ENB on holiday from December 20-January 4.

5212232666_e74166875d_qEnvironmental News Bits will be on holiday from Thursday, December 20-Friday, January 4. Posts will resume on Monday, January 7.

I wish you a safe and happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year. See you in 2019!


As Seas Warm, Galápagos Islands Face a Giant Evolutionary Test

Read the full story from the New York Times.

Nicholas Casey, a New York Times correspondent based in Colombia, and Josh Haner, a Times photographer, traveled 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador to see how ocean warming is affecting Darwin’s first laboratory.

Almost all power plants that retired in the past decade were powered by fossil fuels

Read the full story from the Energy Information Administration.

Nearly all of the utility-scale power plants in the United States that were retired from 2008 through 2017 were fueled by fossil fuels. Of the total retired capacity, coal power plants and natural gas steam turbines accounted for the highest percentages, 47% and 26%, respectively. Most of the planned retirements through 2020 will also be coal plants and natural gas steam turbines, based on information reported to EIA.

us utility scale electric generating capacity retirements



Plant-level cooling water and air emissions data are now available on a new beta version of EIA’s Electricity Data Browser

Read the full story from the Energy Information Administration.

EIA has enhanced the Electricity Data Browser (EDB) to simplify access to some of EIA’s most important, but also most complex, data series: information on plant-level cooling water use and estimates of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The cooling water and emissions data are currently on a beta version of the EDB, where users are welcome to give their feedback. The cooling water and emission data will be incorporated into the existing version of the EDB soon…

The beta version of the EDB allows the user to select a plant, see a list of all cooling systems at the plant, and see key operating water-usage data for each system. The data include water withdrawal, discharge, and consumption, and measures of water-use intensity, such as gallons consumed per megawatthour of power generated. As with the other EDB data sets, the cooling water data can be graphed (standalone or in comparison to other data, such as generation) and downloaded. The data are available for the 2014–16 data years on a monthly and annual basis.

Global Climate Change Explorer

Use the Global Climate Change Explorer to explore a small part of the scientific data from different realms being affected by climate change: the AtmosphereOceans and WaterIce, and Land and Living Systems. In the Looking Ahead section, you can explore what computer models tell us about our climate’s future, and how that may impact society. And you’ll begin to learn what can be done to slow down and adapt to climate change.

The Inconvenient Youth Revisited: Teens, Parents, and Clean Air Conversations and Action

Roslynn G.H. Brain McCann, Edwin R. Stafford, and Paige Morgan (2018). “The Inconvenient Youth Revisited: Teens, Parents, and Clean Air Conversations and Action.”
Sustainability: The Journal of Record 11(6), 284-297. https://doi.org/10.1089/sus.2018.0019

Abstract: How influential are teens in prompting clean air actions among their parents? What factors improve effectiveness of teen communication? To answer these questions, the authors surveyed both teen participants and their parents in the 2018 iteration of an annual high school clean air poster contest. The contest combines environmental science, marketing, and art to engage teens about responsible driving strategies that can preserve air quality (e.g., carpooling, refraining from idling, trip‐chaining, riding the bus, etc.). A survey from the 2017 iteration of the contest indicated that about two‐thirds of contestants (N=205) reported engaging others (primarily parents and siblings) about local air pollution, even though they were not instructed to do so, and 43 percent of those contestants reported that they believed their actions had changed others’ behaviors to engage in clean air actions. This result was dubbed the “Inconvenient Youth” effect, inspired by a 2007 Wall Street Journal article describing how adults (especially parents) often feel uncomfortable having youth instruct or pester them about social behaviors, making them feel pressured to comply in order to maintain the youths’ respect.

A survey of the 2018 iteration of the contest asked the teen contestants to report impacts of their direct personal behavior and asked parents about conversations their teens had with them that potentially changed their own behaviors. Seventy‐one percent of parents (N=114) reported that their teens talked to them about air pollution as a consequence of the poster contest, and teens who discussed specific actions for preserving air quality had the most influence on changing parent behaviors. Interestingly, only a few parents described their teens’ social influence as pestering or annoying. Rather, most parents reported that their teens simply initiated a reasoned conversation about local air pollution and solutions, and some even welcomed it! This article discusses the implications of these findings and future research directions about understanding how adolescents may become persuasive change agents through their proactive knowledge dissemination.

Want to combat plastic straw waste? Consider rewiring consumer psychology.

Read the full story in Waste Dive.

The global plastic backlash has elevated straws to a curious place in public discourse. While some characterize the spotlight on straws as, well, a straw man diverting attention away from more critical sources of plastic pollution, others insist on their symbolic importance in the war against plastic — single-use straws, an unnecessary extravagance for most, are in many ways emblematic of the devastating environmental consequences of unchecked consumerism.

Travis Wagner, a professor at the University of Southern Maine’s Department of Environmental Science & Policy, takes the latter stance.

“I view [increasing attention on plastic straws] as a gateway action,” he told Waste Dive in an interview. “Once someone embraces a reduction of straws, they’re more likely to embrace reduction of other materials.”

But achieving this reduction can prove tricky for policymakers — and, as Wagner establishes in a new paper on plastic straw regulation, not all approaches are created equal.


Wasting Less Food in K-12 Settings: Best Practices for Success

Download the document.

There are many practical steps that K-12 schools can take to reduce wasted food in both kitchens and cafeterias. Below we highlight best practices for preventing food waste, ensuring that food surpluses reach people in need, and recycling food scraps. It accompanies the recently completed Food Waste Action Plan for the Minneapolis
Public Schools, commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Read the full story in Science Daily.

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes — while significantly reducing your electric bill and carbon footprint? Engineers have found a cost-effective way to make thin, durable heating patches by using intense pulses of light to fuse tiny silver wires with polyester. Their heating performance is nearly 70 percent higher than similar patches created by other researchers.

Climate change imperils Midwest ag production

Read the full story from Science Daily.

A new Cornell University-led study shows that Midwest agriculture is increasingly vulnerable to climate change because of the region’s reliance on growing rain-fed crops.