August 10, 2010
By: Ethan A. Huff
A recent report issued by the European Union has revealed that biofuels, or fuel made from living, renewable sources, is not really all that beneficial to the environment. Rather than reduce the net carbon footprint as intended, biofuels can produce four times more carbon dioxide pollution than conventional fossil fuels do.
Common biofuels like corn ethanol, which has become a popular additive in gasoline, and soy biodiesel, which is being used in commercial trucks and other diesel-fueled vehicles, are often considered to be environmentally-friendly because they are renewable. But in order to grow enough of these crops to use for both food and fuel, large swaths of land around the world are being converted into crop fields for growing biofuels.
In other words, millions of acres of lush rainforests are becoming corn and soy fields in order to provide enough of these resources for their new uses. The net carbon footprint of growing crops for fuel is far higher than what is emitted from simple fossil fuel usage.
According to the report, American soybeans have an indirect carbon footprint of 340kg of CO2 per gigajoule (GJ), while conventional diesel and gasoline create only 85kg/GJ. Similarly, the European rapeseed, a plant similar to the North American canola, indirectly produces 150kg/GJ because additional land in other nations has been converted to grow rapeseed for food in order to replace the native crops that are now being grown for fuel.
Ironically, the amount of direct and indirect resources used to grow food for fuel is quite high compared to that of conventional fossil fuels. Biofuels also do not burn as efficiently and can be rough on the engines they fuel. Ethanol-enriched gasoline can also reduce gas mileage efficiency by upwards of 25 percent, depending on the vehicle.
Growing food for fuel ends up increasing the price of food for consumers. It also puts additional strain on families, many of whom are already having difficulties making ends meet in current economic conditions.
When all is said and done, biofuels seem to be a whole lot of hype with not a lot of benefit. Environmentally, fiscally and practically, biofuels are a disaster. Fossil fuels may not be an ideal form of clean energy, but at this point in time, they make a lot more sense than biofuels.
April 15, 2010
By: Deborah Zebarenko
Climate change could push the cost of U.S. allergies and asthma beyond the current $32 billion annual price tag, conservation and health groups reported on Wednesday.
A warming planet makes for longer growing seasons that would produce more allergy-provoking pollen in much of the heavily populated eastern two-thirds of the United States, the National Wildlife Federation and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America said in their report.
The cost of coping with allergies and allergen-driven asthma in the United States is at $32 billion in direct medical costs, lost work days and lower productivity, the report said.
“Climate change could allow highly allergenic trees like oaks and hickories to start replacing pines, spruces and firs that generally don’t cause allergies, exposing many more people to springtime allergy triggers,” said Amanda Staudt, a climate scientist at the wildlife federation.
Spring-like conditions are already arriving 14 days earlier than 20 years ago, Staudt said.
In the fall, ragweed plants will grow larger and more loaded with pollen over a longer growing season, Staudt said in a telephone interview. There is also evidence that ragweed, the biggest U.S. allergy trigger, grows faster as carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that spurs climate change, is emitted by human-made sources like fossil-fueled vehicles and coal-fired power plants as well as natural sources including human breath.
CARBON DIOXIDE CONNECTION
“With more carbon dioxide, each ragweed plant can produce more pollen and can even produce more allergenic pollen, so fall allergies are going to get a pretty big hit,” Staudt said.
The average global temperature last year tied for the second highest year on record and the decade from 2000-2009 was the hottest on record, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
This means agricultural and natural growing zones are shifting northward, allowing pollen-bearing trees to survive over a wider range than they have historically, the report said.
About 10 million U.S. residents have so-called allergic asthma, in which asthma attacks are triggered by pollen or other airborne allergens. These attacks are likely to increase as global warming causes these allergens to become more widespread, numerous and potent, the report said.
Poison ivy, one of the top 10 medically problematic plants in the United States with more than 350,000 cases of contact dermatitis reported annually, would become more toxic and more widespread as the climate changes. When exposed to more carbon dioxide, poison ivy plants produce a more allergenic form of urushiol, the substance that makes skin itch.
The Washington Post
By JEFF BARNARD
Ozone blowing over from Asia is raising background levels of a major ingredient of smog in the skies over California, Oregon, Washington and other Western states, according to a new study appearing in Thursday’s edition of the journal Nature.
The amounts are small and, so far, only found in a region of the atmosphere known as the free troposphere, at an altitude of two to five miles, but the development could complicate U.S. efforts to control air pollution.
Though the levels are small, they have been steadily rising since 1995, and probably longer, said lead author Owen R. Cooper, a research scientist at the University of Colorado attached to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.
“The important aspect of this study for North America is that we have a strong indication that baseline ozone is increasing,” said Cooper. “We still don’t know how much is coming down to the surface. If the surface ozone is increasing along with the free tropospheric ozone, that could make it more difficult for the U.S. to meet its ozone air quality standard.”
The study is the first link between atmospheric ozone over the U.S. and Asian pollution, said Dan Jaffe, a University of Washington-Bothell professor of atmospheric and environmental chemistry.
He contributed data from his observatory on top of Mount Bachelor in Oregon to the study.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering lowering the current limit on ozone in the atmosphere by as much as 20 percent, and has been working with China to lower its emissions of the chemicals that turn into ozone.
Ozone is harmful to people’s respiratory systems and plants. It is created when compounds produced by burning fossil fuels are hit by sunlight and break down. Ozone also contributes to the greenhouse effect, ranking behind carbon dioxide and methane in importance.
Ozone is only one of many pollutants from Asia that reach the United States. Instruments regularly detect mercury, soot, and cancer-causing PCBs.
Jaffe said it was logical to conclude that the increasing ozone was the result of burning more coal and oil as part of the Asia’s booming economic growth.
The next step is to track the amounts of Asian ozone reaching ground levels on the West Coast, said Cooper.
Work will start in May and end in June, when air currents produce the greatest amounts of Asian ozone detected in the U.S. Weather balloons and research aircraft will be launched daily to measure ozone closer to ground, where it affects the air people breathe, Cooper said.
The study to be published in Nature looked at thousands of air samples collected between 1995 and 2008 and found a 14 percent increase in the amount of background ozone at middle altitudes in springtime. When data from 1984 were factored in, the rate of increase was similar, and the overall increase was 29 percent.
When ozone from local sources was removed from the data, the trend became stronger, Cooper said. Using a computer model based on weather patterns, the ozone was traced back to southeastern Asia, including the countries of India, China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
The ozone increases were strongest when winds prevailed from southeastern Asian, Cooper said.
In a commentary also published in Nature, atmospheric chemist Kathy Law of Universite de Paris in France said the study was “the most conclusive evidence so far” of increasing ozone over the Western United States.
Law noted that natural sources of ozone could contribute to the increases, and there were limitations to the computer model used to trace the sources of the increases, but the study remained a “vital benchmark” that could be used to test climate change models, which have been unable to reproduce increases in ozone.
William Sprigg, a research professor at the University of Arizona who studies the global movement of airborne dust, said in an e-mail that he agreed with Law’s comments, adding that studies like this one make it possible to really control air quality.
“Part of the solution to controlling emissions from abroad is to show the negative consequences and our own efforts to lower emissions,” he wrote.
December 7, 2009
A leading scientist who helped alert the world to the dangers of global warming said on Thursday that climate talks in Copenhagen next week were based on such flawed proposals that he hoped they failed.
James Hansen, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies since 1981, said attempts to forge a global deal on cutting emissions after the Kyoto treaty expires were based on a “fundamentally wrong” approach.
“I would rather it not happen if people accept that as being the right track because it’s a disaster track,” he told Britain’s Guardian newspaper ahead of the December 7-18 summit.
Hansen is highly sceptical about a favoured measure of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, a cap-and-trade system under which a progressively stricter ‘right to pollute’ is exchanged in a carbon market.
Instead, he has previously argued for a direct tax on fossil fuels as the only realistic way to achieve the necessary cuts.
“The approach that’s been talked about is so fundamentally wrong that it is better to reassess the situation,” Hansen told the paper.
“I think it’s just as well that we not have a substantive treaty, because if it is going to be the Kyoto-type thing, and people agree to that, then they’ll spend years trying to determine exactly what that means and what is a commitment, what are the mechanisms.
“The whole idea that you have goals which you’re supposed to meet and that you have outs, with offsets (sold through the carbon market), means you know it’s an attempt to continue business as usual.”
Hansen, who made headlines worldwide in 1988 with his US Congress testimony that climate change was already well under way, compared the current approach to the Catholic Church’s use of indulgences in the Middle Ages.
Sinners paid the bishops to give them redemption, a system that was patently absurd but suited both sides.
“We’ve got the developed countries who want to continue more or less business as usual and then these developing countries who want money and that is what they can get through offsets,” Hansen said.
However, he insisted there was still hope, telling the Guardian: “I find it screwy that people say you passed a tipping point so it’s too late.
“In that case what are you thinking: that we are going to abandon the planet? You want to minimise the damage.”
October 27, 2009
By David Gutierrez
Editor’s note: NaturalNews doesn’t agree with all the conclusions reached by the scientists being covered in this article, but we thought it was important to bring you this story on one of the many ways in which climate change discussions might start targeting — or even criminalizing — individual eating behavior. Just yesterday, the world climate chief (Lord Stern) declared that in order to save the planet, everyone would have to stop eating meat. As a promoter of plant-emphasis in dietary habits, we here at NaturalNews believe there is a lot of validity to the idea that cattle ranching is extremely destructive to the environment, but we also believe that blaming obese people for climate change is a gross oversimplification of the real problems facing our global environment. Sure, food and environment are intertwined, but I think more blame rests with the Big Ag companies, junk food corporations, junk-food-pushing media giants and the utterly useless government health regulators who still won’t require honest food labeling that might help consumers make better dietary choices at the grocery store.
Researchers are increasingly warning that the obesity epidemic is contributing to global warming, with potentially devastating consequences for people and habitats around the world.
“Food production accounts for about one fifth of greenhouse gases,” said researcher Phil Edwards, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “We need to do a lot more to reverse the global trend towards fatness. It is a key factor in the battle to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change.”
According to Edwards’ research, the average overweight person is responsible for an extra ton of carbon dioxide emissions a year, compared with a person of healthier weight. Based on World Health Organization estimates, this translates into an extra one billion tons per year.
The bulk of this extra contribution comes from the fossil fuels required to produce the food needed to sustain a larger person. Meat, in particular, is highly fossil fuel intensive. According to a 2007 United Nations report, animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, more than all forms of transportation combined.
“It is time we took account of the amount we are eating,” Edwards said. “This is about over-consumption by the wealthy countries. And the world demand for meat is increasing to match that of Britain and [the United States].”
In addition, heavier people are significantly more likely to drive than thinner people.
“Moving about in a heavy body is like driving in a gas guzzler. It is … much easier to get in your car and pick up a pint of milk than to take a walk,” Edwards said.
An estimated 33 percent of men and 35 percent of women in the United States are obese, defined as having a body mass index higher than 30. Worldwide, 400 million people are obese.
October 2, 2009
By Tracy Watson
For the first time, the federal government plans to restrict greenhouse-gas emissions from factories, power plants and other industrial facilities under a proposal revealed Wednesday.
The proposed rule requires new facilities and those undergoing major maintenance to limit their greenhouse-gas emissions using the “best available” technology. That might include energy-efficiency steps or equipment under development to capture greenhouse gases and funnel them into storage.
“We are not going to continue with business as usual any longer. We have the tools and the technology to move forward today, and we are using them,” said Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA would oversee the rule.
The EPA’s plan “will grind economic growth to a halt in cities and communities across America,” said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., an opponent of climate-change action.
The industrial sector is responsible for about one-third of the U.S. output of greenhouse gases, which build up in the atmosphere and trap heat. The primary greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide, produced when coal, gasoline and other fossil fuels are burned.
The proposal would take effect after the administration finalizes its rules for restricting greenhouse gases from vehicles. That’s scheduled for next spring.
The proposal was announced on the same day that a bill to slow climate change was introduced in the Senate. The Senate bill faces an uphill climb to passage, but the EPA plan adds another possible route to restricting emissions.
The dual announcements Wednesday mean that “the question shifts from whether the government will act and clean up corporate pollution to how it will be done,” said Jeremy Symons of the National Wildlife Federation, an environmental group.
The announcement marks a “seismic shift,” said Vickie Patton of the Environmental Defense Fund.
Jackson said the proposal exempts small businesses and farms from having to reduce their greenhouse gases. Only facilities that emit more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year would be subject to the rule. That standard means that the regulation would apply to roughly 14,000 U.S. facilities accounting for nearly 70% of the global-warming emissions from sources other than vehicles, the EPA says.
Charles Drevna, head of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, said his group may sue the EPA. The proposal would make the nation “much less energy secure,” he said.