Environment

It's not a bad idea to think about water. Though Earth is literally overrun with water only 2% is usable and current energy and technology limitations make it impractical to bring it to the areas that need it most, so management is important.

Water is the limiting factor for many plants and trees and climate models project hotter and drier summers for much of the globe. An international research team is studying which factors govern the resistance of tropical trees to periods of drought and fins that stored carbohydrates play a key role in the resilience of the individual plant. 


Organic farming boosts biodiversity - at least that is the claim of organic farmers. But it depends. It's a $35 billion business and there are plenty of gigantic organic mega-farms that aren't diverse at all.

In practice, the number of habitats on the land plays an important role alongside the type and intensity of farming practices, according to a study of 10 regions in Europe and two in Africa published in Nature Communications. Organic farms still use plenty of toxic pesticides and more chemical fertilizer than conventional farms but they can support biodiversity when they consciously conservce different habitats on their holdings.


Want to scare people about a pesticide? Compare it to DDT. 40+ years after it was banned in a bit of scientization of politics, people have still heard of it. DDT may be the only pesticide many people have ever heard of. Environmental groups love to invoke it for that reason.

But if you are a fan of science, when you see a DDT comparison, you know evidence has left the building. DDT, when misapplied, was bad, just like every other compound, including water, can be bad. There was nothing exceptional about it other than the fact that it could have saved millions of kids from malaria if activists were forced to do studies before issuing press releases. But once you get a Joni Mitchell song written about your product, someone in Congress is going to take action.
Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) announced at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation's (NMSF) 12th annual Ocean Awards Gala last week that he is introducing the Great Lakes Cultural Heritage Assessment Act next month. 

Levin's proposed bill would direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to identify underwater areas in the Great Lakes that possess significant historical and archaeological resources and consider recommendation for designation as national marine sanctuaries. 

In Europe, the presence of toxic chemicals has been considered a localized problem affecting only a few bodies of water but a new paper says there are large scale ecological risks for several thousands of European aquatic systems.  The culprit: toxic chemicals.

They say that chemical toxicity represents an ecological threat to almost half of all European bodies of water, and in approximately 15% of cases, the biota in freshwater systems may even be subject to acute mortality. 


Four of the most common mosquito pesticides used along the east and Gulf coasts show little risk to juvenile hard clams and oysters, according to a NOAA study in Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.

The paper also determined that lower oxygen levels in the water, known as hypoxia, and increased acidification increased how toxic some of the pesticides were. Such climate variables should be considered when using these pesticides in the coastal zone, the study concluded.


At a time when the EPA is rushing to place new regulations on the one thing that is still cheap and increasingly environmentally effective in America, energy, it may seem strange to laud the EPA. But career scientists do solid work there.
George Monbiot wrote in his Guardian column a couple of weeks ago:

 "For years we’ve been told that people cannot afford to care about the natural world until they become rich; that only economic growth can save the biosphere, that civilisation marches towards enlightenment about our impacts on the living planet. The results suggest the opposite." [2]

Who has been telling us this “for years” ? Monbiot neglects to tell us- perhaps it is just made up. I assumed however that he was referring to Goklany’s Environmental Transition:[3] 

A 21-year study of over 2,300 rivers in Britain measured the presence of clean-river invertebrates - a yardstick for river health –   and found they are the cleanest they've been in over two decades. During the days of heavy industry and poor sewage treatment,
clean-river invertebrates
had declined considerably, but now appear to be making a comeback, say scholars
from Cardiff University 

Dr. Ian Vaughan and Professor Steve Ormerod from the University's School of Biosciences analyzed changes in the occurrence and spread of insects, snails and other mini-beasts from major rivers between 1991 and 2011. The researchers then asked whether water quality, temperature or river flow best explained the biological changes they observed.


While western nations have dropped emissions on schedule, led by the United States, which has pushed its greenhouse gas emissions from energy back to early 1990s levels and coal back to early 1980s levels, the increasingly modern developing world have continued to produce more emissions, causing worldwide levels to rise.

There is no short cut. Emissions need to be reduced. So forget about positioning giant mirrors in space to reduce the amount of sunlight being trapped in the earth's atmosphere or seeding clouds to reduce the amount of light entering earth's atmosphere - if we can't figure out why emissions have risen but temperatures have not, tinkering with clouds is a very bad idea.