August 7, 2013, from New York Times
Tons of contaminated groundwater from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant have overwhelmed an underground barrier and are emptying daily into the Pacific, creating what a top regulator has called a crisis. The water contains strontium and cesium, as well as tritium, which is considered less dangerous when released into the ocean. Despite increasing alarm among regulators in recent weeks, the plant's operator says it does not yet pose a health threat because levels of the contaminants are still very low in the open ocean, beyond the plant's man-made harbor -- a contention even critics support. But regulators and critics alike are worried because the company, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, has been unable to stop the flow of the contaminated water, which appears to have started between December and May. The company has also not yet conclusively identified the source of the contamination, compounding fears.
August 7, 2012, from Mother Jones
The so-called "Big Six" agrichemical companies--Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow Agrosciences, BASF, Bayer, and Pioneer (DuPont)--are sitting pretty. Together, they control nearly 70 percent of the global pesticide market, and essentially the entire market for genetically modified seeds. Prices of the crops they focus on--corn, soy, cotton, etc.--are soaring, pushed up by severe drought in key growing regions....
But two things could mess up the Big 6 here in the US: 1) any delay in the regulatory process for a new generation of seeds engineered for resistance to multiple herbicides; and 2) any major move to require labeling of foods containing GMOs, a requirement already in play in many other countries--including the European Union, China, Japan, and South Korea--and one for which the US public has expressed overwhelming support. Unsurprisingly, the Big 6 are investing millions of their vast profits into forestalling both of those menaces....
August 7, 2012, from San Jose Mercury News
Officials have fully contained a huge fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond that sent thick black smoke wafting across the Bay Area, raising health concerns and prompting shelter-in-place warnings for thousands of residents.... The plume from the fire was an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 feet above ground level, officials said at a news conference late Monday.
"The plume is still high above and not touching down into the community," said Trisha Asunción, a hazardous materials specialist with the county.
August 7, 2012, from Live Science
What if someone wanted to deploy a massive project to try to reverse climate change today? Perhaps some researchers wanted to spray sulfur particles into the stratosphere to reflect away some of the sun's energy, cooling the Earth in an attempt to compensate for global warming. Or perhaps a group wanted to unload some fertilizer into the ocean, so more algae will grow and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Their actions may have global consequences, but would such projects have to answer to a global governing body?
August 7, 2012, from Bloomberg News
Oil companies off Greenland's shores may be basing risk assessments on outdated information as icebergs splinter the island's coastline at an ever faster pace, scientists and environmentalists said.
August 7, 2009, from BBC (UK)
The use of geo-engineering to slow global warming may increase the risk of drought, according to a paper in Science journal.
Methods put forward include reflecting solar radiation back into space using giant mirrors or aerosol particles.
But the authors warn that such attempts to control the climate could also cause major changes in precipitation.
They want the effect on rainfall to be assessed before any action is taken.... They cite the powerful effects on rainfall of volcanic eruptions which also prevent solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface, albeit by throwing up dust rather than reflecting the radiation back into space.
For example in 1991, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo not only reduced global temperatures but also led to increases in drought.... The article warns that geo-engineering of this type, combined with the effects of global warming could produce reductions in regional rainfall that could rival those of past major droughts, leading to winners and losers among the human population and possible conflicts over water.
August 7, 2009, from Guardian (UK)
Climate change is melting America's glaciers at the fastest rate in recorded history, exposing the country to higher risks of drought and rising sea levels, a US government study of glaciers said today.
The long-running study of three "benchmark" glaciers in Alaska and Washington state by the US geological survey (USGS) indicated a sharp rise in the melt rate over the last 10 or 15 years.
Scientists see the three -- Wolverine and Gulkana in Alaska and South Cascade in Washington -- as representative of thousands of other glaciers in North America.
"The observations show that the melt rate has definitely increased over the past 10 or 15 years," said Ed Josberger, a USGS scientist. "This certainly is a very strong indicator that climate change is occurring and its effects on glaciers are virtually worldwide."
The survey also found that all three glaciers had begun melting at the same higher rate -- although they are in different climate regimes and some 1,500 miles apart.
August 7, 2012, from Reuters
As droughts become more frequent and water shortages worsen, Kenya is seeing an increase in water thefts and other water-related crime, police records show.
The most common crimes are theft, muggings and illegal disconnections of water pipes by thieves who collect and sell the water. Many of the crimes occur in urban slums, which lack sufficient piped water.
August 7, 2009, from New Scientist
[A]ccording to leading ecologists speaking this week in Albuquerque at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, few of us realise that the main cause of the current environmental crisis is human nature.
More specifically, all we're doing is what all other creatures have ever done to survive, expanding into whatever territory is available and using up whatever resources are available, just like a bacterial culture growing in a Petri dish till all the nutrients are used up. What happens then, of course, is that the bugs then die in a sea of their own waste.... He points out that like the accelerated growth of a cancer, the human population has quadrupled in the past 100 years, and at this rate will reach a size in 2025 that leads to global collapse and catastrophe.... In an ideal world, it would be a counter-advertising campaign to make conspicuous consumption shameful.
"Advertising is an instrument for construction of people's everyday reality, so we could use the same media to construct a cultural paradigm in which conspicuous consumption is despised," he says. "We've got to make people ashamed to be seen as a 'future eater'."
August 7, 2014, from Holland Sentinel
The company that developed a solar energy panel that addresses one of the major limitations of solar energy has developed a commercial-scale version at Grand Valley State University's Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center, according to an Aug. 6 news release.
Solar24, introduced in October 2013 by MAREC incubator client Energy Partners, is a device that collects solar energy during daylight hours, storing it in a built-in, lithium-ion battery pack that allows it to discharge energy 24 hours a day, unlike traditional solar panels.
August 7, 2013, from BBC
South Korea has switched on a road which can recharge electric vehicles as they drive over it.
The project's developer says the 12km (7.5 miles) route is the first of its kind in the world.
It means vehicles fitted with compatible equipment do not need to stop to recharge and can also be fitted with smaller than normal batteries.
Two public buses are already using the technology and there are plans to add 10 more by 2015.
August 7, 2013, from Des Moines Register
Iowa is among several states now getting more than 20 percent of its power from wind, a key reason wind energy was the fastest-growing power-generation sector for the first time in 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy reported Tuesday.
Wind accounted for 43 percent of all new electricity generation last year, after a $25 billion run of new projects, the department reported....The country's wind energy capacity now is 22 times what it was in 2000.
August 7, 2009, from BusinessGreen
The Obama Administration this week pledged $2.4bn (£1.4bn) in stimulus money in its bid to make America a global leader in electric and hybrid car development.
"For too long we failed to invest in this kind of work, even as countries such as China and Japan were racing ahead," Obama said as he and his colleagues travelled the US this week doling out economic stimulus funds to programmes in 20 states.
Michigan, the state that is the traditional home of the US car industry and in the fallout from the recession has the nation's highest unemployment rate at 15.2 per cent, received 11 grants worth $1.36bn to develop new kinds of batteries and electric car technologies, as well as build new factories to manufacture them.
General Motors received more than $241m to make battery packs for its imminent Chevrolet Volt electric car and build a rear-wheel electric-drive system.