e360 digest
Urbanization


08 Aug 2013: Conventional Hybrids Better
For Climate than EVs in Most U.S. States

Conventional gas-powered hybrid vehicles are still better for the climate than all-electric cars in most U.S. states, in part because these states still rely heavily on fossil fuels to produce electricity, according to a new report. In 39 states, high-efficiency hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius, produce fewer carbon emissions during their lifecycle than the least-polluting electric cars, an analysis by Climate Central found. Although an increased reliance on cleaner energy sources in some parts of the country doubled the number of states (32) where driving electric cars would be more environmentally friendly, that advantage disappeared when analysts also considered the high emissions associated with building the batteries and other components for the EVs. In 11 states, the best all-electric cars are better for the environment than gas-powered hybrids, even when manufacturing is taken into account. In 26 states, plug-in hybrid cars are the most climate-friendly vehicles, the analysis found.
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11 Jul 2013: ‘Peak Oil’ Concerns Overstated
As Demand Will Fall, Study Predicts

Researchers say concerns that humanity will inevitably reach a moment of “peak oil,” which would be followed by a crippling decline in supplies, are unwarranted

Click to enlarge
Peak Oil Demand

Stanford University
Oil demand, 1990-2100
because global demand for oil is approaching its own peak. Writing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers from Stanford University and the University of California-Santa Cruz (UCSC) say that dire projections of peak oil mistakenly assume that an increasingly wealthy planet will continue to rely heavily on oil. On the contrary, they say, the link between economic growth and oil is breaking down as a result of increased energy efficiency, lower prices for alternative fuel sources, urbanization, and limits on consumption by the wealthy. While the researchers project surging global demand for airline travel and various forms of freight transportation, there will be less reliance on oil, with conventional oil demand declining after 2035.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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27 Feb 2013: Oxfam Ranks Food Giants on
Sourcing and Environmental Policies

The group Oxfam has published an online scorecard assessing the agricultural sourcing of the world’s biggest food and beverage companies, rating them on factors that include water resource management, climate
Oxfam Behind the Brands
Oxfam
awareness, and transparency. Using publicly available information, the “Behind the Brands” campaign rates the 10 companies with the largest overall revenues — including Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Mars, and General Mills — on their awareness and responsiveness to these issues and supply chain management. According to Oxfam's analysis, Europe-based companies Nestlé and Unilever earned the highest scores overall, receiving good marks for water management and workers’ rights. Seven of the 10 companies received the lowest possible score for land management. Associated British Foods, Kellogg’s, and General Mills received the lowest overall scores. Oxfam says the scoreboard will be updated regularly.
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12 Feb 2013: Norwegian Retrofit Seeks
To Create ‘Energy-Positive’ Office Buildings

Two office buildings in Norway are being retrofitted so they will generate more power than they use when the project is completed next year. The three- and four-story buildings, in the town of Sandvika, near Oslo, will generate geothermal and solar energy on site, making the buildings “energy positive,” according to the project's backers. The retrofit will use a heat-retaining black façade, top-quality insulation to reduce energy use by up to 90 percent, and an interior design that will allow air to circulate without fans. “We believe this is the first time in the world that a normal office block is being renovated to such strict standards,” Svein Brandtzaeg, chief executive of Norsk Hydro, one of the project’s partners, told Reuters. According to the UN Environment Programme, the building industry has the greatest potential of any economic sector for large cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
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29 Jan 2013: Continued Beijing Air Pollution
Triggers Online Call for Clean Air Act

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

Click to enlarge
Air Pollution over Beijing China January 2013

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

Heat generated in major metropolitan areas is altering the character of the jet stream and other atmospheric systems, at times affecting the weather thousands of miles away, a new study says. Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, a team of scientists reports that so-called “waste heat” produced from buildings, cars, and other sources is altering weather patterns and increasing winter temperatures across large areas of North America and northern Asia by as much as 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F). In parts of Europe, however, the changes to atmospheric circulation are causing temperatures to fall by as much as 1 degree C., the study found. “Although much of this waste heat is concentrated in large cities, it can change atmospheric patterns in a way that raises or lowers temperatures across considerable distances,” said Aixue Hu, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and one of the lead authors of the study. According to the study, this phenomenon is different than the so-called “heat island effect,” in which cities are warmer than surrounding areas as a result of heat collected and re-radiated by pavement, buildings, and other urban features.
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31 Dec 2012: Network of Smartphone-Based
Sensors Track Air Pollution Levels

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a network of smartphone-based air pollution monitors that allow individuals to track
UCSD Citisense smartphone
UCSD
CitiSense device
pollution levels in real time and feed a central database of air quality trends citywide throughout the day. The so-called CitySense devices are equipped with sensors that measure ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide, and a digital app that illustrates the color-coded results based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality ratings. During a four-week test, in which the phones were distributed to 30 volunteers, the system showed hotspots of elevated pollution that shifted over the course of the day. Ultimately, the developers hope to deploy hundreds of devices in order to generate a public database on air quality levels. “We want more data and better data, which we can provide to the public,” said William Griswold, a computer science professor at UC San Diego. “We are making the invisible visible.”
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07 Dec 2012: Populations of Large, Old Trees
Are Dying Off Worldwide, Report Says

Populations of large, old trees, which provide critical ecosystem services, are declining across the planet and could eventually disappear altogether in some regions, according to a report by three leading ecologists. Writing in the journal Science, the scientists say the loss of large trees is occurring in all kinds of forests and at all altitudes, from Yosemite National Park in the U.S., to African savannahs, to Amazon rainforests and northern boreal forests. The losses are being driven by numerous factors, including land clearing, agricultural expansion, human-designed fire regimes, logging, invasive species, and climate change. “We are talking about the loss of the biggest living organisms on the planet, of the largest flowering plants on the planet, of organisms that play a key role in regulating and enriching our world,” said Bill Laurance, a scientist at James Cook University in Australia, who coauthored the report.
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05 Dec 2012: African Lion Populations
Plummet as Habitat Disappears, Study Says

More than two-thirds of Africa’s lions have disappeared over the last 50 years as the continent’s once-vast savannah regions have been lost to human
Lion in South Africa
Getty Images
A lion in South Africa
development, a new study has found. Using high-resolution satellite images from Google Earth and human population data, Duke University researchers calculated that about 75 percent of the original savannah has been lost since 1960, driven by land-use changes and deforestation. On the entire continent, they found, there are now just 67 remaining pockets of savannah suitable for lion habitat; only 10 of those areas would be considered lion “strongholds.” Overall, lion populations have dropped from 100,000 to roughly 32,000 in just five decades, according to the study published in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation. Continued habitat loss projected over the coming decades could put these populations at increased risk, the study said.
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Interview: Designing Green Cities
To Meet 21st Century Challenges

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

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

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

South African researchers say they have developed a low-cost and sustainable housing alternative to the flimsy corrugated iron shacks found in the country’s growing settlements. Developed by an interdisciplinary

Click to enlarge
iShack

Hope Project/iShack
An iShack
team at Stellenbosch University’s TsamaHUB center, the so-called iShack is insulated with inexpensive, natural materials such as mud and cardboard boxes and has a sloped roof for harvesting rainwater. A photovoltaic cell on the roof provides the energy for motion-sensitive exterior lighting, interior lighting, and a cellphone charger. So far, a mother and her three children are living in a prototype iShack in Ekanini, an informal settlement of 8,000 residents in Cape Town that lacks access to electricity and an adequate water supply. Project developers also taught six residents in the community how to install and maintain the solar power system in hopes they can use the skills for future entrepreneurial ventures. Researchers look to apply the iShack’s design to upgrade settlements in other regions.
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19 Nov 2012: Breeding Birds in UK
Have Declined 20 Percent Since 1960s

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

While climate experts hesitate to say Hurricane Sandy was caused by climate change, scientists for years have predicted that such devastating events would become increasingly common as sea levels rise and ocean

View Gallery
MOMA

MOMA
Rising Currents: A 2010 exhibit showed visions of New York adapting to climate change.
temperatures become warmer. For more than a decade, reports have warned that climate change will likely trigger more intense hurricanes and more frequent and severe flooding in low-lying areas, such as occurred in New York and New Jersey. And with sea levels projected to rise by as much as six inches per decade by mid-century and as much as several feet by 2100, experts say New York City’s flood zone will continue to expand. In Sandy's wake, New York officials are starting to discuss projects that might withstand such surges, including building a levee system or barriers.
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17 Oct 2012: Elevated Levels of CO2
May Impair Cognitive Abilities, Study Says

Elevated levels of carbon dioxide in indoor settings can have a detrimental effect on decision-making abilities and work performance, according to a new study. In a series of tests, U.S. researchers exposed 22 healthy adults to different levels of carbon dioxide concentrations (600 parts-per-million, 1,000 ppm, and 2,500 ppm) in an office-like room. Under each condition, the participants were asked to take a computer-based test that measured their decision-making abilities. According to the findings, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives , the participants’ performance declined notably on six of nine tests when CO2 levels were increased to 1,000 ppm; performance declined substantially on seven of the tests when levels were bumped to 2,500 ppm. Earlier research has associated increased student absences and poorer performance with higher CO2 levels, said William Fisk, a researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and co-author of the study. “But we never thought CO2 was actually responsible,” he said. “We assumed it was a proxy for other [pollutants].”
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26 Sep 2012: Self-Driving Vehicles
Approved for California Roadways

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a law that will allow self-driving vehicles on the state’s public roadways by next year. While fully automated vehicle technology may be years away, the California law establishes safety and performance regulations for testing these cars next year — provided that the driver is ready to take control of the vehicle if needed. Several companies, including Google, are developing self-driving cars that utilize a series of sensors — including GPS, cameras, lasers, and radar — as well as data from other vehicles to learn what is around the vehicle and guide its navigation. Developers say the innovative technology has the potential to improve safety, reduce congestion, and improve fuel efficiency. “We’re looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality,” said Brown, who drove to the signing ceremony at Google’s Mountain View headquarters in the passenger seat of a vehicle that steered itself.
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24 Sep 2012: Air Pollution in Europe
Shortening Lives of Urban Dwellers

Air pollution in Europe is shortening lifespans by an average of eight months and by as much as two years in the most polluted cities and regions, according to a report from the European Environment Agency (EEA). While the European Union has cut emissions of many harmful pollutants over the last decade, the report finds that nearly a third of urban dwellers are still exposed to harmful levels of airborne particulate matter, tiny pollutants small enough to penetrate the respiratory system and cause serious health ailments. About 21 percent of city dwellers are exposed to particulate matter above EU health standards. And 17 percent were exposed to higher levels of ozone, which can cause respiratory problems. “In many countries, air pollutant concentrations are still above the legal and recommended limits that are set to protect the health of European citizens,” said Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the EEA. According to the report, humans living in industrial regions of Eastern Europe face the highest exposure to harmful pollutants.
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18 Sep 2012: Explosive Urban Growth
To Put Major Strain on Biodiversity

The world’s urban areas will expand by more than 1.2 million square kilometers by 2030, nearly tripling the area of urban development that existed worldwide in 2000, according to a new study. That development surge, researchers say, will coincide with construction of new roads, buildings, and energy and water systems, causing considerable habitat loss in critical biodiversity hotspots — including many regions that were relatively undisturbed by development only a decade ago. Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Yale, Texas A&M, and Boston University predicted that nearly half of that urban expansion will occur in Asia, particularly in China and India. Urban growth will occur fastest in Africa, they say, with a projected six-fold increase in land development compared with 2000. “Given the long life and near irreversibility of infrastructure investments, it will be critical for current urbanization-related policies to consider their lasting impacts,” said Karen Seto, an associate professor at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and lead author of the study.
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30 Aug 2012: Better Use of Fertilizer, Water
Can Feed Growing Population, Study Says

A new study suggests that the the world can meet the surging demand for food in the coming decades without rampant deforestation if farmers make better use of fertilizer and water resources. In an analysis of management practices and yield data for 17 major crops worldwide, researchers from McGill University in Montreal and the University of Minnesota estimated that yields for most crops can be increased 45 to 70 percent on lands already used for agriculture through more efficient fertilizer application and irrigation. Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists found that the deployment of best-practice farming could boost global yields of corn, wheat, and rice by 64 percent, 71 percent, and 47 percent, respectively. In some parts of the world, including the U.S., China, and Western Europe, the study found that far more fertilizer is used than necessary, with much of it ultimately washing into waterways. Through more efficient use of that fertilizer, nutrients could be made available for use in Eastern Europe and Western Africa without adversely affecting communities in the U.S. and China.
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24 Aug 2012: Drought Conditions Trigger
Smallest Gulf ‘Dead Zone’ in Years

U.S. scientists say the nation’s worst drought in five decades has had at least one positive effect: the smallest so-called “dead zone” seen in the Gulf of Mexico in years. In a 1,200-mile research cruise conducted in the
Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone
NASA.
Algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico
waters of the gulf this month, scientists from Texas A&M University found only 1,580 square miles of oxygen-depleted, or hypoxic, water in the gulf, compared with 3,400 square miles last August. The hypoxic zone is created when algal blooms, caused by large amounts of fertilizer and nutrients washing into the gulf, remove oxygen from the water and suffocate marine life. According to the researchers, hypoxia was found only in the waters near the Mississippi River delta, which accounts for nearly 90 percent of all freshwater runoff in the gulf; no hypoxia was observed off the Texas coast. “What has happened is that the drought has caused very little fresh-water runoff and nutrient load into the gulf, and that means a smaller region for marine life to be impacted,” said Steve DiMarco, an oceanographer at Texas A&M.
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15 Aug 2012: Wildlife Vanishing in Brazil’s
Fragmented Atlantic Forest, Study Says

The fragmentation of tropical forests in eastern Brazil as a result of agricultural expansion and other human activities has decimated biodiversity even within the pockets of forest that still remain, a new study has found. Using wildlife surveys and interviews conducted at 196 forest fragments across a 253,000-square-kilometer region inside Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, a team of researchers estimated that only about 22 percent of the animals that once inhabited the region are still there — far lower than earlier estimates. According to their findings, published in the journal PLoS ONE, white-lipped peccaries have been “completely wiped out,” while jaguars, lowland tapirs, woolly spider-monkeys and giant anteaters are essentially extinct. The loss of wildlife has even extended to areas where forest canopies are still relatively intact, said Carlos Peres, an ecologist at the University of East Anglia and lead author of the study. While the Atlantic Forest once covered more than 1.5 million square kilometers, about 90 percent has been cleared for agriculture, pasture, or urban expansion. Most remaining patches of forest, researchers say, are about the size of a football field.
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13 Aug 2012: Auto-Related Pollution in L.A.
Declined 98 Percent Over 50 Years

Levels of some automobile-related pollutants in Los Angeles have plummeted by 98 percent since the 1960s, even as gasoline consumption nearly tripled during the same period, a new study says. Levels of volatile organic
Los Angeles traffic
Spensatron 5000/Flickr
compounds (VOCs), which are emitted from the tailpipes of cars and are a key ingredient in ground-level smog, have dropped steadily and fell by about half between 2002 and 2010, researchers found. “The reason is simple: Cars are getting cleaner,” said Carsten Warneke, a researcher at the University of Colorado and lead author of the study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research. Using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and California air quality measurements, the scientists calculated that VOC levels declined by an average of 7.5 percent per year. Researchers attributed the steep decline to the required use of catalytic converters, introduction of fuels less prone to evaporate, and improved engine efficiency.
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01 Aug 2012: Historic Blackouts Reveal
Troubling Holes in India’s Power Network

The historic blackouts that left more than 670 million people in India without electricity this week revealed profound problems with a power network struggling to keep pace with one of the world’s fastest growing economies, experts say. While it’s unclear what specifically triggered this week’s massive grid failures, which knocked out power in 20 Indian states, government officials accused several northern states of drawing more power from the grid than their allocated amounts. Another factor may have been increased electricity usage caused by unusually high water pumping for irrigation as a result of weak monsoon rains. Experts say the blackouts reveal a fundamental gap between supply and demand in a nation that aspires to be a global economic leader. While India has increased its power capacity more than 35 percent in the last five years, a peak-hour electricity shortfall of about 10 percent exists and hundreds of millions of people in rural areas have no access to electricity. As much as two-thirds of India’s electricity comes from the burning of coal and some plants are struggling to meet demand because of a coal shortage.
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12 Jul 2012: Urban Noise May Increase
Mortality of Songbirds, Study Finds

A new study says that urban noise may cause an increase in mortality among young sparrows, suggesting that adult birds are less able to hear their hungry offspring above the clamor of their surrounding environment. In a long-term study conducted on a small, remote island off the UK coast, scientists from the University of Sheffield found that birds nesting in noisy areas were less effective at feeding their chicks than those living in quiet areas, and actually produced fewer offspring. Chicks that were reared in a loud barn, for instance, were lighter when they were ready for flight, a factor that could affect a young bird’s chances for survival, said Julia Schroeder, co-author of the study published in the journal PLoS ONE. “There are lots of studies on great tits and urban noise, but these tend to focus around mate choice, where the male advertises its quality to the female,” Schroeder told BBC News. “But the idea that the communication between parents and offspring could be affected in cities is fairly new.”
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29 Jun 2012: Recent Policies May Undermine
Brazil’s Green Progress, Scientists Say

Recent policies enacted by the Brazilian government — including changes to its Forest Code and a push to build 30 new dams in the Amazon region — threaten to undermine critical environmental progress made by the nation over the last two decades, scientists say. In a declaration published after its annual meeting in Bonito, Brazil, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) stated that government policies to reduce deforestation and protect indigenous lands had made Brazil a global conservation model over the last two decades. “But recent developments raise concerns,” said John Kress, a botanist at the Smithsonian Institution who is executive director of the ATBC. The group cited recent changes to Brazil’s forest protection laws that they say favor agribusiness and will likely increase deforestation in the Amazon, as well as numerous large-scale dam projects that will interfere with critical fish migration routes and flood vast areas of rainforest and indigenous communities.
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