Update on the El Toro contamination clean up

The federal Superfund program seems to go on forever for many sites. So it is good news that a large portion of the contamination at the former EL Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Irvine, CA has been deemed remediated enough to be removed from the Superfund list. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week deleted more than 1,900 acres of the site from the National Priorities List of Superfund sites. Hazardous wastes at this major portion of the site were cleaned up through activities that included soil sampling and excavation. To date, the Navy has spent approximately $165 million on the cleanup, and anticipates that the remaining work will cost an additional $50 million. "This milestone is what the Superfund program is all about—ensuring land is free of contamination so it can be put back into use," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "The creation of greenspace and sports facilities at the El Toro site will benefit the more than 3 million residents living in Orange County."

Island Living Shapes Physiology and Lifestyle of Eastern Bluebirds

Island plants and animals often differ from their mainland relatives. Why? In general, isolated islands lack top predators and large herbivores, which can influence food chains and traits of island organisms. In addition, differences in human interactions and threats posed by pathogens and parasites can also contribute to variances in traits. In a case study involving eastern bluebirds, (Sialia sialis) researchers show just how island life shapes the physiology and life history of a species.

UN – Business needs to play full part in tackling climate change

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon kept up the drumbeat for business to play its full part in tackling climate change and promoting sustainable development for a second day today, telling the World Economic Forum in Davos that investments now will generate major savings for tomorrow. "The finance community is a key player. We need trillions of dollars of investment to move from the brown to the green economy," the United Nations chief told a session on Climate, Growth and Development, citing four areas for action. "First, we need investors, banks and other financial service providers to increase finance flows into low-carbon energy and climate-resilient infrastructure, including through setting portfolio targets and increasing the deployment of climate bonds. Second, we need to decrease the flow of finance to carbon-intensive and obsolete technologies and business practices."

“Phosphate free for all” from P & G

Consumer product giant Procter & Gamble has announced that it will eliminate phosphates from all of its laundry detergents worldwide within the next two years. The change applies to brands including Tide, Ariel, Ace and Bonux, and will maximize the conservation of precious resources and reduce the threat of water pollution.

Winter Olympic Games May Face Threats of Climate Change

With the Winter Olympics set to be held in Sochi, Russia starting February 7th, new reports are questioning whether the games will survive climate change in the future. A new study conducted by the University of Waterloo says that most of the cities that have already hosted the Winter Olympics may be too warm to host the events again. According to the study, only six of the previous Winter Olympics host cities will be cold enough to reliably host the games by the end of this century if global warming projections prove to be accurate.

Mice and Moose and climate change

How do animals adjust to a warming climate? Do all animals respond in the same way? According to a new study by the University of Colorado at Boulder, if you were a shrew snuffling around a North American forest, you would be 27 times less likely to respond to climate change than if you were a moose grazing nearby. That is just one of the findings of a new University of Colorado Boulder assessment led by Assistant Professor Christy McCain that looked at more than 1,000 different scientific studies on North American mammal responses to human-caused climate change. The CU-Boulder team eventually selected 140 scientific papers containing population responses from 73 North American mammal species for their analysis. "If we can determine which mammals are responding to climate change and the ones that are at risk of disappearing, then we can tailor conservation efforts more toward those individual species," said McCain. "Hopefully, this potential loss or decline of our national iconic mammals will spur more people to curb climate impacts by reducing overuse of fossil fuels."

Is plant virus linked to honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)?

A viral pathogen that typically infects plants has been found in honeybees and could help explain their decline. Researchers working in the U.S. and Beijing, China report their findings in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology. The routine screening of bees for frequent and rare viruses "resulted in the serendipitous detection of Tobacco Ringspot Virus, or TRSV, and prompted an investigation into whether this plant-infecting virus could also cause systemic infection in the bees," says Yan Ping Chen from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, an author on the study.

Should activities in public space be limited? The UK approach.

Laws handing sweeping new powers to police and private security to restrict access to Britain's public space will extinguish the diversity of civic life, writes Josie Appleton. Time for us to rediscover and defend our freedoms! Councils and the police will have an almost free hand to determine the use of all public spaces from civic squares to rural footpaths. The idea of public space, as it developed in the modern period, was space for the free use and enjoyment of the citizenry. The temper and character of public space should be determined not by any private or public authority, but by the ways in which people choose to use it. A bill currently passing through the UK Parliament will mean the death-knell of this principle.

Biofuels Patents Surge, Small Players Drive Solar Lead

The Clean Energy Patent Growth Index (CEPGI) recently released its Third Quarter 2013 Results. Researched and published by the Heslin Rothenberg law firm, CEPGI is a quarterly report on clean energy patents granted in the United States.

Beaver, Dam it!

As climate change brings more rain, there will be more catastrophic flooding; flooding of crops, homes and businesses, particularly in urban areas where there is simply no place for the water to go. One British writer has identified the beaver as the would-be hero to restore hydrological normalcy. Louise Ramsey writes about the beaver in Britain where reintroductions of the rodent have shown the vital role they once had in reducing flooding and how they could take up that mantle once more.