02 Apr 2013:
Air Pollution Linked to
1.2 Million Chinese Deaths in 2010
Air pollution contributed to the premature deaths of more than 1.2 million people in China in 2010, or about 40 percent of early deaths worldwide caused by dirty air, according to a newly released analysis. The findings, based on data from a study on the distribution and causes of death globally, categorized “ambient particulate matter pollution” as the fourth-leading factor in premature deaths in China, behind dietary risks, high blood pressure, and smoking. Worldwide, air pollution was the seventh-leading cause of premature death, contributing to 3.2 million deaths, according to the study. While the study was published in The Lancet
, a UK-based medical journal, the summary of China statistics was reported at a forum in Beijing, the New York Times says
. The findings come as public outrage grows in China as residents of many cities endure choking air far in excess of safe levels.
01 Apr 2013:
Genetic Discovery May Allow
Lettuce Growth Even in Hot Temperatures
A team of scientists has identified the specific gene in lettuce that causes the plant’s seeds to stop germinating in warm temperatures, a discovery they say could allow production of the food crop year-round even in the planet’s hotter regions. Writing in the journal The Plant Cell
, the researchers say they identified a chromosome in the wild ancestor of commercial lettuce varieties that enabled seeds to germinate even in warm temperatures. When the chromosome was crossed with commercial varieties of lettuce, they too were able to germinate at warmer temperatures
. After further testing, the scientists found the specific gene that governs a plant hormone known as abscisic acid — which inhibits seed germination in most lettuce plants when exposed to moisture at warm temperatures — and were able to “silence” the mechanism. Because this mechanism occurs in many plant species, the results suggest similar modifications can be made in the growth of other crops, said Kent Bradford, of the University of California Davis, who is one of the study’s authors
Interview: Tracking Causes of
The Decline of the Monarch Butterfly
University of Kansas insect ecologist Orley R. Taylor, who has been observing monarch butterflies and their spectacular migrations across North America for
Monarch Watch/ Catherine I Sherman
decades, says he has never been more concerned about their future. A new census taken at the monarchs’ wintering grounds in Mexico found their population had declined 59 percent over the previous year and was at the lowest level ever measured. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Taylor talks about the factors that have led to the drop in the monarch population. Among them, he says, is the increased planting of genetically modified corn in the U.S. Midwest, which has led to greater use of herbicides, which in turn kills the milkweed that is a prime food source for the butterflies. “What we’re seeing here in the United States,” Taylor says, “is a very precipitous decline of monarchs that’s coincident with the adoption of Roundup-ready corn and soybeans.”
Read the interview
28 Mar 2013:
California City to Require
Solar Energy Systems on All New Homes
A city in southern California this week passed a zoning regulation that requires developers to install solar power systems on every new house they build
. Beginning next year, all new homes built on lots at least
7,000 square feet in size in Lancaster, Calif. will be required to produce at least one kilowatt of solar electricity. Developers also have the option of purchasing solar energy credits from other developments within the city limits. The new zoning rules are the latest initiative
in Mayor Rex Parris’s quest to make Lancaster, which has a population of 150,000 and abundant sunshine, the “solar capital of the universe.” Since 2008, the city has also introduced an initiative to attract utility-scale solar developers to the city, proposed a transmission project to deliver solar-generated power to other communities, and created a solar financing program for homeowners, businesses, and nonprofits.
27 Mar 2013:
Natural Gas Extraction
Causing More Earthquakes in Netherlands
Extraction of natural gas from the deep soil in a region of the Netherlands has triggered an increase in minor earthquakes, similar to seismic effects that have raised concerns about drilling operations, including hydraulic fracturing, in other countries. While the extraction of gas has occurred for decades in the northern Netherlands, including in the province of Groningen, quakes have become more frequent in the last few years, the New York Times reports
. The region experienced as few as 20 quakes a year before 2011, but there were 18 during the first six weeks of 2013, with some strong enough to cause significant property damage. According to Chiel Seinen, a spokesman for a local gas consortium known as NAM, natural gas extraction has created at least 1,800 faults in the region’s subsoil, although he said the controversial drilling technique known as fracking is not used in the Dutch region. A new study by Columbia University’s Earth Institute found that a 5.7-magnitude earthquake that occurred in Oklahoma in 2011 may have been the largest quake yet
that can be linked to the injection of wastewater as part of an energy extraction project.
26 Mar 2013:
China’s Utility Giants
Vulnerable to Water Scarcity, Report Says
China’s five largest power utilities, which depend on water-intensive, coal-fired stations to generate electricity, are vulnerable to water supply disruptions because they are centered in the country’s water-scarce northern regions, a new report says. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance
, the five power generators — Huaneng, Datang, Huadian, Guodian, and China Power Investment — operate hundreds of gigawatts of thermal plants in the industrial northeast, where water resources are increasingly strained. Eighty-five percent of China’s power-generating capacity is in water scarce regions, said Maxime Serrano Bardisa, one of the report’s coauthors. The report said that major technical and policy shifts will be required to avert serious disruptions, including the addition of systems that use less water, such as closed-cycle or air-cooled systems. Such improvements could cost the utilities $20 billion in retrofit costs, the report said.
25 Mar 2013:
Peach Genome Offers Hints
For Better Biofuel Production, Study Says
A long-term genomic analysis of the common peach has revealed important insights into how scientists can improve the biofuel potential of other plant species
, including the fast-growing poplar tree, a new study says.
Three years after a team of scientists first released a draft description of the annotated peach genome, researchers make the case that the 265-million base sequence can be used to better understand the biology of related tree species, including the poplar, which like the peach is a member of the rosid superfamily. Writing in the journal Nature Genetics
, the scientists describe how a comparison of the peach’s genetics with six other fully sequenced plant species revealed metabolic pathways that lead to the formation of lignin, the durable biopolymer that holds plant cells together — and a barrier to breaking down biomass into fuels. “One gene we’re interested in is the so-called ‘evergreen’ locus in peaches, which extends the growing season,” said Daniel Rokhsar, a U.S. Department of Energy scientist who leads the sequencing of the peach genome. According to Rokhsar, that gene could be manipulated to increase the biomass accumulation of related species.
22 Mar 2013:
Expansion of Chinese City Poses
Environmental and Safety Risks, Critics Say
An ambitious plan to expand the western Chinese city of Lanzhou into a regional industrial hub is raising concerns over what critics call lax government oversight of the environmental and safety impacts, including worries that it will siphon huge amounts of water from an already parched region
and devastate nearby mountains. Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province, is a city of 3.6 million and a gateway to Tibet and the Xinjiang region. It is known as one of the most polluted cities in China, and now the government is working to expand the city’s footprint by at least 70 percent, according to Caixin Online
. That expansion involves the flattening of mountaintops, and the additional 1 million people and increased industrial activity will draw water from the already polluted and over-stressed Yellow River. Opponents of the plan say buildings will also be constructed on loose soil that will be vulnerable to collapse. “It was a rash decision to begin construction on the new city before receiving environmental approvals or seeking opinions from the Lanzhou public,” said Zhao Zhong, a local activist.
21 Mar 2013:
U.S.-Spain Energy Companies
Plan World’s Largest Solar Towers
A U.S.-based company that will soon finish construction of one of the world’s largest solar thermal power plants in the Mojave Desert, is now looking to build an even larger plant
in Southern California. BrightSource
Click to enlarge
The Ivanpah solar plant in the Mojave Desert
Energy, which is expected to begin producing up to 370 megawatts of electricity per day from its Mojave plant beginning this summer, last week announced plans to build, in partnership with Spain-based Abengoa Solar, a 500-megawatt plant in Riverside, California
. Like the Mojave project, the new solar array will utilize thousands of mirrors that reflect sunlight onto central towers to produce steam. While the company's first project, the so-called Ivanpah plant, will use three towers to generate 130 megawatts each, the new $2.6 billion project involves construction of two 750-foot towers capable of producing 250 megawatts each, which combined would provide enough electricity to power 200,000 households and prevent 17 million tons of carbon emissions during the life of the plant, BrightSource says.
20 Mar 2013:
High-Speed Trains Provide
Environmental, Social Benefits, Study Says
Bullet trains fuel real-estate booms, improve quality of life, reduce air pollution and traffic congestion, and provide a “safety valve” for crowded cities, especially in the developing world, according to a study by Chinese and U.S. economists. The study was based on China’s rapidly expanding high-speed rail network, but the researchers said the benefits experienced there would be similar for California’s proposed high-speed rail system
. Bullet train systems connecting China’s largest cities to nearby smaller cities have made these “second tier” cities more attractive for workers and alleviated traffic congestion and pollution in megacities, according to the study, carried out by economists at Tsinghua University and the University of California, Los Angeles. The study found that the trains created a new category of exurbs within 60 to 470 miles of urban centers such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, helping keep people from moving to already crowded megacities. The study was published in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Interview: A Marine Biologist
Works to Create a ‘Wired Ocean’
Even as populations of sharks, bluefin tuna, and other large fish are being severely over-exploited, scientists still know surprisingly little about when and where the ocean’s biggest predators congregate to feed and spawn,
making it difficult to protect biological hotspots. Stanford University marine biologist Barbara Block is seeking to narrow that knowledge gap by deploying an armada of satellite tags on the backs of ocean creatures. Block envisions a wired ocean, a blue fount of data in which tags, smart buoys, and mobile robots reveal the secrets of marine life. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Block discusses the wealth of data gathered by the latest electronic tags and explains why it’s important to put the fruits of this research into the public’s hands “What we need is environmental interest and awareness that connects humans to the world,” says Block, "or else we're going to end up with the same problem we had on the continents, where the large mammals are gone."
Read the interview
19 Mar 2013:
New Carbon Storage Method
Reduces Earthquake Risk, Study Says
A team of researchers says it has demonstrated a method of underground carbon storage that reduces the risk of triggering earthquakes
, a safety concern cited by some scientists about the emerging field of carbon capture and sequestration. While often cited as a potentially key option in reducing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, earlier studies
have suggested that the use of carbon sequestration technologies in some rock formations can result in leaks that ultimately cause minor tremors. But in a new study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters
, Yale University researchers say that storing carbon in a common type of volcanic rock, known as reactive mafic rock, offers a far safer alternative. According to their findings, injecting carbon into the mafic rock causes a chemical reaction that generates carbon minerals, creating a so-called “mineral-trapping” phenomenon that reduces fluid pressure and distributes the stress load, which in turn minimizes seismic risks.
18 Mar 2013:
New Chinese Premier
Vows To Tackle Pollution With ‘Iron Fist’
China’s new premier, Li Keqiang, has vowed aggressive government action
to curb the rampant pollution that has provoked growing public outrage, saying the country would phase out “backward production
Smog covers Beijing in January
facilities” that have contributed to dangerous health conditions in numerous regions. Speaking at his first press conference, Li said the government would set deadlines to address the public health controversy, exemplified by choking air pollution over Beijing that has kept air quality at dangerous levels
since the beginning of the year. Chronic air pollution problems in major metropolitan areas, coupled with a recent episode in which more than 12,000 rotting pig carcasses
were discovered in a river that provides Shanghai’s drinking water, have triggered growing public protest. While Li offered few specific solutions, he promised “vigorous” efforts to tackle pollution. “We need to face the situation and punish offenders with no mercy and enforce the law with an iron fist,” he said. “We shouldn’t pursue economic growth at the expense of the environment.”
15 Mar 2013:
Obama Unveils New Actions
To Combat Climate Change in Second Term
Making good on his promise to fight climate change more aggressively in his second term, President Obama is unveiling two major initiatives to reduce the U.S.’s reliance on fossil fuels, including a new $2 billion Energy Security Trust to fund the next generation of green vehicles, as well as new reviews of federal projects to assess their climate impacts. During an appearance at Argonne National Laboratory, Obama unveiled details of the proposed energy trust, which would shift $2 billion in royalties from oil and gas operations on federal lands
into research into vehicles powered by renewable energy sources. An administration official said the policy will keep the U.S. at the forefront of the emerging green technology sector and will help the nation wean itself off fossil fuels. Obama is also expected to expand a Nixon-era law to require federal agencies to assess the climate effects of large projects
, including pipelines and highways.
14 Mar 2013:
U.S. Grants Will Promote
Small-Scale, Modular Nuclear Reactors
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this week announced a new series of cost-sharing grants to promote the development of small-scale, factory-made nuclear reactors
, an emerging energy source that Obama administration officials say could help replace the coal-fired plants expected to cease operations in the coming decades. The administration, which has allocated $452 million for the program, hopes to spur the production and licensing of as many as 50 so-called modular reactors annually by 2040, said Rebecca Smith-Kevern, director of light water reactor technology at the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. DOE officials say these modular reactors, which would be about one-third the size of typical nuclear power plants, also include scalable designs that will provide safety and economic benefits
. “We have a vision of having a whole fleet of [modular reactors] produced in factories,” Smith-Kavern said at a conference. “We envision the U.S. government to be the first users.” Citing a 2011 paper
, she said plants could cost $3 billion to $5 billion apiece.
13 Mar 2013:
New Desalination Process
Slashes Costs of Producing Fresh Water
Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest military contractors, has developed a process that company officials say significantly reduces the amount of energy needed to desalinate water
, an innovation that could help communities worldwide tackle the growing threat of water scarcity. According to the company, the new process uses ultra-thin carbon membranes with holes large enough to allow water to pass through, but small enough to block the salt molecules in seawater, Reuters reports. Because the membranes have holes as thin as a single atom, the process would require far less energy than existing desalination technologies, which rely on reverse osmosis, the company says. “It’s 500 times thinner than the best filter on the market today and a thousand times stronger,” said John Stetson, a Lockheed Martin engineer. “The energy that’s required and the pressure that’s required to filter salt is approximately 100 times less.” A 2011 study
found that desalination technology could be the cheapest approach to meeting the planet’s growing water needs.
Interview: An Advocate for
Environmental Justice at EPA
Matthew Tejada brings on-the-ground experience to his new job as director of the Office of Environmental Justice at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Tejada, 33, took over his EPA post
this month after leading Air Alliance Houston, where he helped organize communities along the Texas Gulf Coast to fight air pollution from chemical plants, oil refineries, and the shipping industry. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Tejada explains how he sees his role at the EPA as an advocate for environmental justice, a concept that first emerged in the 1980s and focuses on the pollution burdens often placed on poor and minority neighborhoods. Tejada tells e360
why he thinks his work as a community advocate will help in his new job, why it is important for environmental organizations to build coalitions with grassroots groups, and how he sees “similarities across environmental justice communities, whether they’re in Puerto Rico or in Kansas.” Read the interview
12 Mar 2013:
Mass Scale of Renewables Shift
Is Evident in Blueprint for New York State
A new study concludes that it would be technically and economically feasible for New York State to meet all of its energy needs from renewable sources
by 2030, but
researchers say the transition would involve building wind, solar, and other alternative energy sources on a mass scale. Writing in the journal Energy Policy
, a team of researchers said that to wean itself from fossil fuels for electricity production and transportation, the state would need to build more than 4,000 onshore wind turbines, 12,700 offshore turbines, 828 photovoltaic plants, 5 million rooftop solar systems, and 2,600 one-megawatt tidal turbines. If implemented, New York would meet 40 percent of its energy needs with wind power and 38 percent from solar, the study said. While this dramatic conversion would require initial capital expenses, the study predicts that the long-term health benefits and new jobs would more than make up for those costs. The transition would also reduce end-use power demand by 37 percent, prevent 4,000 premature deaths annually, and save $33 billion in health costs each year, the researchers said.
11 Mar 2013:
New Arctic Survey Shows
Major Advances of Vegetation to North
Declining snow and ice coverage in the northern latitudes and rising temperatures have triggered a significant increase in vegetation
across large swaths of the Arctic, with some circumpolar regions seeing the
Click to enlarge
Goddard Space Flight Center
Vegetation shift in northern latitudes
type of plant growth that just a few decades ago occurred hundreds of miles to the south, according to a new study. In a comprehensive analysis of ground and satellite-based data, a team of scientists found that across a region covering more than 9 million square kilometers — roughly equal to the size of the U.S. — vegetation is growing more vigorously and spreading north. The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change
, said that since the early 1980s, the kind of vegetation that was once found at 57 degrees north — typified by tall shrubs and trees — is now spreading into former regions of tundra as far as 64 degrees north. The paper said that 17 climate model simulations suggested that bv the end of this century rising temperatures could lead to northward shifts of vegetation of more than 20 degrees latitude compared with the period 1951 to 1980.
08 Mar 2013:
Largest U.S. Dam Removal
Releases Huge Amount of Sediment
Scientists tracking the aftermath of the largest dam removal in U.S. history say the dismantling of a dam in northwestern Washington state has unleashed about 34 million cubic yards of sediment and debris
that built up
A plume of sediment at the mouth of the Elwha River.
for more than a century. While about one-third of the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River still stands, vast amounts of sediment are already flowing downstream, allowing University of Washington (UW) scientists a rare opportunity to track the discharges and study their ecological impacts. Scientists say it is unclear where much of the sediment will end up — or what the environmental consequences will be. In an ongoing study, they will use sophisticated technology to track particles in the water and monitor their accumulation on the ocean floor. Scientists say the sediment — enough to fill 3 million truckloads — could create murkier water conditions, threatening the reproduction of salmon and blocking light for marine life.
07 Mar 2013:
Shale Gas Boom Drives
Surge in Propane-Fueled Vehicles
The U.S. satellite TV provider DISH Network Corporation has announced it will introduce 200 propane-fueled vans
to its fleet in 2013, another sign that propane, like natural gas, is offering an increasingly cost-effective transportation fuel alternative to gasoline and diesel. While there are already more than 13 million propane-fueled vehicles worldwide, propane historically has been considered a niche fuel because of high production costs. But driven by the surge in domestic shale oil and gas production, the wholesale cost of propane is now only about 85 cents per gallon — about half of 2011 costs. And while the vehicles cost about 10 percent more than diesel-fueled trucks, propane-fueled trucks ultimately can save $50,000 in fuel costs over the life of a vehicle, according to Reuters. In addition, DISH officials say their new propane-fueled vans will reduce the fleet’s overall emissions of carbon dioxide by 12.5 million pounds
over the lifetime of the vehicles. According to Pike Research, sales of natural gas-fueled vehicles are projected to increase 10 percent annually
through 2019 while propane-fueled vehicles are expected to climb 8 percent per year.
06 Mar 2013:
Atmospheric CO2 Concentration
Shows Second-Largest Annual Increase
The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased by 2.67 parts per million in 2012
, marking the second-biggest jump since levels were first recorded in 1959 and decreasing the chances that the planet will
avoid a dangerous temperature increase of 3.6 degrees F (2 C) or higher, U.S. scientists say. The new data, collected in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, suggests that levels of heat-trapping CO2 are now just under 395 parts per million (ppm) and could hit 400 ppm within two years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The one-year increase was second only to 1998, when CO2 concentrations jumped by 2.84 parts per million; pre-industrial atmospheric concentrations of CO2 were 280 ppm. Pieter Tans, a senior scientist at NOAA's Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory, attributed the latest spike to an increase in fossil fuel burning globally, particularly in China. “It’s just a testament to human influence being dominant,” he told the Associated Press.
05 Mar 2013:
African Forest Elephant
Populations Fell 62 Percent in a Decade
Populations of forest elephants in central Africa plummeted by more than 60 percent from 2002 to 2011
, with dwindling habitat and an acceleration in poaching driving the elephants toward extinction, according to a
new study. An international team of 60 scientists found that while elephants historically ranged across a 772,000-square-mile region in Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and the Republic of Congo, they now exist in just 25 percent of that area, said John Hart, scientific director for the Lukuru Foundation and co-author of the study published in the journal PLoS ONE
. The decade-long survey, which involved the work of many local conservation staff members who walked more than 8,000 miles conducting censuses, is the largest ever conducted on forest elephants. According to the survey, the remaining 100,000 forest elephants are increasingly scarce in regions with high human populations, heavy poaching, and weak governance.
04 Mar 2013:
U.S. Educational Standards
To Urge Teaching About Climate Change
A new set of U.S. educational standards that is expected to be released this month will recommend that global warming be included in the science curriculum for all U.S. public schools. The Next Generation Science Standards
, which are being developed by a coalition that includes the National Research Council and 26 individual U.S. states, will recommend that teachers introduce evidence of human-caused climate change in all science classes, beginning in elementary school, according to Inside Climate News
. According to the standards, by eighth grade all students should understand that “human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature.” With an additional 15 states indicating that they will also adopt the standards, the report says, the U.S.’s biggest educational publishing companies are already expected to incorporate the new standards into their textbooks and other teaching materials.
01 Mar 2013:
Loss of Wild Pollinators
Affecting Global Crop Production
Research data from 600 fields in 20 countries shows that wild bees and insects are more effective pollinators than domesticated honey bees, suggesting that the continuing loss of wild insects in many agricultural
landscapes has negative consequences for crop harvests.
Reporting in Science
, an international team of 50 scientists analyzed data from 41 crop systems around the world. They found that widespread development and modern agricultural techniques that use every available hectare of land decrease the number of key pollinators, such as wild bees, butterflies, and beetles. As the numbers and diversity of these pollinators decreases, flowering plants receive fewer visits from these insects, resulting in lower production of important crops such as tomatoes, melons, and coffee. The researchers said that using domesticated or managed honey bees did not make up for the loss of wild bees and insects. The study suggests new practices to preserve natural or semi-natural areas to support wild pollinators.
28 Feb 2013:
Earth Unlikely to Face
An Ecological Tipping Point, Study Says
A team of international scientists has rejected the idea that the planet could face a sudden and irreversible ecological shift as a result of largely human-driven pressures, suggesting that such global transformations are more likely to occur over a long period of time. While earlier studies have warned that ecological pressures — including climate change, biodiversity loss, and over-exploitation of resources — could drive the planet toward a dangerous “tipping point,” the new paper says the ecosystems of different continents are not sufficiently interconnected for such a global shift to occur
. And while as much as 80 percent of the biosphere includes ecosystems that have been affected by human activities, major ecological shifts driven by these human pressures “depend on local circumstances and will therefore differ between localities,” said Erle Ellis, a scientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and co-author of the paper, published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution
27 Feb 2013:
Oxfam Ranks Food Giants on
Sourcing and Environmental Policies
The group Oxfam has published an online scorecard assessing the agricultural sourcing of the world’s biggest food and beverage companies, rating them on factors that include water resource management, climate
awareness, and transparency. Using publicly available information, the “Behind the Brands
” campaign rates the 10 companies with the largest overall revenues — including Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Mars, and General Mills — on their awareness and responsiveness to these issues and supply chain management. According to Oxfam's analysis, Europe-based companies Nestlé and Unilever earned the highest scores overall, receiving good marks for water management and workers’ rights. Seven of the 10 companies received the lowest possible score for land management
. Associated British Foods, Kellogg’s, and General Mills received the lowest overall scores. Oxfam says the scoreboard will be updated regularly.
26 Feb 2013:
Major U.S. Utility Will Close
Three Coal-Burning Plants in Midwest
One of the U.S.’s largest electric utilities has agreed to close three coal-fired power plants
in the Midwest, the latest sign of how the U.S.'s electricity supply is shifting away from coal to natural gas and renewable energy. American Electric Power (AEP) will shut down the three plants in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky by 2015 — retiring a total of 2,011 megawatts of coal-burning capacity — and replace some of the power generation with wind and solar investments in Indiana and Michigan. According to the agreement, which settles a lawsuit originally filed in 1999 over the environmental costs of pollution that drifts east from the plants, the Ohio-based company will also spend $5 billion to install pollution-control technologies at its aging coal-burning plants in the eastern U.S. and cut its annual sulfur dioxide emissions from 828,000 tons to 174,000 tons within 12 years. With the latest shut-downs, utilities have now closed or announced the closing of 142 coal-burning plants since 2010.
25 Feb 2013:
Labor Capacity To Fall as World
Gets Warmer, More Humid, U.S. Study Says
Increasingly warm and humid conditions that are predicted in the coming decades could slash worker productivity 10 percent worldwide
by mid-century and could eliminate worker capacity altogether in some regions during the hottest months, a new U.S. study predicts. In an analysis of labor capacity based on existing military and industrial heat stress standards, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that the amount of work that people can do in some regions has already dropped by 10 percent over the last six decades and that the lost labor capacity could double by 2050 based on global warming projections. According to their analysis, published in the journal Nature Climate Change
, a temperature increase of 6 degrees C (11 degrees F) would “eliminate all labor capacity in the hottest months in many areas,” including the U.S.’s lower Mississippi Valley. “This planet will start experiencing heat stress that’s unlike anything experienced today,” Ronald Stouffer, co-author of the study, told Reuters
. According to the study, temperature increases must be limited to less than 3 degrees C (5 F) to maintain labor capacity in all areas during the hottest months.
22 Feb 2013:
A 1.5 C Temperature Rise Could
Release Greenhouse Gases in Permafrost
A global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius could unleash more than 1,000 gigatons of carbon and methane
currently trapped beneath Siberian permafrost and accelerate global climate change, a new study says. In a study conducted in a frozen cave in Siberia, researchers analyzed stalactites and stalagmites which, since they form only when rainwater and snowmelt drip into the caves, provide a glimpse into 500,000 years of changing permafrost conditions. According to their findings, records of an especially warm period 400,000 years ago suggest that a 1.5-degree increase compared to current temperatures would trigger the thawing of permafrost far north of its existing southern boundary. And since permafrost covers 24 percent of the exposed land surface in the Northern Hemisphere, significant thawing could release huge amounts of methane and carbon dioxide, said Anton Vaks, a scientist at Oxford University and lead researcher on the study, published in Science Express
. In addition to the effects the loss of permafrost could have on climate, it could have major regional implications, affecting roads, railways, and natural gas facilities built on the frozen landscape.