As the Arctic Ice Shrinks, Polar Bears May Need to Work Harder for a Living

By Roberta Attanasio, Blog Editor

It’s celebration time for the iconic polar bear, the poster child of climate change. Or better, it’s a different type of celebration. Every year, February 27—International Polar Bear Day—highlights the challenges that this big, charismatic creature faces in a warming Arctic, and becomes a day of action to reduce carbon emissions. The nineteen subpopulations of polar bears spend their winter on sheets of frozen ocean water, which melt and retreat in warmer months, to then advance again in the fall. As ice keeps melting because of higher temperatures, their natural habitat shrinks, affecting their capacity to travel, hunt, and breed. In other words, their lives are tied to the annual spread and shrinkage of Arctic sea ice.


Polar bear silently stepping from an ice floe by Andreas Weith [Wikimedia Commons – Creative Commons Attribution–Share Alike 4.0]

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Sexual Harassment in the Scientific Community: Title IX and Federal Research Funding

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor


Lewd Pointing by Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr/CC-BY-SA 2.0

In a recent tell-all letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology tackled the issue of sexual harassment of women in the academic scientific community. The committee defined the issue as a “pernicious problem,” and stated that “sexual harassment is not outside the norm for women in academia.” Continue reading

What to Expect in 2018: Horizon Scanning Identifies Risks and Opportunities Related to Global Biological Diversity

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

What are the emerging issues that will likely affect global diversity, ecosystem services, and conservation efforts in 2018? Results from the 9th annual horizon scan, conducted by 24 experts and described in a recently published study, identified early signs of the 15 top future challenges and trends related to themes that include new mechanisms driving the emergence and geographic expansion of diseases, innovative biotechnologies, reassessment of global change, and the development of strategic infrastructure to facilitate global economic priorities. Continue reading

Carbon-Sucking Technologies: Moving Forward Despite Controversy

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

The 23rd conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was in full swing recently (6–17 November 2017). There, the countries that signed the 2015 Paris agreement discussed steps to keep the threat of climate change under control and—according to the Paris Agreement’s central aim—hold the rise in global temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by curbing industrial emissions of carbon dioxide. At the same time, scientists involved in the Global Carbon Project reported that total carbon dioxide emissions held stable from 2014 to 2016, at about 36 billion tons per year. They went on to clarify that this was a temporary hiatus that will end in 2017, and that economic projections suggest the likelihood of further emissions growth in 2018.  Continue reading

Remembering Peter Chapman


Peter M. Chapman (1951 – 2017)

The editorial staff and Editors at the SETAC journal Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management (IEAM), with heavy hearts, share with you the loss of our dear friend and colleague Peter M. Chapman. Peter left us much, much too soon on 26 September 2017.

We wish to dedicate this IEAM blog post to his memory. And we invite everyone reading this column to contribute their thoughts and favorite memories from Peter’s stellar career. We invite you to help us build one of many lasting remembrances to our dear friend.

P Chapman

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Market-Based Environmental Policies: Providing Incentives That Minimize Costs

A guest post by Garth Heutel

Many advocates of environmental policy see the Trump administration’s view of the environment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a setback that dims the prospects for new and stronger environmental laws. Consequently, some state and local governments are picking up the slack. For example, California recently expanded its cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases, and the mayor of Atlanta vowed to meet his city’s commitments to lower carbon dioxide emissions, despite the President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. In this current complex landscape, economic theory can contribute valuable insight when designing climate and environmental policies at the federal, state, or local level. In particular, economic theory suggests that market-based environmental policies may provide clear advantages when compared to command-and-control policies. Let me explain why.


Illustration credit: Mike Licht, CC BY 2.0.

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A Twist to the Great Story of Plastic-Eating Caterpillars

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor


Wax worm (Galleria mellonella). Credit: USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab, public domain.

“Like diamonds, plastics are forever,” began a recent New York Times editorial. Or are they? No one knows exactly how long it takes for conventional plastics to completely degrade—it could be hundreds or thousands of years. In other words, a very long time. Even when broken down, plastics persist as tiny bits called microplastics.


Beach plastic, Otter Rock, Oregon, USA. Credit: Jason Karn, CC BY-ND 2.0.

The first global analysis of the production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made was published in July 2017. The study shows that by 2015, humans generated 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics. Of these, 6.3 billion tons had already become waste. Only 9% of the waste was recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. These staggering numbers explain why it is necessary to find strategies to degrade accumulated plastics.

A 2017 study published in Current Biology raised considerable interest in those seeking to limit the impact of plastic pollution. Science journalists jumped on the wagon, and rightly so—the study results promised a possible solution to the accumulation of plastic bags. Worldwide, one trillion plastic bags are used each year, 380 billion of which are used in the United States alone. Most plastic bags are not recycled. Journalists were also captivated by the story leading to the study, which was widely reported in the news.

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