Friday, April 3, 2009

Arctic Sea Ice Melting Fast

According to a new report by Wang and Overland in Geophysical Research Letters, the arctic sea ice is melting fast enough that it will be largely gone within 30 years.  The ice is melting so fast because arctic temperatures in the last four years have risen to a level (a 9 degree Fahrenheit increase) which was not expected to occur for another 60 years.  The sea ice reflects sunlight so the planet will heat even faster as the ice melts.  So....perhaps all of those changes that we were expecting in 2010 may be here by 2040, or earlier.

Common Dreams reports:

[Wang and Overland] expect the area covered by summer sea ice to decline from about 2.8 million      square miles normally to 620,000 square miles within 30 years.Last year's summer minimum was 1.8 million square miles in September, second lowest only to 2007 which had a minimum of 1.65 million square miles...Arctic sea ice reached its winter maximum for this year at 5.8 million square miles on Feb. 28. That was 278,000 square miles below the 1979-2000 average making it the fifth lowest on record. The six lowest maximums since 1979 have all occurred in the last six years.  Common Dreams Arctic Sea Ice

April 3, 2009 in Asia, Climate Change, Governance/Management, International, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.S. Babies Drinking Formula are Exposed to Unsafe Levels of Perchlorate

One of the joys of blogging is all the good news that various organizations share with bloggers.  However, here's a story that isn't such good news, but needs to be told.  Joaquin Sapien of Propublica, which does public interest journalism, wrote this story about the dangers of hazardous chemicals such as perchlorate in baby formula:

CDC Study Finds Rocket Fuel Chemical in Baby Formula

by Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica - April 3, 2009 3:49 pm EDT 


Perchlorate, a hazardous chemical in rocket fuel, has been found at potentially dangerous levels in powdered infant formula, according to a study [1] by a group of Centers for Disease Control scientists. The study, published last month by The Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, has intensified the years-long debate about whether or how the federal government should regulate perchlorate in the nation’s drinking water.

According to the CDC, perchlorate exposure can damage the thyroid, which can hinder brain development among infants. For nearly a decade, Democratic members of Congress, the Department of Defense, the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency have been fighting about how much perchlorate in water is too much.

In the new study, CDC scientists tested 15 brands of infant formula and found perchlorate in all of them.  The names of the brands weren’t revealed because the CDC says the study "was not designed to compare brands." But the study does say that the formulas with the highest perchlorate levels are the most popular. The most contaminated brands were lactose-based as opposed to soy-based and accounted for 87% of the infant formulas on the market in 2000, the latest data available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The study points out that when perchlorate-contaminated powdered formula is mixed with water that also contains traces of the chemical, as many drinking water sources around the country do, the final concoction can become particularly harmful to babies.

"As this unprecedented study demonstrates, infants fed cow’s milk- based powdered formula could be exposed to perchlorate from two sources – tap water and formula. That suggests that millions of American babies are potentially at risk," said Anila Jacob, a physician and a senior scientist with Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that posted the study [2] on its Web site.

In December the EPA released an interim health advisory [3] suggesting that water with a level of perchlorate limited to 15 parts per billion (ppb) is safe to drink.The level is not an enforceable standard, but is meant to provide guidance to states and local governments seeking to develop their own regulations.

Keeping perchlorate beneath that level would ensure that the amount of daily oral exposure would remain beneath a threshold called a reference dose, the EPA said. That is the amount of perchlorate humans could consistently consume over the course of a lifetime without increasing their risk of harm. Environmentalists argue that the EPA reference dose is too high.

The CDC study found that, hypothetically, 54% of infants consuming the perchlorate-contaminated formula would exceed EPA’s reference dose, if the formula were mixed with water containing perchlorate at 4 ppb.

Perchlorate has been found at that level in drinking water sources of at least 26 states and two territories, according to a study the CDC referenced in the report.

Perchlorate’s effect on individual infants will vary, the CDC scientists said, according to their weight and the amount of iodine in their diet.Iodine can counteract the harmful effects of perchlorate and is an ingredient in many brands of baby formula, the scientists said.

In a statement sent to reporters last night, Sen. Barbara Boxer, chair of the Environment and Public Works committee, said the study prompted her to ask the Food and Drug Administration to inform the public "how best to protect children from perchlorate." As she has done in the past, Boxer called on the EPA to "overrule the Bush Administration’s policy which was to walk away from setting a safe drinking water standard for perchlorate in our water supply."

In 2002 the EPA suggested limiting the amount of perchlorate in water to 1 ppb, but in December [3] it changed that level to 15 ppb to the dismay of environmental advocates.

A March 2008 Government Accountability Office report criticized the Bush White House [4] for injecting politics into the EPA’s chemical risk assessment of perchlorate and other toxins.The report suggested that the White House Office of Management and Budget was stalling the completion of risk assessments by forcing scientists to respond to comments from other federal agencies, including the Department of Defense. The report notes that tight restrictions on perchlorate and other toxins would greatly increase safety and cleanup costs incurred by the Defense Department and its contractors.The Perchlorate Information Bureau, an industry trade group supported by Lockheed Martin, Aerojet and other defense contractors, said the cost of an overly restrictive perchlorate standard would be "potentially staggering [5]."

Perchlorate has been found leaching into public water wells from military bases and bomb-building facilities, especially in California [6].

Less than two weeks before the Bush administration left office, the EPA announced that it would delay its long-awaited decision [7] on whether to set a drinking water standard for perchlorate until the National Academy of Sciences weighed in on the issue.That announcement effectively punted the decision to current EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, who promised to regulate perchlorate at her confirmation hearing.

As we reported previously [8], when Jackson headed the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, state scientists urged her to regulate perchlorate, which was found at 4 ppb in six of 123 public water wells [9] (p. 41) in New Jersey in a 2005 survey.New Jersey still does not have a perchlorate standard.

Other states however, have stepped in to fill the regulatory void.California has set a perchlorate standard at 6 ppb and Massachusetts at 2 ppb.

As pressure to regulate perchlorate has mounted, so too has lobbying from the chemical manufacturing and defense industries. In February David Corn reported for Mother Jones [10] that these industries have hired a former Democratic senator from Nevada to stymie efforts to regulate the chemical.   

An EPA spokesperson said in an email to ProPublica today that the agency is reviewing the Bush administration’s work and "hopes to announce our direction soon."

"Perchlorate exposure is a serious issue," the email said, "and it’s a top priority for Administrator Jackson, who is concerned about its health effects on children."

This story is published under a Creative Commons license.

April 3, 2009 in Governance/Management, Law, Physical Science, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Interesting History Question

The Environmental History List has an interesting question -- what is the origin of "green" as denoting environmentally friendly.  My answer was Charles Reich, Greening of America, circa 1970.  If one had a copy, I'm sure he must reference some earlier sources.  Anyone know???

April 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Harvard University Center for the Environment - Events List

As always, Harvard and MIT have an enviable set of environmental, energy, and resources events.  The list provides food for thought about speakers and materials that may be available.

Highlights:

Tuesday, April 7: Harvard faculty John Briscoe (SEAS, HSPH) and David Foster (FAS) join Tom Baron, the Former Director of Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, for his discussion of approaches to sustainability in quenching "Southern New England's Future Thirst." 

Thursday, April 9: Max Bazerman (HBS) and Daniel Schrag (SEAS, HUCE) join Rick Larrick, Associate Professor of Management at Duke in his discussion of the "The MPG Illusion" in this second Green Conversations event in the week!

Celebrate Biodiversity! 
Terry Chapin, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, delivers the first Spring Biodiversity, Ecology, and Global Change lecture tomorrow at 4 pm. Daniel Simberloff presents "A Case Study of Biological Invasion – a Global Threat to Biodiversity" on April 13.

Calendar Listings:

Thursday 4/2/2009

6:00p - 9:00p
MIT Wind Week 2009
(Stata Center, R&D Commons (4th Floor), Bldg. 32, MIT, 32 Vassar St., Cambridge, MA)
Offshore Wind Workshop Reception & Poster Session.
Contact: windweek.mit.edu

Friday 4/3/2009
 

9:00a Ecological Urbanism: Alternative and Sustainable Cities of the Future
(Piper Auditorium, Gund Hall, 48 Quincy St., Cambridge, MA)
Bringing
together design practitioners and theorists, economists, engineers, environmental scientists, politicians and public health specialists, with the goal of reaching a more robust understanding of ecological urbanism and what it might be in the future.
Contact: Deborah Johansen, djohansen@gsd.harvard.edu, 617.496.0823

9:00a - 12:30p
Restructuring Roundtable
(Foley Hoag, 155 Seaport Blvd, 13th Floor Conference Room, Boston, MA)
"Pursuing Sustainable Energy in New England: The Promise of Stimulus Funds and the Reality of Recession"
Contact: www.raabassociates.org/main/roundtabl...

9:00a - 6:30p
MIT Wind Week 2009
Offshore Wind Technology Workshop With AWEA, US OWC, UMass, MTC, MIT Energy Initiative, and private companies. Registration Required.
Contact: windweek.mit.edu

11:00a - 12:00p Harvard Forest Seminar Series
(Seminar Room at Shaler Hall, Harvard Forest, 324 North Main Street, Petersham, MA)
"Rapid regional warming and ecosystem response along the Antarctic Peninsula." Hugh Ducklow, The Ecosystems Center, Marine Biological Laboratory & Palmer Station, Antarctica LTER.
Contact: Audry Barker Plotkin, aabarker@fas.harvard.edu, 978-724-3302 x 268, harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/researc...

1:30p
Harvard....Then What? Careers in Urban Policy & Planning
(Office of Career Services Conference Room, 54 Dunster St., Cambridge, MA)
Come to this panel and network with experts who have chosen to focus their careers on building better cities.
Contact: ocsrsvp@fas.harvard.edu, www.ocs.fas.harvard.edu/students/spri...

2:30p - 3:30p Green Business
(Office of Career Services Conference Room, 54 Dunster St., Cambridge, MA)
An introduction to the growing careers within the intersection of business practice and environmental sustainability.
Contact: Ana Franco, afranco@fas.harvard.edu

4:00p
Biodiversity, Ecology, and Global Change
(Science Center D, 1 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA)
"Sustainability in a Changing World: Concepts and Policy Strategies to Address Climate Change in Alaska." Terry Chapin, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Contact: Lisa Matthews, lisa_matthews@harvard.edu, 617-495-8883


Saturday 4/4/2009

9:00a Ecological Urbanism: Alternative and Sustainable Cities of the Future
(Piper Auditorium, Gund Hall, 48 Quincy St., Cambridge, MA)
Bringing
together design practitioners and theorists, economists, engineers, environmental scientists, politicians and public health specialists, with the goal of reaching a more robust understanding of ecological urbanism and what it might be in the future.
Contact: Deborah Johansen, djohansen@gsd.harvard.edu, 617.496.0823


9:00a - 5:30p
Environmental Action 2009
(Wentworth Institute of Technology, Boston)
A conference that will bring together organizations, activists and decision-makers to share skills and information, as well as find ways to work together for a greener Commonwealth.
Contact: sam@toxicsaction.org, (617) 747-4362, www.toxicsaction.org/maenvironmentala...

5:30p - 6:30p
Terminus: Disappearing Glaciers and Fragments of Human History
(Gund Hall, 48 Quincy St., Cambridge, MA)
Featuring large-scale color landscape photographs that tell the story of Peru's vulnerability to drought and shrinking glaciers due to climate change.
Contact: edward@canary-project.org

Sunday 4/5/2009


9:00a
Ecological Urbanism: Alternative and Sustainable Cities of the Future
(Piper Auditorium, Gund Hall, 48 Quincy St., Cambridge, MA)
Bringing
together design practitioners and theorists, economists, engineers, environmental scientists, politicians and public health specialists, with the goal of reaching a more robust understanding of ecological urbanism and what it might be in the future.
Contact: Deborah Johansen, djohansen@gsd.harvard.edu, 617.496.0823

3:00p
HMNH: 2009 Roger Tory Peterson Memorial Lecture
(Science Center, One Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA)
"Conserving the World's Biodiversity: How the Climate Crisis Could Both Hurt and Help." Russell A. Mittermeier, President of Conservation International.
Contact: hmnh@oeb.harvard.edu, 617-495-3045, www.hmnh.harvard.edu/lectures_and_spe...

5:00p - 10:00p Global Citizens’ Climate Change and Water Film Festival
(Kirkland House, JFK St., Cambridge, MA)
Films include "Flow", "Water First", "After the Wave", and "Arvari."
Contact: Alexios Nicolaos Monopolis, greekislander@gmail.com

Monday 4/6/2009

9:30a - 11:30a
Energy Technology Innovation Policy Seminar Series
(Belfer Center Library, Littauer 369, 79 JFK St., Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, MA)
"Scaling Energy Technologies: Historical Evidence & Applications." Charles Wilson, Research Scholar, IIASA.
Contact: Sam Milton, sam_milton@harvard.edu, belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/events/3...

11:30a
Harvard Energy Journal Club
(HUCE Seminar room, 24 Oxford St. 3rd floor, Cambridge, MA)
Visit the Energy Journal website for current topics of discussion.
Contact: Mark Winkler, mwinkler@fas.harvard.edu, www.hcs.harvard.edu/hejc/

12:00p - 1:00p
Environmental Sciences and Engineering Seminar
(Pierce Hall 100F, 29 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA)
"Understanding Surface Reactivity in the Environment: Importance of Nanoscale Heterogeneity." Dr. Chongzheng Na Harvard University.
Contact: Norma Stewart, nstewart@seas.harvard.edu

4:00p
MIT Science Technology, and Society Colloquia
(MIT, Building E51-095, Cambridge, MA)
"Future Imperfect: Sociotechnical Imaginaries and Cultures of Public Policy." Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School.
Contact: 617-452-2390, web.mit.edu/sts/calendar/index-css.html

4:00p
EPS Spring Colloquium
(Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA)
"The Search for Geologic Signatures of Seismic Slip and Aseismic Creep at SAFOD." Judith Chester, Texas A & M University.
Contact: Ganna Savostyanova, annasavostyanova@gmail.com

4:30p - 6:00p
Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies Seminar
(9 Bow St., Cambridge, MA)
"The Impact of the Indian Ocean Tsunami: Evidence from Indonesia." Duncan Thomas, Professor of Economics, Duke University.
Contact: Claudette Agustin, cagustin@hsph.harvard.edu, www.hsph.harvard.edu/centers-institut...

5:30p - 7:30p The Precautionary Principle
(Sever Hall, Room 113, Harvar Yard, Cambridge, MA)
Speaker: Joel A. Tickner, ScD, one of the leading proponents of the Precautionary Principle
Contact: Linda Armstrong Cross, linda_cross@harvard.edu, (617) 998-8530

7:00p Department of Energy: Version 2.0
(MIT, 32-141, Cambridge, MA)
Speaker: Steve Isakowitz, Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Energy, presents an update on the Department: Where we stand and where we are going.
Contact: melissaa@MIT.EDU

Tuesday 4/7/2009


9:00a
Massachusetts Water Resources Research Center Conference
(Lincoln Campus Center, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA)
The annual Massachusetts Water Resources Research Center conference brings together scientists, regulators, and practitioners from across the state and region to discuss water resources issues.
Contact: Marie Françoise Walk, (413) 545-5531, www.umass.edu/tei/wrrc/WRRC2004/Confe...

9:30a - 11:00a
Energy Technology Innovation Policy Seminar Series
(Belfer Center Library, Littauer 369, 79 JFK St., Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, MA)
"The Clean Development Mechanism, Technology Transfer, and China's GHG Reductions." Bo Wang, ETIP Research Fellow.
Contact: Sam Milton, sam_milton@harvard.edu, (617) 496-5584, www.belfercenter.org/energy

12:00p
Herbaria Seminar Series
(Sherman Fairchild Lecture Hall, 7 Divinity Ave, Cambridge, MA)
"Neotropical Podostemaceae: systematics, ecology, endemism and conservation." Dr. C. Thomas Philbrick, Western Conn. State University.
Contact: www.huh.harvard.edu/seminar_series/

3:00p - 4:00p ClimaTea Lecture/Journal Club
(Geological Museum, Room 418, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA)
Visit the Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics website for current speakers and topics of discussion.
Contact: Kate Dennis, kdennis@fas.harvard.edu, 617-384-8398, www.seas.harvard.edu/climate/seminars...

5:00p
Green Conversations
(Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA)
"Southern New England's Future Thirst: An Approach to Sustainability." Tom Baron, Former Director of Operations, Massachusetts Water Resources Authority Water System.
Contact: Lisa Matthews, lisa_matthews@harvard.edu, 617-495-8883

5:30p
Tufts Energy and Climate Forum
(Cabot 205, The Fletcher School, 160 Packard Ave., Tufts University, Medford, MA)
"International Trade in Used Vehicles: The Environmental Consequences of NAFTA." Dr. Lucas W. Davis, Department of Economics, University of Michigan.
Contact: Mieke van der Wansem, mieke.wansem@tufts.edu, environment.tufts.edu/?pid=16

Wednesday 4/8/2009


12:15p - 1:45p
Dubai Initiative Seminar
(Belfer Center Library, Littauer 369, 79 JFK St., Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, MA)
"Environment and Politics in Egypt and the Gulf." Jeannie Sowers, Dubai Initiative Fellow. Brown Bag Lunch, open to the public.
Contact: dubai_initiative@ksg.harvard.edu, 617-496-3694

12:30p - 2:00p
Adaptations in International Climate Negotiations
(Cabot 703, The Fletcher School, 170 Packard Ave, Tufts University Campus, Medford, MA)
Speaker: Letha Tawney, Principal, Emerald Arc Consulting. Letha Tawney specializes in interdisciplinary understanding of anthropogenic climate change.
Contact: Mieke van der Wansem, mieke.wansem@tufts.edu

8:00p
Environmental Action Committee Meeting
(Spindell Room, Quincy House, 58 Plympton St., Cambridge, MA)
Everyone interested in learning about the EAC and/or learning how to help make a difference for the environment is welcome.
Contact: Caitlin Rotman, caitlin.rotman@gmail.com

 Thursday 4/9/2009


10:00a - 11:30a
ENRP and Sustainability Science Special Seminar
(Perkins Room, 4th Floor, Rubenstein Building, KSG, 79 JFK St., Cambridge, MA)
"Effectively Reducing Vulnerability from Climate Impacts: The Limits of Community Based Adaptation." Letha Tawney, (MPA '08) Climate Change Policy Consultant.
Contact: Amanda Swanson, amanda_swanson@harvard.edu

12:00p
Energy Technology Innovation Policy Seminar Series
(Taubman 275, Harvard Kennedy School, 79 JFK St., Cambridge, MA)
"Climate Change Technology R&D Portfolio Analysis under Uncertainty." Erin Baker, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Contact: Sam Milton, sam_milton@harvard.edu

4:00p - 5:00p
OEB Seminar Series
(Bio Labs Lecture Hall, 16 Divinity Ave., Harvard Campus, Cambridge, MA)
"The evolution of novel, serially homologous, complex traits: butterfly eyespots. " Antonia Monteiro, Yale University.
Contact: Katie Parodi, kparodi@oeb.harvard.edu, (617) 495-5891

4:00p
China Project Seminar
(Pierce Hall 100F, 29 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA)
"A Scenario Approach to Analyzing China's Energy Future: Results from CERA's 'Feeding the Dragon' Study." Xizhou ZHOU and Edward Young, Cambridge Energy Research Associate.
Contact: Chris Nielsen , nielsen2@fas.harvard.edu

5:00p
Green Conversations
(HUCE Seminar Room, 24 Oxford St., 3rd Floor, Cambridge, MA)
"The MPG Illusion." Richard P. Larrick, Associate Professor of Management Fuqua School of Business, Duke University.
Contact: Lisa Matthews, lisa_matthews@harvard.edu, 617-495-8883

6:00p
Microbial Sciences Initiative Thursday Evening Seminar Series
(HUCE Seminar Room, 24 Oxford St., 3rd Floor, Cambridge, MA)
"Mycorrhizas and ecosystem processes." Ian Alexander, Regius Professor of Botany, University of Aberdeen.
Contact: Christy Herren, herren@fas.harvard.edu, (617) 495 8643, www.msi.harvard.edu/thursdays.html

Friday 4/10/2009

11:00a - 12:00p
Harvard Forest Seminar Series
(Seminar Room at Shaler Hall, Harvard Forest, 324 North Main Street, Petersham, MA)
"Gloeotrichia echinulata: a causal agent of regime change in oligotrophic lakes?" Kathryn Cottingham, Dartmouth College.
Contact: Audry Barker Plotkin, aabarker@fas.harvard.edu, 978-724-3302 x 268, harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/researc...

Saturday 4/11/2009

2:00p - 6:00p
Energy in Transition: Harvard Alumni Association Event
(Science Center, One Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA)
 
A group of Harvard scholars and alumni serving as energy industry leaders discuss future energy sources and technology.
Contact: Roberta DeStefano, roberta_newell@harvard.edu, 617-495-1920, post.harvard.edu/harvard/alumni/html...

7:00p - 11:00p
Go Green Dance Party
( Lexington Knights of Columbus Heritage Hall, 177 Bedford St., Lexington, MA )
A benefit to fund LexGWAC, GWEN (Global Warming Awareness Network) and 350.org in their efforts to raise awareness about the 350.org Global Day of Climate Action.
Contact: www.gwenet.org/events.htm

Monday 4/13/2009

11:30a
Harvard Energy Journal Club
(HUCE Seminar room, 24 Oxford St. 3rd floor, Cambridge, MA)
Visit the Energy Journal website for current topics of discussion.
Contact: Mark Winkler, mwinkler@fas.harvard.edu, www.hcs.harvard.edu/hejc/

5:00p
Biodiversity, Ecology, and Global Change
(Bio Labs Lecture Hall, 16 Divinity Ave, Harvard Campus, Cambridge)
"A Case Study of Biological Invasion: a Global Threat to Biodiversity." Daniel Simberloff, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee.
Contact: Lisa Matthews, lisa_matthews@harvard.edu, 617-495-8883

Tuesday 4/14/2009


12:00p
Herbaria Seminar Series
(Sherman Fairchild Lecture Hall, 7 Divinity Ave, Cambridge, MA)
Mark Beilstein, Mercer Fellow, Mathews lab. Title TBA.
Contact: www.huh.harvard.edu/seminar_series/

1:00p 2009 Dudley Herschbach Teacher/Scientist Lecture
(Fong Auditorium, Boylston Hall, Harvard Campus, Cambridge, MA )
"Science Education in the 21st Century: Using Methods of Science to Teach Science." Carl Wieman, Nobel Laureate in Physics from the University of British Columbia.

3:00p - 4:00p
ClimaTea Lecture/Journal Club
(Geological Museum, Room 418, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA)
Visit the Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics website for current speakers and topics of discussion.
Contact: Kate Dennis, kdennis@fas.harvard.edu, 617-384-8398, www.seas.harvard.edu/climate/seminars...


4:15p
MIT Energy Initiative Seminar Series
(MIT Building 66, Room 110, Cambridge, MA)
"Revising Limits in Energy Conversion Using Nanostructures." Arun Majumdar, Almy & Agnes Maynard Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science and Engineering, UC Berkeley.
Contact: web.mit.edu/mitei/news/seminars/


Wednesday 4/15/2009


4:00p - 5:30p
Seminar in Environmental Economics and Policy
(Littaur-382, Harvard Kennedy School, 79 JFK St., Cambridge, MA)
"Uncertainty, Extreme Outcomes, and Climate Change Policy." Robert Pindyck, MIT.
Contact: Jason Chapman, Jason_Chapman@ksg.harvard.edu, 617-496-8054

5:00p
The Future of Energy
(Science Center D, 1 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA)
"A View of Nuclear Power in the World's Energy Future." Richard Garwin, IBM Fellow Emeritus.
Contact: Lisa Matthews, lisa_matthews@harvard.edu, 617-495-8883

8:00p
Environmental Action Committee Meeting
(Spindell Room, Quincy House, 58 Plympton St., Cambridge, MA)
Everyone interested in learning about the EAC and/or learning how to help make a difference for the environment is welcome.
Contact: Caitlin Rotman, caitlin.rotman@gmail.com

Thursday 4/16/2009


2:00p
Solid Earth Physics Seminar Series
(Hoffman Faculty Lounge, 4th Floor, 20 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA)
"Boundary layer transitions in rotating convection and dynamo systems." Jonathan Aurnou, Simulated Planetary Interiors Lab, Department of Earth and Space Sciences, UCLos Angeles.

2:00p - 5:30p A Symposium to Honor Institute Professor of John Deutch
(Lecture Hall 10-250, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA)
Celebrating the 70th birthday of MIT Institute Professor John M. Deutch and in recognizing his manifold contributions.

6:00p
Harvard Museum of Natural History Exhibit Opening Lecture
(Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA)
Neil Shubin, provost of The Field Museum of Natural History, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Chicago.
Contact: hmnh@oeb.harvard.edu, 617-495-3045, www.hmnh.harvard.edu/lectures_and_spe...




April 2, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Water News from Water Advocates

New Congressional Legislation: Strong support for drinking water and
sanitation continues on Capitol Hill, where legislation introduced in
the Senate would put the U.S. in the lead among governments in
responding to the Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation.
Companion legislation is expected soon in the House. Titled "The Senator
Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009" (S624), the bipartisan bill
introduced by Senators Durbin, Corker and Murray on March 17 seeks to
reach 100 million people with safe water and sanitation by 2015 and to
strengthen the capacity of USAID and the State Department to carry out
the landmark Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005.

USAID: Dozens of USAID missions, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa and
Southeast Asia, are gearing up to utilize increased appropriations to
implement the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, after years of
lacking the tools to help extend safe, sustainable water, sanitation and
hygiene. USAID this past month announced a number of initiatives
including: new strategic partnerships to extend water and sanitation
access to the urban poor in Africa and the Middle East (with
International Water Association), new multilateral revolving funds (in
the Philippines), new collaborations (with Rotary International) and a
new USAID Water Site http://tinyurl.com/newUSAIDwater.

Appropriations: Through the recently passed Omnibus legislation,
Congress appropriated $300 million for Fiscal Year 2009, for "water and
sanitation supply projects pursuant to the Senator Paul Simon Water for
the Poor Act of 2005." As with last year's appropriations, forty percent
of the funds are targeted for Sub-Saharan Africa. Priority will remain
on drinking water and sanitation in the countries of greatest need.
Report language suggests increased hiring of Mission staff with
expertise in water and sanitation. It also recommends that $20 million
of the appropriation be available to USAID's Global Development Alliance
to increase its partnerships for water and sanitation, particularly with
NGOs.

In Fiscal Year 2010, a broad spectrum of U.S. nonprofit organizations,
corporations and religious organizations are urging $500 million to
implement the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, as part of an
overall increase of foreign development assistance, a level also called
for by InterAction and the "Transition to Green" Report.

For more water news, visit Drink Water for Life.


April 2, 2009 in Africa, Asia, Economics, EU, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, North America, Physical Science, Science, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Science - Scientists Track Changes in Oceanic Biological Productivity Caused by Climate Change

What a tangled web we weave..... everything really is connected to everything.  Over the past several decades, the climate of the western shelf of the Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) has been changing from a cold, dry polar climate to a warmer, more humid climate marked by retreating glaciers. As a result, populations of species that depend on sea ice -- such as krill and Adelie penguins -- are being displaced poleward and replaced by other species that are typically averse to ice. According to Montes-Hugo et al. in the 13 Mar 2009 Science, climate-related shifts at the base of the marine food web may be contributing to these displacements. Using three decades of satellite and field data, the team documented that ocean biological productivity has been significantly reduced along parts of the WAP and increased elsewhere due to shifting patterns of ice cover, cloud formation, and windiness affecting water-column mixing. In the northern region of the WAP, the skies have become cloudier, reducing the amount of light reaching phytoplankton. Less light and less freshwater inhibit water column stratification, resulting in lower plankton productivity. By contrast, in the southern region, the skies are staying cloudless for longer and the Antarctic current has increased its flow rate, pulling up more micronutrients and thus contributing to greater primary productivity. These regional changes in phytoplankton coincide with observed shifts in krill, fish, and penguin populations in the western Antarctic.

April 2, 2009 in Climate Change, Physical Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Science - Scientists Develop Evidence on CO2 Concentrations During Post-Glacial Warming Periods

Scientists have long sought to unravel the combination of physical and biogeochemical processes responsible for the tight coupling between atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and Earth’s climate. Researchers suspect that the Southern Ocean may have provided a reservoir for atmospheric carbon dioxide during cold glacial periods, and that release of some of this carbon dioxide could help explain why atmospheric concentrations rose by roughly 50% during each of the last five deglaciations. In a Research Article in the 13 Mar 2009 Science, Anderson et al. reported that vigorous wind-driven upwelling in the Southern Ocean may have coaxed carbon dioxide out of deep waters and into the atmosphere during the last deglaciation, about 17,000 years ago. In a Perspective article, J. R. Toggweiler explains how a poleward shift of the westerly winds, drawing more carbon dioxide- and silica-rich water up to the surface, can account for these results.

April 2, 2009 in Climate Change, Physical Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Waxman-Markey Discussion Draft on Energy and Global Warming: the AMERICAN CLEAN ENERGY and SECURITY ACT

Reps. Waxman and Markeyhave released a discussion draft bill on clean energy and global warming.  Here is a Summary of the Discussion Draft and here is a copy of the Bill  The global warming title establishes a cap and trade with a cap of 83% reduction from 2005 emissions by 2050.  Obviously this falls far short of what is needed to reach 350 ppm.  It also provides for the US to enter into international agreements to reforest, which is expected to reduce an additional 10% by 2050.  The discussion draft ducks the highly political question of allocation.

The bill contains three other titles:

Creating Clean Energy Jobs: A clean energy title that promotes renewable sources of energy, carbon capture and sequestration technologies, low-carbon fuels, clean electric vehicles, and the smart grid and electricity transmission;

Cutting Waste, Saving Money: An energy efficiency title that increases energy efficiency across all sectors of the economy, including buildings, appliances, transportation, and industry;

Protecting Consumers: A transitioning title that protects U.S. consumers and industry and promotes green jobs during the transition to a clean energy economy.

The time table for action calls for the House Energy and Commerce Committee to complete consideration of the legislation by Memorial Day. The preliminary schedule follows:

·       Week of April 20: Energy and Environment Subcommittee Hearings

·       Week of April 27: Energy and Environment Subcommittee Markup Period Begins

·       Week of May 11: Full Energy and Commerce Committee Markup Period Begins

April 1, 2009 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Current Affairs, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Legislation, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

ALI-ABA April 15th Conference Call on Adaptation

ALI-ABA Forum on Strategic Adaptation to Climate Change Offers Opportunities for Environmental Community

Philadelphia, PA……The American Law Institute-American Bar Association is jointly sponsoring a 90-minute audio webcast addressing strategic adaptation to climate change on April 15, 2009 from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm ET. This program was designed for attorneys and business professionals who seek opportunities to gain a competitive advantage in business transactions through the use of cost-effective and forward-thinking approaches to climate change adaptation. 

Experts on the April 15, 2009 forum include: 

 

  • Ari G. Altman, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, Washington, D.C.

  • Carl Bruch, Senior Attorney and Co-Director, International Programs, Environmental Law Institute, Washington, D.C.

  • John D. Echeverria, Director, Environmental Law and Policy Institute, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C.

  • E. Donald Elliott, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, Washington, D.C.; Adjunct Professor, Yale Law School and Georgetown University Law Center

  • Mary Kelly, Vice President, Rivers and Deltas, Environmental Defense Fund, Austin, Texas

  • Charles A. Menzie, Ph.D., Principal Scientist and Practice Director, EcoSciences, Exponent, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia

 

The following topics will be addressed:

 

Disaster Coverage and Related Maladaptation: Mr. Echeverria will discuss past or current government programs that may have led to maladaptation to climate change (e.g., flood and wind insurance), as well as potential policy changes that may better incentivize corporate investments that take into account climate change.

 

Water Scarcity Considerations: Ms. Kelly will discuss the issue of water scarcity as it may affect industry. In many areas of the country, models predict that climate change could exacerbate water scarcity and allocation issues. In some areas of the country, the challenge is compounded by population growth and other changes in demand

patterns, as well as water laws and institutions that were designed largely in the early 20th century. Ms. Kelly’s presentation will briefly lay out the scope of the issues and discuss possible solutions for more flexible water management and allocation that could help meet these challenges.

 

Zoning, Building Codes, and Property Transactions: Mr. Bruch's presentation will examine ways that climate change may drive the change of zoning laws, building codes, and property transactions, particularly in coastal zones. Considering the significant risks and uncertainty, the use of adaptive management will also be considered.

Mr. Bruch will also highlight some of the potential challenges, including takings claims.

 

The Challenges of Climate Change in Business: Mr. Elliott will discuss the challenges that private companies face in adapting to climate change and the regulatory regimes (both those already in place and anticipated) to address climate change, based on a recent review of their SEC disclosures. This includes physical exposure (storm damage and supply chain issues), changing factor prices for energy, water and other inputs, as well as regulatory, reputational, and litigation exposures and strategic and market opportunities. He will then outline steps that some leading companies can take to plan for and address these challenges and opportunities.

 

Risk and Economic Modeling: Mr. Menzie will discuss his work in risk and economic modeling, with an emphasis on estimating potential costs faced by companies in varying industries due to climate change.

April 1, 2009 in Climate Change | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 30, 2009

World Seeks Major Changes in International and National Economic Systems

The G-20 group of industrialized and developing country leaders meets April 2 to address the global economic crisis.  One thing is clear, we're ready for some change! 

Major reform of the international economic system is needed in order to solve the current economic crisis, according to a new global poll of over 29,000 people in 24 countries carried out by GlobalScan / PIPA at the University of Maryland.  70% believe major changes are required to the way the global economy is run. 4 per cent think no significant changes are needed.  Majorities in most countries - on average 68 per cent - also see the need for major changes to their own country’s economy.  Fifteen of the 24 countries are part of the G20.  Among G20 countries, 65% believe major changes are required to the international economic system, while 62% believe major changes are needed in their nation's economic system.  World Public Opinion For a country by country breakdown of the results, see the following graphic:
Breakdown of World Opinion as to the Need for Major Changes in the Economic System

The question of course is what sort of change.  I received two new publications from GDAE’s Globalization and Sustainable Development Program highlighting changes in both the trade and financial system advocated by Kevin Gallagher of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts.  I have found their analyses to be very interesting:

“Global Crisis in Need of Global Solutions”
by Kevin P. Gallagher, in Latin American Trade Network LATN Nexos 7, March 2009.
In this short essay for a special issue from the Latin American Trade Network on the challenges facing the upcoming G-20 meetings, Kevin P. Gallagher highlights the urgent need for a global response to the economic crisis that recognizes that expansionary government stimulus policies cannot be just for the wealthy countries. He points out that the IMF in its emergency assistance plans for developing countries is still imposing harsh conditionalities that limit rather than expand government spending.  If the IMF is to receive significantly higher lending authority, it should be forced to abandon its draconian austerity policies, which are more inappropriate than ever in the current crisis.Link to IMF Essay

“Trading our way out of the financial crisis: The need for WTO reform”
By Kevin P. Gallagher and Timothy A. Wise
in Rebuilding Global Trade: Toward a Fairer, More Sustainable Future, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the Global Economic Governance Programme (GEG), University College, Oxford.
In the context of the deepening global crisis that is pushing millions more into poverty in developing countries, development should be the centerpiece of reforming the global financial architecture. Pressing to conclude a World Trade Organization (WTO) deal based on the current proposals in Geneva would be counterproductive. This essay offers five policies toward reforming global trade that will enable economic development and stimulate global demand during the crisis.Link to WTO Reform Essay

For more analyses like these check out GDAE's Globalization and Sustainable Development Program

March 30, 2009 in Economics | Permalink | TrackBack (0)