Day: September 8, 2014

What do the new climate rules have to do with my kid’s asthma?

Read the full post at Grist.

One of the Environmental Protection Agency’s top selling points for its recently proposed carbon pollution rules for power plants is that they will make immediate improvements to our air quality, in addition to reducing the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. It’s one of those twofer marketing plans (it tastes great and it’s less filling) designed to help make the public more amenable to a new set of rules.

If you’re wondering why the EPA needs public buy-in for rules aimed at the fossil fuel industry, that’s because it’ll take more than just killing off coal to accomplish the agency’s goals. The proposed carbon standards are often billed as regulations on existing coal-fired plants, but that’s somewhat of a misnomer. They actually ask for modifications made across each state, rather than at individual energy facilities.

To understand how this all ties together with the benefit of improving local air, it helps to know a few things about fences.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Provides Funding to Target Harmful Algal Blooms in Lake Erie

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy today announced that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) will provide almost $12 million to federal and state agencies to protect public health by targeting harmful algal blooms (HABs) in western Lake Erie. The funding builds upon the GLRI’s on-going efforts to reduce algal blooms and will be made available to Ohio, Michigan and Indiana state agencies and to the U.S. Geological Survey, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The importance of clean water cannot be overstated, which is why the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is taking further action to target harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “This important funding will address the immediate need for state and federal agencies to protect public health and build upon on-going efforts to reduce harmful algal blooms.”

The new FY 2014 funding will be used to:

  • Expand monitoring and forecasting to help drinking water treatment plant operators and beach managers minimize health impacts associated with HABs;
  • Increase incentives for farmers in western Lake Erie watersheds to reduce phosphorus runoff that contributes to HABs; and
  • Improve measurement of phosphorus loads in Lake Erie tributaries.

In early August, the City of Toledo issued a “Do Not Drink” order for almost 500,000 people in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan when a drinking water treatment plant was adversely impacted by microcystin, a toxin produced in connection with HAB outbreaks on Lake Erie. In addition to generating toxins that pose risks to human health, HABs create low oxygen “dead zones” and harm shoreline economies.

On August 13, EPA Regional Administrator, Susan Hedman, convened a meeting of federal and state agencies to identify opportunities for collaboration to minimize HAB-related risks in the western Lake Erie Basin. GLRI funding announced today targets immediate needs identified during that meeting. The group will continue to focus resources on this issue in FY 2015 and beyond.

McCarthy, who chairs the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force, which oversees the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, made the announcement today at the task force meeting in Washington, D.C.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world. GLRI resources are used to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and to accelerate progress toward long term goals which includes eliminating harmful algal blooms. Under the initial GLRI Action Plan, GLRI resources doubled the acreage enrolled in agricultural conservation programs in the western Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay and Green Bay watersheds where nutrient runoff contributes to harmful algal blooms. Under the new GLRI Action Plan, which covers 2015-2019, projects to reduce nutrient loads from these agricultural watersheds will continue. Watershed management and green infrastructure projects to reduce untreated runoff from urban watersheds will also continue.

Information about the GLRI:

A systems approach to evaluating the air quality co-benefits of US carbon policies

Tammy M. Thompson, Sebastian Rausch, Rebecca K. Saari, & Noelle E. Selin (2014). “A systems approach to evaluating the air quality co-benefits of US carbon policies.” Nature Climate Change, Published online 24 August 2014. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2342

Abstract: Because human activities emit greenhouse gases (GHGs) and conventional air pollutants from common sources, policy designed to reduce GHGs can have co-benefits for air quality that may offset some or all of the near-term costs of GHG mitigation. We present a systems approach to quantify air quality co-benefits of US policies to reduce GHG (carbon) emissions. We assess health-related benefits from reduced ozone and particulate matter (PM2.5) by linking three advanced models, representing the full pathway from policy to pollutant damages. We also examine the sensitivity of co-benefits to key policy-relevant sources of uncertainty and variability. We find that monetized human health benefits associated with air quality improvements can offset 26–1,050% of the cost of US carbon policies. More flexible policies that minimize costs, such as cap-and-trade standards, have larger net co-benefits than policies that target specific sectors (electricity and transportation). Although air quality co-benefits can be comparable to policy costs for present-day air quality and near-term US carbon policies, potential co-benefits rapidly diminish as carbon policies become more stringent.

Obama Pursuing Climate Accord in Lieu of Treaty

Read the full story in the New York Times.

The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.

Wedge approach to water stress

Yoshihide Wada, Tom Gleeson, & Laurent Esnault (2014). “Wedge approach to water stress.” Nature Geoscience
7, 615–617. DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2241.

Abstract: Water availability and use are inherently regional concerns. However, a global-scale approach to evaluating strategies to reduce water stress can help maximize mitigation.

The Carbon Footprint of Games Distribution

Mayers, K., Koomey, J., Hall, R., Bauer, M., France, C. and Webb, A. (2014), The Carbon Footprint of Games Distribution. Journal of Industrial Ecology. doi: 10.1111/jiec.12181

Abstract: This research investigates the carbon footprint of the lifecycle of console games, using the example of PlayStation®3 distribution in the UK. We estimate total carbon equivalent emissions for an average 8.8-gigabyte (GB) game based on data for 2010. The bulk of emissions are accounted for by game play, followed by production and distribution. Two delivery scenarios are compared: The first examines Blu-ray discs (BDs) delivered by retail stores, and the second, games files downloaded over broadband Internet. Contrary to findings in previous research on music distribution, distribution of games by physical BDs results in lower greenhouse gas emissions than by Internet download. The estimated carbon emissions from downloading only fall definitively below that of BDs for games smaller than 1.3 GB. Sensitivity analysis indicates that as average game file sizes increase, and the energy intensity of the Internet falls, the file size at which BDs would result in lower emissions than downloads could shift either up- or downward over the next few years. Overall, the results appear to be broadly applicable to title games within the European Union (EU), and for larger-than-average sized games in the United States. Further research would be needed to confirm whether similar findings would apply in future years with changes in game size and Internet efficiency. The study findings serve to illustrate why it is not always true that digital distribution of media will have lower carbon emissions than distribution by physical means when file sizes are large.

National Biodiversity Teach-in: By Students. . .For Students

Elgin High School Environmental Science asks you to participate in the National Biodiversity Teach-In during the week of September 22-26, 2014. The event is designed to raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity while acknowledging the somber anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon.

Students have organized a series of Webinars that highlight the work of scientists, activists and grassroots organizations. The Webinars are open to everyone, but the students are especially interested in attracting classroom teachers and students. Registration is free and easy, but links are limited so register as soon as possible.

To register for the webinars, rollover the “Events” tab at the top of the page. Click on “Meet our Webinar Presenters”. Once you are on this page you will find a registration link under the bio of each presenter. Open the link and submit the requested information.

Facebook: Miss Martha The Passenger Pigeon and Elgin High School Environmental Science
Twitter: @MissMartha1914

Registration for EPA’s Campus Rainworks Challenge now open

Registration for EPA’s Campus Rainworks Challenge opened September 2, 2014. Student teams, working with a faculty advisor, will submit design boards, a project narrative and a letter of support describing a proposed green infrastructure project for their college campus. Registrants must submit their entries by December 19, 2014. Learn more about the challenge and register at

Captain Planet Foundation Grants

The Captain Planet Foundation funds and supports hands-on environmental projects for students. Its objective is to encourage innovative programs that empower students around the world to work individually and collectively to solve environmental problems in their local communities. Grant amounts range from $250 to $2,500. Deadlines for submitting grant applications are September 30 and January 31.

The Case for a Moratorium On Tar Sands Development

Read the full story in Yale Environment360.

Ecologist Wendy Palen was one of a group of scientists who recently called for a moratorium on new development of Alberta’s tar sands. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, she talks about why Canada and the U.S. need to reconsider the tar sands as part of a long-term energy policy.

%d bloggers like this: