Coal power plant

Weekly Environmental News, June 23-29 – Obama’s climate change plan, storm suppression, dirty beaches and more

Last week President Obama unveiled a plan to curb carbon emissions, a new study showed how air pollution may have reduced the frequency of large storms, an environmental group published a list of the cleanest and dirtiest beaches, the World Bank expressed worries about the impacts of climate change on the global food system, and a group unveiled a huge new seismic data set that could improve earthquake forecasting.

Obama Bypasses Congress With Ambitious Climate Change Plan
President Obama announced a plan to impose tighter carbon dioxide emission controls on coal- and gas-fired utilities and establish strict conditions for approval of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The new energy secretary, Ernest Moniz, said he was optimistic Obama’s plan could reduce emissions in the short term.

Air Pollution May Have Suppressed Storms, Research Suggests
Researchers at Britain’s meteorological service published a paper in Nature Geoscience showing how industrial pollution from Europe and North America may have altered clouds in ways that cooled the ocean surface, reducing the frequency of tropical storms over the 20th century. However, pollution (atmospheric aerosols) declined in the late 20th century as governments pushed to clean the air. At the same time, tropical storms increased in frequency. This new study raises the possibility that external factors, particularly anthropogenic aerosols, could be the dominant cause of historical tropical storm variability.

A Look at the Nastiest and Cleanest U.S. Beaches
NPR had a blog post about the annual beach-health report card released by the Natural Resources Defense Council this week. The report provides two sets of rankings: by individual beach, and by overall beach-water quality in each state. Alabama, Delaware and Maryland boasted some of the best beaches, while Indiana, New Jersey and New York had beaches on the dirtiest list. You can learn about results in your state and use an interactive map at the NRDC report site here.

World Bank Says Global Food System Vulnerable to Climate Change
Bloomberg.com reports the world will need to produce 70 percent more food by 2050 to feed a global population expected to grow to more than 9 billion from 7 billion. Demand for food is also growing because people in developing nations are acquiring more wealth and eating more meat. A World Bank official said, “It will continue to be a challenge to raise agricultural productivity in a resilient way in the face of climate change.” for food keeps growing as people in developing nations acquire more wealth and eat more meat.

New Seismic Data Set Could Improve Earthquake Forecasting
ScienceNow reported about an international public-private partnership intended to reshape the science of earthquake forecasting. The Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Foundation revealed major components of its approach this week: the largest seismic database of its kind ever constructed, based on tens of thousands of earthquake records stretching back more than 1000 years; and a new global map of strain accumulation at plate boundaries. According to ScienceNow, GEM hopes to develop better ways to calculate both seismic hazard—the probability that earthquakes will occur over the next 50 years—and seismic risk, the casualties and economic losses likely to result.

(Creative Commons Image “Coal power plant” courtesy of peggydavis66 on Flickr.)

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