September 24, 2012, from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Just as the nuclear industry is starting to build reactors after a 30-year drought, it faces another dry spell.
The industry thought it had what it needed for its rebirth: federal loan guarantees; a uniform reactor design; a streamlined licensing process. The nightmares from the 1979 partial meltdown at Three Mile Island, 1,000 new safety regulations and cost overruns would be left in the past, industry officials believed.
But what never came together was a long-term plan for how to store the used radioactive fuel. As a result, judges and regulators have slammed the brakes on new reactor projects -- with two exceptions, one of those in Georgia.
September 24, 2012, from Reuters
Microscopic particles, among the most harmful forms of air pollution, are still found at dangerous levels in Europe, although law has cut some toxins from exhaust fumes and chimneys, a European Environmental Agency (EEA) report said.
On average, air pollution is cutting human lives by roughly eight months and by about two years in the worst affected regions, such as industrial parts of eastern Europe, because it causes diseases such as lung cancer and cardiovascular problems.
September 24, 2012, from Midwest Energy News
A new biotechnology developed by a team of University of Minnesota scientists could help clean up wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, preventing contamination of rivers, streams, lakes, and even drinking water with toxic chemicals from coal and shale beds.
The new method employs chemical-eating bacteria encased in a silica gel. The contaminants from the fracking wastewater slip inside the gel, where they are destroyed by enzymes in the bacteria. The bacteria remain encapsulated and do not contaminate the wastewater themselves...
September 24, 2009, from DC Bureau
Recent research has the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concerned that the huge quantities of metal, plastic, paint chips and other man-made debris floating at sea, hundreds and even thousands of miles from land, may be working their way into the American diet. NOAA, a part of the Commerce Department, largely exists to track weather patterns and hurricanes, and its entry into the public health sphere serves as an indication of how severe the problem has become. It is not too much to suggest that millions of seafood lovers might be ingesting the very chemicals that land-based health and safety regulations are designed to keep out of reach.
September 24, 2012, from Hartford Connecticut Mirror
Last month's unprecedented 12-day shutdown of part of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station sent a shudder through the nuclear energy world.
Caused when the seawater used to cool the plant's generating Unit 2 became too warm, it was the first time any U.S. nuclear plant was shut down because of intake water temperature problems.... The shutdown capped a season of power reductions and other difficulties at several of the nation's power plants -- including non-nuclear ones -- caused when summer heat and drought compromised the vast amounts of water needed to cool them. It has also set in motion a cascade of other potentially debilitating effects, all of which point to the likelihood that climate change has placed part of the U.S. power grid at risk.
September 24, 2012, from Associated Press
It sounds like a free-market success story: a natural gas boom created by drilling company innovation, delivering a vast new source of cheap energy without the government subsidies that solar and wind power demand.
"The free market has worked its magic," the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, an industry group, claimed over the summer... But those who helped pioneer the technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, recall a different path. Over three decades, from the shale fields of Texas and Wyoming to the Marcellus in the Northeast, the federal government contributed more than $100 million in research to develop fracking, and billions more in tax breaks.
September 24, 2012, from Reuters
Mike Yoder's herd of dairy cattle are living the sweet life. With corn feed scarcer and costlier than ever, Yoder increasingly is looking for cheaper alternatives -- and this summer he found a good deal on ice cream sprinkles... As the worst drought in half a century has ravaged this year's U.S. corn crop and driven corn prices sky high, the market for alternative feed rations for beef and dairy cows has also skyrocketed... in the mix are cookies, gummy worms, marshmallows, fruit loops, orange peels, even dried cranberries.
September 24, 2012, from New York Times
... Most data centers, by design, consume vast amounts of energy in an incongruously wasteful manner, interviews and documents show. Online companies typically run their facilities at maximum capacity around the clock, whatever the demand. As a result, data centers can waste 90 percent or more of the electricity they pull off the grid, The Times found.
To guard against a power failure, they further rely on banks of generators that emit diesel exhaust. The pollution from data centers has increasingly been cited by the authorities for violating clean air regulations, documents show. In Silicon Valley, many data centers appear on the state government's Toxic Air Contaminant Inventory, a roster of the area's top stationary diesel polluters.
Worldwide, the digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants ...
September 24, 2012, from University of Utah
A University of Utah study suggests something amazing: Periodic changes in winds 15 to 30 miles high in the stratosphere influence the seas by striking a vulnerable "Achilles heel" in the North Atlantic and changing mile-deep ocean circulation patterns, which in turn affect Earth's climate. "We found evidence that what happens in the stratosphere matters for the ocean circulation and therefore for climate," says Thomas Reichler, senior author of the study published online Sunday, Sept. 23 in the journal Nature Geoscience.
September 24, 2011, from AP, via PhysOrg
Tucked between treatises on algae and prehistoric turquoise beads, the study on page 460 of a long-ago issue of the U.S. journal Science drew little attention.
"I don't think there were any newspaper articles about it or anything like that," the author recalls.
But the headline on the 1975 report was bold: "Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?" And this article that coined the term may have marked the last time a mention of "global warming" didn't set off an instant outcry of angry denial.
In the paper, Columbia University geoscientist Wally Broecker calculated how much carbon dioxide would accumulate in the atmosphere in the coming 35 years, and how temperatures consequently would rise. His numbers have proven almost dead-on correct. Meanwhile, other powerful evidence poured in over those decades, showing the "greenhouse effect" is real and is happening. And yet resistance to the idea among many in the U.S. appears to have hardened....
These changes will feed on themselves: Released methane leads to warmer skies, which will release more methane. Ice-free Arctic waters absorb more of the sun's heat than do reflective ice and snow, and so melt will beget melt. The frozen Arctic is a controller of Northern Hemisphere climate; an unfrozen one could upend age-old weather patterns across continents.
September 24, 2009, from London Independent
Melting ice is pouring off Greenland and Antarctica into the sea far faster than was previously realised because of global warming, new scientific research reveals today.
The accelerating loss from the world's two great land-based ice sheets means a rise in sea levels is likely to happen even more quickly than UN scientists suggested only two years ago, the findings by British scientists suggest.
Although floating ice, such as that in the Arctic Ocean, does not add to sea-level rise when it melts as it is already displacing its own mass in the water, melting ice from the land raises the global sea level directly. At present it is thought that land-based ice melt accounts for about 1.8mm of the current annual sea level rise of 3.2mm â€“ the rest is coming from the fact that water expands in volume as it warms. But the new findings, published online today in the journal Nature, imply that this rate is likely to increase.
September 24, 2009, from New Scientist
FAR from being the benign figure of mythology, Mother Earth is short-tempered and volatile. So sensitive in fact, that even slight changes in weather and climate can rip the planet's crust apart, unleashing the furious might of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and landslides.
That's the conclusion of the researchers who got together last week in London at the conference on Climate Forcing of Geological and Geomorphological Hazards. It suggests climate change could tip the planet's delicate balance and unleash a host of geological disasters. What's more, even our attempts to stall global warming could trigger a catastrophic event...
September 24, 2009, from TIME Magazine
...as human population has exploded over the past few thousand years, the delicate ecological balance that kept the Long Summer going has become threatened. The rise of industrialized agriculture has thrown off Earth's natural nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, leading to pollution on land and water, while our fossil-fuel addiction has moved billions of tons of carbon from the land into the atmosphere, heating the climate ever more. Now a new article in the Sept. 24 issue of Nature says the safe climatic limits in which humanity has blossomed are more vulnerable than ever and that unless we recognize our planetary boundaries and stay within them, we risk total catastrophe....Stay within the lines, and we might just be all right.
September 24, 2009, from Washington Post
It is a fight over toilet paper: the kind that is blanket-fluffy and getting fluffier so fast that manufacturers are running out of synonyms for "soft" (Quilted Northern Ultra Plush is the first big brand to go three-ply and three-adjective).
It's a menace, environmental groups say -- and a dark-comedy example of American excess.
The reason, they say, is that plush U.S. toilet paper is usually made by chopping down and grinding up trees that were decades or even a century old. They want Americans, like Europeans, to wipe with tissue made from recycled paper goods.
It has been slow going. Big toilet-paper makers say that they've taken steps to become more Earth-friendly but that their customers still want the soft stuff, so they're still selling it.
September 24, 2009, from Agence France-Presse
World food production must increase by 70 percent by 2050, to nourish a human population then likely to be 9.1 billion, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation forecast Wednesday... "Nearly all of the population growth will occur in developing countries. Sub-Saharan Africa's population is expected to grow the fastest (up 108 percent, 910 million people), and East and South East Asia's the slowest (up 11 percent, 228 million).
"Around 70 percent of the world population will live in cities or urban areas by 2050, up from 49 percent today," the document said.
The demand for food is expected to grow as a result of rising incomes as well as population growth, the discussion paper added.
September 24, 2014, from New York Times
With political efforts to slow global warming moving at a tortuous pace, some of the world's largest companies are stepping into the void, pledging more support for renewable energy, greener supply chains and fresh efforts to stop the destruction of the world's tropical forests.
Forty companies, among them Kellogg, L'Oréal and Nestlé, signed a declaration on Tuesday pledging to help cut tropical deforestation in half by 2020 and stop it entirely by 2030. They included several of the largest companies handling palm oil, the production of which has resulted in rampant destruction of old-growth forests, especially in Indonesia... Several environmental groups said they were optimistic that at least some of these would be kept, but they warned that corporate action was not enough, and that climate change could not be solved without stronger steps by governments.