacity” must be strengthened to handle such a surge in population. Even after migrant workers move into cities and towns, they are typically still registered as rural residents, and thus receive little or no social security and must pay high fees to send their children to public schools. “The migrant population strongly desires to be absorbed into the areas where they live, but there is a stark conflict between supply and demand
of urban public services,” the report warns.
05 Oct 2011:
China’s CO2 Emissions Growth
Mainly Driven By Construction, Study Says
A new study says the explosive growth in China’s construction sector is now driving the country’s steep increase in carbon emissions
, reversing a long-term trend in which consumption and exports were the dominant factors. According to the study, published in journal Environmental Science & Technology
, increased capital investment in infrastructure projects has fueled an expansion of the energy-intensive construction industry in recent years. Until 2002, the most critical factor driving Chinese CO2 emissions was the growth of consumption and factory production for exports, said Jan C. Minx of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and lead author of the study. From 2002 to 2007, however, researchers found that improved energy efficiency actually offset the rise in emissions from increased consumption. But emissions continued to skyrocket during that period — with the average annual CO2 emissions growth rivaling the UK’s total CO2 emissions— largely because of growth in the construction sector and related energy-intensive products such as steel and concrete.
15 Sep 2011:
Empire State Building
Becomes The U.S.’s Tallest LEED Structure
The Empire State Building in New York City has been awarded LEED Gold certification
following a two-year retrofit that is expected to cut energy use in the landmark building by 38 percent by 2013. Two years
Empire State Building
ago, the owners of the 102-story building began renovations they say will cut energy costs by $4.4 million a year, including a retrofit of windows, improved insulation, and renovations to the cooling plant located in the basement. Malkin Holdings, which supervises the building, also agreed to buy 55 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy annually from Green Mountain Energy, a renewable energy and carbon offset retailer. Over 15 years, the renovations are expected to reduce the building’s carbon emissions by 105,000 metric tons. The green upgrades are part of a $550 million initiative known as the Empire State ReBuilding Program, which includes a litany of sustainable practices, from the use of eco-friendly cleaning and pest control supplies to installation of meters that allow tenants to manage their own energy use. The tower is now the tallest building in the U.S. to receive LEED certification.
14 Sep 2011:
Majority of Big Companies
Adopt Climate Strategies, Survey Finds
A new survey conducted by the UK-based Carbon Disclosure Project finds that for the first time a majority of the world’s largest public corporations are including steps to combat climate change as part of their business strategies
. In a survey of 396 of the world’s 500 largest companies, 68 percent said they now have strategies for dealing with climate change, compared with 48 percent last year. And 45 percent of respondents reported reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as a result of climate strategies, compared with 19 percent last year. The Carbon Disclosure Project
also found a correlation between companies with focused carbon strategies and stock market performance, with those companies addressing the issue earning double the average return from 2005 to 2011. “Companies yet to take action on climate change will have to work hard to remain competitive as we head towards an increasingly resource constrained, low-carbon economy,” said Paul Simpson, CEO of the Carbon Disclosure Project. The survey found that the energy sector had the lowest proportion of companies setting emissions targets in the latest survey, while the utilities sector delivered the best climate change performance.
22 Aug 2011:
Growth of Urban Areas
Poses Long-Term Threats, Study Says
A new study says the explosive growth of urban areas worldwide over the next two decades poses significant risks to human populations and the global environment
, from the loss of agricultural land and wildlife habitat to increased vulnerability to the effects of climate change. Using satellite data on urban growth, the study calculates that the world’s total urban area quadrupled in size from 1970 to 2000 — an increase of about 22,400 square miles. By 2030, that urban footprint will expand by another 590,000 square miles to accommodate the more than 1.47 billion additional people expected to be living in the world’s cities, according to the study, conducted by researchers from four U.S universities — Yale, Arizona State, Texas A&M, and Stanford. “[Cities are] going to be growing and expanding into forests, biological hotspots, savannas, coastlines — sensitive and vulnerable places,” said Karen Seto, an associate professor of urban development at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and lead author of the study, published in the online journal PLoS ONE
18 Apr 2011:
Global Market for E-Scooters
and E-Motorcycles to Surge, Report Says
The global market for electric motorcycles and scooters is expected to surge
, with the number of vehicles projected to jump from 17 million in 2011 to more than 138 million by 2017, according to a new report. The two-wheel electric vehicles, which are already popular across Asia, will become increasingly common elsewhere as the rising cost of petroleum-based fuels and government incentives will drive market growth, according to the report by Pike Research. “They are relatively low cost to own, do not take a lot of space, and are easy to maintain, therefore making them attractive for city dwellers,” said Dave Hurst, a senior analyst for the Colorado-based clean-technology research firm. While the market for electric scooters will be six times greater than electric motorcycles in most markets, e-motorcycles are expected to be the more popular choice in some parts of the world, including North America, because of their higher speed and greater range. According to the analysis, the growth of electric vehicles will spur an increased demand for batteries, with the market for lithium ion batteries for e-motorcycles expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 24 percent from 2011 to 2017, and the market for lithium ion batteries for e-scooters predicted to increase at 19 percent.
12 Jan 2011:
Effects of Poverty, Pollution To Be Researched in Long-term EPA Study
The U.S. government will award $7 million in grants for research into the cumulative health effects of environmental pollution and social factors
such as stress and poor nutrition in low-income communities. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) typically limits its research to the effects of individual pollutants and chemicals, this initiative
will target neighborhoods that are exposed to multiple factors that scientists say can amplify the effects of toxic pollutants. The grants will support research into the combined effects of metals and stress on the central nervous system; disparities in air pollution risks; the effects of stress and traffic pollution on childhood asthma; and the reasons that some ethnic groups are more susceptible to environmental health risks. “This research could pave the way for more interdisciplinary work that is responsive to community concerns and environmental justice,” said Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development.
11 Jan 2011:
Study Evaluates Markets
For High-Speed Rail Systems in the U.S.
A new study identifies the high-speed rail corridors in the U.S. with the greatest potential
to attract ridership in the nation’s so-called “megaregions.” The study by the group America 2050 scores 7,870 potential rail
corridors using 12 critical factors, including population, employment concentrations, rail transit accessibility, and air travel markets. In addition to obvious potential markets such as New York to Washington and Los Angeles to San Diego, the study cites other megaregions with the potential to have well-developed high speed rail systems, including Chicago to Milwaukee and Dallas to Houston. The study encourages the federal government to conduct a similar evaluation to decide where investment in high speed rail systems should be concentrated. The study only considered rail lines that extend from 100 to 600 miles, a distance at which trains can compete with automobiles and aviation.
21 Dec 2010:
Digital Billboards Consume
Large Amounts of Energy, Analysis Shows
The growing number of digital billboards on U.S. roads and highways consume large amounts of energy
and are creating a wide variety of electronic waste, according to a new report. The new study says the typical digital billboard consumes about 30 times as much energy as the average American household. The digital billboards use more efficient LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting than traditional signs, but deploy so many of the LED bulbs on each billboard that energy use is high; traditional billboards use just one or two large bulbs to illuminate signs, according to the study
by Gregory Young, a Philadelphia-based urban planner. In addition, digital billboards are illuminated day and night, and require cooling systems that use more energy. And while LEDs, plasma and LCD screens are recyclable, reuse is not mandated, leading to a large surplus of “techno-waste,” said the study, published by the group Scenic America. The U.S. has roughly 800 digital billboards, compared with 450,000 traditional billboards. But use of the technology is expanding quickly, with more than 2,000 expected by 2012.
14 Dec 2010:
London’s New Black Cabs
Must Be Electric by 2020, Mayor Says
In a push to improve air quality in London, city officials will require that all new black taxi cabs be electric by 2020
. Under increased pressure to reduce the worst air pollution in Europe, London Mayor Boris Johnson says the city will refuse licenses
to any taxi older than 15 years beginning in 2012, a move that will remove about 1,200 black cabs from London’s roads. Beginning in 2013, the city will require that cabs undergo two emissions inspections annually. In Central London, vehicles account for about 80 percent of air pollution, with black cabs contributing about 20 percent of the emissions. The new policy in London comes as officials announced plans to install 4,000 new electric vehicle charging stations throughout the UK
, calling 2011 the “year of the electric car.”
08 Nov 2010:
Creating ‘Living’ Buildings
With Materials That Pull CO2 from Air
A new field, known as “ethical synthetic biology,” aims to combine chemistry, architecture, and climate science to construct buildings out of materials that extract CO2 from the atmosphere and convert the carbon into structural material
. For example, scientists at the University of Greenwich are exploring the possibility of using “protocells” — essentially bubbles of oil in watery fluids that are highly sensitive to light or chemicals — that pull carbon from the atmosphere to create a coral-like skin that would protect buildings. Neil Spiller, an architect and head of Greenwich's School of Architecture & Construction, said such protocells could possibly be used to create a limestone-like material that would petrify the pilings now supporting many of Venice’s buildings, slowing the city’s slide into the sea. At the University of Southern Denmark, researchers have succeeded in capturing carbon dioxide in solution and converting it into carbon-containing materials.“We want to use ethical synthetic biology to create large-scale, real world applications for buildings,” said Spiller.