CALGARY, ALBERTA—A government-sponsored scientific committee studying water monitoring in Canada's oil sands has backed assertions that multibillion-dollar energy developments are polluting waterways and it urges more stringent oversight. The report by the independent scientists, appointed by Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, said an incendiary study by water ecologists last year appeared to be right in its contention that toxic substances downstream from the developments do not occur naturally. An industry-funded body had long said heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic aromatic compounds, or PACs, found in the Athabasca River watershed north of Fort McMurray, in northern Alberta, occurred naturally as bitumen leached into the river.
CALGARY, ALBERTA—A government-sponsored scientific committee studying water monitoring in Canada's oil sands has backed assertions that multibillion-dollar energy developments are polluting waterways and it urges more stringent oversight.
The report by the independent scientists, appointed by Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, said an incendiary study by water ecologists last year appeared to be right in its contention that toxic substances downstream from the developments do not occur naturally.
An industry-funded body had long said heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic aromatic compounds, or PACs, found in the Athabasca River watershed north of Fort McMurray, in northern Alberta, occurred naturally as bitumen leached into the river.
Europe's climate chief has beaten off intense lobbying from businesses to secure a key victory in the battle over greenhouse gas targets.
Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate change commissioner, published on Tuesday afternoon her long-awaited report into how the EU can toughen its climate targets in a cost-effective manner, with a proposal that the EU could raise its current targets on emissions cuts from 20 percent emissions cuts to 25 percent cuts by 2020.
Despite pressure from business groups to remove the proposal, and retain a clear commitment to stick at the lower 20 percent target, it remained in the final draft of the "roadmap to 2050," seen by the Guardian ahead of publication.
At issue in a U.S. District Court hearing in Anchorage is an unpaid $92 million claim by the U.S. Justice Department and the state of Alaska for what they consider long-term environmental damage unexpected at the time of the grounding.
The claim was made five years ago under a special "reopener" provision of the governments' 1991 civil settlement with Exxon, in which the oil company paid $900 million.
That money was paid over a decade into a trust account that funds environmental restoration projects and scientific work.
But persisting environmental impacts prompted the federal and state governments to present the reopener bill to Exxon Mobil, Exxon Corp's successor.
President Obama has won wide bipartisan support for his determination to revive American nuclear power — a low-carbon energy solution that electric utilities and conservatives can support.
But a pair of legal actions last month could complicate matters for Washington by forcing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to address a longstanding and almost intractable problem: How and where to store the highly radioactive waste.
For many, the separate suits by state attorneys general and environmental groups raise fresh questions over why America is pouring billions into a nuclear renaissance with no long-term strategy for handling waste from the nation's existing facilities.
"The waste problem is the Achilles heel of the nuclear industry," said Daniel Hirsch, president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, a California-based nuclear watchdog.
Editor's Note: In advance of Tim DeChristopher's trial, SolveClimate News conducted exclusive interviews with the environmental activist on why he chose to cross legal boundaries. The seven-part video series can be viewed here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7.
The trial has begun of a U.S. activist accused of sabotaging an oil and gas land auction by bidding $1.7 million for land parcels that he could not pay for. Tim DeChristopher, whose case has attracted support from high-profile environmentalists including actor Daryl Hannah and environmentalist Bill McKibben, faces up to 10 years' jail if found guilty.
At an auction in Utah on 19 December, 2008 — the last before the end of George Bush's term in office, and seen as a gift for the oil and gas industry — 130,000 acres of land near pristine areas of Utah such as Nine Mile Canyon and Dinosaur National Monument were due to be sold off.
FT. MCMURRAY, ALBERTA—For years, Alberta's government has been under fire for weak monitoring of oil sands development on rivers and lakes. Now it's finally answering its critics, by commissioning a special review that aims to reassure the world that its booming industry is being developed with the utmost scrutiny.
Over the next several months, a panel of experts from health, science, regulatory and public administration backgrounds will look at how the government can rebuild a state-of-the-art monitoring system and regain the public trust, which has eroded not only in Canada, but globally.
In early February, the new group met for the first time to review current monitoring capacity, starting with "aquatics," the most criticized area, and branching out to air quality and wider environmental impacts.
The panel has until June 2011 to report back.
The Arctic Ocean is so cold that only a handful of fish and marine mammals can survive there. Subsurface temperatures range from 37.4 degrees Fahrenheit on a warm summer day to 28.76 degrees, the freezing point of seawater.
In those extreme conditions, one fish species in the center of the Arctic food web is uniquely equipped to thrive: the Arctic cod.
A slender and smaller cousin of the Pacific and Atlantic cod, the Arctic cod is often seen near the underside of the ice, feeding on pteropods, copepods, krill, worms, and small fish. It uses cracks and seams in the ice much as tropical fish use a coral reef: as a refuge from predators.
Its survival in these heat-sapping waters depends on two things: blood and fat.
California's wine industry is under threat from global warming, and while the problem is too big for the wineries to handle on their own, some are trying to lead by example by doing things like installing solar panels and using less glass in their bottling plants.
"There are strong initiatives in the wine industry to reduce climate change impacts," said Ann Thrupp, the director of sustainability at Fetzer Vineyards in Northern California, in an interview.
Areas suitable for growing wine grapes in the United States, the fourth largest wine producer behind France, Italy and Spain, could shrink by as much as 81 percent by the end of the century due to rising temperatures, according to research published in the National Academy of Sciences. The Northern California Napa and Sonoma valleys would be hit the hardest.
Climate change would trigger more extreme heat waves, harming premium wine grapes that need stable temperatures to flourish by causing them to overripen from too much sugar.
The natural beauty and unique species of the Grand Canyon are "in the crosshairs" because of renewed interest in the region's uranium reserves. That is the warning from critics of the mines, ahead of the release of a government report on Friday on the potential impact of fresh mining.
Mining has been banned within the Grand Canyon national park since President Roosevelt declared it a national monument in 1908. But since 2003, foreign companies have submitted 2,215 claims to prospect on the edge of the canyon.
Ken Salazar, the secretary of the interior, temporarily withdrew one million acres of land from exploration in 2009 to allow time for an environmental assessment. Salazar must decide by July whether to ban "mineral entry" for two-thirds of the claims for the next 20 years.
The term "reskinning" may sound like a word straight out of a science fiction novel, but in actuality it means retrofitting the exteriors of aging buildings with energy-saving facelifts, and the practice is taking off — especially in Canada and Europe.
Ron Dembo, a former computer science professor at Yale University who founded the Toronto-based carbon software company Zerofootprint, coined the term in 2009. His inspiration came in part from being steeped in data on carbon pollution management.
Dembo said that the role of buildings in global warming is too big to ignore, especially in major cities, where they account for 60 to 80 percent of greenhouse gases. "Buildings were built inadequately and they leak heat or cold," he told SolveClimate News. "They have insufficient skins or exteriors."