January 26, 2012, from Charlotte Observer
As the Environmental Protection Agency mulled the first federal ash-handling rules, which are still on hold, utilities and state agencies began looking for local problems.
Duke Energy and Progress Energy sank test wells around their ash ponds several years ago and found tainted groundwater. N.C. officials told them in 2010 to sink more wells, farther from the ponds.
That led to results the N.C. Division of Water Quality is now reporting.
Iron, manganese and low pH, all in excess of what the state says is allowable, were found at all 14 plants. Duke and Progress each own seven.
Sulfate, dissolved solids and chromium were found at seven plants. Boron was found at six, arsenic at three, and selenium, thallium and antimony at two. Chloride and nickel were each detected at one plant....
Techniques exist to "fingerprint" the source of elements that occur both in ash and naturally, said Avner Vengosh, a Duke University geochemist. While iron and manganese are commonly detected, he said, elements such as boron and strontium are more closely associated with ash.
Power plant ash ponds also drain into the rivers and lakes the power plants use for cooling water. The three Duke power plants closest to Charlotte, Riverbend overlooking Mountain Island Lake, Allen on Lake Wylie and Marshall on Lake Norman, discharge 23 million gallons a day from their ponds.
January 26, 2012, from New York Times
Tiny substances called nanomaterials have moved into the marketplace over the last decade, in products as varied as cosmetics, clothing and paint. But not enough is known about their potential health and environmental risks, which should be studied further, an expert panel of the National Academy of Sciences said on Wednesday. Nanoscale forms of substances like silver, carbon, zinc and aluminum have many useful properties. Nano zinc oxide sunscreen goes on smoothly, for example, and nano carbon is lighter and stronger than its everyday or "bulk" form. But researchers say these products and others can also be ingested, inhaled or possibly absorbed through the skin. And they can seep into the environment during manufacturing or disposal.
January 26, 2009, from Science News
Killer whales that feast on salmon in the Pacific Northwest are getting a heaping side of contaminants with each meal. The chinook salmon are heavily dosed with chemicals such as DDT and PCBs, nearly all of which the fish acquire in their years at sea, reports a new study in the January Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.... Salmon are known to deliver pollutants, especially PCBs, to coastal, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. PCBs are a kind of endocrine disruptor, known to interfere with development, meddle with immune system function and cause a host of other problems. . The Environmental Protection Agency banned most uses of PCBs in 1979; but the chemicals had been widely used in coolants, pesticides, plastics and other products and are extremely persistent in the environment, cycling through the food web for decades.
January 26, 2012, from London Guardian
Flooding is the greatest threat to the UK posed by climate change, with up to 3.6 million people at risk by the middle of the century, according to a report published on Thursday by the environment department.
The first comprehensive climate change risk assessment for the UK identifies hundreds of ways rising global temperatures will have an impact if no action is taken. They include the financial damage caused by flooding, which would increase to £2bn-£10bn a year by 2080, more deaths in heatwaves, and large-scale water shortages by mid-century.
January 26, 2012, from Guardian
Global warming is hitting not just home, but garden. The color-coded map of planting zones often seen on the back of seed packets is being updated by the government, illustrating a hotter 21st century.
It's the first time since 1990 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has revised the official guide for the nation's 80 million gardeners, and much has changed. Nearly entire states, such as Ohio, Nebraska and Texas, are in warmer zones.
The new guide, unveiled Wednesday at the National Arboretum, arrives just as many home gardeners are receiving their seed catalogs and dreaming of lush flower beds in the spring.
It reflects a new reality: The coldest day of the year isn't as cold as it used to be, so some plants and trees can now survive farther north.
January 26, 2012, from NUVO
The day before President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada's request to expand its Keystone pipeline system, a Hoosier engineer received word federal authorities dismissed his claim that he was terminated from the pipeline project for raising safety concerns.
The rejections are not deterring either company's or the whistleblower's plans to advance their respective agendas. For TransCanada this means completion of the pipeline. For Michael Klink, a 59-year-old civil engineer from Auburn, Ind., it means that the company will rectify his litany of safety concerns.... Klink discovered foundation problems at the Edinburg station near the Canadian border. He says rebar material was built to the wrong specifications and installed incorrectly, compromising the ability to support a 6,500-horsepower, high-voltage, multi-ton electric motor.
Then, without fixing the problem, he said TIC Wyoming, another contractor hired by TransCanada, signed off on the work..."It's not that I'm opposed to pipelines," Klink says. "I'm opposed to this pipeline. They have already built one (Keystone Phase One) and they've proven they can't live up to their own quality standards. They (TransCanada) did the design. They did the specifications and they can't even live up to what they wanted done."
January 26, 2011, from Reuters
Indigenous Sami peoples in the Arctic may have found a way to help their reindeer herds cope with climate change: more castration.
Research by Sami experts shows that sterilised males can grow larger and so are better at digging for food -- as Arctic temperatures vary more, thawing snow often refreezes to form thick ice over lichen pastures.
Neutered males are more able to break through ice with their hooves or antlers, and seem more willing than other males to move aside and share food with calves that can die of starvation in bad freeze-thaw winters like 2000-01.
January 26, 2011, from Reuters
Russia predicted on Tuesday a surge in voyages on an Arctic short-cut sea route in 2011 as a thaw linked to climate change opens the region even more to shipping and oil and mining companies.
High metals and oil prices, linked to rising demand from China and other emerging economies, is helping to spur interest in the Arctic and the route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as an alternative to travelling via the Suez canal.
January 26, 2011, from Associated Press
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called Tuesday for the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency, which he wants to replace with a new organization that would work more closely with businesses and be more aggressive in using science and technology... Gingrich, who has made several visits to Iowa recently, said the EPA was founded on sound ideas but has become a traditional Washington bureaucracy. Gingrich had previously mentioned his desire to change the EPA, but Tuesday's explanation was the first time he made a specific proposal for replacing the agency...Gingrich denied his proposal would result in environmental damage, saying he would replace the EPA with what he called the Environmental Solution Agency.
January 26, 2009, from Agence France-Presse
Global warming may create "dead zones" in the ocean that would be devoid of fish and seafood and endure for up to two millennia, according to a study published on Sunday.
Its authors say deep cuts in the world's carbon emissions are needed to brake a trend capable of wrecking the marine ecosystem and depriving future generations of the harvest of the seas.
In a study published online by the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists in Denmark built a computer model to simulate climate change over the next 100,000 years.
At the heart of their model are two well-used scenarios which use atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, as an indicator of temperature rise.
Under the worst scenario, CO2 concentrations would rise to 1,168 parts per million (ppm) by 2100, or about triple today's level.
Under the more optimistic model, CO2 would reach 549 ppm by 2100, or roughly 50 percent more than today.
January 26, 2009, from Telegraph.co.uk
An expedition including British scientists that hoped to "fertilise" the ocean to combat global warming was last night ordered to stop because of concerns that the experiment could breach international law. ... Environmentalists had claimed that the experiment -- aimed at creating a 186-square-mile bloom of plankton between Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope so big that it will be visible from outer space -- could have a devastating impact on the oceans and may even speed up global warming.
January 26, 2012, from Scientific American
Despite major oil finds off Brazil's coast, new fields in North Dakota and ongoing increases in the conversion of tar sands to oil in Canada, fresh supplies of petroleum are only just enough to offset the production decline from older fields. At best, the world is now living off an oil plateau -- roughly 75 million barrels of oil produced each and every day -- since at least 2005... That is a year earlier than estimated by the International Energy Agency--an energy cartel for oil consuming nations... "We are not running out of oil, but we are running out of oil that can be produced easily and cheaply," King and Murray wrote.
January 26, 2016, from IEEE Spectrum
The majority of the United States's electricity needs could be met with renewable energy by 2030--without new advances in energy storage or cost increases. That's the finding of a new study conducted by researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The key will be having sufficient transmission lines spanning the contiguous U.S., so that energy can be deployed from where it's generated to the places where its needed.
Reporting their results today in Nature Climate Change, the researchers found that a combination of solar and wind energy, plus high-voltage direct current transmission lines that travel across the country, would reduce the electric sector's carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80 percent compared to 1990 levels.
January 26, 2009, from London Guardian
Meat-free menus are to be promoted in hospitals as part of a strategy to cut global warming emissions across the National Health Service.
The plan to offer patients menus that would have no meat option is part of a strategy to be published tomorrow that will cover proposals ranging from more phone-in GP surgeries to closing outpatient departments and instead asking surgeons to visit people at their local doctor's surgery.
Some suggestions are likely to be controversial with patients' groups, especially attempts to curb meat eating and car use. Plans to reuse more equipment could raise concern about infection with superbugs such as MRSA.
Dr David Pencheon, director of the NHS sustainable development unit, said the amount of NHS emissions meant it had to act to make cuts, and the changes would save money, which could be spent on better services for patients.
January 26, 2009, from BBC (UK)
Economic stimulus packages being drawn up around the world show governments are taking the environment seriously, the UN's top climate official believes.
Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN climate convention, cited plans to boost growth by investing in renewable energy and public transport.
He said leaders "could not afford to fail" on climate change.... Mr de Boer, who heads negotiations within the UN climate convention, said developments in Beijing and Washington were signs that governments were using the economic troubles as a window of opportunity for reforming their economies.
"The high emissions, debt-driven, resource intensive model is dying," he said.
"The impacts of climate change would put the final nail in its coffin."