British retailer Marks & Spencer launch the high street's first ever carbon neutral bra.
The bra is made at firm's eco-model factory at Thurulie in Sri Lanka, and is part of the new Autograph Leaves lingerie collection which includes four styles of bra, three knickers and a set of suspenders.
The Autograph Leaves collection has had its entire carbon footprint independently certified by the Carbon Trust Footprinting Certification Company. The calculation takes into account each item's complete life cycle - from component manufacture to transportation and even the energy customers use washing and drying their underwear.
The eco-model factory - MAS Intimates – at Thurulie, Sri Lanka, boasts innovative renewable energy features and reduced waste initiatives which help to reduce the carbon intensity of the energy used by an estimated 33%, compared to typical factory production.
Paschal Little, Head of Lingerie Technology at M&S said: "Nature is the inspiration behind Autograph Leaves so it's fitting that this range benefits the environment too. As the UK's lingerie market leader, we think it's right that we should lead the way in exploring new, more sustainable manufacturing options."
M&S state that the carbon footprint of a typical Autograph Leaves bra is around 2kg CO2 equivalent. More precisely, the footprint of a basic non-padded bra is around 1.70 kg C02e compared to a larger push up bra at 2.20kg CO2e.
The factory's local community is also benefiting from this initiative. M&S has purchased offsets through a carbon credit project run by Conservation Carbon Company. Working in partnership with nine local farmers, M&S is planting over 6000 trees in the desolate land between the Kanneliya and Polgahakanda forest reserves. Sri Lanka's forests are home to approximately 90% of the country's endemic species but are disappearing at a rate of 1.6% per year. To counter this 75% of the trees planted are native species, creating more natural habitats and enabling wildlife to move more easily between the two forests.
The project will also help tackle rural poverty in the region by improving the livelihood of the farmers involved. The other 25% of trees will be income generating varieties such as mango and lime trees that offer additional nutritional and financial security to the farmers and their families.
Scientists in Austria have developed what they claim is a cheaper, more efficient and eco-friendly method for giving a distressed look to denim jeans, and one that offers an alternative to the controversial sandblasting technique.
A central step in processing indigo dyed textiles such as blue jeans is the wash and bleach process which creates a final wash down effect. To remove the ring-dyed indigo dyestuff, manufacturers use a combination of drum washing machines and chemical treatments.
Oxidising agents are an essential part of this bleach process, with low-cost chemicals such as sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) used to reduce the amount of dyestuff in 80% of jeans production.
Cellulose hydrolysing enzymes are another option, but traditionally require a long treatment time and high enzyme dosage, both of which can lead to irreversible fibre damage.
However, by applying a swelling agent to the fabric surface - such as a concentrated paste containing sodium hydroxide - scientists at the Research Institute for Textile Chemistry and Textile Physics at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, were able to boost the potency of cellulose enzymes, as well as achieving localised effects.
This "surface activation" technique also requires a shorter wash down treatment and uses fewer chemicals to achieve the same effect, according to a study published in the Biotechnology Journal and just-style, a website offering insight into apparel and textile information.
Annual global production of denim is estimated at 3 billion linear metres and more than 4 billion garments, according to Thomas Bechtold, from the Research Institute for Textile Chemistry and Textile Physics at the University of Innsbruck. And this, he adds, uses over 30,000 tons of indigo dye a year.
"The surface activation method would allow for the more eco-friendly processing of jeans in the garment industry, which is approximately 10% of the total cotton market worldwide," he went on to explain.
The controversial process of sandblasting is also used for some jeans which are styled with a worn or torn look. The technique is banned in many countries as it can lead to lung disease, but it is still used in denim workshops in Bangladesh, Egypt, China, Turkey, Brazil and Mexico. Many of the jeans sold in Europe are produced in these countries.
"This method also offers a replacement of the sandblasting of denim, which is an extremely unhealthy process for which, until now, there have been few alternatives available," added Professor Bechtold.
Each year on 22 April the world celebrates Earth Day to mark the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement.
The height of hippie and flower-child culture in the US, 1970 brought the death of Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, and Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water". Protest was the order of the day, but saving the planet was not the cause. War raged in Vietnam, and students nationwide increasingly opposed it.
At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. "Environment" was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news. Although mainstream America remained oblivious to environmental concerns, the stage had been set for change by the publication of Rachel Carson's New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962. The book represented a watershed moment for the modern environmental movement, selling more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries and, up until that moment, more than any other person, Ms. Carson raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and public health.
Earth Day 1970 capitalized on the emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns front and centre.
The idea came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a US Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a "national teach-in on the environment" to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair; and recruited Denis Hayes as national coordinator. Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land.
As a result, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.
Since then Earth Day has spread around and out of America to the whole world. This year, Earth Day partners number 22,000 globally, all of whom will be planning local events or actions. Check out what is happening near you by googling Earth Day and your location.
The world's first floating solar system or how a vineyard in the Napa Valley found a novel way to benefit from California's excess of sunshine without losing land on which to grow its grapes
Motivated by the desire to preserve its most valuable resource: the environment, Far Niente wanted to turn to solar energy to power its vineyard and winery operations, as well as those of its sister winery, Nickel & Nickel.
"Vineyard land in this part of the Napa Valley runs somewhere between USD 200,000 and USD 300,000 an acre," said Larry Maguire, Far Niente's chief executive, to the New York Times. "We wanted to go solar but we didn't want to pull out vines."
To truly benefit from the sun's renewable energy, the winery wanted a solar system large enough to meet its energy needs, but with a design footprint that would not encroach upon its valuable vineyard property.
In an effort to preserve as much vineyard property as possible, SPG Solar utilized the world's first large-scale floating solar photovoltaic (PV) array – the patented SPG Solar Floatovoltaics® system. By implementing this cutting-edge technology, the company was able to design a 873 kWp system across both wineries, using 1,000 Sharp solar panels. SPG Solar "floated" the array on top of Far Niente's irrigation pond.
The Benefits to the Company
In eco-friendly California, the vineyard found that its novel idea for energy creation was eligible for utility rebates from Pacific Gas & Electric. These paid for almost a third of the systems' cost. A Federal Tax Incentive of 30% of the purchase price further reduced the overall price tag of the systems.
By taking advantage of California's Net Energy Metering (NEM) program, the systems will send surplus energy back to the power grid, compensated at the retail rate, thus offsetting annual energy costs. And by producing their own power, the systems insulate the wineries from energy price hikes – one of the highest costs of doing business in California
The Benefits to the Environment
The combined systems prevent 927 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from being released into the atmosphere each year by fossil-fuel power plants. According to the US Department of Energy, it would take 211 acres of trees one year to absorb that much CO2.
How road traffic can contribute more towards climate protection is the theme of a new report that criticizes present EU regulations.
Cars, trucks, ships and aircraft are the main driver of global oil consumption. In the EU the transport sector is the only economic sector whose greenhouse gas emissions are constantly increasing, especially with respect to road transportation. Using a well balanced mix of instruments, though, the transport sector's contribution to climate change could be reduced, according to economic researchers of the Technical University of Berlin (TU) and of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
The institutions especially highlight two measures in the articles published in the Energy Policy journal.
Firstly, for the admission of new cars their energy consumption instead of their CO2 emissions should be the criterion for setting efficiency standards.
Secondly road traffic could be incorporated into the European emissions trading scheme.
One of the central findings of this study is that EU regulations – according to which new cars may on average only emit a certain amount of CO2 – have proven successful for the current vehicle fleet. These regulations are an effective instrument for reducing CO2 emission of gasoline-powered cars.
"However with respect to alternative energy for cars, e.g. electricity or biofuels, the present repertoire of instruments needs to be enhanced", explains Felix Creutzig of the TU Berlin, lead author of the first article.
"With these alternative fuels the majority of emissions are not produced while driving but during fuel production." Electric cars for example might be powered by C02-intensive electricity from coal-fired power plants. As for biofuels, high greenhouse-gas emissions might result from changing landuse with the accompanying use of fertilizers or rainforest logging landuse change.
"This reduces the significance of regulations based solely on C02-emission per kilometer", says Creutzig. "Instead vehicles should be regulated according to their energy consumption per kilometer." This would make it possible to apply a uniform standard to different vehicle technologies. In contrast, the EU quota system for biofuels – the reason for the recent introduction of E10 in Germany – is inefficient and maybe even counterproductive for climate targets.
A different instrument, however, could provide direct incentives for reducing emissions during fuel production as well as in the car engine: emission trading.
"Emissions trading is the most efficient way to set a uniform standard for different kinds of emissions in the transport sector", says Christian Flachsland from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), lead author of the second article.
This concept envisages the establishment of a climate-target-oriented limit for emissions at the fuel production level and the subsequent issuing of tradable emissions certificates. So far the transport sector is excluded from the European emission trading scheme. If the transport sector were integrated into this scheme, CO2 emissions during the production process of biofuel or electricity and direct car emissions could be treated equally. Here again, it is all about a level playing field.
A frequently cited counter argument to this incorporation is the huge effort needed to involve millions of motorists in certificate trade at the petrol station. "However, if the incorporation of road traffic into the emission trading system is shifted to the fuel production level, the same target can be met with significantly less effort", Flachsland emphasizes.
"This very approach is adopted in the Californian emission trading scheme starting in 2015."
Another argument against the incorporation of constantly growing road traffic emissions is the fear of rising certificate prices and associated international competitive disadvantages for industries which are already participants of emissions trading.
"We have looked at cost data from multiple studies and compared them with regard to the rise of certificate prices in the EU system by 2020 caused by the incorporation of road traffic", Flachsland explains.
"As long as beneficial mitigation options in other parts of the world are exhausted through international instruments, contrary to all concerns there will be no rise in certificate prices."
By combining emissions trading and efficiency standards the transport sector could make its own contribution to CO2 reduction and promote the ambitious 2020 EU climate target.
A climate change scientist in Scotland has come up with an interesting way of preventing snow at Scottish ski resorts from melting – he suggests covering the slopes with bubble wrap.
Even though there has been heavy snowfall during the past few winters, Scotland's five ski resorts suffer badly when temperatures rise and high winds drive the snow off the pistes, leaving bare patches.
While investigating a decline in ski days in Scotland over the past 30 years as part of wider research into climate change, Professor John McClatchey from the new University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) came up with the idea of preserving snow cover with sheets of bubble wrap.
He has found that ordinary bubble wrap stops snow melting as quickly and prevents it from being blown away - and if the material is painted silver to reflect sunlight, it works even better.
McClatchey's research includes studying snowfall patterns on Cairn Gorm. He was surprised to find that that ski centre there had lost an average of two days' skiing a year over the last 30-years due to the disappearance of snow thanks to milder winters.
Other ski centres at Nevis Range, Glencoe, Glenshee and The Lecht showed similar losses.
McClatchey believes his bubble wrap idea may arrest this loss of snow from patches of the mountain long enough to allow resorts to extend their seasons for at least one or two more weekends of business.
He told BBC Radio Scotland: "What's clear is there has been a steady decline, though very variable year to year, but the decline over time is about two days a year for the Cairngorms ski area.
"If that trend continues," he told the Scotsman newspaper, "there will come a point when it may become uneconomic to operate ski centres."
As part of a EU-funded project on climate change, Professor McClatchey found that it was not just the mild temperatures that were to blame, but a combination of wind and temperature which seems to have a greater effect on snow loss in Scotland than in other countries, where wind is less of a factor.
"I was able to show that wind speed plays a significant role in the melt. It means, in future, if the weather is warmer and windier the snow will disappear faster," he said.
To counter the loss, McClatchey experimented with small sheets of clear plastic bubble wrap with its edges buried in the snow, and also with wrap spray-painted silver to insulate patches against the sun's rays.
The tests on Cairn Gorm last year showed more than 49cm of uncovered snow was lost over five days, or 9.9cm a day. A single cover of bubble wrap reduced that to 20cm (4cm a day) and a double cover reduced it to 17cm (3.6cm a day).
The silver-painted wrap reduced this further to 15cm (3.2cm a day) - or 12cm (2.4cm a day) with a double wrapping.
"The differences are quite staggering. Clearly if you cover the snow it can slow down the loss. What it means is there is the potential to protect the ski slope to retain the snow," McClatchey said.
"You cannot cover the whole mountain, but ski slopes on Cairn Gorm and in other places tend to thin out at certain points over the whole run.
"So you could cover over vulnerable points for a week and that could potentially extend the skiing season by another weekend or maybe two, and two weekends would be worth a lot of money," he revealed.
In response to Professor McClatchey's bubble wrap scheme, Marian Austin of the Nevis Range ski resort in Lochaber, said the method could be useful in leaner seasons.
"Our one worry would be that the wind would move the bubble wrap so there would need to be a method for keeping it in place."
Scientists involved in the European Nitrogen Assessment report that Nitrogen pollution in Mediterranean countries is affecting the region's air and water quality.
Nitrates released from agricultural activities is ending up in the rivers and groundwater, polluting the increasingly scarce water resources of this dry and highly populated European region.
The key findings of this report from the European Nitrogen Assessment workshop held in Edinburgh last week showed:
Three quarters of nitrogen (N) pollution in Mediterranean countries is a result of agricultural activities. The majority of this (75%) is from the use of fertilizers.
Most of the N applied as organic or chemical fertilizers is not taken up by crops and about half of this unused N enters rivers and aquifers. However, only 10-25% ends up in coastal waters. This is due to the fact that Mediterranean rivers are strongly regulated by irrigation, energy generation and drinking water extraction, which alters the natural circulation of water and results in a recycling of N in inland areas.
The Mediterranean Sea has few algal blooms largely because nutrients that include nitrogen are transferred from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. Nitrogen levels and indicators of algal blooms such as chlorophyll concentration are low in most Mediterranean coastal areas (with some exceptions, such as the Po river mouth in Italy).
Many rivers and aquifers have become polluted by irrigation runoff from farms, threatening drinking water safety and human health. In Spain and Italy, 80% of the population obtains its drinking water from groundwater resources, and more than half of the population lives in regions with rivers polluted by nitrates. About a fifth of all underground water monitoring stations in Spain register nitrate concentrations above the level recommended by the EU (50 mg/l). This has lead to the designation of about 13% of the total surface of the country as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones. Nitrate contamination of drinking water is related to blood diseases and some types of cancer.
Agricultural sources contribute more than 70% of the emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O) in Spain and Italy.
In addition to agriculture, other sectors of the Mediterranean economy release considerable amounts of nitrogen pollutants into the atmosphere. Industrial combustion processes and transport are responsible for releasing most nitrogen oxides (NOx), which create smog. Over three-quarters of the Mediterranean population lives in urban environments and a significant proportion is frequently exposed to high concentrations of N pollutants, which threaten respiratory and heart health.
In Madrid, where people are exposed to high levels of fine particulate matter in the air, there is an increase in the mortality rate due to respiratory diseases, according to a study published last year2. Particulate emissions of diesel cars are one of the main contributors but NOx emissions also play a significant role in the formation of particulates.
In the driest Mediterranean areas, atmospheric deposition of N pollutants such as NH3 and NOx spurs the growth of shrubs and grass, especially where traditional land management has been abandoned. This is promoting an accumulation of flammable vegetation, which can lead to an increase in forest fire frequency. When these fires occur close to populated areas they represent a threat to both human well-being and the economy.
Agriculture is responsible for 90% of European ammonia emissions. Spain and Cyprus have seen ammonia emissions increase by 18 and 25%, respectively, over the last 20 years. This is in contrast to the rest of Europe, where emissions have declined due to restructuring of European agriculture, the implementation of cleaner farming methods and improved land management strategies.
The workshop concluded that "implementation of good agricultural practices and sustainable fertilization is clearly needed in order to protect drinking water resources in the future. Moreover, gaseous nitrogen compounds are worsening air quality and contributing to global warming."
The "greening" trend continues as Facebook and Google announce ways in which their companies hope to contribute to sustainability.
Seeking to transform the energy efficiency of global data centers, Facebook has launched the Open Compute Project, an initiative to share the custom-engineered technology developed at its first dedicated data centre in Prineville, Oregon. This advanced technology has delivered a 38% increase in energy efficiency at 24% lower cost for the firm, and the specifications and best practices behind those gains are to be made available to companies across the industry.
"Facebook and our development partners have invested tens of millions of dollars over the past two years to build upon industry specifications to create the most efficient computing infrastructure possible," said Jonathan Heiliger, vice president of technical operations at Facebook.
"These advancements are good for Facebook, but we think they could benefit all companies. We're launching the Open Compute Project, a user-led forum, to share our designs and collaborate with anyone interested in highly efficient server and data centre designs. We think it's time to demystify the biggest capital expense of an online business -- the infrastructure."
Inspired by the success of open source software, Facebook is publishing technical specifications and mechanical CAD files for the Prineville data centre's servers, power supplies, server racks, battery backup systems and building design as open hardware, aiming to encourage industry-wide collaboration around best practices for data center and server technology.
"It's time to stop treating data centres like Fight Clubs," (i.e. not talking about them) Jonathan Heiliger commented to the BBC. This is likely to be interpreted as a dig at other web firms, like Google, Twitter and Amazon who keep such information out of the public eye for a good reason. Power hungry data centres use vast amounts of electricity to run their computer equipment and also to keep it cool. The environmental group Greenpeace has estimated that the total global energy use of data centres will have reached 2 trillion kw/h by 2020.
"If Facebook wants to be a truly green company, it needs to reduce its gas emissions," was the comment from Casey Harrell, a climate campaigner at Greenpeace. "The way to do that is decouple its growth from its emissions footprint by using clean, renewable energy to power its business instead of dirty coal and dangerous nuclear power."
Greenpeace launched a campaign last year calling on Facebook to stop powering its business with energy from suppliers that use coal. More than 101,000 Facebook users have so far clicked the "like" button on Greenpeace's campaign, dubbed "Facebook: Unfriend Coal."
Not to be overshadowed, Google, one of the web's most popular search engines has announced a USD 168 million investment in a new solar energy power plant being developed by BrightSource Energy in the Mojave Desert in California. Brightsource's Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) will generate 392 gross MW of clean, solar energy, which is the equivalent of taking more than 90,000 cars off the road over the lifetime of the plant.
Google believes that smart capital is needed to transform the energy sector and build a clean energy future. This is their largest single investment to date, with the total sum they have invested over in the clean energy sector topping the USD 250 million mark.
The Brightsource project is building power towers, a solar power idea that has been successfully demonstrated in the US and abroad on a smaller scale (see our article: Solar Power heats up. The technology works by using a field of mirrors, called heliostats, to concentrate the sun's rays onto a solar receiver on top of a tower. The solar receiver generates steam, which then spins a traditional turbine and generator to make electricity. Power towers are very efficient because all the mirrors focus a tremendous amount of solar energy onto a small area to produce steam at high pressure and temperature.
Google's official blog says: "We're excited about Ivanpah because our investment will help deploy a compelling solar energy technology that provides reliable clean energy, with the potential to significantly reduce costs on future projects."
A new study looks at the costs and benefits of expanding the use of renewable energies based on the German Renewable Energy Sources Act.
Critics of the German Renewable Energy Sources Act (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz, EEG) argue that the costs associated with the expanded use of renewable energies are too high.
Some advocate a significant reduction or even a complete stop of financial support in this area.
The Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy have produced a report looking at both sides of the argument concerning the proposed Act.
This EEG would be introduced as the German instrument for promoting electricity from renewable sources. But at what cost to the consumer?
Here are the report's findings.
The EEG apportionment will not exceed 15 % of household electricity prices in Germany. An average German household will have to spend only about 0.3 % of its net income on supporting renewable electricity.
Many of the arguments put forward by critics against the support of renewable energies through the EEG are not in line with theoretical and empirical findings.
An assessment of calculations made by the German economic research institute RWI about costs to consumers of promoting photovoltaics shows that these costs are overestimated by at least 6 % and up to 42 %. Implausible assumptions and the non-consideration of some aspects and interrelationships have led to these wrong results.
An appropriate assessment of the expansion of renewable energies is only possible if the costs associated with this expansion are communicated in an objective and generally understandable way and if, furthermore, the multifaceted and long-term benefits are not masked.
Expanding the use of renewable energy technologies reduces the negative external effects associated with fossil and nuclear power plants. Investing in these technologies is also the main driver for reducing the specific costs of these technologies and thus increases the chances of successful climate protection in Germany as well as abroad.
From the above, it can be concluded that the impartial study finds only positive reasons to go forward with the proposed Act and seems to suggest that the critics to it are not using accurate data in their arguments.
In London you can club the night away and fight climate change at a venue whose dance floor generates electricity produced by dancing.
Club4Climate founder Andrew Charalambous's London club incorporates the idea of using the motion created on the dance floor to actually generate electricity, which can then be used in part to provide power for the club.
The entire project is based around improving clubbers' energy consumption and diminishing the negative effect on the environment.
The piezoelectric dance floor converts the motion of clubbers into a usable form of energy through a combination of ceramics and quartz crystals.
The rest of the power needed to run the venue comes from a wind turbine and solar energy system, with any surplus used to power private homes in the area.
The club also boasts the latest air flush, waterless urinals, low flush toilets and automatic taps to ensure maximum water saving plus less greedy air conditioning units.
Andrew Charalambous is known as Dr Earth to the clubbers. His aim is to "stop preaching to people and use an inclusive philosophy to create the revolution [needed] to combat climate change."
Club4Climate even provides free entry to anybody that can prove they walked or cycled to the venue.
Although the club sounds like a sound way to have fun and lower your carbon footprint, Dr Earth's idea of a Club4Climate event on a Spanish island turned out to be more contentious with US Friends of the Earth, who were supposed to benefit from some of the cash raised, pointing out that encouraging clubbers from around the world to fly to Spain defeated the object of the whole event.
Club4Climate is not the only club offering carbon-saving dance floor technology. It can also be found at San Francisco's Temple Nightclub and Rotterdam's Watt.
An innovative idea from two British companies offers a greener "goodbye" for loved ones.
Two British companies have got together to launch an innovative new product – woollen coffins. The UK's leading coffin manufacturer, JC Atkinson and Son, has joined forces with Hainsworth, a Yorkshire-based speciality textile firm, to produce the new range. The coffins will be manufactured by Hainsworth at their Leeds mill and distributed throughout the UK by JC Atkinson.
These beautifully crafted coffins are made from pure new wool and are supported on a strong, recycled cardboard frame. All the materials used are biodegradable and suitable for cremation and all types of burial. To complement the coffins a range of shrouds, accessories and matching ash caskets are available. Both the coffin and the casket have personalised embroidered woollen name plates.
The partnership between the two companies was formed when Hainsworth, a Royal Warrant Holder, which manufactures textiles for a diverse range of uses from pool and snooker cloth to the Queen's Guards Scarlet, had the idea to make a coffin. They approached JC Atkinson who as one of the leading independent coffin distributors has provided them with a ready-made route to the funeral director market.
Julian Atkinson, Managing Director of JC Atkinson said: "This is an exciting new concept and one that brings something completely new to the coffin market. For our company, as winner of the Sunday Times Green Company Award, one of the most important things is the environmental credentials of the materials. The wool has a truly green lineage being British, natural, sustainable and biodegradable. The coffins will carry the British Wool Mark and use 100% British wool.
Recycled cardboard is used and all the materials, including the packaging are biodegradable. As the coffins are manufactured in Yorkshire, the distribution costs are minimal and there is the added benefit of boosting a local economy in a traditional manufacturing sector.
The Hainsworth Coffins range ticks all our boxes as well as allowing us to bring something new and innovative to the market. Our customers will know that, however unusual the product, it is backed by our expertise and commitment to both service and delivery."
Rachel Hainsworth, Sales Director of Hainsworth commented: "Hainsworth has 225 years of expertise in textiles and it was a natural choice for us to partner JC Atkinson on this exciting new venture. With Julian's respected reputation and industry knowledge, and Hainsworth's textile innovation and manufacturing expertise we have an exciting new product with a well respected and established sales and distribution network.
This is an innovative coffin and something completely new for the alternative coffin market, but the use of wool in burials is nothing new. The Burial in Wool Act of 1667 made it a legal requirement for the dead to be buried in woollen shrouds in an attempt to boost the struggling woollen industry of the time. With the current social eco agenda, rising concerns on the environmental impact of burials and this innovative product, the industry has come full circle."
Dead zones are areas in coastal waters or the open ocean where oxygen is low or absent and the latest research data shows they are are expanding worldwide.
Latest research from the Economic Geosciences Union has uncovered that there is a layer of completely oxygen depleted water, up to 300 m thick and 2,500 km in length, along the coast of Chile and Peru where nitrogen removal from seawater is substantial.
Oxygen is essential for fish and other fauna living in the sea. Low oxygen affects the lifestyle of sediment-dwelling fauna and generally inhibits their ability to recover from disturbance.
However, some sediment-dwelling species may act as ecosystem engineers to help coastal areas to recover from low oxygen conditions. This is an area that needs sponsorship for scientists to explore in more detail.
Causes of oxygen depletion include increased nutrient inputs that fuel algal blooms and create an increased oxygen demand and changes in ventilation of sea water linked to global warming. Human disturbance of Oxygen Minimum Zones (OMZ) through fishing, mining and energy extraction is increasing as those zones expand.
Key examples of coastal dead zones are the Gulf of Mexico, Black Sea and Baltic Sea. Oxygen Minimum Zones in the open ocean are present in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and Arabian Sea.
European Geosciences Union award goes to Andrey Ganopolski for his role in helping to understand mechanisms of glacial climate change.
For his role in helping to understand mechanisms of glacial climate change, Andrey Ganopolski of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) has been honoured by the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
He was awarded the Milutin Milankovic Medal in Vienna "for his pioneering contributions to the development of Earth system models of intermediate complexity", the EGU stated. These models – systems of mathematical equations representing processes in the atmosphere, oceans and other planetary compartments – show high computational efficiency.
They allow scientists to perform more and longer projections, in contrast to state-of-the-art Earth system models.For the first time, Ganopolski and his collaborators made it possible to realistically simulate and explain some important aspects of transitions between glacial and interglacial periods – providing important insights which also help to assess anthropogenic global warming.
"Solving the mystery of glacial cycles, which has attracted much attention from scientists over the past two centuries, not only aims at satisfying natural human curiosity", Ganopolski says. "It is also important as the proof of our ability to understand and predict climate changes." Glacial cycles represent the most dramatic natural climate oscillations over the past millions of years. Some of the factors involved are the carbon cycle, atmospheric dust, ice sheets instability, and ocean circulation.
Ganopolski, born in 1960 in Russia, a physicist, works as a senior scientist in PIK's research domain "Earth System Analysis". He is also lead author of the chapter on paleoclimate for the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2014). The Milankovic Medal is one of the most prestigious international awards in the field of climate research.
Chemical company AlzChem has worked for around five years on a new process that enables the recycling of plastic waste for producing carbide, an important raw material used, for example, in the production of fertilizers. This means that coke and coal from coalmines can now be replaced by secondary raw materials. Now that approval has been granted in accordance with the German Federal Immission Control Act, the new technology can now be transferred from pilot to regular operation. The process, which has been developed with support from the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, uses the carbon contained in plastics in both energy and material terms. It is also capable of utilising problematic plastics with a chlorine content of up to 10% by weight. Particularly suitable is material from commercial and industrial plastic processing.
“The positive experience gained during the operating phase has shown that it is possible to use plastic-based carbonaceous material. We are therefore very confident that we can recycle around 1000 tonnes a month in 2011. Supplies can be delivered by train or lorry,” says Jürgen Franke, responsible for material flow management at AlzChem.
In the last five years, around twelve million euros have been invested in the development and installation of new technologies at the Hart facility in Upper Bavaria, combined with a sophisticated emissions reduction programme. There are around 220 members of staff working in carbide production at AlzChem.
Up to 100,000 tonnes of coal and coke are used throughout the year. In future, this will also include around 15,000 tonnes of plastic. At one time high-grade coal used to be processed from deposits in the Saar and Ruhr valleys. However, since the decline of German coal mining, the Hart facility has processed coal imported not only from the Ukraine and Poland but also from Australia and South Africa.
“The market for this raw material has dramatically changed over the past few years,” says Dr. Klaus Holzrichter, site manager at AlzChem in Trostberg. Former coal exporting countries such as China and India have since become importers themselves, and prices are increasing on the global market. By substituting coal with plastics in order to recycle the carbon contained in them not just for energy-related purposes but also to use the material for new products, AlzChem is taking an entirely new approach worldwide. AlzChem is Europe’s largest manufacturer of carbide and is considered to be a technology leader in the industry.
Calcium carbide is used for various applications. The range of products that utilise the 120,000 to 160,000 tonnes of carbide produced each year include not just high-grade fertilizers that are even used in organic farming but also food and feedstuff additives.
Around 600 kilograms of coal and coke are required for the production of one tonne of carbide. The coal and coke serve as an electrothermal reducing agent, two thirds of which is converted to calcium carbide and one third to carbon monoxide. The temperature in the core reaction zone amounts to around 2,200 °C. When it is “tapped” out of the furnace, the molten calcium carbide flows into carbide pans and solidifies into a block in the pans. The pans are cooled for about 30 hours, and then the block is pre-crushed. After sieving, re-crushing and grinding, the grain fractions are produced to the sizes required.
Today sees the start of the 5th PCF World Forum, to be hosted in Switzerland for the first time ever. In this two-day event interested parties will be finding out more about the role carbon footprinting can play in the transition to a low carbon society.
The theme of this year's Product Carbon Footprint World Forum is "Implementing the international PCF Standards". The PCF strive through their World Summits and dedicated workshops to build credibility in carbon footprint information.
Technical expert and overseer of PCF, Rasmus Priess says: " The 5th PCF World Summit will address the issue of credibility in carbon footprint information, as related to assurance and verification, the emerging international standards, its consideration in different international initiatives and programmes and its practical relevance and implication for emerging economies and international trade."
"It is my hope that the emerging dialogue will contribute to finding pragmatic approaches to building trust and sense in carbon footprint information and thereby contributing to making sound collaborative decisions in the transition to a low carbon and sustainable society."
Speakers will include Doris Leuthard, the Head of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications in Switzerland, Hans-Peter Fricker, the CEO of WWF Switzerland and, from further afield, Greg Norris, the founder of New Earth, a non-profit institute that develops technologies to enable sustainable development "from the bottom up", plus Luis Fernando Samper the Chief Communications Officer for the Columbian Coffee growers organization.
The two-day summit is aimed at helping those concerned with implementing low carbon measures for companies, governments and institutions plus entrepreneurs in the area and interested non-profit groups to really discuss the issues concerning bringing in reliable and affordable measures in the strive for a low-carbon future.
A regular part of the summit is to host a low carbon networking dinner. This meal is created to show how delicious low-carbon cuisine can be as it really makes the most of local and seasonal ingredients. This year PCF have invited Eaternity, an association that aims to help everyone to eat more climate friendly, to estimate the carbon footprint of the menu.
As more consumers take reducing CO2 to heart, the companies devising useful measuring tools now realize that being green doesn't mean being dowdy.
A Dutch company has responded to the growing market in environmentally aware consumers by designing a device to help them find out how much energy they are using around the house. You may respond with: but these gadgets are already on the market, so what is new?
Creating such a gadget that looks good too.
The Wattcher is a "design object" that the manufacturers say "displays your home's total electricity consumption in a beautiful and meaningful way. It gives you insight into your energy behaviour and helps you save energy".
So how does it work?
The Wattcher consists of a sensor, a sending unit and a display. The sensor can be placed on any electricity meter (analog meters with a turning wheel, digital meters with LED pulse, and smart meters). The sensor is connected to the sending unit. Both are placed in the meter closet. The sending unit sends a radio signal to the display unit, which can be placed in any (euro standard) electricity socket.
The display unit is where you read how much energy you are consuming at any given time. Turn on any electrical appliance, and watch those watts skyrocket! The unit itself can be plugged in guilt-free, as it uses less than 1 watt and costs under EUR 100.
Designer Marcel Wanders created the Wattcher to be the "ticking heart of the home". He says of the design: "It is very clean and has urgency in pointing out your energy consumption. The Wattcher is more than just a product; it is a strategy that stimulates awareness."
So far his device has won a Dutch Design Award the ICT~Environment Award.
Depletion of the ozone layer - the shield that protects life on Earth from harmful levels of ultraviolet rays - has reached an unprecedented level over the Arctic this spring.
The reason behind this is the continuing presence of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere and a very cold winter in the stratosphere. The stratosphere is the second major layer of the Earth's atmosphere.
The record loss is despite an international agreement which has been very successful in cutting production and consumption of ozone destroying chemicals. Because of the long atmospheric lifetimes of these compounds it will take several decades before their concentrations are back down to pre-1980 levels, the target agreed in the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
Observations from the ground and from balloons over the Arctic region as well as from satellites show that the Arctic region has suffered an ozone column loss of about 40% from the beginning of the winter to late March. The highest ozone loss previously recorded was about 30% over the entire winter.
In Antarctica the so-called ozone hole is an annually recurring winter/spring phenomenon due to the existence of extremely low temperatures in the stratosphere.
In the Arctic the meteorological conditions vary much more from one year to the next and the temperatures are always warmer than over Antarctica. Hence, some Arctic winters experience almost no ozone loss, whereas cold stratospheric temperatures in the Arctic lasting beyond the polar night can occasionally lead to substantial ozone loss.
Even though this Arctic winter was warmer than average at ground level, it was colder in the stratosphere than for a normal Arctic winter.
Although the degree of Arctic ozone destruction in 2011 is unprecedented, it is not unexpected.
Ozone scientists have foreseen that significant Arctic ozone loss is possible in the case of a cold and stable Arctic stratospheric winter. Stratospheric ozone depletion occurs over the polar regions when temperatures drop below -78°C. At such low temperatures clouds form in the stratosphere.
Chemical reactions that convert innocuous reservoir gases (e.g. hydrochloric acid) into active ozone depleting gases take place on the clouds particles. The result is rapid destruction of ozone if sunlight is present.
Ozone depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons, once present in refrigerators, spray cans and fire extinguishers, have been phased out under the Montreal Protocol. Thanks to this international agreement, the ozone layer outside the polar regions is projected to recover to its pre-1980 levels around 2030-2040 according to the WMO/UNEP Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion. In contrast, the springtime ozone layer over the Antarctic is expected to recover around 2045-60, and in the Arctic it will probably recover one or two decades earlier.
Without the Montreal Protocol, this year's ozone destruction would most likely have been worse.
The slow recovery of the ozone layer is due to the fact that ozone depleting substances stay in the atmosphere for several decades. In the polar regions the drop in ozone depleting gases is 10% of what is required to return to the 1980 benchmark level.
"The Arctic stratosphere continues to be vulnerable to ozone destruction caused by ozone depleting substances linked to human activities," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.
"The degree of ozone loss experienced in any particular winter depends on the meteorological conditions. The 2011 ozone loss shows that we have to remain vigilant and keep a close eye on the situation in the Arctic in the coming years," he said.
"WMO's Global Atmosphere Watch Network has many stations in the Arctic and helps us to obtain an early warning in case of low ozone and intense UV radiation."
If the ozone depleted area moves away from the pole and towards lower latitudes one can expect increased ultraviolet (UV) radiation as compared to the normal for the season. As the solar elevation at noon increases over the next weeks, regions affected by the ozone depletion will experience higher than normal UV radiation. The best way to stay informed about ozone risks is through local UV forecasts.
It should be pointed out, however, that the UV radiation will not increase to the same intensity as is found in the tropical regions of the globe. The sun is still relatively low in the sky, and this limits the amount of UV radiation that passes through the atmosphere.
An easy way to do good for the environment! Charge your phone using peddle power. Cycling to your destination equals CO2-free travelling and now you can charge your mobile phone through pedal power.
Nokia, the world's largest mobile phone producer, has developed a phone charger powered by bicycles.
In the same way as you used to power up your bike lights, a dynamo turns wheel rotations into energy, so you can charge your mobile phone as you cycle.
"To begin charging, a cyclist needs to travel around 6 km per hour, and while charging times will vary depending on battery model, a 10-minute journey at 10 km per hour produces around 28 mi-nutes of talk time or 37 hours of standby time. The faster you ride, the more battery life you gener-ate," a Nokia statement announced.
The device was released with much publicity in Kenya, one of many developing countries with an unreliable electric supply but which is rich in bicycles. At the same time, Nokia released four cheap mobile phones targeted at developing countries, with batteries enabling stand-by modes of up to six weeks.
The charger is now on sale in Africa, Asia and Europe. In Europe the retail price is around EUR 15.
President Obama announced this week a sweeping new energy plan that aims to ensure the USA reduces its dependency on oil. He was met mostly by positive responses except from the petrochemical industry.
"Rising prices at the pump affect everybody - workers and farmers; truck drivers and restaurant owners. Businesses see it impact their bottom line. Families feel the pinch when they fill up their tank. For Americans already struggling to get by, it makes life that much harder. That's why we need to make ourselves more secure and control our energy future by harnessing all of the resources that we have available and embracing a diverse energy portfolio", was the message that Obama gave the USA this week.
His ultimate goal is to reduce the USA's dependence on oil, in the near term by responsibly developing and producing oil and gas at home, while at the same time leveraging cleaner, alternative fuels and increasing efficiency.
"Beyond our efforts to reduce our dependence on oil, we must focus on expanding cleaner sources of electricity - keeping America on the cutting edge of clean energy technology so that we can build a 21st century clean energy economy and win the future," was how he summed up his aims for the country.
But how can this be implemented:
In 2008, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By 2025 - a little over a decade from now – they hope to have cut that figure by one-third by:
Implementing critical safety reforms; Identifying underdeveloped resources; Developing incentives for expedited development and production; Securing access to diverse and reliable sources of energy; Developing alternatives to oil, including biofuels and natural gas; Expanding biofuels markets and commercializing new biofuels technologies; Encouraging responsible development practices for natural gas; cutting costs at the pump with more efficient cars and trucks; Paving the way for advanced vehicles. This last initiative will be led by example by the Federal government who operate more than 600,000 fleet vehicles. The President is calling for administrative action directing agencies to ensure that by 2015, all new vehicles purchased will be alternative-fuel vehicles, including hybrid and electric vehicles.
America is charting a path towards cleaner sources of electricity and greater energy efficiency, and remaining on the cutting edge of clean energy technology by:
Creating markets for clean energy; Cutting energy bills through more efficient homes and buildings; Staying on the cutting edge through clean energy research and development. Through the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, the USA has invested in over 100 cutting-edge projects in areas ranging from smart grid technology, to carbon capture, to battery technology for electric vehicles. The 2012 budget request more than doubles funding for ARPA-E and doubles the number of Hubs to include new Hubs that will advance smart grid technology, critical materials research, as well as batteries and energy storage.
The plans outlined by Obama received many positive responses.
The American Clean Skies Foundation (ACSF), commended President Obama for pledging to reduce the country's unsustainable reliance on foreign oil by substantially increasing the country's use of alternative, domestically sourced fuels.
"It's only right that the federal government lead by example," said Gregory C. Staple, the CEO of ACSF.
"Diesel technology will continue to be the lifeblood of our economy, powering the overwhelming majority of the nation's construction, goods movement, mining and public transportation," was the response of Allen Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum.
However not all areas were sure his actions were moving the nation in the right direction.
Charles T. Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association responded with: "President Obama is right to say our nation needs to safely and responsibly develop and produce oil and natural gas in the US while protecting our environment, and right to say we need to develop a wide range of energy sources for the future. However, he is wrong to believe that the best way to achieve these goals is to impose costly mandates and taxpayer-funded subsidies to pick energy winners and losers.
"American taxpayers can't afford to be burdened with billions upon billions of dollars in taxes to subsidize ethanol, electric cars, and other energy ideas that can't survive in the free market. These endless subsidies only increase the economic pain Americans are suffering, as do the greenhouse gas regulations and similar mandates the Environmental Protection Agency is imposing on our economy that drive up energy costs without improving our environment.
"Instead of adopting a government-led model of command and control, President Obama should let American consumers and the free market determine the energy sources that best meet our economic and national security needs."
As the search for the "best" renewable jet fuel goes on, NASA starts experiments with chicken-fat-based biofuel.
NASA researchers from the Langley Research Centre in Virginia and the Dryden Flight Research Centre in California have been testing an interesting new biofuel on a NASA DC-8 to measure its performance and emissions as part of the Alternative Aviation Fuel Experiment II, or AAFEX II.
The Hydrotreated Renewable Jet Fuel is "made out of chicken fat", Langley's Bruce Anderson, AAFEX II project scientist, was proud to announce.
"The Air Force bought many thousands of gallons of this to burn in some of their jets and provided about 30,283 litres to NASA for this experiment."
Anderson and his team have been set the task of testing a 50-50 mix of biofuel and regular jet fuel, biofuel only, and jet fuel only.
The effort includes investigators and consultants from private industry, other federal organizations, and academia. In all, 17 organizations are participating in AAFEX II.
"AAFEX II will provide essential gaseous and particulate emissions data as well as engine and aircraft systems performance data from operation of the DC-8 on a fuel produced from a renewable resource," said Glenn's Dan Bulzan, who leads clean energy and emissions research in NASA's Subsonic Fixed Wing Project.
"NASA Dryden is excited to continue contributing to the study of alternative fuels for aviation use," said Frank Cutler, NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory project manager.
Testing is being carried out partially with the aim of helping the US military's goal of eventually flying its aircraft using 50% biofuel.
The Air Force is currently engaged in certifying its fleet to operate on a 50% blend of the same fuel being tested in AAFEX II.
"The use of alternative fuels, including biofuels, in aircraft is a key element for substantially reducing the impact of aviation on the environment and for reducing the dependency on foreign petroleum," commented Glenn's Ruben Del Rosario, manager of NASA's Subsonic Fixed Wing Project, which is conducting the tests.
The tests are funded and managed by the Fundamental Aeronautics Program of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate in Washington.
If tests are successful and the biofuel is adopted by airlines, has anyone taken into account the environmental damage that could be caused by the need for huge amounts of new chicken farms?
New website allows you to surf the next at the environment's benefit.
Carbonfund.org has launched a new, free service that lets you support reforestation and wildlife preservation on an everyday basis simply by performing Internet searches.
Powered by Microsoft's Bing search engine and fueled by ads from Yahoo!, Envirosearch.org is a simplified online search tool that generates revenue for meaningful conservation initiatives every time it gets used.
The new search tool is the result of collaborative efforts made by several environmental organizations who believe that small, daily tasks like Internet searches could be a real source of funding for conservation and preservation projects.
"Envirosearch.org proves once again that protecting our environment and doing the things we enjoy and need to do can go hand in hand," said Eric Carlson, president of Carbonfund.org. "If there is just one simple thing everyone can do today to help our environment, making the switch to Envirosearch.org is it."
Initially, revenue generated from the new search service will support tree-planting programme s in Haiti, India and the USA, along with the programmes of its conservation partners.
Adidas as co-founder of the Better Cotton Initiative aims to show how big businesses can embrace sustainability.
The Better Cotton Initiative works with farmers across the globe on implementing standards for minimizing pesticide use and water consumption. By 2015, Adidas has declared it will be using 40% Better Cotton; by 2018 all its cotton will come from these sources.
"By supporting the Better Cotton Initiative, we want to contribute to making global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for our consumers," said Herbert Hainer, Adidas Group CEO.
"Our goal is to use 100% Better Cotton in our products by 2018 and we are excited to work closely with the Better Cotton Initiative towards achieving this ambitious goal."
Better Cotton is just part of the Adidas Group's Environmental Strategy, a five-year plan to re-engineer the company's approach to environmental management by focusing on significant improvements along the entire value chain.
The strategy is based on extending existing programmes to deliver process efficiencies at every stage of the value chain: from product design, development and sourcing to logistics, own sites and IT systems.
As a result, the improved value chain enables the company to offer more sustainable products to consumers, thus improving the Group's environmental footprint.
"Implementing environmental performance across our value chain is an important step to deliver sustainable operations over the long term," said Herbert Hainer.
"At the same time, our Environmental Strategy creates a sustainable platform for future performance improvements and innovations and is therefore essential for the success of our business."
Another flagship initiative evolving from the strategy is called "Green Company" and looks at the Adidas Group's working sites.
During 2010, the Group's headquarters in Germany and five North American sites worked together to create a shared environmental management system, certified to ISO 14001.
All certified locations are managed in accordance with the international management system standard which allows global target-setting and management at HQ as well as a standardized approach to day-to-day environmental management at site level.
The launch of the strategy coincides with the publication of the company's 2010 Sustainability Report. The adidas Group has published 11 consecutive annual Sustainability Reports since 2000, which is unique in the industry.
California's cap and trade plans, part of their landmark global warming law, is put on hold due to court action.
Under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's green eye, the California legislature passed the AB 32 Act in 2006. This required the state to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020.
As the law was passed at a time when the economy was on the up, California residents were last year asked to vote in a referendum as to whether they wanted to see delayed implementation of the Act until the now post-recession unemployment rate of 12% had fallen to a more reasonable. 5.5%. Californians stood behind their green programme and voted against a change in the law.
However, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith has now ruled that state air quality regulators failed to properly consider alternatives to their so-called cap-and-trade programme, which makes up a key part of what would have been a landmark global warming law.
Judge Goldsmith ruled that the failure to consider alternatives violated state environmental law and that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) must conduct a further review before implementing the plan.
Implementing a cap and trade programme would create a marketplace of emissions credits or allowances, which can be bought by businesses that need credits, or sold by businesses based on the government's requirement that the businesses' emissions be offset.
California's cap-and-trade regulations would set a statewide limit on emissions from sources "responsible for 80% of California's greenhouse gas emissions and established a price signal needed to drive long-term investment in cleaner fuels and more efficient use of energy," say CARB.
The programme would cover 360 businesses that operate 600 facilities and is planned to be implemented in two phases. The first phase in 2012 would include all major industrial sources including utilities. A second phase, scheduled to begin in 2015, would include distributors of diesel and other transportation fuels, natural gas and other fuels.
The court concluded that in its establishment of a cap and trade programme, CARB "failed to adequately describe and analyze alternatives sufficient for informed decision-making and public review."
It is environmental justice groups who are behind the judge who brought the legal challenge against CARB. These groups believe the programme would allow polluters who are primarily located in poor neighbourhoods to continue polluting by buying carbon credits from projects elsewhere.
CARB plans to appeal the court ruling. In a statement, Stanley Young, an agency spokesman, said that the judge's decision could also slow programmes besides cap-and-trade such as "efforts to improve energy efficiency, establish clean car standards and develop low carbon fuel regulations."
In Hong Kong it is the people who live in the poorest areas, most of which feature congested roads full of heavy trucks, that breathe the worst air in the city.
A Friends of the Earth study has found that people in poor areas of Hong Kong are breathing the worst air, and that Sham Shui Po is the most polluted area of all.
The green group analysed the Environmental Protection Bureau's general station readings over 13 months from January 2010.
It found Sham Shui Po to have the worst air quality, with an average index of 44.58, followed by Kwai Chung, 43.28, and Kwun Tong, 43.08.
Yuen Long registered the worst monthly average air quality five times. For the year, Yuen Long averaged 41.29, sixth of 11 districts installed with general stations for the air pollution index. All four areas are among the districts with lowest average income in Hong Kong.
The bad air quality in those areas could be due to a higher number of old diesel vehicles running on the roads, compared to other areas commented Thomas Choi Ka-man, Friends of the Earth's senior environmental affairs officer. "The narrow roads at Sham Shui Po and heavy trucks going to the container terminal at Kwai Chung also add to the problem," he said.
The group also commissioned the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education to measure air pollutants in 10 districts last year by detecting respirable suspended particles and nitrogen dioxides in three or four places in each district.
Sham Shui Po had the highest concentration of nitrogen dioxides, measuring 326 parts per billion (ppb) and 466 ppb in two places. Central followed with readings of 85.03ppb and 5.6ppb. The centre of Sham Shui Po near Yen Chow Street had the most pollutants, Choi said. For respirable suspended particles, a spot in Sha Tin had the highest level (440ppb), followed by one in Kwun Tong (405ppb).
As a result of their findings, Friends of the Earth has asked the Hong Kong government to tighten its air pollution index standard to meet the World Health Organisation's standard and speed up the retirement of older buses to reduce emissions.
New research could help solve the mystery of why bees are vanishing all around the world.
Ecologists have developed a better way of rearing bee larvae in the laboratory that could help discover why honey bee populations worldwide are declining.
The technique, together with details of how statistics adapted from other areas of ecology can aid bee research, was published this week in the British Ecological Society's journal "Methods in Ecology and Evolution".
Human food security depends on bees because they pollinate so many of our crop plants. As a result, worldwide declines in both honey bee colonies and solitary bees are causing widespread concern. But faced with declines that seem due to the combination of several factors, including diseases, agricultural chemicals and loss of habitat, researchers urgently need better ways of studying bees in the laboratory.
Now, a team of ecologists from the University of Würzburg, Germany has devised a better way of rearing honey bee larvae in the laboratory that should make it easier to study the causes of their decline.
The current method of rearing bees in the laboratory has major drawbacks. It involves a process known as "grafting", where the tiny first instar bee larvae around 1mm long are collected using feathers, brushes or needles. As well as being time consuming and demanding considerable skill, the mechanical stress involved in handling causes mortality among the tiny larvae.
To avoid handling the larvae, the researchers allowed honey bee queens to lay eggs directly into an artificial plastic honeycomb about the size of a cigar box. The plastic honeycomb is widely used by professional honey bee queen breeders, and by using in the laboratory the team found rearing bee larvae much easier and more successful.
According to lead author and keen bee-keeper Harmen Hendriksma: "The artificial comb has a hexagonal pattern with 110 holes the size of wax cells. The queen lays her eggs directly into these small plastic cells. Because the back of each cell has a small plastic cup, we can collect the larvae without handling them."
Hendriksma and his colleagues found that when using the plastic honeycomb, almost all (97%) larvae survived. And because it is straightforward and simple to use, researchers were able to collect more than 1,000 larvae in 90 minutes.
By introducing a robust, standardised way of rearing larvae the technique should also help improve the quality of bee research because the results of experiments conducted in different laboratories will be more directly comparable.
The study also shows that applying statistical approaches used in other areas of ecological science can help bee researchers to better analyse their results.
Says Hendriksma: "Bee research is like an arms race, where researchers try and keep up with monitoring emerging new risks to bees. Because so many factors – such as environmental pollution, new agricultural pesticides, bee diseases, changing habitats and bees' genes – may be playing a part in the loss of our bees we need better ways of analysing our results."
The study was funded by the German ministry for education and research (BMBF, Berlin).
EU Commission takes a hard stance with Italy in order to get them to comply with EU environmental legislation.
The European Commission is asking Italy to comply with EU rules to ensure that a rehabilitation project on a former chemicals site in the Liguria region does not pose risks to health or the environment. So far Italy has failed to satisfactorily address the issue.
On the recommendation of EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik, the Commission has sent out a "reasoned opinion". A "reasoned opinion" is a legally required document that is sent out by the EU Commission before bringing any issues to court. A member state considering legal action can then follow this opinion or ignore it and bring the case to court.
Italy has two months to reply to the reasoned opinion they have received. In the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission has threatened to refer the case to the European Court of Justice.
The case concerns the rehabilitation of a former industrial area in Cengio that included a landfill of contaminated soil and hazardous waste. Under the EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, projects likely to have significant effects on the environment by virtue of their nature, size or location, must undergo an assessment of their environmental effects before consent is given for development. An environmental impact assessment is mandatory for waste disposal installations for the landfill of hazardous waste. However, the rehabilitation project was approved by the Italian authorities without undergoing such an assessment.
As this site is not recognised as a landfill or as a rehabilitated landfill, this may also mean that the strict requirements of the EU Landfill Directive for the protection of environment and human health have not been followed.
Landfills containing hazardous waste can be extremely harmful for the environment and public health, as poisonous chemicals can leach into local groundwater. They therefore need to be carefully built, managed and monitored before and after closure, in compliance with the Landfill Directive.
The Commission stated that it "sent Italy a letter of formal notice on 9 October 2009 highlighting the need to ensure that this category of potentially harmful projects is authorised, executed and monitored after completion in full compliance with both the Environmental Impact Assessment and the Landfill Directives. As Italy has failed to satisfy the Commission that the necessary requirements to protect human health and the environment have been fulfilled, a reasoned opinion has now gone out."
Today is World Water Day which this year focuses on finding immediate solutions for persistent problems.
More than one billion people drink unsafe water and 2.4 billion, 40% of the human race are without adequate sanitation, and 3.4 million people, mostly children, die every year of water-related diseases (more than one million from malaria alone), the majority of them unnecessarily.
But the picture is neither gloomy nor hopeless, says the World Health Organization (WHO) in a report on water and sanitation.
"Clearly, a problem of this magnitude cannot be solved overnight, but simple, inexpensive measures, both individual and collective, are available that will provide clean water for millions and millions of people in developing countries - now, not in 10 or 20 years," said Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO.
"We do not have the luxury of waiting around for large infrastructure investments to provide water supplies and basic sanitation services for all who need them. It makes no sense, and it is not acceptable, to ignore the immediate priorities of the most needy."
Optimistic but realistic, the WHO report, entitled "Water for Health - Taking Charge", strongly urges several basic measures, including purifying water (chlorination and SODIS), and improving hygiene, as immediate means of improving people's water supply in developing countries.
A good example of successful chlorination is to be found in the Maldives where a national control programme used it in wells and in oral rehydration salts against diarrhoea. Rainwater was also collected for drinking. Twenty years after the programme started, all of the Maldives islands have their own community rainwater collection tanks, and deaths from diarrhoea are virtually unknown.
"Another easy, small-scale, cost-effective, immediate technique for providing safe water, individually or collectively, is a still little-known but highly effective solar thermal technique. It is called SODIS and was promoted by the Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology (EAWAG) near Zurich," said Dr Jamie Bartram, Coordinator of WHO's Water, Sanitation and Health Programme, which issued the report.
"SODIS, or solar water disinfection, is a nearly cost-free system because sunlight costs nothing, and the only other elements are throw-away plastic soft-drink bottles and a black surface," explains Martin Wegelin, a researcher at EAWAG.
Transparent bottles are filled with water and placed horizontally on a flat surface for about five hours. The illness-causing microorganisms (pathogens) in the polluted water succumb to the killing effect of the ultraviolet light in solar radiation. The process is enhanced when the solar water disinfection is combined with a "solar thermal water treatment" which makes use of the fact that the colour black absorbs light. This is accomplished by painting the bottom half of the bottle black or placing it on black-painted corrugated iron or plastic sheets.
"Field studies in Bolivia, Burkina Faso, China, Colombia, Indonesia, Thailand and Togo," the report states, "show that the process works." (Read more about SODIS on our Business & Ideas page )
A third recommendation of the report calls for "changing behaviour."
"Our research shows that washing with hand soap would probably sharply reduce deaths from diarrhoeal disease," asserted Valerie Curtis, a lecturer in hygiene promotion at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "All it requires is soap and motivation. But that's more easily said than done."
A three-year study in India, West Africa, the UK and The Netherlands proved that the traditional "scolding, moralistic" approach to changing behaviour doesn't work. People turn off if they are warned, "You'll get sick or die if you don't change your filthy ways." Ms. Curtis says that Brazilians refused to cooperate in a cholera prevention programme because they thought they were being accused of being "filthy dogs". "We used a positive motivation approach in a three-year project in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, and at the end they had tripled their use of soap." Studies of diarrhoea show that the simple act of washing one's hands with soap and water reduces incidence of the disease by 35%.
Elsewhere, good water management has almost eradicated guinea worm, a disfiguring, disabling disease which afflicted 50 million people in Africa and Asia in the mid-1900s. By 1999 that number had fallen to below 100,000.
But poor irrigation water management, in sharp contrast, has led to a huge spread of schistosomiasis (snail fever) to areas of the world where it never existed before. An estimated 200 million people are infected today with schistosomiasis, according to WHO.
What should be done differently to prevent water-related diseases and to ensure that everyone has access to at least some safe water and sanitation?
For one thing, says the WHO report, the health sector must get fully involved in water management. It can no longer be left to water management authorities or to environmental ministries. Just as major development projects always have environmental impact assessment, they should also require health impact assessments. Those involved in water management have to be responsible for its effects on people's health.
During the past 50 years there has been a strong emphasis on medical interventions including for example, drug use and this has tended to reduce the attention and priority given to safe water supply and adequate sanitation into the back seat. With the growing resistance to antibiotics, insecticides and standard drugs, health authorities now understand the limitations of a strictly medical approach. That makes safe water and sanitation more important than ever.
"Society generally looks at the contribution of development to health. The contribution of health to development has been largely ignored. It is time to reverse this way of looking at things. And it is high time to recognize safe water supply and adequate sanitation to protect health are among the basic human rights," said Dr Brundtland.
To mark this year's World Water Day, GES is hosting a Green Drinks event in Zurich, Switzerland. See our Events page to register.
EPA Toxics Report sparks interest in the safety of old diesel engines.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just released the fourth update of a computer tool that helps federal, state, local governments and other stakeholders better understand the potential health risks from exposure to air toxics.
Newspapers like the New York Times reporting on the figures released have concentrated their articles on part of the report which shows that vehicle emissions - including diesel exhaust - pose significant health risks.
The National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) contains 2005 emissions data submitted primarily from the states for 178 pollutants. Models are used to make broad estimates of health risks for areas of the country. The tool is not designed to determine actual health risks to individuals living in these areas. Because the data submitted varies from state to state, it is not possible to use the data to compare risks between different areas of the country.
The assessment shows that EPA, the states, and industry are continuing to make progress to reduce air toxic emissions. Between 1990 and 2005, air toxic emissions were reduced by about 42% from industrial and mobile sources.
However, the toxic emissions that remain could be a cause for concern.
The New York Times concludes that according to the report "EPA found that all Americans have an increased cancer risk of greater than 10 in a million because of airborne toxics."
"This means that, on average," EPA wrote, "approximately 1 in every 20,000 people have an increased likelihood of contracting cancer as a result of breathing air toxics from outdoor sources if they were exposed to 2005 emission levels over the course of their lifetime."
The New York Times goes on to say that "EPA's findings have raised tensions between environmentalists who say cancer risks posed by diesel exhaust are three times greater than risks from other airborne toxics" and the industry groups behind diesel engines who maintain that new diesel engines are among the cleanest on the road and that diesel emissions are heavily regulated.
The problem seems to be that more needs to be done to address the 11 million or so old diesel engines still in use, but comments that "Congress has put a program - created by the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) of 2005 - on the chopping block in an effort to trim government spending." This government program was created to look into retrofitting diesel engines to reduce toxic emissions.
"Despite 40 years of progress in moving toward cleaner vehicles, industrial sources and everything else, we still have a situation where every American faces a cancer risk due to airborne toxics," said Rich Kassel of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "To really move the needle on this problem, EPA has to address the diesel problem."
The report highlighted two substances in auto emissions as being particularly dangerous, formaldehyde and benzene, as well as diesel exhaust.
Decision taken this week to temporarily close seven of Germany's oldest nuclear reactors for safety testing.
The shutdown will affect all power stations that were put into operation before the end of 1980. In addition, in the light of the problems seen in Japan, all of Germany's nuclear power stations will undergo a set of safety tests. Chancellor Angela Merkel promises that by 15 June this year that all safety questions "would be answered".
"We want to use the time ... to accelerate the energy conversion [towards renewable sources]," said Chancellor Merkel. "That means we will look at the infrastructure of that conversion, analyze it, and see where there are opportunities to accelerate it. We will also look again at how we can provide more support to renewable energy."
Apart from the chancellor, the meeting to announce the nuclear reactor closures was attended by Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen, Economics Minister Rainer Brüderle, as well as the state premiers of the five states where nuclear power stations are located: Baden-Württemberg, Schleswig-Holstein, Hesse, Lower Saxony and Bavaria.
Rainer Brüderle commented that while the move could result in price-hikes on electricity bills, there would be no shortfall in the energy supply. Claudia Kemfert, energy spokeswoman at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), told Reuters news agency that this depended on how long the power plants would be off the grid. "In the short term," she estimated, "you can remove up to four or five nuclear reactors from the grid."
Germany's nuclear power stations currently provide around 23% of the country's electricity.
The political opposition sees Merkel's actions as an election campaign tactic as it means that no decision will be made on the future of nuclear power in Germany until after five upcoming crucial local elections.
Sigmar Gabriel, head of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) said Chancellor Merkel "claimed that all safety concerns in German nuclear power stations had been cleared up, and she claimed we needed nuclear power in Germany. Now we know that none of that was true."
"Suddenly seven nuclear power stations can be shut down without any problem ensuring supply," Gabriel continued. "And suddenly they're not so safe. It would have been more appropriate to check safety before you extend lifespans."
Particular attention is being paid to the Neckarwestheim power plant in Baden-Württemberg, which was the focus of a 60,000-strong demonstration last weekend. The older of the two reactors here, which went into operation in 1976, is to be shut down permanently.
The closures are being seen as a direct response to the problems in Japan and the effect of Japan's unfolding nuclear disaster on Germany could not be clearer. After the protests on Saturday, a further 110,000 people demonstrated in 450 German towns on Monday against the extension of nuclear power.
Opinion polls suggest that up to 80% of the population is now against Chancellor Merkel's decision to extend nuclear power.
The city of Almada wins European Mobility Week Award for promoting sensible alternatives to private car travel.
The Portuguese city of Almada has won this year's European Mobility Week Award. Almada was judged by an independent panel of mobility experts to have done the most to promote alternatives to the car, and to highlight the positive impact of other means of transport on public health and the environment during European Mobility Week 2010.
Murcia in Spain and the Latvian capital Riga were runners-up. The awards were presented by Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik at a ceremony in Brussels this week.
Commissioner Potočnik said: "Too many Europeans rely on their cars even for short journeys. The increased pollution and congestion harm the environment but also our health. European Mobility Week promotes local authorities that successfully encourage people to use other ways of travelling, thereby improving their health and the quality of life in cities. I hope that Almada, Murcia and Riga will inspire many cities across Europe."
A record 2,221 European towns and cities officially participated in the ninth annual edition of European Mobility Week (EMW) from 16 to 22 September last year. The theme of the week was 'Travel Smarter, Live Better' to emphasise the benefits of active and sustainable mobility on citizens' health and well-being.
The award rewards the local authority that is deemed to have done most in raising public awareness of sustainable travel as a means of promoting physical activity and to contribute to reducing noise, air pollution and congestion that are known to have detrimental effects on health and well-being.
The Portuguese coastal city of Almada promoted sustainable mobility through dozens of permanent measures. To commemorate the 10th anniversary of EMW in Almada, the municipality – together with the local Energy Agency – organised an impressive week of activities dedicated to sustainable transport and health. This culminated in Mobility Festival Day, offering street markets, demonstrations of electrical vehicles, bicycle fairs, concerts, sport activities, dance and street performances, bike sprints, workshops, films, exhibitions and street art demonstrations.
Almada also improved the road infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists and created several bicycle parking places and charging stations for bikes and electric vehicles. For Car Free Day, Almada converted the historic and commercial centre of Cacilhas into a pedestrian zone.
Japan's earthquake-crippled nuclear plant is releasing radioactive materials into the air that could contaminate food and water resources.
MSNBC news reports that children and unborn babies are most at risk of possibly developing cancer from these leaks.
Officials are said to have evacuated 180,000 people from the areas near the troubled reactors, where relatively minimal fallout was reported. People still in the area have been told to evacuate or remain indoors and to wear masks when they must go outside to prevent the inhalation of radioactive particles.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan is reported as saying radiation had now spread from four reactors.
"The level seems very high, and there is still a very high risk of more radiation coming out," he said in a statement.
Experts are trying to calm the population and have said that even a meltdown would not necessarily mean medical doom. It depends on the amount and type of radioactive materials.
However, any exposure to radioactive materials could lead to various kinds of cancers.
"The explosions could expose the population to longer-term radiation, which can raise the risk of cancer. These are thyroid cancer, bone cancer and leukemia. Children and fetuses are especially vulnerable," said Lam Ching-wan, chemical pathologist at the University of Hong Kong.
Minute moisture droplets in the air can carry radioactive material. This is then washed down by rain into the sea and soil leading to the contamination of crops, marine life and drinking water.
"Steam that is released into the air will eventually get back into the water and sea life will be affected ... once there is rain, drinking water will also be contaminated," said Lee Tin-lap, toxicologist and associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong's School of Medical Sciences to Reuters. "No one is measuring the levels of radiation in the sea."
Cow milk is also vulnerable to contamination if cows graze on grass exposed to radiation.
Greenpeace has released a statement saying it is concerned about the lack of facts and transparency about the total amount of radiation that has already been released, the exact state of cooling in all the reactors, and about whether the spent fuel ponds are secured – they contain large amounts of radiation and are located outside of the containment – any damage to them would release contamination directly into the atmosphere. They have made a request that Japan's government share this information with the public immediately.
Greenpeace believe nuclear reactors are a dangerous power source that will always be vulnerable to the potentially deadly combination of human error, design failure and natural disaster and are calling for the phase out of existing reactors around the world, and no construction of new commercial nuclear reactors. Governments should instead invest in renewable energy resources that are not only environmentally sound but also affordable and reliable.
There are around 200 new nuclear reactors under construction or planned around the world. Responses from the industry at this time mostly surmount to sympathizing with the situation in Japan, offering safety reviews and distancing their own situations from Japan's.
US poll shows more Americans disbelieve in global warming and that the rest are unconcerned about its effects in their lifetime.
Gallup's annual update on Americans' attitudes toward the environment shows a public that over the last two years has become less worried about the threat of global warming, less convinced that its effects are already happening, and more likely to believe that scientists themselves are uncertain about its occurrence.
In response to one key question, 48% of Americans now believe that the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated, up from 41% in 2009 and 31% in 1997, when Gallup first asked the question.
Percentage of Americans Who Believe the Seriousness of Global Warming Is Generally Exaggerated
These results are based on the annual Gallup Social Series Environment poll, conducted March 4-7 of this year. The survey results show that the reversal in Americans' concerns about global warming that began last year has continued in 2010 - in some cases reverting to the levels recorded when Gallup began tracking global warming measures more than a decade ago.
For example, the percentage of Americans who now say reports of global warming are generally exaggerated is by a significant margin the highest such reading in the 13-year history of asking the question. In 1997, 31% said global warming's effects had been exaggerated; last year, 41% said the same, and this year the number is 48%.
Fewer Americans Think Effects of Global Warming Are Occurring
In a sharp turnaround from what Gallup found as recently as three years ago, Americans are now almost evenly split in their views of the cause of increases in the Earth's temperature over the last century.
Many global warming activists have used film and photos of melting ice caps and glaciers, and the expanding reach of deserts, to drive home their point that global warming is already having alarming effects on the earth. While these efforts may have borne fruit over much of the 2000s, during the last two years, Americans' convictions about global warming's effects have waned.
A majority of Americans still agree that global warming is real, as 53% say the effects of the problem have already begun or will do so in a few years. That percentage is dwindling, however. The average American is now less convinced than at any time since 1997 that global warming's effects have already begun or will begin shortly.
Meanwhile, 35% say that the effects of global warming either will never happen (19%) or will not happen in their lifetimes (16%).
The 19% figure is more than double the number who held this view in 1997.
When Will the Effects of Global Warming Begin to Happen?
In similar fashion, the percentage of Americans who believe that global warming is going to affect them or their way of life in their lifetimes has dropped to 32% from a 40% high point in 2008. Two-thirds of Americans say global warming will not affect them in their lifetimes.
Do You Think Global Warming Will Pose a Serious Threat to You or Your Way of Life in Your Lifetime?
The shift in these views during the past two years has been particularly striking. The percentage who said global warming would pose a serious threat increased gradually from 1997 through 2008. The trend in these responses changed course last year, with slightly fewer Americans saying global warming would have a significant effect in their lifetimes. This year, that percentage is down even more, marking a six-point drop from 2009, and roughly similar to where it was nine years ago.
Americans Less Sure About Scientists' Beliefs
Since last autumn, there have been widespread news accounts of allegations of errors in scientific reports on global warming and alleged attempts by some scientists to doctor the global warming record.
These news reports may well have caused some Americans to re-evaluate the scientific consensus on global warming. Roughly half of Americans now say that "most scientists believe that global warming is occurring," down from 65% in recent years. The dominant opposing thesis, held by 36% of Americans, is that scientists are unsure about global warming. An additional 10% say most scientists believe global warming is not occurring.
Should the explosions at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan change our views on using nuclear power as a low carbon energy option?
The official comments: Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which operates the Fukushima I-Daiichi plant gave this round up in the early hours of this morning.
Reactor 1 - shut down, under inspection because of Saturday's explosion, sea water and boric acid being pumped in.
Reactor 2 - water level "lower than normal", but stable.
Reactor 3 - high pressure coolant injection was "interrupted"; but injection of sea water and boric acid were under way.
There was no reason for concern as the situation was under control.
Greenpeace International reported it this way: "Current reports suggest emerging problems with the cooling of at least two reactors at Fukushima I-Daiichi following the Japanese earthquakes. Units one and three, appear to have suffered some melting of the fuel rods, causing a release of radiation that has been detected outside. Unit three uses MOX fuel that contains plutonium oxide and will release significantly more heat even after the reactor is shut down. In a situation where there is melting or damage to fuel in the reactor, several times more radioactive gases would be released, compared to the same amount of normal uranium fuel used in reactor number one. All of this is extremely worrying and tells us that crisis is far from over."
For this environmental organization this can only mean "Nuclear reactors are a dirty and dangerous power source, and will always be vulnerable to the potentially deadly combination of human error, design failure and natural disaster. Greenpeace is calling for the phase out of existing reactors around the world, and no construction of new commercial nuclear reactors. Governments should instead invest in renewable energy resources that are not only environmentally sound but also affordable and reliable."
The UK's Guardian newspaper's environmental correspondent Julian Glover was more philosophical about the event: " There are a score of good reasons why Japan's nuclear disaster should not scare the world away from atomic power and a bad one why it will. But bad reasoning can cast out rationality. When nuclear plants go bang on live television – however unrepeatable the causes and controllable the consequences – all the industry's promises about safety and economic logic, and all the arguments for the necessity of building plants to mitigate climate change, are blown away in a scary cloud of caesium dust."
In Germany, a big anti-nuclear protest was hosted on Saturday. Germany's Environment Minister, Norbert Roettgen, took the chance to comment that safety systems at nuclear plants would be analysed anew in the light of the Fukushima incident.
"This happened in a country with very high safety standards... the fundamental question of whether we can guard against all dangers is now open again, and we will address that question," he said.
Chris Huhne, Britain's anti-turned-pro-nuclear energy secretary, urged the UK not to panic. Britain doesn't have huge earthquakes, he said.
Julian Glover recalled: "It took three decades to undo the emotional consequences of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. It may take something similar to forget the calamity of Fukushima Daiichi."
Greenpeace is not the only environmental society using the Japanese experience as a renewed chance to gain more supporters for its anti-nuclear stance. In the UK, the Stop Hinckley pressure group has called for a halt to a proposed new reactor at Hinckley Point in southwest England, on safety grounds. And other organizations the world over are been given air time to view their beliefs.
"This accident may prove nothing but could signify everything: the illogical fear that the nuclear genie can never be controlled. The loss will be ours. There is an overriding reason to cling on to the development of a dependable, universally available, low-carbon form of generation which can produce massive amounts of power. Without more nuclear plants there is no chance of this country ridding itself of fossil fuels, barring a huge cut in energy consumption which no democratic state will be able to impose. Climate change should still trump the remote prospect of nuclear calamity," commented Julian Glover.
At a time when the world is in crucial need of new low-carbon forms of energy production, will nuclear power, which had only just become a respectable alternative once more, be outlawed in the eyes of an energy-addicted planet? Will this lead to more money being fed into the development of renewable energies? At this stage we can only watch and learn!
One of world's top environmental prizes goes to Swiss-born pioneer of this ecological limits research method.
Dr Mathis Wackernagel, pioneer of the Ecological Footprint research method, is among five recipients of this year's Zayed International Prize for the Environment, one of the world's most prestigious sustainability awards. Recipients will receive their prizes next Monday from the UAE Prime Minister Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum at the Dubai International Convention Centre.
Dr Habib Al Habr, Regional Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, described the prize as the most important environmental award given to champions and pioneers in this field. This year's awardees share a common trait: All recognize sustainability as central to nations' long-term prosperity and security.
Wackernagel is President of the sustainability think tank Global Footprint Network, which works with governments, including that of the UAE, to use Ecological Footprint accounting to understand and manage their ecological demand.
"We all know with money, it is critical to know how much we have and how much we use if we want to avoid going bankrupt," Dr Wackernagel said.
"The same is true for natural capital. In today's resource-constrained world, achieving a healthy balance between ecological supply and demand is crucial for countries, cities, and businesses to remain competitive."
"The concept of ecological limits and relating the demands of human beings to the planet's available ecological resources has attracted and is catalyzing action among governments, business, and civil society," the Prize Committee said in a statement.
"Under Swiss-born Dr Wackernagel's leadership, the Footprint is now recognized as a leading and highly comprehensible indicator of sustainability."
Dr Wackernagel shares the award with Lee Myung-bak, President of the Republic of Korea, Indian economist Sir Partha Dasgupta, and Professor Najib Saab from Lebanon.
Researchers publish new ideas on past ice ages which will help us understand future climate change issues.
Climate researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association (AWI) have expanded a prevalent theory regarding the development of ice ages in an article in the journal "Nature".
Three physicists from AWI's working group "Dynamics of the Palaeoclimate" presented in this article new calculations on the connection between natural insolation and long-term changes in global climate activity.
Up to now the presumption was that temperature fluctuations in Antarctica, which have been reconstructed for the last million years on the basis of ice cores, were triggered by the global effect of climate changes in the northern hemisphere. The new study shows, however, that major portions of the temperature fluctuations can be explained equally well by local climate changes in the southern hemisphere.
The variations in the Earth's orbit and the inclination of the Earth have given decisive impetus to the climate changes over the last million years. Serbian mathematician Milutin Milankovitch calculated their influence on the seasonal distribution of insolation back at the beginning of the 20th century and they have been a subject of debate as an astronomic theory of the ice ages since that time. Because land surfaces in particular react sensitively to changes in insolation, whereas the land masses on the Earth are unequally distributed, Milankovitch generally felt insolation changes in the northern hemisphere were of outstanding importance for climate change over long periods of time. His considerations became the prevailing working hypothesis in current climate research as numerous climate reconstructions based on ice cores, marine sediments and other climate archives appear to support it.
AWI scientists Thomas Laepple, Gerrit Lohmann and Martin Werner have analysed again the temperature reconstructions based on ice cores in depth for their study. For the first time they took into account that the winter temperature has a greater influence than the summer temperature in the recorded signal in the Antarctic ice cores. If this effect is included in the model calculations, the temperature fluctuations reconstructed from ice cores can also be explained by local climate changes in the southern hemisphere.
Thomas Laepple explained the significance of the new findings: "Our results are interesting because they may lead us out of a scientific dead end. The question of whether and how climate activity in the northern hemisphere is linked to that in the southern hemisphere is one of the most exciting scientific issues in connection with our understanding of climate change."
Thus far many researchers have attempted to explain historical Earth climate data from Antarctica on the basis of Milankovitch's classic hypothesis.
"To date, it hasn't been possible to plausibly substantiate all aspects of this hypothesis, however," stated Laepple. "Now the game is open again and we can try to gain a better understanding of the long-term physical mechanisms that influence the alternation of ice ages and warm periods."
"Moreover, we were able to show that not only data from ice cores, but also data from marine sediments display similar shifts in certain seasons. That's why there are still plenty of issues to discuss regarding further interpretation of palaeoclimate data," said Gerrit Lohmann.
The AWI physicists emphasise that a combination of high-quality data and models can provide insights into climate change. "Knowledge about times in the distant past helps us to understand the dynamics of the climate. Only in this way will we learn how the Earth's climate has changed and how sensitively it reacts to changes," added Lohmann.
To avoid misunderstandings, a final point is very important for the AWI scientists. The new study does not call into question that the currently observed climate change has, for the most part, anthropogenic causes. Cyclic changes, as those examined in the "Nature" publication, take place in phases lasting tens of thousand or hundreds of thousands of years. The drastic emission of anthropogenic climate gases within a few hundred years adds to the natural rise in greenhouse gases after the last ice age and is unique for the last million years. How the climate system, including the complex physical and biological feedbacks, will develop in the long run is the subject of current research at the Alfred Wegener Institute.
A better system for analyzing the costs of bringing in climate change measures will soon be at hand for policy makers.
The assessment of climate change mitigation cost is going to be improved. Teams of researchers from 12 countries will run their energy-economy-climate computer models against each other. The aim is to make the prognoses more informative for policy-makers who want to bring about long-term emission reductions or promote low carbon technology.
"Assessments of mitigation cost need a broader foundation," explained Elmar Kriegler from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). He is leading the model comparison project together with PIK's chief economist Ottmar Edenhofer.
"We will analyse in detail how a variety of assumptions – e.g. concerning future climate policy and available mitigation options – affect the mitigation scenarios, their feasibility and cost," added Kriegler.
There are 21 partners from China, India, Japan and nine European countries involved in the three-year project led by PIK. It is sponsored by the European Union's seventh framework programme. Some of the researcher's simulations run on a simple laptop computer for only a few hours, others require days of calculations on high performance computers – illustrating the large differences between those models. "By comparing these differences, we will turn them into a strength", Kriegler says.
Four challenges are to be tackled by the project:
(1) Feedbacks in the climate's reaction to greenhouse gas emissions – for instance the release of methane from thawing permafrost soil – could have considerable impacts on climate change mitigation. The importance of such feedbacks for mitigation strategies will be investigated.
(2) The role of individual abatement technologies and the planning horizon of policy makers and the energy sector will be analysed. A key question here is whether - and at what cost - long-term climate protection targets can be achieved with limited technology options and short-term planning horizons.
(3) The relevance of fragmented climate policy such as limited regional or sectoral participation in climate policy regimes will be looked into. This issue is currently a major concern for decision-makers - decreasing demand for fossil fuels in some countries or industries will drive down their prices thereby increasing demand in unregulated countries or industries.
Finally (4), the implications of decarbonisation scenarios for Europe will be explored.
"To achieve the transformation from the fossil fuel era to a low carbon future, decision-makers need this kind of information," commented the project's co-leader Edenhofer.
The scientists have named the project AMPERE, the acronym stands for Assessment of Climate Change Mitigation Pathways and Evaluation of Robustness of Mitigation Cost Estimates. "You can already guess at the size of the task from the project's name", added Edenhofer
New speed limits enforced as part of a plan by the Spanish government to reduce fuel and energy costs.
From yesterday, Spanish drivers found new speed limitation signs on their motorways. From now on the speed limit is 110 km per hour, a reduction of 10 km per hour. Motorway workers all the over the country worked through the night, updating the signs ready for the controversial change.
The slowdown enforced by the Spanish government is an effort to save energy and is a response to the surge in oil prices brought on by current crises in the Middle East and North African countries. Spain is heavily dependent on imported fuel and 13% of its oil usually comes from Libya. The change in the speed limit is estimated to result in a 15% saving in fuel. Despite this, Spanish drivers haven't taken kindly to the change.
Deputy Prime Minister Alfred Pérez Rubalcaba backed the government's decisions in an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais: "Sometimes it is necessary to take measures, even if they are unpopular. We are going to go a bit slower and in exchange we will consume less petrol and pay less money."
The new speed limits could also help Spain to reduce its numbers of deaths in road traffic accidents further. Once one of the worst countries in Europe for road fatalities, the number of fatal accidents in Spain dropped 52% between 2001 and 2009. The temporary slowdown, which is expected to last till July, could bring this figure even lower than the 1,730 killed in road accidents in 2010.
Other measures introduced at the same time with the aim of cutting the country's energy bill by EUR 2.3 million per year consist of subsidising the cost of energy-efficient car tyres, installing energy-saving light bulbs in municipal buildings and a 5% cut in the price of tickets on commuter trains.
A public awareness campaign will run alongside these changes to alert people to the need to conserve energy.
The European Commission is to grant an additional EUR 2 million to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services in its Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories.
The rapid depletion of biodiversity is a pressing issue. Species are being lost at an unprecedented rate as a result of human activities, with irreversible consequences for our future. The EU has therefore released a statement saying it "wants to help combat this and is stepping up its contribution to avert global biodiversity loss. Promoting the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services at the international level is one of the targets of our upcoming biodiversity strategy."
The funding will be going to BEST, the Voluntary scheme for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Territories of European Overseas to fund pilot projects in these areas, which are home to exceptional biodiversity, and host more endemic species than the whole of continental Europe combined. The financial support was originally suggested by the European Parliament.
The BEST scheme will step up the financial means to protect biodiversity and promote the sustainable use of ecosystem services in Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories, with a view to reconciling the environmental and development needs of these areas.
The voluntary scheme aims to develop solutions that maintain healthy and resilient ecosystems and reduce the pressures on biodiversity. The financing will support the designation and management of protected areas and the restoration of degraded ecosystems, promoting natural solutions to fight climate change, including the restoration of mangroves and the protection of coral reefs.
The scheme will also encourage partnerships between local administrations, civil society, researchers, land-owners and the private sector. It should serve to reinforce cooperation on environment and climate change issues, in line with the objectives of the ongoing environmental session of the EU OCT Forum being held in Noumea, New Caledonia.
The European Commission plans to launch a call for proposals in May 2011 for projects that wish to apply for funding. The projects will showcase the scheme and will prepare the ground for a governance structure with a view to longer term support. The scheme will build on existing sites and networks and take on board previous projects.
EU Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories are located around the globe, and are home to exceptional biodiversity. Situated in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans at a range of latitudes, these entities are very rich in biodiversity and play host to more endemic species (species that are exclusive to a restricted geographical area) than are found on the whole of continental Europe.
After massive sales problems, the introduction of new bio-fuel E10 to petrol stations throughout Germany has been stopped while new consumer data is collected.
E10 is currently available in nearly half of Germany's 15,000 petrol stations. Drivers, however, seem unwilling to buy into the launch so jeopardizing the biofuel's future.
The industry considers the introduction of bio-fuels as inevitable. "The system will burst otherwise," said the chief executive of the mineral oil industry federation (MWV), Klaus Picard, when questioned about oil shortages and alternative fuels.
Some 93% of all cars in Germany can be run on E10 and that figure rises to 99% in German-produced cars. Bearing this in mind, initial market research for its introduction looked good.
E10 has so far been introduced as a replacement to the conventional "super" fuel in the east and south of the country. It is selling at 2 cents a litre below the price of super as an incentive for drivers to try it. At the service stations already offering E10, the new fuel will remain on sale. Mr Picard is awaiting news of overall sales before widening the range of E10 into the planned remaining regions.
The major problem with the launch according to the Head of the Federal Association of German bioethanol industry, Norbert Schindler, is "inadequate consumer information". "Drivers are expected to find out about compatibility themselves through the Deutsche Automobil Treuhand website."
The introduction of biofuels such as E10 is intended to make Germany less dependent on oil while protecting the environment. The E10-launch also fulfills fuels specifications set by the EU to be taken on board by member states.
Air pollution cited as one of the top five triggers of heart attacks.
These are the findings of an article in the medical journal Lancet, written by Dr Tim S Nawrot of Hasselt University, Belgium, and colleagues.
Other heart attack triggers include anger, positive emotions, sexual activity, cocaine or marijuana use and respiratory infections.
The authors combined data from 36 separate studies with a mean participant age ranging from 44 years for cocaine and marijuana use to 72 years for respiratory infection studies. The authors calculated the relative risk posed by each trigger, and the population-attributable fraction (PAF) of each, meaning the proportion of total heart attacks estimated to have been caused by that trigger.
Air pollution increased the risk of triggering a heart attack by 5%, while cocaine increased the risk by 23 times. Coffee increased the risk by 1.5 times and alcohol by 3 times. However, since the entire population is exposed to air pollution, and only a tiny fraction (0.02%) is exposed to cocaine, air pollution triggers many more heart attacks than cocaine.
The highest PAF was estimated for traffic exposure (time on the road/public transport) (7.4%), followed by physical exertion (6.2%), alcohol (5.0%), coffee (5.0%), air pollution defined by increased heavy particles in the air (4.8%), negative emotions (3.9%), anger (3.1%), heavy meal (2.7%), positive emotions (2.4%), sexual activity (2.2%), cocaine use (0.9%), marijuana smoking (0.8%) and respiratory infections (0.6%).
The authors say: "Of the triggers for heart attack studied, cocaine is the most likely to trigger an event in an individual, but traffic has the greatest population effect as more people are exposed to the trigger...PAFs give a measure of how much disease would be avoided if the risk was no longer present."
The authors note that substantial decreases in air pollution will be required in most cities to meet WHO standards for protecting public health. They conclude: "Our work shows that ever-present small risks might have considerable public health relevance...Improvement of the air we breathe is a very relevant target to reduce the incidence of this disease in the general population."