This Week in Environmental News 1-18

Air pollution in Beijing reached an all-time high this past Saturday, as an air quality monitoring device at the US Embassy registered an off-the-charts reading of 755 on the Air Quality Index (comparatively, New York City registered a 19 on the same day).  Although air pollution levels in the city had been rising for several days, it is still unclear what caused the sharp rise.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that he will be stepping down from his position in March.  Salazar played a particularly prominent role in the administration’s response to the BP oil spill in 2010.  His announcement comes just weeks after EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that she too would be exiting her post.

As a new study released on Tuesday found that soot, or black carbon, is the second largest human contributor to global climate change, the EPA announced a new voluntary clean air program designed to help communities meet soot pollution standards.  According to the study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmosphere, methane is now thought to follow carbon dioxide and soot as the third largest human contributor to climate change.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools announced its 2012 “Best of Schools” list, recognizing some of the nation’s highest performing schools.  This year’s top recognitions went to Manzo Elementary School and the Bertschi School Living Building in Seattle (Best K-12 Schools), Johnson County Community College (Best 2-Year Higher Education Institution), and Oberlin College (Best 4-Year Higher Education Institution).