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Clean energy, overpopulation, black carbon, rising sea level, and other environmental news

Environmental news

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The annual 2009 Index of Leading Environmental Indicators, issued today by Pacific Research Institute, a self-described free-market think tank, and the American Enterprise Institute, reports: "The world’s most severe environmental problems, as ranked by the Blacksmith Institute and Green Cross Switzerland, are overwhelmingly problems of poverty in developing nations. No American or Western European city ranks among the top 50 cities in the world for air pollution in a World Bank ranking."

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Clean energy's dirty little secret

"Hybrid cars and wind turbines need rare-earth minerals that come with their own hefty environmental price tag," reports The Atlantic.

The ore in question is neodymium, which writer Lisa Margonelli calls "the pixie dust of green tech – necessary for the lightweight permanent magnets that make Prius motors zoom and for the generators that give wind turbines their electrical buzz."

The problem: Most of the world's supply comes from China, raising the question: Are we trading dependence on the Middle East (for oil) for dependence on China?

Coral fossils may suggest that sea level can rise rapidly

In connection with a study being published in the journal Nature, Andrew Revkin of  The New York Times writes: "Evidence from fossil coral reefs in Mexico underlines the potential for a sudden jump in sea levels because of global warming, scientists report in a new study."

But not all experts agree with the conclusion of the study, that sea levels can rise up to several yards in a century. In his blog, Revkin promises to talk with other experts and report their opinions.

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