Archives for May 2014

Quake strikes off Mexico’s Pacific coast

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An earthquake with a 6.2 magnitude struck off Mexico’s Pacific coast on Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.


Reuters: Environment

Water in Gaza – total collapse draws ever nearer

After suffering devastating winter floods, Gaza now prepares for a long, dry summer of acute water shortages, declining water quality and a collapsing sewage system, as its coastal aquifer faces permanent damage from over-use and seawater contamination.
Environment news & analysis, climate change reports –
The Ecologist

Utility emissions in US trending down

A new report on U.S. power plant emissions from the country’s top 100 electric power producers shows a downward trend in nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxides (SO2), mercury and carbon dioxide (CO2) since 2000, with CO2 emissions decreasing 13 percent between 2008 and 2012. The findings show that the industry is already shifting toward a combination of increased energy efficiency and lower carbon fuel sources, which should help it meet new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carbon standards expected to be announced on June 2. “The electric power industry is firmly on the path toward a low carbon energy future, and history shows that it is not only capable of meeting new pollution limits, but that it can do so while keeping our lights on and our economy growing,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability advocacy group which helped produce the report. “EPA’s proposed standards will stimulate further investment in low-carbon, low-risk resources like renewable power and energy efficiency.”
ENN: Top Stories

Biomineralization control related to population density under ocean acidification

Carbon dioxide seeps in marine environments act as ‘natural labs’ for studying the impact of ocean acidification on benthic calcifiers. Focusing on the effects of an increased CO2 concentration on population density and biomineralization, this study helps explain species-specific responses to ocean acidification, and reveals some evidence of phenotypic plasticity that may improve the persistence of marine species in low pH conditions.

Nature Climate Change doi: 10.1038/nclimate2241


Nature Climate Change – AOP – nature.com science feeds

British Airways Turns Garbage into Jet Fuel: Sustainable Solution or Incineration in Disguise?

Can garbage power your plane ride from New York to London? That’s the idea behind a new production plant that will transform waste from London’s homes and businesses into a jet fuel that costs about the same price as conventional petroleum-based fuel but burns cleaner and produces fewer carbon emissions.
ENN: Top Stories

U.S. to miss deadline for removing nuclear waste from Los Alamos

(Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Energy on Friday said it would be unable to meet a deadline to remove drums of nuclear waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico because of safety concerns tied to the radiological materials.




Reuters: Environment

Fracking ‘as bad for climate as coal’ – UK’s dodgy dossier exposed

A wholesale corruption of science underlies the UK Government’s insistence that gas from fracking offers a ‘low carbon’, low cost route to energy abundance, writes Paul Mobbs. On the contrary: it’s expensive, over-hyped – and just as bad for climate change as coal.
Environment news & analysis, climate change reports –
The Ecologist

Melting Arctic Opens New Passages for Invasive Species

As Arctic sea ice melts, new sea routes are connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for the first time in 2 million years. (Credit: Patrick Kelley/U.S. Coast Guard)

(Click to enlarge) As Arctic sea ice melts, new sea routes are connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for the first time in 2 million years. (Credit: Patrick Kelley/U.S. Coast Guard)

For the first time in roughly 2 million years, melting Arctic sea ice is connecting the north Pacific and north Atlantic oceans. The newly opened passages leave both coasts and Arctic waters vulnerable to a large wave of invasive species, biologists from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center assert in a commentary published May 28 in Nature Climate Change.

(From the Smithsonian) – Two new shipping routes have opened in the Arctic: the Northwest Passage through Canada, and the Northern Sea Route, a 3000-mile stretch along the coasts of Russia and Norway connecting the Barents and Bering seas.

While new opportunities for tapping Arctic natural resources and interoceanic trade are high, commercial ships often inadvertently carry invasive species. Organisms from previous ports can cling to the undersides of their hulls or be pumped in the enormous tanks of ballast water inside their hulls. Now that climate change has given ships a new, shorter way to cross between oceans, the risks of new invasions are escalating.

“Trans-Arctic shipping is a game changer that will play out on a global scale,” said lead author Whitman Miller. “The economic draw of the Arctic is enormous. Whether it’s greater access to the region’s rich natural resource reserves or cheaper and faster inter-ocean commercial trade, Arctic shipping will reshape world markets. If unchecked, these activities will vastly alter the exchange of invasive species, especially across the Arctic, north Atlantic and north Pacific oceans.”

The first commercial voyage through the Northwest Passage—a carrier from British Columbia loaded with coal bound for Finland—occurred in September 2013. Meanwhile, traffic through the Northern Sea Route has been rising rapidly since 2009. The scientists project that at the current rate, it could continue to rise 20 percent every year for the next quarter century, and this does not take into account ships sailing to the Arctic itself.

For the past 100-plus years, shipping between oceans passed through the Panama or Suez Canals. Both contain warm, tropical water, likely to kill or severely weaken potential invaders from colder regions. In the Panama Canal, species on the hulls of ships also had to cope with a sharp change in salinity, from marine to completely fresh water. The Arctic passages contain only cold, marine water. As long as species are able to endure cold temperatures, their odds of surviving an Arctic voyage are good. That, combined with the shorter length of the voyages, means many more species are likely to remain alive throughout the journey.

Though the routes pose major risks to the north Atlantic and north Pacific coasts, the Arctic is also becoming an attractive destination. Tourism is growing, and it contains vast stores of natural resources. The Arctic holds an estimated 13 percent of the world’s untapped oil and 30 percent of its natural gas. Greenland’s supply of rare earth metals is estimated to be able to fill 20 to 25 percent of global demand for the near future. Until now the Arctic has been largely isolated from intensive shipping, shoreline development and human-induced invasions, but the scientists said that is likely to change drastically in the decades to come.

“The good news is that the Arctic ecosystem is still relatively intact and has had low exposure to invasions until now,” said coauthor Greg Ruiz. “This novel corridor is only just opening. Now is the time to advance effective management options that prevent a boom in invasions and minimize their ecological, economic and health impacts.” 

A link to the abstract will be available here after publication. For a full copy of the paper, images or to speak with the authors, contact Kristen Minogue at minoguek@si.edu or 443-482-2325.


Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Norway rejects Greenpeace appeal against Statoil drilling

OSLO (Reuters) – Norway gave Statoil the go-ahead to start drilling the world’s most northerly oil well in the Barents Sea by rejecting an appeal by environment group Greenpeace to block the exploration.


Reuters: Environment

Costa Concordia’s Last Cruise Set for End-July

The last cruise for the stricken Costa Concordia will take it to a scrapyard, where it will be dismantled. Continue reading →
Discovery News