Environment

Environment
3:03 am
Wed January 1, 2014

Federal Flood Insurance Program Drowning In Debt. Who Will Pay?

Even when a flood obliterates homes, as Superstorm Sandy did in 2012 in the Rockaway neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., the urge to rebuild can be strong.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 11:42 am

Millions of American property owners get flood insurance from the federal government, and a lot of them get a hefty discount. But over the past decade, the government has paid out huge amounts of money after floods, and the flood insurance program is deeply in the red.

Congress tried to fix that in 2012 by passing a law to raise insurance premiums. Now that move has created such uproar among property owners that Congress is trying to make the law it passed disappear.

Read more
Environment
6:07 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Florida's Mangroves Move North As Temperatures Rise

Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 6:56 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The world's climate is warmer on average than it was a hundred years ago. Plants in some places are emerging earlier in the spring and insects that like warm weather are on the move. But scientists are finding out that the culprit isn't just warmth. As NPR's Christopher Joyce reports, it's also the absence of cold snaps.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: The idea that a warmer planet could mean avocados in Scotland or bananas in Montana may sound silly. But in fact, tropical plants are moving north. For instance, mangroves in Maryland.

Read more
Number Of The Year
10:40 am
Tue December 31, 2013

From Pandas To Health Care: The 13 Numbers Of 2013

Johann Balleis / Adam Cole Wikimedia Commons / NPR

0: Twitter collected no profit, Snapchat collected no revenue, and Apple's stock has roughly stayed flat over the past year. But in Silicon Valley, where companies are judged by potential, zero is still something.

Read more
The Two-Way
6:41 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

Lost Images Come To Life A Century After Antarctic Expedition

Alexander Stevens, Shackleton's chief scientist, looks south from the deck of the Aurora. Hut Point Peninsula on Ross Island, Antarctica, can be seen in the background.
nzaht.org

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 8:25 pm

Conservators working to preserve artifacts from the early days of Antarctic exploration have uncovered century-old black-and-white negatives taken during Ernest Shackleton's 1914-1917 expedition but never printed.

Read more
The Two-Way
11:37 am
Mon December 30, 2013

VIDEO: Volcano Erupts In El Salvador, Ash And Gas Soar

The Chaparrastique volcano in eastern El Salvador erupted on Sunday.
Hector Garay/Telenoticias 21 AFP/Getty Images

The first eruption of eastern El Salvador's Chaparrastique volcano in 37 years sent ash and gas soaring as much as six miles into the air on Sunday and led authorities to evacuate thousands of people from their homes.

Read more
Environment
10:10 am
Sat December 28, 2013

A Scientist's New Job: Keeping The Polar Bears' Plight Public

Originally published on Sat December 28, 2013 3:43 pm

The Endangered Species Act, which turns 40 on Saturday, helped bring back iconic species such as the wolf, grizzly bear and bald eagle, after hunting, trapping and pesticides almost wiped those animals out.

But a very different kind of threat — global warming — is pushing some species like the polar bear to the brink of extinction.

One government biologist discovered the best way he could help save polar bears was to quit his job.

A New Kind Of Conservation Problem

Read more
Number Of The Year
9:48 am
Sat December 28, 2013

A Tragic Year For Wildland Firefighters Ends In Reflection

The wildfire in Yarnell, Ariz., last June destroyed homes and killed 19 firefighters. Experts say expansion into wildfire-prone areas has created new challenges for firefighters.
Andy Tobin AP

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 8:22 am

Thirty-four wildland firefighters died in the line of duty this year. Some of those fatalities were isolated incidents, but one event captured the nation's attention, sparking a larger conversation about the new dangers firefighters face.

That event unfolded in central Arizona the afternoon of June 30, a Sunday.

"I'm here with Granite Mountain Hot Shots. Our escape route has been cut off," says a crew boss on recently released radio traffic from the Yarnell Hill Fire. "We are preparing a deployment site, and I'll give you a call when we are under the shelters.

Read more
Around the Nation
5:02 am
Sat December 28, 2013

On The Trail Of A Mountain Lion, Hunters Hope To Help

Mountain lion 38F perches in a tree before getting a tracking collar from the Santa Cruz Puma Project.
Peter Lollo KQED

Originally published on Sat December 28, 2013 7:00 pm

After centuries of hunting and eradication, mountain lions are slowly making a comeback in the lower 48 states. But as their numbers grow, so do conflicts with people.

Read more
The Salt
4:43 pm
Fri December 27, 2013

Time Is Running Out To Save Florida's Oranges

Ripening fruit in a grove in Plant City, Fla., this month. Florida citrus growers are worried about citrus greening, which causes bacteria to grow on the leaf and fruit, eventually killing the tree.
Chris O'Meara AP

Originally published on Fri December 27, 2013 7:15 pm

It's not been a good year for Florida's citrus industry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that, for the second year running, the orange crop is expected to be almost 10 percent lower than the previous year.

The culprit is citrus greening, a disease that has devastated Florida's oranges and grapefruits, and has now begun to spread in Texas and California.

Read more
Around the Nation
4:21 pm
Fri December 27, 2013

Oil Company Looks To Great Lakes As Shipping Demand Booms

A company proposes shipping crude oil by barge across Lake Superior to keep up with the booming supply from North Dakota and Canada.
Jack Rendulich AP

Originally published on Fri December 27, 2013 7:15 pm

North Dakota and western Canada are producing crude oil faster than it can be shipped to refineries.

Rail car manufacturers can't make new tank cars fast enough, and new pipeline proposals face long delays over environmental concerns. So energy companies are looking for new ways to get the heavy crude to market.

One proposed solution is to ship the oil by barge over the Great Lakes — but it's a controversial one.

Read more
Science
6:01 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

West Coast's Early Warning System For Quakes Still Spotty

Workers in Oakland, Calif., check the damage to Interstate 880 on Oct. 19, 1989; this portion of the freeway had collapsed during the Loma Prieta earthquake two days earlier.
Paul Sakuma AP

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 8:09 pm

Earthquake scientists on the West Coast would like to build a system that would give people a bit of warning before they get jolted with strong shaking from a distant quake.

Seismic waves take time to travel from the epicenter, which means such a warning system could issue alerts ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes. A prototype has been developed for the region, seismologists say, but the complete network still lacks funding, and has big gaps outside cities.

Meanwhile, Japan already has something like that up and running.

Read more
News
4:36 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

With National Treasures At Risk, D.C. Fights Against Flooding

The U.S. Capitol dome provides a view down the National Mall, an area vulnerable to flooding.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 7:13 pm

The nation's capital is not exactly a beach town. But the cherry-tree-lined Tidal Basin, fed by the Potomac River, laps at the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. And, especially since Superstorm Sandy, officials in Washington have a clear idea of what would happen in a worst-case storm scenario.

"The water would go across the World War II memorial, come up 17th Street," says Tony Vidal of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "And there are actually three spots where the water would come up where we don't have ... a closure structure right now."

Read more
NPR Story
5:16 am
Tue December 24, 2013

What Does The Future Hold For Climate Change?

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 7:24 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And in these last days of 2013 we've been having conversations about the future. Rather than grand predictions, we've been seeking a realistic assessment of what lies ahead. So far we've explored cybersecurity, we've looked at the changing electorate. When it comes to climate change, the topic for today, Andrew Steer of the World Resources Institute told my colleague Steve Inskeep that the trends don't look very good.

Read more
Energy
3:24 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Could Big Batteries Be Big Business In California?

Strong gusts in Palm Springs, Calif., generate plenty of energy, thanks to turbine farms. But being able to store all of that energy is just as important.
Kevork Djansezian Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 11:12 am

The California Public Utilities Commission has called on utilities and private companies to install about $5 billion worth of batteries and other forms of energy storage to help the state power grid cope with the erratic power supplied by wind and solar energy.

The need to store energy has become urgent because the state is planning to get a third of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of the decade. And the shift in strategy could open up some big opportunities for small startups, including one called Stem.

Read more
The Salt
5:05 am
Sun December 22, 2013

Grasslands Get Squeezed As Another 1.6 Million Acres Go Into Crops

Retired farmer Joe Govert looks at a parcel of family land near Tribune, Kan. It has been enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.
Charlie Riedel AP

Originally published on Sat December 28, 2013 6:59 pm

As the year winds down, we here at NPR are looking at a few key numbers that explain the big trends of 2013.

Today's number: 1.6 million.

That's 1.6 million acres — about the area of the state of Delaware.

That's how much land was removed this year from the federal Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, which pays farmers to keep land covered with native grasses or sometimes trees. Most of that land now will produce crops like corn or wheat.

Read more
Number Of The Year
5:14 am
Sat December 21, 2013

For BP Cleanup, 2013 Meant 4.6 Million Pounds Of Oily Gunk

Jonathan Henderson of the Gulf Restoration Network holds a jar of tar balls.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Originally published on Sat December 21, 2013 2:58 pm

As we near the end of 2013, NPR is taking a look at the numbers that tell the story of this year. They're numbers that, if you really understand them, give insight into the world we live in.

On a breezy December morning, a work crew is scouring the surf line on Grand Isle, La., scooping up tiny tar balls and collecting them in a basket.

Foreman LeRoy Irving keeps track of what the 14-person team has collected in a half-day. "If I had to guess, maybe 10 pounds," he says.

Read more
The Salt
11:04 am
Fri December 20, 2013

They're Back! Chesapeake Oysters Return To Menus After Rebound

A plate of Sweet Jesus oysters grown in Chesapeake Bay by Hollywood Oyster Co. in Hollywood, Md.
Katy Adams Courtesy Clyde's Restaurant Group

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 12:44 pm

The history of the Chesapeake Bay oyster hasn't always been a pure one. So you could forgive a chef for being skeptical about the big bivalve comeback being staged in D.C. and the surrounding area this winter as oyster season gets underway.

But many mid-Atlantic chefs are actually cheering. That's because a major public-private effort to re-establish the oyster as a quality local food product — as well as a weapon against water pollution — seems to be working.

Read more
Around the Nation
6:19 am
Fri December 20, 2013

Chicago Moves To Limit Petroleum Coke Storage

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 11:13 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Crude oil from Canada's tar sands is providing a booming business for American refineries, but residents of one Chicago neighborhood complain that a byproduct of that business has become a health hazard. They want towering mounds of a dusty substance known as petroleum coke, or petcoke, moved out of the city. And as NPR's Cheryl Corley reports, Chicago is now requiring one company storing the substance to do just that.

Read more
The Salt
3:00 am
Thu December 19, 2013

This Stanford Ph.D. Became A Fruit Picker To Feed California's Hungry

Sarah Ramirez runs an organization that brings excess produce to the hungry. Here, she gleans apples from a front yard.
Scott Anger KQED

Originally published on Sun December 22, 2013 10:16 am

By some estimates, we Americans throw away about 40 percent of our food, from the cabbage that's wilting in our refrigerators, to the fruit that's falling off the orange tree in our neighbor's backyard.

Read more
The Salt
11:03 am
Tue December 17, 2013

Industrial Meat Bad, Small Farm Good? It's Not So Simple

Somali refugees lead their herds of goats home for the night outside Dadaab, Kenya. A new study shows that animals in many parts of the developing world require more food — and generate more greenhouse emissions — than animals in wealthy countries.
Rebecca Blackwell AP

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 11:53 am

To feed all 7 billion of us, address climate change and live longer, we all need to eat less meat. From Al Gore to the Meatless Monday movement to Harvard epidemiologists, that's been the resounding advice offered to consumers lately.

Read more
Around the Nation
9:49 am
Tue December 17, 2013

From 'Death Jars' To Wasps: A Quest To Stamp Out The Stink Bug

The invasive brown marmorated stink bug has become an expensive nuisance for U.S. farmers. It has spread to 40 states and eats about 100 different crops.
Matt Rourke AP

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 10:26 am

The brown marmorated stink bug doesn't just smell bad. It's also been causing trouble for homeowners and farmers from New Hampshire to California for the past three years.

No predators are eating the invasive species fast enough to keep it under control, but researchers think they may have found a solution to the stink-bug menace.

Read more
Energy
3:04 am
Tue December 17, 2013

Environmentalists Split Over Need For Nuclear Power

Southern California's San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, shown here in April 2012, was closed after small radiation leaks.
Lenny Ignelzi AP

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 12:30 am

California is regarded as the leading state when it comes to addressing climate change. But in 2012, according to analysts at Rhodium Group, California's carbon emissions actually increased more than 10 percent, bucking the national trend of decreases. That's in large part because California shut down one of its few remaining nuclear power plants.

That rise in carbon emissions underscores the huge impact nuclear power can have in efforts to combat climate change.

Read more
Environment
5:02 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Scientists Find Tiny Exfoliating Beads In Great Lakes Fish Guts

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 8:06 pm

Tiny plastic beads used in some cosmetics and toothpaste are making their way into the bellies of fish in the Great Lakes, and it's raising concern among environmentalists. Dr. Sherri Mason, a chemistry professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia, has been researching the issue, and she joins Audie Cornish to explain what this means for the Great Lakes ecosystem.

The Salt
10:08 am
Fri December 13, 2013

How Plastic In The Ocean Is Contaminating Your Seafood

"A lot of people are eating seafood all the time, and fish are eating plastic all the time, so I think that's a problem," says a marine toxicologist.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 10:38 am

We've long known that the fish we eat are exposed to toxic chemicals in the rivers, bays and oceans they inhabit. The substance that's gotten the most attention — because it has shown up at disturbingly high levels in some fish — is mercury.

Read more
Environment
7:52 am
Fri December 13, 2013

Scientists Battle Over Fate Of Yellowstone's Grizzlies

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The North America's grizzly bear is protected under the Endangered Species Act. Its population was virtually wiped out in the lower 48 states. One group of bears, though, may soon lose that protection - the Yellowstone grizzly. Some scientists say that group is thriving. Others disagree. NPR's Christopher Joyce has more on the battle over the bear.

Read more
The Salt
5:19 am
Fri December 13, 2013

USDA Steps Up The Fight To Save Florida's Oranges

Oranges ripen in a Plant City, Fla., grove on Wednesday. Growers in Florida, Texas and California are worried about citrus greening, a disease that makes the fruit bitter and unmarketable.
Chris O'Meara AP

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 7:52 am

The citrus industry is facing a crisis. It's called citrus greening — a disease that has devastated orange production in Florida since it first showed up eight years ago. Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a new effort to try to control the disease before it destroys the nation's citrus industry.

Read more
The Two-Way
9:11 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Chinese Ag Scientists Charged With Stealing Patented Seeds

Two agricultural scientists from China have been accused of trying to steal patented seeds from a biopharmaceutical company in Kansas.

Separately, six men from China, including the CEO of a seed corn subsidiary of a Chinese conglomerate, were charged Thursday with conspiring to steal patented seed corn from two of the nation's leading seed developers, prosecutors said Thursday, according to The Associated Press.

It wasn't immediately clear if the arrests were related, but The AP wrote of the group of six charged:

Read more
Environment
5:48 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Long Island Wins Ultimate Faceoff Against Hurricane Sandy

Sediment samples from the seafloor near Long Island.
UT Austin Institute for Geophysics

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 8:50 pm

Hurricane Sandy last year did more harm to coastal cities and homes than any hurricane in U.S. history, except Katrina. Most of that damage has been repaired. But there's other damage that people can't see to the underwater coastline, known as the shore face.

Apparently, Long Island's shore face did remarkably well against the storm of the 21st century.

Read more
The Two-Way
7:31 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Scientists Map Vast Reserves Of Freshwater Under The Seabed

Scientists published the first global survey of the known undersea freshwater reserves. Water is relatively cheap now, but the reserves could be valuable if it becomes scarcer in the future.
Olivier Morin AFP/Getty Images

Not all the water in the sea is seawater.

Scientists think there are vast reserves of fresh groundwater buried under the oceans — a potentially valuable resource for coastal cities that need freshwater.

A recent report in Nature estimates the amount of fresh groundwater around the world at about 120,000 cubic miles — that's 100 times more than all the groundwater that has been pumped up from wells since the 1900s. The reserves are scattered across coastal regions around the world.

Read more
The Salt
11:08 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Robots Could Help Farmers Rein In Fertilizer Pollution

Rowbot is designed to fit in between the rows of crops. Moving up and down each row, a fleet of 20 bots could fertilize and monitor the corn crops during the growing season.
Courtesy of Kent Cavender-Bares

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 12:00 pm

Lately, robots have been taking over all kinds of jobs that humans used to do on the farm — from thinning lettuce to harvesting spinach.

Read more

Pages