Environment

While reporting from 90 different countries, Ami Vitale has come to realize some dire realities. "We're witnessing extinction on our watch." Vitale shares her insights and experiences during "Rhinos, Rickshaws and Revolutions," a multi-media presentation showing Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Kleinhans Music Hall.


They have been around since the dawn of time, but until 25 years ago certain natural habitats never had rights — at least, not in a legal sense.

That changed in a landmark legal challenge in the Philippines in 1993, when a lawyer named Tony Oposa represented his children and another group of children in a case that argued that deforestation practices in their country violated the children’s rights to live in a healthy environment under the Filipino Constitution. The Supreme Court of the Philippines sided with Oposa and the children.

In January, the EPA announced it was withdrawing the 23-year-old pollution control policy known as “once in, always in.” In response, seven environmental groups and the State of California have sued the EPA, saying the rollback opens the door to huge increases in the release of dangerous air pollutants.

The majority of dog owners dutifully pick up after their pets in cities or neighborhoods, but sometimes they forget or don’t think about it when out in nature. Though this may not seem like a big deal, some experts say our dear dogs may pose a public health problem for nature — and for us.

Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Downtown Buffalo's Central Library is a good walk from the Buffalo River or Canalside, but the river was the focus Thursday night during a public forum.

The Island of Nantucket, off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is home to a rich ocean ecosystem and host to scientists dedicated to understanding it — including UMass student Matt Souza, who conducted a foundational study of crab populations in the harbor on the north shore of the island.

Souza, a student at the School for the Environment at UMass Boston, is getting his Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science. 

Government agencies from the Environmental Protection Agency to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the United States Geological Survey are breathing sighs of relief, as they will keep their federal funding or even see budget increases, thanks to a bipartisan federal spending measure enacted March 23.

There are several chemicals that have no taste or smell that could reach our drinking water without us realizing the inconspicuous harm they are causing. Then, there are some that have a particular property to them — such as smelling like licorice.

That is the case for MCHM, a chemical that was created to help in the washing of coal. Labeled as a coal flocculant, it has the ability to separate burnable fossil fuel from dirt and rock and other materials.

The mysterious aurora known as 'Steve,' explained

Apr 28, 2018

Thanks to collaboration between citizen scientists and astronomers, a strange phenomenon in the night sky, dubbed “Steve,” has finally been explained.

In 2017, a glowing purple-and-green ribbon across the heavens mystified sky-watchers because it showed up much further south than the famous northern lights, or aurora borealis. These observers decided to call it “Steve,” echoing the woodland creatures in the children’s movie "Over the Hedge."

Zach Anderson

Chestnut Ridge Park is a destination for hiking and tobogganing but although it is lush with flora and fauna, many Western New Yorkers may be surprised to learn the park doesn’t actually contain any chestnut trees.

File Photo / WBFO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a bill to ban plastic grocery bags in New York, but not everyone is praising him for it.

Karen Dewitt / WBFO Albany Correspondent

Two of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s political opponents were at an Earth Day rally on climate change attended by hundreds at the State Capitol, where they said the governor’s energy policies are far from adequate.


EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt recently announced that the agency will start the process of scrapping Obama-era auto emissions standards negotiated with the automakers, a move that, if completed, would double allowable vehicle pollution in 2025, compared to existing rules.

Cuomowalkthetalk.org

Nearly 100 people hopped aboard two buses early this morning on Buffalo's West Side. They're heading to an Albany rally called, Cuomo: Walk the Talk on Climate!

The prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement has been awarded to Paul Falkowski and James J. McCarthy, distinguished oceanographers who focus on climate change.

McCarthy is a Harvard professor who co-chaired a working group for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and has served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

A sharp decline in biodiversity is affecting every region of the world, threatening the ability of citizens in many nations to find adequate food and clean water, according to a United Nations report.

A study from Columbia University has found notable differences in the DNA of neonatal babies born after a coal plant in China was shut down, compared with babies born in the same place while the plant was still operating and polluting the surrounding air.

Dr. Frederica Perera and Dr. Deliang Tang, researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, found that babies born during the coal plant’s operation had shorter telomeres than those born after the plant’s closure — a result which seemed to validate the Chinese government's push to reduce air pollution.

Update April 16: On April 12, Judge Thomas Coffin, a Federal Magistrate judge in Eugene, Oregon, scheduled Juliana vs. United States to go to trial Oct. 29.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled on March 7 that the Trump administration's motion to dismiss a groundbreaking climate lawsuit was premature. The case was brought by a group of 21 young people who allege the government knowingly let carbon dioxide destabilize the climate, denying them the right to live in a habitable environment.

The Trump administration's move to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent jeopardizes future research and excavation in one of the densest fossil troves in the world, according to scientists who work in the region.

After the Trump administration announced plans to expand offshore oil and gas drilling to nearly the entire US coastline, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke quickly followed up with another announcement exempting Florida from the new plans.

Now, a growing number of Republican and Democratic governors and legislators from coastal states are demanding the same exemption.

In the Caribbean, queen conches are living on the edge

Apr 14, 2018

The queen conch is a large marine mollusk with a beautiful shell that is prized for export. The gastropod inside the shell is featured on menus across the Caribbean. But the conch’s numbers are rapidly dwindling, and researchers say action is needed to save them.

FEMA maps lack up-to-date information on flood risk

Apr 8, 2018

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s “patchwork quilt” of flood maps has coverage gaps and is obsolete in places, according to a recent study by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Nature Conservancy charity and the University of Bristol.

Russian internet trolls from the same outfit blamed for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election also created more than 9,000 social media posts designed to stir up enmity around energy and natural gas projects in the US, such as the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to a report from the Republican majority of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.


After a shocking number of deaths among North Atlantic right whales last year, no new births have been recorded so far this year, moving them ever closer to extinction.

Warming ocean waters have prompted the whales to move north from their usual summer feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine into Canada’s Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Canada has fewer rules protecting them from ship strikes, and 18 of these rare giants died last season alone. Now, the report that the population produced no new calves in the past year is causing great concern among scientists.

File photo: Chris Caya/WBFO News

The Pittsburgh law firm representing a company that wants to build a water treatment plant in Coudersport, PA to treat natural gas fracking waste has told the Seneca Nation and President Todd Gates to keep quiet about the plant, saying he is making "false, destructive and defamatory statements." The nation has lashed back, with help from a heavyweight Washington, D.C. law firm.

Mike Desmond / WBFO News

As winter melts into spring, thoughts turn to cutting the grass and planting new trees. The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is thinking about that - and also about the buildings in city parks that need repairs - very expensive repairs.

Federal judge halts Louisiana pipeline

Mar 28, 2018

Editor's note: Between when this story was prepared and published, a judge overturned Judge Shelly Dick’s decision, allowing construction to resume. The story has been updated to reflect that.

A federal judge in Louisiana recently ordered a temporary stop to construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, following a court challenge by several environmental groups.

Mike Desmond / WBFO News

A coalition of community groups wants a voice in what NRG Energy does with its Huntley power station, now that the closed facility is on the market.

Maid of the Mist

The Niagara Falls Water Board says things are turning around at its troubled Wastewater Treatment Plant. The plant became internationally infamous in July of last year, when it dumped black material into the middle of a tourist-filled section of the Niagara River.

Scientists say climate change affects everything from weather patterns to animal migrations. And now, a popular breakfast condiment could be at risk as well – maple syrup. That’s bad news for the Great Lakes region, which produces a lot of it.


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