Weekly Environmental News, April 29-May 5 – Honeybee Protection, Carbon Dioxide Milestone and More

In the news last week, Europe protects honeybees, carbon dioxide soon to pass 400 ppm,  the journal Nature examines the impact of GM crops, and former U.S. officials oppose a road through a wildlife refuge in Alaska. Plus, how fracking could ratchet up water stress out West, and development could actually help boost biodiversity in Africa.

Europe Bans Pesticides in Move to Protect Honeybees, U.S. Issues New Report
The European Union will ban three pesticides starting in December, according to NPR. A report earlier this year from the European Food Safety Authority found that the neonicotinoid pesticides presented a risk to bees exposed to pollen, dust or nectar from treated crops. Meanwhile, a new U.S. government report on colony collapse disorder blames bee deaths on a range of factors, including pesticides, parasites, poor nutrition and a lack of genetic diversity. U.S. researchers found residue from 100 chemicals on dead bees and rejected the idea of banning any single pesticide or class of them.

Global Carbon Dioxide Level Nears Worrisome Milestone
Daily carbon dioxide concentration measurements at Mauna Loa will pass 400 parts per million at some point during the next month. Since measurements began there in 1958, longer than any other spot on Earth, they’ve increased steadily from 316 ppm and show no signs of leveling off.

Case Studies: A Hard Look at GM Crops
Twenty years after first being commercialized, genetically modified (GM) crops still stir up controversy. A special issue of Nature examines GM crops, including this story exploring three key questions: Are GM crops fueling the rise of herbicide-resistant ‘superweeds’? Are they driving farmers in India to suicide? And are the foreign transgenes in GM crops spreading into other plants? The answers aren’t always clear-cut.

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

Mt. Frosty, a volcano, seen from Grant Point in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. (Creative Commons image “Mt. Frosty Reflection” courtesy of ak_odonata via Flickr. Credit listed as: Lisa Matlock).

Babbitt, Clark Oppose Road Through Alaskan Wildlife Refuge
In an op-ed piece published by the Washington Post last week, former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt and Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jamie Rappoport Clark, argued against building a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, not only because it would devastate the refuge and cost taxpayers $3 million, but also because Interior addressed the issue in 1998. The state’s congressional delegation says a road is needed to provide residents of remote King’s Cove better access to an air strip in case of medical emergency. However, Babbitt and Clark point out that 15 years ago, Interior funded a hovercraft ferry for this purpose.

Spread of Hydrofracking Likely to Increase Strain on Water Resources in West
A new report from the non-profit group Ceres shows that fracking in drought-stricken areas from Fort Worth, Texas, to western Colorado could put huge pressures on already stressed water supplies. In one example, the report notes 92 percent of fracking wells in western Colorado are in areas with high levels of water stress.

Study Finds Economic Development ‘Can Restore Lost Biodiversity’ in Africa
A new report from the Center for International Development Research and Studies (CERDI), in France found that economic development in sub-Saharan Africa — measured by gross domestic product adjusted for cost of living — correlates with an increase in bird conservation.

(The top image is a Creative Commons image, “Honeybee in the sun,” courtesy of wolfpix via Flickr.)

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