Pollution & Health
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.
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.
16 May 2013:
Scientist’s U.S. Road Trip
Reveals Unexpected Methane Emissions
Methane measurements collected during a scientist’s road trip across the U.S. indicate that local emissions of the potent greenhouse gas are higher than previously known in many regions
. Using a gas chromatograph mounted to the roof of a rented camper, Ira Leifer of the University of California, Santa Barbara, collected air samples from Florida to California, finding the highest methane concentrations in areas with significant refinery activity — such as Houston, Texas — and in a region of central California with oil and gas production. He found that methane concentrations exceeded the levels estimated by the U.S. Department of Energy, particularly in areas near industrial fossil fuel extraction sites. The results point to the importance of targeting these “fugitive” methane emissions in parallel with efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. Leifer's findings were published in the journal Atmospheric Environment
13 May 2013:
Project Looks to Quantify
Power Emissions Through Crowdsourcing
A team of scientists is enlisting public support to help produce a more comprehensive inventory of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants globally, urging citizens to identify power plants in their communities
with a new digital app. While data from some of the
world’s industrialized regions — including the U.S. and Europe — are already widely available, researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) say specific information on carbon emissions from most parts of the world is difficult to obtain. “It turns out that we know far less about fossil fuels than we thought we did,” Kevin Gurney, an emissions modeler at ASU and co-leader of the so-called Ventus Project, told Nature
. “We could use some help.” Using a simple Google Earth application, the technology enables users to upload exact coordinates of local power plants, and, if possible, information on the type of fuels used or the quantity of CO2 emissions. Organizers hope that the crowdsourcing initiative will fill data gaps on the world’s roughly 30,000 power plants.
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.
09 May 2013:
Third Coal Export Proposal
Falls By Wayside in Pacific Northwest
A large U.S. pipeline developer has dropped plans to build a $200-million coal export facility in northern Oregon, the third major terminal proposal to be shelved or canceled in the Pacific Northwest. Officials at Houston-based Kinder Morgan say the Columbia River site could not optimally accommodate the 30 million tons of coal that were expected to run through the site annually, largely for markets in Asia. While the company said the decision had nothing to do with public opposition to transporting massive amounts of coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming to the coast, critics of the plan say growing protests affected the decision. “If that site didn’t meet their physical constraints, they would have known that… years ago when they proposed this,” Brett VandenHeuvel, director of the group Columbia Riverkeeper, told the Los Angeles Times
. Thousands of residents have signed petitions to block the project, citing concerns that the coal trains would cause pollution from coal dust and create traffic congestion. Three other coal export projects — two in Washington and one in Oregon — are still on the table
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.
23 Apr 2013:
Conservation of Forests
Can Prevent Malaria Spread, Study Says
The conservation of woodlands and biodiversity can actually help prevent the spread of malaria
in tropical forests, a new study says. Using a mathematical model of different conditions in a forest region of southeastern Brazil, scientists found that the circulation of the parasite Plasmodium vivax
— which is associated with 80 million to 300 million malaria cases worldwide — is likely to decrease in less developed forests where populations of non-malarial mosquitoes and warm-blooded animals are abundant. While no malaria cases have been reported in 30 years within the biodiverse study area, located in the Atlantic Forest, researchers say a primary malaria mosquito is found nearby. According to their study, published in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
, the findings suggest that malarial and non-malarial mosquito populations are likely to compete for blood feeding, and that the animals act as “dead-end reservoirs” of the malaria parasite. “These aspects of biodiversity that can hinder malaria transmission are services provided by the forest ecosystem,” Gabriel Zorello, an epidemiologist at the University of Sao Paulo and lead researcher of the study, told ScieDev.Net.
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
02 Apr 2013:
Air Pollution Linked to
1.2 Million Chinese Deaths in 2010
Air pollution contributed to the premature deaths of more than 1.2 million people in China in 2010, or about 40 percent of early deaths worldwide caused by dirty air, according to a newly released analysis. The findings, based on data from a study on the distribution and causes of death globally, categorized “ambient particulate matter pollution” as the fourth-leading factor in premature deaths in China, behind dietary risks, high blood pressure, and smoking. Worldwide, air pollution was the seventh-leading cause of premature death, contributing to 3.2 million deaths, according to the study. While the study was published in The Lancet
, a UK-based medical journal, the summary of China statistics was reported at a forum in Beijing, the New York Times says
. The findings come as public outrage grows in China as residents of many cities endure choking air far in excess of safe levels.
27 Mar 2013:
Natural Gas Extraction
Causing More Earthquakes in Netherlands
Extraction of natural gas from the deep soil in a region of the Netherlands has triggered an increase in minor earthquakes, similar to seismic effects that have raised concerns about drilling operations, including hydraulic fracturing, in other countries. While the extraction of gas has occurred for decades in the northern Netherlands, including in the province of Groningen, quakes have become more frequent in the last few years, the New York Times reports
. The region experienced as few as 20 quakes a year before 2011, but there were 18 during the first six weeks of 2013, with some strong enough to cause significant property damage. According to Chiel Seinen, a spokesman for a local gas consortium known as NAM, natural gas extraction has created at least 1,800 faults in the region’s subsoil, although he said the controversial drilling technique known as fracking is not used in the Dutch region. A new study by Columbia University’s Earth Institute found that a 5.7-magnitude earthquake that occurred in Oklahoma in 2011 may have been the largest quake yet
that can be linked to the injection of wastewater as part of an energy extraction project.
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.
18 Mar 2013:
New Chinese Premier
Vows To Tackle Pollution With ‘Iron Fist’
China’s new premier, Li Keqiang, has vowed aggressive government action
to curb the rampant pollution that has provoked growing public outrage, saying the country would phase out “backward production
Smog covers Beijing in January
facilities” that have contributed to dangerous health conditions in numerous regions. Speaking at his first press conference, Li said the government would set deadlines to address the public health controversy, exemplified by choking air pollution over Beijing that has kept air quality at dangerous levels
since the beginning of the year. Chronic air pollution problems in major metropolitan areas, coupled with a recent episode in which more than 12,000 rotting pig carcasses
were discovered in a river that provides Shanghai’s drinking water, have triggered growing public protest. While Li offered few specific solutions, he promised “vigorous” efforts to tackle pollution. “We need to face the situation and punish offenders with no mercy and enforce the law with an iron fist,” he said. “We shouldn’t pursue economic growth at the expense of the environment.”
Interview: An Advocate for
Environmental Justice at EPA
Matthew Tejada brings on-the-ground experience to his new job as director of the Office of Environmental Justice at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Tejada, 33, took over his EPA post
this month after leading Air Alliance Houston, where he helped organize communities along the Texas Gulf Coast to fight air pollution from chemical plants, oil refineries, and the shipping industry. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Tejada explains how he sees his role at the EPA as an advocate for environmental justice, a concept that first emerged in the 1980s and focuses on the pollution burdens often placed on poor and minority neighborhoods. Tejada tells e360
why he thinks his work as a community advocate will help in his new job, why it is important for environmental organizations to build coalitions with grassroots groups, and how he sees “similarities across environmental justice communities, whether they’re in Puerto Rico or in Kansas.” Read the interview
07 Mar 2013:
Shale Gas Boom Drives
Surge in Propane-Fueled Vehicles
The U.S. satellite TV provider DISH Network Corporation has announced it will introduce 200 propane-fueled vans
to its fleet in 2013, another sign that propane, like natural gas, is offering an increasingly cost-effective transportation fuel alternative to gasoline and diesel. While there are already more than 13 million propane-fueled vehicles worldwide, propane historically has been considered a niche fuel because of high production costs. But driven by the surge in domestic shale oil and gas production, the wholesale cost of propane is now only about 85 cents per gallon — about half of 2011 costs. And while the vehicles cost about 10 percent more than diesel-fueled trucks, propane-fueled trucks ultimately can save $50,000 in fuel costs over the life of a vehicle, according to Reuters. In addition, DISH officials say their new propane-fueled vans will reduce the fleet’s overall emissions of carbon dioxide by 12.5 million pounds
over the lifetime of the vehicles. According to Pike Research, sales of natural gas-fueled vehicles are projected to increase 10 percent annually
through 2019 while propane-fueled vehicles are expected to climb 8 percent per year.
26 Feb 2013:
Major U.S. Utility Will Close
Three Coal-Burning Plants in Midwest
One of the U.S.’s largest electric utilities has agreed to close three coal-fired power plants
in the Midwest, the latest sign of how the U.S.'s electricity supply is shifting away from coal to natural gas and renewable energy. American Electric Power (AEP) will shut down the three plants in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky by 2015 — retiring a total of 2,011 megawatts of coal-burning capacity — and replace some of the power generation with wind and solar investments in Indiana and Michigan. According to the agreement, which settles a lawsuit originally filed in 1999 over the environmental costs of pollution that drifts east from the plants, the Ohio-based company will also spend $5 billion to install pollution-control technologies at its aging coal-burning plants in the eastern U.S. and cut its annual sulfur dioxide emissions from 828,000 tons to 174,000 tons within 12 years. With the latest shut-downs, utilities have now closed or announced the closing of 142 coal-burning plants since 2010.
25 Feb 2013:
Labor Capacity To Fall as World
Gets Warmer, More Humid, U.S. Study Says
Increasingly warm and humid conditions that are predicted in the coming decades could slash worker productivity 10 percent worldwide
by mid-century and could eliminate worker capacity altogether in some regions during the hottest months, a new U.S. study predicts. In an analysis of labor capacity based on existing military and industrial heat stress standards, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that the amount of work that people can do in some regions has already dropped by 10 percent over the last six decades and that the lost labor capacity could double by 2050 based on global warming projections. According to their analysis, published in the journal Nature Climate Change
, a temperature increase of 6 degrees C (11 degrees F) would “eliminate all labor capacity in the hottest months in many areas,” including the U.S.’s lower Mississippi Valley. “This planet will start experiencing heat stress that’s unlike anything experienced today,” Ronald Stouffer, co-author of the study, told Reuters
. According to the study, temperature increases must be limited to less than 3 degrees C (5 F) to maintain labor capacity in all areas during the hottest months.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Interview: Charting a New Course
For America and the Environment
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
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.”