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Category Archives:

Pollution

A Tale of Two Grids & the Plan to Connect Them

New York’s climate goals are some of the most ambitious in the nation: by law, the state needs to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and shift to a completely clean, emissions-free electricity economy by 2050, and get to 70% renewable generation by 2030. And to reach that goal, state agencies and private companies have been ramping up renewable energy sources like wind and solar farms. Solar One has been involved in this change almost since its inception, playing a role in getting New York’s first net metering law passed, which paved the way for a renewable revolution, and our Here Comes Solar, Green Design Lab and Workforce Training programs have all  been playing roles in this historic transition ever since, as have our staff who work on NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Communities program at the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.

Sounds pretty promising, doesn’t it? However, there’s a catch. Most of the renewable generation being developed in New York is located upstate, where space is plentiful and land is relatively cheap. But the need for power is greatest in NYC, and the transmission lines tasked with moving the power down to us just can’t handle that many electrons.

In September, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced two huge transmission-line projects to help bridge that divide, a step that environmental advocates hope is a sign that she is accelerating the state’s efforts to address climate change and environmental inequities.

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What’s Going On at COP26 in Glasgow?

The 26th annual United Nations Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, commonly known as COP26, is coming to a close. According to the latest analysis by Climate Action Tracker, new pledges announced on methane, coal, transportation and deforestation could bring the world 9% closer to meeting the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s not enough to prevent a climate catastrophe, but at least we would be heading in the right direction.
The world’s most respected climate analysis coalition says the sectoral commitments announced in Glasgow represent potential cuts of 2.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to the emissions of Germany, Japan and the UK combined, or 20,000 fully loaded aircraft carriers. This is in addition to measures previously outlined in national climate plans.

However, this is dependent on governments keeping their climate promises, which almost none have done until now, and it still leaves the world heading towards ever more dangerous levels of heating.

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US & EU Pledge to Reduce Methane Emissions

In a bid to tackle climate change, the U.S. and the European Union pledged to reduce methane emissions by a third over the next decade and are urging other countries to follow suit.

Deservedly, carbon dioxide gets a lot of bad publicity because it is the most abundant man-made greenhouse gas but methane, the main component of natural gas, is responsible for about a third of the 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) rise in global average temperature the world has suffered since the start of the industrial revolution.

Since then, concentrations of methane, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat in the atmosphere, have more than doubled.

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Mussels Could Help Solve Our Microplastics Problem

Instead of shelling out for a water filtration plant, mussels’ constant filter feeding is being tested as a potential wide-scale application for microplastic clean-up in our oceans.
Belying their humble evolutionary stature, the mussel can do something that humanity could only achieve by spending millions on equipment, and that is cleaning microplastics smaller than 5mm out of the ocean.

A voracious filter feeder, mussels absorb microplastics and than excrete them, while doing no harm to the organism.

Microplastics are devilish pollutants that can come from tire wear, fracture off long-floating plastic debris, or get pulled off artificial textiles and end up in the ocean via sewage. They’re so small that often the required fineness of a net in order to collect them ensures that any marine life, even tiny ones, will be collected as well.

A trial near the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in England is looking to see how many mussels it would take to make a meaningful impact on microplastic pollution.

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Study Finds Link Between Wildfire Smoke and Covid Risk

In a new study published on Friday, a team of researchers at Harvard University found evidence that exposure to elevated levels of fine particle pollution found in wildfire smoke may have led to thousands more cases of covid-19 and more deaths among those who tested positive for the coronavirus.

In some counties in California and Washington state hit particularly hard by wildfires last year, the study, published in the journal Science Advances, concluded that nearly 20 percent of the covid-19 cases were linked to elevated levels of wildfire smoke. The researchers also found that an even higher percentage of deaths could be linked to wildfire smoke in certain counties.

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West Coast Wildfire Smoke Spreads All the Way to NYC

Wildfire smoke from Canada and the Western United States stretched across the continent this week, covering skies in a thick haze and triggering health alerts from Toronto to Philadelphia. Air quality remained in the unhealthy range across much of the East Coast on Wednesday morning as the haze pushed southward.

In recent weeks, a series of near-relentless heat waves and deepening drought linked to climate change have helped to fuel exploding wildfires. In southern Oregon, the Bootleg Fire grew so large and hot that it created its own weather, triggering lightning and releasing enormous amounts of smoke. But more than 80 large fires are currently burning across 13 American states, and many more are active across Canada.

Now, the effects are being felt thousands of miles from the flames.

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