Environment

Cracking the code of influenza

Jan 22, 2017

January’s cold, dry weather in many areas of the United States seems to usher in the perfect conditions for seasonal influenza — in humans. But for birds in Europe and Asia, flu season is already in full swing: An epidemic of the H5N8 flu has broken out among European poultry. In Asia, the H5N6 strain is widespread, and another strain, H7N9, has infected birds and even killed three people.

With nearly 9 million hogs on farms across the state, North Carolina is the country’s second-largest producer, behind Iowa.

International Joint Commission / International Joint Commission

The International Joint Commission will hold a public hearing at the WNED|WBFO studios on March 28, as part of an effort to gather comments on its draft progress report for the Great Lakes region.

epa.gov

Since late 2009, she has led Region 2 of the Environmental Protection Agency, which includes New York State. Judith Enck, who was appointed to her post as Administrator is in her final week on the job and is reflecting on accomplishments, both locally and at the national level.


For activists Trisha Shrum and Jill Kubit, climate change isn't just an abstract concept. Rather, it has faces and names: Eleanor and Gabriel, their children. And through their time capsule project DearTomorrow, Shrum and Kubit are hoping you’ll connect the planet’s future to your loved ones, too.

The 'Madhouse Effect' of climate denial in America

Jan 15, 2017
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<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidstanleytravel/16298322411/">David Stanley</a>/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

2016 is a wrap — and with it, likely the hottest year ever recorded. Temperatures weren’t the only anomaly: Louisiana, for instance, saw floods so severe they should only happen every 1,000 years.

New York's $18.8 million Riverway project will be completed this summer after the discovery of contaminants in soil nearby delayed work for several months.

Millennials are the new 'fossil fuel freedom fighters'

Jan 7, 2017
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A new generation of nature writers is coming of age in America. They are beginning to understand how much of the pristine landscape their parents and grandparents enjoyed is now gone.

High levels of "fine particulate matter" (PM2.5) in the air — such as in haze or smog — can lower the stock market, a research team at Columbia University has found.

When particle pollution rises, the market goes down by small but measurable amounts, says team leader Matthew Neidell, an associate professor at Columbia University.

At the end of November, hundreds of firefighters from all over the country battled the Rock Mountain Fire in North Georgia. Fighting the huge blaze in the tinder dry hills was a tough battle, but when it came time to rest, the firefighters, well-accustomed to makeshift lodgings, were offered an unusual, yet comfortable upgrade: a local Conservative Jewish camp.

With unsustainable fishing affecting about 30 percent of the ocean’s wild fish populations and most of the rest already fished to the limit, aquaculture is playing an ever bigger role in putting fish on the dinner table. 

Today, fish farms are the fastest-growing source of animal protein — on the rise, globally, at about 5 percent a year. 

Some advice for starting your own backyard 'carbon farm'

Dec 27, 2016

For visitors to Eric Toensmeier’s home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, the lush, 8-foot banana plant in the front yard is the first indication that something is unusual about his landscaping.

A walk around his stucco-covered house confirms it. In the back garden, about 300 species of perennials are thriving on just one-tenth of an acre: Raspberries, mountain mint, bamboo and bush clover all jostle for space alongside persimmon, chestnut and mulberry trees.

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Thomas Friedman's latest book, "Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving In the Age Of Accelerations," is a manifesto for how to cope with our changing planet.

Right now, three powerful forces — technology, globalization and climate change — are accelerating exponentially — and “one of the hardest things for the human mind to grasp is the power of an exponential,” says the columnist for the New York Times. 

The holiday season can be a happy time for many. But it may cause trouble for the environment.


Overfishing, plastic pollution, warming temperatures and other impacts of human activities are changing the oceans — resulting in decreasing populations of everything from tuna to whales to dolphins. But humans are also causing one class of sea life to thrive: jellyfish. 

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Penn State/Flickr

A planned industrial facility near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is expected to create thousands of construction jobs and up to 600 permanent ones. It is also forecast to increase air pollution in a region already falling short of federal clean air standards.

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To keep promises made at the Paris climate summit, Canada is rolling out a master plan to deal with climate change — including a phaseout of coal by 2030 and a phase in of carbon pricing by 2019.

At a meeting Dec. 9 in Ottawa, all of Canada’s provinces, save Saskatchewan and Manitoba, agreed to participate in a national carbon pricing program.

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<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/departmentofenergy/7795441040/">Energy.gov</a>. Image cropped.

The Bureau of Land Management announced a new regulation in November, changing how public lands are leased for solar and wind energy development. The rule incentivizes leases on lands that aren’t needed for conservation, and is intended to make financing easier for renewable energy development.

Joel Ulrich / National Public Radio

Two years ago, the state banned hydrofracking of natural gas within the state’s borders. However, a group of Cornell scientists who study the effects of climate change say New Yorkers are using more natural gas than ever.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

It has been more than 70 years since the end of World War II, but that does not mean debris of the war's industrial production has gone away.

As the Standing Rock Sioux celebrate halting, for now at least, the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, another Native American nation is also seeing a victory regarding its holy lands.

The federal government has now canceled 15 oil and gas leases on land revered by the Blackfeet Nation. The Badger-Two Medicine area includes 168,000 acres in Montana, southwest of the Blackfeet reservation and to the south of Glacier National Park. 

WBFO File Photo

With the dramatic drop in pollution coming out of the Tonawanda Coke plant because of repairs and renovations, the expectation was fewer contaminants in the neighborhood. However, state air monitors are finding that is not quite true.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen sharply since the start of the Industrial Age — from 270 parts per million (ppm) in the late 1700s to some 400 ppm in January 2015 — and scientists say that's warming the Earth at a dangerous rate. 

While discussions about climate change usually center on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Eric Toensmeier is focused on the other side of the equation: how to capture the carbon dioxide that's already in the atmosphere. 

And he thinks the answer might be in his backyard garden.

WBFO File Photo

The air coming off the Tonawanda Coke plant is considerably cleaner than it was. That was the message two state officials delivered to a public meeting in the Town of Tonawanda Tuesday night.

Deep in an icy mountain not far from the north pole are rows upon rows of boxes filled with seeds — nearly a million samples gathered from the seed collections of nations around the globe.

The Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit for the construction of a key section of the Dakota Access Pipeline, granting a major victory to protesters who have been demonstrating for months.

The decision essentially halts the construction of the 1,172-mile oil pipeline just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Thousands of demonstrators from across the country had flocked to North Dakota in protest.

US President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to “rip up” the Paris climate agreement. But at the first official meeting of the parties to the agreement, other nations expressed their determination to implement the deal and to continue their work on climate protection, even if the US withdraws.

Trump’s rejection of the Paris Agreement has generated “an unprecedented sense of solidarity among all the countries,” says Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Anti-poaching efforts may get a boost from a DNA database for rhino horn

Nov 27, 2016
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gmacfadyen/Flickr

Of the world’s endangered animal species, none faces a more dire situation than rhinos. With just 25,000 or so rhinos left in in the world, the threat of extinction looms large.

But now an international database that keeps track of 75 percent of them may offer some hope.

South African law requires that a tissue sample be collected any time a rhino is moved from one park to another or receives medical care. The sample is used to create a DNA profile for each animal that can be recorded and, in case the animal is ever poached, matched to confiscated rhino horn.

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Reuters/James Akena

International negotiators have reached a landmark agreement to phase out the manufacture and use of heat-trapping chemical coolants known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

In 1987, under the Montreal Protocol, nations agreed to replace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) with hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), when scientists found that CFCs were destroying the ozone layer that shields Earth from cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation.

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