Biologists Surprised That Marine Animals Are “Having a Blast” in “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”

(p. A3) Biologists who fished toothbrushes, rope and broken bottle shards from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch found them studded with gooseneck barnacles and jet-black sea anemones glistening like buttons. All told, they found 484 marine invertebrates from 46 species clinging to the detritus, they reported Monday [April 17, 2023] in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

. . .

Marine ecologists said they would expect most coastal species to struggle to survive outside their shoreline habitats. On the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, animals were found growing and reproducing.

“They’re having a blast,” said study author Matthias Egger, head of environmental and social affairs at the Dutch nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup. “That’s really a shift in the scientific understanding.”

Anemones like to protect themselves with grains of sand, Dr. Egger said, but out in the garbage patch they are covered in seed-like microplastics. Squeeze an anemone and the shards spew out, he said: “They’re all fully loaded with plastic on the outside and inside.”

. . .

The patch is also a haven for animals that are at home on the open ocean. Such species—sea snails, blue button jellyfish, and a relative called by-the-wind sailors—gather more densely where there is more plastic, Dr. Helm and her team said in a study posted online ahead of peer-review.

Removing the plastic would mean uprooting them, Dr. Helm said: “Cleaning it up is not actually that simple.”

For the full story, see:

Nidhi Subbaraman. “Ocean Garbage Patch Hosts Critters.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Apr. 18, 2023): A3.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated April 17, 2023, and has the title “Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch Is Bursting With Life.” The 7th, 8th, and 9th sentences quoted above, appear in the online, but not in the print, version of the commentary. Also, the online version of the sentence on being able to handle switching, contains seven added words of detail.)

The published version of the “posted online” article mentioned above is:

Haram, Linsey E., James T. Carlton, Luca Centurioni, Henry Choong, Brendan Cornwell, Mary Crowley, Matthias Egger, Jan Hafner, Verena Hormann, Laurent Lebreton, Nikolai Maximenko, Megan McCuller, Cathryn Murray, Jenny Par, Andrey Shcherbina, Cynthia Wright, and Gregory M. Ruiz. “Extent and Reproduction of Coastal Species on Plastic Debris in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.” Nature Ecology & Evolution 7, no. 5 (April 17, 2023): 687-97.

James Watt Saw that “Environmental Extremists” Want “Centralized Planning and Control of the Society”

(p. A20) James G. Watt, who as President Ronald Reagan’s first Interior secretary tilted environmental policies sharply toward commercial exploitation, touching off a national debate over the development or preservation of America’s public lands and resources, died on May 27 [2023] in Arizona.

. . .

In one of his first official pronouncements, Mr. Watt declared that Interior Department policies over the years had swung too far toward conservation under the influence of “environmental extremists,” and away from the development of public resources that he said was needed for economic growth and national security.

He soon transferred control of many of the resources to private industry, restoring what he regarded as a proper balance to the nation’s patrimony. He opened most of the Outer Continental Shelf — nearly all of America’s coastal waters — to drilling leases by oil and gas companies. He widened access to coal on federal lands, and eased restrictions on strip-mining, which scarred landscapes and was cheaper than cutting deep mine shafts.

He increased industry access to wilderness areas for drilling, mineral mining and lumbering; gave private owners of hotels, restaurants and shops wider rights in national parks; curtailed the program to protect endangered species; cut funds to acquire land for national and state parks; and added money to build roads, bridges, hotels and other man-made structures in the parks.

. . .

He accused his critics of using sham environmental concerns to achieve “centralized planning and control of the society.” He told Business Week: “Look what happened to Germany in the 1930s. The dignity of man was subordinated to the powers of Nazism. The dignity of man was subordinated in Russia. Those are the forces that this thing can evolve into.”

For the full obituary, see:

Robert D. McFadden. “James G. Watt, 85, Dies; Secretary Who Favored Developing Wilderness.” The New York Times (Saturday, June 10, 2023): A20.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date June 8, 2023, and has the title “James G. Watt, Polarizing Interior Secretary Under Reagan, Dies at 85.”)

Slow Regulatory Approval Is “A Pretty Big Barrier to Entry” for Smaller and Safer Innovative Nuclear Reactors

(p. B1) . . ., the great hope for the future of nuclear power is to go small.

Nearly a dozen companies are developing reactors that are a fraction of the size of those at Vogtle, betting that they will be quicker and cheaper to build. As the United States looks to transition away from fossil fuels that have underpinned its economy for 150 years, nuclear power is getting renewed interest, billions of dollars from the Biden administration and support from Republicans.

One reason is that nuclear plants can run at all hours, in any season. To those looking to replace coal and gas with wind and solar energy, nuclear power can provide a vital backstop when the air is calm or the sky is cloudy.

“The United States is now committed to trying to accelerate the deployment of nuclear energy,” John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, said in September. “It’s what we believe we absolutely need in order to win this battle.”

. . .

(p. B4) One recent Pew survey found that 57 percent of Americans favor more nuclear plants, up from 43 percent in 2016. Republicans have traditionally backed atomic energy, but the survey found rising support among Democrats.

While many environmental groups still oppose nuclear power, some skeptics are softening.

. . .

For nearly five decades, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has regulated large light-water reactors. Now it has to consider a dizzying array of new technologies and their safety characteristics.

The approval process can be slow. To date, the N.R.C. has certified only one small reactor design, developed by NuScale Power. NuScale’s light-water technology is similar to existing plants, but the company argued that smaller reactors required different safety rules, such as smaller evacuation zones in case of accidents. Securing approval took a decade and cost $500 million.

“It’s a pretty big barrier to entry,” said Jose Reyes, NuScale’s chief executive. “And this was for a technology that regulators are already familiar with.”

At a recent House hearing, Republicans and Democrats alike complained that a draft rule meant to help license advanced reactors was 1,173 pages long and largely unworkable.

“Everyone agrees that reactors need to be safe,” said Adam Stein, director of nuclear innovation at the Breakthrough Institute, a pronuclear research organization. “But it’s also possible for a regulator to be too conservative and too risk-averse.”

For the full story, see:

Brad Plumer and Ivan Penn. “Going Small to Confront a Big Problem.” The New York Times (Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 12 [sic], 2023, and has the title “U.S. Bets on Small Nuclear Reactors to Help Fix a Huge Climate Problem.”)

Coral Reefs 100 Miles Off Texas Coast Are “Stunning,” “Massive,” and “Healthy”

(p. A5) OFF THE COAST OF GALVESTON, Texas — Divers descending into azure waters far off the Texas coast dip below a horizon dotted with oil and gas platforms into an otherworldly landscape of undersea mountains crusted with yellow, orange and pink coral as far as the eye can see.

Some of the world’s healthiest coral reefs can be found in the Gulf of Mexico, about 100 miles off the Texas coast. Sheltered in a deep, cool habitat far from shore, the reefs in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary boast a stunning amount of coral coverage. . . .

“To see that much coral in one place is really magnificent — an experience that most people don’t get on reefs in this day and age,” said Michelle Johnston, the acting superintendent and research coordinator for the federally protected area.

. . .

Sanctuary officials say even in the occasional years when Flower Garden Banks has experienced more serious bleaching than this year, it has bounced back quickly thanks to its overall health and depth, and it’s already recovering this year.

. . .

The Flower Garden Banks stands out for its amount of coral cover — an average of over 50 percent across some areas of the sanctuary — compared with around 10 percent cover in the Caribbean and Northwest Atlantic region, Manzello said. Its corals are also about 60 feet below the surface and surrounded by even deeper waters, compared with many reefs where corals are in shallower water just offshore.

. . .

The corals in the Flower Garden Banks were able to flourish so far from shore because of mountain-like formations called salt domes, which lifted the corals high enough to catch the light, Johnston said.

Divers travel from around the world to see the reefs at Flower Garden Banks, where colorful fish, manta rays, sharks and sea turtles waft through and worms that look like Christmas trees pop in and out of corals.

. . .

Lauren Tinnes, a nurse from Colorado, described rounding a bluff on her dive this fall and being surrounded by massive reefs as schools of fish darted through. She found the description from so long ago apt: “It’s like a field of flowers,” she said.

For the full story, see:

JAMIE STENGLE, LM OTERO and KENDRIA LaFLEUR, Associated Press. “Coral Reefs Off Texas Coast Thrive, Defying Trend.” Omaha World-Herald (Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023): A5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Jan. 1, 2024, and has the title “Climate change is hurting coral worldwide. But these reefs off the Texas coast are thriving.”)

Americans Buy SUVs, Rejecting Limited Space in Their Vehicles

(p. A6) Not all consumers think of the energy consumption and environmental benefits the same way, especially in the U.S. While EV sales accounted for 15% of the global car market last year, that was only 7.3% in the U.S.

Meanwhile, smaller vehicles, or sedans, lost a lot of ground in the U.S. market over the past decade. In 2012, sedans accounted for 50% of the U.S. auto retail space, with SUVs at just over 30%, and trucks at 13.5%, according to car-buying resource Edmunds. By 2022, U.S. sedan share dropped to 21%, while SUVs hit 54.5% and trucks grew to 20%.

“People don’t want to be limited by their space in their car,” said Eric Frehsée, president of the Tamaroff Group of dealerships in southeast Michigan. “Everyone wants a 7-passenger.”

For the full story, see:

ALEXA ST. JOHN, Associated Press. “Big Cars Erase Gains from Cleaner Tech.” Omaha World-Herald (Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023): A6.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 28, 2023, and has the title “Buyers go for bigger cars, erasing gains from cleaner tech. EVs would help.”)

California Regs Requiring Electric Trucks at Ports, Raise Supply Chain Costs, Fueling Inflation for Consumers

(p. B1) Neri Diaz thought he was ready for a crucial juncture in California’s ambitious plans, closely watched in other states and around the world, to phase out diesel-powered trucks.

His company, Harbor Pride Logistics, acquired 14 electric trucks this year to work alongside 32 diesel vehicles, in anticipation of a rule that says diesel rigs can no longer be added to the list of vehicles approved to move goods in and out of California’s ports. But in August the manufacturer of Mr. Diaz’s electric vehicles, Nikola, took back the trucks as part of a recall, saying it would return them in the first quarter of the new year.

“It’s a brand-new technology, first generation, so I knew things were going to happen, but I wasn’t expecting all my 14 trucks to be taken back,” he said. “It is a big impact on my operations.”

. . .

(p. B5) Large companies, with deep pockets and big facilities, are best positioned to make the green transition. Mike Gallagher, a California-based executive at Maersk, the Danish shipping giant, said the company had a fully electric fleet, comprising some 85 vehicles made by Volvo and BYD, the Chinese automaker, for transporting goods up to 50 miles out of the ports of Southern California. And it has worked with landlords to install scores of chargers at its depots.

“We’re well ahead of the curve,” he said.

But smaller trucking fleets do most of the port runs — accounting for some 70 percent at the Los Angeles port — and they are going to find the transition hard. The California Trucking Association has filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s trucking rules, including the one focused on port trucks, contending that they represent “a vast overreach that threatens the security and predictability of the nation’s goods movement industry.”

Matt Schrap, the chief executive of the Harbor Trucking Association, another trade group, said the port truck rules lacked exemptions that would help smaller businesses survive the transformation. Getting access to chargers is particularly difficult for smaller fleets, he said: They are expensive, and the truck yard landlords may be reluctant to install them, forcing the operators to rely on a public charging system that is only just getting built.

“The landlord is, like, ‘There’s not a snowball’s chance in Bakersfield that you’re going to tear up my parking lot to put in some heavy-duty charging,’” Mr. Schrap said.

Concern exists beyond the trade groups. Mr. Gallagher, the Maersk executive, said that if the clean truck rules caused serious problems for smaller operators, it could be “a significant disruption to the supply chain.”

. . .

Mr. Diaz, the operator whose Nikola trucks were recalled, said that charging the trucks cost roughly 40 percent less than diesel, and that he was impressed with their performance. Even with the help of state grants, he estimates that the electric trucks cost him as much as 50 percent more than diesel models. During the recall, Nikola has been covering the payments on the loans Mr. Diaz took out to buy the trucks, but he said he was concerned about the truck maker’s financial situation.

. . .

Rudy Diaz, president of Hight Logistics, said the new regulations had pushed up some of his costs as his company brought drivers onto its payroll and reduced its reliance on contract drivers using their own diesel trucks.

“It’s extra headaches, extra costs,” he said. “But consumers are asking for products that are more sustainable, and they’re willing to pay the price.”

For the full story, see:

Peter Eavis and Mark Abramson. “California Is Pushing E.V.s As the Future of Freight.” The New York Times (Saturday, December 30, 2023): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Dec. 29, 2023, and has the title “California Pushes Electric Trucks as the Future of Freight.”)

Canada’s “Onerous” and “Restrictive” Rules and Massive Cuts in Forest Service Staff Explain 2023 Summer Wildfires

(p. A10) Canada’s capacity to prevent wildfires has been shrinking for decades because of budget cuts, a loss of some of the country’s forest service staff, and onerous rules for fire prevention, turning some of its forests into a tinderbox.

. . .

People who study Canada’s response say it’s been weakened by a variety of forces, including local and national budget cuts for forests, cumbersome safeguards for fire prevention and a steep reduction in the number of forest service employees.

. . .

Some communities of Indigenous people — whom wildfires disproportionately affect because they often live in fire-prone areas — have hewed to the practice of controlled burning.

Two years ago, while a record-breaking heat wave exacerbated wildfires across British Columbia, some of the flames roared close to the Westbank First Nation, an Indigenous community in the Okanagan Valley. But years of thinning the forest and managing their land using cultural burning practices prevented the fire from causing any major damage to the community.

Across Canada, there are a handful of controlled burns each year, according to partial figures compiled by the National Forestry Database. Foresters seeking to perform them must go through a lengthy process to get approval from a province.

. . .

In some fire seasons, the duration of the approval process exceeds the narrow window when weather conditions are favorable for controlled burns.

. . .

“Essentially, you’ve handcuffed folks — foresters and silviculturists — from being able to get off successful prescribed burns because we made the rules so onerous and so restrictive” causing more wildfire fuel to be left on the forest floor, said Sarah Bros, a forester and co-owner at Merin Forest Management based in North Bay, Ontario, who has done prescribed burning.  . . .

. . . in the late 1990s , , , the Canadian Forest Service’s staff size [shrunk] from 2,200 to the 700 people it now employs.

For the full story, see:

Vjosa Isai and Ian Austen. “Cutbacks in Fire Prevention Haunt Canada.” The New York Times (Saturday, June 10, 2023): A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 9, 2023, and has the title “Canada’s Ability to Prevent Forest Fires Lags Behind the Need.”)

Swaminathan and Borlaug Crossbred Wheat Strains to End Starvation in India

(p. B12) M.S. Swaminathan, the eminent crop geneticist who fused plant breeding science with keen administrative skills to produce bountiful harvests that ended famine and steadily transformed India into one of the world’s top growers of wheat and rice, died on Thursday [Sept. 28, 2023] in Chennai, India.

. . .

The events that set Dr. Swaminathan’s path to global renown occurred in the early 1960s. As a plant geneticist at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, he learned about the exceptional yields from new and sturdier wheat varieties that were being tested in Mexico by the American scientist Norman E. Borlaug.

Dr. Swaminathan was soft-spoken and had exquisite manners, but he could be persistent. He prodded the research institute’s chief executive to invite Dr. Borlaug to India. He arrived in 1963, and Dr. Swaminathan accompanied him on a tour of small farms in Punjab and Haryana, northwestern states that now are among the nation’s largest grain producers.

The two developed a productive partnership, with Dr. Swaminathan crossbreeding the Borlaug strains with other strains from Mexico and Japan. That genetic mixing resulted in a wheat variety with a strong stalk that produced a golden-colored flour favored by Indians.

. . .

Dr. Borlaug earned the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for developing the seeds that staved off mass starvation and fed the world. On receiving the prize, he commended his Indian collaborator: “To you, Dr. Swaminathan, a great deal of the credit must go for first recognizing the potential value of the Mexican dwarfs. Had this not occurred, it is quite possible that there would not have been a green revolution in Asia.”

Dr. Swaminathan delighted in rebuking the Malthusian projections that low yields and high population growth would produce mass starvation in India. In the 1960s, he recalled, “many books were published by doomsday experts. Paul and Anne Ehrlich, the very famous population experts. They said Indians had no future unless a thermonuclear bomb kills them. Another group of experts said Indians would die like sheep going to the slaughterhouse. We decided this would not happen.”

For the full obituary, see:

Keith Schneider. “M. S. Swaminathan, 98, Scientist Who Helped End Famine in India, Is Dead.” The New York Times (Friday, September 29, 2023): B12.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Sept. 28, 2023, and has the title “M. S. Swaminathan, Scientist Who Helped Conquer Famine in India, Dies at 98.”)

Global Warming Can Allow a “Sudden Efflorescence” of Adaptation from Dormant “Sleeping Beauties”

Above the title of the book review quoted below, the Wall Street Journal printed a few lines from a poem by Baudelaire:

Many a jewel of untold worth
Lies slumbering at the core of Earth
In darkness and oblivion drowned . . .
–Charles Baudelaire, “Le Guignon”

(p. C12) In his new book, Mr. [Andreas] Wagner, a professor at the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich, showcases biological “sleeping beauties”: animals, plants, even bacteria that for generations plugged along with modest evolutionary success, only to later flourish spectacularly. “Sleeping Beauties: The Mystery of Dormant Innovations in Nature and Culture” explains how evolutionary adaptations sometimes go from dormancy to full flowering, while also suggesting that an analogous process applies to human innovations, including science, technology and the arts.

. . .

First we need to recall that not every biological trait an organism possesses is optimal for its current environment. The swim bladder, for example, evolved in fish as an aid to adjusting buoyancy, only later becoming the basis for lungs when their descendants became terrestrial. And the human appendix currently appears to be more an evolutionary liability than an asset, although it may well have conveyed immunologic benefits in the past—and could even prove adaptive in the future. Certain traits may develop that are not immediately adaptive, in the sense of contributing directly to the reproductive success of the genes responsible for the trait and of the individuals carrying them.

If an organism develops a characteristic maladapted to its environment, it and the genes responsible for the trait are selected away into oblivion. But if the novelty is not particularly harmful, or even somewhat helpful, the trait may simply hang around through the generations—until a descendant organism finds a welcoming environmental niche.

The natural world is filled with solutions awaiting a problem.  . . .  But when environments change (and they always do), a wonderful and lively explosion can ensue.

Mr. Wagner refers to this sudden efflorescence as “adaptive radiation”—“only with a key innovation,” he writes, “can a species exploit existing opportunities, such as a warmer climate, a new source of food, or a superior form of shelter. In this view, any one adaptive radiation has to wait, possibly for a long time, until the right innovation arises. And the need to wait holds evolution back.”

In regard to evolutionary developments that at first seem to bear no fruit, Mr. Wagner could have quoted from Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”:

Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

In the world of human creativity, “full many” a terrific creation has been neglected or ignored in its time.

For the full review, see:

David P. Barash. “In Praise of Late Bloomers.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 29, 2023): C12.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed name, added, except for first one at the end of quoted passage from Baudelaire.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date April 28, 2023, and has the title “‘Sleeping Beauties’ Review: Nature’s Late Bloomers.”)

The book under review is:

Wagner, Andreas. Sleeping Beauties: The Mystery of Dormant Innovations in Nature and Culture. London: Oneworld Publications, 2023.

Global Warming Reduces Deaths from Cold Temps Much More Than It Increases Deaths From Hot Temps

(p. A15) Globally, a recent Lancet study found 4.5 million cold deaths, nine times more than global heat deaths. The study also finds that temperatures increased half a degree Celsius in the first two decades of this century, causing an additional 116,000 heat deaths annually. But warmer temperatures now also avoid 283,000 cold deaths annually. Reporting only on the former leaves us badly informed.

. . .

Even if all the world’s ambitious carbon-cutting promises were magically enacted, these policies would only slow future warming. Stronger heat waves would still kill more people, just slightly fewer than they would have. A sensible response would focus first on resilience, meaning more air conditioning and cooler cities through greenery and water features. After 2003’s heat waves, France required air conditioning in nursing homes, reducing heat deaths tenfold despite higher temperatures.

For the full commentary, see:

Bjorn Lomborg. “Adapting Will Be Key, Not Hype and Panic.” Omaha World-Herald (Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 16, 2023, and has the title “Bjorn Lomborg: Don’t panic about global warming.”)

The Lancet Planet Health study summarized in the passage quoted above is:

Qi Zhao, Yuming Guo, Tingting Ye, Antonio Gasparrini, Shilu Tong, Ala Overcenco, Aleš Urban, Alexandra Schneider, Alireza Entezari, Ana Maria Vicedo-Cabrera, Antonella Zanobetti, Antonis Analitis, Ariana Zeka, Aurelio Tobias, Baltazar Nunes, Barrak Alahmad, Ben Armstrong, Bertil Forsberg, Shih-Chun Pan, Carmen Íñiguez, Caroline Ameling, César De la Cruz Valencia, Christofer Åström, Danny Houthuijs, Do Van Dung, Dominic Royé, Eric Lavigne Ene Indermitte, Fatemeh Mayvaneh, Fiorella Acquaotta, Francesca de’Donato, Francesco Di Ruscio, Francesco Sera,, Haidong Kan Gabriel Carrasco-Escobar, Hans Orru, Ho Kim, Iulian-Horia Holobaca, Jan Kyselý, Joana Madureira, Joel Schwartz, Jouni J K Jaakkola,, Magali Hurtado Diaz Klea Katsouyanni, Martina S Ragettli, Masahiro Hashizume, Mathilde Pascal, Micheline de Sousa Zanotti Stagliorio Coélho,, Niilo Ryti Nicolás Valdés Ortega, Noah Scovronick, Paola Michelozzi, Patricia Matus Correa, Patrick Goodman, Paulo Hilario Nascimento Saldiva,, Samuel Osorio Rosana Abrutzky, Shilpa Rao, Simona Fratianni, Tran Ngoc Dang, Valentina Colistro, Veronika Huber, Whanhee Lee, Xerxes Seposo, Yue Leon Guo, Yasushi Honda, Michelle L Bell, Shanshan Li. “Global, Regional, and National Burden of Mortality Associated with Non-Optimal Ambient Temperatures from 2000 to 2019: A Three-Stage Modelling Study.” Lancet Planet Health 5 (July 2021): e415–e425.

Costly Sanctimonious Green New Skyscraper Already in Violation of Latest New York Environmental Regulations

(p. A13) One Vanderbilt, a commanding new skyscraper in the heart of Manhattan, seems to be reaching for the future. One of the world’s tallest buildings, it pierces the sky like an inverted icicle and fuses seamlessly with an expanding network of trains and other transport at its foundations.

It is also the rare skyscraper designed with climate change in mind.

. . .

But One Vanderbilt is also something else. It is already out of date.

Some of the building’s most important green features were the right answer to the climate problem in 2016, when design work was completed. “And then the answer changed,” Mr. Wilcox said.

Unlike many skyscrapers, One Vanderbilt generates much of its own electricity. This was a leap forward a decade or so ago — a way of producing power that saved money for landlords and was cleaner than the local grid.

However, One Vanderbilt’s turbines burn natural gas. And while natural gas is cleaner than oil or coal, it is falling from favor, particularly in New York City, which in recent years has adopted some of the most ambitious climate laws in the world, including a ban on fossil fuels in new buildings.

. . .

The truth is that most buildings in New York, big or small, old or new, are bad for the environment. Boilers and furnaces burning fuel in basements are the city’s single largest producer of carbon dioxide, emitting more than double the amount from millions of cars and trucks traveling its roads.

One Vanderbilt, according to its owner, is designed to be more energy-efficient than most new buildings. The structure features several design elements, some exorbitantly expensive, to minimize energy use, such as high ceilings to let in more natural light.

Yet because of the rapidly evolving energy-policy landscape, driven by increasing global concern over climate change, even the most ambitious attempts at sustainability often find themselves facing the possibility of retrofitting the moment the elevator doors open. One Vanderbilt is one such case.

. . .

Landlords such as SL Green say New York City’s new laws will force dramatic changes. Unlike energy codes of the past, one of the key laws, which restricts pollution, doesn’t merely apply to new construction: Existing buildings, no matter how small or how old, must gradually comply and retrofit as well, potentially at eye-watering cost.

For the full story, see:

Ben Ryder Howe. “Built to Be Green, Skyscraper Was Dated From the Beginning.” The New York Times (Thursday, February 16, 2023): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Feb. 16, 2023, and has the title “New Skyscraper, Built to Be an Environmental Marvel, Is Already Dated.”)