The EPA is unleashing the pollution that makes people vulnerable to COVID-19

Read the full story at Massive Science.

Past exposure to air pollution increases the risk that an individual will suffer critical illness after contracting COVID-19, according to a report released on April 8 by researchers at Harvard.

In light of this finding, the recent decision of Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to indefinitely suspend environmental rule enforcement is tantamount to gross negligence. And, as waves of the virus come and go, the rule suspension could have consequences for months to come.

New insecticide ingredient smells like grapefruit, holds off disease-bearing ticks and mosquitoes

Read the full story in the Daily News.

Barbecues and mountain hikes could soon be redolent of grapefruit.

The citrusy scent is given off by a new active ingredient for insecticides just officially registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The ingredient, nootkatone, was discovered and developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is now EPA-approved for use in insecticides and insect repellents, the agency said in a statement Monday.

Products containing nootkatone have been shown to repel and even kill ticks, mosquitoes and other biting pests, the EPA said.

Study finds high levels of toxic pollutants in stranded dolphins and whales

Read the full story from Florida Atlantic University.

Researchers examined toxins in tissue concentrations and pathology data from 83 stranded dolphins and whales from 2012 to 2018. They looked at 11 different animal species to test for 17 different substances. The study is the first to report on concentrations in blubber tissues of stranded cetaceans of atrazine, DEP, NPE and triclosan. It also is the first to report concentrations of toxicants in a white-beaked dolphin and in Gervais’ beaked whales.

Associated journal article: Annie Page-Karjian, Catherine F. Lo, Branson Ritchie, Craig A. Harms, David S. Rotstein, Sushan Han, Sayed M. Hassan, Andreas F. Lehner, John P. Buchweitz, Victoria G. Thayer, Jill M. Sullivan, Emily F. Christiansen, Justin R. Perrault. Anthropogenic Contaminants and Histopathological Findings in Stranded Cetaceans in the Southeastern United States, 2012–2018Frontiers in Marine Science, 2020; 7 DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2020.00630

Backyard Battle: Helping Native Bees Thrive in a Honeybee World

Read the full story at e360.

Native bees are at risk across the United States. “Buzz Kill” — winner of the 2020 Yale Environment 360 Video Contest — depicts the beauty and key ecological role played by these bees and shows how industrialized agriculture and its use of honeybee colonies threatens endemic bee species.

Searing Heat Will Make COVID-19 Racial Disparities Worse

Read the full story at Stateline.

Scientists say the nation is experiencing another public health emergency that will further exacerbate the coronavirus crisis: extreme heat.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting the next three months will be hotter than normal for much of the country; 2020, it says, likely will rank as one of the hottest years on record.

Communities of color, particularly lower-income Black and Latino neighborhoods, will be particularly affected. Extreme heat likely will push more residents into crowded cooling centers, where they may be exposed to the virus, and worsen breathing problems and other underlying health conditions that already disproportionately affect people of color, researchers say.

As the summer heats up, cities are offering help with utility bills; repairing existing air conditioning systems or providing free air conditioners for low-income residents; opening more cooling centers; and parking buses with the air conditioning running so that passersby can cool off. 

But advocates and many scientists say officials need to develop strategies to protect the health of vulnerable communities for the long term, as climate change leads to more frequent and intense heat waves.

‘Insect apocalypse’ may not be happening in US

Read the full story from the University of Georgia.

Scientists have been warning about an ‘insect apocalypse’ in recent years, noting sharp declines in specific areas — particularly in Europe. A new study shows these warnings may have been exaggerated and are not representative of what’s happening to insects on a larger scale.

Associated journal article: Michael S. Crossley, Amanda R. Meier, Emily M. Baldwin, Lauren L. Berry, Leah C. Crenshaw, Glen L. Hartman, Doris Lagos-Kutz, David H. Nichols, Krishna Patel, Sofia Varriano, William E. Snyder, Matthew D. Moran. No net insect abundance and diversity declines across US Long Term Ecological Research sitesNature Ecology & Evolution, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-1269-4

Terreform ONE’s plans to upend cities and suburbs in a post-pandemic world

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

And now for some serious fun.

Last week, I had the opportunity to facilitate an online conversation with Terreform ONE, a Brooklyn, New York-based nonprofit architecture and urban design research group whose humble mission is “to combat the extinction of planetary species through pioneering acts of design.”

Upcycling plastic waste toward sustainable energy storage

Read the full story from the University of California – Riverside.

Engineering professors and their students have been working for years on creating improved energy storage materials from sustainable sources, such as glass bottles, beach sand, Silly Putty, and portabella mushrooms. Now they have turned plastic soda bottles into a nanomaterial for use in batteries. Though they don’t store as much energy as lithium-ion batteries, supercapacitors made with the material can charge much faster.

Associated journal article: Arash Mirjalili, Bo Dong, Pedro Pena, Cengiz S. Ozkan, Mihrimah Ozkan. Upcycling of Polyethylene Terephthalate Plastic Waste to Microporous Carbon Structure for Energy StorageEnergy Storage, 2020; DOI: 10.1002/est2.201

The making of green steel in the EU: a policy evaluation for the early commercialization phase

Valentin Vogl, Max Åhman & Lars J. Nilsson (2020) The making of green steel in the EU: a policy evaluation for the early commercialization phase, Climate Policy, DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2020.1803040 [open access]

Abstract: In the attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from steel production, several large industry decarbonization projects have emerged in Europe. The commercialization of low-emission steel technology, however, faces systemic barriers such as a lack of infrastructure and unclear demand for greener steel. As part of its new commitment to climate-neutrality, the European Commission has announced plans to more actively create and reshape markets for green basic materials. The approach is inspired by the recent success story of renewable energy, where market interventionist policy has successfully led to cost reductions and supported the diffusion of wind and photovoltaics. However, the applicability of this type of policy to decarbonize basic materials has so far not been investigated. In this study, we evaluate the effectiveness, feasibility, efficiency and fairness of early commercialization policy support for the decarbonization transition of steel. We compare two approaches: demand side market creation and direct production subsidies through carbon contracts for difference. We find that the subsidy approach can more effectively enable the realization of primary green steel production. A complementary use of market creation policy instruments can reduce the production subsidy volumes needed and aid the global diffusion of new production methods. Although effective, we find that production subsidies will distribute the costs and benefits of the transition unequally. In order to improve effectiveness and fairness of the policy, parallel programmes such as electricity price guarantees and transitional assistance policies for disadvantaged regions are needed.

Illinois State Water Survey Annual Research Report 2019-2020

Download the document.

Director’s message:

This year, the Illinois State Water Survey marks its 125th year of advancing water,
weather, and climate science.

In 1895, the Illinois legislature earmarked funds for scientists at the University of
Illinois to study the state’s water supplies. Both water safety and availability were
concerns then, as they remain today. Back then, Water Survey staff fought typhoid
fever by testing more than 21,000 water samples from more than 900 towns in all
102 Illinois counties.

Today, our scientific research and service programs continue to anticipate and
react to critical issues related to the quality, quantity, and use of ground, surface,
and atmospheric water resources. Our scientists test Illinoisans’ water, assist
communities with water supply planning and flood mitigation, provide weather
and soil data that are critical to agriculture and other industries, and more. Much of
this essential work leverages our extensive datasets, which have been collected and
analyzed for more than a century.

During our recent strategic planning activities, we identified three research focus
areas where our expertise, data, and continued effort can deliver significant impact
in Illinois and beyond:

  • Community Resiliency to risks such as heat waves, droughts, flash floods, and
    severe storms.
  • Nutrient and Sediment Transport and the impact on Illinois’ water quality and
    supply, habitat, land use, and economy.
  • Regional Climate and Green Energy, specifically better understanding of how
    the changing climate will impact sources of renewable energy and providing
    more accurate predictions of the benefits and length of service of renewable
    energy investments.

This publication provides highlights of some of our key work in these in our 125th
year. This is truly just a glimpse of the Water Survey’s work, so please visit our
website and reach out to our staff to learn more.