Study: Metals Used in High-Tech Products Face Future Supply Risks

Read the full story from Yale University.

In a new paper, a team of Yale researchers assesses the “criticality” of all 62 metals on the Periodic Table of Elements, providing key insights into which materials might become more difficult to find in the coming decades, which ones will exact the highest environmental costs — and which ones simply cannot be replaced as components of vital technologies…

The paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, encapsulates the Yale group’s five-year assessment of the criticality of the planet’s metal resources in the face of rising global demand and the increasing complexity of modern products.


Republicans tell states to break the law and ignore Obama’s climate rules

Read the full story in Grist.

Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) proposed a bold solution for any state that doesn’t like President Barack Obama’s flagship plan to slash carbon emissions: Just ignore it. The new rule, issued under the Clean Air Act, aims to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint 30 percent by 2030. It would require every state to devise a plan to cut the carbon intensity (pollution per unit of energy) of its power sector. By simply ignoring the mandate, McConnell reasoned, states could delay taking steps like shuttering or retrofitting coal-fired power plants until the rules get killed by the Supreme Court (even though the chances of that happening are pretty remote).

Climate denial is a rejection of God’s gift of knowledge, says Episcopal leader

Read the full story in Grist.

The highest ranking woman in the Anglican Communion has said climate denial is a “blind” and immoral position which rejects God’s gift of knowledge.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and one of the most powerful women in Christianity, said that climate change was a moral imperative akin to that of the civil rights movement. She said it was already a threat to the livelihoods and survival of people in the developing world.

These scientists studied journalists covering science. Whoa, meta.

Read the full post in Grist.

Shortly after part one of the latest IPCC report came out back in September 2013, scientists gathered at the Royal Society in London to discuss the 1,552-page opus like a bunch of gossips around the latest People Magazine. Journalist Leo Hickman was at the two-day conference and, as he writes in this month’s Nature Climate Change, recalls the U.K. chief scientific advisor at one point standing in front of the crowd and saying, “Science is not finished until it’s communicated.”

Indeed, as complicated as climate science is, the problem of how to communicate said science can sometimes seem even more complicated — which is a pretty big problem, considering that the fate of our species rests on how well we understand this stuff.

So to get a sense of how the media’s doing with its coverage of climate change, a group of researchers from the University of Exeter (plus one dude from the University of Colorado-Boulder) decided to assess how various news outlets in both the U.S. and the U.K. covered the latest 3-part IPCC report (parts two and three came out in March and April of 2014, respectively).

Here’s the short version of their results: The U.K. had way more coverage than the U.S.; both countries appeared to lose interest by the third installment of the report; the Guardian was the overall shining star, which is maybe not surprising given its recent declaration of war on climate change; news outlets are drawn to dramatic narratives (but isn’t this all just one big dramatic narrative?) and human interest angles (ditto); and there’s been a notable lack of interest in the media on how climate change will impact human health.

MN: Draft proposal for protecting wild rice from excess sulfate

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is proposing that rather than relying on a single sulfate level for all wild rice waters, sulfate levels should be calculated for each wild rice water, based on location-specific factors. In coming to this conclusion, the MPCA studied how sulfate affects wild rice. The study, which began in 2012, found that:

  • In the sediment in which wild rice is rooted, sulfate from the water above is converted to sulfide by bacteria.
  • Higher levels of sulfide in the sediment create an environment that is less hospitable to wild rice.

However, certain factors change the rate at which sulfate is converted to sulfide. Most significantly, higher levels of iron can lead to less sulfide, and higher levels of organic carbon can lead to more sulfide.

To take these variables into account, the MPCA developed an equation that can determine a sulfate level that will protect wild rice for a specific water body. The agency proposes collecting sediment samples in wild rice stands, measuring the iron and organic carbon concentrations in the sediment, and then plugging the data into the equation to calculate a protective sulfate concentration for that particular wild rice water.

The MPCA will be scheduling meetings with interested stakeholders to further describe and get input on its proposal. The agency will continue to refine the proposal based on feedback and any new data.

At the same time, the MPCA will consider how the study’s findings will inform regulatory decisions and develop the data collection protocol needed to implement the proposal. The MPCA plans to go through formal rulemaking to change the existing standard later this year. The rulemaking will also include listing specific wild rice waters that are subject to the standard.

The MPCA has compiled a draft list of wild rice waters, along with a process to add waters to the list over time. These files are available below, along with an interactive map showing the draft list of wild rice waters.

Related documents

Fishermen discuss warming waters in this lovely short film

Read the full post at Grist.

When you are tired of talking to climate deniers, it can be a relief to hear from a fisherman instead.

“The waters are changing,” says Michigan fisherman Ed John in this short, moody video that follows a Native couple fishing the Great Lakes. “We’ve got algae, we’ve got invasive species, we got all of these pollutants we don’t know about going into the water.”

What’s the Impact of the Alternative Economy? Researchers Find Out

Read the full post on Shareable.

It is increasingly apparent that today’s economy is not working for most of us. Growing inequality of wealth and income is putting the famous American middle class in danger of becoming a distant memory. Most American children now face economic prospects worse than their parents enjoyed. We suffer from more frequent financial shocks and linger in recession far longer than in the past.Our education and health care systems don’t stack up to those of other countries with similar living standards. And if all this were not enough, environmental destruction continues to escalate as we stand on the verge of triggering irreversible, and perhaps cataclysmic, climate change.

Yet, beneath the radar of the mainstream media, a diverse and energetic new generation of business models has cropped up in response to urgent, unmet needs. We’re talking about innovations like worker-owned cooperatives, credit unions,community-supported agriculture, sharing platforms and businesses, and community energy enterprises. (You may have seen organizations like this in the “new economy” section of the YES! website. But in this project we are calling them part of a “future” rather than a “new” economy because some initiatives, such as cooperatives, have been with us for centuries.)

How important are these innovations? Doing something differently isn’t inherently “good”—despite Americans’ perennial love of the next new thing. How well do these models really perform when it comes to providing prosperity for their workers and others who depend on them? Do they really deliver on their promise of distributing social and financial benefits broadly while restoring the environment?

We at the Economics for Equity and the Environment (E3) Network—more than 300 progressive environmental economists nationwide—decided it was time to find out.