National Geographic: The Green Guide

From childhood, we’re told to drink at least eight glasses of water each day. Unfortunately more and more Americans drink those eight glasses out of plastic bottles—a convenience that stuffs landfills, clogs waterways and guzzles valuable fossil fuels.

Not only does bottled water contribute to excessive waste, but it costs us a thousand times more than water from our faucet at home, and it is, in fact, no safer or cleaner.

Water aside, the plastic used in both single-use and reusable bottles can pose more of a contamination threat than the water. A safe plastic if used only once, #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) is the most common resin used in disposable bottles. However, as #1 bottles are reused, which they commonly are, they can leach chemicals such as DEHA, a known carcinogen, and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), a potential hormone disrupter.

While single-use water bottles should never be used more than once, some reusable water bottles simply shouldn’t be used. The debate continues over the safety of bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone-disrupting chemical known to leach out of the #7 polycarbonate plastic used to make a variety of products.


Yale University – e360 digest
06.20.08: Extreme Weather Events
Will Plague U.S. in Future, Report Says

A government report, synthesizing more than 100 academic papers, forecasts that as the world warms, the United States will be subject to prolonged droughts, heat waves and more frequent downpours like the recent ones that have left much of the Midwest under water. Issued by the U.S. Climate Science Program, the report forecasts that by mid-century, heat waves that now occur once every 20 years will take place once every three years. Extremely heavy rain storms that now occur once every two decades will occur once every five years, causing major flooding in different regions, according to the report. It also said that the southwestern United States will likely experience more droughts. The full report is available here.

Yale University – e360 digest
06.24.08: Hansen Urges Drastic Action
and Says Energy CEOs Guilty of “High Crimes”

NASA climate scientist James Hansen has told a House committee that the United States must lead the world in swiftly passing “transformative” climate change legislation or face disastrous environmental consequences this century, including a probable sea level rise of at least two meters and mass extinctions. Speaking exactly 20 years after first warning the U.S. Congress of the dangers of global warming, Hansen — director of the Goddard Institute of Space Sciences — also said that the heads of oil and coal companies who spread doubt about global warming and resist efforts to move to a carbon-free economy “should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.” Hansen called on Congress to approve sweeping climate change legislation in the next year that would include a tax on carbon and would phase out coal-burning power plants by 2025, unless they employ carbon sequestration technology.

Rain clouds shroud a forest near the western Austrian city of Dornbirn, June 12, 2007. Rising temperatures have forced many plants to creep to higher elevations to survive, researchers reported on Thursday. REUTERS/Miro Kuzmanovic

By Michael Kahn

LONDON, June 27, 2008 (Reuters) — Rising temperatures have forced many plants to creep to higher elevations to survive, researchers reported on Thursday.

More than two-thirds of the plants studied along six West European mountain ranges climbed an average of 29 meters in altitude in each decade since 1905 to better conditions on higher ground, the researchers reported in the journal Science.

“This is the first time it is shown that climate change has applied a significant effect on a large set of forest plant species,” said Jonathan Lenoir, a forest ecologist at AgroParisTech in France, who led the study.

“It helps us understand how ecosystems respond to temperature changes.”

Earlier this week, U.S. researchers warned warming temperatures could turn many of California’s native plants into “plant refugees” looking for more suitable habitats.

They concluded that a warming climate and rainfall changes would force many of the U.S. state’s native plants to range north or to higher elevations or possibly even go extinct in the next 100 years.

The French team’s findings suggest plants at high altitudes face the same or greater impacts from rising temperatures, Lenoir said in a telephone interview.

“Plant species move where it is optimal for them to grow,” Lenoir said. “If you change these optimal conditions, species will move to recover the same conditions.”

Using database on plant species found at specific locations and elevations stretching back to 1905, the researchers showed many plants have steadily crept higher to conditions best suited for survival and growth.

Plants move higher by dispersing their seeds in the wind, which blows them to higher elevations and cooler temperatures similar to their former location, Lenoir said.

The researchers tracked 171 forest plant species during two periods — between 1905 and 1985, and from 1986 to 2005 — along the entire elevation range from sea level to 2,600 meters.

They found that two-thirds of the plants responded to warming temperatures over that time by shifting to higher altitudes.

Plants at higher altitudes also appear most sensitive to warmer conditions because slight temperature changes at higher altitudes have a bigger impact, he added.