Environment

  • Draft of the 2013 U.S. National Climate Assessment is out

    As mandated by the U.S. Global Change Research Act (GCRA), the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is currently producing a National Climate Assessment (NCA). The NCA is a report to inform the president, the Congress, and the American people about the current state of scientific knowledge regarding climate change effects on U.S. regions and key sectors, now and in the coming decades. The National Research Council (NRC) says that as the United States continues to engage with the threats, opportunities, and surprises of climate change in its many manifestations, the 2013 NCA should prove to be a valuable resource.

  • DHS chemical plant security program hobbled by problems, poor oversight

    A DHS program responsible for the security of chemical facilities, such as the West Fertilizer Company plant in Texas, has been ineffective owing to a number of issues, leading federal investigators to wonder “whether it can achieve its mission, given the challenges the program continues to face.”

  • EPA slams State Department’s Keystone XL pipeline review

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday criticized the State Department’s environmental impact review of the Keystone XL pipeline, saying there was not enough evidence to back up key conclusions in the review on emissions, safety, and alternative routes. The EPA’s comments could have a negative effect on the approval of the project, but if the project is approved, the comments could serve as supporting evidence in any ligation against the pipeline.

  • River beds keep moving, increasing flood risk

    A detailed study of shifting river beds could hold the key to more accurate flood prevention. It is commonly believed that the elevation of river beds is more or less constant, so any change in flood risk is due to changes in hydrology. Researchers find, however, that there is a significant trends in the elevation of river beds, an indication that river channels are filling in with sediment or that sediment is being eroded through time.

  • Interior Dept. releases progress report on U.S. Water Census

    The U.S. Interior Department issued released a report to Congress on the progress of the National Water Census. As competition for water grows — for irrigation of crops, for use by cities and communities, for energy production, and for the environment — the need for the National Water Census and related information and tools to aid water resource managers also grows. The Water Census will assist water and resource managers in understanding and quantifying water supply and demand, and will support more sustainable management of water resources.

  • Scientists discover new materials to capture methane

    Scientists have discovered new materials to capture methane, the second highest concentration greenhouse gas emitted into the atmosphere. Unlike carbon dioxide, the largest emitted greenhouse gas, which can be captured both physically and chemically in a variety of solvents and porous solids, methane is completely non-polar and interacts very weakly with most materials.

  • First U.S. commercial enhanced geothermal system connected to the grid

    Enhanced geothermal system (EGS) projects capture power from intensely hot rocks, buried thousands of feet below the surface, which lack the permeability or fluid saturation found in naturally occurring geothermal systems. The Energy Department the other day announced the U.S. first commercial EGS project which supplies electricity to the grid.

  • Former NRC chairman: all 104 U.S. nuclear reactors suffer from “irreparable” safety issues

    According to former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) chairman Gregory Jaczko, all 104 nuclear reactors in the United States currently have irreparable safety issues and should be shut down and replaced. Jaczko was the NRC chairman from 2009 through 2012.

  • Critics: Fukushima-influenced U.S. nuclear accident response procedures are flawed

    The U.S. government is using the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan two years ago as a model for rewriting its plans on how to respond to radiation contamination — emphasizing long-term cleanup and return of residents to affected areas instead of emergency response. Critics say this is a mistake.

  • Giant snails invade Florida

    South Florida has found itself in battle with a destructive invasive species known as the giant African land snail. The snail can grow as big as a rat and can eat plaster.

  • Direct CO2 removal could lower costs of climate mitigation

    Two broad strategies are typically offered to protect infrastructure from the consequences of climate change: reducing to emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere by using less fossil fuels, and mitigation (building sea walls, dams, and levees; changing building codes, etc.). Both approaches are costly. Scientists suggest that directly removing CO2 from the air could alter the costs of climate change mitigation. It could allow prolonging greenhouse-gas emissions from sectors like transport which are difficult, and thus expensive, to turn away from using fossil fuels.

  • Population growth a challenge to secure supplies of energy, food, water

    Mention great challenges in feeding a soaring world population, and thoughts turn to providing a bare subsistence diet for poverty-stricken people in developing countries. An expert says, however, that there is a parallel and often-overlooked challenge: the global population will rise from seven billion today to almost nine billion people by 2040. Providing enough food to prevent starvation and famine certainly will be a daunting problem.

  • L.A County to turn rain water into drinking water

    Residents of Los Angeles County know that on the rare occasion that it rains, staying away from the beach is a good idea. Runoff from rain typically brings heavy metals, pesticides, cigarette butts, animal waste, and other pollutants  into the streams and rivers which go into the Pacific Ocean. Now, local officials are getting together to find a solution to the water pollution and water scarcity, with an ambitious plan to make the runoff water drinkable.

  • Oregon citizens preparing for the Big One

    A new study concludes that an earthquake of a magnitude 8.0 or above will strike off the coast of the state within the next fifty years. The Cascadia Fault, which runs from Northern California to British Columbia, Canada, causes a massive earthquake every 300 years or so, and the last time an earthquake hit the region was in the year 1700.

  • Making concrete “greener”

    Many factors determine the overall energy and environmental impact of concrete. Reducing the amount of portland cement, which reacts with water to bind all the sand, stone, and the other constituents of concrete as it hardens, provides the biggest opportunity. Portland cement manufacturing accounts for more than 5 percent of U.S. industrial carbon-dioxide emissions. In addition, the U.S. cement industry consumes 400 gigajoules of energy annually.