California considers a dividend to residents
Arctic polar bears imperiled by man-made pollution
Time may be running out for some species as some governments address the problem, albeit slowly. We trim, blend, and append three 2010 articles from: (1) BBC, Jan 14, on bears by Matt Walker, Editor, Earth News; (2) USA Today, Jan 13, on a state rule; and (3) Associated Press, Jan 7, on an EPA rule by Dina Cappiello.
by Matt Walker, by USA Today, and by Dina Cappiello
Arctic polar bears imperiled by man-made pollution
Civilization sickens polar bears. Thatís the conclusion of a review published in the journal Environment International. It suggests that industrial chemicals have a range of subclinical effects. When added together, these can have a potentially fatal impact on the bears' bones, organs, and reproductive and immune systems.
A range of man-made pollutants reach the polar Arctic region, carried there in the air and water. These include toxic metals such as mercury, organohalogen contaminants (OHCs) including organochlorines, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and perflourinated compounds (PFCs), which are used industrially in insulating fluids, as coolants, in foams and electronics, and as pest control agents.
Such chemicals are often fat-soluble and accumulate in the fat of many animals, which are then eaten by top predators such as polar bears.
The impact of these toxins has been difficult to measure. Itís not easy to take many and repeated samples of blood or tissue from live polar bears. Also, only free-ranging healthy animals that are not sick tend to be sampled, making the overall population appear to be healthier than it is.
Veterinary scientist and polar bear expert Dr Christian Sonne, of the Department of Arctic Environment at Aarhus University in Denmark, reviewed all pertinent research on the health effects of such contaminants on polar bears.
He explains that as the level of sea ice declines with warming temperatures, polar bears are fasting longer. That may mean they eat fewer seals and therefore less pollutants overall. But they will have to burn fat to compensate. That will release greater concentrations of toxins from their fat stores into their blood.
This will cause further illness, weakening bears that will already be in poorer condition and may be exposed to new and more virulent pathogens capable of surviving in a warmer Arctic.
Dr Sonne's research is published a week after a separate study published in the journal Arctic showed that polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean are appearing more frequently on land and open water, and less on the ice.
JJS: Now for some good news, dealing with climate gases.
California considers a green dividend to residents
The Golden State is considering paying residents to cut their energy use. A state panel proposed that most of the new fees that California plans to impose on greenhouse-gas emissions be returned to energy-saving consumers in the form of annual dividend checks that eventually could exceed $1,000 for a family of four, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Also, California approved the nation's first statewide green building code. It requires less water use, mandates recycling construction waste, and steps up enforcement of energy efficiency in new homes, schools, hospitals, and commercial buildings.
Environmentalists say the new code is not tough enough, since the rules fall short of rigorous standards already adopted by Los Angeles, San Francisco, and more than 50 California jurisdictions in league with the US Green Building Council, a national non-profit group of architects, engineers, and construction companies.
JJS: Along with a state, a nation too may demand cleaner air.
EPA replacing Bush smog limit with stricter rule
The Environmental Protection Agency proposed stricter health standards for smog, replacing a Bush-era limit that ran counter to scientific recommendations but were in sync with the wishes of electric utilities and other industries.
The new limits will likely put hundreds more counties nationwide in violation, a designation that will require them to find additional ways to clamp down on pollution or face government sanctions, most likely the loss of federal highway dollars.
The tighter standards will cost tens of billions of dollars to implement, but will ultimately save billions in avoided emergency room visits, premature deaths, and missed work and school days, the EPA said.
Representatives of the oil and gas industry, which said they have already invested $175 billion toward environmental improvements, were quick to say the proposal lacked "scientific justification."
Smog is a respiratory irritant that has been linked to asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses. It is formed when emissions from burning gasoline, power and chemical plants, refineries and other factories mix in sunlight.
While smog has been a long-term problem in parts of Texas, California, and along the northeast Coast, the new standards could affect counties in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, the Dakotas, Kansas, Minnesota, and Iowa for the first time based on EPA data.
Counties and states will have up to 20 years to meet the new limits, depending on how severely they are out of compliance. They will have to submit plans for meeting the new limits by end of 2013 or early 2014.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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