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Vibrant Environment

A Hard Look’s Gonna Come: The Energy Executive Order, NEPA, and the Social Cost of Carbon

The social cost of carbon quantifies the economic impact of greenhouse gas emiss
Wednesday, June 6, 2018

In March of last year, President Trump issued fossil-fuel friendly Executive Order No. 13783, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. Section 5 of this Order directed agencies to discontinue use of the “social cost of carbon” (SCC), a protocol developed under the Obama Administration to monetize the impacts of climate-related disasters and disruption.

“Is this Organic?”: Decoding Environmental Marketing

Environmental product labels, such as "organic," are not always clear.
By Samantha Goins, Research & Publications Intern
Monday, June 4, 2018

If you walk into a grocery store almost anywhere in the United States, the first thing you see when you come in is produce. The produce section is a vast treasure trove of fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs. When shopping for these—something most of us do each week—one immediate decision is whether or not to pay a little extra for “organic” products. We have to make a similar choice in the dairy aisle. And in other areas of the store, we have to decide if it’s worth it to pay extra for “all natural,” “GMO-free,” or “ethically/sustainably produced” goods.

Recycling Household Waste: A Ten-Year Report

In this month's ELR, Viscusi et. al examine household recycling behavior
Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Recycling is perhaps the most prevalent pro-environmental activity at the household level. Household recycling efforts may be influenced by supportive nudges and, in some cases, laws that mandate recycling behavior. But unlike efforts such as decreasing household energy usage, success in recycling also hinges on governmental support: there must be some mechanism for collecting the recycled materials and converting them into useable commodities. Government entities, and in some cases private waste collection firms, provide for these recycling amenities.

MethaneSAT: Monitoring Methane Emissions From Space

The Environmental Defense Fund's MethaneSAT Satellite (Photo: EDF)
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Monday, April 23, 2018

On April 11, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) President Fred Krupp announced the organization’s plans to create and launch a new satellite to monitor and measure global methane emissions—from space. The "groundbreaking" MethaneSAT plans were unveiled in a TED talk in Vancouver, B.C. The satellite will measure only emissions of methane, the powerful greenhouse gas responsible for roughly one quarter of the man-made global warming we currently experience. 

Water Efficiency and Conservation: The State of the States

2017 Water Efficiency and Conservation State Scorecard
By Adam Schempp, Senior Attorney; Director, Western Water Program
Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Most states have significant room to improve their legal frameworks regarding water conservation and efficiency, and long-term resiliency, according to a report released last month by ELI and the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE). In the 2017 Water Efficiency and Conservation State Scorecard, a five-year update to the 2012 scorecard, each state received two separate grades: one for water use efficiency and conservation, and one for climate resiliency planning. The national average for both is a “C,” but with some great grades in each area and more than half of the states earning higher water use efficiency and conservation scores than they did in 2012.

Fossil Fuel Swap: New Study Shows ‘Overlooked’ Benefits of Switching From Coal to Gas

Deeside Power Station - a natural gas station in Wales, U.K. (Wikimedia Commons)
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Monday, April 16, 2018

In 2016, the United Kingdom (U.K.) had an “unprecedented drop” in its carbon emissions, reducing emissions from production of electricity by 25%. The U.K. achieved this reduction by switching from coal to natural gas for electricity generation—leading to a carbon reduction equivalent to removing over 30% of Britain’s cars from the road. A recent report published in Nature Energy by researchers at two U.K. institutions, the University of Sheffield and Imperial College London, considers the “enabling conditions in Great Britain and the potential for rapid fuel switching in other coal-reliant countries.”

Aeroponics: A Sustainable Solution for Urban Agriculture

Vertical Roots aeroponics system (Photo: Vertical Roots).
By Matthew Miller, Research and Publications Intern
Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Our cities are booming in both population and area. This uncontrolled land expansion, known as urban sprawl, results from several factors including transportation technology, income, consumer preference, and housing pressures. Unfortunately, urban sprawl can negatively impact the most vulnerable communities. The same factors that bring about sprawl also combine to produce “food deserts,” the lack of fresh quality food in an urban setting. For example, a 2014 John Hopkins University study showed that access to both healthy food and the number of supermarkets decreased in poor and minority communities when compared to their counterparts. Moreover, a 2016 Landscape and Urban Planning journal article shows that as low-wage jobs are generated in the areas of new urban growth, low-income communities in urban centers face increased difficulty finding entry-level jobs.

Urban agriculture has had moderate success addressing these challenges. In particular, one emerging method known as “aeroponics” may provide a more sustainable solution to expand access to local produce in the urban core while simultaneously providing stable employment opportunities for community members.

A Well Ends Well: An Exurban Fable

A Well Ends Well: An Exurban Fable
By Stephen R. Dujack, Editor, The Environmental Forum®
Monday, April 2, 2018

“April showers bring May flowers,” the saying goes – but we also rely heavily on groundwater. In honor of the changing seasons, Vibrant Environment recounts a tale from The Environmental Forum of neighborhood water woes.

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Limitless: The Race to Create the Sun on Earth

Scientists may be within years of harnessing nuclear fusion energy to create "a
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A research group at MIT says nuclear fusion is within years of being commercially viable. And a European project, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), is also aggressively moving toward development of nuclear fusion power. Is this the dawn of a new nuclear age—safe, sustainable energy from nuclear fusion?

Conservative Conservation: Bipartisan Environmentalism in the Trump Era

Blue heron are among the species benefiting from bipartisan conservation efforts
By Darragh Moriarty, Legal Extern
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

“Anti-environmentalism is a mark of identity,” says Fred Rich, author of Getting to Green: Saving Nature: A Bipartisan Solution. “It is a mark of what it is to be a conservative.” With fossil fuel companies continuing to fund GOP politicians and a president who has called global warming a “hoax,” there are legitimate concerns that environmental issues will continue to polarize. The Republican 2016 Party platform described the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as “a political mechanism,” rejecting the “agendas” of the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. In spite of this political climate, several politicians, from congressmen to state governors, and city mayors, are making bipartisan efforts to combat climate change. In doing so, they are not only showing that environmental sustainability and economic growth can go hand-in-hand, but that these measures receive support from voters across the political spectrum.