UK government ordered to take ‘immediate action’ on air pollution by Charlotte Malone

car fumes by Riley Kaminer via Flickr

The UK government today appeared in Supreme Court and has been ordered to deliver plans to cut illegal levels of air pollution by the end of the year.
Areas of the UK are breaching EU limits for nitrogen. Under previous plans several areas would still be over the limit by 2030, well after the EU deadline. The Supreme Court Justices were unanimous in their decision, stating that the new government, following the general election on May 7, “should be left in no doubt as to the need for immediate action to address this issue”.
The ruling was originally brought forward by ClientEarth and follows a five-year legal battle. The organisation argues that the ruling will save thousands of lives by forcing the government to urgently clean up pollution from diesel vehicles.
“Air pollution kills tens of thousands of people in this country every year. We brought our case because we have a right to breathe clean air and today the Supreme Court has upheld that right,” said ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews.
“This ruling will benefit everyone’s health but particularly children, older people and those with existing health conditions like asthma and heart and lung disease.”
He added that ahead of next week’s general election political parties should now make a clear commitment to policies that will deliver cleaner air.
In response to the decision, Greenpeace UK policy director Doug Parr commented, “The public want our politicians to talk more about environmental issues during this election campaign.
“The judgement today shows why – systematic failure on air pollution means we need better plans to stop fuel burning in city centres from impacting our health and wellbeing. A UN report says that air pollution costs nearly 10% of European GDP, and in comparison the economic discussions in the election campaign have been concerning themselves with minor economic details whilst this vast un-discussed failure affects millions of UK residents.”
Photo: Riley Kaminer via Flickr

Soas becomes first London university to divest from fossil fuels by Emma Howard

On Friday, the institution announced it would divest the £1.5m of its £32m endowment held in oil and gas companies over the next three years to show leadership on climate change. The university has no investments in coal.

The decision rules out future investments in fossil fuels and was approved by the school’s governing body, following an 18-month campaign involving more than 1,000 students and staff. On Monday, 63 Soas staff wrote to the university’s management, backing divestment.

Professor Paul Webley, Director of Soas, said: “Soas is proud to become the first university in London to divest and we hope more universities will follow suit. Divestment from fossil fuels will enable Soas to fulfil its responsibilities as an ethical investor, while continuing to ensure that the school’s investments deliver a financial return.”

The university becomes the third in the UK to commit to fossil fuel divestment – following Glasgow and Bedfordshire – as part of a fast-growing global movement. In the US, Syracuse university and the New School in New York are divesting, while Stanford is moving out of coal. More than 220 institutions have now made commitments, including faith organisations, pension funds, philanthropic foundations and local authorities.

Julia Christian, a campaigner Fossil Free Soas, said: “We are so proud to be Soas students, staff and alumni today. The fossil fuel industry is a thing of the past. This is a historic decision, part of a shifting tide away from fossil fuels that is happening across the world as we speak.”
Andrew Taylor, campaigns manger at People & Planet, which supports university divestment campaigns across the UK, said: “If you are interested in studying environmental or social justice issues at a university that definitely won’t be investing your fees in wrecking the climate, then Soas must now be one of the top places to do it. Universities that continue to say no to divestment are eroding their legitimacy to teach about sustainability.”

In March, the Guardian launched a campaign calling on the world’s two largest charitable foundations to divest from fossil fuels. It asks the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to move their money out of the top 200 fossil fuel companies and to immediately freeze any new investments. More than 187,000 people have signed the petition. The Guardian Media Group has since announced it will divest from oil, coal and gas companies.

Scientific research shows that in order to meet international targets to avoid catastrophic levels of climate change, the majority of proven fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground. In October, Mark Carney, governor at the Bank of England, warned that “the vast majority of reserves are unburnable”, lending weight to the theory that fossil fuel assets could become worthless and create a trillion dollar risk to the global economy.

Source: Guardian

Report: majority of large investor failing to manage climate risks By Charlotte Malone

coal power plant by Greg Goebel via Flickr

Many of the world’s largest investors are continuing to make a “big gamble” on accelerating climate change by investing in carbon intensive assets, according to a report from the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP). The index suggests only a small minority of funds are shifting investments for a safer, low-carbon world.

The Global Climate 500 Index lists the climate performance of the world’s largest 500 assets owners, including pension funds, insurance funds, sovereign funds, foundations and endowments. Together these funds own assets amounting to almost $40 trillion (£26tn).
Overall, just 7% of the funds included are able to calculate their emissions. Despite rising concerns over a potential ‘carbon bubble’ and increased climate change mitigation policies, just 1.4% of asset owners reduced their carbon intensity from the previous year and only 2% have a emission reduction target for the year ahead.
A recent study suggests that the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves must remain unused, leading to researchers warning such investments are becoming “increasingly risky”. However, the AODP index reveals that none of the 500 funds have calculated their portfolio fossil fuel reserves exposure.
Julian Poulter, AODP founder and chief executive, explains that laggard funds – those rated D or X – have “simply failed to calculate the odds of a ‘sub-clime’ crisis”.
“They’re betting around 20-1 that either the fossil fuel company influence will last forever, or that their fund managers will bail them out of a crisis – but that didn’t work too well during the systemic crisis did it?” he continued.
“The laggard asset owners are driving their funds without climate insurance and one day they’ll be in a nasty market climate correction and probably end up in court. The X-rated funds are showing wilful negligence given the coverage about the issue and the number of their peers discussing it at the highest levels.”
Nine funds were given a AAA rating with Australia’s Local Government Super coming out top, followed by KLP in Norway and CalPERS in the US. The Environment Agency Pension Fund is the highest placing UK asset owner, taking fifth spot.
In contrast over 200 asset owners were given an X rating, including 16 based in the UK. Overall, the UK ranks tenth globally, with 35 D and X rated funds, including 27 pension funds.
Poluter added, “Members of these laggard UK pension funds can rightly expect their funds to be ding more to protect their retirement savings from stranded asset impact to their portfolio. Many members are already angry and looking to us for ways to help them hold their funds legally accountable for the size of the gamble they are taking and the lack of portfolio protection in place.”

Photo: Greg Goebel via Flickr


General Election: parties failing to address renewables, says industry

wind turbine by Colin Brough via Freeimages

The majority of renewable professionals believe that the industry has not been properly addressed in election campaigns, according to a survey conducted by the Renewable Energy Association (REA).

The results have been published ahead of the general election on 7 May. Some 95% of REA members said that the renewable sector is not receiving enough coverage and attention from political parties. The Green Party is viewed as the best option for the clean energy sector, with 29% of respondents believing the Greens would benefit the industry. The Liberal Democrats were seen as the second best option by the industry.
The two main political parties received less support, with 18% stating that the industry would be in the best hands under Labour and 15% saying the same for the Conservatives.
Nina Skorupska, chief executive of REA, commented, “These findings show first-hand the concern of renewable energy companies up and down the country at how political parties are failing to adequately address the needs of our industry.
“The next government will need to show much more leadership early on and face-up to the challenge of ensuring that the UK meets its ambitious renewables targets, which will allow our industry to play a key role if the regulatory environment enables is to expand, innovate and thrive.”
Focussing on specific policies, survey participants rates the Feed-in Tariff as the most important policy, followed by the Renewable Heat Incentive. Meeting the 2030 decarbonisation target was also high on the list of priories for renewable energy firms, with 44% highlighting it.
Skorupsja added, “We very much look forward to working with the next government to address the concerns of the renewable energy, ensuring the UK makes the transition to the low-carbon economy that will bring with it cheaper bills, more jobs and greater energy security.”

Photo: Colin Brough via Freeimages

Source: blueandgreentomorrow

Briksdalsbreen #glacier #notmuchleft #ikkjemykjeigjen by martinestenersen

via Instagram

#Repost @davinesbrasil ・・・ "A marcha pelo clima se faz necessária e é urgente. O meio ambiente não pode mais esperar, os estudiosos já apertaram o botão vermelho faz tempo, a situação é crítica em todos os lugares, só não vê, quem não quer. Manifestações populares como esta são importantes para alertar os governantes e a sociedade de que algo não vai bem. Agora é o momento de exigirmos dos nossos líderes que tomem uma providência em busca de uma economia global que funcione tanto para as pessoas como para o planeta. Vamos abraçar essa luta, participando do jeito que podemos, seja indo as marchas ou fazendo barulho na internet. Pare e olhe a sua volta, não é mais possível pensar que os problemas do meio ambiente não nos dizem respeito. O planeta é nossa casa, e todos nós precisamos fazer a nossa parte. Nossa saúde depende da saúde do nosso planeta. Vamos nos unir nessa grande corrente para criarmos o mundo que queremos." - Gisele Bundchen 🌎🙏♻️🌳 Temos muito orgulho de sermos conscientes e de contribuir para um mundo melhor. Faça a sua parte, faça escolhas inteligentes. #somosum #juntospodemosfazeradiferença #peoplesclimatemarch by davinescgr

via Instagram

Leading group of climate change deniers accused of creating 'fake controversy' over claims global temperature data may be inaccurate

'This is a very obvious attempt to create a fake controversy'

The UK’s most prominent climate change denial group is launching an inquiry into the integrity of global surface temperature records.
The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), established by notable climate-change sceptic Lord Lawson, announced an international team of “eminent climatologists, physicists and statisticians” would investigate the reliability of the current data.
Professor Terence Kealey, the former vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, has been appointed chair of the international temperature data review project.
Professor Kealey studied medicine at Oxford University before lecturing on clinical biochemistry, which is primarily concerned with the analysis of bodily fluids, at Cambridge University. It is unclear what experience he has in the field of climate change.
The other five commissioners of the data review project: Petr Chylek, Richard McNider, Roman Mureika, Roger A Pielke Sr and William van Winjngaarden are all associated with North American universities.
According to the GWPF, questions have been raised about the reliability of temperature data and the extent to which recordings may have been adjusted after they were collected.
The group claims the inquiry will “review the technical challenges in accurately measuring surface temperature, and will assess the extent of adjustments to the data, their integrity and whether they tend to increase or decrease the warming trend”.
On launching the inquiry Professor Kealey said: “Many people have found the extent of adjustments to the data surprising. While we believe that the 20th century warming is real, we are concerned by claims that the actual trend is different from – or less certain than – has been suggested.”
Bob Ward, policy and research director at the Grantham Institute of climate change and the environment, told The Independent: “I think this is a very obvious attempt to create a fake controversy over the global temperature record ahead of the [UN Climate Change] Paris summit.
“The only purpose of this review is to cast doubt on the science. It is a political move, not a serious scientific one.”
The GWPF has previously been subject to complaints that it has misled the public over climate change and used factually inaccurate material “as part of its campaign against climate policies in the UK and overseas”.
Former chancellor, Lord Lawson, set up the GWPF in 2009. His book on the subject of climate change, titled An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming, was labelled “misleading” by Sir John Houghton, a former co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
While Bob Watson, another former head of the IPCC, said that Lord Lawson did not understand “the current scientific and economic debate”.

Source: Independent

sometimes all it takes is getting the ball rolling and starting conversations that matter #CampusClimateMarch #PeoplesClimateMarch #ignitechange by bigcountrykj

via Instagram

In September, thousands of 1199SEIU caregivers joined half a million people in the streets of New York for the #PeoplesClimateMarch to stop #ClimateChange. This #EarthDay, we continue to be committed to the health of our planet, our patients, our families and our communities. Together, we can support clean energy, create green jobs and stop #ClimateChaos by 1199seiu

via Instagram

A throwback to one of my favorite signs from the #PeoplesClimateMarch in honor of #EarthDay! 🌿💕🌳 by knotyoursweetheart

via Instagram

One of the massive parachute banners painted by @msclarity83 and crew in the #mayday space for #peoplesclimatemarch #climatechaos ? Or #climatejustice #art4 #creativeresistance #pcm #artaction by for_instance

via Instagram

Throwback to the #PeoplesClimateMarch in honor of #EarthDay because protecting our planet is low-key the most pressing issues of our time ❤✌🌎🌍🌏✌❤ by young____dev

via Instagram

Happy Earth Day! 🌎♻️🌍 #EarthDay #peoplesclimatemarch #throwback #nyc #motherearth #savannahspiritphotography by savannahspirit

via Instagram

#resistextinction #respectexistence or #expectresistance #pcm #peoplesclimatemarch #2014 and oh yeah @reverend_billy #thegoodreverend by for_instance

via Instagram

we've only got one 🌍 guys // People's Climate March #latergram #peoplesclimatemarch #earthday #vsco #vscocam by haleycedar

via Instagram

#earthdayeveryday 🐝🐞🌻🍄🌎 #divest #fuckfracking #peoplesclimatemarch #climatejustice #environmentaljustice #NYC #350org by knomad_

via Instagram

In September, thousands of 1199SEIU caregivers joined half a million people in the streets of New York for the #PeoplesClimateMarch to stop #ClimateChange. This Earth Day, we continue to be committed to the health of our planet, our patients, our families and our communities. Together, we can support clean energy, create green jobs and stop #ClimateChaos #EarthDay by 1199seiu

via Instagram

#happyearthday 🌏 #loveyourmother 💚 #motherearth 🌏 #youcannoteatmoney #peoplesclimatemarch ✌️#happyearthday2015 #savetheearth #actlocalthinkglobal #makeadifference ✨ by tbrin82

via Instagram

Happy Earth Day #peoplesclimatemarch #peoplesclimate by elohels

via Instagram

Happy Earth Day, y'all! Be sure to show your big beautiful planet some love, today and always 🌞🐳🌳🌀🌊🌈 #earthday2015 #peoplesclimatemarch #nyc by christinalguerra

via Instagram

Me with George in Thesaloniki once #familly #lifelncolours #landskapecaptures #l #love #travels #ig_naturelovers #instagram #promotegreece #pure_photos #peoplesclimatemarch by calliope_antoniadou

via Instagram

#justseeds #peoplesclimatemarch @ the UWM Open House by nate_pyper

via Instagram

Team photo shoot for our website 🍁 visit to learn more about who we are and why we want to document this critical moment in Canadian history. 🍁#Canada #climatechange #climate #cleantech #solar #solutions #windmill #turbine #cycling #greenbelt #PeoplesClimate #PeoplesClimateMarch #NYC #Toronto #Ontario #ONClimate by beyondcrisisfilm

via Instagram

Record setting #PeoplesClimateMarch #tbt #NYC #diversity #nativetransplant by

via Instagram

I am the change 🌎 #iwasthere ✅ #wherewereyou ⁉️#peoplesclimatemarch ♻️ #climatejustice 🌻 #loveourearth 🐝 #wheatpaste 📰 #flagstaff 🌲 by knomad_

via Instagram

#tbt the #peoplesclimatemarch in #NYC was #straightbonkers by bradholmesofficial

via Instagram

#photooftheday #peoplesclimatemarch #defendourmother #brooklyn by rachelzhumphrey

via Instagram

Dolla-tears Jesus is for #15minwage #fightfor15 #peoplesclimatemarch #art4change #artivist #activistart by milkmcspilly

via Instagram

Took me 6 years but it looks like I'm finally trendsetter around these parts 👴 #IMadeIt #PeoplesClimateMarch #PCM #ACSApproved #EarthDay is every day! by bigcountrykj

via Instagram

Scrap fossil fuel subsidies now and bring in carbon tax, says World Bank chief by Larry Elliott

Jim Yong Kim calls for five-point plan to deliver low-carbon growth, including removal of incentives to exploit oil, gas and coal
Early evening congestion on a LA freeway. Cars, traffic travelling in both directions, rush hour, Los Angeles, California, USA tjc
Early evening congestion on a LA freeway. Cars, traffic travelling in both directions, rush hour, Los Angeles, California, USA tjc Photograph: Dan Chung for the Guardian
Jim Yong Kim said awareness of the impact of extreme weather events that have been linked to rising temperatures was more marked in developing nations than in rich western countries, and backed for the adoption of a five-point plan to deliver low-carbon growth.
Speaking to the Guardian ahead of this week’s half-yearly meeting of the World Bank in Washington DC, Kim said he had been impressed by the energy of the divestment campaigns on university campuses in the US, aimed at persuading investors to remove their funds from fossil fuel companies.
“We have a whole new generation that is interested in climate change”, he said as he predicted that putting taxes on the use of carbon would trigger a wave of clean technology which would lift people out of poverty in the developing world while preventing the global temperature from rising by more than 2C above pre-industrial levels.
Kim said it was crazy that governments increased the use of coal, oil and gas by providing subsidies for consumers. He said that in low and middle-income countries, the richest 20% received six times as much from fossil fuel subsidies as the poorest 20%. He added: “We need to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies now.”
Kim insisted that the recent fall in energy prices meant there had never been a better time to reduce the payments made by governments to help people with their fuel bills. Politicians around the globe currently spend around $1tn (£680bn) a year subsidising fossil fuels, but Kim said: “Fossil fuel subsidies send out a terrible signal: burn more carbon.”
Some countries, such as South Korea, have recently announced carbon taxes as a way of making the use of fossil fuels more expensive. Kim said: “You can have growth that will protect the planet and decouple carbon emissions from growth. We can get it now, but it would be much easier if we put a price on carbon.”
He said that, in addition to scrapping fossil fuel subsidies and introducing a carbon tax, the World Bank’s plan involved spending more on energy efficiency, measures to make agriculture greener and changes to help cities become less polluted and more liveable.
The World Bank president said the Chinese and Indian governments were coming under pressure from their populations due to heavily-polluted cities, and that appreciation of the dangers of climate change was greater in developing countries.
“They can feel the boot of climate change on their neck, more so than people in the developed world”, Kim said. “The results of the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather-related events are having a much bigger impact in poor countries than in the US or Europe.”
Kim said it was important the Guardian’s Keep it in the Ground campaign had published figures showing that between two-thirds and four-fifths of known fossil fuel reserves would have to remain unburned to keep temperatures below the 2C ceiling.
He said: “Putting the figures out there is important. Now we can have the debate and see how others respond. When I meet business leaders from the very carbon-intensive industries, their openness to a carbon price is striking. They say, ‘let’s do it’.”
Although the World Bank has been criticised in the past for financing the building of dams in developing countries, Kim said Africa had to explore hydroelectric power as an alternative to fossil fuels. Noting that Africa exploited just 1% of its hydroelectric potential, Kim added: “There is plenty of coal in Africa. If we step back, if we don’t move forward on hydro, then the natural progression is to more coal.”
While solar and wind were going to be an important part of the energy mix for Africa, they would not be capable of providing power to consistently meet a minimum level of demand, he said.
The World Bank will be involved in the meeting in Paris in December when the UN is seeking a global pact to deal with the threat of climate change.
Kim said he wanted to see the talks result in a collective agreement binding the international community to a zero-carbon world by the end of the century; individual countries coming up with their own plans; a financing package that by 2020 would provide poor countries with $100bn (£68bn) to help them adapt to climate change and mitigate its effects and a stronger role for the private sector to use its innovative skills to find ways of reducing emissions.
“New technology is going to be spurred on by putting a price on carbon”, Kim said. “It will be an extremely important incentive for innovation.”


Kiev. Morning. by romancieslak_cam

via Instagram

#DivestUNF is excited to be on Insta! Keep following us for updates. Sweeewwp🌞 by divestunf

via Instagram

Tampons Can Help to Solve a Major Sewage Problem in the UK

Sewage pipe polluting a river. (Photo: JunjarnJarn/Shutterstock)
Sewage pipe polluting a river. (Photo: JunjarnJarn/Shutterstock)
More than a million homes in the United Kingdom discharge sewage directly into rivers and streams rather than to municipal treatment plants, and identifying those homes can be very difficult. The rogue effluent is obviously a bad (and smelly) scene for the environment and public health. A team of engineers from Sheffield University recently announced that they have a solution: tampons.
Let me say that again. Tampons are going to help solve the U.K.’s untreated sewage problem. The scientists’ work will teach you something you likely didn’t know about water pollution and about tampons—we aim to inform here.

The Sheffield University team have tested tampons in the laboratory and in the field, and so far they’ve passed with flying colors.

Untreated sewage pollutes waterways and contributes to algal blooms that choke marine life. The current approach to determining where a household’s sewage goes is to pour dye down the pipes, one home at a time, then send out a team of government employees to find where the colors appear. The process is slow, expensive, and labor-intensive.
Many household products, like laundry detergent and toilet paper, contain optical brighteners, and the presence of those chemicals indicates that untreated sewage is flowing into surface waters. Cotton has always seemed like a potential solution because it absorbs those optical brighteners. Environmental engineers could dip cotton into a stream, shine an ultraviolet light on it to detect untreated sewage, and then trace the water’s flow upstream to the home or homes it came from. It’s almost a great strategy, but there’s a problem: Most of the world’s cotton products already have brighteners in them. That’s why T-shirts glow so brilliantly at raves (or so I’m told).
Enter the tampon. The cheap and readily available feminine hygiene product is typically made of untreated cotton and thus is an ideal candidate to detect the presence of optical brighteners in surface waters. Engineers simply leave the tampon dangling in a stream for three days—insert your own adolescent joke here—then shine a black light on it to see if it glows more than a fresh-from-the-box tampon. The Sheffield University team have tested tampons in the laboratory and in the field, and so far they’ve passed with flying colors, correctly pinpointing a group of houses that were discharging sewage into the environment.
The tampon solution demonstrates that resourcefulness, not necessarily big investment, can address some of our most pressing problems. Might it also suggest that we need more women in science? It took men an awfully long time to come up with this idea.
This post originally appeared on Earthwire as “Just the Right Absorbency” and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Kiev.Weekend. by romancieslak_cam

via Instagram

A Growing Population, and a Falling Volume of Water by FRANCIE DIEP

California's population has skyrocketed over the past hundred years; unfortunately, water runoff has not.
For as long as California has been keeping track, its runoff—a measure of drought—has fluctuated widely. The last four years represent the driest such stretch on record, but extremely low points have occurred before: in 1928-31, when California also saw an influx of migrants from the Dust Bowl-affected states, and again in 1987-90.
Meanwhile, the state's population has only grown over the last century. That means that ever more people are directly affected by dry conditions in California, as you can see below:

California's population compared to its water runoff from 1901 to 2014. (Chart: Francie Diep/Pacific Standard)
California's population compared to its water runoff from 1901 to 2014. (Chart: Francie Diep/Pacific Standard)
Of course, population doesn't tell the whole picture for California's water demand. Over the past 20 years, the state's demand for water for urban uses—such as drinking, washing, and landscaping—has stayed steady despite population growth. That's because of Californians' adoption of water-savers such as low-flow showerheads and toilets, and drip irrigation for lawns and gardens. As you might have heard, 80 percent of California's freshwater use goes to agriculture, not home use. That's likely associated with population growth, but less directly.
In addition, the runoff datasets we used aren't a perfect indication of  a drought's severity. Runoff measures how much precipitation isn't absorbed by the land, with the idea that the extra runs into lakes and rivers. But the runoff data we used here come from gauges that take measurements downstream of some aqueducts, so the true runoff volume is likely higher. A more complete measure of drought might also take into account air temperatures in different regions of the state, which affect how much water evaporates.
Still, it's remarkable to see how the state's population has grown, in the face of a low, unreliable natural water supply.

Source: PSmag

in a room full of people who give a damn! #peoplesclimateart #maydayartspace #mayday #earthweek #fightfor15 #peoplesclimatemarch #blacklivesmatter #stopshoppingchoir #fuckbp #bpoilspill #tpp #occupywallstreet #ows #sporatorium by yvonnegnyc

via Instagram

A Rundown on Recycled Wastewater What you need to know about the sustainable alternative to desalination. by J. WESLEY JUDD

As California's "rainy" season comes to an end and Governor Jerry Brown introduces the drought plagued state's first mandatory water restrictions, it's now becoming more important than ever to find a sustainable alternative water source.Desalination—the energy intensive act of stripping sea water of its salt content—has been the much-discussed solution. There exists, however, another process: recycled wastewater. Though understandably unappealing on the surface, recycling wastewater is perhaps California's best option. 
Here's what you need to know:


Recycling wastewater is, generally speaking, the process of re-purposing or re-using once-dirty water. Most commonly, recycled wastewater refers to treated sewage water, which can be used for both irrigation and consumption. It is called many different things—re-claiming, water recycling, and sometimes “toilet to tap.” The size and scale of recycling wastewater can vary dramatically, from the on-site home facility that collects and re-uses laundry water for irrigation purposes, to a massive city-operated plant that filters and purifies sewage to re-supply depleted aquifers.


As over 30 percent of the United States is undergoing a moderate to extreme drought, states like California, Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma have already implemented recycled wastewater practices.
Currently, irrigation is the most common use of recycled wastewater; lawns, golf courses, parks, and schoolyards all used reclaimed water for irrigation. (Delaware has been using recycled wastewater to irrigate crops since the 1970s, according to Pew.) Reclaimed water can also be used to fight fires and help replenish natural wetlands.
In California, Los Angeles’ Tillman Water Reclamation Plant recycles six million gallons of water per day, but none that is yet used for drinking. Earlier this week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti revealed the city's first ever sustainability plan, which he promised would "expand recycled water production by at least six million gallons per day" by 2017, and "expand recycled [drinking] water production, treatment, and distribution."
Neighboring Orange Country, on the other hand, has for decades used itsGroundwater Replenishment System to restore low levels of groundwater—its drinking water. Orange County is one of the few counties in the U.S. that currently drinks its recycled wastewater.
The Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, in Los Angeles. (Photo: rye'n/Wikimedia Commons)
The Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, in Los Angeles. (Photo: rye'n/Wikimedia Commons)


To get the sewage irrigation-ready, it must undergo a basic treatment procedure: After letting the solids naturally separate from the liquid (the solids can later be used as a fertilizer), the water is filtered, cleaned, and put into purple pipes—which are indeed underground purple pipes that keep this recycled water separate from the normal water supply.
Advertisement — Continue reading below
In order to get the water to a drinkable quality, it needs to go through several more stages of purification, called advanced treatment. After going through a reverse osmosis filter, the water sits under a UV light, which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is a very effective way to kill waterborne pathogens and diseases. In Orange County, often lauded as a pioneer in recycled wastewater practices, they then take this advanced treated water and put it back underground. From there, it’s filtered though sand and dirt, and can eventually mix with the existing groundwater.


In the midst of this historic California drought, all means to generate clean water should be considered. But recycled water in particular offers a plethora of advantages, and almost no disadvantages.
While there are an admittedly limited number of studies on the topic, there have been no documented cases of reclaimed water causing any sort of disease or sickness, according to Pew.
Recycling wastewater could decrease, if not eliminate, Southern California’s dependence of imported water from the Colorado River and the Sierras, and could also work to keep its aquifers full. Groundwater, the Department of Water Resources estimates, provides California with close to 60 percent of its water during a dry year. In coastal settings like California, an additional concern about a depleted groundwater supply is the intrusion of saltwater, which flows in to fill the aquifer's empty space.
Perhaps most importantly, though, recycled wastewater is nearly universally agreed upon as a better option than the other much-discussed alternative to a depleted water supply: desalination.


Recycling wastewater is far better than desalination, according to Conner Everts, facilitator at the Environmental Water Caucus. After decades of working on issues relating to California's water at the county, city, and state level, he says recycling wastewater is a fraction of desalination’s cost and actually has environmental benefits.
“Recycled water produces far more water [than desalination], it’s far more reliable in terms of actual operations, it uses less power, it provides a beneficial use for ground water, it offsets surface water supplies, and it actually prevents discharges into the ocean, as opposed to creating them,” Conner says.
In 2006, the Pacific Institute published the results of a 24-year study on the comparative costs between surface water, recycled water, and desalination. It found that desalination was consistently more expensive than the other two options.
(Graphic: Pacific Institute)
(Graphic: Pacific Institute)
Western Australia, after facing a historic drought throughout the 2000s, began using both desalination and wastewater recycling plants. The government of Western Australia noted in 2013 that “[reclaimed water] was less expensive than a desalination plant, and used about half the energy of a desalination plant.” The city of Perth now uses seven billion liters of recycled wastewater every year, which accounts for 20 percent of its drinking water. (Also of note: All 62,300 of its reclaimed water quality samples “met strict health and environmental guidelines.”)


Despite all of its positives, drinking water that was at one point sewage leaves most of us with understandable apprehension. Researchers call this the "the yuck factor." Before Perth’s highly successful implementation of reclaimed water—which has garnered a 76 percent approval ratingcitizens of Queensland’s Toowoomba successfully defeated a recycling wastewater proposal in 2006—even though local dam levels were at 20 percent capacity. Getting citizens to not only accept, but embrace reclaimed water is a bit tricky, but Everts thinks that once the shock factor dissipates, most are willing to give it a shot.
“For years in Orange County we had a don’t ask, don’t tell policy,” he says. “But eventually we just came out and said this is sewer water but it’s clean, and we found that people were pretty welcoming. They didn't care.”
Of course, all drinking water is recycled in some form. As the aforementioned Pew article points out, “all water loops continuously through use and reuse, whether it happens naturally through the hydrologic cycle or it is intentionally captured and reused.” For example, unused recycled water in Dallas is put into the Trinity River, which makes its way downstream into Houston’s water supply.
Recycled wastewater is California's best bet. So what's the big stink?
Source: PSmag

The United States and Mexico Have Announced Carbon Emissions Targets

(Photo: DyziO/Shutterstock)
(Photo: DyziO/Shutterstock)
The United States made its 2025 carbon emissions target official last week, committing to a 26 percent to 28 percent reduction below 2005 levels. These numbers aren’t exactly news. They were part of a bilateral agreement with Chinalast fall. But President Obama’s announcement is intended to spur other nations to make their emissions pledges—like, now.
At the December climate conference in Lima, Peru, negotiators promised that their countries would submit carbon emissions pledges by March 31, in preparation for November's United Nations climate conference in Paris. The deadline was last week, but only a few countries appear to be taking it seriously. Mexico, the European Union, Switzerland, and Norway have also recently made their pledges public, and China made a vague commitment in November, promising to reach peak emissions by 2030. What other countries have announced emissions targets? Let me see here ... [rustling papers] ... oh, right: none of them.

Although the Paris conference is still eight months away, collecting commitments now is critically important.

The situation is disheartening, but let’s focus on a few bright spots. The Mexican government produced a detailed and achievable target. It promised to reach peak emissions by 2026, which is a slightly more aggressive goal than China’s. Our neighbors to the south also committed to emit 22 percent less carbon in 2030 compared to a business-as-usual baseline. Past business-as-usual pledges have been smokescreens, because countries like South Africa and Indonesia refused to define what constituted as "usual.” Mexico, however, gave a specific forecast, which makes the commitment measurable.
As the world’s second-biggest carbon polluter, the U.S. emits about 10 times as much greenhouse gas as Mexico, but Mexico’s pledge could be the more significant of the two. A persistent complaint about the climate change negotiation process is that it favors a handful of rich nations. For instance, small island states say the focus on a two-degree maximum temperature increase would likely submerge entire countries. Developing countries complain that the Green Climate Fund, which was supposed to provide money for them to transition to green energy, is badly underfunded. Fast-growing economies say they shouldn’t have to slow their development because the U.S. and Europe already used up the global carbon budget. Mexico’s participation may help persuade other developing countries that the process can work for them. The move is in line with the Mexican government’s recent efforts to take a leadership position in Latin America and the Caribbean. Mexico’s commitment may also help shame larger economies, like Russia and Japan, into action.
What might be most significant about the U.S. commitment is that it details how we plan to achieve our carbon pollution goals through existing programs like the fuel economy standards for cars and trucks and upcoming rules to limit greenhouse gases from power plants. Such specifics will hopefully deter other countries from making empty or unverifiable promises.
Although the Paris conference is still eight months away, collecting commitments now is critically important. Negotiators need time to review the pledges to see whether they are specific and measurable, and scientists need time to determine whether or not they will actually work. If the commitments don’t put us on a trajectory to prevent damaging levels of warming, we’ll need to make them stronger.
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, calls the difference between two and four degrees of temperature rise “human civilization.” So this is no ordinary deadline. It’s time for the world’s governments to turn in their homework. Now.
This post originally appeared on Earthwire as “The Dog Ate My Emissions Target” and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.