Trump has a great opportunity to save our environment

From: Andrew King and Michael Toffel

Published: January 23, 2017

President Donald Trump has announced that he will work to roll back environmental laws and regulations with the hope of improving the U.S. economy and standard of living. We feel compelled to report that such an attempt is likely to backfire.

Environmental regulations have provided enormous benefits to U.S. citizens and have positioned American businesses to lead in markets, including those in China, where environmental concerns are growing. If President Trump wants to help Americans, he should not concede U.S. leadership and direct a retreat to the position of a laggard country. Rather, he should strengthen the United States’ position as a leader and inspire others to follow.

We are not blind to the existence of some burdensome and ineffective environmental regulations, and we recognize the need for some reassessment. For the most part, however, the benefit of existing regulations has far exceeded the cost. The nonpartisan federal Office of Management and Budget has calculated that the rules imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the decade ending 2012 yielded benefits 10 times their costs—a ratio better than all of the other federal agencies they reviewed.

 

Read more at The Hill

China to Launch ‘Environmental Police’ Force

From: Al Jazeera
Published: January 8, 2017

World’s largest greenhouse gas emitter will deploy squad targeting polluters to combat toxic air crisis.

China has announced plans to set up an “environmental police” force responsible for enforcing pollution restrictions across the capital Beijing in a bid to improve the city’s notorious air quality.

Cai Qi, who is both the deputy chief of the country’s ruling party and mayor of Beijing, promised to impose tougher measures in the city’s 16 districts to combat a long-standing and widespread toxic smog problem that has brought “harm” to people’s lives.

“Open-air barbecues, garbage incineration, biomass burning, dust from roads – these acts of non-compliance with regulations are actually the result of lax supervision and weak law enforcement,” Cai was quoted by the Xinuhua news agency as saying.

Read more at Al Jazeera

Ready to Defend Obama’s Environmental Legacy? Top 10 Accomplishments to Focus On

From: Keith Gaby – Environmental Defense Fund
Published: January 12, 2017

If you ever wonder whether the political process can yield real results for the environment, President Barack Obama has your answer. Having a leader committed to clean energy, climate progress, and protecting our natural heritage in the White House for the past eight years has resulted in major achievements.

While advocates always want more, President Obama’s environmental legacy is impressive. It is, along with the accomplishments of the Nixon Administration, the most consequential of any president in our history. Obama leaves a better, cleaner, more sustainable world for all of our kids.

Here’s one advocate’s view of the president’s top 10 environmental accomplishments (in no particular order):

1. National climate progress

His Clean Power Plan was the first ever national limit on carbon pollution from its largest source. It sent a signal to states and utilities, which is now transforming the way we produce energy. The president also used his office to educate Americans about the dangers of climate change with major speeches and TV appearances. He leaned in.

2. An international climate agreement

President Obama’s diplomatic leadership, and work with China, led to a long-sought global agreement among 195 nations to reduce climate pollution.

3. Pollution limits for power plants

The Obama Administration put in place overdue pollution limits for power plant smokestacks. These are major sources of air toxics like mercury, as well sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which lead to smog, soot, and acid rain pollution.

4. Reducing air pollution from oil and gas operations

We now have common sense protections for oil and gas development that avoid waste and protect public health and the environment by reducing emissions of smog-forming pollution while conserving a valuable domestic energy resource. These safeguards reduce methane, which drives one-quarter of current global warming, and save almost $2 billion worth of American energy.

5. Cleaner cars and trucks

The Obama EPA enhanced fuel efficiency and sensible pollution standards for vehicles. Consumers are saving money at the same time that we’re reducing greenhouse gas emissions, our communities are breathing cleaner air, and auto manufacturing in America is resurgent. Cars are now on a path to average over 50 miles per gallon.

6. Clean energy investment

Way back in 2009, the “stimulus” package not only helped us out of the Great Recession, it invested billions in clean energy technology. These programs have paid for themselves and made the American government $1 billion in interest payments, while also helping to make wind and solar energy more affordable in the last eight years, as deployment has soared.

7. Chemical safety

The president signed the first major environmental law in two decades, passed with bipartisan support, fixing our broken chemical safety system.

8. Sustainable agriculture, western water, and endangered species

The President established regional Climate Hubs and several initiatives to help farmers, ranchers and rural communities combat climate change and adapt to extreme weather. He signed a landmark agreement with Mexico providing greater flexibility in the management and restoration of the Colorado River, which allowed the river to reach the sea for the first time in decades. And he brought industry, environmentalists and private landowners together across 11 states to voluntarily protect the greater sage grouse and avoid a listing.

9. Fisheries rebound

Through strong implementation of revisions to the national fisheries law, under President Obama the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reduced overfishing and recovered a record number of fisheries in US waters. Catch shares now govern more than half the volume of fish landed in the United States and have prompted the dramatic recovery of previously overfished species such as Gulf of Mexico red snapper and several Pacific rockfishes.

10. Protecting our natural heritage

The president has preserved 260 million acres for future generations, more than any of his predecessors, by designating 19 national monuments. He signed into law and began implementing the RESTORE Act, the nation’s largest-ever commitment to protect and restore the Gulf Coast.

The best way to honor these accomplishments is to protect and defend them. Can we do so in a Trump Administration? If we are relentless in our activism, yes we can.

Read more at Environmental Defense Fund

Composite Material for Water Purification: Removal of Multiple Contaminants From Water by Supported Ionic Liquid Phases

From: Wiley
Published: January 13, 2017

Fresh, clean water coming directly from the tap is a true luxury. In developing countries, people often have no choice but to use a contaminated river for drinking water. Water filters can help by quickly converting polluted surface or ground water into safe drinking water. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, researchers have now introduced a novel multifunctional composite material that removes inorganic, organic, radioactive, and microbial impurities from water.

Usually, water purification involves a series of filters, each designed to remove a single type of impurity. In contrast, this new filter material is an all-rounder. Scientists from the Universities of Ulm (Germany) and Zaragoza (Spain) have now seized upon a relatively new approach for designing materials, which allows molecular components to be assembled into multifunctional composites called SILP materials (supported ionic liquid phases). An ionic liquid is a salt that is melted at room temperature, making it liquid without being dissolved in a solvent. When such an ionic liquid is adsorbed onto a solid substrate it forms a solid composite material with properties that can be selectively tuned through chemical modification.

The researchers led by Scott G. Mitchell and Carsten Streb have now produced the first SILPs based on polyoxometallates (POM). POMs are molecular transition metal-oxygen clusters in which the metal atoms are bridged by oxygen atoms to form a three-dimensional network. For the new filter materials, they selected polyoxotungstate anions. These anions have a binding site which can trap heavy metal ions. The counterions they selected are voluminous tetraalkylammonium cations known for their antimicrobial effect. The resulting ionic liquids are hydrophobic, immiscible with water, and form stable thin layers on surfaces. By using a porous silicon dioxide support, the researchers obtained dry, free-flowing powders that are easy to transport and handle.

In laboratory experiments, the anions of the new composites reliably removed lead, nickel, copper, chromium, and cobalt ions. Radioactive uranium in the form of UO22+ was trapped directly by the silicon dioxide support. Similarly, the water-soluble blue trityl dye commonly used in the textile industry was also removed as a result of the lipophilic character of the ionic liquid. The antimicrobial cations effectively halt the growth of E. coli. bacteria.

The researchers hope that their new “POM-SILP” filter materials will form the basis for the development of contaminant-specific chemically designed filter systems that can be used for the reliable purification of water in remote areas and developing nations, as well as after natural disasters and chemical accidents.

Read more at Wiley

Global Climate Target Could Net Additional Six Million Tons of Fish Annually

From: The University of British Columbia
Published: December 22, 2016

If countries abide by the Paris Agreement global warming target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, potential fish catches could increase by six million metric tons per year, according to a new study published in Science.

The researchers also found that some oceans are more sensitive to changes in temperature and will have substantially larger gains from achieving the Paris Agreement.

“The benefits for vulnerable tropical areas is a strong reason why 1.5 C is an important target to meet,” said lead author William Cheung, director of science at the Nippon Foundation-UBC Nereus Program and associate professor at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries.

“Countries in these sensitive regions are highly dependent on fisheries for food and livelihood, but all countries will be impacted as the seafood supply chain is now highly globalized. Everyone would benefit from meeting the Paris Agreement.”

The authors compared the Paris Agreement 1.5 C warming scenario to the currently pledged 3.5 C by using computer models to simulate changes in global fisheries and quantify losses or gains. They found that for every degree Celsius decrease in global warming, potential fish catches could increase by more than three metric million tons per year. Previous UBC research shows that today’s global fish catch is roughly 109 million metric tons.

Read more at The University of British Columbia

Northeast U.S. Temperatures are Decades Ahead of Global Average

From: University of Massachusetts Amherst
Published: January 11, 2017

UMass Amherst climate scientists say Northeast will warm sooner than most of U.S.

AMHERST, Mass. – Results of a new study by researchers at the Northeast Climate Science Center (NECSC) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst suggest that temperatures across the northeastern United States will increase much faster than the global average, so that the 2-degrees Celsius warming target adopted in the recent Paris Agreement on climate change will be reached about 20 years earlier for this part of the U.S. compared to the world as a whole.

NECSC postdoctoral researcher Ambarish Karmalkar and geosciences professor Raymond Bradley’s study explores how climate across the U.S. will be affected by the recent Paris agreement to limit global average temperatures to no more than 1.5 degrees C, or 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. Details appear in the current issue of PLOS ONE, released today.

Bradley says, “With the signing of the Paris Agreement to try and limit greenhouse gas emissions, many people have been lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that the 2-degrees C target is somehow a ‘safe’ limit for climate change. But the 2 C number is a global average, and many regions will warm more, and warm more rapidly, than the earth as a whole. Our study shows that the northeast United States is one of those regions where warming will proceed very rapidly, so that if and when the global target is reached, we will already be experiencing much higher temperatures, with all of the related ecological, hydrological and agricultural consequences.”

Read more at University of Massachusetts Amherst