Environment

  • Infrastructure protectionU.S. action on climate change hobbled by economics and politics, not divided science: Study

    The U.S. Congress successfully hears the “supermajority” consensus on the reality and causes of climate change, according to new research, which analyzed 1,350 testimonies from 253 relevant congressional hearings from 1969 to 2007. Among expert witnesses who expressed a view, 86 percent say that global warming and climate change is happening and 78 percent say it is caused by human activity. Under Republican-controlled Congresses, a three-quarter supermajority of scientists say that global warming and climate change are real and anthropogenic. Most significant of all, 95 percent of scientists giving testimonies support action to combat it. “Different perceptions and claims among lawmakers are a major hurdle to agreeing on action to address global warming and these were thought to simply reflect scientific uncertainty,” says one of the authors. “However, our findings show that congressional testimonies are in fact consistent with agreement in the climate science community and that the sources of controversies must lie elsewhere.”

  • WaterChanging human behavior key to tackling California drought: Expert

    California is experiencing a drought that has gone far beyond a “dry spell,” and the state has imposed the first water restriction in state history, aiming to cut back on water consumption by 25 percent. One expert says that strict water conservation measures are long overdue, and that “what is happening is a realization that you can’t simply transplant another ecosystem onto a California desert system or arid southwestern system. In a sense, California and much of the U.S. southwest are living beyond their ecological means. Certain lifestyles have been adopted and crops are being grown that are not endemic or sustainable for this particular bioregion.” He adds: “This is a moment for not just cutting off personal water use and turning the tap off when you’re brushing your teeth, as important as that is. This is a moment of reflection, invitation and, I hope, legislation that will cause people to think about water use in the industrial sector too. This is for the long-term prosperity of the state and sustainability of the ecosystem.”

  • Coastal infrastructureIrish coastal communities devising ways to cope with rising sea levels

    Almost two years after the winter storms of 2013-14 caused millions of euros worth of damage to Ireland’s coastline, coastal scientists are looking to help rural communities and municipalities along the Irish coast develop systems which will prevent future destruction to buildings and beach properties. Researchers say that the city of Galway had developed too close to the shoreline, leaving little room for nature to run its course. “Erosion is a natural process that only becomes a problem when we develop in areas that are soft coastline, which are naturally mobile (they erode and build depending on conditions),” says one of the researchers.

  • WaterWater shortage grows, and so does the need for technological solutions

    The value of freshwater is becoming more apparent, as more and more areas around the world are suffering from dwindling supply as a result of climate change. The World Bank estimates that water is $1 trillion privatized commodity. Last week, California imposed mandatory restrictions on water use for the first time in its history. California’s unprecedented move is just one example of the political and social issues which will accompany a growing water shortage moving forward.

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  • WildfiresWildfires release more greenhouse gases than assumed in California’s climate targets

    A new study quantifying the amount of carbon stored and released through California forests and wildlands finds that wildfires and deforestation are contributing more than expected to the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The results could have implications for California’s efforts to meet goals mandated by the state Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The bill, which passed in 2006, assumed no net emissions for wildland ecosystems by 2020.

  • WaterCalifornia not the only state to face water shortage

    Over the past two weeks, California’s long drought — and Governor Jerry Brown’s mandatory water conservation rules — have captured the headlines. As the country keeps an eye on how Californians will adapt to the new reality of water conservation, other states must prepare to maintain the sustainability of their own water supplies. “As far as other states, if they haven’t seen it [water shortages] in the past, it’s something they will see in the future,” says a water policy analyst in Los Angeles.

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  • CO2 sequestrationDoubts about burying CO2 underground to address climate change

    Burying the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, has been mooted as one geoengineering approach to ameliorating climate change. To be effective, trapping the gas in geological deposits would be for the very long term — thousands of years. Now, researchers have reviewed the risk assessments for this technology, suggesting that a lack of knowledge means we should be cautious of turning to this method rather than finding sustainable ways to reduce emissions at their source.

  • WaterCalifornians mull life with less water

    Following Californian governor Jerry Brown’s decision to enforce mandatory water restrictions for the first time in history, Californians are planning for changes in their daily lives. Experts say, though, that California cannot resemble its drier neighbor, Arizona. “Without water, you can’t live in California,” Stanford University’s Bill Whalen. “It ties into the California psyche. They have plush lawns and nice gardens that require lots of water. They have the ocean and Lake Tahoe skiing. You have a nice car. You want it clean. You need water. You can’t have California agriculture without water. You lose the nation’s salad bowl.”

  • WaterNASA putting satellite eyes on threat to U.S. fresh water

    Algal blooms are a worldwide environmental problem causing human and animal health risks, fish kills, and taste and odor in drinking water. In the United States, the cost of freshwater degraded by harmful algal blooms is estimated at $64 million annually. In August 2014, officials in Toledo, Ohio, banned the use of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents after it was contaminated by an algal bloom in Lake Erie. NASA has joined forces with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Geological Survey to transform satellite data designed to probe ocean biology into information that will help protect the American public from harmful freshwater algal blooms.

  • WaterCalifornians hoping the state would innovative itself out of a water crisis

    California’s water agencies have relied on innovation to cope with the worsening drought and depleting water resources. Irrigation systems have evolved overtime to help the agriculture sector maintain crop yields as temperatures rise and wells begin to dry up.Some are hoping the state would innovate itself out of a water crisis.

  • WaterAs the drought worsens, California’s conservation measures fall short

    As the drought worsens, California is doing a poor job of conserving water. Water use has declined by only 2.8 percent in February compared with the same time in 2013. Some Southern Californians are actually increasing their water use. “These are sobering statistics — disheartening statistics, considering how hard we have been working on this,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of California’s water control board, which reported the findings. “We are very concern about these numbers. They highlight the need for further action.”

  • Water70 percent of glaciers in Western Canada will be gone by 2100

    There are over 17,000 glaciers in B.C. and Alberta and they play an important role in energy production through hydroelectric power. The glaciers also contribute to the water supply, agriculture, and tourism. A new study says that 70 percent of glacier ice in British Columbia and Alberta could disappear by the end of the twenty-first century, creating major problems for local ecosystems, power supplies, and water quality.

  • WaterCalif. business leaders: State’s worsening water situation threatens economic havoc

    California’s drought outlook is alarming to the point that Governor Jerry Brown recently announced the first-ever mandatory restrictions on water usage, aimed at reducing the state’s urban water use by 25 percent. For much of its history, California has measured up to its challenges while maintaining a healthy economy. Business leaders in the state say that the time has come for California once again to take bold actions to ensure a sustainable future. “We have a choice between protecting our economy by protecting our environment — or allowing environmental havoc to create economic havoc,” said former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who now co-chairs the Risky Business Project.Driscoll’s CEO Miles Reiter agrees: “The state of California has to deal with groundwater, or we’re going to ruin this state,” he said.

  • Coastal infrastructure$500 million, 5-year plan to help Miami Beach withstand sea-level rise

    Miami Beach is investing up to $500 million in a new five-year plan to fortify its coastline against flooding caused by sea-level rise. Between seventy to eighty pumps that will be installed to drain the streets of water as it comes in. Additionally, the city is planning to raise roadways and sidewalks by 1.5 to 2 feet along the western side, which faces the Biscayne Bay. Florida is already seen as one of the most vulnerable states to climate change. Over the past 100 years, sea levels along the coast have risen 8 to 9 inches and are expected to rise by between three and seven inches within the next fifteen years, according to federal government projections.

  • WaterCalifornia imposes first mandatory water restrictions in state history

    Standing on a patch of brown grass in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which is usually covered with several feet of snow at this time of the year, California governor Jerry Brown announced the first mandatory water restrictions in state history. “Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow,” Brown said yesterday. “It’s a different world… we have to act differently.”About 30 percent of California’s water supply comes from the Sierra Nevada snowpack, so less snow means less snowmelt, which means less water.