Archive for Environment

Air and Water Pollution Cause Millions of Deaths Every Year

According to the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, “Pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today. Diseases caused by pollution were responsible for an estimated 9 million premature deaths in 2015—16% of all deaths worldwide—three times more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined and 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence.” (Summary) This report examines the causes of the problems and makes recommendations on remediation. Numerous references and graphics supplement this work; related articles are also indicated. (Free registration is required.)

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Happy Earth Day from New Jersey!

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EPA Administrator Pruitt’s Close Relationship With Energy Companies

This cache of over 7000 pages of emails outlines the very close relations EPA Administraor Pruitt had with energy companies while he was Oklahoma Attorney General and fighting federal environmental regulations. These communications between him, his staff, and oil company executives paint a picture that has troubling implications for the future of the environment.

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Full Text of “Clean Power Plan” Rule

It is here along with the rule history, technical documents, fact sheets, and toolbox for various communities.

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EPA Report on Fracking and Its Impact on Water

The 1000 page report – Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources – and its more readable executive summary have just been published. Both sides of this question claim victory; here is FactCheck’s summation.

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The Imminent Loss of Large Herbivores

We count ourselves privileged to have seen close up the beauty of elephants, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, and other large plant-eating animals. Sadly, due to humanity’s incessant demands and practices, these large animals are threatened with extinction in the not-too-distant future; already, many are present on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. The article Collapse of the world’s largest herbivores in Science Advances makes for sobering reading and is one of the first reviews of this dire state of affairs.

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Deepwater Horizon Five Years After

On April 20, 2010 the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began; it took three months to finally cap the flow of oil. In that time period, over 200,000,000 gallons were released into the ocean. Five years later: what have we learned? it such an occurrence either preventable or stoppable? what are the long-term effects or has not enough time passed to truly gauge the extent of the ecological damage? what other energy options are currently available to prevent more deepsea drilling? (A point of transparency here. We worked for a major oil company back in the day and have firsthand experience of North Sea oil platforms and deepsea drilling rigs.) For reports that address these and other topics, we recommend: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (an ongoing series from NOAA); The BP Oil Disaster Five Years Later (Diane Rehm Show, April 19, 2015); Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Recent Activities and Ongoing Developments (CRS, May 12, 2014); 5 years after BP spill, drillers push into riskier depths (Houston Chronicle with this observation: “…drillers have been hit by a steady string of “well losses,” reportable incidents when a drilling operation temporarily loses control of a well. Since the Macondo blowout [Deepwater Horizon], 22 such incidents have been reported to authorities.”); An Ecosystem Services Approach to Assessing the Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico (National Academies Press 2013, also consult its Deepwater Horizon Collection of documents); Double, double, oil and trouble (The Economist, April 17, 2015); Emerging from Deepwater (Royal Society of Chemistry, April 20, 2015 with important links); Using Natural Abundance Radiocarbon To Trace the Flux of Petrocarbon to the Seafloor Following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (Environmental Science & Technology, web publication, 12-12-14); Gulf of Mexico Environmental Recovery and Restoration (BP, March 2015); Rebuttal to the BP report (Natural Resources Damage Assessment Trustees, March 16, 2015); Deepwater Disaster: Five Years On (Huffington Post, April 18, 2015); BP oil spill plus 5: Why it’ll happen again (The Washington Post, April 20, 2015); and Deepwater Horizon five years later (podcast, Science, April 3, 2015).

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Recent Reports on the Water Sector

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Water Scarcity Still Rated as Top Risk

The World Risks 2015 from the World Economic Forum ranks “water crises” as the top global risk in terms of impact (Table 1, executive summary). The report goes on to state how environmental risks have increased over time : “The nexus of food, water, energy and climate change has been identified by the US National Intelligence Council as one of four overarching mega trends that will shape the world in 2030.” (Referencing the NIC’s Global Trends 2030)

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How Clean Are New Jersey Beaches?

As people travel to the Jersey shore this summer, they can be comforted by the fact that New Jersey ranks #3 in the nation (out of 30 states listed) in cleanliness of its beach water. In fact, New Jersey contains more “superstar beaches” than any other state. The Natural Resources Defense Council issued Testing the Waters 2014: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation beaches that compiled statistical information the states have on their beach quality. State rankings are found in the executive summary. See how your state fared.

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Clean Power Plan Released

Today the Environmental Protection Administration released its Clean Power Plan, one of President Obama’s steps to curb excess carbon pollution and fight climate change. Climate Change and President Obama’s Action Plan from The White House provides the overarching blueprint for his proposals. Here is a Q&A from The Wall Street Journal along with this informative article from The New York Times.

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Water and Security

We quote from the DNI’s US Intelligence Community Worldwide Threat Assessment, February 4, 2014:

Risks to freshwater suppliesdue to shortages, poor quality, floods, and climate changeare growing. These forces will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and generate energy, potentially undermining global food markets and hobbling economic growth. As a result of demographic and economic development pressures, North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia particularly will particularly face difficulty coping with water problems. Lack of adequate water is a destabilizing factor in developing countries that do not have the management mechanisms, financial resources, or technical ability to solve their internal water problems. Other states are further stressed by heavy dependence on river water controlled by upstream nations with unresolved water-sharing issues. Wealthier developing countries will probably face increasing water-related, social disruptions, although they are capable of addressing water problems without risk of state failure. Historically, water tensions have led to more water-sharing agreements than to violent conflicts. However, where water-sharing agreements are ignored or when infrastructure development for electric power generation or agriculture is seen as a threat to water resources, states tend to exert leverage over their neighbors to preserve their water interests. This leverage has been applied in international forums and has included pressuring investors, nongovernmental organizations, and donor countries to support or halt water infrastructure projects. In addition, some local, nonstate terrorists or extremists will almost certainly target vulnerable water infrastructure in places to achieve their objectives and use water-related grievances as recruiting and fundraising tools. (10)

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Environmental Risks Among Highest in WEF Report

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has just issued its Global Risks 2014. Environmental concerns appear three times in the top ten risk list: water crises (#3); failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation (#5); and greater incidence of extreme weather events (#6). As the report states: “This illustrates a continued and growing awareness of the global water crisis as a result of mismanagement and increased competition for already scarce water resources from economic activity and population growth. Coupled with extreme weather events such as floods and droughts, which appears sixth on the list, the potential impacts are real and happening today.” (5) This is followed by an analysis from the Global Agenda Council on Water Security.(Its site is here.) This document just reinforces the importance of water security in the world. TowersWatson issued its Extreme Risks Report in 2013 where water scarcity was at the top of its list as well.

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What is a Polar Vortex?

Down in these parts of the United States, a polar vortex or cyclone is a rare event indeed. For an explanation of this phenomenon, please peruse this NASA page – What is the Polar Vortex? Additional information can be obtained at: Patterns in Arctic Weather and Climate (National Snow & Ice Data Center); Polar Vortex (Encyclopedia of the Arctic); Polar Vortex (American Meterological Society); Frigid air from the North Pole: What’s this polar vortex? (CNN); and The Polar Vortex (Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics). And this occurrence is not limited to Earth; from NASA comes this photo and video of a polar vortex on Saturn’s moon Titan.

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The Most Endangered Rivers in This Country

With rivers supplying 60% of our drinking water (River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey, 1), it is disconcerting to remark that this precious resource has been taking considerable hits of late. Silting, poor water management policies, pollution, and  excessive drawdowns have all contributed to some rivers being labeled “endangered.”  This year’s list is led by the Colorado River, a river so abused that barely any water reaches its mouth. The report, issued by the advocacy group American Rivers, focuses on ten rivers in trouble; none, thankfully, in our part of the country. Additional information can be found at the National Academy of Sciences River Basin Systems with links to online books and reports; Rivers and Lakes from Nature Conservancy; and Hudson River Water Quality (Riverkeeper).

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Environmental Status of Every Country

The 2012 edition of the Little Green Data Book from World Bank provides an overview of the environmental conditions for every country in the world. This year’s edition has as its focus the ocean and what impact environmental degradations have on it and the implications of such actions. This volume presents the information in several ways:  individual country profiles, regional analyses, and income groupings. The data include, among others: forests and biodiversity (including deforestation and threatened species); energy and emissions (including the per capita amount of CO2 emissions); and water and sanitation. Older volumes back to 2001 are here. Other sources of similar information include Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index and the CIA’s World Factbook (under the Geography section). And do not forget this 2010 article: Evaluating the Relative Environmental Impact of Countries.

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