Category Archives: Environmental Policy & Regulation

COVID-19 and the “Anthropause”: Studying the Impact on Human-Wildlife Interactions

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Urban coyote (Canis latrans). Credit: Connar L’Ecuyer for US National Park Service (public domain).

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

Since COVID-19 started spreading worldwide during the first months of this year, we’ve heard intriguing stories and watched fascinating videos of wildlife emerging in city streets emptied by lockdown measures, even in metropolitan areas. The “great pause” has brought about unexpected effects. “Peacocks stroll the streets of Ronda, Spain; a gang of goats wander around a seaside town in north Wales; a puma climbs down from the Andes Mountains into Santiago, Chile; and coyotes trot around San Francisco.” Continue reading

Can Polymers Represent an Aquatic Risk—What’s Known and Unknown?

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC Europe Annual Meeting, held virtually as SciCon (3–7 May 2020, formerly to be held in Dublin, Ireland).

A guest post by Hans Sanderson, Anna Magdalene, Brun Hansen, Scott Belanger, Kristin Connors, and Monica Lam

Polymers are most known for their use in plastics (e.g., polypropylene), and while it is true that all plastics are polymers, it is not true that all polymers are plastics. Polymers have a much wider range of origins and uses and contain a wide variety of materials with differing structural attributes, functionalization, and physical and chemical properties.

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Achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goals at the Local Level May Shift Across Time and Geographical Areas

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

In 2015, the 193 Member States of the United Nations agreed upon a blueprint to end poverty, fight inequality, and protect the environment. Governments promised to meet 17 global sustainable development goals by 2030, thus establishing the Sustainable Development Agenda and a to-do list for people and planet. With only 10 years left until the deadline, assessing the progress towards the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is of the utmost importance to guide policy development and implementation.

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Global Warming and Economic Inequality Go Hand-in-Hand

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

Climate change is reshaping our planet—not only in its physically measurable aspects, but also in terms of humanitarian challenges. Melting glaciers, rising seas, flooding, heat waves and the like are accompanied by human displacement and migration, changes in the occurrence of infectious diseases and—as highlighted by a recent study—the intensification of global economic inequality over the past half-century.

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The Dust Bowl on the Great Plains coincided with the Great Depression. South Dakota, 1936. Credit: Wikipedia

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Environment Exposure to Microplastics and Affiliated Toxic Chemicals

A guest post by Mai Lei

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC North America 29th Annual Meeting in Sacramento, California (4–8 November 2018).

Can you imagine our beautiful planet becoming a “plastic planet”? In the BBC documentary film Blue Planet II, members of the producing team noted that plastic waste is ubiquitously floating in the sea, including fishing lines, plastic packages, and plastic bottles. Marine organisms can be trapped by plastic waste that is everywhere in the oceans, even in the deepest and most remote parts. So it is essential to carry out intensive studies of plastic waste. Large plastics can either be physically or chemically broken into fragments after having been in the water a long time, traveling long distances. Such fragments, coupled with ones that were released into seas as fine plastic particles (smaller than 5 mm), are collectively called microplastics.

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Surface water trawling for floating microplastic collection on the Pearl River estuary in China.  Inset pictures are pieces of microplastic (fragments, pellets, and lines) from the trawl.  Credit: Lei Mai.

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Tax Havens Drive Environmental Degradation

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Republished courtesy: Flickr user thetaxhaven

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

The expansive and opaque offshore system used for tax-dodging all around the world — and detailed in the leaked classified files known as the “Panama Papers” and “Paradise Papers” released in the past few years — is responsible for significant losses of tax revenues, currently estimated at around US$500 billion annually. This offshore system, which includes a variety of so-called tax havens and is used by wealthy individuals, companies, and financial institutions, causes serious concerns related to the global economy and has a tremendously negative effect on the global fight to end poverty.

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Natural Toxins and Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs): Analysis, Toxicity, and Risks

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC Europe Annual Meeting in Rome, Italy (13-17 May 2018).

A guest post by Gemma Giménez Papiol

How do toxic natural compounds such as microalgae toxins or plant secondary metabolites affect water quality, ecosystem functioning, and human health?  For the majority of natural toxins—of which there are at least 25,000 different compounds—we do not know! Natural toxins include some of the worlds’ most toxic substances. Continue reading

Household Products Are Now a Major Source of Outdoor Air Pollution in Urban Areas

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

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Credit: Philip WilsonCC BY-ND 2.0

Air pollution is defined by the World Health Organization as the “the world’s largest single environmental health risk” and causes millions of premature deaths annually. Exposure to air pollution is associated with respiratory diseases (including asthma and changes in lung function), cardiovascular diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes (such as preterm birth), and even death. In 2013, the World Health Organization concluded that outdoor air pollution is carcinogen to humans. In other words, air pollution is an invisible killer—may not always be visible, but it can be deadly. 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

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.

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Illustration credit: Mike Licht, CC BY 2.0.

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