SEA CHANGE: Sea levels could rise twice as much by the end of the century as previously forecast, which would be quite a predicament for about 600 million people who live on low-lying islands around the world, as well as the dense populations in Southeast Asia's delta regions. That's according to a group of scientists who presented their research to the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change in Copenhagen yesterday, a three-day prelude to this December's U.N. climate conference in the same city. The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 predicted a sea-level rise of 18 to 59 centimeters by 2100; the speakers in Copenhagen said a more realistic projection would be about a meter, or 3.28 feet. A separate study released Wednesday also warns of dire consequences of swelling seas, this one focusing specifically on California. Oceanic encroachment and coastal storms could cost the state $100 billion by 2010, according to the study, threatening about 480,000 people who live in coastal counties. (Sources: New York Times, Christian Science Monitor)
SPILL WATERS: Australia's northeast coast is being battered on several fronts today. Already buckling under the onslaught from cyclone Hamish, the coastal waters are now also inundated with oil and fertilizer that spilled from a tanker being tossed around by the cyclone. More than 30 tons of oil and 31 containers of ammonium nitrate fell into the turbulent seas Wednesday, leaving a slick nine miles long and six feet wide. It could take a week to clean up the oil, the country's worst spill in 30 years, but the fertilizer causes its own problems. Experts fear it could create huge algae blooms, leading to a "dead zone" effect similar to what happens in the Gulf of Mexico from U.S. agricultural runoff. (Source: Agence France-Presse)
INTERIOR DESIGNS: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a new U.S. renewable energy task force Wednesday, which will soon identify specific zones on public lands for developing solar, wind, geothermal and biomass power projects. "More so than ever, with job losses continuing to mount, we need to steer the country onto a new energy path," Salazar told reporters. Calling it a "moonshot for energy independence," Salazar acknowledged that it's a break from President Bush's policies. "For the last administration, renewable energy just was not a priority," he said. The New York Times editorial board applauds Salazar today for doing the grunt work of unraveling Bush's environmental legacy, but deducts points for his removal of the gray wolf from the endangered species list. (Sources: Reuters, Salt Lake Tribune, NY Times)
OILY ADOPTERS: With U.S. oil production long in decline and fossil fuels increasingly earning a bad name, more and more Texas oilmen are turning over a renewable leaf, USA Today reports. T. Boone Pickens is only the most well-known, but "wildcatters" like George Alcorn and Herman Schellstede and companies like Hunt Oil and Shell Oil are jumping on the bandwagon, using their existing distribution pipelines, deep pockets and subsurface technology to give American clean-energy development a shot in the arm. The Texas Legislature is currently mulling more than 30 bills related to renewable energy, and tax incentives from the federal economic stimulus package will help make investments even more enticing. Schellstede, for one, plans to spend $4.6 billion installing about 900 wind turbines along the eastern seaboard of Texas, using existing offshore oil platforms and pipelines. His only regret, he tells USA Today, is not starting sooner. "We're about 15 years behind," he says. (Source: USA Today)
OZONE DEFENSE: It's long been known that ozone — formed by nitrogen oxide pollution reacting with sunlight — is a short-term health risk during bouts of intense pollution, leading to asthma attacks, hospitalizations and heart attacks. But results from an 18-year study, which examined nearly half a million people, show that long-term, low-level exposure to ozone can also be deadly. About 240,000 people already die every year from respiratory illness in the United States, and 7.7 million die each year worldwide. (Source: Los Angeles Times)
BUSTED: Following a shootout in which he was wounded by police gunfire, the first eco-fugitive from the EPA's most-wanted list has been nabbed. Larkin Baggett, 53, was shot twice by police and arrested after he pointed a loaded rifle at them at a marina in the Florida Keys — far from where he was charged with illegally dumping dangerous chemicals in Salt Lake City. Baggett owned a company called Chemical Consultants Inc., and was indicted in 2007 on four felony counts of violating hazardous waste laws and two felony counts of violating the Clean Water Act. He's the first fugitive from the wanted list published by the EPA last year to be apprehended; one surrendered to police last month, and two others were arrested in 2008 before the list was publicized. (Sources: AP, EPA)
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