As Europe’s wind energy production rises dramatically, offshore turbines are proliferating from the Irish Sea to the Baltic Sea. It’s all part of the European Union’s strong push away from fossil fuels and toward renewables.
Scientists are still trying to unravel the damaging effects of ground-level ozone on life on earth. But as the world warms, their concerns about the impact of this highly toxic, pollution-caused gas are growing.
To stake its claim in the strategic South China Sea, China is building airstrips, ports, and other facilities on disputed islands and reefs. Scientists say the activities are destroying key coral reef ecosystems and will heighten the risks of a fisheries collapse in the region.
Numbers of the great Indian bustard are down to about 250, the result of hunting and habitat loss. But a young physician-turned-conservationist is working with herders in the desert of northwest India to stop this magnificent bird’s slide into oblivion.
A small but growing number of entrepreneurs are creating sea-farming operations that cultivate shellfish together with kelp and seaweed, a combination they contend can restore ecosystems and mitigate the impacts of ocean acidification.
Assaults on the science behind climate change research and conservation policies are spreading from the U.S. to Europe and beyond. If this wave of “post-fact” thinking triumphs, the world will face a future dominated by pure ideology.
The top of the world is turning from white to blue in summer as the ice that has long covered the north polar seas melts away. This monumental change is triggering a cascade of effects that will amplify global warming and could destabilize the global climate system.
Marine protected areas in national waters have proven successful in helping depleted fish stocks to recover. Now, there is growing momentum for the creation of extensive reserves on the high seas as a way of reversing decades of rampant overfishing.
Putting a price on carbon is an idea whose time has come, with even Big Oil signaling it may drop its long-standing opposition to a carbon tax. But the question is, has it come too late?
Five years after the nuclear power plant meltdown, a journey through the Fukushima evacuation zone reveals some high levels of radiation and an overriding sense of fear. For many, the psychological damage is far more profound than the health effects.
Scientists are closely monitoring a key current in the North Atlantic to see if rising sea temperatures and increased freshwater from melting ice are altering the “ocean conveyor belt” — a vast oceanic stream that plays a major role in the global climate system.
The Moth Snowstorm: Finding
True Value in Nature’s Riches
It is the blizzard of moths that Michael McCarthy remembers most vividly. As a boy, his family would take summer nighttime drives to the English coast,
and the car headlights and windshield would soon be so splattered with moths they would have to stop to clean them off. “That phenomenon has gone,” says McCarthy. “It’s disappeared because there has been a horrendous crash in moth numbers in the U.K.” His recent book, The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy
, offers a defense of the natural world rooted in the joy and spiritual nourishment it provides. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, McCarthy, a British journalist, talks about the loss of wildlife; how the decline in species abundance, as opposed to extinctions, is overlooked; and why he thinks putting a monetary value on so-called ecosystem services is too limiting. “You can say mangrove swamps are worth so many billion dollars,” he says. “But what about birdsong? How much is birdsong worth?”
Read the interview.
A mutation in the DNA of some reptiles about 150 million years ago switched off the gene responsible for forming limbs — leading to the
A green tree python.
creation of modern day snakes, according to two studies published week. The findings were discovered by two independent teams of researchers, which reported their results separately in the journals Current Biology
. Some snakes, including pythons and boas, still have tiny leg bones inside their bodies, remnants of this evolutionary history; but most species lost their legs starting about100 million years ago. The scientists traced the mutation back to a docking site for proteins, known as an enhancer, situated in front of the Sonic hedgehog
gene, which controls limb development. They found that the enhancer is simply switched off, not broken. When the missing DNA was fixed and the modified enhancer was put in mice, they grew legs like normal
Public Art or Renewable Energy?
New Designs Aim to Produce Both
When the topic of energy infrastructure comes up, works of art don’t usually come to mind. But hundreds of such hybrid creations — part renewable power generators,
A vegetable farm off the Santa Monica Pier.
part large-scale art installations — now exist, at least on paper, as the result of a sustainable design competition known as the Land Art Generator Initiative
. Multi-disciplinary teams across the world have taken up the challenge to come up with buildable designs that produce renewable energy and “add value to public space, inspire, and educate.” In a photo essay, Yale Environment 360
highlights eight submissions to this year’s biennial competition, including the three winners announced this week. All designed for the waters off the Santa Monica Pier in Southern California, the systems range from a ring-shaped farm floating offshore to sail-like structures that harvest drinking water from fog.
Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee report that they have found a way to convert carbon dioxide into ethanol
, a usable fuel. The team used a spiky nanotechnology-based catalyst made out of carbon, copper, and nitrogen. When they applied voltage to the catalyst, CO2 dissolved in water turned into ethanol, with a yield of 63 percent. “We discovered somewhat by accident that this material works,” said Adam Rondinone, the Oak Ridge scientist that led the research. Because the materials are relatively cheap and the reaction can happen at room temperature, the researchers say the technique could be scaled up to store renewable energy as ethanol, for example, or to convert CO2 emissions into fuel. Finding new ways to use CO2 “in order to displace a fossil feedstock,” the scientists wrote in the study
, “is an appropriate intermediate step towards a carbon-free future.”
What’s Killing the Native Birds in
The Mountain Forests of Kauai?
The few remaining species of native forest birds left on the Hawaiian island of Kauai have suffered population declines so severe — 98 percent in one case — that some are near extinction.
The cause of the collapse, according to a recent study in the journal Science Advances
, is not alien plants or predators, but rather warming temperatures that have enabled non-native mosquitoes carrying deadly avian malaria to invade the birds’ high-elevation strongholds. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Eben Paxton
, an avian ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the study’s lead author, says his group’s research showed that the mosquitoes moved into the Alakai Plateau over the last decade, infecting the birds and pushing their populations to a tipping point. He cites a number of approaches for eradicating the mosquitoes, including releasing irradiated infertile males and using genetically modified mosquitoes. “The way that we view Kauai,” he says, “is that it's an early warning system for the rest of the islands.”
Read the interview.
September was the warmest September since modern record keeping began around 1880, measuring 0.91 degrees Celsius higher than the 1951-1980
Temperature anomalies in September 2016.
average, according to new data
by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. According to NASA, “11 of the past 12 consecutive months dating back to October 2015 have set new monthly high-temperature records.” Or as the website Climate Central
put it, “September [is] an exclamation point on a string of hot months.” The new temperature data nearly guarantees that 2016 will be named the hottest year on record, measuring about 1.25 degrees Celsius above the late 19th century average, according to climate scientist Gavin Schmidt
, the director of GISS. NASA’s temperature data is collected by 6,300 meteorological stations scattered across the globe, a buoy-based data system in the oceans, and research centers on Antarctica.
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
Yale Environment 360
articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia
, the online educational network. Visit the site.
Business & Innovation
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Antarctica and the Arctic
Central & South America
A look at how acidifying oceans could threaten the Dungeness crab, one of the most valuable fisheries on the U.S. West Coast. Watch the video.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
An aerial view of why Europe’s per capita carbon emissions are less than 50 percent of those in the U.S. View the photos.
An indigenous tribe’s deadly fight to save its ancestral land in the Amazon rainforest from logging. Learn more.
video series looks at the staggering amount of food wasted in the U.S. – a problem with major human and environmental costs. Watch the video.
Residents of the Chocó Rainforest in Ecuador are choosing to plant cacao over logging in an effort to slow deforestation.
Watch the video.
Tribal people and ranchers join together to stop a project that would haul coal across their Montana land. Watch the video.