01 Jun 2012:
Japan Forced to Reconsider
Climate Targets Without Nuclear Power
Japanese officials say they may have to scrap long-term targets for carbon emissions reductions as a consequence of moving away from nuclear power in the aftermath of last year’s Fukushima disaster. According to the Japan Times
, government officials this week conceded that goals to cut carbon emissions 25 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels were “to a fair degree” predicated on the use of nuclear power. “I have no doubt that an overall review will be necessary,” deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada said. Last month the nation shut down its last working nuclear plant more than a year after the Fukushima disaster made nuclear power unacceptable to many Japanese residents
. But considering that nuclear power provided nearly 30 percent of the nation’s electricity before the 2011 disaster, many predict the idled nuclear plants will trigger a rise in greenhouse gas emissions from an increased use of fossil fuels. A report released earlier this week said that the combined electricity produced from natural gas, oil, and coal-powered plants from January to April was up 40 percent
compared with the same period in 2011.
30 May 2012:
Water Depletion Threatens
Future U.S. Food Supplies, Study Says
The rapid depletion of groundwater resources in key U.S. agricultural regions could portend future vulnerabilities in growing the nation’s food
, according to a new study. In an assessment of water supplies in California’s Central Valley and the High Plains of the central U.S. — which runs from northwest Texas to southern Wyoming and South Dakota — University of Texas researchers found that in many places water is being used faster than it can be replenished, and that some regions may be unfit for agriculture within decades. According to their findings, farmers in California’s Central Valley, a region known as the nation’s “fruit and vegetable basket,” used enough water during a 2006-2009 drought to fill Lake Mead, the nation’s largest man-made reservoir. In the High Plains, a major grain-growing region, about one-third of groundwater depletion occurs in just 4 percent of the land area. At current rates of water depletion, some parts of the High Plains, including the Texas Panhandle and western Kansas, will be unable to support irrigated agriculture within a few decades, according to the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
25 May 2012:
Marine Reserves Replenish
Commercial Fisheries, DNA Tests Show
DNA testing has shown that the creation of marine reserves where no fishing is allowed helps to replenish fish stocks outside the reserve boundaries
. In a study conducted at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, researchers collected tissue samples from two species of commercially popular fish — including 466 samples of adult coral trout and 1,154 samples from stripey snapper — located within three reserve areas. After collecting juveniles of both species in protected and unprotected areas over the next 15 months, the researchers found that about half of the juveniles were offspring of fish found in the reserve areas, even though the reserves accounted for just 28 percent of the study area. In other words, fish found in the reserves “punch above their weight in replenishing fishery stocks
,” said Garry Russ, a researcher from James Cook University and one of the authors of the study, published online in the journal Current Biology
23 May 2012:
Papuans Paid a Pittance
For Palm Oil Land, Investigation Says
A major palm oil company has paid indigenous residents of Indonesian Papua $0.65 per hectare for forested land that will be worth $5,000 a hectare once cultivated
, according to a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency
(EIA). The EIA said that Moi
Palm oil concession in Klawana, Sorong
indigenous landowners agreed to the land sale — at a price 7,000 times less than the land will eventually be worth — after pressure from company representatives and local officials and after being told they would receive new housing and free education for their children. But the Moi said these promises were never kept
, and that only a few children were offered the chance to study at a polytechnic school in Java for three years — and only under the condition that the students return and work for seven years for the palm oil company, PT Henrison Inti Persada (PT HIP). The Noble Group, a global commodities trading giant, has a majority stake in PT HIP. The Norwegian government, which has been funding programs to reduce deforestation, has invested nearly $50 million in Noble Group through Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, EIA says.
18 May 2012:
Apple’s Main Data Center
Will Use Only Green Power by 2013
Apple Inc. has received approval to build two solar power installations at its main data center
in North Carolina, allowing the technology giant to run the center entirely with renewable energy by next year. The two solar farms, which will cover 250 acres near its core data center in Maiden, N.C., will utilize high-efficiency solar cells and an advanced solar-tracking system provided by SunPower Corp and startup Bloom Energy. The solar arrays will generate 84 million kWh of electricity per year. Apple, which produces the popular iPhone and iPad, says that all three of its main data centers ultimately will be powered by coal-free electricity. “I’m not aware of any other company producing energy onsite at this scale,” Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer told Reuters
. The company
is also developing a 5-megawatt fuel cell facility on the Maiden site. A recent Greenpeace report cited Apple
, whose data centers require an ever-expanding amount of power, for lagging behind in efforts to use clean energy.
18 May 2012:
EU Fisheries Observers
Are Intimidated, Bribed by Crews
Observers placed on European Union fishing boats to reduce the amount of illegal and unreported catches are often subject to threats, intimidation, and bribes
when they try to do their jobs, according to a report in the Guardian
. After interviewing more than 20 former and current fisheries observers and examining EU records, the newspaper said that the threats and harassment are common on Spanish and Portuguese fishing boats, which are notorious for egregious overfishing. The observers told the Guardian
that crew members would steal their records of fishing violations, threaten them with an “accident” at sea, kick their cabin doors to keep them awake at night, and take elaborate steps — including making illegal hauls while observers were eating — to conceal the extent of overfishing. Independent observers are placed aboard every vessel operating in the Northwest Atlantic Fishery Organization. But because of fishing industry pressure, observers who spot violations are only allowed to summon an inspector on board, but cannot provide the inspector with any details or records of infractions.
16 May 2012:
Wildlife in Tropical Regions
Has Declined 60 Percent Since 1970
Wildlife populations in the world’s tropical regions have fallen by more than 60 percent during the last four decades
, according to the latest version of the Living Planet Index. The Index — which tracks populations of 2,688 vertebrate species in tropical and temperate regions worldwide — found that species abundance in the tropics declined by about 44 percent on land, 62 percent in the oceans, and 70 percent in freshwater ecosystems from 1970 to 2008. Cumulatively, species abundance declined by about 1.25 percent annually every year compared with a 1970 baseline, according to the report, which is published by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London. Wildlife populations declined by 38 percent in Africa during that period; about 50 percent in Central and South America; and 64 percent in Indo-Pacific regions. Overall, the global index dropped almost 30 percent during the same period. These steep population declines are the result of many factors related to human activities, including deforestation, habitat loss, pollution, overfishing, and climate change.
15 May 2012:
Record Number of Fish Stocks
‘Rebuilt’ in 2011, NOAA Study Says
U.S. officials say a record number of fish stocks recovered to healthy population numbers
in 2011 while a declining number of species were subject to overfishing. In a report
to Congress, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) declared that six species have been “rebuilt,” including the Bering Sea snow crab, the summer flounder found on the mid-Atlantic coast, the haddock in the Gulf of Maine, the Chinook salmon on the northern California coast, the Coho salmon on the Washington coast, and the Widow rockfish on the Pacific coast. Meanwhile, the number of stocks subject to overfishing decreased by four, and overfished stocks declined by three compared with the 2010 report. Samuel D. Rauch III, a NOAA deputy assistant administrator, said the findings underscore the fact that fisheries management — including sometimes unpopular catch limits — has been effective.
15 May 2012:
U.S. Companies Use Steel Linked
To Amazon Destruction, Greenpeace Finds
U.S. car makers such as General Motors, Ford, and Nissan are purchasing steel made from pig iron that is smelted using large amounts of illegally logged timber from the Amazon rainforest
, according to a two-year investigation by Greenpeace
. The environmental group also said that the pig iron smelting, fueled by charcoal produced from tropical forest trees, has resulted in virtual slave labor and illegal logging of indigenous lands in northeastern Brazil. The Greenpeace investigation said that Brazil’s Carajas region — where three-quarters of the forests have been cleared, mainly for charcoal production — is home to 43 blast furnaces used by 18 different companies. Two of the major companies, Viena and Sidepar, sell pig iron to a U.S. steel mill operated by Severstal, Greenpeace said. That mill sells steel to General Motors, Nissan, BMW, and Mercedes, according to Greenpeace. As illegal charcoal operations have decimated the forests in Carajas, loggers have entered conservation areas belonging to indigenous tribes, who have lost 30 percent of their lands to illegal loggers, Greenpeace said.
11 May 2012:
Study Calls Selective Logging
Most Realistic Conservation Strategy
A new study says that well-managed selective logging may be the only realistic solution to conserving tropical forests
in the face of a rapacious global demand for timber resources. In an analysis of more than 100 studies, researchers at the University of Florida found that while even selective logging has a significant impact on biodiversity in tropical forests and carbon storage capacity, those impacts are “survivable and reversible to a degree” if the forests are given time to recover. In fact, the researchers found that, on average, 85 to 100 percent of animal and plant species present before initial logging were still around after selective logging and that forests retained about 75 percent of their carbon after initial harvest. By contrast, the researchers say, forest loss for the planting of rubber or palm oil plantations is permanent. “We’re not advocates for logging,” said Jack Putz, a professor of biology and lead author of the study published in Conservation Letters
. “We’re just acknowledging that it is a reality — and that within that reality, there is a way forward.”
09 May 2012:
Groundwater Pumping Emerges
As a Factor in Sea Level Rise, Study Says
The vast amounts of water pumped out of the ground for irrigation, drinking water, and industrial uses will increasingly contribute to global sea level rise
in the coming decades, according to a new study. According to researchers at Utrecht University, humans pumped about 204 cubic kilometers (49 cubic miles) of groundwater in 2000, much of which evaporated into the atmosphere before ultimately entering rivers, canals and, eventually, the world’s oceans. While in earlier decades the rise in sea level caused by groundwater removal was canceled out by the construction of dams, that changed by the 1990s as humans pumped more groundwater and built fewer dams. By 2000, groundwater extraction resulted in a sea level rise of about 0.57 millimeters annually — compared with about 0.035 millimeters in 1990. According to the study, published in Geophysical Research Letters
, by 2050 the pumping of groundwater worldwide could cause sea levels to rise about 0.8 millimeters annually.
04 May 2012:
Japan Goes Nuclear-Free
For the First Time in Four Decades
Japan will shut down its last working nuclear power station this weekend
, culminating — at least for now — a national shift away from nuclear energy in the aftermath of last year’s Fukushima disaster. The shutdown of the No. 3 Tomari reactor in Hokkaido will leave the country without nuclear power for the first time since 1970. Given public concerns about nuclear safety, it may become difficult to switch the plants back on if the country makes it through the summer months without power shortages or blackouts. “Can it be the end of nuclear power [in Japan]? It could be,” Andrew DeWitt, a professor of energy and policy at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, told Reuters
. Before the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors provided nearly 30 percent of the nation’s electricity. While Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has suggested the country cannot afford to go without nuclear power for the long term, the government has no timetable to switch the plants back on and the country has yet to develop a long-term, nuclear-free energy policy.
27 Apr 2012:
Pacific Shark Survey Shows
90 Percent Decline Near Human Populatons
A comprehensive census of Pacific reef shark populations has found that shark abundance has plummeted by roughly 90 percent
in waters located near islands inhabited by humans. Using underwater surveys
Gray reef sharks at Hawaii’s Kure Atoll
conducted by divers across 46 U.S. Pacific islands and atolls, researchers found that shark numbers near human populations were consistently depressed, regardless of location or ocean conditions, compared with pristine reef areas located farther away from humans. In fact, the researchers estimated that shark populations are less than 10 percent of historically peak numbers in these areas, said Marc Nadon, a University of Hawaii scientist and lead author of the study, published in Conservation Biology
. “In short, people and sharks don’t mix,” he said. Researchers say the data helps quantify how human activities, including overfishing and the controversial practice of shark-finning, are decimating shark numbers.
26 Apr 2012:
Borneo Oil Palm Plantations
Threaten Surge in Emissions, Study Says
A new study warns that the continued expansion of large-scale oil palm plantations in Indonesian Borneo, particularly on the island’s peatlands, will became a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions
without stricter forest protections. According to researchers from Yale and Stanford universities, about two-thirds of unprotected lands in the Ketapang District of West Kalimantan are now leased to agribusinesses. If those lands are converted to oil palm plantations at current expansion rates, palm stands will cover more than one-third of regional lands by 2020, and intact forests will decrease to about 5 percent, compared with 15 percent in 2008. In addition, researchers found that about half of oil palm development through last year occurred on peatlands, a process that involves draining and burning of peat soils — a major source of CO2 emissions. According to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, if current trends persist, about 90 percent of emissions associated with oil palm development will come from peatlands by 2020.
17 Apr 2012:
New Solar Panel System
Could Double as a Tinted Window
A German startup has developed a new type of lightweight solar panel its developers say can be integrated into the design of buildings and even used in electricity-producing tinted windows
. Designed by Dresden-based Heliatek, the technology utilizes small, organic molecules in the production of the solar cells. While such organic solar cells have become commonplace, this technology uses molecules called oligomers. They are more stable than the commonly used polymers, which developers say will make the cells more efficient and longer-lived. Because they are lighter and have greater flexibility than most panels, the company hopes they can be integrated into building construction as a cheaper alternative to mounted panels, according to MIT’s Technology Review.
The company also is working with a manufacturer to use the semi-transparent panels as windows.
06 Apr 2012:
Natural Wastewater Treatment
Gains Favor in Nepal, With Nearly 30 Plants
Wastewater managers in Nepal are increasingly turning to natural, decentralized wastewater treatment to prevent the mass discharge of raw sewage into urban water bodies and rivers. Almost 30 systems have been constructed in the last 15 years, and recent efforts to institutionalize decentralized treatment may see these numbers rise. The pervasive plant design in Nepal is a constructed wetland — a shallow bed of gravel, stone, and specialized reeds that filter contaminants. Some of the treated wastewater is reused for toilet flushing, and the dried sludge applied as fertilizer on land. More recently, biogas reactors affixed to treatment plants have provided additional energy recovery. The plants can serve communities of up to 2,000 people. Experts with the Asian Development Bank say decentralized systems are well suited for developing countries that often cannot afford larger, centralized sewage treatment plants, but note that the natural treatment wetlands require sizeable amounts of land and may not be suitable for densely populated urban areas.
20 Mar 2012:
Local Fisheries Management
Helps Prevent Overfishing, Study Says
A new study says that co-management of fisheries at the local level is an effective strategy for curbing overfishing
and preserving the world’s dwindling marine resources. In an analysis of 42 coral reef sites where the fisheries are managed by a partnership of local governments, conservation groups, and fishers, an international team of scientists found that co-management has been largely successful in sustaining fisheries and improving livelihoods. According to their findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, more than half of the fishers surveyed said the strategy was “positive” for their livelihoods (compared with 9 percent who said it has a “negative” effect), and co-managed reefs were half as likely to be heavily overfished. But if the sites are located near large markets, the study said, the fisheries are far more likely to be overharvested. The researchers studied local fisheries in Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.
15 Mar 2012:
Young People Showing
Less Interest in Green Issues, Study Says
A new study says that young people have become increasingly less interested in the environment
and conservation issues over the last four decades. In an analysis of two longstanding surveys of U.S. high school seniors and college freshmen, researchers found that today’s generation of so-called Millennials are less likely to be concerned with the government or think about social problems, particularly related to environmental issues. According to their findings, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
, only 21 percent of young people today say they find it important to become personally involved in efforts to clean up the environment, compared with about 33 percent of younger Baby Boomers and about 25 percent of Generation Xers, the group of Americans born between the early 1960s and the early 1980s. About 15 percent of Millennials said they had made no effort to help the environment, compared with 5 percent of young Boomers and 8 percent of Gen Xers. “We have the perception that we’re getting through to people. But at least compared to previous eras, we’re not,” said Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and an author of the study.
14 Mar 2012:
China’s Wind Energy Capacity
Reached Record Levels in 2011
China installed a record 18,000 megawatts of new wind energy in 2011
, boosting its total capacity to nearly 63,000 megawatts and widening its lead in the global wind energy sector, according to the Earth Policy Institute (EPI). The U.S., which was passed by China for total wind capacity, installed about 6,800 megawatts, increasing its total capacity to 47,000 megawatts, or enough to power 10 million homes. Worldwide, energy developers installed 41,000 megawatts of capacity during the year, increasing the global total to 283,000 megawatts — enough to provide electricity to 380 million people at European levels of consumption. China is expected to widen its lead as the global leader in wind energy, with a series of mega-complexes planned in the nation’s northern provinces that could boost total capacity to 140,000 megawatts by 2020, which would surpass the total global capacity at the end of 2008. However, many turbines now stand idle in remote parts of the country as upgrades to the electric grid and transmission lines lag behind turbine construction, according to EPI. As a result, Chinese regulators have capped the allowed new wind capacity at 15,000 to 20,000 megawatts.
13 Mar 2012:
Thinner Silicon Wafers
Could Cut Solar Cell Costs in Half
A U.S. company has developed a new manufacturing technique that it says could cut the cost of producing solar cells in half by producing silicon wafers that are about one-tenth as thick as conventional wafers. Twin Creeks Technologies
, a San Jose-based company, says it can produce crystalline silicon wafers that are only 20 microns thin — or about one-fifth the thickness of a layer of paint
— compared with the 200-micron wafers commonly used in solar cells. While the conventional technologies use diamond saws to cut blocks of silicon — a process that wastes about half of the silicon — the new process essentially embeds protons at a desired depth within a block of silicon and heats the protons so that they occupy more space. Eventually the company is able to crack off the thin, 20-micron wafers, after which they are affixed to a thin metal backing
that makes them durable enough to withstand the rest of the production process. The company has raised $93 million in venture capital, some of which will be used to build a solar factory in Mississippi.
12 Mar 2012:
Scientists Use Ancient Gene
To Create Salt-Tolerant Wheat Variety
Australian scientists have crossed a popular variety of wheat with an ancient species, producing a salt-tolerant variety they say could help reduce food shortages
in the world’s arid and semi-arid regions. Using a genetic variation that had been lost in plants due to domestication before it was rediscovered a decade ago, the researchers say they were able to boost yields of durum wheat by 25 percent in salty soils. The gene, which was isolated from an ancestral cousin of modern-day wheat, Triticum monococcum
, is believed to help prevent salt from traveling up the plant’s shoots, where it can cause damage, lead researcher Matthew Gilliham of the University of Adelaide
, told Reuters
. “Salty soils are a major problem because if soldium starts to build up in the leaves it will affect important processes such as photosynthesis,” he said. The findings could have an important impact on wheat yields worldwide, where salinity already affects more than 20 percent of soils, Gilliham said. The study was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology
22 Feb 2012:
Amazon Subsidiary Selling
Meat of Protected Whales, Probe Finds
Amazon Japan, a wholly owned subsidiary of Internet giant Amazon Inc., is offering for sale roughly 150 food products derived from whales, dolphins, and porpoises
, including canned whale meat, whale jerky, and whale stew, according to a new report. In a survey of the Amazon Japan website in December, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) found 147 different products for sale, including from fin, sei, minke, and Bryde’s whales — species protected by the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on commercial whaling and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Japanese fishermen hunt whales under the guise of conducting scientific research, and then sell whale meat widely in Japan, conservation groups contend. The EIA urged Amazon.com President Jeff Bezos to enforce company policy not to trade in endangered species and to pull the whale products from the site of Amazon Japan.
17 Feb 2012:
Dutch Scientists Report
Conversion of Plants into Plastics
Dutch scientists say they have developed a process that uses nanotechnology to convert plant matter into the basic components of plastics
, an innovation that could ultimately provide an alternative to oil-based plastics in the manufacture of thousands of everyday products. Using a catalyst made of nanoparticles, researchers from Utrecht University and Dow Chemical Co. say they were able to produce ethylene and propylene, the precursors of materials found in everything from compact discs to carpeting. While existing bioplastics from crops such as corn and sugar are not exact duplicates of oil-based products, researchers say this process has the potential to produce chemicals like those currently used by plastics manufacturers. The researchers envision using non-food crops — such as fast-growing trees or grasses — rather than traditional food crops. According to the study, published in the journal Science
, the research is still at an early stage and is at least several years from large-scale production.
17 Feb 2012:
Large Area of New Guinea
Stripped of Protection for Agribusiness
More than 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) of land in Indonesian New Guinea — including 350,000 hectares of carbon-storing peatland — was stripped of its protected status
to facilitate the expansion of a
government-based agribusiness project, according to a new report. In an analysis of revisions to Indonesia’s moratorium
on new forest concessions — including a comparison of maps from when the moratorium was published in May 2011 and after revisions were adopted in November 2011 — the Jakarta-based NGO Greenomics-Indonesia found that 406,718 hectares of previously protected land have been excised for use by The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), a massive agricultural project in southwestern New Guinea. While government officials say the project will ensure the nation’s food and energy security, critics say the revised moratorium will mostly benefit agribusiness developers.
14 Feb 2012:
‘Virtual Water’ Reliance
Puts Nations at Risk, Study Says
A new study calculates that about one-fifth of all water goes toward the production of crops and commodities for export
, part of a global phenomenon known as “virtual water” that researchers say could place pressure on finite water supplies in some nations. Using
Click to enlarge
Arjen Hoekstra and Mesfin Mekonnen, PNAS
The virtual water balance, per country
worldwide trade indicators, demographic data, and statistics on water use, researchers from the University of Twente in the Netherlands mapped the world’s water footprint, including patterns of trade they say are creating disparities in water use. According to the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, many desert and island nations are becoming increasingly dependent on water from other countries, as they import not just food products but the water needed to produce it
. Some of the most water-rich nations — including the U.S. and Japan — are also among the biggest importers because the products they import require so much water to produce.
13 Feb 2012:
Student Push for Ban on
Plastic Water Bottles Irks Industry
Student groups on some college campuses are pushing their schools to ban the sale of plastic water bottles
, a campaign that so far has prompted more than 20 colleges and universities to impose partial or complete bans. The bottled water industry has responded with a sarcastic video criticizing the campaign. Student groups, citing environmental and health concerns of one-time bottle use, have worked with nonprofit groups like Ban the Bottle
to have bottled water removed from vending machines and cafeterias and to push for more reusable bottle handouts and the use of water fountains. In recent months, Macalester College in Minnesota and Humboldt State University in California have imposed campus-wide bans, and the University of Vermont says it will end its contract with Dasani bottler Coca-Cola this year. In response, the International Bottled Water Association has released a video belittling the students’ cause
and maintaining that a bottled water ban would leave consumers with fewer healthy beverage options.
07 Feb 2012:
Nearly Half of Electricity
At UK Businesses Wasted During Off Hours
A UK report says that nearly half of the electricity consumed by British businesses is wasted when employees are not at work
. In an analysis of more than 6,000 smart meters, British Gas found that 46 percent
of electricity use occurs from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m., when most businesses are typically closed. Common examples of unnecessary electricity use include the lighting of parking areas on weekends, keeping the lights on at retail stores after shopping centers are closed, and running vending machines around the clock. The UK utility also released a series of thermal images illustrating how much energy is lost from energy-inefficient buildings in London, Manchester, and Liverpool during evening hours. According to British Gas, the average business could save £1,200 ($1,900) on its annual electricity bill by simply switching off lights at parking lots on weekends.
02 Feb 2012:
Road-based Charging Network
Could Charge EVs While They Drive
U.S. researchers have designed a wireless charging system for electric vehicles
they say could ultimately lead to all-electric highways capable of charging cars and
Click to enlarge
Sven Beiker/CARS/Stanford University
Wireless electric car charger
trucks as they drive down the road. The system, developed by a team at Stanford University, uses magnetic fields to transmit large electric currents between metal coils embedded a few feet apart under the surface of the road. Based on magnetic resonance coupling technology, the process involves one coil that is connected to an electric current, which generates a magnetic field that causes the second coil to resonate, triggering an invisible transfer of electrical energy. The developers say there is a potential to eventually create a wireless network across highway systems, a step that would drastically increase the range of electric vehicles since they would theoretically never have to plug into a charging station. “You could actually have more energy stored in your battery at the end of your trip than you started with,” said Richard Sassoon, managing director of the Stanford Global Climate and Energy Project and co-author of the study published in the journal Applied Physics Letters
30 Jan 2012:
Wheat Yields in India
May Drop as Region Warms, Study Says
An analysis of satellite images has revealed that extreme temperatures are cutting wheat yields in northern India
, indicating that the adverse impacts of rising temperatures on wheat production in warmer climes may be more severe than previously believed. Using nine years of imagery of India’s fertile Ganges plain, Stanford University researcher David Lobell found that wheat turned from green to brown earlier when average temperatures were higher, an indication that the warmer conditions are causing the crops to age prematurely. The effects were particularly strong when temperatures exceeded 34 degrees C (93 degrees F), Lobell found. He calculated that an average temperature increase of 2 degrees C could trigger a 50 percent greater yield loss than existing models suggest. Earlier studies calculated that wheat-growing areas could see yield drops of 5 percent for every 1 degree C that the average temperature rises above 14 degrees C. Wheat is the world’s second-biggest crop and provides about one-fifth of the world’s protein.
26 Jan 2012:
California ‘Clean’ Car Rules
Mandate Boost in Electric Vehicle Sales
California regulators are expected to pass new rules today requiring that 15 percent of all new cars sold by 2025 be powered by electricity, hydrogen, or other reduced-emission sources
. The new rules proposed by the California Air Resources Board would also require a 75-percent reduction in smog-creating emissions from new cars, SUVS, pickups and minivans, and a 50-percent reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 2025. According to the board, the initiative would put about 1.4 million low-emission vehicles on California roads by 2025, compared with current levels of about 10,000. They predict the new rules will add about $1,900 to the price of a new car, but will save about $5,900 in fuel costs during the life of the vehicle. “This is a really large step. It’s transformational,” Tom Cackette, the board's chief deputy director, told the San Jose Mercury News
. “Ten years from now the market is going to look quite a bit different.” The new standards will be introduced in 2018 and strengthened over the next seven years.