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Vibrant Environment

Microgrids, Distributed Energy, and Resilience

Destruction of the energy infrastructure on the island of Dominica, following Hu
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Four months after Category 5 Hurricane Maria swept through Puerto Rico causing catastrophic damage, much of the island is still without power, food, and water. The storm knocked out power to almost all the commonwealth—homes, schools, hospitals, and other critical services and infrastructure were left without power. Even now, over one-third of the island is still without electricity, and many are left without access to food and running water.

Looking at Land Restoration as a Carbon Removal Solution

Restoration of forests is one promising approach to carbon dioxide removal.
By Serena Choi, Research and Publications Intern
Monday, January 29, 2018

With the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal to keep average global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, governments across the world are struggling to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions voluntarily and collectively. Some have described this challenge as a prisoner’s dilemma. Removing carbon from the atmosphere may be the key to escape.

Watson, Meet Eco

Could algorithms be used to automate environmental management? (Photo: Pixabay)
By Dave Rejeski, Visiting Scholar
Wednesday, January 24, 2018

In a not-so-far-away future, environmental management will be done largely by algorithm. Here is how that could happen . . . .

In 2015, two graduates from Stanford business school, William Glass and Eden Kropski, founded a firm to produce and sell high-performance sportswear made entirely of synthetic fibers bioengineered from yeast microbes. The product was a runaway success and low-impact, but shipping it around the planet wasn’t.

Shale Gas: Bridge Fuel or Pipe Dream?

Natural gas extraction is set to resume in the U.K. in 2018 (Photo: Geograph)
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Monday, January 22, 2018

The U.K. government cites shale gas as a “safe and environmentally sound” source of new energy and is actively promoting development of the fossil resource—using hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling—in hopes of emulating the United States’ shale gas “revolution.” 

2017 Year in Review

2017 Year in Review
By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, December 27, 2017

As we get ready to ring in the New Year, the editors of Vibrant Environment thought it might be nice to take a look back at some of the work ELI did in 2017.

By far the biggest news story here in the United States was the arrival of the Trump Administration. In response to the growing demand for unbiased answers and analysis on how deregulatory initiatives by the new Administration and Congress will impact environmental protection, governance, and the rule of law, ELI released a special report, Regulatory Reform in the Trump Era

Rethinking Reforestation: Degradation as a Carbon Source in Tropical Forests

The Brazilian Amazon (Wikimedia Commons)
By Lovinia Reynolds , Policy Analyst and Environmental Justice Coordinator
Monday, December 18, 2017

Tropical forest ecosystems are globally recognized for their carbon sequestration capacities. Past research has estimated that tropical forests on average sequester a net 1400 teragrams of carbon per year, the equivalent of taking approximately 1 billion passenger vehicles off the road. International governing bodies, national governments, and nonprofit organizations have attempted to capitalize on the carbon sequestration services provided by tropical forests in an increasingly carbon rich atmosphere.  Programs such as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation + enhancing forest carbon stocks) have resulted in significant expenditures of efforts and resources into developing frameworks for preserving tropical forests.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration: A Step Toward Deep Decarbonization?

Coal power plant emissions (Pixabay).
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Last month, Trump Administration officials attended the latest round of U.N. climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany, but they weren’t there to discuss reducing emissions. Rather, they touted the promises of nuclear energy, natural gas, “clean coal,” and carbon capture. This is not surprising, given the President’s views on climate policy and his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. But even had Trump decided otherwise, the current Agreement does not do enough to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change.

This Ain’t Normal: Calculating the Social Costs of Carbon

Hurricane Harvey, as viewed from space (Photo: NOAA).
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

While EPA under Administrator Scott Pruitt seeks to drastically reduce the social cost of carbon (SCC), insurers already know that 2017 delivered the most expensive Atlantic hurricane season ever for insurance companies. Beyond this year, since the 1980s, the annual average losses to insurers have risen, increasing over the last decade from $10 billion to about $50 billion. “Insurers are rightfully worried that, in the long term, climate change could devastate their industry,” reported the Los Angeles Times. While Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico  flood, EPA recalculates, and insurance companies add up their costs.

Smart Tech, Dumb Design: Planned Obsolescence and Social Responsibility

Four Generations of iPhone (Photo: Yutaka Tsutano)
By Azi Akpan, Science and Policy Analyst; Manager, National Wetlands Awards
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

September 22 marked the beginning of fall, and for some, that means it’s officially apple-picking season. Coincidentally, this isn’t the only type of apple officially in season. September 22 also marked the release date of Apple’s iPhone 8. And it’s not too long until you have your pick of a new Apple product with the release of the iPhone X on November 3.

Brother(s), Can You Spare a Dime? Crowdfunding Environmental Action

Crowdfunding is the strategy of raising funds from a large number of people (Pho
By Lorentz Hansen, Research & Publications Intern, Dave Rejeski, Visiting Scholar, and Jessye Waxman, Research Associate
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

In 2008, as many financial instruments dissolved stranding their investors in seas of debt and spasms of panic, a new instrument appeared at the intersection of the crowd and the web: crowdfunding.