Environmental News of the Week: Polar Bears, More Plagues Likely, & More

Here’s our roundup of interesting (good & bad) environmental and wildlife news of the week, other than what we’ve covered already.

White House: Polar Bears Not ‘Endangered’

The Obama administration is sticking with a George W. Bush-era decision to deny polar bears endangered species status.

In a court filing Wednesday, the Fish and Wildlife Service defended the previous administration’s decision to give the polar bear the less-protective “threatened” species designation, a move that will frustrate environmentalists who hoped for stronger protections under the Endangered Species Act….

Polar Bear, Arctic Sea Ice All-But-Doomed: Misleading Nature cover story misleads the media, public

Last week Nature published a study, “Greenhouse gas mitigation can reduce sea-ice loss and increase polar bear persistence” (subs. req’d).  The journal had a pretty sensational cover, with a polar bear and the compelling headline, “Staying Alive:  Cut greenhouse-gas emissions now we can still save the polar bear.”…

I really wish any of that were realistic, not so much because the polar bear is a critical linchpin species, but because the loss of Arctic ice in the summer may well trigger even more rapid warming (see “Tundra 4: Permafrost loss linked to Arctic sea ice loss“ and below).  But in fact a much more reasonable AFP headline would be “Arctic ice cap on verge of runaway melting:  study.”  The NSF release should read, “Polar bear extinction now likely.”…

Belize Bans Bottom Trawling in Exclusive Economic Zone

All forms of trawling in Belize have been banned in the country’s waters including its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) when Fisheries Minister Rene Montero signed the Statutory Instrument effecting this legislative change today.

The ban, effective December 31, 2010, is a historic decision by Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s administration, which has been making these environmentally friendly decisions on the heel of the threat from UNESCO that it would strip the Belize Barrier Reef System of its World Heritage Site status….

West Virginia May Ban Coal Slurry Permanently

Lawmakers in West Virginia are tackling a major issue with the coal companies in the state, that has been affecting the resident’s and the environment for years now. It is a nasty by product that is produced from the coal industry and lawmakers are finally taking notice over the problems faced with coal slurry in the the mountain state….

KFC Keeps Destroying Southern Forests to Make Chicken Buckets

As the new Chief Sustainability Officer at Kentucky Fried Chicken, you’d think that Roger McClendon would want to make KFC more, you know, sustainable. And he is trying, sort of….

Nine Members of Congress Rally for Mountaintop Mining Permits

The title to this story should read Nine members of Congress want to destroy what’s left of the West Virginia Mountains.  My state has been last in the Nation in everything since i was a child. Coal is the main reason we rank last in everything. Every single politician listed in this story received campaign funding from Coal companies.  Or have ties to the great Tea Party movement. We all know how intelligent the Tea Party is. We are also familiar with who funds the “Tea Party” (big oil Koch bro’s)….

Which Does California Need More: Oil or Water?

Oil companies are grabbing an increasing share of the water in California’s Central Valley. Last year, oil companies took 83% of the district’s water allocation, according to new data published by High Country News.

Year by year, around the world, oil is getting scarcer. The oil industry would never consider drilling for oil five miles below the sea floor if there were still any cheaper choices. Oil companies aren’t masochists.

But as oil becomes more scarce, it is harder to get out of the ground. And as it gets harder to get out, it takes more and more water to push it out….

DuPont to pay $3.3m in chemical fines

EPA concludes failure to disclose test results breaches Toxic Substances Control Act….

Airborne pollutants blamed for 200,000 early deaths

Green groups urge government to tighten air quality regulations….

Was the 2010 Haiti Earthquake triggered by deforestation and the 2008 hurricanes?

Major earthquakes occur when the stress on rocks between two tectonic plates reaches a critical breaking point, allowing the earth to move along the connecting fault. While the slow creep of the tectonic plates makes earthquakes inevitable along major faults, the timing and exact location of the quake epicenter can be influenced by outside forces pushing down on Earth’s crust. For example, the sloshing of water into the Eastern Pacific during El Niño events has been linked to magnitude 4, 5, and 6 earthquakes on the seafloor below, due to the extra weight of water caused by local sea level rise. Sea level rise due to rapid melting of Earth’s ice sheets could also potentially trigger earthquakes, though it is unknown at what melting rate such an effect might become significant….

As the Dead Sea Dries, Drilling Shows It’s Not the First Time

In the first project of its kind, scientists are drilling deep into the bed of the fast-shrinking Dead Sea, searching for clues to past climate changes and other events that may have affected human history back through Biblical times and before. In one early discovery, they have found that the sea has come and gone in the past—a revelation with powerful implications for the current Mideast….

Attacks on EPA Led by Group that is Linked to Owner of Largest Private U.S. Coal Reserves

Last year, in December 2009, an attorney representing the Coalition for Responsible Regulation sent an email to Texas government officials. EDF obtained that email [PDF] through the Texas Open Records Act. The email encouraged a legal challenge to EPA authority under the Clean Air Act, and requested that Texas and the Coalition:

“begin the coordination process”

But who, or what, is the Coalition for Responsible Regulation?  It appears to be closely linked to the largest private owner of coal reserves in the country….

To Stop Overfishing, Federal Fines Must Fit the Crime

This fall, NOAA released a draft policy… to streamline, codify, and make more transparent the penalties and fee structures for fisheries violations.  Trouble is, a report released Monday by NYU’s Institute for Policy Integrity indicates that NOAA’s new rules may actually have the opposite effect: encouraging rather than deterring overfishing….

Air Pollution: New Studies, Same Conclusions

While we can debate all day about specific levels or exact factors actually harming our health, we seem to know on a general level that air pollution just isn’t a good thing to have around. Science is constantly evolving, and we are learning more every day about the hazards of pollution and the role that the environment has on our health.  Recently, new reports on air pollution and disease have surfaced, providing more evidence that air quality may affect us even more than we thought….

Congress calls for more science before Arctic Ocean drilling

Thirty-four members of the U.S. House of Representatives joined an effort spearheaded by Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), Rep. James Moran (D-VA), Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) to ask Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to stick to his commitment to make science-based decisions on oil and gas development in the Arctic Ocean. In a letter sent to Sec. Salazar on Friday, the 38 members asked him to ensure that “we have the basic science and necessary spill response capacity before proceeding with any drilling in the Beaufort Sea and the rest of the Arctic.”…

UN establishes IPBES – the “IPCC for nature”

Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services to advise on global state of biodiversity….

Fab Fabrics: Bike Inner Tubes

When you think of eco-friendly fabric you probably imagine more conventional textiles like hemp or organic cotton. Lately, though, I’ve run across a ton of great projects that treat reclaimed bike tires as a textile….

Forest Conversion News #28

All the forest conservation news you could imagine.

Malaysia Expedition Yields Rich Marine Gift Basket

Preliminary results from an expedition in the seas off Sabah, Malaysia have uncovered a huge diversity of marine life, says WWF. The three-week study also found that this part of the Coral Triangle might be the most biologically diverse area of our planet….

More Plagues Likely in Our Anthropocene Future, Study Finds

One of the effects of the Anthropocene, with its expansion of human population and attendant changes in human land use and agricultural and food production practices, is the extinction of other species. Humans are now responsible for the sixth great extinction event to take place over the last 500 million years.

But it turns out that that rise in extinctions of other species could usher in a new age of pestilence that will hurt humans too. That is because biodiversity itself protects ecosystems against infectious diseases, a new compilation of several dozen studies just published at Nature has found….

Coal Mining Mountain Development: Different Name, Same #$%!

Do coal companies actually think that if they change their name from Mountaintop Removal to Mountaintop Development, that it makes everything just fine and dandy?…

historic agreement will help small island states in the Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific Island regions, which are particularly vulnerable to climate change, make a giant leap in clean energy, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and begin work on adaptation to the effects of climate change….

Photo Credit: hyunlab via flickr

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