Information of Interest, March/April 2011

1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – The Arctic Report Card ( tracks recent environmental changes throughout the Arctic, and is updated annually. In 2010, it is clear that the Arctic is experiencing the impacts of a prolonged and amplified warming trend, highlighted with many record-setting events. Not surprisingly, the impact of this warming is most evident in the dramatic losses that have been observed in the ice covers that define the region. Since the loss of these ice covers serves to further feed the warming trend, the expectation is that warming will continue. This makes it increasingly unlikely (at least for the foreseeable future) that the Arctic will return to conditions that were considered normal in the later part of the 20th century. Instead, it is very likely that Arctic climate warming will continue and we will continue to see records set in years to come.

Record warm air temperatures were observed over Greenland in 2010. This included the warmest year on record for Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, in at least 138 years. The duration of the melt period on Greenland’s inland ice sheet was exceptional, being one month longer than the average over the past 30 years, and led to an extended period of amplified summer melt. All of the additional melt water is very likely contributing to a faster rate of crevasse widening. Glacier loss along the Greenland margins was also exceptional in 2010, with the largest single glacier area loss (110 square miles at Petermann glacier) equivalent to an area four times that of Manhattan Island. There is now no doubt that Greenland ice losses have not just increased above past decades, but have accelerated. The implication is that sea level rise projections will again need to be revised upward.

2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – A report released Mar. 1, 2011 estimates that the benefits of reducing fine particle and ground level ozone pollution under the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments will reach approximately $2 trillion in 2020 while saving 230,000 people from early death in that year alone.

The Report, “The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020,” shows that the benefits of avoiding early death, preventing heart attacks and asthma attacks, and reducing the number of sick days for employees far exceed costs of implementing clean air protections. These benefits lead to a more productive workforce and enable consumers and businesses to spend less on health care – all of which help strengthen the economy.

In 2010 alone, the reductions in fine particles and ozone pollution from the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments prevented more than:

  • 160,000 cases of premature mortality
  • 130,000 heart attacks
  • 13 million lost work days
  • 1.7 million asthma attacks


To read more, download the full report at

3. Office of Naval Research (ONR) – One Sailor’s request to replace humming fluorescent bulbs with a quiet alternative inspired the Office of Naval Research to create the Solid State Lighting (SSL) project, being tested aboard USS New Hampshire (SSN 778), which got underway Feb. 29, 2011. A product of ONR’s TechSolutions program, SSL is being installed aboard several ships and submarines across the U.S. Navy, and is one of several rapid-response technologies created using recommendations and suggestions from Navy and Marine Corps personnel.

Although the SSL is in its early stages, the LED fixtures are showing great promise. Not only are they a quality of life improvement, but compared with fluorescent lights, LED fixtures last longer. They are more efficient, reducing maintenance requirements, energy usage and cost associated with storage, handling and disposal. Long term, SSL usage fleetwide could add up to considerable savings and improved readiness.

LEDs contain no hazardous material, unlike fluorescents, which must be stored on board until warfighters can perform expensive and intensive disposal procedures. TechSolutions worked with Energy Focus to produce patented LED fixtures that are direct replacements for fluorescents. The replacements produce the same light output, but use half the power and will last for a decade without maintenance.

4. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – The world’s largest environmental union will use the International Year of Forests to make sure the global community understands the real value of forests.

“The air we breathe, the food, water and medicine we need to survive, the variety of life on Earth, the climate that shapes our present and future – they all depend on forests. 2011 must be the year when the world recognizes the vital importance of healthy forests to life on Earth and the central role people play in protecting these forests and using their resources sustainably,” says Julie Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General.

Forests maintain a stable global climate and should be central to efforts to deal with climate change, according to IUCN. “Forests offer the quickest, most cost effective and largest means of curbing global emissions,” says Stewart Maginnis, IUCN Director of Environment and Development. “Halving forest-based emissions between now and 2020 could provide up to 40 percent of necessary greenhouse gas reductions for the next decade.”

5. United States Air Force (USAF) –The U.S. Air Force is one of the nation’s top purchasers of green power, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA)Top 25 list of Green Power Partners released February 2011.

The Air Force is being recognized for its purchase and on-site production of 243.9 million kilowatt-hours of green power from U.S. renewable facilities built after 1997. Its use of renewable energy ranks number one in the Department of Defense (DoD), number two in the Federal government and number 15 among 1,300 Green Power Partners including large corporations and municipalities, such as Dallas and Houston. In addition, Air Force officials purchased 250 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy from facilities built before 1997 for a total renewable usage of 493.9 million kilowatt-hours.

The EPA Green Power program only gives credit to renewable energy produced at U.S. facilities built after 1997. “Green power” is defined by the partnership as electricity that is partially or entirely generated from environmentally preferable resources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, biogas and low-impact biomass and hydro sources. Air Force officials purchased less green power in 2010 than in years past, which actually signifies a step forward due to more renewable energy generation capacity on Air Force bases.

6. Xinhuanet (Xinhua News Agency) – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao began his online chat with netizens in Beijing on Feb., 27, 2011 jointly hosted by the central government website ( and Xinhua News Agency website ( The following are some quotable remarks.

Education. Wen said that China’s rise lies in talents and education, not gross domestic product (GDP). “The whole world is talking about China’s rise, and what the people talk about most is (China’s) GDP. But I think China’s rise lies in talents and education,” he said.

Wen said he attached greater importance to two other figures: the proportion of education expenditure in GDP and the proportion of scientific R&D expenditure in production. He also said an important aspect for China’s higher-learning education reform is to encourage students’ creative spirit and independent thinking, in a bid to foster more high-caliber talent.

Energy Consumption. Wen said the country aims to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by 16 to 17 percent by 2015 from current levels. He criticized the mandatory black-out of residential power supply by local governments. The Premier decried such actions as “self-deceptive” and harmful to people’s lives, ordering the localities to resume residential power supply immediately.

The goal of energy savings and emission cuts should be met through the closure of high energy-consuming enterprises, such as small power plants and steel mills, he said.

Gross Domestic Product. Wen said the government is to set its annual GDP growth target for the 2011-2015 period at 7 percent. “We’ll never seek high economic growth rates and big size at the price of the environment, as that would result in unsustainable growth featuring industrial overcapacity and intensive resource consumption,” the Premier said.

The central government would adopt new performance evaluation criteria for local governments and give more weight to efficiency, environmental protection and the people’s living standards, commented Wen.