New EPA tool provides the public with customized updates on local enforcement and compliance activities

EPA has announced the of ECHO Notify, a new web tool that empowers members of the public to stay informed about important environmental enforcement and compliance activities in their communities.  Through ECHO Notify, users can sign up to receive weekly emails when new information is available within the selected geographic area, such as when a violation or enforcement action has taken place at a nearby facility. 

“EPA is committed to empowering communities with the information they need to understand and make informed decisions about their health and the environment,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.  “We’ve also seen that increased transparency leads to stronger deterrence of environmental violations. As more people play an active role in protecting their neighborhoods from pollution, EPA has developed ECHO Notify so that finding updates on environmental enforcement and compliance activities is as easy as checking your email.”

ECHO Notify provides information on all EPA enforcement and compliance activities as well as activities of state and local governments under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act.  

You can find ECHO Notify on EPA’s website at ECHO Notify, as shown below. 

ECHO Notify screen capture

Visitors to the ECHO Notify homepage who wish to receive email updates only need to take a few simple steps: 

  • Create an account, if you don’t have one already;
  • Select a geographic area and/or facility ID(s);
  • Choose the type of compliance and enforcement information of interest;
  • Enter an email address; and
  • Click “subscribe.”

Once subscribed, the user will receive an automated email (typically on Sunday) containing new information from the prior weeklong period. If no new information is available, no email will be sent. Email notifications include links for users to view additional information on ECHO, including a link to each facility’s Detailed Facility Report. Users can easily update their notification selections or unsubscribe at any time.

EPA has prepared a video that provides an overview of ECHO Notify and explains how to use it.  The video can be seen here, ECHO Tutorial: Intro to ECHO Notify

Maersk sources over 700,000 tonnes of green methanol to drive sustainable shipping goals

container ship

Read the full story at ESG Today.

Integrated container logistics company A.P. Moller – Maersk announced today a series of agreements to source at least 730,000 tones of green methanol per year by the end of 2025.

The agreements follow a series of orders by Maersk of clean-fuel-powered container ship over the past several months, including an order in July for the world’s first carbon-neutral methanol fueled container ship, followed by an order for 8 large methanol-powered ocean-going container vessels. Maersk currently has 12 green container vessels on order, and with today’s announcement, the company said that it will exceed the green methanol needs of the 12 vessels by 2025.

Aging of microplastics increases their adsorption affinity towards organic contaminants


Kartik Bhagat, Ana C. Barrios, Kimya Rajwade, Abhishek Kumar, Jay Oswald, Onur Apul, François Perreault (2022). “Aging of microplastics increases their adsorption affinity towards organic contaminants.” Chemosphere 298, 134238. DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2022.134238

Abstract: When released in the environment, microplastics undergo surface weathering due to mechanical abrasion and ultraviolet exposure. In this study, the adsorption of two model contaminants, phenanthrene and methylene blue, by weathered high density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PPE) was evaluated to understand how the microplastics’ aging influences contaminant adsorption. Microplastics were aged through an accelerated weathering process using ultraviolet exposure with or without hydrogen peroxide. Adsorption isotherms were conducted for both contaminants on pristine and aged microplastics. The adsorption of organic contaminants was higher on aged microplastics than on pristine ones, with methylene blue having the highest affinity increase with aging at 4.7-fold and phenanthrene having a 1.9-fold increase compared to the pristine particles. To understand the mechanisms involved with higher adsorption of contaminants by aged microplastics, changes in the specific surface area and surface chemistry of aged microplastics were characterized by Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy, X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy, zeta potential, X-ray tomography, and Brunauer–Emmett–Teller krypton adsorption analyses. The results of this study show that oxidation of microplastics can enhance the adsorption of organic contaminants, which may increase their role as vectors of contaminants in the aquatic food chain.

Amazon doubles down on clean construction

Read the full story at Axios.

Amazon is working with CarbonCure Technologies, a sustainable materials construction startup, on 13 of its current building projects, the companies tell Axios.

Bird Communities and Their Conservation Priorities are Better Understood through the Integration of Traditional and Citizen Science Data: An Example from Brazilian Atlantic Forest

Farias, M., Roper, J. and Cavarzere, V. (2022). “Bird Communities and Their Conservation Priorities are Better Understood through the Integration of Traditional and Citizen Science Data: An Example from Brazilian Atlantic Forest.” Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, 7(1), 9. DOI:

Abstract: The status of endemic and threatened birds of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest remains poorly understood. Citizen science offers information that helps fill this gap. In southern Brazil, traditional science was carried out in 15 of 50 municipalities in western Paraná state, reporting 82 endemic and 25 threatened species in a total of 467. WikiAves, the most popular, photography-based online citizen science platform in Brazil, whose users are not trained to collect data, reported 56 endemic and 11 threatened species in a total of 430 in 48 municipalities. Together, the 512 species is 92% of the expected 558, and all endemic and threatened species reported in WikiAves were reported by traditional scientists. Traditional scientists studied in protected areas, provided a list of species, and reported > 200 species in 4 municipalities, endemic species in 14, and threatened species in 11. The number of species reported correlated with the number of studies in the municipality. Citizen scientists tended to photograph target species, and reported > 200 species in 2 municipalities, endemic species in 31, and threatened in 12. The number of records was correlated with population of the municipality. Traditional scientists tend to test hypotheses and use appropriate methods. Citizen scientists seem to photograph close to home, without using scientific methods. We offer suggestions to better integrate traditional and citizen science data; each adds information useful for both, improving both of their contributions to science and conservation.

Global warming combined with other changes in the environment presents ‘double whammy’ for birds


Read the full story from Australian National University.

A new study rolls back the curtain on half a century of evidence detailing the impact of climate change on more than 60 different bird species.  It found that half of all changes to key physical and behavioral bird characteristics since the 1960s can be linked to climate change.

Get samples of these 100% recyclable fiber can rings made from sugarcane and bamboo

Read the full story at Craft Brewing Business.

World Centric, a California company that provides certified compostable products for the foodservice industry to reduce environmental impact, recently announced new compostable Fiber 4-Can Carrier Rings. The company’s new fiber can rings are made exclusively from annually renewable plant fibers instead of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or low-density polyethylene (LDPE). They are actually made from sugarcane and bamboo, which also helps limit the use of timber materials in an effort to protect forests and indigenous communities whose livelihoods depend on those forests. The rings are designed to compost within two to four months in a commercial composting facility.

Top 10 books on the environment & sustainability: 2022

Read the full story at Booklist.

To combat climate change, we need both facts and hope, and the most illuminating and encouraging books about the environment and the path to sustainability offer both in addressing forests, endangered species, recycling, and human nature.

Why the cost of mitigating climate change can’t be boiled down to one right number, despite some economists’ best attempts

Renewable energy prices have fallen faster than predicted. ImageBROKER/Lilly

by Matthew E. Kahn, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Back in November 2019, before the pandemic began, would you have guessed how important videoconferencing like Zoom would be in people’s lives just a few months later?

That’s the kind of challenge economists face when they try to put a single number on the long-term cost of mitigating climate change or the cost of allowing global temperature to keep rising. Human behaviors shift as public policies change and new technology arrives and evolves.

I am a microeconomist who investigates the causes and consequences of climate change. When I think about the climate change challenge in 2040 and beyond, I anticipate many “known unknowns” about our future. Thus, I am amazed to read precise climate cost estimates like those recently published by economic consultants McKinsey & Co.

McKinsey pegs the global cost of transitioning energy and other sectors to net-zero emissions by 2050 at US$9.2 trillion a year. The insurer Swiss Re has estimated that doing nothing will cut global GDP by as much as 14%, or about $23 trillion, by 2050.

Numbers like these are widely used to encourage action by governments, companies and individuals. Economists agree that climate change, left unchecked, will harm economies. But these estimates are produced using formal models that feature many assumptions, any one of which could throw off the accounting in a big way, leaving the estimates either wildly high or low.

While people might think they want “precision,” precise predictions raise the risk of conveying too much certainty in a constantly changing world. Here’s what goes into climate economic models and why certainty isn’t an option for future cost projections.

The prediction challenge

Climate economic models seek to answer several prediction questions, such as:

  • “How will the performance of the world economy be affected if we enact a carbon dioxide tax today?” The answer to this question helps us to understand the “cost of taking action.”
  • “If the entire world does enact this carbon tax, how much will greenhouse gas emissions decline by in each subsequent year?”
  • “What will we gain economically by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions?”
  • “What will be the economic and quality-of-life impact if we do nothing and just allow greenhouse gas emissions to rise under ‘business as usual’?”

To answer these complex questions, climate economists make a series of assumptions that are “baked” into their mathematical models.

Known unknowns

First, economists must predict the world’s average income per person for each year in the future.

Macroeconomists have faced challenges predicting the timing and duration of recessions. Predicting future economic growth over the course of 30 or 40 years requires predicting how the quantity and quality of the world’s workforce and our technology will evolve over time. Predicting the world’s population growth is also a challenging exercise, as increases in urbanization, women’s access to education and improvements in birth control are all associated with reductions in fertility. [view a chart showing the world population growth rate from 1955-present]

Second, they must make an informed guess about what technologies will exist in the future concerning our sources of power generation and the energy we use in transportation. If they can estimate the future world population level, income level and technology, then they can measure how much extra greenhouse gas emissions the world produces each year.

Third, they use a climate science model to estimate the extra climate change risk caused by the production of greenhouse gas emissions. This is typically measured by the increase in the world’s average surface temperature.

Fourth, they must take a stand on how our future economy’s production will be affected by rising climate change risk. Ideally, these models also tell us how releasing more greenhouse gas emissions increases the likelihood of disaster scenarios.

By combining all of these equations with their own respective assumptions, a research team generates a single number such as: The world will face $23 trillion in damages due to climate change if we take no serious actions to mitigate emissions.

The ‘art’ of predicting future emissions

Economists estimate future global greenhouse gas emissions by multiplying the predicted global gross national product – the total value of goods and services – by the average emissions per dollar of gross national product.

If the world succeeds in ending fossil fuel use, this latter figure could be close to zero. The innovation and deployment of low-carbon technologies – think electric vehicles and solar farms – can significantly shift the costs and benefits that economists are trying to quantify.

Many factors determine this path of technological advance, including investment in research and development. International politics also don’t always factor into climate economic models. For example, if China chooses to become more insular, will it increase its coal consumption because the nation is endowed with coal? Conversely, could China choose to use its powerful state to push the green tech sector to create a booming future export market that greens the world’s economy?

Forecasting future climate change impacts

Economic mathematical models boil down the impact of climate change into a single algebra equation called the “climate damage function.” In my book “Adapting to Climate Change,” I provide several examples for why this function is continually changing and thus is very difficult to predict.

For example, many companies are developing climate risk ratings systems to educate real estate buyers about the different future climate risks specific pieces of real estate will face, such as wildfires or flooding.

Suppose this emerging climate risk rating industry makes progress in identifying less risky areas to live, and zoning codes are changed to allow more people to live in these safer areas. The damage that Americans suffer from climate change would decrease as people literally “move to higher ground”.

The confident climate modeler cannot capture this dynamic with inflexible algebra.

Chart showing cost ranges measured in percentage of GDP for climate change damage to the U.S. economy at each temperature increase, from 1 degree F to 15
The range of damage estimates is wider for higher temperature increases. Source: Fourth National Climate Assessment

Prediction under uncertainty

Climate economics models can play a “Paul Revere” role – educating policymakers and the public about the likely risks ahead. As economists build these models, they must be honest about their limitations. A model that generates “the answer” may lead decision-makers astray.

As much as everyone might like a concrete answer to how much climate change and acting on climate change will cost, we’ll have to live with uncertainty.

Matthew E. Kahn, Provost Professor of Economics and Spatial Sciences, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How can businesses trigger cleantech tipping points in the 2020s?

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

The tipping points that mark the point at which cleantech deployment rates become exponential are in many ways the last best hope against averting runaway climate change.