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UN Applauds Pakistan’s Climate Change Efforts

The UN on Tuesday commended Pakistan for electively making efforts to curb heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.

Though still shaken by recent widespread flooding, the nation has taken steps toward combatting climate change by restricting emissions in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol.

Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad Tuesday, Christina Figueres, executive secretary of UN framework convention on climatic change, praised Pakistan’s voluntary efforts to cut back on emissions.

“Pakistan currently does not have any legally binding obligation under the (framework) convention or under the Kyoto Protocol. Pakistan has participated on voluntary basis,” Figueres said.

Adhering to the Kyoto Protocol’s guidelines for developing countries, Pakistan is enacting 10 projects under a Clean Development Mechanism, with another 145 planned, Figueres said.

While India’s carbon output makes up just 0.38 percent of global emissions, that number will increase exponentially as the country develops, AFP reports.

Local environmental analyst Shafqat Kakahel told AFP that as an agricultural country, Pakistan is especially vulnerable to climate change, which causes an increased chance of environmental disasters like floods and droughts.

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Sierre Leone Bans Imports of Ozone-Depleting Products

Sierra Leone plans to prohibit imported goods known to damage the ozone layer, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday.

Kolleh Bangura, director of the West African nation’s EPA, told AFP that a new measure would ban products containing substances known to deplete the ozone, such as old refrigerators. The ban will go into effect April 1.

“A recent workshop has sensitised customs and marine officials as well as other stakeholders including fire-fighters on the harmful effect of ozone-depleting substances,” Bangura said, according to AFP.

“Sierra Leone has made progress in the issue of ozone depletion between 1990 to 2000 introducing environmental policies, strategies and regulations but practical control and management have been severely affected by lack of funding,” Bangura added.

The attempt to ban ozone-damaging products and substances dates back to 2008, when the law was first passed by the nation’s parliament. A lack of funding prevented the ban from going into effect until now.

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UN to Hold 2011 Climate Talks in Bagkok

The UN will hold a climate change conference in Bangkok from April 3-8 to continue the discussion started at last month’s meeting in Mexico.

Senior officials will meet to hash out the future of the Kyoto Protocol and develop a fund for impoverished nations imperiled by climate change, according to sources speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity.

The two-week climate talks in Cancun last month failed to reach any conclusions about the Kyoto Protocol, the global greenhouse gas-curbing agreement that expires at the end of 2012.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change signatories will also discuss financing the conservation of tropical forests, AFP reports.

UNFCCC officials will also gather in Bonn, Germany later this year for a senior official level meeting. An annual meeting at ministerial level will follow in Durban, South Africa, in December.

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Davos Forum: Leaders Call for Green Economy

International leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland say U.S. businesses must pressure the federal government to work toward an energy-efficient economy before China reaches one first.

U.N. climate chief Christina Figueres said Thursday that China “is going to leave us all in the dust” if Western countries don’t begin to act on climate change, AP reports.

Figueres said the Chinese “are not doing it just because they want to save the planet. They are doing it because it’s good for the economy.”

European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard called for U.S. businesses to change their perspective on energy efficiency, saying they should realize that “it’s bad business to not be among the front-runners” in the race for a green global economy.

The annual conference is held in a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the the eastern Alps region of Switzerland.

Posted in Effects, Energy Efficiency, Energy Industry, Finance, Accounting, & Investment, Global Warming, Globalization & Free Trade, Policies & Solutions0 Comments

EPA Takes Over Texas Carbon Emission Permits

The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday announced its plans to take over carbon dioxide permitting of any new power plants and refineries in Texas, citing the state’s refusal to comply with emissions regulations going into effect Jan. 2.

Texas industries have openly opposed the Obama administration’s Clean Air Act, a program designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions. They claim that the cuts will threaten productivity, and that the economy, in turn, will take a hit.

The EPA said Thursday that it was reassuming the state’s Clean Air Act Permits because “officials in Texas have made clear . . . they have no intention of implementing this portion of the federal air permitting program,” The Associated Press reported.

“EPA prefers that the state of Texas and all states remain the permitting authority for (greenhouse gas) sources,” the agency said in a statement. “In the same way that EPA has worked with other states and local agencies, the agency stands ready to do the same with (Texas).”

The EPA constructed a framework for carbon emissions regulations in seven other states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Oregon and Wyoming.

The agency also devised a timetable for establishing the cuts for all U.S. facilities and power plants. It plans to propose performance standards for greenhouse gas emissions beginning in July for powerplants and for oil refineries by December. The standards will be finalized in May 2012 for powerplants and November 2012 for refineries.

Gov. Rick Perry spokeswoman spoke out against the EPA’s decision to directly issue air permits in Texas.

“The EPA’s misguided plan paints a huge target on the backs of Texas agriculture and energy producers by implementing unnecessary, burdensome mandates on our state’s energy sector, threatening hundreds of thousands of Texas jobs and imposing increased living costs on Texas families,” Cesinger said, according to the San Antonio Express.

An estimated 167 new or expanding projects would be subject to the EPA takeover. Texas lays claim to more oil refineries, chemical plants, and coal-fired power plants than any other state and produces the most greenhouse gas emissions and industrial pollution in the country, AP reports.

The new carbon emissions standards were adopted after a 2007 Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases should be classified as pollutants under the Clean Air Act and EPA research in 2009 revealed that the gases have a harmful effect on human health.

Posted in Air Pollutants, Air Pollution, Coal, Courts & Litigation, Drilling for Oil, Energy Industry, Global Warming, Laws & Regulations, Oil & Petroleum, Ozone, Policies, Pollution Prevention0 Comments

Study: CO2 is 'thermostat' for Earth

NEW YORK, Oct. 14 (UPI) — Water vapor and clouds are major factors in Earth’s greenhouse effect but carbon dioxide will always be the ultimate culprit, a U.S. study found.

The study, conducted by researchers at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, examined the nature of Earth’s greenhouse effect, which traps and holds outgoing infrared radiation, a NASA release said Thursday.

The researchers say non-condensing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and chlorofluorocarbons are the core actors in the terrestrial greenhouse effect. Without them, scientists say, water vapor and clouds alone would not create the feedback mechanisms that amplify the greenhouse effect.

The study, lead author Andrew Lacis says, demonstrates “the direct relationship that exists between rising atmospheric carbon dioxide and rising global temperature.”

“The bottom line is that atmospheric carbon dioxide acts as a thermostat in regulating the temperature of Earth,” Lacis said. “It is not surprising then that global warming can be linked directly to the observed increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and to human industrial activity in general.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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12 Million Young Adults to Be Insured

NEW YORK, Oct. 8 (UPI) — A non-profit group, using U.S. Census Bureau data on uninsured young adults ages 19-29, says the Affordable Care Act will make a difference to 12 million.

The Commonwealth Fund says once the Affordable Care Act completely takes effect in 2014, more than 12 million could gain subsidized health insurance or be picked up on their parents health insurance until age 26.

The report, “Realizing Health Reform’s Potential: Young Adults and the Affordable Care Act of 2010,” by researchers Sara Collins and Jennifer Nicholson, says by 2014, as many as 7.2 million uninsured young adults will gain coverage through Medicaid expansions and as many as 4.9 million will gain subsidized private coverage through new insurance exchanges.

About 1 million uninsured young adults age 26 and younger are estimated to be covered under their parents’ policies beginning this year.

The report estimates 1.8 million uninsured young adults ages 19-29 are not legal residents and will not be eligible for federally subsidized health insurance under the new law.

“When fully implemented, the Affordable Care Act will allow young adults of all income levels to undergo a new rite of passage: Establishing necessary ties with the healthcare system, without fear of accumulating medical debt, as they pursue their educational and career goals,” the researchers say.

Currently, young adults are one of the largest groups of Americans without health insurance — nearly 15 million people age 19-29 were uninsured in 2009 — an increase of more than 1 million in 2008, the researchers say.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Crowded ERs Result in Patients Going Home

ALBANY, N.Y., Oct. 6 (UPI) — Many hospital emergency room patients are “boarded,” or held in the ER after being admitted, prolonging the wait for needed treatment, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers at the University of South Florida say as wait times in hospital ERs increase, the rate of patients in waiting rooms leaving before getting treated increases “significantly.”

Dr. Sandra Schneider, emergency physician and president of American College of Emergency Physicians, says research shows that when hospital leadership creates and enforces policies to more rapidly move admitted patients out of the emergency department, the wait for an in-patient bed drops by more than 50 percent.

“When our hospital implemented a policy of moving admitted patients out of the ER and into in-patient beds within 30 minutes, overall time from bed assignment to transfer to the appropriate floor dropped by more than half,” study author Dr. Daniel Pauze of Albany Medical College in Albany, N.Y, says in a statement. “It shows that we can get patients out of the ER and into inpatient beds if hospital leadership demands it. It’s good for both patient safety and the hospital’s bottom line when you stop people walking out the door without treatment.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Humans' Climate Impact Hard to Assess

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Oct. 5 (UPI) — The possible impact of human activity on the world’s environment and climate may not be known for 40 years or more, U.S. researchers say.

A Texas A&M study shows that although it is evident the world is experiencing one of the fastest warming rates since the beginning of climate record keeping, it will take a long time before a statistically significant difference can be seen between possible human impacts and those caused by natural climate variability, a university release reported Tuesday.

The study analyzed 150 years of climate data to determine past trends and annual temperature fluctuations and then used the data to simulate possible temperature scenarios for the rest of this century, the release said.

The effect of humanity’s carbon footprint on the environment may not be measurable for decades, if at all, the study concludes.

Their study has broad implications for international policy making and protocols, including initiatives like cap-and-trade, programs that provide financial incentives to companies that pollute less than others, the study authors said.

“In the end,” lead author Doug Sherman at A&M’s College of Geosciences said, “we found that even with an aggressive international effort to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases, it may be decades before we can see definitive results.”

“There is something here for both sides of the ‘war against global warming,’” Sherman said. “Do we charge ahead with international agreements and policies, or do we do nothing? Do we save money for our grandchildren’s future or do we try to save the climate, not knowing if our efforts will have any effect?

“Unlike a true war,” he said, “we cannot anticipate victory. We have, at best, a stalemate.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Healthcare Reform to Go into Effect

NEW YORK, Sept. 17 (UPI) — Millions of U.S. adults and children will have access to healthcare next week under provisions of the Affordable Care Act, a non-profit group says.

A report by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation in New York supporting independent research on health policy reform, found that among those people who will be helped by the new law right away are:

– 102 million people who currently have lifetime limits on their health insurance and 18 million who have annual limits. Under the ACA, insurers face restrictions on placing such limits on policyholders.

– 1 million young adults will be able to join or remain on their parents’ health insurance policies until they are age 26.

– 10,700 people who have their coverage rescinded, or retroactively cancelled, each year will not be rescinded.

– 200,000 to 400,000 people with pre-existing health conditions will immediately be able to enroll in special pre-existing condition insurance plans.

– Thousands of children with pre-existing conditions may no longer be denied health insurance.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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