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Updated: 49 min 13 sec ago

To Improve Beijing’s Air Quality, Cut Household Fuel Use Too

Thu, 07/14/2016 - 17:08

By Jeffrey Norris
UC Berkeley News

China’s plans to curb Beijing’s health-damaging air pollution by focusing on restricting emissions from power plants and vehicles may have limited impact if household use of coal and other dirty fuels is not also curtailed, according to a new study.

Beijing’s Forbidden City on a smoggy day. Photo: WikiCommons

“You cannot have a clean outdoor environment if a large percentage of the population is burning dirty fuels in households several times a day,” said Kirk Smith, a professor with UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health who co-led the study with Tong Zhu of Peking University and Denise Mauzerall of Princeton University. “The smoke may start indoors, but soon leaves the house and becomes a significant part of regional air pollution.”

Beijing’s polluted air came to international attention before the 2008 summer Olympics. Today, the average daily concentration of the smallest particulates — those that can lodge deeply in the lungs and trigger chronic and acute respiratory illness, heart disease and lung cancer — is more than six times what the World Health Organization regards as safe. Levels of other major pollutants, such as ozone, also rank high..

China developed a five-year plan to reduce emissions, but the researchers concluded that focusing too narrowly on controlling emissions of pollutants just within Beijing and its suburbs, without also reducing emissions from the entire region, including widespread surrounding rural areas, may limit the potential effectiveness of pollution-control efforts.

Their study will be published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The modeling study is the first to incorporate local and regional datasets on air emissions and to combine these with modeling of weather impacts and atmospheric chemistry in the region to come up with estimates of impacts of household emissions during winter months, when heating demands are greatest.

“We show that due to uncontrolled and inefficient combustion of solid fuels in household devices, emission reductions from the residential sector may have greater air-quality benefits in the North China Plain, including Beijing, than reductions from other sectors,” the researchers wrote. Household uses include cooking and heating.

The researchers used the Weather Research and Forecasting Model with Chemistry, a model developed in the United States and used by researchers worldwide, to generate atmospheric simulations using real data from China. They focused on Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei provinces, where more than 100 million people live.

They then made estimates of the relative contributions of emissions sources using data from 2010, and also modeled emissions reductions scenarios to derive estimates for reduction levels of small particulates over the region that would result from different mitigation efforts.

The researchers concluded that eliminating household emissions in Beijing alone would reduce levels of small particulate pollution in the air over Beijing in winter by about 22 percent, but that eliminating household emissions in all three provinces surrounding Beijing would nearly double the reduction in particulate levels in the city itself.

In other words, Beijing does not have its fate entirely in its own hands, according to Smith, and the results highlight the importance of regional efforts to reduce urban air pollution.

“On a smaller scale, here in the Bay Area, air-quality control is not only focused on San Francisco and Oakland, but also coordinated across nine Bay Area counties through a regional governing body,” Smith said. “One might think that, because China has a powerful central government, it would be easy to coordinate regional governing bodies to fight pollution, but that is not necessarily the case.”

The researchers did not attempt to evaluate how climate change might be affected by Chinese efforts to reduce household burning of biomass fuel by supplying natural gas. China has begun building plants to convert coal to “synthetic natural gas,” which burns cleaner, but results in more carbon dioxide emissions than direct burning of coal.

Nor did the researchers try to gauge the health benefits of reducing household emissions. However, a Global Burden of Disease study found that direct household exposure to air pollution from solid fuels was responsible for 800,000 premature deaths in China in 2013, about equal to the number of premature deaths from outdoor particulate pollution, Smith said. The work by Smith and colleagues indicates that a significant portion of the ill-health from outdoor pollution in China should also be attributed to household fuels.

The research was funded by National Natural Science Foundation Committee of China, the European Seventh Framework Programme Project PURGE (Public Health Impacts in Urban Environments of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions Strategies) and the Collaborative Innovation Center for Regional Environmental Quality.

Categories: Ecological News

Maryland to Become First State U.S. State to Ban Bee-Killing Pesticides

Tue, 07/12/2016 - 17:02

By Amanda Froelich
True Activist

Maryland will become the first U.S. state to ban neonicotinoid-containing pesticides to help revive honey bee populations.

A bee gathering pollen in a sunflower. Photo jlodder via Flickr Creative Commons License

In 2015, honey bee populations in the state of Maryland declined by 61%, according to the USDA. That startling statistic is two times higher than the national average, which is why beekeepers are celebrating the state’s recent decision to ban neonicotinoids, pesticides which have been linked with Colony Collapse Disorder. 

ThinkProgress reports that in April, the Maryland House and Senate agreed upon and jointly passed a final version of the Maryland Pollinator Protection Act. If passed, the legislation will virtually eliminate consumer use of the widely-used pesticide that has been shown to negatively impact honey bee populations. In effect, Maryland will become the first state in the U.S. to codify such protection for the bumbling insects.

While scientists haven’t pinpointed a single cause behind the mass honey bee deaths, most agree that pesticides are an important contributor. The reason a ban on neonicotinoids hasn’t been passed nationwide is because the USDA has failed to declare a link between neonics and bee deaths. Reportedly, the widely-used pesticides are a key part of expanding the global insecticide market projected at around $15 billion in revenues.

The EPA is reviewing the link between several varieties of the insecticides and the bee deaths, however. Those findings will be shared with the public in 2018, the same year Maryland’s ban on neonicotinoid-containing pesticides goes into effect.

Concerning the legislation, Tiffany Finck-Haynes, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, commented that Maryland’s [pollinator] losses are really staggering.” She also noted that “sustainable” bee losses are considered to be around 10 to 15 percent of a colony – significantly less than what Maryland has been experiencing.

Over the past few years, scientists have found several links between neonicotinoids and poor pollinator health. For example, one study found that exposure to neonicotinoids impacted a bee’s brain. This, in result, made it forget the scent of food. Other studies have shown that pesticide exposure might weaken a honeybee’s immune system, making it more difficult to fend off viruses. Of course, bees’ populations are also threatened by dwindling food sources and the varroa mite – both which have been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder.

The new law would “be a landmark, and it would set a standard that maybe other states would follow,” commented Del. Anne Healey, D-Prince George’s County, who authored the House version of the bill.

This article (Maryland To Become First State In U.S. To Ban Bee-Killing Pesticides) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and TrueActivist.com

Categories: Ecological News

Closure of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 15:49

By Lauren McCauley
Common Dreams

In landmark agreement, California’s last remaining nuclear plant will be replaced by greenhouse-gas-free energy sources

The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant is located in Avila Beach along California’s central coast.  Photo: Nuclear Regulatory Commission/cc

A plan to shutter the last remaining nuclear power plant in California and replace it with renewable energy is being heralded widely as “a clear blueprint for fighting climate change,” which environmentalists hope will serve as “a model” for the nation.

“The end of an atomic era,” is how the San Francisco Chronicle described the announcement, made Tuesday by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), which operates the aging Diablo Canyon power plant situated on California’s central coast.

The joint proposal (pdf), drafted by the utility company along with a number of labor and environmental groups, states: “PG&E in consultation with the Parties has concluded that the most effective and efficient path forward for achieving California’s SB350 policy goal for deep reductions of [greenhouse gas (GHG)] emissions is to retire Diablo Canyon at the close of its current operating license period and replace it with a portfolio of GHG free resources.”

The licenses are currently set to expire in 2024 and 2025 and under the deal the utility will replace that power source with renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage. The agreement also contains provisions to protect the plant’s workforce, as well as the economy of the local San Luis Obispo community. PG&E further commits to derive 55 percent of the electricity produced across its entire fleet from clean, renewable sources by 2031.

“This is an historic agreement,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, which helped draft the plan, along with Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment California, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees, and Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.

Pica continues, “It sets a date for the certain end of nuclear power in California and assures replacement with clean, safe, cost-competitive, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage. It lays out an effective roadmap for a nuclear phase-out in the world’s sixth largest economy, while assuring a green energy replacement plan to make California a global leader in fighting climate change.”

Rhea Suh, president of NRDC, said the joint agreement is “a tribute to what can be accomplished when we rally together around a common goal.”

“What’s more,” Suh added, “this plan is a model that can be replicated around the country, where nearly 100 nuclear reactors will retire in the coming decades, and around the world.”

“For years,” she continued, “some have claimed that we can’t fight climate change without nuclear power, because shutting down nuclear plants would mean burning more fossil fuels to generate replacement electricity. That’s wrong, of course, and now we have the proof.”

“Today’s agreement is a good example of how we can replace dirty energy with clean when we set our minds to it,” agreed Rob Sargent, Energy Program director at Environment America. “It’s this kind of commitment that will put us on a path to 100 percent renewable energy.”

Tuesday’s announcement follows years of public opposition to the plant, which sits in an earthquake red zone near four prominent fault lines—one of which runs just 2,000 feet from the two reactors. As anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman recently noted, “[m]ore protestors have been arrested at Diablo than any other American nuke.”

In addition to the risks posed by potential earthquake damage, Wasserman wrote, “Diablo dumps daily some 2.5 billion gallons of super-heated water into the ocean, killing vast quantities of marine life and worsening the global climate crisis. The project’s chemical runoff infamously killed millions of abalone years before it operated.”

The detailed phase out proposal will now go to the California Public Utility Commission and on to federal regulators for approval.

According to the Chronicle, the decommissioning process is estimated to cost $3.8 billion, $2.6 million of which PG&E has already collected in an earmarked fund. The utility is reportedly seeking to raise electricity rates by roughly 51 cents per month to make up the shortfall.

Voicing his support for the plan, California lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom, said: “The idea that the economics— from PG&E’s perspective—work for renewables is a pretty profound moment in energy policy. We’ve been asserting it for decades. And here you have a major utility acknowledging a low-carbon, green future.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Categories: Ecological News

Happy American Eagle Day

Tue, 06/21/2016 - 00:20

By The U.S. Department of the Interior

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest

Happy American Eagle Day!

As a national symbol, this majestic bird appears on everything from money to memorials, but decades ago, it almost disappeared completely. Because of the ban on the pesticide DDT and habitat protection, the bald eagle is now flourishing across the nation and no longer needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act. It’s a great Wildlife Win and one more reason to celebrate eagles and all they represent.

Categories: Ecological News

Norway Becomes the First Country to Ban Deforestation

Sat, 06/11/2016 - 02:36

By Ruth Milka
Nation of Change

On May 26th the Norwegian Parliament pledged to be deforestation-free. They are the first country in history to ban deforestation.

The ban is a part of the government’s procurement policy and includes eliminating the use of any product that contributes to deforestation as well as a request that the government exercise due care for the protection of biodiversity in its investments.

This will also affect how Norway sources products such as palm oil, soy, beef, and timber in order to leave little to no impact on their ecosystems. These products are responsible for 40 percent of deforestation between 2000 and 2011 in several countries, including Argentina and Brazil.

The Rainforest Foundation Norway has been working towards this policy for years. They pushed for the pledge, recommended officially by Norwegian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Energy and Environment as part of the Action Plan on Nature Diversity.

In addition to pledging to stop deforestation, Norway is also responsible for funding several environmental projects worldwide, including $250 million invested in protecting Guyana’s forest. They also paid $1 billion to Brazil for completing a 2008 agreement to prevent deforestation.

Fighting deforestation could not only save the world’s rain forests, which could completely vanish in a hundred years, but also helps with climate change. When forests are cleared by burning the carbon in trees is released as carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is the leading greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.

 

Categories: Ecological News

Solar Surges: Renewable Energy Jobs Topped 8 Million in 2015

Wed, 06/01/2016 - 15:48

By Andrea Germanos
Common Dreams

On the heels of clean fuel milestones in Germany and Portugal , a new report finds that the renewable energy industry employed over 8.1 million people worldwide in 2015.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) annual review, that figure marks a 5% increase from the previous year. China led the pack, accounting for 3.5 million jobs. Brazil and U.S. ranked second and third, respectively, for the highest number of renewable energy jobs.

The solar photovoltaic (PV) sector shot up 11% and accounted for biggest number of jobs at 2.8 million globally.

In the U.S. alone, solar grew nearly 22%.  That’s “12 times faster than job creation in the US economy­—surpassing jobs in oil and gas,” the report states. The other country seeing growth in solar was Japan, which notched a 28% increase in solar PV employment in 2014.

Wind saw “a record year” in employment, the report states. Wind energy employment in the U.S. grew 21%; worldwide it grew 5%. At the same time, oil and gas extraction jobs fell by 18 percent in the U.S.

“This increase is being driven by declining renewable energy technology costs and enabling policy frameworks,” stated IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “We expect this trend to continue as the business case for renewables strengthens and as countries move to achieve their climate targets agreed in Paris,” he added, referring to the UN climate deal sealed at the end of 2015.

Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group, an organization that advocates for reining in carbon emissions, added, “A clean revolution is key to growth, investment, jobs, health, security: there is no high-carbon prosperous future.”

The new review follows a separate brief released (pdf) by IRENA on “the true costs of of fossil fuels,” which found that doubling the global share of renewables by 2030 would save not only $4.2 trillion annually but also as many as 4 million lives.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Categories: Ecological News

President Barack Obama – Our Responsibility to Act

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 00:29

President Barack Obama
The White House

Today is Earth Day — the last one I’ll celebrate as President. Looking back over the past seven years, I’m hopeful that the work we’ve done will allow my daughters and all of our children to inherit a cleaner, healthier, and safer planet. But I know there is still work to do.

That’s why, today, the United States will join about 170 other countries in signing the Paris Agreement, a historic deal to reduce carbon emissions across the globe.

When Secretary of State John Kerry stands with other countries to support this agreement, we’ll advance a plan that prioritizes the health of our planet and our people. And we’ll come within striking distance of enacting the Paris Agreement years earlier than anyone expected.

This is important because the impact of climate change is real. Last summer, I visited Alaska and stood at the foot of a disappearing glacier. I saw how the rising sea is eating away at shorelines and swallowing small towns. I saw how changes in temperature mean permafrost is thawing and the tundra is burning. So we’ve got to do something about it before it’s too late.

As the world’s second-largest source of climate pollution, America has a responsibility to act. The stakes are enormous — our planet, our children, our future. That’s true not just here in America, but all over the world. No one is immune.

That’s why, when I ran for this office, I promised I’d work with anyone — across the aisle or on the other side of the planet — to combat this threat. It’s why we brought together scientists, entrepreneurs, businesses, and religious organizations to tackle this challenge together. It’s why we set the first-ever national fuel efficiency standards for trucks and set new standards for cars. It’s why we made the biggest investment in clean energy in U.S. history. It’s why we put forward a plan to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. And it’s why in Paris, we rallied countries all over the world to establish a long-term framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions — the first time so many countries had committed to ambitious, nationally determined climate targets.

Now, we’re building on that momentum. When all is said and done, today will be the largest one-day signing event in the history of the UN.

Thanks to this agreement, we can be more confident that we’ll leave our children a planet worthy of their promise.

That’s what this is all about. And that’s why today, America is leading the fight against climate change.

President Barack Obama

Categories: Ecological News

Secretary Kerry Signs Paris Agreement on Climate Change on Earth Day 2016

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 00:16

Remarks by John Kerry, Secretary of State at the Opening Ceremony of the United Nations Signing Ceremony of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, April 22, 2016
My State Department

SECRETARY KERRY:  Mr. Secretary General, Monsieur le President de la France, Your Excellencies, friends and partners in this significant endeavor:

It’s an enormous privilege to be here on Earth Day to join in signing this historic agreement.

I was a young organizer and speaker, not so long back from Vietnam, on the first Earth Day in 1970.  And I was a young senator and advocate in Rio in 1992 when we held the first Earth Summit.  To say the least, it has been an interesting journey of 46 years to this podium today.  And after many COPs, many miles traveled – and many more debates – it’s fair to say that all of us could feel an extraordinary sweep of emotion and joy at the moment in Paris when 196 nations simultaneously said a resounding yes, we will do our part – we will live up to our responsibility to future generations and together, citizens of the world, we will work to save our planet from ourselves.

Now, that was a special moment in the plenary at Le Bourget, one of – one that I am confident those who were privileged to be there will never forget.

So for certain, today is a day to mark and to celebrate the hard work done by so many to win the battle of securing the Paris agreement.  But knowing what we know, this is also a day to recommit ourselves to actually win this war.

Paris was a turning point in the fight against climate change.

Paris marked the moment when the world finally decided to heed the ever-rising mountain of evidence that had been piling up for years.  It marked the moment that we put to rest once and for all the debate over whether climate change is real – and began instead to galvanize our focus on how, as a global community, we are going to address the irrefutable reality that nature is changing at an increasingly rapid pace due to our own choices.

For sure, the agreement that we reached in Paris is the strongest, most ambitious global climate pact ever negotiated.  But the power of this agreement is not that it, in and of itself, guarantees that we will actually hold the increase of temperature to the target of 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees centigrade.  In fact, it does not and we know that, we acknowledge it.  The power of this agreement is the opportunity that it creates.  The power is the message that it sends to the marketplace.  It is the unmistakable signal that innovation, entrepreneurial activity, the allocation of capital, the decisions that governments make, all of this is what we now know definitively is what is going to define the new energy future – a future that is already being defined but even yet to be discovered.  The power of this agreement is what it is going to do to unleash the private sector, and it is already doing to set in pace the global economy on a new path for smart, responsible, sustainable development.

Already last year, my friends, renewable energy investment was at an all-time high – nearly $330 billion.  And it is predicted that we will invest tens of trillions of dollars by the middle of this century.

For the first time in history – despite the low prices of oil, coal, and gas – more of the world’s money was spent fostering renewable energy technologies than on new fossil fuel plants.

Today we know:  The new energy future, the efficiencies, the alternative resources, the clean options – none of what we have to achieve is beyond our capacity technologically.  The only question is whether it is beyond our collective resolve.

Indeed, even in the time since we convened in Paris, we have seen new evidence of the danger that the climate change pace poses to our planet.  We learned that 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history – by far – and we learned that after knowing that the past decade was the hottest on record, and the one before that was the hottest on record, and the one before that the third hottest on record.  And now we know that this year is already on track to be the warmest of all, and last month, March, was the hottest recorded March in all of history.  This past winter, the maximum extent of Arctic sea ice was the lowest ever reported – breaking the record that was set just one year ago.

So the urgency of this challenge is only becoming more pronounced.  And that is why our gathering today is, in fact, historic.  The United States looks forward to formally joining this agreement this year, and we call on all of our international partners to do so.

At the first – as the first Earth Day proved here in the United States, when 20 million Americans came out into the street and said we do not want to live beside a toxic waste dump, we do not want rivers that actually light on fire – when enough people come out and make their voices heard, when they turn their policy into a voting issue, when they work together towards the same real goal, then, measureable change is possible.

Today, as we think of the hard work ahead, I am reminded of Nelson Mandela’s very simple words:  “It always seems impossible until it is done.”  And while it isn’t done yet, today we are on the march.  And for our children and our grandchildren, we are living up to President Kennedy’s inauguration admonition that here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Categories: Ecological News

More Than 1 Billion People Will Be Involved in Earth Day 2016

Sat, 04/09/2016 - 02:07

Earth Day Network

World leaders to sign Paris climate agreement on Earth Day

In less than one and a half months, over one billion people in 192 countries will take action to protect our shared environment. All across the globe, in big cities to small villages and everything in-between, people are organizing, demanding climate action, cleaning up their local communities, meeting with their elected officials, planting trees, and teaching their children to protect our planet.

This year, in a rare and special event, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has invited every world leader to the United Nations to officially sign the Paris Climate Agreement reached this past December. It is no coincidence that the agreement is being opened for signatures on April 22nd, Earth Day.

“Earth Day is the largest, most recognizable face of the environmental movement,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network. “Millions of people in dozens of different countries will become lifelong environmentalists this and every Earth Day. Hundreds of thousands will be children – our planet’s future. They will join the more than 1 billion people who already use Earth Day to focus on the urgent need to stabilize and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, fight climate change, act locally, become climate voters, and protect their children’s futures.”

This year Earth Day Network is focusing on the urgent need to plant new trees and forests worldwide. Throughout the year, EDN sponsors and takes part in tree plantings across the US and worldwide. But this year we are raising the stakes. As we begin the four year count down to Earth Day’s 50th anniversary in 2020, Earth Day Network is pledging to plant 7.8 billion trees worldwide – one for every person on Earth! That’s incredibly ambitious, but we believe this down-payment must be made in order to combat climate change and keep our most vulnerable eco-systems from facing extinction.

“We have no higher priority this year than to make sure the United States, China, India, the EU, and all the largest CO2 emitters sign the Paris Agreement. EDN has launched a petition calling on world leaders – including President Obama — to show leadership. (You can sign the U.S. petition).We need to prove that what happened in Paris last December was not all talk. We need to take action.  Signing the Paris Agreement this Earth Day at the United Nations is just the beginning,” Rogers said. “That, coupled with our global activities, will make this the largest, most significant Earth Day in years. And it’s the perfect start in our countdown to Earth Day 2020, our 50th!”

Across the world, millions of schoolchildren and their teachers will take part in education, civic, and outdoor programs that will teach them about the importance of clean air and water, how to begin a lifelong practice of civic participation, and experience the wonders of nature. In almost every country on Earth, citizens will be making demands of their governments to take action to address the climate crises, starting with the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement on April 22nd, Earth Day.

This is Earth Day’s legacy – the largest and most active citizen engagement campaign on Earth. To learn more about Earth Day 2016, Trees for the Earth, and how you can get involved, visit: http://www.earthday.org/earth-day/ To sign the petition go to http://chn.ge/21bpCsi

ABOUT EARTH DAY NETWORK

The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. Growing out of the first Earth Day, Earth Day Network (EDN) works with tens of thousands of partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world. For more information, visit www.earthday.org

Categories: Ecological News