57 Responses to Energy and global warming news for February 3, 2011: Over 85% of oyster reef ecosystems have been lost; Germany recycles 70% of its waste, the U.S. 33%.
A survey of oyster habitats around the world has found that the succulent mollusks are disappearing fast and 85% of their reefs have been lost due to disease and over-harvesting.
Most of the remaining wild oysters in the world, or about 75 percent, can be found in five locations in North America, said the study published in BioScience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences….
“Oyster reefs are at less than 10 percent of their prior abundance in most bays (70 percent) and ecoregions (63 percent),” said the study.
“They are functionally extinct — in that they lack any significant ecosystem role and remain at less than one percent of prior abundances in many bays (37 percent) and ecoregions (28 percent) — particularly in North America, Australia and Europe.”
By averaging the loss among all regions, the researchers came up with an estimate that 85 percent of oyster reef ecosystems have been lost, but said that figure was likely low because some areas lacked historical records for comparison….
The one bright spot in the oyster world was in the Gulf of Mexico, where native oyster catches are “the highest in the world despite significant declines in abundance and reefs,” according to the study.
Thanks to BP, I wonder how long that will last.
Germany leads the European nations in recycling, with around 70 percent of the waste the country generates successfully recovered and reused each year. To put that figure into perspective, consider this: In 2007, the U.S. was able to recover only about 33 percent of the waste generated that year.
To operate such a successful waste management system nationwide is certainly no small feat, but for the past several years the Germans have made it look easy. So how do they do it?
“Recycling is very important in Germany,” says G¼nseli Aksoy, a 24-year-old mechanical engineering student at the Braunschweig University of Technology. “The people here are very conscientious.”
And while the country’s conscientious waste management strategy requires cooperation from the government, the industry and the citizens, it starts at the very beginning of the waste creation process – with the product manufacturers.
There are three simple components the manufacturers must consider: waste avoidance, waste recovery and environmentally compatible disposal.
By incorporating waste avoidance into industry, much of Germany’s waste management becomes “invisible,” as corporations are forced to re-think every aspect of manufacturing. Packaging, processes and disposal of items are all engineered with recycling and elimination of waste in mind.
n 1996, German lawmakers who were concerned about the country’s growing number of landfills passed the Closed Substance Cycle and Waste Management Act, which requires businesses to eliminate waste production by implementing one or more of the three management strategies. Waste avoidance is first priority because it encourages companies to design their manufacturing processes and packaging with elimination of wastefulness in mind….
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says widespread contamination in a New York City canal could pose a threat to people and the environment.
The federal agency announced Wednesday it had completed a thorough assessment of the Gowanus (goh-AH’-nuhs) canal, which runs 1.5 miles through a narrow industrial zone near some of Brooklyn’s wealthiest neighborhoods.
Its investigation found the canal is contaminated by various metals and toxic chemicals suspected of being carcinogens.
The EPA also warns people who consume fish and crabs caught in the canal are at risk of exposure.
Last year it named the canal a Superfund site, meaning the government can force polluters to pay for its restoration. The cleanup could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg worried the Superfund label would scare away developers.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson on Wednesday attacked bills piling up in Congress that would block the agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and reiterated the White House veto threat.
Jackson, speaking to reporters, initially declined to address whether President Obama would veto bills that stop climate rules, but later said that past threats still stand.
“What has been stated from the White House is that the president’s advisers would advise him to veto any legislation that passed that would take away the EPA’s greenhouse gas authority,” Jackson told reporters. “Nothing has changed.”
Jackson defended the agency’s initiatives to regulate emissions from power plants and other facilities.
“Those [bills] would halt EPA’s common-sense steps under the Clean Air Act to protect Americans from harmful air pollution that until now has not been regulated at all from any sources in this country,” Jackson told reporters after testifying at a Senate hearing on drinking-water safety.
She reiterated her view that EPA’s Clean Air Act rules are not a drag on the economy.
“I want to point out that we already regulate carbon from automobiles, we already regulate it from the really large sources, those that burn the equivalent of a railroad car of carbon a day, and the economy is fine,” Jackson said, adding that regulations help steer investment into the “clean energy economy.”
With their ability to soak up heat-trapping gases from the atmosphere, forests are front and center in international discussions about slowing climate change. But a growing chorus of researchers says the planet’s trees have plenty more to offer the world beyond acting as sinks that inhale carbon.
This point was borne out by a new report presented in New York this week during the Ninth Session of United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF).
Discussions at the meeting will feed into UN talks on the formal forestry agreement taking shape, known as REDD, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, said Jeremy Rayner, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan Graduate School of Public Policy.
“Forest governance, although it covers most of the issues, is very complex and badly coordinated,” Rayner told SolveClimate News. “And as a result, it is difficult to find a specific instrument that is forest-related, instead of forest-focused.”
By “forest-focused,” Rayner is referring to international pacts that narrowly focus on forests as carbon sinks. Most of the well-meaning efforts intended to protect forests, including the Convention on Biological Diversity and the global boycotts of tropical timber, ignore forests’ contributions to agriculture, energy, medicine, and the livelihoods of millions of indigenous individuals, Rayner said.
Last year was quite a year for oil and gas disasters. In addition to the BP blowout, there was a leak on BP’s TransAlaska pipeline, a million-gallon oil spill in Michigan, and a gas explosion that destroyed 37 homes and killed eight people in California. So it would seem like a lousy time for a Canadian company to propose building a pipeline, the Keystone XL, right through the middle of the continent””especially one that may be unnecessary and that even some oil companies think is overpriced.
Starting in Hardisty, Alberta, TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline would pump 900,000 barrels of crude a day to refineries in Texas. Extracted from Canada’s tar sands, the crude is some of the dirtiest in the world, with a carbon footprint 20 percent higher (PDF) than conventional oil’s.
Because the pipeline crosses the border, it needs State Department approval. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she’s “inclined to” okay the project in early 2011. Environmental groups are pleading with her to wait. Last July, the EPA flagged the Keystone XL proposal (PDF) for further review, citing concerns over air pollution, public safety, and spills.
The Keystone XL would cross more than 70 rivers and streams (PDF), including the Missouri, Platte, and Arkansas.
TransCanada has told Nebraska landowners (PDF) it will claim eminent domain if they don’t let its pipeline pass through their land. “Some of the neighbors, they just said, ‘There’s no way to fight an oil company””we just have to sign off,'” says Merrick County farmer Randy Thompson.