Emergency workers battling to limit the damage at Japan’s quake-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant were temporarily pulled back on Wednesday as radiation levels spiked to dangerous levels, said the New York Times. Panic buying was reported in Tokyo, sparked by fears leaked radiation could reach the city, while foreign embassies advised their citizens to leave the area, The Guardian said.
Meanwhile, global powers rushed to address their own nuclear programmes in response to Japan’s crisis. The European Union is considering plans to “stress-test” reactors to check they could withstand similar disasters, while China has suspended the approval of new nuclear plants, reported The Guardian. AFP said Germany would temporarily shut down its seven oldest reactors.
The confirmed death toll from Japan’s powerful earthquake and tsunami had reached 3,771 by Wednesday, with more than 8,000 still missing, said The Japan Times. Rescue teams continued to search for survivors and to identify bodies in the devastated areas of the country’s north-east, where temperatures have plummeted to midwinter levels.
With largely Republican support, a panel in the US House of Representatives – Congress’s lower chamber – passed a bill to stop the country’s Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse-gas emissions, reported USA Today. The House Energy and Commerce Committee also rejected amendments to the bill calling on Congress to accept the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and is caused in large part by human activity.
Scientists have warned that the Arctic is heading for a record ozone loss this spring, Nature reported. Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute for polar and marine research said new measurements indicate unusually low temperatures in the upper atmosphere have destroyed about half of the ozone present above the Arctic since January.
Ecuador’s largest waterfall and its delicate ecosystem will be destroyed by what is set to be the country's largest hydroelectric power plant, environmentalists have said in a campaign reported by the BBC. Critics argue that a Chinese-funded dam being built on the river that feeds the San Rafael Falls is not sustainable and that studies on the waterfall are out of date.
National Geographic covered a new study asserting that data collected on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill may have helped to unravel an air-pollution mystery. Measurements of gases and aerosols taken by scientists who flew a research plane above the spill site, off the coast of Louisiana, show how unexpected compounds can contribute to poor air quality.
Mass deaths of bee colonies in many parts of the world may be part of a wider, hidden threat to wild insect pollinators vital to human food supplies, according to a new UN study, Reuters said. A cocktail of problems – including pesticide use and air pollution – were among a dozen factors behind the recent decline in bee populations, mainly in North America and Europe, the report asserted.
The EU has set the bar high for a future climate treaty by asking for it to be legally binding, a move sure to be resisted by China and US