On June 12, UK Science Minister David Willetts hosted the G8 science ministers and heads of national science academies at the Royal Society in London, in the first meeting of its type to be held since 2008. The U.S. was represented by Dr. Patricia Falcone, Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs, Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Many people do not know they have high blood pressure because it does not always cause symptoms. As a result, it contributes to more than nine million deaths every year, including about half of all deaths due to heart disease and stroke. Cut your risk of developing high blood pressure by: cutting down on salt; eating a balanced diet; avoiding harmful use of alcohol; doing regular physical activity; and avoiding tobacco use. Read more
First Images Released From Newest Earth Observation Satellite: Turning on New Satellite Instruments is Like Opening New Eyes
As we noted in last month’s blog the Landsat Data Continuity Mission was launched on February 11. In mid-March the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) released its first images of Earth, collected at 1:40 p.m. EDT on March 18. The first image shows the meeting of the Great Plains with the Front Ranges of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming and Colorado.
The two LDCM sensors collect data simultaneously over the same ground path. OLI collects light reflected off the surface of Earth in nine different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, including bands of visible light and near-infrared and short-wave-infrared bands, which are beyond human vision. TIRS collects data at two longer wavelength thermal infrared bands that measure heat emitted from the surface. By looking at different band combinations, scientists can distinguish features on the land surface. These features include forests and how they respond to natural and human-caused disturbances, and the health of agricultural crops and how much water they use. Data from LDCM will extend a continuous, 40-year-long data record of Earth’s surface from previous Landsat satellites, an unmatched, impartial perspective that allows scientists to study how landscapes all across the world change through time. Read more here.
This week’s U.S. highlights begin with Secretary Clinton’s remarks at the United Nations last week where she emphasized the importance of multilateral clean water initiatives. Next, there have been noteworthy gains in U.S. home energy efficiency upgrades and increased investment in nuclear energy research at American universities. The U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) released several reports showing growth in U.S. solar production and American green pricing program participation during 2011. The Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory published research in September rebutting claims that large-scale, high altitude wind production adversely impacts climate. Finally, I wrap up by highlighting several non-federal, state programs showing new growth in jobs associated with clean energy programs in California, the Midwest, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut.
On September 4, Prime Minister Cameron announced a significant reshuffle of his government. Since then, NGOs, industry and other observers have been carefully scrutinizing whether the changes at the departments for energy, environment, communities, transport and health signal any significant change in Coalition policy priorities. With Party Conference season upon us, speeches by new Ministers will offer an important early read on how they intend to proceed on critical UK ESTH issues including electricity market reform, the UK’s low carbon agenda, renewable energy, airport expansion and planning regulations.
UN-Habitat held its inaugural Urban Planning conference on September 20 at a new £30m exhibition and conference center called The Crystal, located at the Royal Victoria Docks in east London. Over 200 stakeholders from cities around the world, including mayors, city planners, business representatives, and academics, participated in the launching of UN Habitat’s new guide, “Urban Planning for City Leaders.” It lays out tools to support sustainable urban planning good practices. “All too often planning has been disconnected from the day to day realities and needs of citizens,” said UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos. Read more
Looking back over the summer holiday, I highlight this week several newly launched U.S. projects and programs in Environment, Science, Technology, and Health (ESTH). Initiatives include President Obama’s final steps to implement historical 54.5 mpg U.S. fuel efficiency standards, a newly built Department of Energy (DOE) CO2 capture and storage plant, efforts by the military to go green, EPA work with supermarkets on energy efficiency, and a $10 million DOE SunShot competition. Finally, the U.S. and Canada signed a bilateral agreement to improve water quality in the Great Lakes Basin, and NASA’s venture with SpaceX will launch the next Dragon space craft to the International Space Station.
U.S. Finalizes Historic 54.5 mpg Fuel Efficiency Standards. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are finalizing national standards for fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions for passenger cars and light trucks built in the years 2017 through 2025. By 2025, the average car will achieve a fuel economy performance equivalent to 54.5 miles per gallon—nearly double that of cars on the road today. Savings over the lifetime of a 2025 vehicle will be $1.7 trillion and 12 billion barrels of consumed oil. Read more
The illegal and ineffective use of rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine has received a lot of press lately, especially because Prince William told the BBC on June 19 that those who knowingly take part in poaching and blackmarket rhino horn trade are “ignorant, selfish, and utterly wrong” and people must be “aware of how delicate and fragile these animals are, and how much damage we are doing to them and to the wildlife and natural ecosystem around them just by our neglect and ignorance.”
The U.S. agrees. This week, Robert Hormats, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment has released the following article on the subject, examining how people lose out in the false hope of rhino horn trafficking.
The Tragedy of “Untraditional” Medicine Under Secretary Robert D. Hormats
In traditional Chinese medicine, shaved or ground rhino horn has been used for centuries to “cure” a long list of ailments: fever, rheumatism, gout, snakebites, hallucinations, typhoid, headaches, carbuncles, vomiting, and food poisoning. Over the past few years, rhino horn has even been suggested to cure cancer. Read more
The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) kicks off tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to mark the 20th anniversary of the historic 1992 Rio Earth Summit. The official themes for Rio are the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development. The United States will join delegations around the world to build and showcase partnerships among government, businesses, and civil society to create green economic growth and resource efficiency while harnessing the power of science, technology and innovation to reduce poverty and improve living conditions.
Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern and Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the Department of State, Read more