Improvements in DNA technology now make it possible for biologists to identify every living organism in and around a species. Scientists say this could have profound implications for everything from protecting amphibians from a deadly fungus to reintroducing species into the wild.
Illegal logging and unchecked economic development are taking a devastating toll on the forests of Vietnam and neighboring countries, threatening areas of biodiversity so rich that 1,700 species have been discovered in the last 15 years alone.
New research shows that humans have been transforming the earth and its ecosystems for millenniums — far longer than previously believed. These findings call into question our notions about what is unspoiled nature and what should be preserved.
In the wake of the 2011 tsunami, the Japanese government is forgoing an opportunity to sustainably protect its coastline and is instead building towering concrete seawalls and other defenses that environmentalists say will inflict serious damage on coastal ecosystems.
Along the shores of New York Harbor, scientists are investigating whether this ubiquitous bivalve can be grown in urban areas as a way of cleansing coastal waters of sewage, fertilizers, and other pollutants.
The California condor, the largest bird in North America, was saved from extinction by a captive breeding program that increased its numbers in the wild. But now the condor is facing a new and pernicious threat — the lead from bullets used by game hunters.
The danger that the decline of bees and other pollinators represents to the world’s food supply was highlighted this week when the European Commission decided to ban a class of pesticides suspected of playing a role in so-called “colony collapse disorder.”
In a Swedish fjord, European researchers are conducting an ambitious experiment aimed at better understanding how ocean acidification will affect marine life. Ultimately, these scientists hope to determine which species might win and which might lose in a more acidic ocean.
Electric bicycles are already popular in Europe and in China, which has more e-bikes than cars on its roads. Now, manufacturers are marketing e-bikes in the U.S., promoting them as a "green" alternative to driving.
A consensus is emerging among scientists that the rate of global warming has slowed over the last decade. While they are still examining why, many researchers believe this phenomenon is linked to the heat being absorbed by the world’s oceans.
Interview: For Solar Sisters,
Off-Grid Electricity is Power
For Katherine Lucey, the lack of electricity in many parts of the developing world is not just an economic issue, it is a gender issue. A former investment banker,
Mother in Uganda with a solar lamp.
Lucey is the founder and CEO of Solar Sister
, a nonprofit that uses a market-based approach to provide solar power to communities in sub-Saharan Africa through a network of women entrepreneurs. Access to energy is critical to alleviating poverty, and women must be at the heart of any solution, says Lacey, since they are the family’s “energy managers,” responsible for cooking and heating needs. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Lucey explains how Solar Sister’s operations rely on selling inexpensive solar energy systems to households to power lamps and recharge cell phones. Since 2010, Solar Sister has created a network of 401 businesswomen in three countries that has provided electricity to 54,000 people. Lucey says the model can be rapidly expanded and can transform lives. “We’ve got to find a way to tap into market resources and let people in their own communities solve their own problems," she says. Read the interview
China has revealed details of a carbon cap-and-trade pilot project that will be launched next month, a much-anticipated market attempt to rein in carbon dioxide emissions by the world’s biggest emitter. The first phase of the program, which will be implemented in the southern city of Shenzhen, will cover 638 companies
that produce 38 percent of the city’s carbon emissions, according to the city branch of the government’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). The system will impose caps on the companies’ CO2 emissions and establish a market for the buying and selling of emissions permits. Eventually, the program will be expanded to include the transportation, manufacturing, and construction sectors, the Guardian
reports. By 2014, the experimental scheme will be expanded into six other designated cities and provinces, including Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, and the provinces of Hubei and Guangdong. Earlier this week, the Chinese newspaper 21st Century Business Herald
reported that the NDRC is contemplating a nationwide system to control CO2 emissions by 2020.
A small monitoring tag attached to an entangled North Atlantic right whale revealed just how much fishing gear impairs a whale’s ability to swim, dive, and feed
, scientists say. After locating a two-year-old whale,
EcoHealth Alliance, under permit number 594-1759
The entangled whale
dubbed Eg 3911, with fishing gear entangled around her mouth and pectoral fins, a team of scientists was able to attach a so-called Dtag in January 2011 that recorded her movements before, during, and after the team removed the nets. The whale “altered its behavior immediately following the disentanglement,” according to the study published in the journal Marine Mammal Science
. She swam faster, dove twice as deep, and stayed underwater for longer periods. Scientists say the added buoyancy, increased drag and reduced speed caused by such gear may overwhelm an animal's ability to forage for preferred prey, delay its arrival to feeding or breeding grounds, and ultimately drain its energy. Indeed, two weeks after disentangling Eg 3911 from the nets, an aerial survey spotted her dead at sea.
Interview: Climate Pioneer’s Son
Ponders a Worrisome CO2 Milestone
Climate scientist Ralph Keeling has followed in the footsteps of his renowned father, Charles David Keeling, who in 1958 became a pioneering figure in humanity’s struggle to combat climate change when he developed an accurate method of measuring CO2 in the atmosphere and
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
tracking its increase. Today, his son is the director of the Scripps CO2 Program, which was founded by his father and this month reported that global carbon dioxide concentrations had passed an alarming milestone of 400 parts per million. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Ralph Keeling discusses his father’s work, reflects on the meaning of CO2 levels climbing higher than they’ve been in at least 800,000 years, and expresses hope that crossing the 400 ppm mark may play a role in awakening the public to the dangers of runaway climate change. “It feels a little bit like we’re moving into a new era,” said Keeling. “Bringing about change requires people to be aware of what’s going on.”
Read the interview
Roughly 70 percent of Americans say global warming should be a priority for President Obama and Congress and 61 percent support requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax that would be used to help reduce the national debt, according to a new survey
by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. In a national survey conducted in April, 87 percent of respondents said that the president and Congress should make developing clean sources of energy a priority, 68 percent favored regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and 71 percent supported providing tax rebates for people who buy solar panels and energy-efficient vehicles. Seventy percent said global warming should be at least a “medium” priority, while 28 percent said it should be a low priority. The poll showed that 7 in 10 Americans support funding more research into green energy sources.
An international team of researchers has developed a system that will help Chinese farmers convert massive amounts of pig waste
into a renewable source of energy
and fertilizer. The project, led by Australia-based Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment
(CRC CARE), uses a two-step anaerobic biodigester that is able to treat 73,000 tons of waste annually, producing 380 cubic meters of biogas daily and about 5,600 tons of fertilizer per year. According to its developers, it will also provide a solution to a growing waste disposal challenge in China, where pigs generate more than 1.4 million tons of excrement annually. “Only 10 percent of this waste is currently treated, posing a considerable disposal headache, as well as health and water quality risks,” said Ravi Naidu, managing director of CRC CARE. While the system is being introduced at pig farms across China, Naidu says the technology could eventually help solve critical waste management challenges worldwide and make the pork industry more sustainable.
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
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South African photojournalist Adam Welz documents the harrowing relocation of six white rhinos to a region that has lost all its rhinos to poaching. View the gallery.
Business & Innovation
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Antarctica and the Arctic
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A Yale Environment 360
video explores Ecuador’s threatened Yasuni Biosphere Reserve with scientists inventorying its stunning forests and wildlife. Watch the video.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
In a Yale Environment 360
video, photographer Pete McBride documents how increasing water demands have transformed the Colorado River, the lifeblood of the arid Southwest. Watch the video.
Top Image: aerial view of Iceland
. © Google & TerraMetrics.
The Warriors of Qiugang
, a Yale Environment 360
video that chronicles the story of a Chinese village’s fight against a polluting chemical plant, was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject).
Watch the video.