Sustainability Reads: March 23- March 29

Utilities want the Supreme Court to reverse life-saving pollution standards on a technicality
Fifteen years ago the EPA announced plans to regulate the health-harming mercury emissions from power plants. These regulations were set to take effect this April, but a technical issue regarding the timing that a cost-benefit analysis was done is jeopardizing the implementing of the regulations, and utility companies are the ones leading this fight to prevent the regulations from taking effect. After waiting almost twenty years (of research) for these regulations to be put into place, it is devastating that the rules could be undone for such a technicality. The Supreme Court heard the case this week. By Brian Palmer at EarthWire.

Assessing development goals: The good, the bad and the hideous
This piece provides insight on the progress countries have made in meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were supposed to be achieved by 2015, and the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) being set for 2030. Since adoption in 2000, countries have been working to meet these environmental and social goals that do include hard targets such as ‘reduce extreme poverty by half”. Some regions will meet goals and other will not, but progress is impressive considering the starting point. Specifically highlighted in this article is research facilitated by the non-profit Copenhagen Consensus Centre that looked at various topics covered by the SDGs to see which offer the best rates of return (ie, are most cost-effective). They found that 18 of the 169 would pay back $15 or more for every $1 spent. The environmental proposals that make the list as the most cost effective:

  • Phase out fossil fuel subsidies which will cost $37 billion, but save $550B in government spending each
  • Halve coral reef loss which will cost $3B and result in additional 3M hectares of coral reef. On The Economist.

Antarctic ice shelves are melting dramatically, study finds
According to a new study, the ice around the edge of Antarctica is melting faster than previously thought and potentially causing meters of sea-level rise. Although the loss of ice shelves don’t contribute much directly to sea level rise, when they melt they will unblock the flow of ice from the much larger ice sheets currently locked behind them. The rate of Antarctica ice loss has increased by 70% in the last decade. By Karl Mathiesen at The Guardian.

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