eco-briefs

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Courtesy NOAA Fisheries/JJ Vollenweider

EXXON VALDEZ RESPONSIBLE FOR CONTINUED COLLAPSE OF ALASKAN FISHERIES, STUDY SUGGESTS

Fish stocks in Alaska’s Prince William Sound may still be affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, according to a report from scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The report finds that the exposure of crude oil to Pacific herring and pink salmon embryos may affect their development into adults. Oil-contaminated embryos were found to develop abnormal hearts and reduced cardiorespiratory abilities, among other detriments, resulting in slower and weaker fish that are more susceptible to predators.

“In terms of impacts to shore-spawning fish, the oil spill likely had a much bigger footprint than anyone realized,” said John Cardona, who headed the study, to Al Jazeera America. The focus on fish embryos highlights the lasting effects of oil spills beyond initial impacts on ecosystems.

The spill, which released 11 million gallons of crude oil by conservative estimates, contaminated the shoreline spawning locations of salmon and herring. Herring are considered a key species and an important part of the food chain in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, as well as commercially important for the Alaskan economy.

The report challenges the notion that the collapse of herring stocks was unrelated to the Exxon spill, which was long held on the basis that the four-year gap between the spill and the herring collapse in 1993 suggested another cause. The herring fishery has only been open for five non-consecutive years since the spill 26 years ago.

— Grant Stringer

SUSTAINABLE INVESTMENT BY CITIES MAY REAP HUGE ECONOMIC REWARDS

Investment in sustainable development projects could save cities $17 trillion globally by 2050, according to new research from the New Climate Economy. Projects such as public transportation, low emission transport, sustainable building and waste management could also prevent carbon emissions equivalent to the current annual emissions of India. With supplemental national investment, cities could save up to $22 trillion through policies such as carbon pricing and reduced fossil-fuel subsides.

“There is now increasing evidence that emissions can decrease while economies continue to grow,” said Seth Schultz, a researcher who consulted on the report, to the Guardian. “Becoming more sustainable and putting the world — specifically cities — on a low carbon trajectory is actually feasible and good economics.”

Emphasized is the economic profitability of sustainable development and policies that save cities both economic and environmental costs from heavy energy and fossil fuel consumption.

Green economic investment also has the support of C40 Cities, an alliance of the globe’s largest cities dedicated to preventing the effects of climate change through local investment and shared-costs.

“We now know that many of the most effective ways to foster economic growth in cities are some of the very same actions needed to help fight climate change,” wrote C40 chair and former mayor of New York Michael R. Bloomberg in a Houston Chronicle op-ed.

Projects like Singapore’s “Green Mark” initiative, which aims to improve 80 percent of its buildings and reduce building electricity use by 20 percent, and Copenhagen’s planned Cycle Super Highways, are cited as leading examples of low-carbon investment.

— Grant Stringer