Second Nature Climate Leadership Network & Three Commitments

Second Nature’s network of signatory institutions is now named the Climate Leadership Network. Following a strategic planning process with feedback from presidents and implementation staff at signatory institutions, Second Nature has announced three commitments that integrate and rebrand current efforts. The American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) has been renamed the Carbon Commitment. To advance the mission of the Alliance for Resilient Campuses (ARC), the Resilience Commitment has formed. Together, the concepts of carbon neutrality and the climate resilience constitute the new Climate Commitment.

Flame Retardant Breakthrough is Naturally Derived and Nontoxic

Read the full story from the University of Texas.

Inspired by a naturally occurring material found in marine mussels, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have created a new flame retardant to replace commercial additives that are often toxic and can accumulate over time in the environment and living animals, including humans.

Flame retardants are added to foams found in mattresses, sofas, car upholstery and many other consumer products. Once incorporated into foam, these chemicals can migrate out of the products over time, releasing toxic substances into the air and environment. Throughout the United States, there is pressure on state legislatures to ban flame retardants, especially those containing brominated compounds (BRFs), a mix of human-made chemicals thought to pose a risk to public health.

A team led by Cockrell School of Engineering associate professor Christopher Ellison found that a synthetic coating of polydopamine — derived from the natural compound dopamine — can be used as a highly effective, water-applied flame retardant for polyurethane foam. Dopamine is a chemical compound found in humans and animals that helps in the transmission of signals in the brain and other vital areas. The researchers believe their dopamine-based nanocoating could be used in lieu of conventional flame retardants.

The researchers’ findings were published in the journal Chemistry of Materials on Sept. 9.

The College Wild: How College and University Green Landscapes Provide Havens for Wildlife and “Lands-on” Experiences for Students

This new guide highlights how colleges and universities are playing a dynamic role protecting wildlife and restoring habitats in campus green spaces, including on-campus landscapes and natural areas, as well as distant campus-owned lands. It explores how such green places benefit the campus community through hands-on learning, energy and water conservation, and leadership opportunities.

The Price of an Oil Spill

Read the full story in Pacific Standard.

On Monday, the United States Justice Department announced a settlement with BP over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil behemoth must pay more than $20 billion to government agencies on both the state and federal levels.

Although the Justice Department first announced the terms of the deal in July—when BP agreed to settle state and federal claims for $18.7 billion—Monday’s announcement includes additional money that BP has already paid toward fines and damages.

 

Climate Change Is Not Our Fault

Read the full piece at NPR.

Humans changed Earth’s climate by mistake, says astrophysicist Adam Frank. But not doing everything we can now that we know it is happening — that would be our fault and our failure as a species.

Green Lunchroom Challenge Kickoff presentations and video now available

On September 17, 2015, a Green Lunchroom Challenge Kickoff Workshop and Training was held at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC)Goes to another site. in Champaign, IL. This session provided an overview of the Green Lunchroom Challenge, presentations on relevant tools and programs, and a group discussion of barriers and opportunities related to food waste prevention and reduction in K-12 schools. A free school food service training session was also presented by Greg Christian, Founder and CEO of Beyond Green Partners, a food service and consulting company focused on nutritional and environmental impacts of school food.

The presentations and training were videotaped to enable schools unable to attend, or which learned of the Challenge after the kickoff, to benefit from the information shared. Videos and PDF versions of the presenter’s slides are available here. Also, a summary of the group discussion focused on barriers and opportunities to prevent and reduce food waste in K-12 schools is provided. If you have additional comments or suggestions related to such barriers and benefits, please contact Joy Scrogum at jscrogum@illinois.edu or 217-333-8948.

Ancient Soil Samples Link Fires to Climate Change

Read the full story in Pacific Standard.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In the case of global warming, that can have dangerous, smoldering-hot implications. Global surface temperatures are expected to go up at least a degree over the next century, and the last time that happened, in the Middle Ages, the frequency of wildfires in the Colorado Rockies nearly doubled.

A number of recent studies suggest the weather is likely to get a lot harsher in the decades and centuries to come, with more intense (though not necessarily more frequent) hurricanes, longer and more severe droughts, and increasing numbers of severe thunderstorms. More droughts in particular also means a greater risk of wildfires. Less water, after all, equals more fire. But just how bad are things likely to get?

 

The outlook’s not too rosy, according to John Calder, a University of Wyoming geophysics graduate student, and his colleagues. Their findings, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “indicate a significant risk that … fires will burn large areas in the coming century if temperatures continue to rise,” they write.