Newsdesk – September 19, 2020

Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg poses during the official Supreme Court group portrait at the Supreme Court on November 30, 2018 in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Sipa USA/Newscom]
Ginsburg death leaves ‘no environmental voice’ on bench. The passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could shake the foundation of America’s bedrock environmental laws, leaving a chasm on the bench where once sat an environmental champion. Ginsburg, who died two days ago, was the Supreme Court’s longest-serving liberal justice, and she played a critical role in opening courtroom doors to green groups and established broad interpretations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other laws. “In the environmental cases, she often asked the questions that guided the final opinion,” said John Cruden, the former assistant attorney general of the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice. Ginsburg’s most notable environmental ruling concerned whether environmental groups can seek penalties against a company discharging more pollutants than allowed under its Clean Water Act permit. In Friends of the Earth Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services Inc., Ginsburg in 2000 reversed an appeals court ruling that dismissed the case as moot because the company had stopped operating the facility releasing pollutants into the North Tyger River in South Carolina. Ginsburg wrote that the company could restart operations — and their resulting discharges — any time, so the case couldn’t be dismissed. But perhaps most importantly, Ginsburg’s Laidlaw ruling established a broad view of environmental groups’ standing to sue. In 2014, she penned a 6-2 decision that revived the Obama administration’s effort to regulate air pollution that drifts across state lines. Cruden noted that her opinion in EPA v. EME Homer City Generation showed that Ginsburg “was a compelling advocate for the environment” – E&E News

  • Shoots and leaves: the shotgun scientist who hunts moving trees – The Guardian
  • The U.S. Is on the Path to Destruction – The Atlantic
  • To cut food waste, we may need to pay more for what we eat –
  • Blazes on West Coast Scorch Habitats for Endangered Species – The New York Times
  • In Nicaragua, Forests and Indigenous Communities Face Threats – UNDARK 
  • A Nobel for Thunberg? In the age of climate change and virus, it is possible – Reuters
  • Why Republicans Still Don’t Care About Climate Change – The Atlantic

How Karstadt Hermannplatz’s roof terrace appear after construction. [Photo Courtesy of David Chipperfield Architects]
Berlin Now Has a City-Run Recycling Department Store. In a bid to dramatically reduce waste, the Berlin government launched a facility in September that could be the first of its kind: a state-run department store that both sells items that might otherwise get thrown away and acts as an education center encouraging repair and reuse,  especially to sections of the public that aren’t currently much involved in the circular economy. Called B-Wa(h)renhaus (an untranslatable pun meaning both department store and “conserving house”), the store covers over 7,000 square feet and sells used and upcycled clothing, furniture, phones and other electronics. In an attempt to reach beyond the usual people , the store’s location is also significant, it is within one of Berlin’s most established, middle-of-the-road department stores. These city-run stores (which already have one-off, smaller-scale counterparts in cities including Hamburg and Vienna) won’t just be standard secondhand markets designed to save useable goods from going to landfill sites.   By international standards, Berlin’s recycling and re-use systems are already pretty good. Berlin currently recycles 49% of “mineral construction waste” — materials such as concrete, brick and gypsum that historically have made up the majority of the city’s trash haul. Since 2008, the city has also managed to reduce annual household waste by 11 kilos (24.3 pounds) per resident. The city government wants to improve these targets in the next decade. “Three years ago, we started collecting all kinds of used goods that people have in their cellars or attics,” says city spokesperson Dorothee Winden. “Things that are well-preserved and functioning but aren’t being used anymore. The goal is to give these things a new life with somebody who can use them” – Bloomberg CityLab

On the Zugspitze, KIT researchers monitor CO2 concentration and other parameters of the atmosphere. [Credit: Markus Rettinger, KIT]
Coronavirus-induced carbon dioxide emission reductions are not yet detectable in the atmosphere. Based on current data measured in the energy, industry, and mobility sectors, restrictions of social life during the corona pandemic can be predicted to lead to a reduction of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions by up to eight percent in 2020. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), cumulative reductions of about this magnitude would be required every year to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement by 2030. “In spite of the reduced emissions, our measurements show that CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has not yet decreased,” says Ralf Sussmann from the Atmospheric Environmental Research Division of KIT’s Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research in  Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. “To reduce CO2 concentration in the atmosphere in the long run, restrictions imposed during the corona pandemic would have to be continued for decades. But even this would be far from being sufficient.” To reach zero emissions in the coming decades, cumulative reductions of the same magnitude would be required every year, i.e. 16 percent in 2021, 24 percent in 2022, and so on. For this, political measures have to be taken to directly initiate fundamental technological changes in the energy and transport sectors,” Sussmann says.  According to the researchers, the long life of CO2 and the high background concentrations that have accumulated since the start of industrialization prevent the changes in the atmosphere from being detected. “But also natural impacts make early detection difficult: Anthropogenic emissions, the main cause of the long-term increase in atmospheric CO2, are superposed by annual fluctuations of the growth rate due to natural climate variabilities of ocean sinks and land vegetation,” Sussmann says. Successful emission reduction, hence, is hard to detect by atmosphere measurements –