Other stories below: U.S. military forges ahead with plans to combat climate change; Canada will send oil to Asia even if Keystone XL proceeds, says Canadian PM
The dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico are in the midst of a massive die-off. The reasons why remain a complicated and mysterious mix of oil, bacteria, and the unknown.
Normally an average of 74 dolphins are stranded on the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico each year, especially during the spring birthing season. But between February 2010 and April 1, 2012, 714 dolphins and other cetaceans have been reported as washed up on the coast from the Louisiana/Texas border through Franklin County, Florida, reported the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 95 percent of the mammals were dead.
Since many of the dead dolphins sink, decompose or are eaten by scavengers before washing up, NOAA biologists believe that 714 represents only a fraction of the actually death count. NOAA declared the die-off an “Unusual Mortality Event” as per the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.
The U.S. military’s elite forces have always pushed the envelope. And this summer will be no exception, as the Navy deploys SEALs with $2 million of new gear on missions to save hostages, combat pirates, and counter terrorism around the world. What sort of next-generation weaponry, armor, or transportation will the funds provide?
The cash will pay for solar technology, enabling the SEALs to power up equipment and purify water while on the move, and even refrigerate medical supplies and food.
“It’s really the first step in the Navy’s effort to make the SEALs net-zero energy and net-zero water (use) down the road,” said Thomas Hicks, the Navy’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy.
The world’s oceans have been warming for more than 100 years, twice as long as previously believed, new research suggests.
The findings could help scientists better understand the Earth’s record of sea-level rise, which is partly due to the expansion of water that happens as it heats up, researchers added.
“Temperature is one of the most fundamental descriptors of the physical state of the ocean,” said the study’s lead author, Dean Roemmich, an oceanographer at the University of California, San Diego. “Beyond simply knowing that the oceans are warming, [the results] will help us answer a few climate questions.”
If you enjoy public beaches, state parks or fishing piers, you can thank the sixth-century Roman emperor Justinian. He’s credited with introducing the public trust doctrine, a legal concept that forbids private ownership of certain natural resources, instead preserving them for public use. This idea has spread worldwide since then, protecting everything from beaches and streams to oyster beds and fish stocks.
You might think rising gasoline prices at a time of flat demand and surging domestic oil production would convince Americans that we need to find alternatives to oil. But no. A new survey shows the public increasingly tilting toward doubling down on oil, on the apparent assumption that if the United States just produces even more, all our $2.50-a-gallon dreams will come true.
A Pew Research Center survey conducted this month found 52 percent of Americans consider developing alternative energy a more important priority than expanding domestic fossil fuel exploration (coal, oil, natural gas), down from 63 percent a year ago.
The promise of using algae to make biofuels — a dream scientists have chased for decades — might seem particularly welcome in a time of stubbornly high gasoline prices. But the path to commercial-scale production has been circuitous.
Young companies have attracted investors and interest, but as they struggle to make large quantities of ethanol and biodiesel at a competitive cost, some have branched out into making oils for products with higher profit margins, like cosmetics, food and soap.
Now, one of these companies, Solazyme, is about to take a step toward large-scale fuel production. On Tuesday, it will announce an agreement with Bunge Global Innovation to build a factory in Brazil that would make triglyceride oils for both chemical and fuel products.
Businesses must take the issue of climate change seriously if they are to enjoy the backing of institutional investors, a Business Council for Sustainable Development UK (BCSD-UK) workshop was told. World leading experts also gave an indication of the magnitude of the climate change impact on investment activity.
Craig McKenzie, head of sustainability at Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, and one of the authors of a guide issued by leading investors, said: “In January 2012, 200 large institutional investors from the largest pension funds and asset managers across the world, between them representing $20tn of assets under management and one third of the invested assets, published a report on the expectations of corporate climate risk management. They are pushing the energy efficiency agenda and monitoring whether companies are adhering to these expectations”.
The EU’s emissions reduction target for 2020 could be facing an unlikely but grave obstacle, according to a growing number of scientists, EU officials and NGOs: the contribution of biomass to the EU’s renewable energy objectives for 2020.
On 29 March, a call was launched at the European Parliament for Brussels to reconsider its carbon accounting rules for biomass emissions, and EurActiv has learned that the issue is provoking widespread alarm in policy-making circles.
“We’re paying people to cut their forests down in the name of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and yet we are actually increasing them. No-one is apparently bothering to do any analysis about this,” one Brussels insider told EurActiv.
“They’re just sleepwalking into this insanity,” he added.
The World Bank’s International Finance Corp. unit is studying renewable-energy project funding for Morocco and Jordan this year as their governments seek to reduce imports of fossil fuels.
“These are countries with strong renewables potential where the sector could potentially be a competitor with industrial sources of generation,” Adam Schwartzman, an Istanbul-based senior investment officer at the unit, said in a telephone interview.
The IFC has allocated a greater share of its power- generation funding to renewables since 2008 as nations seek to meet rising demand without adding to emissions. Jordan, which relies mostly on imported energy, has suffered disruptions in natural-gas deliveries from Egypt amid pipeline attacks, while Morocco, also dependent on imported fossil fuels, is developing a plan for 2,000 megawatts of solar capacity by 2020.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper upped the ante for the Alberta oilsands Monday, telling a Washington audience that Canadian oil will be heading for Asian markets regardless of whether the United States okays the controversial fuel.
Harper, speaking on the heels of a one-day North American Leaders Summit at the White House, said the mere fact that cancellation of the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline is possible leaves Ottawa with no choice but to aggressively pursue other export markets to safeguard Canada’s economic future.
Harper stressed that with U.S. public opinion “pretty overwhelmingly” in favour of Keystone, he remains confident the project to as much as double the southern flow of Alberta bitumen will ultimately win approval from Washington.