The new imperative in buildings, cleaner air!

A study just published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has linked a building’s indoor air quality directly to its occupants’ cognitive function. Cognitive function is defined as the cerebral activities that lead to knowledge including acquiring information, reasoning, attention, memory and language.The revolutionary finding of this study is that lowering indoor air levels of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) improves human cognitive function. In other words: Cleaner air makes us smarter!

Rat poisons endanger California wildlife

Researchers at the University of California released a study today indicating that rat poisons increasingly pose a significant risk for California’s imperiled Pacific fishers, small, forest-dwelling mammals that are protected under the California Endangered Species Act. The study shows that increasing numbers of fishers are being exposed to, and dying from, greater varieties of rat poisons, or rodenticides, found at illegal marijuana farms. It also affirms reports and data from across the state that rodenticides continue to poison and kill numerous California wildlife species. “These poisons are silently killing our country’s most majestic wildlife by indiscriminately causing animals to literally bleed to death from the inside out,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s time to ban these poisons from the market to protect fishers, bald eagles, great horned owls and kit foxes from a painful, gruesome fate.”

Do you get the Winter blah's? Light therapy might not be the best treatment.

A new study to be published online November 5 in the American Journal of Psychiatry casts a shadow on light therapy's status as the gold standard for treating SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. While the treatment was effective at addressing acute episodes of SAD, a SAD-tailored version of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) was significantly better at preventing relapse in future winters, the study found. Led by University of Vermont psychology professor Kelly Rohan, the research initiative, funded by a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, is the first large scale study to examine light therapy's effectiveness over time. 

More bad news for VW: CO2, gas engines involved

Germany's Volkswagen said Tuesday (3 November) an internal probe had found that 800,000 more vehicles showed "inconsistencies" on carbon dioxide emissions, including the first petrol engines.Among the engines affected are 1.4, 1.6 and 2.0 litre motors of VW, Skoda, Audi and Seat vehicles, said a VW spokesman, adding that these cars had been found to be releasing more of greenhouse gas CO2 than previous tests had shown.At least one petrol engine is concerned, the company said.

West Antarctica snow accumulation increased in the 20th century

Annual snow accumulation on West Antarctica’s coastal ice sheet increased dramatically during the 20th century, according to a new study published today (Wednesday 4 November) in the American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters. The last three decades saw more snow build up on the ice sheet than at any other time in the last 300 years.The research gives scientists new insight into Antarctica’s ice sheet. Understanding how the ice sheet grows and shrinks over time enhances scientists’ understanding of the processes that impact global sea levels.The new study used ice cores to estimate annual snow accumulation from 1712 to 2010 along the coastal West Antarctic. Until 1899, annual snow accumulation remained steady, averaging 33 and 40 centimeters (13 and 16 inches) water, or melted snow, each year at two locations.

Nuclear waste site near St Louis threatened by landfill fire

Imagine you are a parent, and that out of the blue, you get a letter from your child's school telling you not to worry — that they're ready to evacuate or shelter in place if an underground fire at a nearby landfill reaches radioactive waste on the same property.That's pretty much what happened recently in suburban St. Louis.Landfill fires are pretty common. But this one is different: It's only about a thousand feet away from nearly 9,000 tons of nuclear waste — and there's no barrier in between.

Volkswagen's “premium” brands cheated too

The Volkswagen emissions-cheating scandal widened Monday (2 November) as US regulators said the German automaker also included illegal "defeat devices" on its larger 3.0 liter diesel engines over the past three years.But the Environmental Protection Agency said it had discovered in its investigation that various six-cylinder 3.0 liter diesel VW Touareg, Porsche Cayenne and Audis from the 2014-2016 model years and distributed in the United States had also been rigged with the software.

Southern Ocean ecosystems acidifying

As a result of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, the chemistry of the Southern Ocean is expected to change so fast over the next few decades that tiny creatures at the base of the food web may soon struggle to form their shells. New research by scientists from UH Mānoa and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF) finds that, for some organisms, the onset of such critical conditions will be so abrupt, and the duration of events so long, that adaption may become impossible.The study, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, uses a number of Earth System Models to explore how the uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide and the resulting ocean acidification will affect the Southern Ocean over the next century. 

Should government buildings offer free Electric Vehicle charging?

As governments around the world continue to push the concept of electric vehicles there are growing calls for all government buildings to offer free EV charging. This would certainly kickstart the concerns regarding EV charging networks which seems to be at the forefront of the minds of many sceptics. So, how would this concept work and is it really viable?Helping the electric vehicle industryWhile many governments around the world are doing a significant amount of work behind the scenes to help the electric vehicle market, could they do more? It would be wrong to suggest that all government buildings do not offer any form of electric vehicle charging but for many people these services are few and far between. When you consider that countries such as the UK employ more than 50% of the workforce in public services there must be an enormous scope to assist the industry?

Global warming continuing

Earth has just had the hottest January-September on record, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said today, adding that the average air and sea temperatures in September logged the greatest rise above monthly average in the 136-year historical record.According to a press release from WMO, the Global Climate Report from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the globally averaged air temperature over land and sea surface temperature for September was 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average temperature. Record warmth was observed across much of South America and parts of Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.