Climate in Classrooms

Read the full post at Dot Earth.

There’s much to explore about the challenges in teaching about the evolving relationship between people and their climate.

This subject was once pretty straightforward. After all, it was a relationship that was largely a one-way phenomenon. Climate changed. People adapted or moved. (The extraordinary books of Brian Fagan are an ideal guide.)

As humanity’s growth spurt plays out, the accumulating greenhouse gases from fossil fuel combustion — along with the impacts on clouds or sunshine from other emissions and impacts from land surfaces — have made this a two-way relationship. And that makes teaching about this subject particularly challenging, given the durably wide range of perceptions not just of the science, but of how to respond to it.

Tallying Disasters and Gauging a Greenhouse Impact

Read the full post at Dot Earth.

I encourage you to read “Global Warming and Severe Weather: Is There a Link?” This excellent new Green Grok post is by Bill Chameides, the blogging dean of the Nicholas School for the Environment at Duke University. (Hat tip @KeithKloor.)

Chameides’ outreach through the Web is commendable, and part of an exciting trend. At this year’s Science Online conference, which is ending today, I met a host of academicians who, like Chameides, have dived enthusiastically into the “knowosphere.”

His latest post builds on the heavily covered, and critiqued, tally of 2011 disasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the disaster research of Roger Pielke, Jr. of the University of Colorado and an excellent analysis by the indispensable Quirin Schiermeier in Nature.

A Legal Defense Fund for Climate Scientists

Read the full post at Dot Earth.

For years, climate scientists have been assailed from many sides — through e-mail hacking, death threats, politician’s demands for documents, Freedom of Information requests (many having the strong smell of a fishing expedition).

A Climate Science Legal Defense Fund set up last fall has taken on a formal affiliation with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an established nonprofit group offering aid and advice to government whistleblowers and scientists working on environmental issues.

USDA accepting REAP applications, launches new energy website

Read the full story in Biodiesel Magazine.

The USDA is accepting applications for its Rural Energy for America Program. The program is designed to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy consumption and costs. While it is not specifically designed to benefit biorefining operations, biodiesel plants and other biorefinery operations that fit the definition of a rural small business under the program language are eligible to apply…

While the USDA has several funding programs that either directly or indirectly benefit those in the biorefining industry, it hasn’t always been easy to access application announcements for these programs. The USDA recently improved that process with the launch of its new energy website.

According to USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager, the new site should streamline the process to access information about USDA funding opportunities. The new website also provides potential applications and members of the public with easy access to program information, energy efficiency data, and renewable energy data.

EPA Rejects Palm-Oil Based Biodiesel for Renewable Fuels Program

Read the full story from Bloomberg.

The Environmental Protection Agency said that biodiesel made from palm oil doesn’t meet the requirements to be added to its renewable fuels program because its greenhouse-gas emissions are too high.

In a regulatory filing today, the EPA said that palm-oil biodiesel, which is primarily produced in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, provides reductions of as much as 17 percent in greenhouse-gas emissions compared to traditional diesel fuel, falling short of a 20 percent reduction necessary to qualify under the law.

By failing to meet that threshold, oil companies can’t use palm fuels to meet national renewable fuel standards. Other fuels they can use are made from soy beans, animal fat, recycled cooking grease or similar materials.

Toxic legacy: Fish pass flame retardants, impaired health to offspring

Read the full story at Environmental Health News.

Fish exposed to low levels of common flame retardants called PBDEs for most of their lives pass the chemicals – and more surprisingly, the associated toxic effects – along to their progeny. While parents’ health effects were minimal, the exposures reduced hatch rates and altered the thyroid hormone system of the next generation.

Effects were worse if the offspring were also exposed to the same low chemical levels as their parents, a situation that would mimic wild fish in a natural environment. The findings – published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology – broadly suggest that the toxic effects of PBDE exposure may magnify in subsequent generations of wild fish.

The study is important because it shows that flame retardants can trigger thyroid hormone disruption in the next generation whether or not the offspring are exposed to the chemicals.

Full citation for the research article: Yu, L, JCW Lam, Y Guo, RSS Wu, PKS Lam and B Zhou. 2011. “Parental transfer of PBDEs and thyroid endocrine disruption in zebrafish”. Environmental Science and Technology

Abstract: Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have the potential to disrupt the thyroid endocrine system. The objective of the present study was to characterize the disrupting effects of long-term exposure on the thyroid endocrine system in adult fish and their progeny following parental exposure to PBDEs. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos were exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations (1, 3, and 10 μg/L) of the PBDE mixture DE-71 for 5 months until sexual maturation. In the F0 generation, exposure to DE-71 significantly increased plasma thyroxine (T4) but not 3,5,3′-triiodothyronine (T3) in females. This increased T4 was accompanied by decreased mRNA levels of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and thyrotropin β-subunit (TSHβ) in the brain. The F1 generation was further examined with or without continued DE-71 treatment conditions. Exposure to DE-71 in the F0 fish caused significant increases in T4 and T3 levels in the F1 larvae and modified gene expressions in the hypothalamic–pituitary–thyroid axis (HPT axis) under both conditions. Decreased hatching and inhibition of growth in the F1 offspring were observed in the condition without DE-71 treatment. Continued DE-71 treatment in the F1 embryos/larvae resulted in further decreased hatching, and increased malformation rates compared with those without DE-71 exposure. Analysis of F1 eggs indicated that parental exposure to DE-71 could result in a transfer of PBDEs and thyroid hormones (THs) to their offspring. For the first time, we demonstrated that parental exposure to low concentrations of PBDEs could affect THs in the offspring and the transgenerational PBDE-induced toxicity in subsequent nonexposed generations.

Two on recycling eyeglasses from Sustainablog

Earlier this week Sustainablog had two posts about ways to recycle/upcycle old eyeglasses. The first, “Cool Ways to Recycle Old Eyeglasses,” gave ideas for six craft projects that repurpose old eyeglasses to make funky new stuff. The second, “Another Option for Recycling Old Eyeglasses: Donation,” includes an infographic that explains the importance of donating old eyeglasses.

Either way, don’t throw out your old specs when you get spiffy new ones. Either donate through an organization like the Lions Club or make them into something else.