News of the week

7/2/2021

Brief synopses of the week’s environmental news. For more information, click the links.

Volkswagens, BMWs, and other European cars contribute to Amazon rainforest destruction

A new report by Rainforest Foundation Norway finds that a number of European car manufacturers are contributing to the destruction of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

The largest driver of rainforest destruction is the clearing of land for cattle, with the cattle population of Brazil currently the largest in the world. The animals are slaughtered for their meat, and their hides are used to make leather. About 80 percent of Brazil’s leather is exported, and about half of that leather is used to make car interiors.

Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, PSA, and Renault buy leather for their car interiors from clients of Brazilian companies associated with rainforest destruction. None of the auto manufacturers have policies on rainforest leather. (Rainforest Foundation Norway)

Senators Cantwell and Murkowski introduce bill to improve hydroelectric power and enhance rivers

Democratic Senator Maria Cantrell of Washington and Alaska’s Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced the Maintaining Baseload Hydroelectricity and River Restoration Act of 2021, which would promote safety and environmental upgrades for the nation’s dams, as well as provide for the removal of obsolete dams.

A number of organizations, among them the National Hydropower Association, The Nature Conservancy, American Rivers, and the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, are applauding the introduction of this legislation. (American Rivers)

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News from my neighborhood

Just north of where I live, the City of San Diego has repaved 30th Street after installing new water lines. As planned and as part of the City’s Climate Action Plan, parking has been removed from the street in order to create bike lanes.

The parked cars are gone, but I have yet to see more cyclists enjoying the wider lanes. Further enhancements, such as plastic posts that designate the bike lanes, are planned. We’ll see if that encourages more cyclists. 30th Street is a somewhat major artery between the San Diego neighborhoods of North Park and the south end of South Park.

Restaurant owners along 30th Street say the lack of parking infringes on the ability of Uber Eats and other food delivery drivers to pick up their orders. Some residents along the street complain that removing the parking exacerbates the ability to find parking, which has worsened over recent years. Needless to say, local biking organizations like the installation of the new lanes for them.

I have not cycled on the new lanes nor talked to anyone who has. Driving is more pleasant and seems safer, particularly along the blocks where 30th Street is quite narrow.

NGOs to Brussels: Phase out fossil-fueled vehicles more quickly

The government of Brussels has a timeline to phase out fossil-fueled cars by 2035, and fossil-fueled buses the year after.

NGOs, including ClientEarth and the Clean Cities Campaign, are calling on Brussels to phase out these vehicles by 2030, as other European cities are planning. (ClientEarth)

Yellowstone is warmer and drier because of climate change

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, Montana State University, and the University of Wyoming looked at climate trends around Yellowstone National Park and determined that the nation’s largest national park has gotten warmer and drier since 1950 because of climate change.

Yellowstone has warmed on average by 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 71 years. This is as high or higher than any time in the last 20,000 years and possibly the warmest the region has been in the last 800,000 years. Average annual snowfall has decreased by 23 inches. Measurable snow has become rare in June and September.

According to the scientists, Yellowstone could warm an additional five to ten degrees by the end of the century. Precipitation is expected to increase by as much as 15 percent, but the higher temperatures will result in a drier environment. The scientists also predict 40 to 60 more days each year in which temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit will plague nearby Bozeman, Montana, and Jackson, Pinedale, and Cody, Wyoming, if current greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed. (U.S. Geological Survey)

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Thousands of abandoned and orphaned oil wells degrade the environment across the country

Prompted by legislation introduced into the House and Senate, an analysis found 214,538 orphaned and abandoned oil wells in the United States, with 31,737 of these wells lying within 30 miles of a national park.

The survey and analysis were performed by the National Parks Conservation Association and FracTracker Alliance, a nonprofit that already monitors the wells and infrastructure of the fossil fuel industry. The survey spotlights the continuing environmental legacy of these wells, as many of them contaminate groundwater and leak methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Introduced by Democratic Representative Teresa Leger-Fernandez of New Mexico, HR 2415, The Orphaned Well Cleanup and Jobs Act, and S 2177, The Oil and Gas Bonding Reform and Orphaned Well Remediation Act, introduced by Democratic Senator and former presidential candidate Michael Bennet, would provide funds to clean up the abandoned and orphaned wells. (National Parks Conservation Association)

For more environmental news that doesn’t make the headlines, follow me on Twitter @EcoScripsit