Tuesday, February 28, 2006
The World Health Organization indicates that as the H5N1 virus mutates, it is becoming more deadly to poultry, but not necessarily more likely to be transmitted to human beings or more risky to human beings. WHO
The virus, which has spread in recent months from Asia into Russia, Africa and western Europe, has so far killed more than 90 people and forced the slaughter of millions of birds. Western Europe is on high alert - since Germany, Austria, France and Italy have cases in wild birds. 11 nations worldwide reported outbreaks over the past three weeks, an indication that the virus, which has killed at least 92 people, is spreading faster. "The recent appearance of the virus in birds in a rapidly growing number of countries is of public health concern," it said. "It expands opportunities for human exposures and infections to occur.">
The danger was increased when the virus jumped from wild to domestic birds, which was easiest when poultry lived in close contact with humans, as in Africa and parts of Asia. Although H5N1 remains difficult for humans to catch, scientists fear it could mutate to be easily passed from person to person and trigger a pandemic in which millions could die.
Majority of Americans Support an Increased Gas Tax Earmarked to Reduce Oil Dependence and Global Warming
Americans are not keen for new taxes: 85% oppose a general increase in the federal gasoline tax. However, a NYT poll indicates 55 % support a gas tax increase if it reduces dependence on foreign oil and 59% favor a tax increase if it reduces gasoline consumption and global warming. Comments by those polled suggest that ear-marking the receipts would be an effective means to achieve the desired results.
A study by Bell, et al of Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies indicates that air meeting EPA's current ozone NAAQS — 80 parts per billion — can still cause a significantly increased risk of premature death. Study Abstract (nih.gov). Even 10 parts per billion in ozone concentrations causes a 0.3 percent increase in early mortality, which amounts to 2000 excess deaths per year in New York City alone. The study will be published in April in Environmental Health Perspectives. Available online EHP Web site.>
Monday, February 27, 2006
Add sugar or organic carbon compounds to the list!
Scientists have identified phosphates, nitrates, and ammonia as the most likely culprits in causing a 80% reduction in coral cover in the Carribean. These pollutants help algae grow, which compete with coral for space. However, new research by David Kline of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama suggests that carbon-induced bacterial growth may be a major problem for coral reefs.<>
Kline exposed corals to solutions of basic
chemicals found in sewage and agricultural runoff and found that 35% of corals exposed to sugar compounds died compared
to about 7% of those given nitrate or phosphate. Sugars led to an explosive growth of
coral-associated bacteria not caused by other chemicals. These lab experiments suggest that corals already under stress from warmer
water temperatures and the loss of fish and urchins that eat algae may
succumb directly to the rapid growth of the normally symbiotic
bacteria. The policy implications of this research are substantial -- sewage discharged into coastal areas should treated to reduce organic carbon levels and organic carbon levels need to be monitored along with those of other pollutants. This will be a real policy challenge because 90% of sewage dumped in the Caribbean is untreated.
Science report on coral reef research
to all of the teams who participated in the Pace University National Environmental Law Moot Court competition last week. As usual, the competition used a knotty problem written by Jeff Miller, exploring non-point source regulation and state water quality standards under the Clean Water Act, the interaction of the CWA with state and federal common law, and jurisdictional and NCP consistency issues under CERCLA. LSU won the final round, competing against University of Detroit and Washington University of St. NELMCC Winners
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Oregon Supreme Court Reinstates Law Compensating Landowners for All Losses Associated with Subsequent Land Use Regulations
The Oregon Supreme Court reversed the trial court and reinstated Measure 37. The Court rejected federal procedural and substantive due process arguments as well as Oregon constitutional arguments against the Measure.
A study by Stige et al using data from the last few decades to predict food production given climate variations suggests that food production in Africa will be seriously reduced by climate change. The effect of climate variation on agro-pastoral production in Africa - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
While five states (Texas, Alabama, Delaware, Michigan, Ohio) have already taken some action, another 30 states are considering legislative responses to Kelo. Michigan has put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Ohio put a one year moratorium in place. Proposed responses range from bans on use of eminent domain for economic development purposes to limitations on the circumstances in which it may be used to requirements that local governments pay a premium for property condemned for economic development.
I started teaching state and local government just a few years ago, so I likely thought about issues in terms of the conventional wisdom. From the standpoint of conventional wisdom, Kelo did not even seem cert worthy and the Supreme Court's ultimate decision seemed predictable. The subsequent widespread and rather virulent reaction to Kelo illustrates both the current fervor for property rights and the level of distrust of government. Who knows...revision of the public purpose doctrine may be next.
Albany Law Environmental Outlook Journal Symposium
Catastrophic Climate Change:
THE SCIENCE, THE SOCIAL COSTS, AND THE RACE FOR LEGAL REMEDIES
April 18, 2006 - 8:30am - 5:00pm / Albany Law School
New Yorker writer, author "Field Notes from a Catastrophe"
Dr. James E. Hansen
NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Amory B. Lovins
CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute, MacArthur Fellow, TIME Hero for the Planet (via video interview)
Dr. Patrick L. Kinney
Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
Prof. John Dernbach
Widener University School of Law
Prof. Nicholas Robinson
Pace Law School
Prof. David Driesen
Syracuse Univ. College of Law
Peter Lehner, Esq.
NYS Attorney General's Office
Angus Macbeth, Esq.
Sidley Austin, LLP, Washington, D.C.
Dale Bryk, Esq.
Senior Attorney, NRDC
Donald Goldberg, Esq.
Senior Attorney, Center for International Environmental Law
Directory, Insurance Program, CERES
Senior Policy Advisor, Energy Project, Pace Center for Environmental Legal Studies
James A. Sevinsky, Esq.
Senior Counsel, Environment, Health, & Safety, GE Infrastructure, Energy
Co-sponsored by the ABA Section of Environment, Energy, & Resources, the New York State Bar Association Environmental Law Section, and the Government Law Center of Albany Law School
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Announcing Nature Nanotechnology –
first issue October 2006
Nature Nanotechnology announcement
Launching in October 2006, Nature
Nanotechnology will publish top-quality
research papers in all areas of
nanoscience and nanotechnology. The journal
will cover research into the design,
characterization and production of structures,
devices and systems that involve
the manipulation and control of materials
and phenomena at atomic, molecular and
Coverage will extend from basic research
in physics, chemistry and biology, including
computational work and simulations,
through to the development of new materials,
devices and technologies for
applications in a wide range
of industrial sectors
(including information technology,
and energy and environmental technologies).
Each issue will also contain review articles,
news and views, reports highlighting important
papers published in other journals, commentary
To find out more about Nature Nanotechnology including
the aims and scope click here.
Scope of Nature Nanotechnology
Register here today to receive the e-mail
newsletter and, upon publication, the e-mail
table of contents (e-TOC).
For a non-governmental study on the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, see Sylves article in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Scinece. President Bush and Hurricane Katrina: A Presidential Leadership Study
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Science reports on the movement of bird flu into the EU and Africa. Many worry that "Beset by disease, poverty, and a lack of infrastructure, Africa is ill-equipped to deal with H5N1." AVIAN INFLUENZA: H5N1 Moves Into Africa, European Union, Deepening Global Crisis. On the good news front, the virus does not appear to be evolving quickly, which may make it an unlikely candidate for a human pandemic.
For those of you interested in the topic, see CIDRAP facts on H5N1
Sea level changes associated with Greenland ice loss accelerating and likely higher than previous estimates
Science published a report today from Rignot and Kanagaratnam indicating that Greenland's mass loss has doubled during the last decade. Due to previously unaccounted for ice dynamics, Greenland's ice loss will cause more sea level change than previously expected. Greenland Ice The study concludes:
Greenland's mass loss therefore doubled in the last decade, well beyond error bounds. Its contribution to sea-level rise increased from 0.23 ± 0.08 mm/year in 1996 to 0.57 ± 0.1 mm/year in 2005. Two-thirds of the loss is caused by ice dynamics; the rest is due to enhanced runoff minus accumulation. Ice dynamics therefore dominates the contribution to sea-level rise from the Greenland Ice Sheet.
Glacier acceleration in the east probably resulted from climate warming. Temperature records at Angmassalik (65.6°N, 37.6°E) show a +3°C increase in yearly air temperature from 1981–1983 to 2003–2005. The processes that control the timing and magnitude of glacier changes are, however, not completely characterized and understood at present. Glacier accelerations have been related to enhanced surface meltwater production penetrating to the bed to lubricate its motion, and ice-shelf removal, ice-front retreat, and glacier ungrounding that reduce resistance to flow. The magnitude of the glacier response to changes in air temperature (surface melting) and ocean temperature (submarine melting at calving faces) also depends on the glacier-bed properties, geometry, and depth below sea level and the characteristics of the subglacial and englacial water-storage systems. Current models used to project the contribution to sea level from the Greenland Ice Sheet in a changing climate do not include such physical processes and hence do not account for the effect of glacier dynamics. As such, they only provide lower limits to the potential contribution of Greenland to sea-level rise. If more glaciers accelerate farther north, especially along the west coast, the mass loss from Greenland will continue to increase well above predictions.
Many of us are familiar with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers coy approach to defining practicable alternatives, both for the purposes of NEPA and for purposes of the dredge and fill permitting regulations. The applicant's definition of the purpose is allowed to narrow the alternatives considered by the agency. Now, EPA is developing an analogous approach in doing BACT analysis for CAA major source permitting in PSD areas.
In a December 13, 2005 letter, the U.S. EPA announced that integrated gasification combined cycle ("IGCC") technology need not be considered under a Clean Air Act best available control technology ("BACT") analysis for proposed pulverized coal electricity generating facilities. EPA reasoned that IGCC technology would redefine the proposed project, which Congress did not intend to require in a BACT analysis.
ABA SEER notes that this interpretation diverges from determinations in some states that, either under federal or state clean air provisions, IGCC must be considered in a BACT analysis for proposed pulverized coal power plants. This has led ABA SEER to present a teleconference on this issue on February 21st. EPA's IGCC Decision: Redefining the Project or the Clean Air Act
For those of us who make our living by research, writing, and teaching, this is a significant matter. For details, see Law Librarian Blog on War on Science - EPA Library Cuts
As readers know, the royalties of this blog are now devoted to international NGOs providing safe, clean drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene education.
The 7th Millennium Development Goal seeks to cut in half the number of people without those essentials by 2015. Current estimates are that it will cost about $ 16 billion additional per year until 2015 to accomplish that goal. I find it unbelievable that we cannot globally achieve that goal, especially when unnecessary deaths from water-borne diseases exceed 2 million, mostly children, each year. That's one child every 15 seconds.
For those of you who are members of faith-based communities, I suggest that you sponsor a DRINK WATER FOR LIFE challenge associated with your congregation. Drink water instead of lattes (sodas, bottled water, coffee, alcohol). Do it for Lent (or your appropriate analogous spiritual break). Get your friends, your synagogue or church, school or workplace to do the same. Collect the money you save, gather it together on Easter (or whatever date makes sense in your faith tradition), put it in a Water Fund, and send it to one of the organizations that do this work. With just $ 5000, an entire village of 200 - 500 people can be supplied with safe, clean, sustainable drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene education.
If you need addresses of faith-based organization who do this work, or secular charitable organizations who do this work, let me know. If you need flyers explaining the problem, let me know. Together we can make a difference.
John Bohannon of Science reported yesterday that global warming is not the only effect of carbon dioxide pollution:
Over the past century, more and more fresh river water has been spilling off the continents into the oceans. But mysteriously, no change in overall precipitation can account for this increased flow. The net loss of water is worrying because it increases the risk of drought. Scientists have suspected that human-induced climate change is to blame, but it has proved difficult to finger just where the water budget has sprung a leak.....
Rising carbon dioxide levels alone appear to have caused the leak. A statistical analysis of the simulations revealed that increasing levels of the greenhouse gas are the main driver of river run-off, but not through global warming. Instead, CO2 is acting as a plant antiperspirant. Plants respond to increased levels of the gas by letting less water evaporate through their pores--known as stomata--and consequently taking up less water from the soil. This leaves extra water in the ground, which is eventually lost to river runoff rather than keeping the air moist--which would keep it circulating as fresh water.
The study is "clear and convincing," says Ian Woodward, a climate scientist at the University of Sheffield, U.K. The effect of CO2 on plant sweating is well known from greenhouse experiments, he says, but detecting the effect on a global scale is "a major result."
February 16, 2006 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Energy, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Physical Science, Sustainability, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
The federal jury in the Rocky Flats class action awarded $ 554 million in compensatory and punitive damages against Rockwell and Dow for negligently contaminating the property of 12,000 plaintiffs with plutonium. I wonder if Rockwell and Dow have an indemnity agreement with the US.
Here's an interesting poll about Indian attitudes towards limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Link: World Public Opinion. The bottom lines: 85% consider climate change a significant threat; 69% disagree with India's position that developing nations should not be expected to limit their emissions; and 70% are willing to take steps that have economic costs, including 30% who are willing to take steps with significant economic costs.