Day: March 4, 2016

In Mexico, Fish Poachers Push Endangered Porpoises to Brink

Read the full story in Yale Environment 360.

China’s lucrative black market for fish parts is threatening the vaquita, the world’s most endangered marine mammal. The porpoises, who live only in the Gulf of California, are getting caught up as bycatch in illegal gill nets and killed.

GOP pushes Interior head on agency rules

Read the full story in The Hill.

Republicans on a Senate appropriations panel challenged the head of the Interior Department Wednesday on a host of rules and energy assessments the agency is undertaking.

During a hearing on the agency’s 2017 budget request, members were most concerned about regional issues, including regulations for offshore drilling in the Gulf and a pause in the federal coal leasing program.

Can Science’s Reproducibility Crisis Be Reproduced?

Read the full story in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

More than a year after he committed suicide, is Robin Williams still funny?

The answer, both before his tragic death and after, probably is a matter of personal preference. It’s also now a key to assessing how seriously to take the much-feared crisis of reproducibility in scientific research.

Broad fears over reproducibility were stoked by a 2005 article in PLOS Medicine by John P.A. Ioannidis, a professor of health research and policy at Stanford University, contending that most published research findings are false. Last year a team of hundreds of researchers raised further alarm. After working over three years to faithfully repeat 100 studies that had been published in psychology journals, the team reported that it could not replicate most of the original results.

Now, two new studies, published on Thursday in Science magazine, are pushing back. One, a Harvard-led critique of the project that repeated 100 psychology studies, suggests that that ambitious effort overlooked some critical factors. The other, an attempt to repeat 18 studies in leading economics journals, found that 61 percent of them replicated successfully.

Your Modern Lifestyle Is Made Possible by Creating Tons of Waste, New Book Reveals

Read the full story from Binghampton University.

Josh Reno, assistant professor of anthropology at Binghamton University, spent a year working as a paper picker at a large mega-landfill on the outskirts of Detroit, M.I., to explore the relationship North Americans have with garbage. His two big takeaways: a) People don’t think twice about what happens to the garbage they throw out and b) the American dream of two cars, a house and perfect commodities is made possible by creating tons of waste.

“By sending so much things to dumps, by subtracting them out of our lives, that actually has an effect on us. We tend to think, ‘How does all that waste affect other people? How does it affect the earth?’” said Reno. “But the counter-intuitive thing is that it also, in its absence, is shaping our way of looking at things.”

Reno delivers the nitty-gritty details of his job and the impact of waste management on society in Waste Away: Working and Living with a North American Landfill, a new book published by the University of California Press.

Plastic-filled plankton poop threatens the oceans

Read the full story at Grist.

Few things in this world are more terrifying than free-floating poop. It ranks just below megalodons, Carnival cruises, and tequila shots as the biggest threat to swimmers worldwide. The mere sight of a floater is enough to ruin a perfectly good day at the beach.

But a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology suggests that it might actually be the dookie we can’t see that should worry us the most. According to the study, microscopic poop pellets that come from plankton can be chock full of plastic pollution. And when those pellets sink to the ocean depths, they bring that plastic with them, delivering it straight to the mouths of fish, crustaceans, and other organisms.

Anti-insect paint and electric planes: can technology make aviation sustainable?

Read the full story in The Guardian.

From NASA’s experimental X-planes to Google’s airship, there’s plenty of innovation but the emissions-intensive industry has a long way to go.

Cloudy problems: Today’s clouds might not be the same as pre-industrial ones

Read the full story from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Airborne particles known as “aerosols” strongly impact the way clouds form and change, but accurately capturing this effect in computer climate models has proved to be notoriously difficult. A new study in the Proceedings on the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition online Feb. 26 suggests why — either the models are failing to capture in sufficient detail the processes at work in clouds, or aerosols are now so pervasive in the atmosphere thanks to modern-day pollution that their specific effects on clouds are hard to pin down.

 

How to make electric vehicles that actually reduce carbon

Read the full story from Vanderbilt University.

An interdisciplinary team of scientists has worked out a way to make electric vehicles that only are not only carbon neutral but carbon negative, capable of actually reducing the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide as they operate.

They have done so by demonstrating how the graphite electrodes used in the lithium-ion batteries that power electric automobiles can be replaced with carbon material recovered from the atmosphere.

The recipe for converting carbon dioxide gas into batteries is described in the paper titled “Carbon Nanotubes Produced from Ambient Carbon Dioxide for Environmentally Sustainable Lithium-Ion and Sodium-Ion Battery Anodes” published online on Mar. 2 by the journal ACS Central Science.

EPA Issues Draft Risk Assessment for Chemical used in Spray Adhesives, Dry Cleaning and Degreasing

Today, the U. S. Environmental protection Agency (EPA) released for public comment and peer review a draft risk assessment for 1-Bromopropane (1-BP) used in spray adhesives, dry cleaning (including spot cleaners) applications, and degreasing uses.

“This draft assessment will provide workers and consumers with critical information about the risks associated with using 1-BP in these applications,” said Jim Jones assistant administrator for the office of chemical safety and pollution prevention. “Public and scientific peer review is an integral piece to ensure we use the best available science in evaluating this chemical.”

The draft assessment of 1-BP, also known as n-propyl bromide, was conducted as part of EPA’s Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Work Plan assessment effort. The chemical showed acute risks to women of childbearing age from adverse developmental effects. Other non-cancer and cancer health risks were identified for workers with repeated and chronic exposures, including neurotoxicity, kidney, liver, and reproductive toxicity, and lung cancer.

In addition to EPA’s assessment, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has issued a draft criteria document for worker exposure to 1-BP, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) examined the hazards of 1-BP associated with different exposure durations. While each agency’s review has a distinct focus based on their mandates, they draw similar conclusions about the health hazards of 1-BP. The EPA, NIOSH, and ATSDR will continue to coordinate in addressing concerns associated with this chemical.

EPA recommends the public carefully follow product label directions and take precautions that can reduce exposures, such as using the product outside or in an extremely well ventilated area and wearing appropriate protective equipment to reduce exposure, particularly inhalation.

As EPA continues to support much needed reform of the nation’s chemicals management legislation, it continues to evaluate chemicals that may pose risks.

EPA is seeking public comment of this draft assessment for 60 days. The document is available at: www.regulations.gov docket number: EPA-HQ-OPPT-2015-0084 and will be peer reviewed by the EPA’s Chemical Safety Advisory Committee (CSAC) in the spring of 2016.

Additional information on the 1-BP draft Risk Assessment and other Work Plan Chemicals can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/assessments-tsca-work-plan-chemicals .

The Supreme Court’s Action Threatens Vital Climate Policies

Read the full story at Yale Environment 360.

The U.S. Supreme Court order blocking President Obama’s plan to cut emissions from coal-burning power plants is an unprecedented step and one of the most environmentally harmful decisions ever made by the nation’s highest court.

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