Posts tagged ‘Environment’

EPA Confirms Climate IS Changing

In another display of the sea change that has occurred at the US Environmental Protection Agency under the current administration, a new report was issued yesterday regarding indicators of climate change. The report, entitled “Climate Change Indicators in the United States,” measures 24 separate indicators showing how climate change affects the health and environment of US citizens.

The report represents another step in a series of actions/statements taken on the climate change by the EPA. This EPA has certainly proved to be more active than previous administrations on this issue. They have labeled CO2 as a gas that can be regulated under the Clean Air Act because it is a significant greenhouse gas. New vehicle emissions standards have been established as well as greenhouse gas standards for such vehicles. On April 15, the EPA published the National US Greenhouse Gas Inventory. The Climate/Energy Bill currently working its way through the Senate has been heavily influenced by EPA actions and consultations. And now a report is issued regarding the indicators of climate change.

“These indicators show us that climate change is a very real problem with impacts that are already being seen,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “The actions Americans are taking today to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will help us solve this global challenge.”

The following are some of the key climate change indicators.

– Greenhouse gas emissions from human sources are increasing. From 1990 to 2008, emissions have grown by 14 percent in the US.

– Average temperatures are rising. Seven of the top ten warmest years on record for the continental US have occurred since 1990.

– Tropical cyclone intensity has increased in recent decades. Of the ten most active hurricane seasons, six have happened since the mid 1990’s.

– Sea levels have risen between 1993 and 2008 at twice the rate of the long-term trend.

– Glaciers are melting and their loss of volume has accelerated over the last decade.

– The frequency of heat waves has steadily risen since the 1960’s. The percentage of the US population experiencing heat waves has also increased.

Collecting and analyzing environmental indicators can help in understanding the causes of climate change as well as predict what the future will bring. Understanding this is critical in devising strategies to avoid the worst effects of climate change as well as devising strategies for adapting to a different climate. The EPA’s report primarily describes trends within the United States but also includes global trends to provide a basis for comparison.

The report includes some very sobering statistics of how climate change is affecting a range of things like temperature, precipitation, sea levels, and extreme weather. Knowing these trends now can greatly help in the future as we grade ourselves on efforts that we undertake to address climate change.

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April 28, 2010 at 9:19 AM Leave a comment

For Earth Day, 7 New Rules to Live By

On the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, is the middle-aged green movement ready to be revived by some iconoclastic young Turqs?

No, that’s not a misspelling. The word is derived from Turquoise, which is Stewart Brand’s term for a new breed of environmentalist combining traditional green with a shade of blue, as in blue-sky open-minded thinking. A Turq, he hopes, will be an environmentalist guided by science, not nostalgia or technophobia.

Ordinarily I’d be skeptical of either the word or the concept catching on, but I believe in never ignoring any trend spotted by Mr. Brand, especially on this topic. He was the one, after all, who helped inspire Earth Day by putting the first picture of the planet on the cover of his “Whole Earth Catalog” in 1968.

Now he has another book, “Whole Earth Discipline,” in which he urges greens to “question convenient fables.” In that spirit, let me offer a few suggestions gleaned from the four decades since Earth Day. Here are seven lessons for Turqs of all ages:

1. It’s the climate, stupid. The orators at the first Earth Day didn’t deliver speeches on global warming. That was partly because there weren’t yet good climate models predicting warming in the 21st century and partly because the orators weren’t sure civilization would survive that long anyway.

They figured that the “overpopulated” world was about to be decimated by famine, the exhaustion of fossil fuels, global shortages of vital minerals, pollution, pesticides, cancer epidemics, nuclear-reactor meltdowns, and assorted technological disasters. Who had time to worry about a distant danger from a natural substance like carbon dioxide?

Well, the expected apocalypses never occurred, and it’s the unexpected problem of greenhouse gases that concerns scientists today. Greens say they’ve shifted their priorities, too, but by how much?

2. You can never not do just one thing. Environmentalists of the 1970s liked to justify their resistance to new technologies by warning that you could never do just one thing. It was a nice mantra and also quite accurate. New technologies do indeed come with unexpected side effects.

But resisting new technology produces its own unpleasant surprises. The “No Nukes” movement effectively led to more reliance on electricity generated by coal plants spewing carbon. The opposition to “industrial agriculture” led to the lower-yield farms that require more acreage, leaving less woodland to protect wildlife and absorb carbon.

3. “Let them eat organic” is not a global option. For affluent humans in industrialized countries, organic food is pretty much a harmless luxury. Although there’s no convincing evidence that the food is any healthier or more nutritious than other food, if that label makes you feel healthier and more virtuous, then you can justify the extra cost.

But most people in the world are not affluent, and their food budgets are limited. If they’re convinced by green marketers that they need to choose higher-priced organic produce, they and their children are liable to end up eating fewer fruits and vegetables — and sometimes nothing at all, as occurred when Zambia rejected emergency food for starving citizens because the grain had been genetically engineered.

In “Denialism,” a book about the spread of unscientific beliefs, Michael Specter criticizes the “organic fetish” as a “pernicious kind of denialism” being exported to poor countries.

“Total reliance on organic farming would force African countries to devote twice as much land per crop as we do in the United States,” he writes. “An organic universe sounds delightful, but it could consign millions of people in Africa and throughout much of Asia to malnutrition and death.”

4. Frankenfood, like Frankenstein, is fiction. The imagined horrors of “frankenfoods” have kept genetically engineered foods out of Europe and poor countries whose farmers want to export food to Europe. Americans, meanwhile, have been fearlessly growing and eating them for more than a decade — and the scare stories seem more unreal than ever.

Last week, the National Academy of Sciences reported that genetically engineered foods had helped consumers, farmers and the environment by lowering costs, reducing the use of pesticide and herbicide, and encouraging tillage techniques that reduce soil erosion and water pollution.

“I daresay the environmental movement has done more harm with its opposition to genetic engineering than with any other thing we’ve been wrong about,” Mr. Brand writes in “Whole Earth Discipline.” “We’ve starved people, hindered science, hurt the natural environment, and denied our own practitioners a crucial tool.”

5. “Green” energy hasn’t done much for greenery — or anything else. Since the first Earth Day, wind and solar energy have been fashionable by a variety of names: alternative, appropriate, renewable, sustainable. But today, despite decades of subsidies and mandates, it provides less than 1 percent of the electrical power in the world, and people still shun it once they discover how much it costs and how much land it requires.

6. “New Nukes” is the new “No Nukes.” In the 1980s, Gwyneth Cravens joined the greens who successfully prevented the Shoreham nuclear reactor from opening on Long Island. Then, after learning about global warming, she discovered that the reactor would have prevented the annual emission of three million tons of carbon dioxide. She wrote a book on the nuclear industry titled, “Power to Save the World.”

Mr. Brand has also renounced his opposition to nuclear power and now promotes it as green energy because of its low-carbon emissions and its small footprint on the landscape. He wants to see the development of small modular reactors, and he quotes a warning from the climate scientist James Hansen, “One of the greatest dangers the world faces is the possibility that a vocal minority of antinuclear activists could prevent phase-out of coal emissions.”

Some groups, like the Natural Resources Defense Council, are still resisting nuclear power, just as groups like Greenpeace are fighting genetically engineered crops. But if Mr. Brand is right, maybe some greens will rediscover the enthusiasm for technology expressed in his famous line at the start of “The Whole Earth Catalog:” “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.”

Technological progress, not nostalgia or asceticism, is the only reliable way for greens’ visions of “sustainability” to be sustained. Wilderness and wildlife can be preserved only if the world’s farmers have the best tools to feed everyone on the least amount of land. Solar power will be widely adopted only if there are breakthroughs that make it more efficient.

Greenhouse gases will keep accumulating unless engineers build economical sources of low-carbon energy or develop techniques for sequestering carbon. And if those advances aren’t enough to stop global warming, we’ll want new tools for directly engineering the climate. Given the seriousness of the danger, Mr. Brand supports climate-engineering research, and he has updated his famous line from four decades ago. The update makes a good concluding lesson for Turqs:

7. We are as gods and have to get good at it.

April 21, 2010 at 9:43 AM Leave a comment

Despite Budget Woes, University Still Has Money for Bottled Water

By Scott James, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: April 15, 2010
Times are tough at the University of California. The state’s budget crisis has led to cuts, layoffs and higher student fees.

It is enough to drive someone to drink — as long as it’s not plain old tap water.

Even though money is tight, the university has spent about $2 million in recent years  on brand name, commercially produced and delivered bottled water to campuses in San Francisco and Berkeley. With both cities boasting some of the nation’s highest-quality drinking water, critics see bottled water as a questionable expense that is bad for the environment.

“Bottled water is, largely, an unnecessary waste of money,” Peter H. Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security in Oakland and a MacArthur genius fellowship recipient for his work on water issues, wrote via e-mail from Alexandria, Egypt, where he was attending a conference on water sustainability. “But there are also substantial environmental, social and political costs not captured in the price alone.”

To be clear, university staff members and students are not sitting around sipping emerald bottles of sparkling Perrier. The bottled water tends to be delivered in three-to-five-gallon jugs, then dispensed in rented coolers. Both campuses have contracts with Arrowhead, a division of the Swiss corporation Nestlé.

The University of California, San Francisco, has paid Arrowhead $250,000 to $320,000 a year since 2004, according to estimates supplied by the university.

At the Berkeley campus, officials said a total of $522,215 had been paid to Arrowhead for the three fiscal years that concluded in 2009.

Contrast that with the City of San Francisco, where bottled water has been banned in government offices. The move came after a 2006 investigation by The San Francisco Chronicle, which revealed that the city spent $500,000 a year on bottled water and supplies.

“Bottled water is hundreds to thousands of times more expensive than providing tap water,” said Dr. Gleick, whose new book, “Bottled and Sold. The Story Behind Our Obsession With Bottled Water,” explores the issue.

Beyond the expense, there is the environmental impact. Tap water to both San Francisco and Berkeley is transported at little cost and pollution free by gravity, while bottled water arrives on trucks that burn fuel.

Michael Rodriguez, director of strategic sourcing at U.C.S.F., said the university reviewed its bottled-water policy when San Francisco adopted its ban. Purchases of single-use bottles have since declined, he said, but orders for jugs and coolers continue, in part for safety reasons.

Mr. Rodriguez said that infrequently used faucets and aging plumbing could affect water quality, and that tap water was not readily available in every office of 20 university buildings scattered around the city. And with the U.C.S.F. Medical Center on campus, he said, Arrowhead would supply drinkable water in the event of an earthquake.

“I might be taking a conservative approach,” Mr. Rodriguez said, “but I’ll take that criticism, rather than be unprepared in the event of a disaster.”

It sounds reasonable, except that the city already has a plan to supply water to the hospital after an earthquake. Also, Mr. Rodriguez said he did not know of any test results that show tainted water from old pipes. And rented coolers are clearly not needed everywhere. On a recent afternoon, Arrowhead made a delivery to the modern Kalmanovitz Library, placing bottled water in a fully-outfitted kitchen, next to a working sink.

There is an effort in Berkeley to wean the campus from bottled water. Janet Gilmore, the university spokeswoman, said an “I Love Tap Water” campaign initiated by the university’s health services department had raised awareness of the issue. As a result, Ms. Gilmore said, spending on bottled water is on track to decrease by 25 percent in the current fiscal year.

Ariel Boone, a student senator at Berkeley, said, “Our funds are going to bottled water instead of keeping our libraries open,” and noted that just $15,000 was at stake recently to extend library hours during final exams.

Ms. Boone said the student government recently banned student organizations from using money on bottled water. “We decided it mainly for environmental purposes,” she said, “but also because we’re concerned about money.”

But does the saving make a difference? All told, the University of California budget is more than $20 billion. Even if the expense of bottled water is cut, that would surely be — excuse the pun — just a drop in the bucket.

But Dr. Gleick does not agree with that argument. “There are the direct economic costs,” he said, “and while they may not be huge, we live in an era where we can no longer afford to waste money unnecessarily.”

Scott James is an Emmy-winning television journalist and novelist who lives in San Francisco.

April 15, 2010 at 10:04 PM Leave a comment

Slow Trip Across Sea Aids Profit and Environment

t took more than a month for the container ship Ebba Maersk to steam from Germany to Guangdong, China, where it unloaded cargo on a recent Friday — a week longer than it did two years ago.

But for the owner, the Danish shipping giant Maersk, that counts as progress.

In a global culture dominated by speed, from overnight package delivery to bullet trains to fast-cash withdrawals, the company has seized on a sales pitch that may startle some hard-driving corporate customers: Slow is better.

By halving its top cruising speed over the last two years, Maersk cut fuel consumption on major routes by as much as 30 percent, greatly reducing costs. But the company also achieved an equal cut in the ships’ emissions of greenhouse gases.

“The previous focus has been on ‘What will it cost?’ and ‘Get it to me as fast as possible,’ ” said Soren Stig Nielsen, Maersk’s director of environmental sustainability, who noted that the practice began in 2008, when oil prices jumped to $145 a barrel.

“But now there is a third dimension,” he said. “What’s the CO2 footprint?”

Traveling more slowly, he added, is “a great opportunity” to lower emissions “without a quantum leap in innovation.”

In what reads as a commentary on modern life, Maersk advises in its corporate client presentation, “Going at full throttle is economically and ecologically questionable.”

Transport emissions have soared in the past three decades as global trade has grown by leaps and bounds, especially long-haul shipments of goods from Asia. The container ship trade grew eightfold between 1985 and 2007.

The mantra was, “Need it now.” But the result is that planes, ships, cars and trucks all often travel at speeds far above maximum fuel efficiency.

Slowing down from high speeds reduces emissions because it reduces drag and friction as ships plow through the water.

That principle holds true in the air and on land. Planes could easily reduce emissions by slowing down 10 percent, for example, adding just five or six minutes to a flight between New York and Boston or Copenhagen and Brussels, said Peder Jensen, a transportation expert at the European Environment Agency.

And simply driving at 55 instead of 65 miles per hour cuts carbon dioxide emissions of American cars by about 20 percent, according to the International Energy Agency. Yet many states are still raising speed limits, even as policy makers fret about dependence on foreign oil and emissions that heat the atmosphere.

“There’s a sense of urgency we’ve created — it’s always faster, faster, faster,” said Tim Castleman, founder of the Drive55 Conservation Project, a group in Sacramento that advocates the lower speed limit.

“I can drive 55 right now,” he said. “I believe it will make a profound difference.

Article Continues HERE

February 17, 2010 at 12:43 PM Leave a comment

EPA gets tough on smog

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday proposed tougher standards for how much smog can be in the air, a move the agency said would save money and protect health, especially in children.

“EPA is stepping up to protect Americans from one of the most persistent and widespread pollutants we face. Smog in the air we breathe poses a very serious health threat, especially to children and individuals suffering from asthma and lung disease,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement. “It dirties our air, clouds our cities, and drives up our health care costs across the country.”

Click HERE to read full story

January 20, 2010 at 10:47 AM Leave a comment

USF Net Impact Undergrad Launch Event: What is Social Entrepreneurship? An idea forum for conscious students

Come out tomorrow night to learn about the growing field of social entrepreneurship, 6-8pm, Fromm Chapel.

USF Net Impact Launch event

USF Net Impact Launch Event

Join the University of San Francisco’s Net Impact Undergraduate Chapter as they present a panel of young entrepreneurs at the forefront of socially responsible and sustainable business. As our generation moves into the workforce and familiarizes itself with the complexities of the business world a new frontier has emerged that looks to combine the energy and enthusiasm for a fulfilling life with the necessity of making a living. A plethora of new businesses and non-profits led by dynamic, passionate, and inspired young people with a vision for a better world have developed over the last couple of years and we hope to spark discussion around the opportunities that are possible in today’s environment.

Come to learn and explore. Be inspired to grow and succeed.

Panel:

Hans Chung, Co-Founder of Mokugift (http://mokugift.com)

Our mission is to foster environmental solidarity by making it easy and rewarding for anyone to fight climate change and by providing the tools to inspire others to do the same. Mokugift makes it possible for concerned citizens, even those lacking access to planting space, to plant real trees for $1 apiece, either for themselves or as gifts to others. Gifting a mokugift tree is similar to sending an e-card, and recipients can display their trees online at Facebook, MySpace, MyYahoo, iGoogle and other popular Web sites. Award-winning nonprofit organizations specializing in agroforestry project—which restore depleted lands and boost the agricultural productivity and incomes of indigenous peoples in some of the poorest parts of the world—plant the actual trees purchased via mokugift.

Mike Del Ponte, Founder and CEO of Sparkseed (http://sparkseed.org)

At a time when the economy, the environment, and global institutions are undergoing a massive shift, young social innovators are leading the way with creative approaches and dynamic business models. Sparkseed is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing guidance, funding, and tools to this new generation of leaders.

Over the past two years, Sparkseed has launched 31 ventures throughout the country. These ventures are changing lives and protecting the environment. The students who lead these ventures are becoming effective social entrepreneurs.

Talis Apud-Martinez, Co-Founder and Director of Operations for Feel Good World (http://feelgoodworld.org)

FeelGood’s (FG) mission is to “unleash OUR potential for creating lasting social change.” We are an innovative social enterprise that empowers college students to become global citizens, socially responsible leaders and entrepreneurs while taking an active role in the sustainable end of poverty. Specifically, students create and run non-profit delis where they “give away” grilled cheese sandwiches for a voluntary donation. In addition to gaining critical business skills and inspiring their peers, they invest 100% of their profits in organizations sustainably ending poverty. We ensure their success as global citizens, entrepreneurs and changemakers through business consulting, investment capital and a formalized education curriculum

USF NEt Impact Undergraduate Chapter

USF NEt Impact Undergraduate Chapter

November 10, 2009 at 12:29 PM Leave a comment

BIOFUELS: U.N. panel finds environmental assessments lacking

A U.N. panel said today that biofuels’ effects on air and water have not been sufficiently explored despite growing global production. The U.N. Environment Programme’s report concludes that so-called lifecycle assessments must go beyond calculating greenhouse gas emissions and consider how agricultural production of feedstocks affect the acidification and nutrient loading of waterways. “The available knowledge from life-cycle-assessments … seems limited, despite the fact that for those issues many biofuels cause higher environmental pressures than fossil fuels,” the report says.

October 16, 2009 at 10:31 PM Leave a comment


University of San Francisco: unplugged

USFUNPLUGGED is brought to you by the Environmental Safety Community Outreach Liaison’s of USF. Here to educate, assist and encourage, we want you to get involved with the GREEN movement taking place on campus!

Unplugged Rewind