Even Small Increases in Air Pollution Can Put Children at Higher Risk for Mental Illness

Read the full story from Pacific Standard.

Even low levels of air pollution may put children at higher risk for developing a mental illness, according to a recent study out of Sweden — the first of its kind to examine the effects of poor air quality on such a young cohort.

‘Beautiful Flight’ Across The Atlantic Is Major Milestone For Solar Plane

Read the full story from NPR.

After 71 hours and 8 minutes of flight time crossing the Atlantic, Solar Impulse 2 has touched down in Seville, Spain. It’s a major step toward the team’s goal of circumnavigating the globe using only the sun’s power.

Canada’s Fracking Earthquakes Move Legislatures to Act

Read the full story at Triple Pundit.

Last March the government of Alberta, Canada, learned the dirty news: It isn’t just injection wells that raise the chance of an earthquake in quake-sensitive zones; hydraulic fracturing of shale does as well.

In fact, say researchers, “nearly all” of the quakes magnitude 3 or larger to hit either side of the Canadian Rockies were a result of fracking.

Over the last few years, researchers at the University of Calgary studied the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and seismic activity. Their investigations, for the most part, received little attention from media. But after 4.4-magnitude earthquake registered in Alberta’s oil belt last January, those findings reached the front page.

The fact that British Columbia’s populous west coast is at risk for earthquakes and tsunamis is common knowledge and built into city and architectural planning. But man-made earthquakes in Canada’s remote regions like Fox Creek, where populations are now on the increase, was another matter. And it didn’t escape politicians’ attention that the area of concern comprised Canada’s largest and most sought-after natural gas reserves, the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin.


This tiny change to Nest thermostats could have big energy consequences

Read the full story from the Washington Post.

The new software announced Tuesday by Nest Labs, the Alphabet-owned smart thermostat maker whose devices are appearing in more and more homes, may sound kind of wonky at first. In fact, it opens the door to a pretty profound change in how we use electricity.

Called “Time of Savings,” the program will allow Nest thermostats installed in key U.S. regions to learn when their owners are participating in what is called a time-of-use electricity plan. In these plans, which are greatly favored by economists, people actually pay more for electricity at key times when it is in greater demand (say, the evening), but less at times of lower demand (which is most times). In effect, consumers become economic actors with a reason to make a rational choice about how and when they use electricity.

It’s an arrangement much closer to how wholesale electricity markets work anyway, but one that residential customers have largely been shielded from. Until now, that is.

Trader Joe’s is forced to fix refrigerators, cut greenhouse gas emissions

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Trader Joe’s will spend millions of dollars over the next several years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its refrigeration equipment as part of a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department.

Federal officials had alleged that the grocery chain had violated the Clean Air Act by failing to repair leaks of “R-22,” an ozone-depleting substance and potent greenhouse gas that is commonly used as a coolant in refrigerators. Investigators also claimed that the California-based company had failed to keep adequate service records for its refrigeration equipment and failed to provide information about its compliance record.

As part of the settlement announced Tuesday, Trader Joe’s agreed to spend an estimated $2 million over the next three years to cut down on coolant leaks from refrigerators and other equipment and to put in place a program to better detect and repair leaks. The company also pledged to cut its “average leak rate” to less than half of the grocery industry average, and it vowed to use non-ozone depleting refrigerants at all of its new or significantly renovated stores. At least 15 of those stores must use advanced refrigerants, such as carbon dioxide, that have far less potential to contribute to global warming.

The company also will pay a $500,000 civil penalty.


Green homes: would you pay more for energy and water efficiency?

Read the full story in The Guardian.

A new tool will make it easier for home buyers and renters to understand energy efficiency but will it make a difference to their purchasing decisions?

EPA chief tangles with GOP on regulations

Read the full story in The Hill.

The top Republican on the House Science Committee sparred with the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday, criticizing the EPA’s scientific work and accusing it of being “an agency in pursuit of a purely political agenda.”

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy got into a heated discussion about the agency’s rulemaking agenda and the science it uses to justify those rules during a Wednesday hearing.

The two tangled on the findings of a year-old federal report that concludes energy prices might go up as coal-fired power plants close under the Clean Power Plan, the EPA’s landmark climate rule for power plants.

Virgin Atlantic just used behavioral science to ‘nudge’ its pilots into using less fuel. It worked

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

In an unusual experiment that could have major implications for the role of corporations in fighting climate change, Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airways recently teamed up with economists to try to “nudge” the company’s pilots to use less fuel, using a variety of behavioral interventions.

And it apparently worked. The intervention was so cost effective, the researchers say, that it “outperforms every other reported carbon abatement technology of which we are aware.”

The study suggests that Virgin — which has long had a sustainability program, and whose founder is a major champion of climate change action — could prove a model for others in the airline industry, and beyond, when it comes to shaping how employee behavior (including very high-level, skilled employees) affects the environment.

The Virgin Atlantic experiment involved a huge volume of data — from 40,000 flights made by 335 captains in 2014. Pilots’ fuel use was measured during three separate flight phases: before the plane takes off, while it is operated in the air and then on the ground post-landing. The results, authored by Greer Gosnell of the London School of Economics and Political Science along with two University of Chicago economists, were just released as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Virgin Atlantic has also released its own description of the research here.