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On The Environment

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Plodding Toward Paris: UN Climate Negotiations Summer 2014

As if somehow aware of the arrival of over ten thousand diplomats, researchers, and observers focused on climate change, the weather in Bonn, Germany turned a humid and hot 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the June 2014 international climate negotiations. While participants cleared security and swiped badges to enter the air-conditioned halls of the Hotel Maritime, the contrast stood out starkly between the “weirding” climate outside, and climate-controlled world of international policy inside.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Moving Forward on Offshore Wind in New Bedford: If You Build It, Clean Energy Will Come

A short walk from the famous Whalemen’s Chapel of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, offshore wind power is getting a major push.  With construction of a new, $100-million marine commerce terminal well underway in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the city is on track to become a central hub for the emerging offshore wind industry in the United States – good news for the local economy, wind developers, and clean energy advocates alike.  Recently, I had a chance to tour the site for this new marine commerce terminal and learn more about its goals and prospects.  I’m grateful to Apex Companies’ Project Manager Dario Quintana for showing me around, and to Bill White and Matt Kakley at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center for arranging the visit. 

 

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Passive houses and living buildings provide fresh direction in mitigating climate change

By 2100 it may be impossible for humans to work outside. If the world continues on its business-as-usual growth trajectory, global temperatures could rise beyond 95 degrees Fahrenheit – the highest tolerable “wet bulb temperature” – as the new norm in many parts of the world. Particularly in urban areas, where heat island effects can add up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, temperatures would be especially unbearable.

How do we avoid such a bleak future?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Homegrown Energy and Homeland Security

In a quest to reduce dependence on foreign oil, the United States government is increasing its mandatory minimum levels of renewable biofuel production each year. Because the US’s first large-scale foray into biofuels—corn for ethanol—was heavily criticized, many non-food plant species are now under consideration for biofuel production. However, this search for non-food biofuels has another, currently underappreciated, impact: The introduction and spread of invasive plant species across the US.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Acclaimed Author Tom Kizzia Closes YCELP Series with Papa Pilgrim and the Divine Land Battles

On April 23, during National Park week and just after Earth Day, Tom Kizzia, author of the acclaimed Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier, concluded the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy’s 2014 Climate and Energy Bookshelf series sponsored by the Yale Climate and Energy Institute. Kizzia’s lecture, delivered to a crowd of more than 80 people, was titled “Frontier Gothic: Transcendentalists, Puritans, and Pilgrims in Alaska” and explored, in part, the implications of the biggest conservation act in world history.

News

At Scientific American, Angel Hsu & William Miao argue that despite the release of new soil pollution data in December and a subsequent report in March, details about the state of China’s soil are little clearer than when earlier findings were labeled state secrets.
On March 17, the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Land and Resources released the first-ever results of a nationwide soil pollution survey that took place from 2005 to 2013. International media have commended the release, which revealed startling statistics such as one-fifth of arable land is polluted and contaminated with inorganic chemicals like cadmium, nickel and arsenic. On the surface, it seems, soil pollution, which was once a “state secret,” is no longer.
Over the past year, you have probably seen numerous news stories detailing Beijing's and other Chinese cities' attempts to grapple with air pollution, as well as those pointing out that New Delhi actually has worse air pollution than Beijing. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 13 of the 20 dirtiest cities in the world are in India. In both countries, some blame has been put on food vendors cooking in open-air and others have pointed to emissions from industrial pollution, but certainly the power and road transport sectors are significantly contributing towards air pollution; but what are those shares exactly?

In today’s installment of Map Monday, I wanted to focus on air pollution as mapped by Hsu et al and The Atlantic.
Air quality has gotten worse over the last decade, and for more people. The 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), a biennial global ranking that compares countries on high-priority environmental issues, shows that over the last decade, the number of people breathing unsafe air has risen by 606 million and now totals 1.78 billion. That’s one quarter of the global population.
On June 2, the Obama administration unveiled its proposal for the nation’s first-ever regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. It’s a bold and potentially groundbreaking move that has environmentalists, public health advocates, and power plant operators mobilizing their supporters or mounting their defenses.

Professor Dan Esty appeared on the Colbert Report June 3, 2014, to discuss President Obama's Clean Power Plan. The plan includes new rules for existing coal-fired power plants that would cut emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.


A picture is worth a thousand words. Nowhere is this statement more pertinent than the environmental movement, which has relied on data presentations, iconic images, and visuals to provide definition and reality to some of the world's most significant and influential phenomena. The visualizations described below -- and presented in the infographic -- signify striking environmental data presentations and images that have left, and continue to leave, an indelible mark on our planet.
India's state air monitoring centre has admitted that pollution in Delhi is comparable to that of Beijing, but disputed a World Health Organisation (WHO) finding that the Indian capital had the dirtiest atmosphere in the world.


Switzerland leads the world in addressing environmental challenges, according to the 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI). Luxembourg, Australia, Singapore, and Czech Republic round out the top five positions of the Index, which ranks countries on high-priority environmental concerns including air quality, water management, and climate change.

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