The “Microbead-Free Waters Act”: Saying Goodbye to the Tiny Plastic Fragments That Pollute Our Waterways

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

microplastics

Microplastics, including microbeads. Credit: MPCA Photos, CC BY-NC 2.0.

Microbeads—tiny, plastic beads added to face scrubs, soap, toothpaste, and the like—cause environmental damage at the macro scale. Their function is to provide a bit of grit, but they end up in lakes, rivers, and other aquatic habitats. Once there, microbeads are mistaken for food and gobbled up by zooplankton, thus becoming incorporated into the aquatic food chain. Small fish, and other organisms that swallow the contaminated zooplankton, are eaten by bigger fish and eventually, microbeads make their way to the top of the food chain, reaching other wildlife and even humans. However, there is more to this story. Continue reading

Let’s Look at Past Successes to Encourage the Vision of a Brighter Environmental Future

A guest post by Brock B. Bernstein

Pervasive doom and gloom dominates much of the popular news about the environment. Global warming, sea level rise, ocean acidification, drought, wildfires, overfishing, or overpopulation—it all contributes to a feeling of despair and hopelessness, particularly among young people. This struck home for me on a personal level during a recent conversation with my college-aged son and a few of his friends—they felt they were “totally screwed” because of the inevitable impacts of climate change.

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Clean Power Plan, New Ozone Standard, and Asthma

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

Syncrude smokestacks

Out with the old: Syncrude facility. Credit: Pembina Institute, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

On August 3, 2015, the Obama administration announced the finalized US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Clean Power Plan.” The plan has been developed under the Clean Air Act and aims to slash carbon emissions from US power plants, which account for one-third of all carbon emissions in the country, by giving each state an individual goal for cutting these emissions. The EPA estimates that the new national standards will significantly decrease carbon pollution produced by the electric sector by 2030; carbon emissions will be 32% lower than the 2005 levels. For a step-by-step guide on how the Clean Power Plan works, head here. Continue reading

Fracking and Groundwater Contamination: The Known and the Unknowns

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

Peak oil, or peak water? Peak water might be the (unfortunate) answer. Alternative sources of energy may become more widely available, but there are no alternatives to water. The ongoing depletion of groundwater contained in aquifers—one of the most important sources of water on our planet—is a significant threat to our future. Many countries are already near or beyond peak water, and results from recent studies show that significant segments of Earth’s population are consuming groundwater all too quickly, without knowing when it might run out. Continue reading

US Federal Government Taking Aim at Protecting Pollinators

A guest post by Richard J Wenning, Editor-in-Chief, Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management (IEAM).

Next week is National Pollinator Week in the US (June 15-21, 2015), and a good time to consider the importance of bees, birds, butterflies, and bats for a healthy ecosystem. Pollinators contribute more than $24 billion annually to the US economy by tending to the vineyards, orchards, farmlands, nurseries, and countless acres of open space used by tourists every year. Pollinating requires a significant natural work force. But right now, nature’s workers are not doing so well. Continue reading

One of the Best Climate Communication Talks I Have Seen

A guest post by Marshall Shepherd, Director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program, University of Georgia, and author of the Weather Underground blog “From the Mind of J. Marsh WxGeeks Edition”

On April 15, 2015, at the University of Georgia, I wandered over to the Miller Learning Center to hear a talk by Dr. Steve McNulty (Link) with the United States Forest Service and the USDA Southern Regional Climate Hub (@SEClimateHub).

Let me start by saying this was one of the best and most effective climate communication talks that I have ever seen. It was so good that I felt compelled to write this blog to share some of it with you. Continue reading

Global Climate Change: Driver of Infectious Diseases?

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

Sec Sebelius - WHO assembly 2012

US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius addresses the 65th World Health Assembly (2012). Credit: United States Mission Geneva, CC BY-ND 2.0

The impacts of global climate change on human health and well-being are undeniably alarming. Safe drinking water, sufficient food, and secure shelter are threatened by rising sea levels and severe weather events. Heat waves dramatically increase death rates not only from heat strokes, but also from complications arising from cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular diseases. According to the WHO, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050, mostly from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress. Unfortunately, these estimates take into account only a subset of the possible health impacts and assume continued economic growth and health progress. The global situation is likely to be much worse. Continue reading