e360 digest


28 Jun 2016: U.S., Canada, and Mexico to
Set 50 Percent Renewable Power Goal by 2025

The United States, Canada, and Mexico will pledge on Wednesday to generate 50 percent of their electricity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2025, according to U.S. officials. The three nations are expected to set the ambitious goal at a North American Leaders Summit in Ottawa. The commitment includes not just renewable sources of power such as energy and wind, but also hydropower, nuclear power, carbon capture and storage at coal-fired power plants, and gains in energy efficiency. Under that definition, the three nations now produce 37 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. Canada is leading the way in non-fossil fuel power generation, with 59 percent of its electricity coming from hydropower and 16 percent from nuclear plants. Continent-wide cooperation on clean energy issues has improved since the election last year of Justin Trudeau as Canada’s Prime Minister.
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27 Jun 2016: Abandoned Coal Mines Emit
As Much CO2 as a Small Power Plant

Thousands of abandoned coal mines dot the U.S. landscape, vestiges of old fossil fuel boomtowns and industrial hubs.

An abandoned coal mine in Ashland, Penn.
But despite no longer producing coal, these sites are still contributing to climate change by leaking carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to a recent study by scientists at West Virginia University. The total amount of CO2 released annually by 140 abandoned sites in Pennsylvania is equal to that “of a small coal-fired power plant,” says the study, published in Environmental Earth Sciences. CO2 is created when sulfuric acid generated during the mining process interacts with carbonate rocks. It is then carried to the surface in runoff water. “Although considerable research has been conducted regarding the environmental legacy of abandoned mine lands, their role in carbon cycling is poorly [understood],” wrote the scientists. The findings “suggest that these waters may be important to carbon cycling on a regional scale.”
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24 Jun 2016: Cities on Six Continents
Join Forces to Combat Climate Change

Mayors from more than 7,100 cities on six continents announced this week that they are creating a new alliance to fight climate change at the local level.

New York City
The new group — a merger of the European Union-based Covenant of Mayors and the United Nations-backed Compact of Mayors — represents a combined 600 million people in 119 countries. The initiative aims to set city-based CO2 emissions cuts, build sustainable communities, and foster the sharing of resiliency policies and technologies. “Cities are key to solving the climate change challenge,” former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the European Commission, wrote in The Guardian. “They account for most of the world’s carbon emissions, and mayors often have control over the largest sources. Cities can also act quickly to confront climate change, without the political and bureaucratic hurdles that often hold back national governments.”
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23 Jun 2016: Scientists Discover Contagious
Cancer in More Species of Shellfish

Last year, scientists discovered a type of contagious cancer in soft-shell clams in which free-floating cells transmitted the disease from one animal to another.

Mussels
Now, a team of Columbia University researchers is reporting that contagious cancers in the ocean may be more common than previously thought and can not only jump from animal to animal, but across species. According to the new study published in Nature, the leukemia-like cancer, known as disseminated neoplasia, has been found in three more species of bivalves: mussels, cockles, and golden carpet shell clams. The cancer cells were genetically distinct from their hosts, indicating they originated elsewhere. Transmissible cancer had previously been found in Tasmanian devils and dogs, but there’s no indication that humans are at risk. “I would only worry deeply if I was a mollusk,” Stephen P. Goff, a molecular biologist at Columbia University and co-author of the study, told The New York Times.
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Unable to Endure Rising Seas,
Alaskan Villages Stuck in Limbo

A number of Alaska Native villages have been impacted so severely by sea-level rise and other climate-induced threats, they have decided to relocate.
Robin Bronen

Robin Bronen
But there is no U.S. agency designated to help pay for and implement an entire community’s move. Robin Bronen, a senior scientist with The Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska, says that’s a huge problem. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she explains that because there is no government process to facilitate such relocations, none of these villages have been able to move, despite their resolve to do so. And in a bureaucratic Catch-22, these communities no longer receive the infrastructure repair funds they were once entitled to. Pointing to future sea level rise along U.S. coasts, Bronen says that “if we don't figure out how to create this relocation institutional framework, we're talking about humanitarian crises for millions of people living in the United States.”
Read the interview.
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22 Jun 2016: New NASA Visualization
Illustrates Severity of Recent Texas Floods

Texas experienced record flooding earlier this month after two weeks of near-constant storms dumped heavy rain on the eastern part of the state.

Rainfall accumulation during recent Texas floods.
As much as 30 inches of rain fell, causing thousands of residents from Dallas to Houston to evacuate, 15 deaths, and billions of dollars in damage. Now, NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio has released a video illustrating rainfall accumulation in the U.S. from May 27 to June 9, highlighting just how severe and protracted the Texas storms were. Warmer air holds more moisture, so as temperatures have risen in recent decades, Texas has experienced more severe flooding. Houston, for example, has seen a 167 percent increase in the heaviest downpours since the 1950s. Five major floods have occurred in the Houston area in the past year.
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20 Jun 2016: 2015 Deadliest Year for
Environmentalists on Record, Finds Report

Last year was the deadliest year on record for environmentalists, according to a new report from Global Witness, a nonprofit that tracks environmental and human rights abuses worldwide.

Indigenous people protest a dam in the Amazon.
One hundred and eighty-five people were killed trying to stop development of land, forests, and rivers in 16 countries in 2015 — equal to more than three people per week. The tally represents a 59 percent increase over 2014, and is double the number of journalists killed in the same period, according to the report. Environmentalists were most at risk in Brazil, the Philippines, and Columbia, which had 50, 33, and 26 killings last year, respectively. “This report sheds light on the acute vulnerability of indigenous people, whose weak land rights and geographic isolation make them particularly exposed to land grabbing for natural resource exploitation,” the Global Witness authors wrote. “In 2015, almost 40% of victims were indigenous.”
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17 Jun 2016: California’s Roadside Trees
Provide $1 Billion in Municipal Services

The trees that line California’s streets and boulevards are worth an estimated $1 billion a year for the work they do in removing air pollution, storing CO2, cooling homes, and reducing rain runoff, among other municipal services,

Palm trees in Los Angeles, California.
according to a new analysis by the U.S. Forest Service and the University of California, Davis. The state’s 9.1 million street trees pull nearly 568,000 tons of carbon from the atmosphere annually, equal to taking 120,000 cars off the road, the study, published in the journal Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, found. The scientists say California has room to put another 16 million trees along its roads if it wants. "We've calculated for every $1 spent on planting or maintaining a street tree, that tree returns, on average, $5.82 in benefits," forester and lead author Greg McPherson said in a statement. "These trees are benefiting their communities 24 hours a day, 365 days a year."
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16 Jun 2016: Some Coral Reef “Bright Spots”
Remain, Despite Devastating Bleaching

After decades of being overfished and mismanaged, and the worst bleaching event on record this year, scientists reported in the journal Nature this week that there remain some “bright spots” among the world’s coral reefs

Coral reef on the Palmyra Atoll in the Pacific.
– systems that are doing better than anyone expected. The study examined 18 different factors at 2,514 reefs in 46 nations, including water depth, tourism, fishing, and population density. Those systems that were still thriving — defined by the scientists as having more fish than expected — tended to be managed by, and accessible only to, local fishermen and indigenous groups. This included reefs in places like the Solomon Islands, parts of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Kiribati. “There’s been a narrative about local involvement, but it’s often very token,” Joshua Cinner, a research fellow at James Cook University in Australia and lead author of the study, told The Atlantic. He said there should be more opportunity for “communities to creatively confront their own challenges.”
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15 Jun 2016: Clean Energy Could Cost Up To
59 Percent Less by 2025, Report Finds

The cost of solar energy could drop by as much as 59 percent by 2025, from 13 cents to 6 cents per kilowatt hour, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Rooftop solar panels in Hannover, Germany.
Offshore wind could become 35 percent cheaper, and onshore wind 26 percent cheaper, by 2025. The cost of building renewable energy facilities is also likely to fall, by as much as 57 percent by the middle of next decade, the report found. “Historically, cost has been cited as one of the primary barriers to switching from fossil-based energy sources to renewable energy sources, but the narrative has now changed,” Adnan Z. Amin, director-general of IRENA, said in a statement. “To continue driving the energy transition, we must now shift policy focus to support areas that will result in even greater cost declines and thus maximize the tremendous economic opportunity at hand.”
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14 Jun 2016: CO2 Crosses 400 ppm For Last
Time “Within Our Lifetimes,” Study Warns

Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 will stay permanently above 400 parts per million (ppm) this year due to El Nino—and will likely not drop below that number again “within our lifetimes,” according to a study published this week in the journal Nature.

CO2 measurements from 1958 to today.
The milestone represents a symbolic threshold that scientists and environmentalists had long sought to avoid. Greenhouse gases have jumped 48 percent from the pre-industrial era, and 29 percent in just the past 60 years, from 315 ppm to 407 ppm today. CO2 concentrations tend to ebb and flow with the seasons, dipping as vegetation grows in summer and increasing during winter. But in the study published in Nature, scientists at the U.K.’s Met Office and University of California, San Diego warned that because of the recent El Nino, CO2 concentrations wouldn’t fall below 400 ppm this year, or any year into the distant future.
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California Condor Population
Reaches New Heights in 2015

Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced what it called a milestone for the California condor: More chicks had hatched and fledged in the wild during 2015 than the number of condors that died,

California condor
bringing the total in the wild to 270. It was perhaps the most promising news about the condor in decades. After their numbers dropped to just 22 in the 1980s, the U.S. government began rounding up the birds for a last-ditch captive breeding program, then gradually released newly bred birds to the wild. The program was highly controversial, and the condors’ return to the wild over the past two and a half decades has been fraught with peril. But biologists have noted encouraging signs in recent years: The birds have expanded their range, are more likely to engage in wild behaviors, and have begun foraging for their own food.
Read more.
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10 Jun 2016: Researchers Find a Way to Turn
CO2 Into Rock at Iceland Power Plant

Scientists have discovered a new way to successfully capture carbon dioxide and transform it into rock deep underground. The experiment, published in this week’s Science,

Section of rock made from mixing CO2 and water.
was conducted at the Hellisheidi power plant in Iceland, the world’s largest geothermal facility. When the plant — which helps power Iceland’s capital, Revkjavik — pumps up volcanically heated water to turbines, gases like carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide often come up as well. A team of U.S. and European researchers, led by Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, captured the CO2, mixed it with the used volcanic water, and re-injected it into basalt rocks up to a half-mile underground. More than 95 percent of the mixture naturally solidified into carbonate minerals in less than two years. Previous estimates predicted that the process could take hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
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09 Jun 2016: Fish Can Recognize Human
Faces, According to One New Study

Fish now join humans, monkeys, primates, and birds as one of the few animals able to distinguish faces, according to new research published in the journal Scientific Reports this week.

James St. John/Wikimedia
The skill requires a sophisticated combination of perception and memory— and generally, a neocortex. But scientists at the University of Oxford in England and the University of Queensland in Australia were able to train archerfish to recognize human faces, despite the fact that these tropical fish don’t have complex brain structures. Archerfish typically feed by spitting water at prey, like insects. So the scientists taught the fish to spray water at images of particular human faces in exchange for food. Archerfish identified the correct person 81 percent of the time.
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08 Jun 2016: Sea Ice Hits New Spring Low
In the Arctic, Says Federal Agency

Sea ice extent in the Arctic hit a new record spring low last month, measuring 537,000 square miles below average — an area twice the size of Texas, the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced this week.

NASA/GSFC
Sea ice breaking up in the Beaufort Sea in May.
Last month’s Arctic sea ice extent was the lowest May sea ice measurement since satellite monitoring began 38 years ago and follows a string of record low ice this winter. “We didn’t just break the old May record, we’re way below the previous one,” NSIDC Director Mark Serreze told Climate Central. The Arctic’s snow cover also hit record lows this year, with April having the lowest snow cover for that month on record and May the fourth lowest. The Arctic has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the world in recent decades, but scientists say that this year’s strong El Niño in the Pacific Ocean could be ramping up temperatures even more. Temperatures at the pole have been 4 to 11 degrees F above average this winter. “Will we end up with very low sea ice extent this September?” Serreze said. “I think pretty much absolutely.”
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06 Jun 2016: Fish Choose Plastic Over
Zooplankton in Polluted Waters

Fish that grow up in waters full of plastic particles develop a taste for trash, choosing to eat plastic over zooplankton, their natural food source, according to a study published in the journal Science.

Oona Lönnstedt
The research, by ecologists at Uppsala University in Swedish, found larval perch from the Baltic Sea exposed to microplastic pollution (less than 5mm in size) had stunted growth, were less active, ignored the smell of predators, and experienced increased mortality rates. Plastic pollution has become a major problem in the world’s oceans, but scientists are just beginning to understand how these fragments can affect the health of marine species. “If early life-history stages of other species are similarly affected by microplastics, and this translates to increased mortality rates, the effects on aquatic ecosystems could be profound,” said ecologist Oona Lönnstedt, lead author of the study.
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03 Jun 2016: Increasing Hurricane Damage
Could Strain U.S. Emergency Relief Budget

As hurricane season in the U.S. officially got underway this week, federal financial experts warned that damage from tropical storms will “increase significantly in the coming decades” due to human-driven climate change, and that such a trend could threaten the national emergency relief budget.

New Jersey National Guard
“Over time, the costs associated with hurricane damage will increase more rapidly than the economy will grow,” the report from the U.S. Congressional Budget Office states. Right now, damage from hurricanes amounts to 0.16 percent of the U.S. GDP, or about $28 billion. As sea levels rise, intense storms become more frequent, and coastal development continues, the report estimates this share could reach .25 percent ($45 billion in today’s economy) by 2075. The federal agency suggested that one way to cut costs is “a coordinated effort to significantly reduce global emissions.”
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02 Jun 2016: U.S. Officials Issue a
Sweeping Ban On Elephant Ivory Trade

The Obama administration finalized a rule this week banning the sale of nearly all elephant ivory within the United States.

The exceptions to the new rule include professionally appraised antiques at least a century old and items with fewer than 200 grams (7 ounces) of ivory. The rule does not apply to ivory from other species, such as walrus, whale, and mammoth, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement. The new regulation is part of a recent global push to halt the trade of elephant ivory from Africa. Kenya burned 105 tons of confiscated ivory in April to raise awareness of the country’s growing poaching problem, and the country’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, will seek a total ban on elephant products during an international wildlife trade meeting this fall.
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01 Jun 2016: Climate Change Could Be Making
Food Crops More Toxic, UN Report Says

As extreme weather increases in frequency and intensity, food crops are producing more chemical compounds that can be toxic to humans in large doses, according to a recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Sam Fentress/Wikimedia
Crops such as wheat, maize, and soybeans generate these compounds as a natural response to environmental stressors, such as drought, floods or heat waves. But when consumed by humans for extended periods of time, they can cause illnesses like neurological diseases or cancer, according to the study. One example, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports, is nitrate. Drought slows down plants’ conversion of nitrates into amino acids and proteins, leading to a build up of the compound. When consumed in large quantities, nitrates stop red blood cells from transporting oxygen in the human body. "We are just beginning to recognize the magnitude of toxin- related issues confronting farmers in developing countries of the tropics and sub-tropics," the UNEP report noted.
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31 May 2016: Bees’ Fuzzy Bodies Help Them
Detect Electrical Charges From Flowers

Back in 2013, scientists discovered that bees can detect the electrical charges that flowers emit, helping them locate nearby food sources.

Mark Burnett/Wikimedia
Exactly how the bees were doing this, however, remained a mystery. Now, scientists have found that the hairs on bees’ fuzzy bodies move in response to the charges, which send nerve signals to bees’ brains that flowers are nearby. The finding is an important one: Scientists have long thought that only animals in marine or moist habitats could detect electric fields, since currents are carried through water. That bees can do this in dry air opens up the possibility that other insects might have the same ability. The research, conducted by scientists at the University of Bristol in the U.K., was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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27 May 2016: Poland Begins Logging
Ancient Forest Despite Fierce Protests

Despite intense protests from environmentalists and scientists, Poland began logging the Bialowieza Forest this week, the last remaining fragment of Europe’s ancient woodlands and a World Heritage site.

Renata Krzysciak-Kosinska
The forest, covering more than 350,000 acres, is home to the continent’s largest population of European bison and 20,000 other wildlife species. Polish officials said the logging is to remove spruce trees dead or dying from a bark beetle infestation, but green groups argue that half the trees marked for removal aren’t spruce. Environmentalists have been patrolling the forest to keep track of logging activity, and they filed a formal complaint last month with the European Commission to intervene “before the Polish government allows for the irreversible destruction of the Bialowieza forest,” Greenpeace Poland activist Katarzyna Jagiełło recently told The Guardian.
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26 May 2016: More Solar Energy Jobs Exist
In U.S. Than in Oil and Gas Sector

Solar energy now supports more jobs in the U.S. than either the oil and gas industry or coal mining, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Alex Snyder
Solar jobs grew at a rate 12 times faster than general U.S. job market growth. Worldwide, employment in green energy grew 5 percent in 2015, to 8.1 million jobs, IRENA reported. The 58 percent drop in oil prices since 2014 caused many fossil fuel companies to lay off workers — more than 350,000 people worldwide since the slump began. The IRENA report says clean energy jobs could triple to 24 million by 2030 if nations follow through on the climate pledges they made in Paris last year. “This increase is being driven by declining renewable energy technology costs and enabling policy frameworks,” said Adnan Amin, director-general of IRENA.
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For the Endangered American Eel,
A Long, Slippery Road to Recovery

The American eel isn’t just a U.S. native. It’s also indigenous to Greenland, Iceland, eastern Canada, and parts of Central and South America. Despite this expansive range, the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the species as “endangered.”

Heather Perry
It would be in even worse shape without the Delaware River, which flows unimpeded 330 miles through New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Few, if any, eel refuges are more important, and management on the Delaware provides a global blueprint for eel recovery. The upper watershed is protected as a Wild and Scenic River corridor and as the water supply for New York City, and last June, New York State banned fracking in its part of the basin. Compare the Delaware with the nearby Susquehanna River, where the Conowingo Dam has wiped out 400 miles of eel habitat on the main river. But here and elsewhere eel recovery is underway.
Read more.
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25 May 2016: Could This Straddling Bus Help
Solve China’s Air Pollution Problem?

With an estimated 20 million new drivers on the road each year, China has long struggled to control its CO2 emissions, air pollution, and traffic problems.

YouTube/Xinhua
But a Beijing-based transit company is planning to test a new straddling bus this summer that could provide some relief, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua. The bus, which can carry up to 1,400 passengers, hovers above the road, letting smaller vehicles pass underneath. Because it operates on existing roadways, the system is much cheaper to build than underground subways, while carrying the same number of people. The idea of a straddling bus has been around since 1969, but has remained a far-fetched concept until recent years. A model of the system, designed by Transit Explore Bus, was unveiled at the International High-Tech Expo in Beijing this month. The company plans to build and test an actual straddling bus in Changzhou this summer.
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24 May 2016: Peru Declares Emergency to
Fight Mercury Pollution from Gold Mines

Peru has declared a 60-day emergency in the Amazon due to widespread mercury pollution from the region’s booming gold mining industry, the country's environment minister announced this week.

Marcin Nowak/Wikimedia
Several studies have confirmed dangerously high levels of the neurotoxin in waterways, fish, and people living in the Madres de Dios region, near Peru’s southeast border. Members of the Harakmbut indigenous group, for example, have mercury levels in their bodies six times higher than what doctors deem safe. Mercury is used to separate gold from ore, but it can have serious health impacts, including damaging brain, kidney, and lung function. In illegal mining operations — which make up the majority of mines in the Peruvian Amazon — workers often handle the substance with bare hands, and dump excess mercury into nearby rivers. During the 60-day emergency period, the government will supply uncontaminated fish to local communities and set up mobile health clinics.
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23 May 2016: World Could Warm 8 Degrees
Celsius If All Fossil Fuel Reserves Burned

As nations meet in Bonn, Germany this week to hash out how to achieve the 2-degree Celsius goal they set in Paris, new research is providing policymakers a glimpse of what would happen if the world does nothing to curb climate change.

NASA
What if nations chose instead to burn through all of their remaining fossil fuel reserves, equal to 5 trillion tons of CO2 emissions? According to the new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the world would warm an average 8 degrees Celsius (14.4 degrees F), or up to 17 degrees Celsius (30 degrees F) in the Arctic. The research was conducted by a team of climate scientists at the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University in British Columbia who wanted to understand the worst-case scenario. “Such climate changes, if realized, would have extremely profound impacts on ecosystems, human health, agriculture, economies, and other sectors,” the researchers write.
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Interview: CO2 'Air Capture' Could
Be Key to Slowing Global Warming

For two decades, Klaus Lackner has pioneered efforts to combat climate change by pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Klaus Lackner

Klaus Lackner
Now, after years of watching the global community fail to bring greenhouse gas emissions under control, Lackner — director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University — is delivering a blunt message: The best hope to avoid major disruptions from global warming is to launch a massive program of CO2 "air capture" that will begin to reverse the buildup of billions of tons of carbon in our atmosphere. "We need to have the ability to walk this backwards," says Lackner. "I'm saying this is a war, and we need to use all the weapons at our disposal. You don't want to get into this fight with one hand tied behind your back."
Read the interview.
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20 May 2016: Obama Looking for Kids
As Science Advisors to the White House

White House advisors tend to be experts with decades of experience in specific fields, from foreign policy to education to energy.

Chuck Kennedy/White House
But President Barack Obama announced this week he’s looking for a much younger batch of consultants to advise the White House on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The Kid Science Advisors outreach program will ask children which issues are most important to them and how to better engage students studying science to help guide White House policy and priorities. "The real reason we do this, as I’ve said before, is to teach our young people that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl or the NCAA tournament that deserves a celebration,” Obama said Thursday. “We want those who have invented the products and lifesaving medicines and are engineering our future to be celebrated as well."
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19 May 2016: Brewing Company Creates
Edible Six-Pack Rings to Save Wildlife

Plastic six-pack rings have long been a nuisance to wildlife and ecosystems, fouling oceans and shorelines, and entangling and choking wildlife.

Now, a brewery in Florida has developed an edible version from the byproducts of making beer, including wheat and barely. If not eaten by marine creatures, the six-pack ring biodegrades. Saltwater Brewery 3-D printed 500 of the holders in April and plans to scale up production to package all of its 400,000 cans of beer per month in the edible rings. The material is just as strong as traditional plastics, the brewery says, but is more expensive. The price would drop, however, as more companies use the edible rings, the brewery said. “We want to influence the big guys,” Chris Goves, president of Saltwater Brewery, said in a video about the new project. “And hopefully inspire them to get on board.”
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18 May 2016: Trees Sleep, With Branches And
Leaves Drooping at Night, New Study Says

Scientists have long known that plants have a day-to-night cycle. Some trees close their leaves in the evening. Most flowers open up their petals in the morning.

But these observations have largely been made only in experiments with potted plants. Now, a team of scientists has used a laser scanner to measure trees’ daily cycles in the wild, and they’ve discovered that trees sleep. “Our results show that the whole tree droops during night, which can be seen as position change in leaves and branches,” Eetu Puttonen, a scientist at the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute and lead author of the new study, said in a statement. Silver birch leaves drooped to their lowest point a couple of hours before sunrise and became upright again a few hours later. It isn’t yet clear whether the sun or the plants’ internal rhythm spurs the movement. The findings were recently published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science.
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17 May 2016: Norwegian Company Building
The World’s Largest Floating Wind Farm

Scotland is about to get the world’s largest floating wind farm, with five 6-megawatt turbines bobbing 15 miles offshore in the North Sea.

The project—which is being developed by Statoil, a Norwegian energy company—marks a shift in offshore wind technology. Most ocean-based turbines to date have been rooted to the sea floor by concrete and steel foundations, similar to oil and gas rigs. But this design limits the projects to shallower waters. Statoil’s floating turbines, known at Hywind, consist of a steel cylinder filled with ballast water and stones, and are tethered to the sea floor by a series of cables. The company, which was granted a lease to build the wind farm this week, will install the Scotland project in water more than 300 feet deep. The plan is for the wind farm to start generating electricity by the end of 2017.
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16 May 2016: Fumes from Farms Are
Top Source of Fine-Particle Pollution

Farms are the number one source of fine-particulate air pollution in the U.S., Europe, Russia, and China, according to new research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Gases from fertilizers and livestock waste cling to emissions from cars, power plants, and factories to create solid particles less than 1/30th the width of human hair. Particles this size have been shown to penetrate deep into lungs, and cause an estimated 3.3 million deaths each year from illnesses like heart and pulmonary disease. Global climate action, however, could reduce this type of air pollution in the coming decades, says the new study, done by three Columbia University scientists. Cutbacks in energy consumption would mean that fumes from farms would have fewer emissions to which they could bond. This reduction in particulates would happen even if fertilizer use increases, the research says.
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12 May 2016: Despite Push for Renewables,
Fossil Fuels Likely to Dominate in 2040

World leaders pledged last year in Paris to cut CO2 emissions and limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Despite these promises, U.S. analysts said Wednesday that fossil fuels

EveryCarListed/Flickr
— including coal — will still likely be the world’s primary source of energy in 2040. The findings are part of the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s annual World Energy Outlook report. Electricity from wind, solar, and hydropower will grow 2.9 percent annually, the report concluded, and by 2040, renewables, coal, and natural gas will each generate one-third of the world’s electricity. But diesel and gasoline will still power the majority of vehicles, with electric cars making up only 1 percent of the market, the report said. The report also found that carbon emissions from energy consumption in the developing world could grow 51 percent from 2012 to 2040 as countries like India and China modernize their economies, particularly by using coal.
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Bringing Energy Upgrades
To the Nation’s Inner Cities

America’s low-income urban areas are filled with aging buildings that are notoriously energy-inefficient. It’s a problem that Donnel Baird sees as an opportunity. Baird is CEO and cofounder of BlocPower,
Donnel Baird

Donnel Baird
a startup that markets and finances energy-upgrade projects in financially underserved areas. Founded in 2013 with venture capital seed money, BlocPower bundles small energy-improvement projects together — from barber shops to churches —and sells them to potential investors. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Baird describes how BlocPower’s projects not only create jobs and reduce carbon emissions, but also raise awareness of global warming in inner-city communities. “It is not possible for the climate change movement to win anything significant without the participation of people of color,” says Baird.
Read the interview.
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10 May 2016: More than 2,000 New
Plant Species Are Found Every Year

There are currently 391,000 plant species known to science—and another 2,000 are being discovered every year, according to a new report from the U.K.’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Paulo Gonella
Last year’s new discoveries included a nearly five-foot tall carnivorous plant first identified on Facebook, a 105-ton tree in West Africa, and 90 new species of Begonia flowers. Brazil, Australia, and China were hotspots for species discovery. The State of the World’s Plants report did find, however, that one-fifth of the world’s plant species are at risk of extinction from habitat loss, disease, invasive species, and climate change. “Plants are absolutely fundamental to humankind,” Kathy Willis, director of science at Kew, told The Guardian. “Plants provide us with everything — food, fuel, medicines, timber, and they are incredibly important for our climate regulation. We are facing some devastating realities if we do not take stock and re-examine our priorities and efforts.”
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09 May 2016: Pacific Northwest Starfish Seem
Set for Comeback After Deadly Disease

Two years after a virus devastated colonies of starfish along the U.S. west coast, the population is showing early signs of a comeback, at least in some areas.

Canopic/Flickr
The number of juveniles in the Pacific Northwest is “off the charts,” said Bruce Menge, a marine biologist at Oregon State University. “Higher than we’d ever seen — as much as 300 times normal,” Menge said. Young starfish usually have to compete with adults for food. But with up to 84 percent of the adult population wiped out from an outbreak of “sea star wasting disease” two years ago, juveniles have had abundant resources to thrive, Menge and his colleagues reported in a recent PLOS ONE journal. However, the researchers warn starfish populations aren’t entirely in the clear. “Whether they can make it into adulthood and replenish the population without succumbing to sea star wasting disease is the big question,” Menge said in a statement.
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06 May 2016: Alberta Wildfire Could Unlock
Vast Reserves of CO2 from Permafrost

A massive wildfire raging in the heart of Canada’s tar sands region has forced 88,000 people from their homes, scorched more than 1,600 buildings,

Reuters
and caused several fossil fuel companies to reduce operations and shut down pipelines. The fire — fueled by above-average temperatures and dry conditions linked to climate change — burned through more than 330 square miles of land in Alberta in just a few days. Now, scientists are warning the fire, and the many others like it that Canada has experienced in recent years, could unlock vast reserves of CO2 stored in the region’s underlying permafrost. Fire destroys the protective layer of vegetation that keeps permafrost frozen, and warm conditions spur microbial activity, generating CO2 and methane emissions. “This is carbon that the ecosystem has not seen for thousands of years and now it’s being released into the atmosphere,” Merritt Turetsky, an ecosystem ecologist at the University of Guelph in Ontario, told the New Scientist.
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05 May 2016: With Climate Change, It Is
Survival of the Oldest, Not the Fittest

When it comes to climate change, the world’s oldest species are more likely to survive than newly evolved ones, says a new study published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

Brian Gratwicke/Flickr
The logic is relatively simple: The reason they’re so old is that they’ve been tested by abrupt environmental shifts before and have come out on top. This group includes species like the cane toad and California sea lion. More specifically, the study found the planet’s oldest animals all share at least one of the following characteristics: They come in various colors, give birth to live young (as opposed to eggs), and live at low latitudes. The research could help “predict which [species] could be better able to deal with current climate change and to better predict the threat status of species on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature,” said Sylvain Dubey, an ecologist at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and co-author of the new study.
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04 May 2016: Extreme Heat Could Make Parts of
Middle East Uninhabitable by Mid-Century

Climate change could make parts of the Middle East and North Africa uninhabitable by mid-century, driving average daytime summer temperatures as high as 114 degrees F, according to new research published in the journal Climatic Change.

Molly John/Flickr
(For comparison, that is equal to the average maximum temperature in California’s Death Valley.) Heat waves in the region will occur 10 times more often and last longer, the study found. The number of extremely hot days per year could jump from 16 today, to 80 in 2050, to 118 in 2100, possibly leading to mass emigration from the region, said Jos Lelieveld, director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and lead author of the new study. “In future, the climate in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa could change in such a manner that the very existence of its inhabitants is in jeopardy," Lelieveld said.
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03 May 2016: A Sea Urchin's Mouth Could
Make it Easier to Study Distant Planets

Sea urchins have long inspired awe among scientists for their ability to chew through almost anything, from entire kelp forests to rocks. Their mouths — comprised of a ring of intricate muscles and five curved, pointed teeth —

UC San Diego
operate like a giant claw in an arcade game. Now scientists have designed a new space-exploration device based on the urchins’ teeth that will make it easier to collect sediment samples on other planets, like Mars. “Our goal was a bio-inspired device that's more precise and efficient at grabbing ground samples, and won't disturb the surrounding area like a shovel" — the tool space vehicles like the Mars rovers currently use, said Michael Frank, an engineer at the University of California, San Diego. The technology, based on 3D scans of pink sea urchins, has five claws with beveled edges that gather and trap material in a smooth, quick motion.
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02 May 2016: After a Decade of Decline,
Brazil's Deforestation Again on the Rise

Brazil is losing two soccer field-sized parcels of rainforest every minute, equal to 1,930 square miles annually, according to new reporting from the Thompson Reuters Foundation.

Matt Zimmerman/Flickr
The trend represents a significant blow to Brazil’s decades-long fight against illegal logging activity, which achieved an 80 percent decline in deforestation from 2003 to 2013 due to aggressive government and civil monitoring of the forests. But these efforts have slackened in recent years, and loggers have changed their tactics to better hide their activities, said Tasso Azevedo, a conservationist and former director of the Brazilian Forest Service. "In some cases, we are walking backwards," he told Thompson Reuters. The uptick could pose a challenge to pledges Brazil made during international climate talks in Paris last December. The country promised to eliminate illegal deforestation and restore nearly 30 million acres of forest by 2030 to combat global warming.
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29 Apr 2016: Kenya to Burn Ivory to Raise
Awareness of Growing Poaching Problem

Kenyan authorities are set to burn 105 tons of ivory confiscated from illegally killed elephants this weekend to bring attention to the country’s growing poaching problem.

Kenya Wildlife Service
Kenya conducted its first ivory burn in 1989 after elephant populations in the country dropped 90 percent in 15 years, and it has continued to do such burns periodically since. But the systematic cutting back of an international ban on the sale of ivory over the last 15 years has led to the reemergence of large-scale poaching in Africa. Approximately 30,000 to 50,000 elephants were killed on the continent between 2008 and 2013. Soon after announcing the ivory burn, Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, announced his nation would seek a total ban on elephant ivory during a wildlife trade meeting later this year. “We will not be the Africans who stood by as we lost our elephants,” he said.
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28 Apr 2016: Half of All Farmed Fish Have
Deformed Ear Bones That Cause Hearing Loss

Farmed fish have become an increasingly larger share of the world’s seafood market in recent decades—now accounting for 50 percent of global seafood consumption.

USFWS
At the same time, however, debate about the ethics, safety and health of farmed fish versus their wild counterparts has also intensified. A new study published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports finds that half of all farmed Atlantic salmon have deformed ear bones that lead to hearing loss. These salmon are 10 times more likely to have the deformity than wild fish. The findings “raise questions about the welfare of farmed animals," said Tim Dempster, a biologist at the University of Melbourne involved in the study. It may also explain why efforts to boost wild populations by releasing farmed juveniles have proven unsuccessful. Hearing loss would prevent farmed fish from detecting predators, or restrict their ability to navigate to breeding sites, the scientists said.
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27 Apr 2016: Wooden Skypscrapers Grow in
Popularity in Effort to Reduce Emissions

Architects are increasingly abandoning traditional steel-and-cement skyscrapers in favor of wood-and-glue designs — a move that experts say could help drastically reduce CO2 emissions from the world’s building sector.

Acton Ostry Architects
Creating steel, iron, and non-metallic minerals — including concrete — is an energy-intensive process that accounts for more than 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In the 1990s, developers created a product known as cross-laminated timber — planks of wood glued together by a polyurethane adhesive — with the strength and durability of traditional building materials, and far fewer CO2 emissions. With concern for climate change mounting, wood-based skyscrapers have been popping up around the globe in recent years. The University of British Columbia, for example, approved an 18-story, wooden housing complex in 2015. “This revolution has happened rather quietly and happened rather slow,” Kris Spickler, a heavy timber specialist at Structurlam, told Popular Science. “But I think we’re in a year right now where we’re going to see it explode.”
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From Mass Coral Bleaching,
A Scientist Looks for Lessons

Twice a year, Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb travels to Christmas Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to collect samples from coral reefs to better understand past and future climate change.
Kim Cobb

Kim Cobb
But when Cobb arrived on the island earlier this month, she was stunned. The corals she had spent the past 18 years studying were largely dead or dying. The scene has become a familiar one across the Pacific and Indian oceans this year as a record-breaking El Niño drove up water temperatures and caused fragile coral reef systems to bleach from stress or die. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Cobb talked about the recent bleaching event, the race to make reefs more resilient, and how coral records could improve short-term climate projections. “What you think reefs might be experiencing in 20 years,” she says, “they're experiencing now.”
Read the interview.
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26 Apr 2016: Historical Citizen-Scientists’ Ice
Records Confirm Global Temperature Rise

Centuries-old records from Japanese priests and European shipping merchants are helping scientists confirm that the earth has warmed substantially — and freshwater ice formation significantly decreased — since the Industrial Revolution.

These early record keepers tracked annual freeze dates and the breakup of ice each spring on lakes and rivers for hundreds of years, beginning in the 1440s in Japan and 1690s in Finland. The data represents the oldest known inland ice records. An international team of scientists published a study this week in Nature Scientific Reports examining how ice behavior changed over the records’ years. They found that from 1443 to 1683, for example, the annual freeze date of Lake Suwa in Japan moved back 0.19 days per decade. From the start of the Industrial Revolution, however, that trend grew 24 times faster, pushing back the date of ice formation on the lake by 4.6 days per decade.
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25 Apr 2016: Scientists Discover Antarctic
Lake That Could Contain Unique Life Forms

Scientists have discovered what they think is a massive, ribbon-shaped lake under the Antarctic ice sheet that could lead to the discovery of a bevy of new unique life forms.

NASA/Michael Studinger
The lake, which measures 60 miles long by 6 miles wide, was discovered using satellite imagery, and scientists plan to confirm its existence using ice-penetrating radar this spring. The lake has likely been locked under the ice for millions of years — allowing bacteria and other life forms to evolve in complete isolation from the rest of the world, according to a report released at the European Geosciences Union meeting. Unlike the continent’s largest under-ice lake, Vostok, the newly discovered waterbody — located in East Antarctica — is relatively close to a research station, making it easier to explore. “It’s the last un-researched part of Antarctica, so it’s very exciting news,” Bryn Hubbard of the University of Aberystwyth UK told the New Scientist.
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22 Apr 2016: Brazilian Officials Put a
Hold on Mega-Dam Project in the Amazon

A proposed 8,000-megawatt hydroelectric dam in the Amazon was put on hold this week by Brazil’s environmental agency out of concerns over its impact on a local indigenous tribe.

The São Luiz do Tapajós project — which would be Brazil’s second-largest dam and a cornerstone of government efforts to expand hydroelectric power — would require developers to flood an area the size of New York City and home to thousands of Munduruku people. The environmental agency, Ibama, said they were suspending the project’s licensing because of “the infeasibility of the project from the prospective of indigenous issues.” Brent Millikan, the Amazon program director for International Rivers, told Reuters, "The areas that would have been flooded include sites of important religious and cultural significance. The local communities have a huge amount of knowledge about the resources where they are — if they were forced off the land and into cities they would become unskilled workers."
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21 Apr 2016: A Town Made Almost Entirely Out
Of Plastic Bottles is Being Built in Panama

Construction has begun on the world’s first town made almost entirely out of recycled plastic bottles. Located on Isla Colón in Panama, the village will consist of 120 houses and a lodge on 83 acres of tropical jungle.

The first two-bedroom home was built late last year, and is made from 10,000 plastic bottles pulled from Panama trashcans, roadsides, and beaches. The walls of the homes consist of steel cages filled with bottles and then encased in a concrete mix. They are flexible enough to withstand an earthquake, and insulating enough to keep the home up to 17 degrees F cooler than the jungle outside. Because there are so many recycled bottles on the island already, homes can be built quickly and cheaply, said Robert Bezeau, founder of the Plastic Bottle Village. “We are changing the world, without changing the Earth, one home at a time,” he says on the project’s website.
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20 Apr 2016: Entries Invited for Third
Annual Yale Environment 360 Video Contest

The third annual Yale Environment 360 Video Contest is now accepting entries. The contest honors the year's best environmental videos. Submissions must focus on an environmental issue or theme, have not been widely viewed online, and be a maximum of 15 minutes in length. Videos that are funded by an organization or company and are primarily about that organization or company are not eligible. The first-place winner will receive $2,000, and two runners-up will each receive $500. The winning entries will be posted on Yale Environment 360. The contest judges will be Yale Environment 360 editor Roger Cohn, New Yorker writer and e360 contributor Elizabeth Kolbert, and documentary filmmaker Thomas Lennon. Deadline for entries is June 10, 2016.
Read More.
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19 Apr 2016: Thirty Years After Chernobyl,
Wildlife Thrives in the Contaminated Zone

Thirty years after the meltdown of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, humans remain relatively scarce near the accident site.

Jim Beasley/Sarah Webster
A gray wolf is caught on camera near Chernobyl.
Wildlife, however, is thriving, according to a recent study by scientists at the University of Georgia. The researchers set up cameras at 94 sites in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone—a 1,000-square-mile area where radiation levels remain high—and applied a fatty acid scent to attract animals. In total, they saw 14 mammal species in the footage, most frequently gray wolves, boars, red fox, and raccoon dogs. Since carnivores tend to accumulate radiation faster that animals further down the food chain, finding so many of them was good news. "We didn't find any evidence to support the idea that populations are suppressed in highly contaminated areas,” said James Beasley, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who helped lead the study.
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18 Apr 2016: The Complicated Case of
Global Warming’s Impact on Agriculture

Scientists have long debated whether climate change could help or hurt the world’s agricultural systems. Theoretically, additional CO2 in the atmosphere should help fuel crop growth.

Ananth BS
A farmer plows his fields in southern India.
But global warming’s other impacts, such as shifting rain patterns, higher temperatures, and extreme weather, could reduce crop yields. A new study in the journal Nature Climate Change by researchers in a half-dozen countries finds the answer depends on where you live. The scientists found yields of rain-fed wheat could increase by 10 percent, while irrigated wheat, the bulk of India and China’s production, could decline by 4 percent. Maize will decrease almost everywhere, down 8.5 percent. Rice and soybean could flourish in some areas and falter in others. “Most of the discussion around climate impacts focuses only on changes in temperature and precipitation,” said Delphine Deryng, an environmental scientist at Columbia University who led the study. “To adapt adequately, we need to understand all the factors involved.”
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15 Apr 2016: As Smog Continues to Worsen,
New Delhi Bans a Million Cars From the Road

For the second time this year, a million New Delhi cars will be forced to stay off the road each day for the next two weeks in an effort to reduce the city’s hazardous air pollution levels.

Mark Danielson/Flickr
Smog in New Delhi, India
The Indian capital was ranked the world’s most polluted urban center in 2014, with smog concentrations frequently reaching hazardous levels for children, the elderly, and people with heart or respiratory issues. The Delhi decision follows a similar recent driving ban in Mexico City, where heavy smog and high ozone levels have also raised health concerns. But some scientists argue that such bans are insufficient to combat escalating pollution problems in developing world megacities. “It is exactly like taking out 10 buckets of water from the ocean, the magnitude of the pollution problem is such,” Gufran Beig, the chief scientist at India’s state-run System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research, told The Guardian.
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14 Apr 2016: Drought, Climate Change
Cause Rapid Plant Evolution in California

As climate change alters ecosystems and weather patterns, species across the globe are undergoing change as well. Some are dwindling in numbers and others are going extinct, but many are adapting.

Svdmolen/Wikimedia
The Brassica rapa plant.
A team of U.S. researchers, led by biologist Steven Franks of Fordham University, found the drought that impacted California between 1997 and 2004 changed the Brassica rapa plant, a type of field mustard, down to the genetic level. After seven years of water scarcity, the plants had shifted their flowering times forward by weeks to take advantage of early season rain. “This research shows us that contrary to the previous belief… evolutionary changes can happen extremely rapidly,” Franks wrote in the Huffington Post. “However, this does not mean that we don’t need to worry about climate change because species will just evolve. A recent analysis concluded that 1 in 6 species could face extinction if climate change continues unabated.”
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12 Apr 2016: Scientists Reimagine The
Tree of Life With New Microbe Knowledge

Following years of intense exploration and research into the microbial world, scientists have reimagined the tree of life—the iconic visual representation of the living world first proposed by Charles Darwin in 1859.

Banfield/UC Berkeley
The new tree of life.
The project was led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, who over the last decade have been gathering DNA from across the globe—from everywhere from meadow soils and river mud to deep sea vents—to reconstruct genomes and describe thousands of new microbial species. Curious how their findings fit into the tree of life, the scientists used a supercomputer to visualize how more than 3,000 new and known species related to one another. They discovered that eukaryotes, the group that includes humans, exist on a thin twig compared to the microbial branch of the tree. “The tree of life as we know it has dramatically expanded due to new genomic sampling of previously enigmatic or unknown microbial lineages,” the authors wrote.
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For James Hansen, the Science
Demands Activism on Climate

Climate scientist James Hansen has been a prominent figure in the global climate conversation for more than 40 years. His 1988 congressional testimony on climate change helped introduce the problem of rising greenhouse gas emissions to the American public,
James Hansen

James Hansen
and he has led study after study examining how our world will change as a result of global warming. Eight years ago, Hansen made the rare decision to begin engaging in climate activism—a move that has earned him both praise and criticism from the media and scientific community. In an interview with Yale Environment 360 last week, Hansen opened up about his unconventional career path and what he believes the world could look like a century from now. “I don't think that I have been alarmist — maybe alarming, but I don't think I'm an alarmist,” he said. “We have a society in which most people have become unable to understand or appreciate science, and partly that's a communication problem, which we need to try to alleviate.”
Read the interview.
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11 Apr 2016: More Than 50 Percent of
Great Barrier Reef Affected By Bleaching

Record high ocean temperatures in the western Pacific have caused more than half of the Great Barrier Reef to undergo a mass coral bleaching event this year, according to a team of Australian scientists conducting aerial surveys.

ARC Coral Reef Studies
An aerial shot of the Great Barrier Reef in early April.
Corals thrive in a narrow temperature range, and when waters warm above normal—as they have this year from climate change and a strong El Nino—the organisms expel their symbiotic algae, leaving them without a source of food and susceptible to disease. Scientists’ next step is studying the corals up close to determine how deep the bleaching is, said Terry Hughes, a marine biologist at James Cook University and head of the Australian coral bleaching task force. “If the corals are severely bleached, then a lot will die,” Hughes said. “If they are lightly bleached, which is the case with a lot of reefs south of Townsville, then they’ll regain their color over the next couple of months and there won’t be much mortality.”
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08 Apr 2016: World Bank Zeros In On
Climate Change With $16B Annual Budget

The World Bank, the biggest provider of loans to developing countries, announced it will dedicate 28 percent of its financial investments to confronting climate change.

Dave Lawrence/World Bank
A World Bank-funded solar system in Mongolia.
This amounts to approximately $16 billion a year for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and climate resiliency projects. In addition to its own financing, the World Bank said it would work to mobilize $25 billion in commercial funding for clean energy over the next five years. “If we don’t act, climate change threatens to drive 100 million more people into poverty in the next 15 years,” John Roome, senior director for climate change at the World Bank Group, said in a statement. The new spending plan “will allow us to help developing countries more quickly, and in the areas where support is most needed, such as disaster preparedness, social protection, and coastal protection.”
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07 Apr 2016: How Ancient Algae Could
Help Cure Brain and Breast Cancer

One of the oldest life forms on earth may hold the key to battling hard-to-treat cancers, according to new research by scientists at Oregon State University. The compound, coibamide A, is found in blue-green algae, organisms that have existed for at least two billion years. It was found during a diving trip in Panama’s Coiba National Park eight years ago and run through the National Cancer Institute’s database of potential anti-cancer compounds. Coibamide A was tested on mice and found to be more effective at killing brain and triple negative breast cancer cells—two of the most aggressive and hard-to-treat types of the disease—than anything ever tested before. "The chemical diversity found in nature has always been a significant source of inspiration for drug design and development, but… marine environments remain relatively unexplored," said Jane Ishmael, a cellular biologist at Oregon State University and lead author of the new study.
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06 Apr 2016: Half of World Heritage Sites Are
Threatened By Industrial Development

Since 1972, the United Nations has worked to protect 229 locations in 96 countries known for their “exceptional natural beauty” and “cultural significance.” These spots, known as World Heritage Sites,

Brian Kinney/Shutterstock
The Great Barrier Reef
range from Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, China’s panda sanctuaries, and the Grand Canyon in the United States. A new survey by the World Wildlife Fund, however, has found half of these sites are under threat from oil and gas development, mining, illegal logging, overfishing, or other industrial activities. Eleven million people live in or near these sites, the report says, and depend on them for their housing, food, water, jobs, or ecosystem services like flood protection and CO2 sequestration. “We are not going to develop a just and prosperous future, nor defeat poverty and improve health, in a weakened or destroyed natural environment,” the authors wrote.
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05 Apr 2016: El Nino Prevents Phytoplankton
Growth, Endangering Marine Food Web

El Nino—the cyclical warming of the Pacific Ocean—has wreaked havoc on the world’s weather for the past two years, from a record-breaking number of cyclones in the North Pacific to flooding in South America.

Uz/NASA Goddard
Satellite images of phytoplankton growth.
But scientists at NASA recently discovered that the climate phenomenon also has a big impact on phytoplankton, the tiny oceanic organisms that serve as the base of the marine food chain. Normally, ocean currents drive cold, deep water to the surface near the equator, bringing with it a flood of nutrients that feed phytoplankton. El Nino’s mass of warm water stops this upwelling. The result is a marked drop in phytoplankton levels. “This decline echoes through many species,” said Stephanie Uz, an ocean scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland who led the study. “Small fish that feed on phytoplankton starve. This affects everything from penguin and iguana populations in the Galapagos to governments managing fisheries.”
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04 Apr 2016: As Habitat Loss Slows Down,
Tigers Could Double In Number By 2022

With populations hovering at less than 3,500 worldwide, tigers have long been considered on the brink of extinction. But scientists finally have good news:

Mathias Appel/Flickr
Habitat loss has slowed down more than expected in recent years due to conservation efforts, and there is now enough forest for tigers to double in number by 2022. According to a new study in the journal Science Advances, less than 8 percent of global tiger habitat disappeared between 2001 and 2014, 98 percent of which happened in Indonesia and Malaysia due to the booming palm oil industry. “It is not a sign that we are in the clear yet, but it does show us that tigers can potentially recover from the edge of extinction if we make the right forest management choices,” said Anup Joshi, a conservation biologist at the University of Minnesota and lead author. Tiger populations in Nepal and India, for example, have increased 61 and 31 percent, respectively.
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01 Apr 2016: Scientists Study the Skies
To Create a Map of the World’s Biomes

Curious where certain species live? Don’t look down. Rather, study the skies, according to new research published in the journal PLoS Biology. Scientists from the University of Buffalo and Yale University

Daniel Boyd/Flickr
used images from NASA satellites to build a database of cloud cover for every square kilometer of the planet from 2000 to 2014. They then used the information to map the world’s biomes. They found that cloud patterns are a much more accurate way of predicting species distribution than using extrapolated on-the-ground observations, the method most conservationists use today. “Sunlight drives almost every aspect of ecology,” Adam Wilson, an ecologist at the University of Buffalo who led the study, told New Scientist. “So when you put something in between the sun and plants, that is going to have implications on the amount of energy they are receiving, soil moisture, leaf wetness, and humidity—almost everything that is important.”
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31 Mar 2016: A New, Multi-Colored Way To
Study Cell Regeneration in Zebrafish

Zebrafish have amazing healing capabilities—they can grow back missing limbs and patch an injured heart or spine—but scientists have long been in the dark as to how exactly this process works.

Chen-Hui Chen, Duke University
An engineered zebrafish with multi-colored skin.
Now, a team of scientists at Duke University engineered neurons to create a zebrafish with skin that fluoresces in thousands of colors in order to visually illustrate how cells regenerate after injury. They found there are three steps to the process: skin cells from neighboring body parts migrate in to cover the new tissue, surviving cells grow in size, and new cells are created. “It is like you have given each cell an individual barcode,” said Chen-Hui Chen, a postdoctoral fellow at Duke and lead author on the study. “You can precisely see how individual cells collectively behave during regeneration.”
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Interview: How Ocean Noise
Wreaks Havoc on Marine Life

Bowing to public pressure, the Obama administration recently reversed an earlier decision to allow oil drilling off the U.S. East Coast. But the five-year moratorium on drilling does not prohibit exploratory seismic air gun surveys
Christopher Clark

Christopher Clark
used to locate oil and gas reserves under the seabed, and those surveys are expected to be authorized this spring. Cornell University marine bioacoustics expert Christopher Clark says the testing, which can go on for weeks at a time, will only add to the rising din in the oceans. “Imagine that every 10 seconds there is an explosion that is rattling grandma’s china out of the cupboard,” he says, “and it is falling on the floor.” In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Clark explains how noise, most of it from ship traffic, severely disrupts marine life, especially among whales. But the good news, he says, is that technologies are being developed to drastically reduce the noise from ships and geological surveying.
Read the interview.
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30 Mar 2016: Air Pollution Linked To
Thousands of U.S. Premature Births

Air pollution may be causing thousands of premature births in the U.S. every year, particularly in urban areas like the Ohio River Valley, Southern California, New York City, and Chicago, according to a new study in the journal Environment Health Perspectives. Scientists at New York University compared levels of fine particulate matter, a type of pollution less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, to numbers of premature births, meaning a baby born more than three weeks early. They found that over three percent of all preterm births in the U.S. in 2010 can be attributed to air pollution, and that it cost the country more than $4 billion in medical expenses and lost economic productivity. The exact mechanism behind this relationship is not known, but researchers theorize that air pollution inflames the placenta during pregnancy, spurring early labor. Preterm birth is associated with a slew of medical issues, from cognitive impairment to breathing and feeding problems.
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29 Mar 2016: As U.S. Oil Production Increases,
More Americans At Risk of Man-Made Quakes

As U.S.-based production of oil and gas has boomed over the last decade, millions of gallons of chemical-laden wastewater has been pumped and stored deep underground.

USGS
The risk of experiencing an earthquake in 2016.
It turns out, however, that this disposal method—popular for fracking waste—is causing a spike in the number of earthquakes across the country, according to a new set of maps from the U.S. Geological Survey. Seven million Americans are now at risk from man-made quakes, particularly in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Arkansas. "My first thought was actually, ‘Holy crap, Oklahoma is redder than California,’" USGS geologist Susan Hough told The Washington Post about seeing the maps for the first time. Unlike California, however, most of these states don’t have earthquake-ready structures, experts said, so communities are having to update building codes and purchase new insurance.
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28 Mar 2016: Majority of Meteorologists Now
Agree Climate Change is Happening, Manmade

Meteorologists have long lagged behind scientists and even the general public in acceptance of modern anthropogenic climate change.

NOAA
Doppler radar image of Hurricane Alex in 2004.
Four years ago, only 19 percent of TV weather forecasters said they believed human actions were the primary driver of global warming. Today, however, 67 percent of TV and non-TV meteorologists agree that climate change is manmade, according to a new survey by George Mason University. An additional 14 percent said human activity and natural factors are equally responsible. Overall, 96 percent said climate change is happening, no matter the reason. The shift comes after a string of shattered monthly temperature records and wild weather, and growing international attention to the issue following the UN Paris climate conference in December. Ed Maibach, lead author of the survey and director of George Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication, said the upswing didn't surprise him. “That is how science works. As the scientific evidence becomes more irrefutable, which is the case with harmful, human-caused climate change, more scientists of all types will become convinced,” he said.
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24 Mar 2016: A Fish With a Pelvis: Another
Clue Into Our Sea-to-Land Evolution

Biologists have long wondered exactly how fish emerged from the sea and transitioned into vertebrates that could walk on land. To date, most of the information on that shift has come from fossils,

D.S.
A waterfall-climbing fish.
but scientists reported Thursday they have found that a species of fish located only deep in the caves of Thailand walks the same way land vertebrates do. The blind waterfall-climbing fish, Cryptotora thamicola, first discovered in 1985, has skeletal features similar to a salamander—including a fully formed pelvis—that enable them to climb up rock walls and feed on microbes and organic matter as water comes crashing down on them, the researchers wrote in Nature Scientific Reports. “Functionally, it makes perfect sense, but to see it in a fish is incredibly wild,” said Brooke Flammang, an expert on biomechanics at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and lead author of the study. The discovery could help more fully explain how life evolved from the sea to land.
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23 Mar 2016: Microbes Are Likely Speeding
Up the Melting of the Glaciers

As if soaring global temperatures weren’t bad enough, scientists reported this week that microbes are also speeding up the melting of Arctic ice.

National Parks Service
A pool of meltwater on the Root Glacier in Alaska.
The problem lies in cryoconite, the soil-like composite of dust, industrial soot and photosynthetic bacteria that darkens the surface of ice and causes it to melt, scientists from Aberystwyth University in Wales said. As it melts, ice leaves behind small water-filled holes full of bacteria. The sun-loving microbes then shape the pockmarks’ depth and size to get more light exposure, in turn melting the ice even more—a process previously unaccounted for in global climate change models. "It's only recently that we've begun to understand that these cryoconite holes are dynamic, changing in size and shape,” said biologist Arwyn Edwards, who led the study. "In the long term, this contributes to the loss of glacier habitats, and the unique microbial biodiversity living on them."
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22 Mar 2016: Old Photos Used to Study
The Fate of a Swedish Seabird Colony

Nearly 100 years of old tourist photos got a second life recently when researchers used them to reconstruct the rise and fall of a colony of seabirds on the Swedish island of Stora Karlsö. The island, designated a nature preserve in 1880 and a popular tourist destination since the 1920s, hosts a large population of common guillemots, one of the biggest species of auks. Ecologists Jonas Hentati-Sundberg and Olof Olsson of Stockholm University spent five years collecting images of the island from archives, museums, and island visitors in order to count guillemot numbers decade-to-decade. They found that the colony declined in the 1960s and 70s, when contaminants like DDT and PCB were prevalent, but has since rebounded to historically high numbers today, possibly because of an increase in the numbers of forage fish consumed by guillemots. “The population is currently increasing at an unprecedented rate of about 5 percent annually," said Hentati-Sundberg. "This is interesting in that many common guillemot populations are decreasing worldwide."
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21 Mar 2016: Newly Discovered Butterfly
Could Be Climate Bellwether in the Arctic

Scientists have discovered the first new butterfly species in Alaska in nearly 28 years, according to new research published in the Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera last week.

Andrew Warren/FMNH
The dorsal side of new species Oeneis tanana.
Named the Tanana Arctic, or Oeneis tanana, the species is thought to be a hybrid and the only butterfly endemic to the state. Because butterflies are so sensitive to environmental change, the Tanana Arctic could serve as an early warning signal to the impacts of climate change in the region, the scientists said. “This butterfly has apparently lived in the Tanana River valley for so long that if it ever moves out, we’ll be able to say ‘Wow, there are some changes happening,’” said Andrew Warren, the senior collections manager at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Florida Museum of Natural History who discovered the species. “This is a region where the permafrost is already melting and the climate is changing.”
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18 Mar 2016: Could Bread Mold Help
Improve Rechargeable Batteries?

A type of bread mold might just be a key to creating better rechargeable batteries, scientists reported in the journal Current Biology this week.

Henry Muhlpfordt/Flickr
Researchers at the University of Dundee in Scotland discovered that the fungus Neurospora crassa—known commonly as red bread mold—can transform manganese into a mineral composite with “excellent electrochemical properties” ideal for use in supercapacitors or lithium-ion batteries, said Geoffrey Gadd, a microbiologist and lead author of the study. Those types of batteries are used to power everything from laptops to railways to solar energy systems. Scientists have long studied how to make batteries more powerful and sustainable and in an environmentally safer way, but this is the first time researchers have looked to mold as a possible solution.
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17 Mar 2016: The World’s Economy Grew,
But Greenhouse Gas Emissions Didn't

Despite a 3.1 percent growth in global GDP in 2015, greenhouse gas emissions remained flat for the second year in a row, according to the International Energy Agency.

Oregon DOT
A man installs new solar panels in Oregon.
The decoupling of emissions from economic growth is “welcome news,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in the press statement. “Coming just a few months after the landmark COP21 agreement in Paris, this is yet another boost to the global fight against climate change.” The world’s nations released 32.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases last year, equal to—or perhaps even a slight downtick from—2014, the agency said. The stabilization is likely due to the booming renewable energy industry and global cutbacks on the use of coal, particularly in the U.S. and China, the two largest emitters of carbon dioxide. Chinese emissions, for example, declined 1.5 percent last year.
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16 Mar 2016: Storks Stop Migrating South
In Favor of Food Waste From Landfills

White storks are no longer migrating to Africa every winter, choosing instead to stay near landfills and other garage heaps in southern Europe that provide scavenged food year round, according to new research published Wednesday in the journal Movement Ecology.

University of East Anglia
Storks feeding in a landfill.
Sticking close to uncovered trash piles in Europe means the birds no longer have to expend energy flying all the way south to Africa, and can arrive at the best northern nesting sites and breed earlier in the year. As a result, storks have been having bigger broods and higher fledging survival rates. “Portugal’s stork population has grown 10-fold over the last 20 years,” Aldina Franco, a conservation ecologist at the University of East Anglia in Britain who led the study, said in a statement. “The country is now home to around 14,000 wintering birds, and numbers continue to grow.” Franco and her colleagues’ findings build on the growing scientific understanding of how our waste is altering the world’s wildlife.
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Interview: How to Talk About
Clean Energy With Conservatives

Young Conservatives for Energy Reform promotes a green energy agenda for Republicans. But the phrase “climate change” isn’t one you’ll find on the organization’s website.
Angel Garcia

Angel Garcia
Angel Garcia, the group’s national outreach coordinator, admits that pushing renewables in conservative circles is an uphill battle. “We have an ideology that seems like it’s ‘Drill, baby drill,’ with nothing else. So we have to fight against stereotypes that if you’re for clean energy, then you are not really a Republican.” In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Garcia says the Republican Party has a vested interest in embracing clean energy since the issue resonates with young conservatives. “As demographics shift, this is becoming a more important issue. So it’s better to get in front of the issue now and embrace it.”
Read the interview.
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15 Mar 2016: Obama Administration Pulls
Proposal to Drill in the Atlantic Ocean

The Obama administration withdrew its proposal to open up offshore oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday.

Chad Teer/Flickr
Offshore drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
The decision blocks drilling in the region until 2022 and comes after an outpouring of opposition to the plan from environmental groups and mid-Atlantic coastal communities and businesses concerned about a possible spill like Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico five years ago. “Public pressure forced the administration to reverse course on Atlantic drilling," May Boeve, executive director of the environmental group 350.org, said in a statement. “We will continue to make the case that any new drilling is a stain on the president’s climate legacy and incompatible with the goals he committed to at the climate talks in Paris.”
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14 Mar 2016: Sea Level Rise Could Put
13.1 Million Americans At Risk of Flooding

Climate change and sea level rise could put 13.1 million Americans at risk of flooding by 2100, according to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

FEMA
Flooding in Davie, Florida
Nearly half of the at-risk population resides in Florida, and 70 percent in the southeastern United States. Unlike previous assessments that looked only at sea level rise, the study examines both climate and population projections for all 319 coastal U.S. counties over the next century. Three feet of sea level rise puts 4.2 million Americans at risk. Six feet—the high end of estimates by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—puts 13.1 million at risk. “The impact projections are up to three times larger than current estimates, which significantly underestimate the effect of sea level rise in the United States,” said Mathew Hauer, lead author of the study and a demographer at the University of Georgia.
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11 Mar 2016: Five Years After Nuclear Disaster
Fukushima Remains Highly Contaminated

It has been five years since a powerful earthquake and resulting tsunami caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.

NRC/Flickr
Regulators visit the Fukushima site in 2014.
While a few towns closed after the disaster have reopened and some locals have returned, groundwater en route to the ocean, as well as nearby soils, remains highly contaminated with radioactive waste. Toxic water and soil that has been removed by the cleanup project’s 8,000 workers sits in a growing number of storage tanks on the property, several of which have leaked. Radiation levels are so high that robots sent to clean up the power plant itself are reportedly malfunctioning, their circuits fried. "Fukushima Dai-ichi is a complicated cleanup site," said Dale Klein, a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission who now consults for the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which owns the plant. "This will be a several-decades process of cleanup.”
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10 Mar 2016: China Aims to Pass Soil Pollution
Law, Addressing Widespread Contamination

China is aiming to pass its first soil pollution law next year to address what Chinese officials are calling a “serious” problem of widespread contamination of the nation’s agricultural land.

Li Feng/Yale E360
Wastewater from a chemical plant in China.
The pollution is the result of three decades of rapid economic and industrial development that left landscapes ridden with toxins and heavy metals, contaminated staple crops like rice, and jeopardized public health. “Looking at the results of soil pollution surveys from relevant departments of the State Council … it's not easy to be optimistic. Some areas are seriously polluted," Yuan Si, deputy head of parliament's Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation Committee, told reporters. The soil pollution law has gone through 10 drafts already and will likely be put on the legislative agenda for 2017, Yuan said.
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In Flint Crisis, A New Model
For Environmental Journalism

Last summer, investigative journalist Curt Guyette found himself knocking on doors of families in Flint, Michigan, carrying not only a pen and notebook, but water-testing kits. Residents had realized there was something wrong with their drinking water but Michigan officials insisted it was safe.
Curt Guyette

Curt Guyette
Guyette, the first investigative reporter in the nation hired by an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter, broke the story on possible widespread lead contamination in July. He then helped organize door-to-door testing for lead and filed Freedom of Information Act requests in search of the truth. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Guyette explains how he chased the story, his unique position as a Ford Foundation-funded journalist employed by ACLU Michigan, and whether this approach to journalism could be a model for rescuing in-depth, local reporting on complex environmental and public health issues.
Read the interview.
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09 Mar 2016: U.S., Canada to Announce Series
Of New Climate and Environment Initiatives

President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are expected to announce a series of environment and climate initiatives during Trudeau’s first visit to the White House later this week.

The measures include a 45-percent cut in methane emissions from the oil and gas industry and a partnership to protect the rapidly melting Arctic from climate change. Trudeau’s focus on global warming since winning office four months ago marks a significant shift in Canada’s environmental policy. Its previous prime minister, Stephen Harper, cut funding for climate research and backtracked on international climate pledges. “The commitment of both leaders to addressing this global challenge is clear,” Todd Stern, the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, said . “I suspect under their leadership, North America will make significant progress this year and next.”
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08 Mar 2016: JP Morgan Will No Longer Invest
In New Coal Mines, Citing Climate Change

JP Morgan will no longer finance new coal mines or support new coal-fired power plants in “high income” countries, the banking giant said in a policy statement on its website.

TripodStories-AB
Coal mine in Jharia, India
Bank of America, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo have made similar pledges in recent months, all part of a larger divestment movement aimed at transitioning the world’s economies off fossil fuels. The anti-coal campaign has dealt a blow to an already struggling industry. The price of coal has dropped from $140 per ton in 2009 to $42 in 2016 as cheap, abundant natural gas and renewables have flooded the U.S. energy market. At the same time, support for climate action has grown, with the signing of an international climate agreement in Paris last December. “We believe the financial services sector has an important role to play as governments implement policies to combat climate change,” JPMorgan said in the document.
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07 Mar 2016: Climate Change Will Threaten
Key Crops Across Sub-Saharan Africa

Climate change’s rising temperatures and more frequent and intense droughts could leave parts of sub-Saharan Africa unable to grow staple crops such as maize, bananas, and beans by the end of the century,

Neil Palmer/CIAT
A woman holds maize, a staple crop, in Ghana.
according to new research published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. Up to 60 percent of bean-producing areas and 30 percent of maize and banana farms could become unviable by 2100, and farmers should start growing more climate change-resistant crops, improve irrigation systems, or switch to raising livestock, the scientists said. “Agriculture and farming are critical not only for the livelihoods of farmers but also more broadly for the diets of the region’s population,” said Julián Ramírez-Villegas, a scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture and lead author of the study. “Unless timely adaptation actions are taken, we’re looking at a bleak picture in terms of food security and poverty throughout many areas of sub-Saharan Africa.”
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04 Mar 2016: Leading Brands Unsure If Palm
Oil Purchases Linked to Rainforests

Despite well-intentioned pledges, some of the world’s largest consumer companies admitted that

Rainforest in Borneo cleared for palm oil
they have no idea whether the palm oil they purchase from Indonesia is linked to rainforest destruction, according to a new report from Greenpeace, which surveyed 14 companies, including PepsiCo, Mars, Unilever, and Johnson & Johnson. “Palm oil is found in so many products, which is why brands have a responsibility to their customers to act,” said Greenpeace’s Annissa Rahmawati. “But our survey shows that brands are not doing enough to stop the palm oil industry ransacking Indonesia’s rainforests.” Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil, a vegetable oil used in a wide range of household products, from lipstick to soap to instant noodles, and environmentalists have long argued the industry is a leading cause of deforestation. Since 1990, Indonesia has lost 76 million acres of forest, an area almost equal to the size of Germany.
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03 Mar 2016: Oregon To Eliminate Coal
From Its State Energy Mix by 2030

Oregon has become the first U.S. state to eliminate the use of coal by legislative action. Lawmakers at the statehouse

Oregon's only remaining coal plant, in Boardman
voted Wednesday to eliminate coal from the state’s energy supply by 2030, and to provide half of all customers’ power with renewable sources by 2040. The legislation was hammered out between the state’s two largest utilities and environmental groups. Clean energy groups praised the legislation as one of the strongest pieces of pro-climate legislation in the U.S. in years. “In terms of the coal phase-out, this really is precedent setting,” said Jeff Deyette , senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. There is only one coal plant currency operating in Oregon, and it is the state's largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions.
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Rethinking Urban Landscapes
To Adapt to Rising Sea Levels

Sea levels are rising faster than they have in at least 28 centuries, according to recent research, and by 2100, they are expected to rise by one to four feet — possibly even higher.
Kristina Hill

Kristina Hill
Landscape architect Kristina Hill argues that cities throughout the world need to start planning now for impacts that will happen 50 or 100 years in the future. “It takes decades for us to get our act together and build things,” says Hill, an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “Future generations won’t have the luxury of decades.” Hill advocates blending natural ecosystems and human-made infrastructure to help cities adjust to rising tides. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she talks about her vision for modifying coastal communities, the limits to adaptation, and the promise of “cyborg landscapes.”
Read the interview.
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01 Mar 2016: Despite El Nino, California
Has Dry February As Drought Continues

El Nino failed to deliver much needed rain to California in February, dashing hopes that the climatic phenomenon could help end the state’s crippling four-year, multi-billion-dollar drought.

USDA/NOAA
Ninety-four percent of California is in drought.
Downtown Los Angeles received only .79 inches of rain last month, when it typically gets 3.8 inches. The Bay Area got similarly low totals. "From past six strong El Ninos, we have generally seen above normal rainfall,” said Robbie Munroe, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. “But since October 1 we've only seen five inches of rain so far (across Southern California). We were certainly expecting a lot more." Meteorologists say a series of forecasted storms in early March could help, but with El Nino reportedly weakening and about 94 percent of California still in some form of drought, things aren’t looking good for the region.
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29 Feb 2016: China's CO2 Emissions Fell in 2015
Due to Decline in Coal, Boost in Renewables

China's greenhouse gas emissions fell for the second year in a row in 2015, down 1 to 2 percent, according to a Greenpeace analysis of new data released by China's National Bureau Statistics.

LandRoverOurPlanet/Flickr
The Tangshanpeng Wind Farm in northern China.
China reduced its coal consumption 3.7 percent in 2015, and installed 32.5 gigawatts (GW) of wind and 18.3 GW of solar power. The country's recent economic slowdown also helped reduce emissions. China is currently the world's largest emitter of CO2, responsible for nearly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. At a UN climate conference in Paris in December, China pledged to peak its emissions by 2030 and boost renewables. "These statistics show that China is on track to far surpass its Paris climate targets," said Lauri Myllyvirta, a senior campaigner on coal for Greenpeace. "However, the trend is not moving as fast as it could."
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26 Feb 2016: California Natural Gas Leak
Officially Largest Leak in U.S. History

The four-month natural gas leak that sickened hundreds of Los Angeles residents and forced the evacuations of 1,800 homes this winter has officially been deemed the largest methane leak in U.S. history, according to a study in the journal Science.

Scott L/Flickr
A natural gas facility in California's Aliso Canyon.
The California leak spewed a total 97,100 metric tons of methane into the atmosphere, up to 60 tons per hour—the equivalent of the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 572,000 cars. Methane is a greenhouse gas dramatically more potent than carbon dioxide over a short time span. The researchers collected the data during 13 different flights through the leaking gas plume. The measurements were so high the scientists said they double-checked their recording devices. "It became obvious that there wasn't anything wrong with the instruments," said Stephen Conley, an atmospheric scientists at the University of California-Davis who led the study. "This was just a huge event."
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25 Feb 2016: Scientists find new large lizard
species on remote Papua New Guinea island

Scientists have discovered the first new large lizard species in Papua New Guinea in over 20 years. The lizard was found on Mussau Island, one of the northernmost islands in country, by a team of Finnish and Australian researchers.

The new Varanus semotus.
The scientists have dubbed the new species, Varanus semotus, a “biogeographical oddity” because it is separated by several hundred miles from its next of kin. Islands in the Pacific Ocean lack predatory mammals, so large lizards, commonly known as monitor lizards, the most famous of which is the Komodo dragon, fill that role. The new lizard measures 3 feet 3 inches, has a black body covered with yellow and orange markings, and a pale yellow tongue. "Isolation is the keyword here," said Valter Weijola, a graduate student from the University of Turku in Finland who led the trip. "It is what has driven speciation and made the South-Pacific region one of the world's biodiversity hotspots."
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24 Feb 2016: Extended Bleaching Events
Are Killing Corals As Oceans Warm

Rising ocean temperatures are intensifying the die-off of corals around the planet, according to U.S. government scientists. “We are currently experiencing

Bleached coral at the Great Barrier Reef
the longest global coral-bleaching event ever observed,” said Mark Eakin, head of Coral Reef Watch at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Bleaching occurs when corals respond to environmental hazards, such as high ocean temperatures, by expelling the symbiotic algae they need to provide them with sustenance. Eakin predicted that the latest extended bleaching event, which started in 2014, will likely last well into next year, at which time about 60 percent of corals worldwide may be affected. Eakin compares the continuous pressure that reefs have been under in recent years to a boxing bout. “What used to be a one-round fight is turning into a two- and three-round fight,” he says.
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23 Feb 2016: With Lower Gas Prices,
Americans Are Driving Farther Than Ever

Fueled by plummeting gas prices, Americans drove a record-breaking 3.15 trillion miles in 2015, according to new data by the U.S. Department of Transportation—enough to make 337 round trips to Pluto.

joiseyshowaa/Flickr
Traffic in New York City
The new data represents a 4.5 percent increase over 2014, and poses a challenge for the United States, which pledged in Paris last December to cut CO2 emissions by up to 28 percent by 2025 to fight climate change. The U.S. transportation sector, made up mostly of vehicles, accounts for nearly one-third of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. "This makes our work on efficiency and alternative fuels all the more pressing," said Dave Cooke, a senior vehicles analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
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22 Feb 2016: Reaching Emission Targets Could
Save 295,000 U.S. Lives by 2030, Study Says

The greenhouse emission cuts that America agreed to at the Paris climate conference may come with a significant public health benefit —the prevention of 295,000 premature deaths— according to a Duke University study. At the December summit, 196 nations, including the U.S., agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In order to achieve that goal, the U.S. will need to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2030, which would lead to a significant reduction in deadly air pollution, according to the study. “People should realize that emissions are having a big impact already… more than 100,000 deaths a year,” said Drew Shindell, a climate scientist at Duke and lead author of the study. “Air pollution is a very big health challenge, it’s having a major public health impact in the U.S.” According to the World Health Organization, about seven million people died in 2012 as a result of air pollution.
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19 Feb 2016: Growing Marijuana Consumes
Huge Amount of Energy, New Report Finds

The booming legal marijuana industry in the U.S. uses enough electricity to power 1.7 million homes with a staggering price tag of $6 billion every year, according to a new report by the data analysis firm New Frontier.

Cannabis Training University
Growing cannabis requires huge amounts of energy
“Marijuana is the most energy-intensive agricultural commodity that we produce,” said John Kagia, director of industry analytics for New Frontier, which specializes in cannabis industry research. “That’s largely because of the very high energy costs associated with its cultivation and production indoors.” The report adds to mounting concerns over marijuana’s massive ecological footprint. Authors of the report said simple steps like switching to outdoor or greenhouse cultivation, installing more efficient lighting and monitoring energy use could significantly reduce the industry’s energy footprint.
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18 Feb 2016: Scientists Map Which Ecosystems
are the Most Vulnerable to Climate Change

Forests, tundras, and alpine areas are some of the world’s most at-risk ecosystems to climate change, according to a new map published in the journal Nature.

Map of at-risk ecosystems
The study, led by scientists at the University of Bergen in Norway, used satellite data collected from 2000 to 2013 to examine how sensitive plants were to changes in air temperature, water availability, and cloud cover, down to a two-square-mile scale. The scientists used the results to create the Vegetation Sensitivity Index—a visual guide to plants’ climate responses. The Arctic tundra, parts of Europe and Canada’s boreal forest, tropical rainforests in South America, and eastern Australia all registered as some of the most ecologically sensitive regions in the world to climatic changes.
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17 Feb 2016: Reintroduction of Beavers Can Be
Beneficial to the Environment, Study Finds

The reintroduction of beavers to Scotland has proven beneficial to the environment, according to a new study by researchers at the

Beavers have been reintroduced to Scotland
University of Stirling. Beaver dams increased the retention of organic matter by as much as seven times, and the level of aquatic plant life by 20-fold, researchers said. They also found that the levels of pollutants from agricultural runoff were reduced, with concentrations of phosphorus halved, and nitrate levels lowered by more than 40 percent. “Their dam building skills help restore degraded streams and increase the complexity of the surrounding habitat, increasing the number of species by 28 percent,” lead researcher Nigel Willby said. “The beavers’ engineering is transforming low-quality habitats in regions where the animals have long been absent.”
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Misuse of Mosquito Nets Stressing
Lake Malawi’s Fish Populations

Mosquito nets handed out by international aid organizations to fight malaria are being used by some who live along the banks of Lake Malawi to indiscriminately harvest fish, aggravating the lake’s

LTFHC
Women fishing with mosquito net.
already rapidly diminishing fish stock. Over the last 15 years, UNICEF and the government of Malawi have rolled out nine million free mosquito nets to guard the health of pregnant mothers, their offspring, and refugees against the ravages of malaria. This has been a public health triumph. But the mosquito nets are also being used by villagers for netting fish in Lake Malawi, contributing to the rapid decline of the lake’s fish stocks, which dropped 93 percent between 1990 and 2010, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Overpopulation and deforestation also contribute to the problem, but misuse of mosquito netting is playing a significant role.
Read more.
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15 Feb 2016: Global Water Shortages Affect
At Least Four Billion People, Study Says

Global water shortages are far worse than previously thought, with at least two-thirds of the world’s population — four billion people — living with severe water scarcity for at least one month every year, according to new research published in the journal Science Advances. “If you look at environmental problems, [water scarcity] is certainly the top problem,” said Prof Arjen Hoekstra of the University of Twente in the Netherlands, who led the study. The new research also revealed that 500 million people live in places where water consumption was twice the amount replenished by rain. Hoekstra said that many areas are living on borrowed time, such as Yemen, Pakistan, Iran, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. Other areas of particular concern include large swaths of Australia and the American Great Plains, which are dependent on the diminishing Ogallala aquifer. These water problems are exacerbated by population growth and raising meat for consumption, which is highly water-intensive, according to the study.
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12 Feb 2016: Obama Protects 1.8 Million
Acres of Key California Desert Habitat

President Obama has designated more than 1.8 million acres of California desert for protection with the creation of three new

Joshua tree forest in Mojave desert
national monuments: Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains. The new monuments will help create a wildlife corridor between these newly protected areas and Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks and the Mojave National Preserve. The three new monuments include canyons, dunes, grasslands, volcanic spires, Joshua tree forests, wetlands, petroglyphs, and animals that thrive in desert conditions. Obama has now protected more than 260 million acres across the United States, more than any other president, and administration officials say that it is possible he will designate more lands for protection before the end of his term. The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives a president the ability to unilaterally safeguard at-risk federal lands that have cultural, historic, or scientific value.
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11 Feb 2016: The U.S. Southwest Is Moving
Toward a Drier Climate, New Study Shows

The southwestern United States is becoming increasingly dry and is likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future as the weather patterns that typically bring precipitation to the region are becoming increasingly rare, according to a new study. Analyzing 35 years of data, researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research identified low-pressure systems in the North Pacific as being responsible for bringing moisture to the Southwest. But between 1979 and 2014, those low-pressure systems increasingly gave way to high-pressure systems, which have generally kept precipitation away from the Southwest and have caused drought there and in California. The outlook for the future is not good, said the researchers, writing in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The shift toward higher pressure in the North Pacific is consistent with climate models, which predict that a belt of higher average pressure that now sits closer to the equator will move north.
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10 Feb 2016: Supreme Court Suspends
Obama's Coal Plant Emissions Cuts

The U.S. Supreme Court voted Tuesday to put on hold new federal regulations to curb carbon dioxide emissions, mainly from coal-fired

A coal-fired power plant
power plants, until a legal challenge by more than two dozen states and interest groups is complete. It is the first time the Supreme Court has granted a request to halt a regulation before its review by a federal appeals court. The 5-4 vote along ideological lines is a blow to the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, its strategy to combat climate change. Those challenging the regulations claim the new rules, which are to be enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency, would have a devastating economic impact. The White House says it expects the regulations to survive legal challenges. The plan, designed to lower carbon emissions from U.S. power plants to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, is the main tool for the U.S. to meet CO2 reduction targets pledged at the December climate talks in Paris.
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09 Feb 2016: Ice-Free Arctic Trade Route
Unlikely For Decades to Come, Study says

Despite the impact climate change is having on Arctic sea ice, it will be decades before big cargo ships will be able to take an ice-free shortcut

Russian tanker making its way through ice.
across the Arctic Ocean, according to a new report from the Arctic Institute. In recent years, countries have been vying for access to possible Arctic shipping lanes in the belief that use of the passage was more imminent and would contribute to shorter travel times and associated cost savings. But given the Arctic’s short sailing season, continuing treacherous ice conditions, the high costs associated with armoring cargo ships to withstand the ice, as well as low fuel prices, the Institute predicts that such crossings won’t become commercially viable until at least 2040. Until that time, shipping between Europe and Asia will continue to use the Suez Canal. Arctic shipping has decreased in recent years, from 1.3 metric tons in 2013 to 300,000 tons in 2014.
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08 Feb 2016: West Virginia Flatter
After Decades of Mountaintop Removal

Decades of mountaintop coal mining have substantially altered the topography of central Appalachia, according to new

Appalachian mountain and valley affected by mining
esearch by Duke University. Areas affected by mining are as much as 60 percent flatter than they were pre-mining. In mountaintop mining, bedrock is blasted away to uncover coal seams below the surface. In addition to mountains reduced in height, the valleys are also affected; they can be substantially shallower after mining debris is deposited in them. The fill can be as deep as 200 meters, which can significantly alter water flow and contamination as well. "The depth of these impacts is changing the way the geology, water, and vegetation interact in fundamental ways that are likely to persist far longer than other forms of land use," said Emily Bernhardt, a professor of biology at Duke and co-author on the study.
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05 Feb 2016: Rising Temperatures Skewing
Gender Balance of Sea Turtles, Study Says

Rising global temperatures may be skewing the gender makeup of marine turtles, according to

Loggerhead sea turtle
new research from Florida State University. The gender of marine hatchlings is influenced by the temperature of the sands in which they incubate, with warmer temperatures producing more females. “It's worrying that you could have an extreme skew in gender one way," said Mariana Fuentes, an assistant professor of oceanography at FSU. "Any changes in population structure can have real repercussions.” The scientists examined 25 years worth of data for 21 loggerhead turtle nesting beaches along the Brazilian coast, but the results are pertinent to other regions since temperature-dependent sex determination affects all turtles.
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04 Feb 2016: Only Known Wild Jaguar in
the U.S. Filmed in Arizona in Rare Video

Video of the only known wild jaguar still roaming the United States has been captured using remote sensor

"El Jefe" filmed roaming south of Tucson at night
cameras in Arizona. The big cat, known by the nickname El Jefe (“The Boss”), is one of only four or five jaguars spotted in the wild in the U.S. in the past two decades. El Jefe is believed to live in the Santa Rita Mountains, about 25 miles south of Tucson. The footage was captured by Conversation CATalyst, which has about a dozen cameras in the area where the jaguar lives. Notoriously elusive, the video footage is the product of three years of tracking. Healthy numbers of jaguars, the third largest cats after lions and tigers, once roamed the Southwest, but they all but disappeared about 150 years ago due to habitat loss and hunting, shot to protect livestock. Jaguars are now protected by the Endangered Species Act, although El Jefe may be the last one in the U.S.
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03 Feb 2016: China’s Wind Power Sector
Experienced Rapid Growth in 2015

China installed nearly half of all new global wind power generation last year and added as much new wind energy capacity in one year as the total capacity of the leading U.S. wind-producing states — Texas, Iowa, and California. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports that China installed nearly 29 gigawatts of new wind-power capacity last year, surpassing the previous record of 21 gigawatts in 2014. China’s new wind energy capacity dwarfed the next-largest market, the United States, which added 8.6 gigawatts in 2015. Analysts said China’s wind sector grew rapidly because of declining manufacturing and installation costs, generous government feed-in tariffs, improving transmission capacity, and the government’s campaign to curb pollution from coal-fired power plants.
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Five Questions for Robert Bullard
On the Flint Water Crisis and Justice

In Flint, Michigan, a city of 100,000 whose population is 56 percent African American, a state cost-cutting measure to begin drawing drinking water supplies from
Five questions
Five Questions for Robert Bullard
Texas Southern University
Robert D. Bullard
the Flint River has led to a public health crisis. The corrosive waters of the river have leached lead out of Flint’s aging water pipes, causing thousands of children to ingest dangerously high levels of lead — a problem that was ignored for months. Yale Environment 360 asked Robert D. Bullard — dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University and the man widely considered the first to fully articulate the concept of environmental justice — five questions about how the situation in Flint reflects on environmental inequality in the United States.
Read more.
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02 Feb 2016: General Electric Joins
The Move From CFL Bulbs to LEDs

General Electric, a leader in the lighting market, has announced that it will stop manufacturing compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs by the end of the year and

increasingly shift production to LED (light emitting diode) bulbs, which last longer, produce a better-quality light, and are rapidly declining in price. The move highlights a trend away from CFL bulbs, which several years ago were the go-to choice for energy-saving bulbs to replace energy-intensive incandescent light bulbs. “Now is the right time to transition from CFL to LED,” said GE lighting executive John Strainic. The price of an LED bulb has fallen from $30 to $5 in recent years and continues to decline. Retail giant Ikea abandoned CFL bulbs last year and now sells only LED lights, and other major retailers like Walmart are expected to follow suit — a move welcomed by environmental groups, which laud the large energy savings from LEDs.
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01 Feb 2016: Lab-raised Caribbean Coral
Grown in the Wild for the First Time

Caribbean coral colonies bred in a lab, using in-vitro fertilization, have for the first time been raised to sexual maturity in their

Elkhorn coral
natural marine habitat, according to findings published in the Bulletin of Marine Science. Offspring of endangered elkhorn coral were reared from gametes collected in the field and successfully reattached to a reef a year later, where they have grown in size considerably according to researchers from SECORE International. Over the past four decades, an estimated 80 percent of all Caribbean corals have disappeared. The elkhorn coral’s decline is so severe that it was the first coral species to be listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2006. Due to its large size, branching shape, and preference for shallow waters, the coral is particularly effective at protecting shorelines from incoming storms, as well as providing a critical habitat for many reef organisms. Scientists hope this success will be an important step in helping restore endangered reefs.
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29 Jan 2016: European Summers Hottest Since
Roman Empire, Tree Ring Analysis Finds

For the past three decades, Europe has been experiencing its warmest summers since the days of the Roman Empire, according to a study published in the Environmental Research Letters Journal. The study, compiled by 40 academics, concluded that average summer temperatures have been 1.3 degrees Celsius hotter than they were 2,000 years ago. Heat waves also occur more often and last longer. The temperature figures were calculated by analyzing the tree ring analysis of three pine species found in Austria, Sweden, and Finland, as well as climate modeling and historical documents. The report says that summers were particularly warm between Roman times and the third century, before cooling until the 7th century. Temperatures warmed up again during medieval times, then dropped again from the 14th to 19th centuries. The recent warming, however, is unprecedented and cannot be explained by natural variability, but is directly related to manmade climate changes, the scientists said.
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28 Jan 2016: Japan Is Building World's
Largest Floating Solar Farm Near Tokyo

Work has begun in Japan on what is expected to be the world’s largest floating solar farm, according to Japanese electronics

Rendition of solar farm on reservoir outside Tokyo
firm Kyocera, which is spearheading the effort. Japan is facing an increasing need for alternate forms of energy following the 2011 disaster at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima. Land is inherently in short supply, which is why the country is keen on developing floating solar plants. Although water and electricity can make for a dangerous combination, the technology to build atop water is not particularly challenging, industry analysts say, but it is more expensive than building terrestrial solar farms. The power plant is being built on a reservoir in Japan’s Chiba Prefecture, not far from Tokyo. It is expected to produce enough power for 5,000 households when completed in two years.
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27 Jan 2016: Rush to Electric Vehicles
Is Worsening Air Pollution in China

The push by the Chinese government and the country’s automakers to expand production of electric vehicles is actually worsening air pollution and carbon emissions because most of China’s electricity is still produced by coal-fired power plants, new studies show. Thanks to government incentives, production of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles is expected to grow six-fold to two million cars and trucks by 2020. But studies by researchers at Tsinghua University show that electric vehicles charged in China with coal-fired power produce two to five times as many particulates and other pollutants as gasoline cars. The Tsinghua studies call into question the government policy of promoting deployment of electric vehicles while the vast majority of the country’s electricity still comes from coal. “International experience shows that cleaning up the air doesn’t need to rely on electric vehicles,” said one analyst. “Clean up the power plants.”
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26 Jan 2016: Cost of Manufacturing Solar
Panels Is Projected to Continue Falling

The cost of manufacturing solar panels is dropping more quickly than previously predicted, putting solar energy on course to meet

20 percent of global energy demand by 2027, according to Oxford University mathematicians, who developed a new forecasting model. By contrast, the International Energy Agency’s predictions are far more conservative, stating that by 2050, solar panels will generate just 16 percent of global energy demand. The Oxford researchers' model predicts solar panel costs will continue to decrease 10 percent a year for the foreseeable future. Their model draws on historical data from 53 different technologies. The findings should help refute claims that solar PV cannot be ramped up quickly enough, said Oxford's Doyne Farmer, who co-wrote the paper. “We put ourselves in the past, pretended we didn’t know the future, and used a simple method to forecast the costs of the technologies,” he said.
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25 Jan 2016: Massive Transformation to Clean
Energy in the U.S. is Possible, Study Says

A rapid and affordable transformation to wind and solar energy within 15 years is possible in the U.S., according to a new study by NOAA

Map showing U.S. wind energy potential
and University of Colorado Boulder researchers published in the journal Nature Climate Change. This energy transformation could slash greenhouse emissions by as much as 78 percent below 1990 levels, the study said. One of the biggest issues with weather-related power generation is its inherent intermittent nature, leading utilities to rely on gas-fired generators and other reserves during cloudy or low-wind periods. The solution to this problem is to scale up renewable energy generation systems to match the scale of weather systems, the scientists said. The model partially depends on significant improvements to the nation’s outdated electrical grid, including the creation of new, high-voltage direct-current transmissions lines.
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22 Jan 2016: Gasoline Prices Slow Electric
Car Sales to Below Administration Goals

The low price of gasoline is delaying the Obama Administration’s stated goal of reaching one million electric vehicles on American

Cheap gas is hurting electric car sales.
roads by now, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said. In the summer of 2008, with gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, Obama, then a candidate, set a goal of getting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015, something he reiterated in his 2011 State of the Union address. Of the 250 million cars and trucks on U.S. roads, only 400,000 of them are electric. Sales fell six percent last year when compared to 2014, to about 115,000 vehicles, despite an increasing number offerings, often at sold at steep discounts. But cost remains an issue. Mostly due to the price of batteries, electric and hybrid cars often cost about $8,000 to $10,000 more than an equivalent gasoline-powered car.
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21 Jan 2016: Tree Frog Long Believed
Extinct Is Rediscovered, Scientists Say

A specimen of tree frog to be extinct for nearly 150 years, has been found in again in the wild in the jungles of northeast

A new genus of tree frog has been rediscovered.
India, according to an article published in the journal PLOS ONE. A group of scientists, led by Indian biologist Sathyabhama Das Biju, identified the frogs as part of a new genus, Frankixalus, and said the frogs could be living across a wide swath of Asia. But that doesn't mean the frogs are safe, Biju said. They were found at high altitudes in a diversity hotspot under threat from agricultural development. The frog has some very unusual characteristics, such as breeding inside tree hollows 20 feet above ground, where it feeds its tadpoles unfertilized eggs in small pools of water.
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20 Jan 2016: 2015 Was the Hottest Year
on Record, U.S. Government Scientists Say

Last year was the hottest year globally — by far — breaking a record set in 2014, according to a report released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). During 2015, the globally averaged land and sea surface temperatures were 1.62°F (0.90°C) above the 20th century average. December, in particular, was the hottest month ever recorded. According to the report, the record warmth was broadly spread around the world and contributed to significant global climate anomalies and events. NOAA and NASA do separate analyses of global temperatures, and the results they released today show 2015 as the warmest since global record-keeping began in 1880.
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Interview: Finding a New Politics
For Our New Environmental Era

In an age defined by humankind’s unprecedented influence on the environment, how do do we begin to
Jedediah Purdy

Jedediah Purdy
reverse our increasingly disruptive impacts on the planet’s fundamental natural systems? Author Jedediah Purdy maintains that the times require a new politics to address the urgent global issues now confronting the planet, a vision he lays out in his new book, After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Purdy concedes that it’s difficult to discern the specifics of the “democratic Anthropocene” he’s calling for, but it has fundamental underpinnings: being less beholden to Big Money, attaching a moral value on climates and landscapes, and placing more emphasis on our responsibility to future generations. “We only have one way of collectively pivoting the direction in which we're taking that world, and that is political.”
Read the interview.
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19 Jan 2016: Ocean Absorption of Manmade
Heat Doubles Since 1997, Study Says

The amount of manmade heat absorbed by the world’s oceans has doubled since 1997, according to a study

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
released yesterday in the journal Nature Climate Change. Scientists have long known that the oceans absorb more than 90 percent of manmade heat, but the study’s figures give a new and more accurate accounting for that process over a period of 150 years. According to the study, the oceans absorbed 150 zettajoules of energy between 1865 and 1997 — and an additional 150 zettajoules in just the past 18 years. “The changes we’re talking about, they are really, really big numbers,” said co-author Paul Durack, an oceanographer at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California. “They are nonhuman numbers.” Put in perspective, the amount of energy absorbed by the oceans since 1997 is the equivalent to a Hiroshima-sized bomb being exploded every second for 75 years.
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15 Jan 2016: Northeast U.S. Waters Warming
Faster than Previously Thought, NOAA says

The ocean waters off the Northeastern United States may get even warmer, and this warming may occur twice as quickly as previously thought,

The Gulf of Maine is warming rapidly
according to a new study by researchers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The findings, based on four global climate models, suggest that ocean temperatures in that region will rise three times faster than the global average. “Prior climate change projections for the region may be far too conservative,” said Vincent Saba, a NOAA fisheries scientist and lead author of the study. The Gulf of Maine has warmed faster than nearly 100 percent of the world’s oceans, likely due to a northerly shift in the Gulf Stream. Scientists have been studying the warming’s impact on the area’s marine ecosystem.
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14 Jan 2016: Europe’s Remaining Orcas
Threatened by Banned Toxins, Study Finds

Orcas and other dolphins living in European waters are facing a severe threat from lingering toxic chemicals that have been banned for decades,

NOAA
Two orcas ply the waters
according to a study led by the Zoological Society of London and published in the journal Scientific Reports. The research, which was based on long-term studies of more than 1,000 biopsied whales, dolphins, and porpoises in European waters, found that the blubber of these cetaceans contain some of the highest concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the world. Without much stronger restrictions, "PCBs will continue to drive population declines or suppress population recovery in Europe for many decades to come," the study’s authors wrote. PCBs are a group of man-made chemicals previously used in the manufacture of electrical equipment, flame-retardants, and paints.
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13 Jan 2016: Melting Icebergs Fertilize
Oceans and Slow Warming, Study Says

The Manhattan-sized icebergs breaking off from the Antarctic ice sheet, which have become a symbol for climate change and

Melting icebergs can fertilize the oceans
rising oceans, may actually help slow global warming, according to a study published in Nature Geoscience. As the icebergs melt in warmer waters, they release in their wake significant amounts of iron and other nutrients that act as fertilizers for algae and other ocean flora, organisms that extract carbon from the atmosphere as they grow. These iceberg-induced ocean blooms absorb 10 to 40 million tons of carbon a year, or about the equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions from Sweden or New Zealand, the study finds. Until now, the impact of ocean fertilization was thought to be very localized. Grant Bigg, of the University of Sheffield and an author of the report, said he was surprised to find that the impact can extend up to 1,000 kilometers. There are typically 30 giant icebergs floating off Antarctica at any one time, and they can linger for years.
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12 Jan 2016: US Coal Production Drops to
30-Year Low in 2015, According to EIA

Coal production in the United States has fallen to its lowest level in 30 years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

A coal mine in Wyoming
Coal production for 2015 was about 900 million short tons, which is 10 percent lower than the year before, and the lowest since 1986, the EIA reported. Production in the Central Appalachian Basin has fallen the most, largely due to difficult mining geology and high operating costs. Domestically almost all coal is used to generate electricity, and demand has fallen as the market share of natural gas and renewables has increased. Low natural gas prices, a decline in U.S. coal exports, and federal environmental regulations have all contributed to declining coal demand, the EIA said. Coal is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions.
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11 Jan 2016: Scientists Warn of Biodiversity
Impacts of Major Hydropower Projects

Hydropower is considered by many to be a key ingredient to reducing carbon emissions and meeting global climate goals,

The Belo Monte dam under construction in the Amazon
but it comes at a great cost to biodiversity, particularly in tropical rainforests, according to a new report published in the journal Science. “Far too often in developing tropical countries, major hydropower projects have been approved and their construction begun before any serious assessments of environmental and socioeconomic impacts had been conducted,” says the report's lead author Kirk Winemiller, an aquatic ecologist at Texas A&M University. The dam-building rush, with more than 450 dams planned for the Amazon, Congo, and Mekong river basins alone, impedes tropical fish migration and vastly expands deforestation due to road construction, according to the authors. Other concerns include development of previously inaccessible terrain, as well as methane emissions from newly built reservoirs.
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08 Jan 2016: Study suggests most nitrogen
found in oceans comes from natural sources

The world’s oceans are less affected by human activities then previously suggested by atmospheric models when it comes to increased

Graph of various nitrogen sources found in oceans
nitrogen levels, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The majority of nitrogen found in the oceans comes from the oceans themselves instead of human pollution blown off shore, which contradicts most models, the researchers say. That’s both good news and bad news. On the plus side, “People may not be polluting the ocean as much as we thought,” says Meredith Hastings, associate professor at Brown University, one of the study’s co-authors. Excess nitrogen can throw aquatic ecosystems out of balance and lead to large algal blooms that can be deadly for sea creatures. However, nitrogen also stimulates the growth of phytoplankton, which increases the oceans’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus mitigating carbon emissions to some extent.
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07 Jan 2016: New Device Harvests Energy From
Walking and Exercising, Researchers Say

Researchers at MIT have developed a new method for harnessing energy generated by very small bending motions, which could be capable

Schematic of new human energy harvester
of harvesting power from a broader range of natural human activities such as walking and exercising. Based on electrochemical principles — the slight bending of a sandwich of metal and polymer sheets, with materials similar to those in lithium ion batteries — the new technology can more effectively capture energy from human motions than previous devices. Those devices, which were based on frictional technology or the compression of crystalline materials, can capture energy from mechanical vibrations, but they are not as compatible with the pace of human movements, the researchers explain in the journal Nature Communications. When bent even a very small amount, the new layered composite produces a pressure difference that squeezes lithium ions through a polymer. The process produces alternating electrical current, the researchers say, which can be used directly to power devices such as cell phones and audio players.
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06 Jan 2016: Graphene Membrane Can Clean
Nuclear Wastewater, New Research Shows

Microscopic graphene membranes can effectively filter radioactive particles from nuclear reactor wastewater

Microscopic image of graphene membrane
at room temperature, researchers from the University of Manchester have shown. Writing in the journal Science, the researchers demonstrated that graphene membranes can act as a sieve, separating different varieties of hydrogen — both radioactive and non-radioactive isotopes — from water. The new technology could also be scaled to produce significant amounts of so-called "heavy water," which is a non-radioactive component that is required in large quantities to produce nuclear energy. The graphene technology is 10 times cheaper and more efficient than current methods of producing heavy water. "This is really the first membrane shown to distinguish between subatomic particles," said University of Manchester researcher Marcelo Lozada-Hidalgo.
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05 Jan 2016: NASA Images Show Swelling
Of Mississippi From Massive Flooding

A historic flood has sent the highest water levels ever recorded through the Mississippi River south of St. Louis, toppling records

Enlarge

Satellite image of flooding along the Mississippi River
set during the devastating floods of 1993. The massive surge follows heavy rains that dropped up to 12 inches of water across the region during a three-day period in late December. A NASA satellite recently acquired this image of flooding along the Mississippi River from January 3rd, which shows floodwaters as blue and vegetation as green. The previous day, the waters caused the highest flood on record at Cape Girardeau, a Missouri town south of St. Louis. The flood water will continue to move southward, National Weather Service forecasters say, cresting in northwestern Tennessee today and in Memphis, Tennessee, by the end of the week. Some researchers point to modern river management strategies enacted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, such as levees and dams that constrain the river, for exacerbating the effects of the heavy rainfall.
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04 Jan 2016: More Than Half of Power Plants
Could be Hampered by Climate Change

More than 60 percent of the world's power plants could be hampered by changes in climate and water distribution by the middle

Canada's Toba Montrose hydroelectric project
of the century, according to a new analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Hydropower plants and thermoelectric power plants — nuclear, fossil-, and biomass-fueled plants that convert heat to electricity — rely on freshwater from rivers and streams to produce energy and effectively cool equipment. Together, these types of power plants produce 98 percent of the world's electricity, the researchers note. Changes in climate that lead to water shortages and increased water temperatures will affect electricity generation in some regions more than others, says lead researcher Michelle Van Vliet of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. She notes that adaptation measures focused on making power plants more efficient and flexible — such as switching from freshwater cooling to air or seawater cooling — could mitigate the decline.
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04 Jan 2016: More than Half of Power Plants
Could be Hampered by Climate Change

More than 60 percent of the world's power plants could be hampered by changes in climate and water distribution by the middle
Toba Montrose hydroelectric project

Canada's Toba Montrose hydroelectric project
of the century, according to a new analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Hydropower plants and thermoelectric power plants — nuclear, fossil-, and biomass-fueled plants that convert heat to electricity — rely on freshwater from rivers and streams to produce energy and effectively cool equipment. Together, these types of power plants produce 98 percent of the world's electricity, the researchers note. Changes in climate that lead to water shortages and increased water temperatures will affect electricity generation in some regions more than others — the U.S., southern South America, southern Africa, and parts of Europe are particularly vulnerable, says lead researcher Michelle Van Vliet of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. She notes that adaptation measures focused on making power plants more efficient and flexible — such as switching from freshwater cooling to air or seawater cooling — could mitigate the decline.
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04 Jan 2016: How Science Can Help to Halt
The Western Bark Beetle Plague

Tens of millions of acres of pine and spruce trees have died in western North America in recent
Diana Six
Diana Six
years as a result of bark beetle infestations spawned by a hotter, drier climate. University of Montana entomologist Diana Six has been working to understand why the genetics of some individual trees enable them to survive even as whole forests around them are turning brown and perishing. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Six explains the root causes of the beetle infestations, discusses why U.S. Forest Service policies may be making the problem worse, and describes why the best hope for Western forests will come from the trees’ capacity to genetically adapt to a new climate regime. Read the interview.
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The View From Far Above:
How Earth Changed in 2015


From raging forest fires to dwindling snowmelt to the extraordinary birth of new ocean islands, sometimes the best way to witness planetary happenings — and to gain perspective on them — is from high above. Below are satellite images and aerial photos from the NASA Earth Observatory that capture some of the more dramatic changes that shaped the earth over the past year.
View the gallery.
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23 Dec 2015: Congressional Tax Credits
Expected to Further Boost U.S. Renewables

The renewable energy sector in the United States is finishing 2015 on a high note as Congress has voted to approve significant extensions for tax credits for renewable energy, and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has reported a surge in wind power installations. Ending uncertainty about the fate of tax credits for the wind and solar industries, Congress has voted to extend investment tax credits for solar power and production tax credits for wind energy through 2022 and 2020, respectively. Renewable energy companies and analysts praised the extensions, saying that, coupled with rapidly falling prices for wind and solar energy technologies, the tax credits virtually guarantee a boom in the production of renewables in the U.S. Earlier this week, the AWEA said U.S. wind energy production has reached a milestone, with 50,000 turbines providing a generating capacity of 70 gigawatts — enough to power 19 million homes.
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Iberian Lynx Is Back from Brink,
But Still Faces Major Challenges

Efforts to help restore the endangered population of the Iberian lynx are showing signs of success. Chief among them are the captive breeding program, which has
Iberian lynx

An Iberian lynx in the wild
helped increase the animal’s numbers from a critical low of less than 100 individuals to 160 today. The elegant 25-pound predator, a close relative of the American bobcat, still faces a number of challenges including habitat loss of 95 percent, a high vehicular mortality rate, and a genetic exchange stymied by a lack of wildlife corridors. It remains uncertain, as well, if the lynx can acclimate quickly enough to life at higher, cooler climes, where its main prey, the European rabbit, is already beginning to relocate due to climate change.
Read more.
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18 Dec 2015: Marshes Likely More Resilient
To Sea Level Rise Than Thought, Study Says

Marshes may be more resilient to climate change and associated rises in sea level than previously thought, according to recent research

An aerial view of Venice showing elevation by color
published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study shows that as levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide increase, more CO2 gets taken in by marsh plants. This spurs higher rates of photosynthesis and plant growth, causing marsh plants to trap more sediment above ground and generate more organic soil below ground, the researchers explain. The process can increase the rate of soil accretion nearly enough to allow marshes to keep up with rising sea levels. In fact, the researchers say, it may increase a marsh's threshold for water inundation by up to 60 percent. "Essentially, we found it's a self-rising mechanism marshes use to build themselves up," said Marco Marani, a researcher at Duke University who helped conduct the study.
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17 Dec 2015: Severe Toxic Algal Blooms
Likely To Double in Lake Erie with Warming

The number of severe harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie will likely double over the next century, according to research from

Sampling lake water during a toxic algal bloom
Ohio State University. As soon as 2050, toxic algal blooms like the one that cut off Toledo's drinking water supply in 2014 will no longer be the exception, but rather the norm, the researchers say. Although several states and Canadian provinces have agreed to significantly cut nutrient runoff into the Great Lakes, the study suggests that nutrient reductions alone might not be enough to stop the toxic blooms. That's because factors associated with climate change — less winter snow, heavier spring rains, and hotter summers — supercharge the blooms, the researchers explain. "Those are perfect growing conditions for algae," said Noel Aloysius, a member of the research team. "We can reduce phosphorus by 40 percent, but the algae won't suffer as much as you might hope."
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16 Dec 2015: Five Questions for Bill McKibben
On the Paris Climate Agreement

Activist Bill McKibben was a visible presence during the climate conference in Paris, urging for strong action. Yale Environment 360
Bill McKibben
e360 Five Questions
caught up with McKibben, the founder of 350.org, after an agreement was reached and asked him five question about Paris and the road beyond. While the Paris accord “didn’t save the planet,” McKibben says, “it may have saved the chance to save it – that is, it didn’t foreclose the possibility. Actually getting anywhere will now require massive organizing to hold leaders to their promises.”
Read more.
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15 Dec 2015: China Anti-Pollution Efforts
Lead to Steep Drop in Sulfur Dioxide Levels

Emissions of sulfur dioxide, a toxic gas that threatens human health and causes acid rain, have dropped sharply in the last decade

Enlarge

China's sulfur pollution has decreased in recent years.
in China, thanks to aggressive air pollution control initiatives by the Chinese government. As these NASA images show, levels of sulfur dioxide in China fell significantly from 2005 to 2014, while emissions of the gas increased in India during the same period. From 2012 to 2014, Chinese SO2 emissions fell especially sharply, by 50 percent. The steady drop in emissions of the noxious gas, released during the burning of coal and other fossil fuels, can be attributed to pollution control measures enacted before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the widespread installation of flue gas desulfurication devices on power plants, the switch to coal with a lower sulfur content, and the closing of coal-fired power plants in favor of less-polluting energy sources such as natural gas, wind, and solar power. India’s sulfur dioxide emissions have risen because of the rapid expansion of coal-fired power plants.
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14 Dec 2015: Accelerating Rock Weathering
Could Help Reduce Atmospheric CO2 Levels

Speeding up the naturally occurring process of weathering rocks to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere could help to

Weathered limestone cliffs in Yorkshire, England
stabilize the climate and avert ocean acidification caused by greenhouse gas emissions, according to research published in the journal Nature Climate Change. As rainwater and other environmental conditions naturally break down rocks on the earth's surface, carbon dioxide is drawn from the atmosphere. The process converts CO2 to bicarbonate, a mineral that chemically binds CO2 and is washed away through rivers to the oceans. By modeling the large-scale effects of weathering — which is driven largely by precipitation, vegetation, and soil microbes — the researchers found methods for accelerating this CO2-removal system. Such a strategy could significantly counteract anthropogenic fossil fuel emissions, they say, slowing ocean acidification and protecting delicate ocean ecosystems such as coral reefs.
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12 Dec 2015: Landmark Agreement on Climate
Is Reached in Paris to Cap Warming

Climate negotiators meeting in Paris have achieved a deal that could change the world. The Paris Agreement commits the

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other leaders
international community to capping global warming to "well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C." To achieve that, the agreement requires the world to "reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible" and "to undertake rapid reductions thereafter, in accordance with best available science." The intention is to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero in the second half of this century. "This agreement is a turning point," said Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resilience Center.
Read more.
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11 Dec 2015: NASA Detects Carbon Monoxide
Plume as Indonesian Forest Fires Burn

This fall tens of thousands of fires in Indonesia released clouds of particulate matter and toxic gases over the region — a

Enlarge

Carbon monoxide plumes detected over Indonesia
process that repeats itself year after year as property owners clear their land of debris for farming. This year, however, saw significantly more fires than usual, and many of those fires escaped their handlers and burned uncontrollably for weeks or months. The fires produced a massive plume of carbon monoxide (CO) — a toxic gas that affects both human health and the climate — that could be detected by NASA satellites. “The 2015 Indonesian fires produced some of the highest concentrations of carbon monoxide that we have ever seen with MOPITT,” the satellite technology that detected the gas, said Helen Worden, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Typically, CO concentrations in that region are roughly 100 parts per billion. Some parts of Borneo, however, saw CO levels of nearly 1,300 parts per billion in September and October.
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10 Dec 2015: Paris COP21: An Unexpected Move
Toward Global Target of 1.5 Degrees

It is the big surprise of the Paris talks: the growing acceptance of a call from small nations most vulnerable to climate change

Johan Rockström
for the conference to declare warming should be halted at 1.5 degrees Celsius. Even a few months ago, this seemed unimaginable. Two degrees was the only target on the table. But here it has gained momentum with more than 100 nations, including the U.S. and the EU, agreeing it should be in the final agreement. With more than a day of talks remaining, inclusion is far from a done deal. But it has strong support. A 1.5-degree target “looks much more scientifically justifiable,” said Johan Rockström, director of the Stockholm Resilience Institute.
Read more.
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09 Dec 2015: Paris COP21: U.N. Climate Talks
Could Hasten the Demise of Coal

Is Paris the beginning of the end for coal? Coal burning is declining fast in both of the world's two largest carbon dioxide emitters,

China’s air pollution is pushing it away from coal.
China and the U.S., with resulting declines in emissions for both countries. The fuel looks incompatible with a world that warms by no more than two degrees C, bringing calls for its rapid phaseout as the global economy is "decarbonized." But, with or without a deal in Paris later this week, will the calls be heeded? Has the demise of King Coal been greatly exaggerated? The smart money in Paris is betting that, despite the embrace of coal by some developing countries such as India and Turkey, the dirty fossil fuel’s days are numbered. "The inevitable conclusion we can draw on the future of global thermal coal is that it has none," an energy analyst said in Paris.
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08 Dec 2015: Paris COP21: Amid Optimism, Key
Issues Remain on Negotiating Table

The centerpieces of a potential climate deal in Paris are the 180 national emissions pledges for the period up to 2030, which

Delegates draft text for the proposed agreement.
were submitted ahead of the conference. What is at issue now are the rules for their implementation, including funding of pledges from poor nations, and whether a procedure can be agreed for upgrading them later to give the world a chance of meeting its two-degree Celsius temperature-rise target. To do all that in the final few days of the conference, negotiators are considering a 48-page draft text that contains numerous brackets, which denote alternative options and text yet to be agreed on. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he expected the final deal to include a review of emissions targets every five years to determine how they are playing out and to allow for increasingly ambitious goals that could secure the two-degree target.
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07 Dec 2015: Paris COP21 — How ‘Landscape
Carbon’ Can Be Part of a Solution on Climate

A group led by the World Resources Institute has unveiled plans in Paris for a grand restoration of Africa's landscapes that includes

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Nigerian finance minister
replanting forests and reviving soils. The group, which includes the World Bank and the African Union's New Partnership for Africa's Development are seeking $2 billion a year to restore 100 million hectares of Africa by 2030 — an area three times the size of Germany. The plans were announced to some 3,000 delegates attending a Global Landscapes Forum in Paris on Sunday. "We need landscape restoration for development and for climate," said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance minister. Some African countries said they are already at work. Ethiopian ministers told the forum they had restored a million hectares of farm soils in the drought-hit Tigray region and elsewhere in the past 20 years, through terracing, irrigation and other activities.
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07 Dec 2015: Soaring Global CO2
Emissions May Have Peaked, Data Show

CO2 emissions in 2015, at 35.7 billion tons, are likely to be exactly where they were two years ago, according to a new study

Global CO2 emissions are projected to fall in 2015.
published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The flat-lining emissions trajectory is the result of China's recent sharp decline in coal burning and the global surge in renewables like wind and solar power, said Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, who led the analysis. The study estimates China's emissions have fallen by 3.9 percent this year. Le Quéré said she does not believe the world has yet hit "peak emissions." Continued rapid industrial expansion by countries such as India that still rely on coal for energy means further rises probably lie ahead, she said. But the evidence is growing that peak emissions may be closer than previously imagined.
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04 Dec 2015: Paris COP21: Global Financiers Hop
Aboard the Zero-Carbon Bandwagon

Outside the conference hall where the Paris climate negotiations are taking place, a large crowd gathered in the bright sun on

Bank of England governor Mark Carney
Friday morning, chanting for an end to government subsidies for fossil fuels. Yards away, a meeting of financiers and bankers got under way in which a central demand was for, well, much the same thing. Something strange has happened here. The masters of the financial universe are out in force insisting that, though they may not be waving placards or chanting slogans, they are part of the solution. Free markets could deliver a zero-carbon world, they say. And Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England and a leading player in the global financial system, announced the creation of a task force to develop a carbon-disclosure system that could force companies to reveal how heavily their businesses are invested in fossil fuels. He said it could become standard business practice around the world — carbon footprinting for financiers.
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03 Dec 2015: Paris COP21 — Regular Reviews
Of Carbon Emission Cuts Likely to Be Adopted

An important point of contention at the Paris climate talks — whether to regularly review nations’ pledges on emissions cuts, in

U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres
the hopes of stimulating further reductions — may be close to being resolved. U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres says there is a growing consensus that emissions-reduction pledges should be reviewed every five years, a stance supported by the U.S., China, and the European Union. Other nations, such as India, have been reluctant to commit to such reviews. Figueres, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and other top officials at the Paris talks are urging delegates to begin resolving issues such as emissions-pledge reviews, as the 50-page draft climate treaty now contains four to five alternative versions of disputed points. Fabius has given negotiators until Thursday night to deliver a streamlined draft and has set a deadline of noon Saturday to come up with a close-to-final draft.
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03 Dec 2015: Paris COP21: Is India the Main
Stumbling Block at Climate Talks?

By some measures India has offered a lot to the Paris neogitations. Its pledge on future emissions includes perhaps the

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
most ambitious renewable energy program in the world, with 175 gigawatts of green power, including 100 megawatts of solar panels, by 2022. But many nonetheless see India as the biggest single threat to curbing CO2 emissions in the next few decades. The problem is coal. The speed of India's current industrialization is so fast that, even with a huge surge in solar energy, it still plans the world's fastest rate of construction of coal-fired power stations. India's continued reliance on coal will increase its CO2 emissions by 60 per cent by 2030. And that addiction to coal is making enemies among countries that India would normally count as its friends – poor nations most at risk from climate change.
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02 Dec 2015: Paris COP21: China’s About-Face
Fuels High Hopes for Paris Talks

China has changed everything. After years of sulking about climate change, China is right now diplomatically and technologically

A worker installs solar panels in eastern China.
transforming the chances of slowing global warming. President Barack Obama might wish for a deal here at U.N. climate negotiations in Paris to be his own crowning legacy. But the truth is that this is China's ball. Nobody personifies the transformation better than the head of the Chinese climate delegation for the past nine years, Xie Zhenhua. He spent years pretending climate change was a developing-world problem that the rich nations had to sort out, and he was widely blamed for scuppering the 2009 Copenhagen climate negotiations. But here in Paris he is quietly confident a deal is about to be done that will be in China's and the world's interests. "China is entering a new normal of energy and resource conservation,” he said. "We can seek a different way [through] ecologically driven wealth generation."
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01 Dec 2015: Paris COP21 — Business Leaders
Announce 'Breakthrough Energy Coalition'

A group of leading business people and technology entrepreneurs — including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Facebook founder

Global leaders announced 'Mission Innovation.'
Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and Jack Ma of China’s Alibaba Group — have announced in Paris a new initiative to spur investment in low-carbon energy technologies. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition says it will work closely with governments and research institutions to “mobilize investment in truly transformative energy solutions for the future.” The coalition will work closely with governments to invest in and develop the technologies, and at the Paris conference the leaders of 21 nations announced the formation of a Mission Innovation initiative to make clean energy available worldwide.
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01 Dec 2015: Paris COP21: To Save Forests,
A Combination of Carrots and Sticks

Forests must be saved and restored if the world community hopes to slow global warming. That's a given at the Paris climate

Indigenous leaders at a forestry session in Paris.
conference. But how? It's a tough issue for many environment ministers, who know that back home their agriculture, mining, and even forestry ministers have other plans for forest lands. In nations such as Peru and Indonesia, the gap between aspirations for slowing deforestation and the reality on the ground is huge. How to close that gap is a major topic of discussion in Paris, with countries, business groups, and conservationists proposing a combination of carrots and sticks to spur reform. And advocates say that returning many forests to indigenous groups is a key part of any solution.
Read more.
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Complete Coverage of the Paris COP21
Climate Talks From Yale Environment 360


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30 Nov 2015: Paris COP21: For the Poorest
Nations, Questions of Compensation

In a series of side events on the first day of the Paris climate conference, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the

Initiative on Resilience, a program designed to help the world’s poorest countries, which are especially vulnerable to the ravages of global warming. Finance to help developing nations adapt to climate change is potentially the dealbreaker in Paris. Developing nations expect a Green Climate Fund, which would cover adaptation and the cost of moderating their greenhouse gas emissions, to contain $100 billion a year by 2020. If the money is not on the table, they may ditch their promises on emissions — and scupper the deal. Germany, France, and other developed nations promised help in Paris. But the president of Angola, chairing a group of 48 African nations vulnerable to climate change, said $5 billion of such projects were already on hold for want of cash.
Read more.
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30 Nov 2015: Paris COP21 — Obama, Xi Vow to
Lead In Climate Fight as Paris Talks Open

Joining leaders from 150 nations in Paris, President Barack Obama acknowledged the U.S.’s special responsibility as the major historical emitter

U.N. climate chief Figueres greets President Obama
of greenhouse gases and vowed that the U.S. would take a leading role in fighting climate change, which he called the central challenge of the 21st century. “The United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it,” Obama said at the opening of United Nations climate talks. He vowed that the U.S. and other developed nations would provide aid for renewable energy development and climate adaptation to developing nations, which he said had “contributed little to climate change but will be the first to feel its most destructive effects.” Chinese President Xi Jinping said that his country would meet its goal of hitting peak emissions by 2030, with steady declines thereafter.
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25 Nov 2015: Airlines Could Halve Emissions
By 2050 by Making Cost-Saving Changes

Airlines could cut their greenhouse gas emissions in half over the next 35 years by making changes that would actually

Cost-effective changes could cut airline emissions.
save them money, according to research published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Researchers developed a list of 14 strategies, all based on current technologies, that airlines could pursue to cut emissions, which account for roughly 2 to 3 percent of the total carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere each year. For example, one recommendation is to keep planes at the gate until takeoff rather than making them idle on the runway, or to use fewer engines — perhaps even electric engines — when taxiing. Emissions could also be cut significantly by reducing aircraft weight, the researchers say, such as by lowering the amount of extra fuel carried or replacing seats and brakes with ones made from lighter materials. Updating flight paths to more direct routes, adjusting altitude and speed to avoid drag-inducing turbulence, and retiring older planes would also cut costs and emissions.
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24 Nov 2015: Transportation and Buildings
Drove Rise in U.S. Energy Emissions Last Year

Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. rose last year by 1 percent, marking the second consecutive year of

Low fuel prices drove higher vehicle emissions.
increased energy emissions despite advances in efficiency and growing use of less carbon-intensive fuels, such as natural gas. The transportation sector and residential and commercial buildings largely drove the increase, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports. Lower fuel prices and an improving economy led to more consumption of gasoline and other fuels, the EIA says, which more than offset gains in vehicle fuel economy. Emissions from commercial and residential buildings also rose last year. While residential energy use is mainly driven by weather on a year-to-year basis — the first quarter of 2014 was particularly cold in many regions — both weather and economic gains led to more energy consumption in commercial buildings, the report says. Looking at energy emissions by another measure, the U.S. made better progress, as CO2 emissions per unit of gross domestic product declined.
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23 Nov 2015: In Major Shift, Alberta
Adopts New Plans to Fight Climate Change

In a sharp reversal from the previous government, Alberta’s recently elected premier has announced a host of new climate measures, including a tax on carbon, the phase-out of coal emissions by 2030, a transition to
Rachel Notley
Dave Cournoyer/Flickr
Rachel Notley
renewable energy sources, and CO2 emissions limits on the province’s massive tar sands industry. Premier Rachel Notley said Sunday that the province will adopt an economy-wide carbon tax of 20 Canadian dollars in 2017, increasing to 30 dollars in 2018. She vowed that two-thirds of the electricity now produced by coal-fired power plants will be replaced with renewable energy. And she said Alberta will impose a carbon emissions limit on the oil sands industry of 100 megatons; the industry currently generates 70 megatons of carbon annually. “This is the day we step up, at long last, to one of the world’s biggest problems: the pollution that is causing climate change," Notley said.
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Interview: Why Brazil’s Pledges On
Carbon Emissions Are Not Enough

In recent years, Brazil has been widely praised for reducing deforestation in the Amazon by 75 percent from 2005 to 2014.
Maria Fernanda Gebara
Maria Fernanda Gebara
But analysts are now taking a closer look at Brazil’s pledges to cut deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, with some saying there is less there than meets the eye. One of the more outspoken critics of the country’s CO2-reduction policies is Brazilian political scientist Maria Fernanda Gebara. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Gebara, a research associate in the Department for International Development at the London School of Economics, says Brazil’s policies will do little more than stabilize emissions for the next 15 years, will fail to clamp down on illegal logging, and will continue the nation’s dismal record of developing solar and wind power.
Read the interview.
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20 Nov 2015: Global Forest Cover Estimates
Vary Widely Based on Definition, Study Says

Measurements of global forest cover can vary widely — by as much as 6 percent of the planet's land area, a swath equal in size

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Forest cover calculations
to China, according to research from the University of Maryland. The reason behind the discrepancy actually lies in how different researchers and organizations define forest cover, the researchers note. Geographers have long called for the definition to be standardized, but until now, no one had quantified the scope of the variance. The largest ambiguities in forest calculations are driven by uncertainties near savannas, shrublands, mountain ridge forests, and other areas with intermediate tree cover. “It’s not technology’s fault” that forest maps are inconsistent, said lead author Joseph Sexton. But until the definitions are standardized, he said, it will be difficult to properly assess land cover or conservation measures related to climate change and biodiversity.
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19 Nov 2015: Genetically Engineered Salmon
Approved for Sale in U.S. Supermarkets

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved genetically engineered salmon for human consumption, marking the first

AquAdvantage salmon (top) compared to conventional salmon
time an animal with genetic alterations has been cleared for sale in supermarkets across the nation. A long and bitter battle has surrounded the issue, and this approval comes five years after government reviewers deemed AquAdvantage Atlantic salmon, as the fish is known, safe for consumers and the environment. Opponents have argued that the genetic integrity of wild salmon could be threatened if the GM fish were to escape from contained farms into rivers and oceans. The company says, however, that the fish will be raised on land, thus making escape into the wild impossible, and that the GM salmon can be farmed more efficiently because they have a faster growth rate than conventionally farmed salmon.
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18 Nov 2015: Icelandic Ice Cap Gains Mass for
First Time in Two Decades, Researchers Say

An Icelandic ice cap known as Hofsjökull, shown in this NASA satellite image, has gained mass for the first time since 1993,

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Iceland's Hofsjökull ice cap
according to measurements taken last month. All ice caps in Iceland had been retreating rapidly and losing volume since 1995, due to decreasing precipitation and rising temperatures. Hofsjökull’s resurgence this year is the result of abundant winter precipitation and cooler than normal summer temperatures, explained Thorsteinn Thorsteinsson, a glaciologist at the Icelandic Meteorologial Office. Last winter, snowfall in the region of the ice cap was 25 to 60 percent thicker than the 1995-2014 average. Cool northerly winds slowed Hofsjökull’s summer melt rate, contributing to the positive measurements obtained last month.
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17 Nov 2015: New Study Finds Limited and
Uneven Water Reserves Near Earth's Surface

Roughly 5.5 million cubic miles of groundwater are stored in the earth’s crust, according to new research published in

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Groundwater distribution
the journal Nature Geoscience, but the resource is distributed unevenly across the globe, as shown in this map. Combining data with models on the permeability and porosity of rocks and soils, and on water table gradients, researchers illustrated the depth of groundwater around the world. If earth's groundwater were to cover the planet's surface evenly, the scientists predicted that the pool would be approximately 600 feet deep. However, only six percent of this groundwater is usable for most purposes. This water, which is closer to the surface, is also more sensitive to climate change and human contamination. The research highlights how unevenly this resource is distributed across the globe, scientists say, as well as the need to manage water reserves in a sustainable way.
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16 Nov 2015: U.S. Cities Vary Widely in Climate
Preparation Due to Politics, Study Says

Portland, Boston, and Los Angeles are further along than many U.S. cities in planning for extreme weather events linked to global

Matthew Paulson/Flickr
Downtown Tampa, Florida
warming, according to a study published in the journal Global Environmental Change. The report found that Tucson, Arizona, and Raleigh, North Carolina, are in the middle-to-early stages of planning, while Tampa, Florida — which is at the highest risk for hurricanes in the U.S. and is located very near sea level — largely dismisses climate change and has done little to plan for it. The study is the first to look at societal factors, such as a city's political environment, and how those factors affect action on climate change. Interviews with 65 local policymakers in each of the six cities revealed three factors that play a role in how well city planners prepare for climate change: the risk of extreme weather in a given area, public acceptance of climate change, and how aggressively a city's residents engage in public policy.
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13 Nov 2015: Sharks Will Likely Be Less
Effective Hunters With Climate Change

Sharks will likely become much smaller and less aggressive hunters under the rising CO2 levels and warming oceans associated

Port Jackson sharks are bottom-dwellers.
with climate change, according to a study published in Scientific Reports by University of Adelaide researchers. In large-tank laboratory experiments with Port Jackson sharks — a bottom-feeding variety that primarily relies on smell to find food — the researchers found that the combination of warmer water and high CO2 increased the sharks' energy requirements and reduced their metabolic efficiency. Elevated CO2 levels also dulled the sharks' sense of smell to the point that they were unable to locate prey — a finding confirmed in previous CO2/olfaction studies. Together, these effects led to dramatic reductions in the sharks' growth rates. "With a reduced ability to hunt, sharks will no longer be able to exert the same top-down control over the marine food webs, which is essential for maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems," said lead researcher Ivan Nagelkerken.
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12 Nov 2015: Two Billion People at Risk of
Losing Water Supplies Due to Snowpack Loss

Roughly 2 billion people are at risk of declining water supplies in the northern hemisphere due to decreasing snowpack, according to

Snowpack in the Lesser Caucasus mountains.
researchers at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Researchers identified 97 basins with at least a two-thirds chance of declining water supplies. Nearly 1.45 billion people rely on snowpack in just 32 of those basins for a substantial proportion of their water. Among them are the basins of northern and central California, where much of U.S. produce is grown; the basins of the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers, which serve much of the American West and northern Mexico; the Atlas basin of Morocco; the Ebro-Duero basin, which feeds water to Portugal and much of Spain and southern France; and the volatile Shatt al Arab basin, which channels meltwater from the Zagros Mountains to Iraq, Syria, eastern Turkey, northern Saudi Arabia, and Iran.
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11 Nov 2015: Renewable Diesel Production and
Demand Growing Worldwide, Report Finds

A new type of renewable, non-petroleum-based diesel fuel is on the rise worldwide, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration,

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Renewable diesel growth
with demand driven by mandates in multiple countries. Unlike other biofuels, renewable HEFA biofuels — the acronym stands for hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids, and the fuels are known as "renewable diesel" in the U.S. — are nearly indistinguishable from their petroleum counterparts, meaning they can serve as "drop-in" fuels, readily substituting for traditional diesel. For example, they can be used in diesel engines without the need for blending with petroleum diesel fuel. Worldwide, more than a billion gallons of HEFA fuels were produced in 2014. Ten plants worldwide now produce renewable diesel, and five additional projects are in development. Alaska Airlines, KLM, and United Airlines have demonstrated the use of HEFA biojet fuel on commercial flights since 2011.
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10 Nov 2015: New Online Tool Maps Lands
Managed and Protected by Indigenous People

Indigenous people have historically demarcated their ancestral lands in a variety of ways, from rudimentary agreements and maps to,

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A new online tool maps native lands.
more recently, drone surveys. But until now, there has been no systematic way of recording the actual boundaries and legal status of each swath of land managed by native peoples, who, as research shows, often do a better job of protecting their lands than local or national governments. LandMark, a new tool launched today by a broad partnership including the World Resources Institute (WRI), is the first online, interactive platform for mapping lands managed by native communities. It was created to fill a critical gap in indigenous and community rights and make clear that these lands are not vacant, idle, or available to outsiders for exploitative development such as mining, palm oil plantations, or timber concessions. But Abdon Nababan, secretary general of the Indonesia's Indigenous Peoples' Alliance, cautioned that “these maps do us no good unless they become public knowledge and indigenous rights are recognized by all who have ambitions to grab our lands.”
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09 Nov 2015: Globe Is Set to Cross 1 Degree C
Temperature Increase Threshold in 2015

The United Kingdom’s Met Office says that 2015 will be the year when average world temperatures rise more than 1 degree C (1.8 F)

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Globaly, 2015 is expected to be warmer than 2014.
above pre-industrial levels. That is halfway to the 2 degrees C temperature increase threshold that scientists say could dangerously destabilize the planet’s climate system. The Met office reported that from January to September this year, global temperatures hit 1.02 degrees C above pre-industrial averages and that temperatures for the full year are virtually certain to be above the 1 C level. Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Association (WMO) reported that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 in 2014 averaged 397.7 parts per million and that average 2015 concentrations could surpass the 400 ppm mark. “We are moving into uncharted territory at a frightening speed,” WMO Secretary General Michel Jarraud said.
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06 Nov 2015: Obama Rejects Keystone XL
Pipeline, Ending a Seven-Year Battle

President Barack Obama has rejected a Canadian company’s request to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would have carried 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta’s tar sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The decision is a major victory for climate and conservation groups and burnishes Obama’s legacy in the battle to slow global warming. Obama’s announcement, made after a seven-year review by the U.S. State Department and other agencies, comes just weeks ahead of key United Nations climate talks in Paris. In remarks at the White House, Obama said that the economic benefits of building the pipeline were outweighed by the high environmental costs of helping move to market tar sands crude, whose production is among the most carbon-polluting on the planet. “The pipeline would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy,’’ Mr. Obama said in remarks at the White House.
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06 Nov 2015: Austria’s Largest State Now
Generates All Electricity from Renewables

The electricity supply in Lower Austria, the largest state in Austria, is now fossil-free, state officials have announced. The state in northeastern Austria, which has a population of 1.65 million, now gets 63 percent of its electricity from hydroelectric power, 26 percent from wind energy, nine percent from biomass, and two percent from solar. While hydroelectric power has always generated a large portion of the state’s electricity, Premier Erwin Proell said that $3 billion in investments since 2002 in utility-scale solar and other renewables had helped the state reach the 100 percent renewables target. Proell said the expansion of renewables has created 38,000 green jobs in the state, with the aim of generating 50,000 jobs in the renewables sector by 2030. Throughout Austria, 75 percent of electricity generation now comes from renewable energy sources.
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05 Nov 2015: Pope Francis Has Swayed
U.S. Public Opinion on Global Warming

A sizable percentage of Americans, and an even larger number of U.S. Catholics, say that Pope Francis’s teachings on climate change have influenced their views on the issue. A survey by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication showed that 17 percent of Americans and 35 percent of Catholics say that their views on global warming have been swayed by the Pope’s messages of concern about climate change, delivered in an encyclical and in a September visit to the U.S. The researchers polled a sampling of Americans months before the pope’s encyclical and after. Those surveys showed the percentage of Americans worried about global warming rose from 51 percent in March to 59 percent in October, and that concern among U.S. Catholics grew from 53 percent to 64 percent in that period. The percentage of those who believe climate change will harm people here and abroad also grew modestly, as did the number of people who consider climate change a moral and social fairness issue.
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04 Nov 2015: New York State Warns
To Prepare for up to 6 Feet of Sea Level Rise

New York State is telling developers and homeowners in New York City and coastal towns that they should prepare for up to 75 inches of sea level rise by 2100. The sea level rise projections, based on recent scientific studies by NASA and Columbia University, are part of the New York Community Risk and Resiliency Act passed after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The state says it is creating new sea level rise regulations requiring coastal planners, developers, and builders to expect seas that could rise up to six feet and to build more resilient homes and other structures. New York officials said 500,000 people live in areas that lie less than six feet above the mean high tide line in the state. The studies took into account increased melting of ice sheets and glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica.
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02 Nov 2015: Urban Fruit Less Polluted and
Often More Nutritious Than Retail Versions

Fruits grown in urban areas, often in abandoned orchards from previous centuries, are proving not only largely free of pollutants,

Measuring nutrients and pollutants in urban fruits.
but more nutritious than their commercial counterparts, according to research from Wellesley College. Joining forces with the League of Urban Canners, a citizens' group based in Boston, the researchers analyzed nearly 200 samples of apples, peaches, cherries, and other urban fruits and herbs, along with commercial varieties of the same foods. Their findings suggest that eating urban fruit is not a significant source of lead exposure, as compared to the EPA's regulated benchmark for lead in drinking water. The concentrations of the nutrients calcium and iron found were higher in urban fruits for every fruit type tested, while manganese, zinc, magnesium, and potassium concentrations were higher in certain urban fruit types. That is most likely because soils in commercial orchards and fields can become nutrient-depleted, researchers say.
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30 Oct 2015: Thousand-Year Storm Event
Leads to Striking Flooding in Death Valley

A system of storms this month caused significant flooding in most of Death Valley National Park in southeastern California. These images,

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Flooding in Death Valley
obtained via a U.S. Geological Survey-NASA satellite, contrast the region's moisture content in October 2015 and October 2014, which was a year with typical precipitation. The images have been enhanced with false color to highlight water at or near the surface of the earth; green and blue indicate locations with high moisture content. Especially striking is Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at an elevation of 279 feet below sea level, which is usually a dry lakebed. In the 2015 image, Badwater Basin is full of water. Flash floods from the so-called "1,000-year" flood event destroyed roads and utilities, and damaged several historical structures, according to the USGS.
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29 Oct 2015: Southeast Asian Nations Plan
Major Hydropower Projects Along Mekong

Although China's hydroelectric development — particularly the world's largest power plant at Three Gorges Dam — has garnered significant attention,

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Hydropower projects planned by smaller Southeast Asian nations
other Southeast Asian nations have relatively large hydropower expansion plans of their own, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says. Those smaller nations plan to construct 61 gigawatts of new capacity through 2020, primarily along the Mekong River and its tributaries. If all planned projects are completed, these countries will more than double their 2012 hydroelectric capacity. As of 2010, 71 Mekong hydroelectric dams were proposed for completion by 2030. Vietnam has the most ambitious hydroelectric development plan, with 205 hydroelectric projects — 6.2 gigawatts — slated for development by 2017 and nearly 4 gigawatts of additional capacity by 2030. Environmental groups have major concerns about the environmental impacts of damming the Mekong River system and other rivers in Southeast Asia.
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28 Oct 2015: Global Warming Could Be
Limited To 3 Degrees C With Current Pledges

National climate pledges submitted so far by 155 countries — responsible for around 90 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions — could limit the planet's long-term temperature increase to around 3 degrees Celsius, according to an assessment by the European Commission Joint Research Center (JRC). The climate pledges, submitted to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change ahead of December's climate negotiations in Paris, are officially known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs. Analysis of unconditional INDCs concludes that, if fully implemented, they could set global emissions growth at around 17 percent above 2010 levels by 2030. Combining unconditional and conditional INDCs — those that would rely on such mechanisms as international climate financial support — JRC found that global carbon emissions could peak shortly before 2030 at 12 percent above 2010 levels, then decline enough to hold temperature increases to 3 degrees C.
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27 Oct 2015: Thawing Permafrost Soils
Rapidly Release CO2 Into Atmosphere

A new study in Alaska shows that as permafrost soils thaw, they rapidly release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further exacerbating

Researchers collected samples of permafrost from underground tunnels.
global warming. Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and two universities dug a tunnel in permafrost near Fairbanks and subjected the frozen soils to rising temperatures. The study showed that permafrost is highly biodegradable, with the carbon in the thawing soils rapidly being consumed by single-celled organisms. Those organisms then release carbon into the atmosphere. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, documented some of the fastest permafrost decomposition rates ever recorded. In effect, the researchers said, thawing means that permafrost — currently isolated from the carbon cycle — has the potential to become a major source of carbon emissions.
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26 Oct 2015: Major Clue Emerges in Mystery
Of Right Whale Deaths, Researchers Say

Endangered right whales, especially young calves of the southern population, have been having a hard time in recent years, and

Southern right whale and calf near Peninsula Valdes
scientists haven't been able to determine why. For example, the average number of right whale deaths per year at Peninsula Valdes, a breeding ground off central Argentina's Atlantic coast, jumped more than 10-fold from 2005 to 2014 — from fewer than six per year to 65 per year, researchers say. Roughly 90 percent of the deaths were calves fewer than three months old. Now researchers have closed in on a suspect: blooms of a type of algae known as Pseudonitschia, which produce harmful neurotoxins, the researchers write in the journal Marine Mammal Science. Scientists from the United States and Argentina found that the number of whale deaths at the peninsula closely tracked the concentrations of the toxic algae, offering strong circumstantial evidence that the algal blooms are likely behind the whale deaths.
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Interview: ‘Third Way’ Technologies
Could Help Turn the Tide on Climate

Massive seaweed farms that suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and counteract ocean acidification. The widespread adoption of carbon
Tim Flannery
Tim Flannery
fiber technology that extracts CO2 from the air and turns it into cars and other industrial products. Concrete manufacturing that is carbon-negative rather than the energy-guzzling Portland cement used today. These and other ideas represent what Australian scientist Tim Flannery calls “third way technologies” — safe methods to reduce carbon dioxide levels that could be adopted in concert with large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Flannery explains that unlike risky geo-engineering schemes, these approaches “strengthen Earth’s own self-regulatory system by drawing CO2 out of the atmosphere in ways the planet naturally does already.”
Read the interview.
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23 Oct 2015: Powerful Foreign Companies
Behind Much of Laos' Illegal Deforestation

Industrial-scale illegal logging is routine in Laos, a southeast Asian nation which has seen its dense forest cover decline from

Illegal logging in Laos by a large Vietnamese company
29 to 8.2 percent over the past decade, and the practice is gaining momentum under the guise of special infrastructure projects, according to information obtained by the London-based advocacy group Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). In 2013, Laos exported 1.8 million cubic yards of timber to Vietnam and China — more than 10 times the country’s official harvest, EIA found. Trade data also show that in 2014 China received $1 billion in illegal timber from Laos — a 22-fold increase from 2008. The high figures imply that the bulk of this timber is composed of valuable rosewood species, which are supposedly protected under Lao law. Virtually all logging operations are linked to infrastructure projects, especially hydropower dams, roads, mining, and agricultural plantations, EIA says.
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22 Oct 2015: The Hard-Working Beaver
Is A Fighter Against Nitrogen Pollution

As beaver populations rebound across North America, the ponds they create are proving to be an important factor in removing rapidly

A beaver dam in Alaska.
growing levels of nitrogen from waterways and estuaries, according to a new study. By creating ponds that slow down the movement of water, the beavers enable nitrogen — which comes from agricultural runoff, septic systems, and other human sources — to seep into soil, where much of it is broken down by bacteria. Reporting in the Journal of Environmental Quality, researchers at the University of Rhode Island said that beaver ponds can remove up to 45 percent of nitrogen in the water. One scientist said that when they began to consider the widespread presence of beaver ponds, “we realized that the ponds can make a notable difference in the amount of nitrate that flows from our streams to our estuaries.”
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21 Oct 2015: Three-Fourths of Americans
Now Say that Climate Change is Occurring

It might be Pope Francis’ forceful stance on global warming, or increasing outbreaks of wild weather, droughts, and fires.

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Americans who believe climate change is occurring
But whatever the cause, 76 percent of those polled in the U.S. say that climate change is occurring, according to a poll from the University of Texas (UT). That is a 12-percent increase from March 2012, when only 65 percent of respondents said they believed in climate change. In that same period, the number of people saying that global warming is not occurring has fallen from 22 percent to 14 percent, according to the poll. All the recent publicity about climate change even seems to have been persuasive to Republicans, who traditionally have been more skeptical that climate change is taking place. The UT poll showed that the percentage of Republicans who say climate change is happening has risen from 47 percent in March of this year to 59 percent in September.
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20 Oct 2015: California Solar Development
Often Occurring On Wilderness Lands

More than half of the large solar energy installations that have been built or are planned in California are being

Solar power plant in California's Mojave Desert
constructed on undeveloped lands rather than in previously developed, less-sensitive areas, according to a new study. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, said that of 161 planned or operating utility-scale solar power developments in the state, more than 50 percent are being located on natural shrub or scrublands, such as the Mojave Desert. About 28 percent have been built on agricultural land and 16 percent have been built in developed areas, according to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers said that it makes far more sense for the state’s robust solar power industry to locate its installations on farmland, especially considering the severity of California's ongoing drought.
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19 Oct 2015: Oslo, Norway, to Ban
Cars in Its City Center By 2019

Oslo, Norway, will ban cars from its city center by 2019, becoming the first European capital to adopt a

Bikes line the streets of central Oslo, Norway.
permanent prohibition on cars in its downtown area. The newly elected city council announced that the city would also build at least 60 kilometers (37 miles) of new bike lanes by 2019 and provide a “massive boost” of investment in public transportation. Business owners in central Oslo fear that the car ban will reduce revenues, but leaders of the new council said the ban could even increase visitors to downtown and that the city would take steps to reduce negative impacts, including allowing vehicles to transport goods to stores and conducting trial runs of the ban to work out problems. Oslo, with 600,000 inhabitants and almost 350,000 cars, would be the first major European city with a permanent central car ban.
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16 Oct 2015: Oil and Coal Companies
Say They Back CO2 Cuts, Climate Talks

Ten major oil companies, mainly from Europe, on Friday acknowledged their industry’s role in climate change and said they agreed with United Nations goals to limit temperature increases to 3.6 F. Their statement follows a similar declaration on Wednesday by 14 major companies closely tied with the fossil fuel industry, including coal giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, as well as Royal Dutch Shell, BP, and the world’s largest cement maker, LafargeHolcim. The Friday statement by European oil company executives acknowledged that the “existing trend of the world’s net global greenhouse gas emissions is not consistent” with UN climate targets. But the companies did not commit to specific production cuts or supporting a price on carbon. With UN climate talks opening in Paris in December, the statements by both groups are part of public relations efforts to demonstrate that oil and coal companies are willing to join in the fight to slow global warming.
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15 Oct 2015: Gates Calls Divestment
A `False Solution’ to Global Warming

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has called the fossil fuel divestment campaign a “false solution” to climate change and says the best way to decarbonize the global economy is by developing revolutionary renewable energy technologies. “We need an energy miracle,” Gates told The Atlantic magazine. “That may make it seem too daunting to people, but miracles in science are happening all the time.” Gates said he is pledging $2 billion of his foundation’s endowment to research and develop alternative energy technologies. He criticized the divestment movement for “using up (campaigners’) idealism and energy on something that won’t emit less carbon.” The Gates Foundation, the world’s largest charitable organization, has $1.4 billion invested in fossil fuel companies, and activists have been calling on Gates to sell those holdings.
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14 Oct 2015: Toyota Vows to Eliminate
Nearly All of Its Gasoline Cars by 2050

The global automobile giant, Toyota, has announced plans to steadily phase out production of gasoline-powered cars and to slash emissions from its fleet by 90 percent by 2050. Speaking in Tokyo, Toyota executives vowed to work with government officials and other companies to replace internal combustion cars with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and hybrids. “You may think 35 years is a long time, but for an automaker to envision all combustion engines as gone is pretty extraordinary,” said a senior Toyota executive. The company said that by 2020 annual sales of its hybrid vehicles will reach 1.5 million and sales of fuel cell vehicles will hit 30,000 — 10 times the projected figure for 2017. Meanwhile, Volkswagen, shaken by scandal over falsifying emissions data on its diesel cars, announced it will increasingly shift production to hybrid and electric vehicles.
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In Brazil, A City’s Waste Pickers
Find Hope in a Pioneering Program

The millions of impoverished people who sift through trash and landfills for recyclable materials have been called the world’s “invisible environmentalists.” Yet many work in deplorable conditions and face exploitation from unscrupulous middlemen. In
Waste Pickers
A waste picker works at a warehouse in Curitiba.
Curitiba, Brazil, city officials and social activists have launched a rapidly growing program in which the waste pickers work out of city-sponsored warehouses and use their collective power to bargain for fair prices for their recycled goods. The Curitiba initiative is one of a growing number worldwide that seek to provide better working conditions and higher wages for waste pickers, while also aiding recycling and creating cleaner cities.
Read more.
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13 Oct 2015: Antarctic Ice Shelves Face
Major Threat If CO2 Emissions Keep Rising

A new study says that many of Antarctica’s floating ice shelves — which play a key role in holding back vast amounts of land-based ice — could become highly unstable later this century if greenhouse gas emissions are not sharply reduced. An international team of researchers, reporting in Nature Geoscience, said that surface melting of Antarctica’s ice shelves could reach the point where many could disintegrate. Such surface melting has already led to the collapse of numerous ice shelves along the rapidly warming Antarctic Peninsula. The study said that surface melting of the continent’s ice sheets would double by 2050 under both intermediate- and high-emissions scenarios. After that, the fate of the ice shelves diverges sharply depending on emissions levels, with a high-emissions scenario leading to surface melting equaling or exceeding intensities associated with ice shelf collapse. Loss of the ice shelves could lead to major increases in sea level as inland glaciers flow to the sea, scientists say.
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12 Oct 2015: New Head of IPCC
Calls For Shift from Science to Solutions

The new chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says it’s time for the global scientific body to shift from documenting the impacts of climate change to finding solutions to global warming. Hoesung Lee, a South Korean economist who was chosen by the IPCC last week to replace former chairman Rajendra Pachauri, told the Guardian that the window to begin slashing greenhouse gas emissions is “closing very rapidly” and said that the IPCC must help spur a move toward the widespread adoption of renewable energy technologies. He said that while the IPCC, which periodically issues voluminous scientific reports on climate change, had been doing a “fantastic job” of identifying the problem, “I believe the next cycle of the IPCC should be more focused on opportunities and solutions.” Lee said that placing a global price on carbon would be “the most important building block” for reducing CO2 emissions to zero by 2100.
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09 Oct 2015: ‘Land Grabbing’ Is Accelerating
As Pressure on Agriculture Resources Grows

An area about the size of Japan — roughly 140,000 square miles — has been purchased or
A land-grabbing operation in Uganda
leased by foreign entities for agricultural use during the last 15 years, according to a report by the Worldwatch Institute. An additional 58,000 square miles are under negotiation, the report found. “Land grabbing,” a term for the purchase or lease of agricultural land by foreign interests, has emerged as a threat to food security in several nations. Globally, over half of this land is in Africa, especially in water-rich countries like the Congo. The largest area acquired in a single country is in Papua New Guinea, with nearly 15,500 square miles (over 8 percent of the nation’s total land cover) sold or leased to foreign entities. Foreign purchase of land in developing countries has surged since 2005 in response to rising food prices and growing biofuel demand in the U.S. and the European Union, as well as droughts in the U.S., Argentina, and Australia. “Essentially no additional suitable [agricultural] land remains in a belt around much of the middle of the planet,” writes Gary Gardner, a contributing author to the report.
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Interview: Rallying Hip Hop For
A More Inclusive Climate Fight

For the Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., hip hop may be the key to bringing together the movements for social and environmental justice.
Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr.
Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr.
Yearwood is head of the Hip Hop Caucus, an advocacy organization seeking to unite hip hop artists and celebrities with climate activists, with the goal of fighting for climate justice. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Yearwood describes how the environmental, climate, and social justice movements are linked — poverty and pollution, he says, “are the same thing.” He extols Pope Francis’ emphasis on the vulnerability of the poor to pollution and climate change and insists that the climate movement must become far more inclusive. “The movement — to win — has to be everybody: black, white, brown, yellow, male, female, straight, gay, theist, atheist,” says Yearwood. “We have to build a more diverse and inclusive movement. If we don’t do that, it’s game over. We lose.”
Read the interview.
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07 Oct 2015: Africa Can Increase Renewable
Energy Use Four-Fold by 2030, Study Finds

The African continent could generate nearly a quarter of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030, according to a report
Solar PV minigrids serving 30 villages in Mali
by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The report identified potential renewable energy sources — including solar, biomass, hydropower, and wind resources — equivalent to more than 375 million tons of coal. While half of energy use in Africa today involves traditional biomass consumption, the report estimated that a shift to renewable-energy cooking solutions would reduce traditional cook stove usage and the resulting health complications from poor indoor air quality, leading to savings of $20 to 30 billion annually by 2030. In the African power sector, the share of renewable sources could increase to 50 percent by 2030, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by more than 340 million tons, the IRENA report says.
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06 Oct 2015: Styrofoam May Be Biodegradable
After All, Thanks to Mealworms, Study Says

Mealworms can survive on a diet of polystyrene plastics — commonly used to make Styrofoam — according to research published in

Mealworms devouring Styrofoam
the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The findings point toward a possible solution for dealing with one of the most-polluting forms of plastic. In the study, 100 mealworms consumed between 34 and 39 milligrams of Styrofoam per day. These worms were as healthy as those fed a normal diet, the researchers report, and excreted biodegraded Styrofoam fragments that were usable as agricultural soil. While studies have found that other organisms, including waxworms and Indian mealmoth larvae, are able to digest plastics such as polyethylene, this is the first organism able to digest Styrofoam, which is generally considered non-biodegradable. The discovery could aid in better understanding of the conditions and enzymes that contribute to plastic degradation.
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05 Oct 2015: Icelandic Seafood Giant
May Be Involved in Endangered Whale Hunt

Iceland’s controversial annual hunt of fin whales — classified as "endangered" by the International Union for Conservation

Watch video

Slaughter of a fin whale
of Nature — ended with a catch of 155 fin whales, the largest slaughter since the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, reports the London-based advocacy group Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). The EIA and the Animal Welfare Institute obtained evidence revealing the ongoing involvement of international seafood giant HB Grandi — a Reykjavík-based company with an annual income of roughly $230 million (as of 2011) — in the whaling business, despite its claims to the contrary. HB Grandi is Iceland’s largest seafood company and its CEO has repeatedly insisted that the company “is not involved in whaling and never has been.” Despite the international moratorium, Iceland recently has allowed commercial whaling and has shipped whale products to Japan.
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02 Oct 2015: Brown Carbon Plays Larger Role
In Climate Than Assumed, Study Says

Climate models are underestimating the effects of so-called brown carbon from sources such as forest fires because the models

Wood-burning stove
do not account for regional factors — such as areas where wood-burning stoves are common — when estimating brown carbon's climate-warming impacts. Black carbon, primarily from urban combustion sources like vehicles and factories, absorbs the most sunlight, the researchers explain, and it's well-accounted for in climate models. However, most models don't properly account for brown carbon, the researchers say. Brown carbon "can be a significant absorber of sunlight, making it as bad for climate warming as black carbon," said co-author Manvendra Dubey of Los Alamos National Laboratory. The study, published this week in Nature Communications, stresses the differing effects of black and brown carbon on the climate: Solid wood combustion, a source of brown carbon soot, is pervasive during United Kingdom winters, but very uncommon in other study locations, such as Los Angeles, which generally sees more black carbon soot from vehicles.
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01 Oct 2015: International Space Station
Gives Glimpse of China's Aquaculture Sector

A slew of grid-patterned fish farms line the coast of Liaoning Province in northeast China, as shown in this photograph taken by

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Aquaculture in China's Liaoning Province
an astronaut aboard the International Space Station. The aquaculture operations have been built out from the highly agricultural coast to a distance of roughly 4 miles. Liaoning Province ranks sixth in China in terms of aquaculture production, and this group of fish farms, which face the Yellow Sea, is the largest set constructed along the province's coastline. The fish farm basins are built on shallow seabeds, mudflats, and bays. Outer barriers protect the basins from winter storms and large waves generated by passing ships. Most aquaculture products are purchased live in China, with less than 5 percent being killed and processed for selling in local or foreign markets, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), says. Shellfish, a traditional marine food source, still dominates China's marine production, according to the FAO's Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, accounting for 77 percent of the market.
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30 Sep 2015: New Agreement Yields Hope for
Saving World's Second-Largest Rainforest

In advance of the Paris climate talks, European and African countries announced an initiative to stem the rising tide of forest destruction in Central Africa, one of the world’s last large expanses of rainforest. Norway is the first country to pledge funds to the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) — up to $47 million dollars per year through 2020 — to support the program. The agreement calls for the six participating Central African countries — Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo — to devise national investment plans that will tackle complex factors leading to deforestation, and it prioritizes long-term solutions over short-term, one-time actions. Central Africa is home to the world's second-largest tropical forest, but the region is increasingly under threat, mostly from small-scale slash-and-burn agriculture. Its preservation is key to global efforts to slow climate change, scientists say.
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29 Sep 2015: Electric Buses Could Lead to
Significant Savings Even for Smaller Cities

Electric buses could save a city with half a million residents — one similar in size to Sacramento, California — roughly $12 million each

Electric bus, Bonn, Germany
year if the city's buses were to run on electricity rather than diesel fuel, according to a study by the Volvo Group and the audit and advisory firm KPMG. Factors such as noise, travel time, emissions, energy use, natural resource use, and roughly $2.9 million in avoided health care costs contributed to the annual savings, the analysis says. Gothenburg, Sweden's second-largest city, recently began operating a new electric bus line built by Volvo and powered by wind and hydro electricity, says Niklas Gustafsson, Volvo's head of sustainability. The buses' environmentally friendly design, combined with the fact that they are completely silent and emissions-free, has made the line popular in Gothenburg, he says.
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28 Sep 2015: Shell Ends Arctic Oil and Gas
Exploration Bid for Foreseeable Future

Shell Oil has announced that it will stop its controversial exploratory drilling for oil and gas in Arctic waters for the foreseeable

Shell's Polar Pioneer rig as it left Seattle for the Arctic
future, saying in a statement that the reserves it had discovered were not “sufficient to warrant further exploration.” Shell began operating its first exploration well on July 30, 2015, in the Chukchi Sea off the northwestern coast of Alaska. But the company reported that although it had found indications of the presence of oil and gas, the reserves in the basin where they were drilling were, in the words of one company official, "clearly disappointing." Under Shell's federally approved exploration plan, all rigs and support vessels must leave the Chukchi Sea before the end of October. Environmental groups hailed Shell's announcement.
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25 Sep 2015: ‘Pop-up’ Wetlands Will
Help Millions of Migrating Birds This Fall

Birds migrating south from the Arctic this fall will have access to 7,000 new acres of temporary wetland habitat for their California

Semipalmated plover
stopovers, according to researchers with NASA, The Nature Conservancy, and other academic and conservation organizations. The BirdReturns program creates “pop-up habitats” — temporarily flooded rice fields — for some of the millions of sandpipers, plovers, and other shorebirds that migrate each year from their summer Arctic breeding grounds to winter homes in California, which is in the midst of a severe drought, Mexico, and Central and South America. By combining on-the-ground observations and NASA satellite data, researchers can identify areas where birds flocked during previous migrations. Matching the location and timing of the pop-up wetland habitats with the route and timing of migrating shorebirds is critical, researchers say.
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24 Sep 2015: Nearly Half of U.S. Seafood
Is Wasted Annually, New Study Shows

As much as 47 percent of the edible U.S. seafood supply is wasted each year, with more than half of that waste coming

Maine Avenue Fish Market in Washington, D.C.
at the consumer level as people throw away spoiled or uneaten seafood at home, according to a new study. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future estimated the edible U.S. seafood supply at 4.7 billion pounds a year, and said that 2.3 billion pounds of that are wasted. The study, published in the Journal Global Environmental Change, said that 573 million pounds are lost annually as commercial fisherman catch and discard the wrong species. Roughly 330 million pounds are lost during distribution and retail, and 1.3 billion pounds are lost at the consumer level. The researchers recommended a number of changes to reduce the waste, including stricter limits on by-catch by commercial fishermen and efforts to encourage consumers to purchase frozen seafood.
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23 Sep 2015: New and Reactivated Coal
Mines Fell to Lowest Levels Ever Recorded

The opening of fewer new coal mines, combined with the closing of less-efficient mines, led to 2013 having the lowest number of active coal mines in the U.S. on record, according to an analysis by the Energy Information Administration. In addition, the number of new and reactivated coal mines that began production in 2013 reached its lowest level in at least the past 10 years, the analysis says. Although 103 mines were added that year (the most recent year for which complete data are available), 271 mines were idled or closed, amounting to a 14-percent decline in the total number of productive coal mines compared to the previous year. The 2013 total was 397 fewer coal mines than in 2008, when U.S. coal production peaked. The declining number of new mines reflects reduced investment in the coal industry, strong competition from natural gas, stagnant electricity demand, a weak coal export market, and regulatory and permitting challenges, the EIA says.
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Interview: A Scientist’s View
On How to Repair the Planet

For an environmental scientist who studies how humanity is pushing the earth close to potentially disastrous tipping points, Johan Rockström — author
Johan Rockström
Johan Rockström
of a new book, Big World, Small Planet — is surprisingly optimistic. Although he reckons that our species has crossed four of nine “planetary boundaries,” including those on climate change and deforestation, he believes there is still time to pull back from the brink and create a sustainable future based on renewable energy and a “circular” economy that continually reuses resources. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Rockström describes how an alignment of science, technological advances, and a growing public hunger for action can get civilization back on track. “It’s not a journey where we are backing into the caves,” says Rockström. “It’s a journey of high technology ... and huge, multiple benefits.”
Read the interview.
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22 Sep 2015: Antarctic Seafloor Life Is
Locking Away a Lot of Carbon, Study Says

The loss of sea ice over Antarctic waters has caused certain forms of life to flourish on the seafloor, and those underwater communities

An Antarctic icefish swimming over bryozoans
are acting as important and unexpected carbon sinks, according to research published in the journal Current Biology. Based on studies of West Antarctic bryozoans — aquatic invertebrates sometimes referred to as "moss animals" — researchers have found that those and other seafloor organisms could play important roles in accumulating and burying carbon, removing it from the atmosphere for an extremely long time. The researchers calculate that growth of the bryozoans has nearly doubled over the past 20 years, with the animals taking in more than 200,000 tons of carbon per year since the 1980s. Accounting for other undersea species, the researchers suggest that roughly 3 million tons of carbon are sequestered each year, equivalent to nearly 200 square miles of tropical rainforest.
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21 Sep 2015: Rising Seas and More Intense
Storms Likely to Cause Major Flooding Spike

Rising seas and increasingly frequent and intense storms along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts could interact to produce alarming

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Sea temperature increases along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts
spikes in the extent and duration of floods, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change. The study projects that coastal flooding could possibly shoot up several hundred-fold by 2100, from the Northeast to Texas. Even the study's most conservative calculations, based on greatly reduced greenhouse gas emissions over the next 85 years, suggest a 4- to 75-fold increase in the the combined heights and durations of expected floods. Over the past century, the East Coast has experienced sea level rise far beyond the 8-inch global average — up to a foot in much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, including New York City. Most projections call for a further 2- to 4-foot rise by 2100, and some estimates go as high as 6 feet. At the same time, other studies suggest that in the future the largest North Atlantic storms may become more intense because warmer waters contain more energy.
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18 Sep 2015: Genes of Greenlanders Preserve
Evidence of Ancient Arctic Adaptation

The DNA of modern-day Greenlanders shows how their Inuit forefathers adapted to the harsh Arctic environment they called home

80% of Greenlanders identify as Inuit.
for thousands of years, according to findings published in the journal Science. The Arctic is an extreme environment, characterized by a cold climate and sparse vegetation. The typical diet of Greenlanders — and their ancient ancestors — is made up primarily of proteins and fats from fish and marine mammals, and carbohydrate and vegetable consumption is minimal. By collecting genetic information from 4,500 modern Greenlanders, researchers determined which genes have changed the most over the roughly 20,000 years since Greenlanders' most ancient Inuit ancestors separated from their nearest East Asian relatives, the Han Chinese. The genetic changes the researchers identified show that through natural selection the Greenlandic Inuit's genetic makeup evolved in a way that enabled them to efficiently metabolize the fatty acids from fish and to live with few carbohydrates and vegetables.
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17 Sep 2015: Chaotic Illegal Timber Trade
Threatens Crucial Forests in Southeast Asia

A murky, illegal timber trade enabled by systemic corruption exists between China and Myanmar and is worth hundreds of millions of

Illegal log trucks in Kachin wait to cross into China.
dollars annually, making it one of the world's largest illegal timber schemes, according to a new analysis by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). At stake are some of the most ecologically important remaining forests in Southeast Asia, EIA says. The report documents how Chinese businesses pay in gold bars for the rights to log entire mountains and smuggle timber out of Myanmar's conflict-torn state of Kachin. The stolen timber, primarily high-value species of rosewood and teak, is increasingly being sourced from deeper within Myanmar to feed factories in south and east China. The trade appeared to have peaked in 2005, when 1.3 million cubic yards of logs crossed the border. A brief hiatus then occurred when Chinese authorities intervened, but the scale is once again nearing peak levels, the EIA says.
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16 Sep 2015: Unchecked Consumerism Causing
Record-Breaking Resource Use, Study Says

Consumption of critical global resources — from meat and coffee to fossil fuels and water — has peaked in recent years, accelerating

Cevahir shopping center in Istanbul, Turkey
climate change, pollution, and resource depletion to unsustainable levels, according to an analysis by the Worldwatch Institute. The report tracked 24 global consumption trends and found many of them to be record-breaking. Meat production, for instance, has more than quadrupled in the last 50 years, leading to large-scale pressure on water, feeds, and grazing land. Aquaculture production has increased roughly 10 fold since 1984, and today farmed fish account for nearly half of all fish eaten. Global plastic production has also risen continuously over the past 50 years, while recycling rates remain very low. In the United States, for example, only 9 percent of plastic was recycled in 2012. “Untrammeled consumerism lies at the heart of many of these challenges,” said author Michael Renner.
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15 Sep 2015: Chinese Municipal Leaders
Pledge an Early Peak of CO2 Emissions

Leaders of 11 Chinese cities and provinces, including Beijing and the major industrial center of Guangzhou, are announcing that their carbon emissions will peak earlier than the national target of an emissions peak by 2030. The cities will make their announcement today at a meeting of global municipal and regional leaders who are dedicated to reducing CO2 emissions. Beijing and Guangzhou are pledging that their CO2 emissions will peak by 2020. The 11 cities and regions are part of the Alliance of Peaking Pioneer Cities, a group of Chinese local and regional governments that represent one-quarter of China’s urban carbon emissions. The low-carbon cities meeting is being held in Los Angeles, which is collaborating with a wide range of U.S. cities — including New York, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, and Washington, DC — to reduce CO2 emissions.
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Forum: What the Pope Should
Say in His Upcoming UN Address

In his June encyclical, Pope Francis issued a call for robust individual action and a sweeping transformation of global economic and
Pope Francis

Pope Francis
political systems to deal with the dual threats of climate change and environmental degradation. On Sept. 25, he will bring aspects of that message to the United Nations. Yale Environment 360 asked leading thinkers on the environment and religion what they would like the pope to say before the U.N. While many said the pope’s encyclical was a potentially transformative moment for stewardship of the planet, others would like Pope Francis to speak out about issues he overlooked or dismissed, including the role of population growth in environmental problems and the vital part that the private sector must play in combating global warming.
Read more.
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14 Sep 2015: Global Solar Panel Production
Rate Slowed in Recent Years, Analysis Finds

Solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing has been growing at a slower rate in recent years, increasing by only 4 percent

Solar panel manufacturing facility
annually from 2011 to 2013, compared to an average annual growth of 78 percent from 2006 to 2011, says a U.S. Energy Information Administration analysis. Globally, solar PV production facilities are producing far fewer solar panels than their maximum capacity allows, the report says. The peak for that metric occurred in 2011, at 70 percent, when 36.6 gigawatts of solar PV modules were produced globally, while the maximum capacity was 52 gigawatts. The slowdown may be explained by complaints of unfair trade practices originating in China, the EIA says. An investigation found that Chinese solar PV modules were being dumped below cost on the U.S. market, and the U.S. Department of Commerce recently enacted anti-dumping measures on Chinese PV modules. The market is reacting to the slow growth by downsizing workforces and consolidating solar PV manufacturing companies, the analysis says.
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11 Sep 2015: Flooding Fields in Winter May
Help California Water Woes, Study Suggests

Deliberately flooding California farmland in winter could replenish aquifers without harming crops or affecting drinking water, according to

This flooded alfalfa field is part of the study.
early results from a study by University of California, Davis, researchers. Winter months, when crops are dormant, typically see more precipitation than summer months, when crops are actively growing and farmers rely on groundwater reserves for irrigation. Several water districts have attempted to sequester excess surface water during storms and floods by diverting it into infiltration basins — confined areas of sandy soil — but those basins are scarce. Instead, researchers suggest that some some 3.6 million acres of farmland could serve a similar purpose — particularly fields of wine grapes, almonds, peaches, and plums — because those lands allow deep percolation with little risk to crops or groundwater quality.
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10 Sep 2015: Developing Nations Take Lead In
Cutting Forestry and Agriculture Emissions

Countries with the most potential to slash emissions from agriculture and forestry are skimping on climate commitments, while some developing countries are making the boldest and most detailed pledges for cutting land-use-related emissions. That is the conclusion of a new analysis of climate pledges from China, Canada, Ethiopia, and Morocco by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Major opportunities to cut forestry and farming emissions exist for Canada and, especially, China, the report says. For example, UCS recently found that China could cut CO2 emissions by 1.2 gigatons per year by 2020, but its climate pledge fails to indicate how the country would do that. Canada’s climate pledge is also vague and unambitious, the report says. In contrast, Ethiopia and Morocco have released detailed and ambitious pledges, especially regarding agricultural emissions. An earlier UCS analysis also found that Mexico’s land-use-related climate pledges exceed those from the European Union and the United States.
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09 Sep 2015: Natural Gas Pipeline Updates
Can Cut Greenhouse Gas Leaks by 90 Percent

Pipeline replacement programs in cities can cut natural gas leaks by 90 percent, curbing the release of the powerful greenhouse gas

Detecting natural gas leaks in Times Square, NYC.
methane and boosting public safety, according to a study published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters. Researchers drove cars equipped with sensitive methane-mapping instruments through thousands of miles of city streets in Manhattan, Boston, Cincinnati, Durham, and Washington, D.C. They discovered that Durham and Cincinnati, where public-private partnerships have replaced outdated pipelines, have 90 percent fewer gas leaks per mile than Manhattan, Boston, and Washington, D.C., where hundreds of miles of corroded natural gas pipes date back to the 1800s. Researchers estimate that, in the U.S. alone, $2 billion worth of natural gas was lost to leaks last year.
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08 Sep 2015: NASA Facilities at Risk
From Projected Sea Level Increases

Many of NASA’s key sites for launching spacecraft and carrying out research will be threatened by even moderate increases in sea level,

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Sea level rise near Johnson Space Center
the U.S. space agency reports. NASA says that half to two-thirds of its laboratories, launch pads, airfields, testing facilities, data centers and other infrastructure are situated at less than 16 feet (5 meters) above sea level. The agency released a handful of maps showing how even a one-foot rise in sea level would impact the operations of major sites such as the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Johnson Space Center in Texas, and the Langley Research Center in Virginia. Conservative projections say global sea level could increase by 5 inches by 2050, and numerous experts on climate change and sea level rise say that the world’s oceans could rise by 3 to 6 feet this century if emissions are not brought under control.
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04 Sep 2015: Maya Permanently Altered Land
To Respond to Climate Change, Study Says

Mayan activity more than 2,000 years ago contributed to the decline of Central America's tropical lowlands and continues to influence the land and environment today, say researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. Evidence shows that during the "Mayacene" — a period from 3,000 to 1,000 years ago when humans began greatly affecting the environment — the Maya's advanced urban and rural infrastructure altered tropical forest ecosystems. Clay and soil sequences indicate erosion and land-use changes, and sediments near wetlands reveal chemical signatures of agriculture, says the study, which was published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews. The researchers say features such as constructed wetlands, vast field systems, and terraces show that the Maya managed land and water to adapt to climate change and rising sea levels. "Though it has no doubt accelerated in the last century, humans' impact on the environment has been going on a lot longer," said lead researcher Tim Beach.
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03 Sep 2015: Tropical Tree Cover Loss
Accelerated in 2014, Satellite Analysis Finds

More than 45 million acres of trees were cut down last year — an area twice the size of Portugal — according to an analysis

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Tropical tree cover loss
by the University of Maryland and Google. Tropical nations lost more than half of that total — nearly 25 million acres of tree cover, an area roughly the size of South Korea. Brazil and Indonesia, the two countries most often associated with deforestation, had been making gains toward stemming the problem, but 2014 saw an uptick in tree cover loss in both countries. The situation is especially concerning in Cambodia, where deforestation is accelerating faster than anywhere else in the world due to the development of rubber plantations. Last year Cambodia lost three times more tree cover than in 2001, the analysis found.
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In Booming Aquaculture Industry,
A Move to Plant-Based Food for Fish

As the aquaculture industry continues to rapidly expand, with production more than doubling in the past 15 years, fishing pressure

A worker feeds trout.
has grown on the anchovies, sardines, and other species used to make feeds for farmed fish. Now, however, researchers are rapidly developing nutritious plant-based food that can put the aquaculture sector on a more sustainable path. Using protein-rich legumes such as soybeans and combining them with various oil-rich supplements, scientists say they are steadily moving toward all-vegetarian diets for aquaculture fish. “I was told by many [people] that fish require fishmeal because that’s what they eat in the natural world,” says one leading researcher. “But that’s just wrong.”
Read more.
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02 Sep 2015: Alaskan Wind Power Capacity
Increased 20 Fold since 2007, Report Says

Alaska’s wind power capacity increased 20 fold between 2007 and 2014, from 3 megawatts to 60 megawatts, according to an

Pillar Mountain wind farm on Alaska's Kodiak Island
analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The state, which is known for its vast oil reserves, increased wind power capacity with a blend of utility-scale and distributed, or small-scale, projects. The marked increase is especially notable because Alaska's immense area and sparse population make expanding the grid and adapting it to renewables costly, and the rugged terrain poses unique challenges for installing utility-scale wind farms. In the most remote areas, the cost of building transmission lines is prohibitively high, and in those regions, small-scale and household wind projects bring renewable energy to consumers who once relied on diesel generators. But despite wind power's strong growth, Alaska drew only 3 percent of its energy from wind in 2014.
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01 Sep 2015: European Project Recruits
Smartphone Users to Collect Pollution Data

A European project that begins today asks smartphone users to collect data on air pollution in major cities across the

Smartphone with the iSpex accessory
continent. In the iSpex-EU project, volunteers will use a free accessory attached to their smartphones to capture the spectrum of sunlight reaching their phones. Using those readings, scientists can determine levels of fine particles and aerosols in the atmosphere. Once enough data has been collected, the researchers plan to create maps showing where ground-level air pollution poses the highest risks. A recent study from King’s College in London estimated that, in London alone, roughly 9,500 premature deaths each year are linked to high levels of air pollution. After smoking, air pollution is the second-largest public health challenge in the region, researchers say.
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31 Aug 2015: Researchers Develop Artificial
Leaf That Efficiently Mimics Photosynthesis

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have developed an artificial leaf that can produce hydrogen fuel through

Artificial leaf device
a process similar to photosynthesis, according to findings published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science. The system is the first complete, efficient, and safe solar-driven device for splitting water to create hydrogen fuels, say the researchers, who have been seeking a cost-effective method for producing energy using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. The new system consists of two electrodes that produce oxygen and hydrogen gases, along with a specialized membrane that keeps the gases separate to prevent the possibility of an explosion. The artificial leaf converts 10 percent of the energy in sunlight into hydrogen fuel and can operate for more than 40 hours continuously, the study says.
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27 Aug 2015: NASA Study Quantifies Plants'
Role in Mitigating Urban Heat Island Effect

The presence or scarcity of vegetation is an essential factor in determining how much urban areas heat up, according to a NASA study.

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Urban heat island effect
Using data from multiple satellites, the researchers found that areas covered in part by impervious surfaces such as asphalt, concrete, and steel had an average summer temperature 3.4 degrees F higher than nearby rural areas. The highest U.S. urban temperatures compared to surrounding areas were along the Interstate-95 corridor from Boston to Washington and around Atlanta and the I-85 corridor in the Southeast. In desert cities such as Phoenix, the urban area was actually cooler because irrigated lawns and trees provide cooling that dry, rocky areas do not, the researchers explain. The urban heat island effect occurs primarily during the day, when impervious surfaces in cities absorb more sunlight than surrounding vegetated areas.
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In Northern Canada Peaks, Scientists
Are Tracking Impact of Vanishing Ice


Earlier this month, a team of Canadian scientists braved a cold-weather thunderstorm, snow, rain, and high winds to spend a week working on the last extensive icefield in the interior of the Northwest Territories. Accompanying them was Yale Environment 360 contributor Ed Struzik, who reports on the trip and the importance of the research team’s investigations. The group worked on the Brintnell/Bologna icefield, which has shrunk by more than a third over the last three decades and continues to melt at a rapid clip. The scientists hope to determine how the melting of these glaciers and the loss of snowpack in the surrounding mountains might affect the region’s ecology and rivers, including the huge Mackenzie River, Canada’s largest.
Read more.
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26 Aug 2015: U.S. Shale Gas Production
Expected to Fall for First Time, Report Says

Natural gas production from all seven major shale formations in the U.S. is projected to drop next month for the first time since

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Monthly change in shale gas production
the shale gas boom began in earnest roughly a decade ago, according to an analysis from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Major shale regions produced gas at a record-high rate of 45.6 billion cubic feet per day in May, but that rate is expected to drop to 44.9 billion cubic feet per day in September, the report says. It attributes the decline to existing, legacy wells becoming significantly less productive and a substantial drop in the number of drilling rigs in each of the seven major shale regions since September 2014. New wells are being established, the EIA notes, but they are not producing enough natural gas to offset expected declines from legacy wells.
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25 Aug 2015: Endangered Chimp Population
Much Larger Than Estimated, Study Shows

A population of endangered eastern chimpanzees in Uganda is actually significantly larger than scientists had thought, new research

Eastern chimpanzee
from the University of Southern California shows. Using DNA from fecal samples, the scientists estimated the size of the chimp population living in two reserves in western Uganda to be 250 to 320 chimps, divided among at least nine communities, whereas previous estimates had pegged the total at roughly 70. Because the forest they live in is not protected, however, the chimpanzees have been heavily impacted by forest fragmentation, and the fruit trees they rely on are rapidly being cut down, the researchers say. The eastern chimp population that lives in this region is important because it represents the growing status quo for this species, the researchers note — they no longer inhabit unbroken swaths of forest, but instead carve out an existence in shrinking forest patches.
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24 Aug 2015: Research Links Amazon
Fires and North American Hurricanes

After studying decades of data on hurricanes, sea surface temperatures, and Amazon fire frequency, researchers have concluded

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North Atlantic surface temperatures
that years in which warm North Atlantic waters create powerful hurricanes are followed by periods of drought and fire in the Amazon rainforest. University of California, Irvine scientists say their research has shown that frequent and powerful North Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes tend to pull a large belt of tropical rainfall to the north, drawing moisture away from the Amazon. The resulting dry spells lead to an increase in severity and duration of fires, which tend to be set in the Amazon by humans clearing land for agriculture. The research is expected to enable meteorologists to better understand seasonal outlooks for drought and fire risk in the Amazon, which could help reduce the extensive rainforest fires that emit large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.
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21 Aug 2015: Retiring Nuclear Power Plants
Undermines Clean Power Plan, Report Says

If U.S. nuclear power plants are retired early or phased out completely, greenhouse gas emissions could revert back

Salem Nuclear Power Plant in southern New Jersey
to 2005 levels and undermine nearly all progress the power sector has made over the last decade in lowering carbon emissions, according to an analysis by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Third Way. The group found that retired nuclear plants would predominantly be replaced with natural gas power plants, not renewable energy sources, because renewables would not be able to keep pace with lost nuclear capacity. In fact, retiring any of the nation's 99 nuclear power plants would make it extremely difficult to meet the EPA Clean Power Plan's emissions reductions targets of a 32 percent cut below 2005 levels, the group found. Nuclear power currently provides 20 percent of U.S. electricity and 63 percent of its emissions-free power.
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20 Aug 2015: Global Warming Has Worsened
California Drought By Roughly 25 Percent

Rising temperatures driven by climate change have measurably worsened the California drought by increasing evaporation rates and

A Central Valley orchard stricken by the drought.
exacerbating the state's lack of rainfall by up to 27 percent, according to a study from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. While natural weather variations are largely thought to have caused the state's precipitation deficit, rising temperatures appear to be intensifying the situation by driving moisture from plants and soil into the air. The new study is the first to estimate how much worse increasing evaporation rates are making the drought: potentially as much as 27 percent, and most likely 15 to 20 percent worse. Scientists expect higher rainfall levels to resume as soon as this winter, but evaporation will more than overpower any increase in precipitation. This means that by around the 2060s, a drought that is essentially permanent will set in, interrupted only by sporadic rainy years.
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Solar Decathlon: The Search for
The Best Carbon-Neutral House


What’s the latest in well-designed, energy-efficient solar homes? The U.S. Department of Energy has invited 15 teams from colleges across the country to design and build affordable, energy-efficient, and attractive solar-powered houses for the 2015 Solar Decathlon. In addition to functioning as comfortable homes, the houses in the competition must produce at least as much energy as they consume. Here, e360 takes a look at some of this year's entries, which will be on display in Irvine, California, this October. These houses have been engineered to not only embrace energy efficiency and sustainable design, but also to meet the diverse needs of their future inhabitants, from food production to storm protection and disaster relief.
View the houses.
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19 Aug 2015: Muslim Scholars Issue Call
To End Fossil Fuel Use and Protect Climate

Prominent Muslim scholars have urged world leaders to end the use of fossil fuels and have asked the planet's 1.6 billion Muslims to consider it their religious duty to slow global warming. The declaration was presented this week during the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium in Istanbul. It says that governments of wealthy nations, including oil-producing countries, should be "phasing out their greenhouse gas emissions as early as possible and no later than the middle of the century." The declaration includes harsh criticism of developed nations, which the scholars blame for delaying a comprehensive, global agreement on climate change. “Their reluctance to share in the burden they have imposed on the rest of the human community by their own profligacy is noted with great concern,” the document says. Earlier this year, Pope Francis also issued a major statement calling on world leaders and the 1.2 billion Catholics to take better care of the planet.
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18 Aug 2015: How West Antarctica Could Melt
If Greenhouse Emissions Continue to Rise

An international team of scientists has developed the first comprehensive, high-resolution model depicting

View Simulation

Simulation of West Antarctic Ice Sheet retreat
how rapidly the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could melt if greenhouse gas emissions are not brought under control. The study projects that under a high-emissions scenario, the WAIS could lose 80,000 cubic kilometers (19,000 cubic miles) of ice by 2100, increasing sea levels by 8 inches. By 2200, the WAIS could lose 48,000 cubic miles of ice, raising sea levels by a total of 23 inches, the study says. The video shows projected ice loss in the major glaciers feeding into the massive Amundsen Sea Embayment over the next three centuries. The red and orange colors depict the speed of glacial retreat in meters per year. The WAIS is only a fraction of the size of the East Antarctic ice cap, but if the entire WAIS were to melt, global sea levels would rise by roughly 16 feet.
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17 Aug 2015: Cost of Distributed Solar Power
Fell for Fifth Straight Year, Report Says

Prices for both residential and non-residential solar energy systems fell in 2014, marking the fifth consecutive year of declining

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Distributed solar costs
costs for solar photovoltaic systems, according to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Residential rooftop solar panels in the U.S. cost 40 cents per watt less than the same systems in 2013, and prices for non-residential systems fell by 70 cents per watt. In the first half of this year, costs in a number of large markets fell by an additional 20 to 50 cents per watt, the report says. Photovoltaic equipment costs have remained relatively stable since 2012, so the lower prices are primarily due to reductions in "soft" costs such as marketing, labor, permits, and inspections, analysts say.
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14 Aug 2015: Climate Impact of Wasted Meat
Much Larger Than Other Foods, Study Finds

Researchers analyzing food waste at university cafeterias found that, although discarded meats accounted for less waste than fruits and vegetables, they made up the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions associated with food waste. After monitoring four all-you-care-to-eat dining facilities at the University of Missouri, the researchers found that grain products were thrown away most often, followed by fruits, vegetables, beef, and poultry. Diners wasted roughly twice as much bread and cereal by weight than they did meat and eggs; but because protein production is very carbon-intensive, the carbon footprint of wasted meat and eggs was about three times larger than that of all other wasted foods combined. Overall, 16 percent of the cafeterias' food was wasted, leading to roughly 67 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Of those emissions, discarded beef alone accounted for slightly more than half, the analysis found.
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13 Aug 2015: Dangerously Hot and Humid
Days Soon Will Become Regular Occurrences

Climate change will make "danger days" — periods when temperature and humidity push the heat index to 105 degrees F or

View interactive map

'Danger days' by city
higher — much more common over the next 15 years, according to a Climate Central analysis. Looking at 144 U.S. cities, the team determined that only 12 cities have averaged more than one dangerously hot and humid day per year since 1950. By 2030, though, 85 cities — home to nearly one-third of the U.S. population — will likely experience at least 20 danger days each year. That's a dramatic and fast-approaching change from current conditions, the analysts note. Houston, for example, saw only three danger days between 2000 and 2010, but it should expect 102 danger days each year by 2050. The most dramatic increases will be seen in the South, the analysis found. Charleston, West Virginia, is expected to become the most dangerously hot and humid city in the country, experiencing 168 danger days per year by mid-century.
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Interview: A Scientist Who Probes
The Rich Inner Lives of Animals

Ecologist Carl Safina has made his name studying and writing about the world’s oceans and the creatures that inhabit them. Now, Safina
Carl Safina with orphaned elephants
Carl Safina
has turned his attention to the fascinating and controversial topic of the inner lives of animals, exploring, as he puts it, “the incredible shimmering world of nuance that many of these creatures experience in their lives with one another.” In an interview with Yale Environment 360 about his recently published book, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, Safina explains why it’s vital to our own humanity to more deeply empathize with wild creatures and sharply criticizes some research on animal behavior, saying it has led to a flawed understanding of the natural world. “I bristle at the idea that an animal can 'pass a test' administered by human beings,” says Safina. “It’s irrelevant whether the animal corresponds to your concept of something.”
Read the interview.
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12 Aug 2015: Warmer Winters Are Leading to
More Wild Boars in Europe, Research Finds

As Europe experiences more mild winters — very likely an effect of climate change, researchers say — the continent's wild boar
wild boar in germany

A young wild boar
populations are growing exponentially, according to research from the University of Veterinary Medicine - Vienna. The scientists identified the trend by comparing up to 150 years of data on annual boar population growth to temperature and precipitation records from 12 European countries. One factor behind the population surges is body-temperature regulation, the scientists say. In mild winters, wild boars need to use less energy to stay warm, leaving more energy for reproduction and piglet rearing. Another factor is bumper crops of the boars' food sources, primarily acorns and beechnuts, which have become increasingly common over the last few decades. Wild boars are more likely to survive harsh winters if they have been preceded by a good year for their food sources, the researchers note.
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11 Aug 2015: Cost of Producing Wind Power
Reached a New Low in the U.S. Last Year

The cost of generating wind power in the U.S. fell to its lowest level ever last year, according to a report from the Department of Energy. Utility companies purchased wind power for 2.35 cents per kilowatt-hour on average last year, making the price of wind energy competitive with conventional power sources in many parts of the country. Wind power now meets on average 4.9 percent of the nation's electricity demand, the DOE analysis found, and nine states used wind to produce more than 12 percent of their electricity. Iowa and South Dakota produced more than a quarter of their electricity from wind, Kansas generated roughly 22 percent from wind, and Texas remained the leading state for wind installations in 2014. With a total installed capacity of 66 gigawatts, the U.S. now ranks second only to China in wind power capacity.
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10 Aug 2015: Major Algal Blooms Visible Off
Both Coasts of U.S., Satellite Images Show

Major algal blooms have appeared off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the U.S. this month, as shown in these NASA

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East Coast algal bloom
satellite images. Algae and other forms of phytoplankton are microscopic, plant-like organisms that form the basis of the oceans' food webs. When conditions are right, phytoplankton can reproduce rapidly and bloom to scales that are visible from space. Some blooms are benign — such as the one off the East Coast — and serve as rich feeding grounds for fish and whales. Other blooms, however, can be harmful because they deplete ocean waters of oxygen and sometimes release toxic compounds that poison birds and fish. The West Coast algal bloom contains toxin-producing phytoplankton, and it may be linked to deaths of whales, sea birds, and forage fish, scientists say.
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07 Aug 2015: New Zealand Will Shutter Last
Remaining Coal Power Plants, Officials Say

New Zealand will close its last remaining coal plants and rely even more heavily on renewable sources for its electricity needs,
Buller Coalfield in New Zealand

Buller Coalfield, South Island, New Zealand
the country's energy minister announced Thursday. New Zealand already has the fourth-largest share of renewable electricity generation in the world, with roughly 80 percent of its energy needs met by renewables. The final two coal-fired power plants will shut down by December 2018, according to the utility company running the plants, which cited changing market conditions that have made coal power unnecessary in New Zealand. The nation has been using coal to fill gaps in dry years, when hydropower could not meet the grid's demand. But recent investments in wind and, particularly, geothermal energy have made that stopgap measure unnecessary, the energy minister said. The country has pledged ahead of the Paris climate summit to cut emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
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06 Aug 2015: Mimicking Butterfly Wings Can
Improve Efficiency of Solar Energy Systems

Solar-concentrating photovoltaic systems can produce nearly 50 percent more power by mimicking the V-shaped wing
cabbage white butterfly

Cabbage white butterfly
formation certain butterflies exhibit before take-off, say researchers at the University of Exeter. The cabbage white butterfly warms its muscles before flight by placing its wings in the shape of a "V" to maximize the concentration of solar energy onto its thorax. This behavior, known as reflectance basking, increases the butterfly's thorax temperature by roughly 13 degrees F compared to flat wings, the researchers found. When reflective panels are arranged around a concentrating photovoltaic system in the same way, this wing-like configuration increases the power-to-weight ratio of the solar energy system by 17-fold, making it vastly more efficient, the researchers explain in the journal Scientific Reports. The team showed that replicating the single layer of highly reflective scale cells found in the butterfly wings could also improve power-to-weight ratios of solar concentrators.
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05 Aug 2015: Emissions From U.S. Power
Plants Reached 27-Year Low, Report Says

Electric power plants in the U.S. emitted less carbon dioxide in April than they have in any month since April 1988 — a 27-year low — according to an analysis by the Energy Information Administration. The report said the electric power sector has made major strides in improving efficiency and lowering its carbon footprint, producing significantly more electricity while lowering CO2 emissions. Renewable energy production has more than doubled since 1988, the use of natural gas to produce electricity has more than tripled, and coal consumption has decreased by 17 percent, the EIA report says. Natural gas plants are now about 25 to 30 percent more efficient than coal plants in terms of power generation, and they emit 71 to 79 percent less carbon dioxide than coal plants.
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04 Aug 2015: Study Finds Glaciers Melting
At Unprecidented Rates Around the Globe

Glaciers around the globe are melting at unprecedented rates, according to an analysis of data spanning 120 years by researchers at

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Rhone Glacier in Switzerland
the University of Zurich. The team compared glacier data collected between 2001 and 2010 with measurements, aerial and satellite photos, written accounts, and historical depictions from the previous century. On average, glaciers are currently losing between 0.5 and 1 meter of ice thickness each year, the researchers found — two to three times more than glaciers were losing on average in the 20th century. Although the team analyzed exact measurements from a few hundred glaciers, they say that field- and satellite-based observations of tens of thousands of glaciers around the world confirm their findings on a much larger scale. Intense ice loss over the past two decades has made glaciers unstable in many regions, the researchers say, and these glaciers will suffer further ice loss, even if the climate stabilizes.
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03 Aug 2015: California Has Missed Equivalent
Of Full Year of Rain in Ongoing Drought

Over the past three years of severe drought, California has accumulated a rain "debt" equal to a year's worth of precipitation, NASA

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Drought conditions in the U.S. West
researchers report in the Journal of Geophysical Research — Atmospheres. The state is roughly 20 inches behind in total precipitation, the scientists calculate, which is the average amount expected to fall in the state in a single year. The deficit has been driven primarily by a lack of extreme precipitation events known as atmospheric rivers — water vapor-rich air currents that move inland from the Pacific Ocean — which, in an average year, provide 20 to 50 percent of California's precipitation. The researchers found that California also had a 27.5-inch precipitation deficit between 1986 and 1994. However, the state's population, industries, agriculture, and water demand have grown significantly since that time.
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31 Jul 2015: Severe Droughts Affect Forests
And CO2 Storage for Years, Study Shows

Severe drought can affect a forest's growth for up to four years, a period during which it is less effective at removing carbon
Times Square ivory crush

A stressed forest in the southwestern United States
from the atmosphere, a new study reports in the journal Science. Standard climate models have assumed that forests and other vegetation bounce back quickly from extreme drought, but that assumption is far off the mark, the researchers say. Looking at data from more than 1,300 forest sites dating back to 1948, they found that living trees took an average of two to four years to recover and resume normal growth rates after droughts ended. Frequent droughts in places like the western U.S. could significantly impact the ability of forests to sequester carbon, the study found. Researchers aren't sure how drought causes these long-lasting changes, but they say there are likely three causes: Loss of carbohydrate and foliage reserves may impair growth; pests and diseases may accumulate in drought-stressed trees; and lasting damage to vascular tissues impairs water transport.
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Gallery: The Wild Lands at Stake
If Alaska’s Pebble Mine Proceeds


The proposed Pebble Mine in southwestern Alaska is a project of almost unfathomable scale. If the copper- and gold-mining project proceeds, the mine would cover 28 square miles and require the construction of the world’s largest earthen dam — 700 feet high and several miles long — to hold back a 10-square-mile containment pond filled with up to 2.5 billion tons of sulfide-laden mine waste. All this would be built not only in an active seismic region, but also in one of the most unspoiled and breathtaking places on the planet — the headwaters of Bristol Bay, home to the world’s most productive salmon fishery. In a photo essay, landscape photographer Robert Glenn Ketchum documents the lands and waters at risk from the project, whose fate is currently wending its way through the courts.
Read more | View gallery
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29 Jul 2015: Global Population Projected to
Reach 11 Billion by 2100, U.N. Estimates

The current world population of 7.3 billion is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion by 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100,

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Global fertility rates
according to a United Nations report released today. The revised U.N. estimates counter previous projections, which had said that global population would peak at roughly 9 billion by 2050, then gradually decline. Most growth will occur in developing regions, the new report says, especially Africa, which is expected to account for more than half of the world’s population growth between 2015 and 2050. India is expected to become the most populous country, surpassing China around 2022. Nigeria could surpass the United States by 2050, which would make it the third-largest country in the world, the United Nations projects.
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28 Jul 2015: Roughly 40 Percent of World
Unaware of Climate Change, Survey Says

Roughly 40 percent of adults worldwide have never heard of climate change, according to an analysis of global climate change awareness and risk perception published in Nature Climate Change. The percentage of people unaware of climate change rises to more than 65 percent in developing countries such as Egypt, Bangladesh, and India, whereas only 10 percent of the public is unaware in North America, Europe, and Japan. The findings indicate that strategies for securing public engagement in climate issues will vary from country to country, the researchers say, because different populations perceive climate-related risks very differently. In many African and Asian countries, for example, climate risk is most strongly perceived through noticeable changes in local temperatures. "The contrast between developed and developing countries was striking," said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and co-author of the study.
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27 Jul 2015: President Obama Announces
Major New Limits on Interstate Ivory Trade

President Obama has announced strict new limits aimed at stemming the global ivory trade which, when implemented,
Times Square ivory crush

FWS crushed illegal ivory trinkets in Times Square.
would nearly ban all ivory trade within the United States. The measures also include new restrictions on when ivory can be exported to other countries. “We’re proposing a new rule that bans the sale of virtually all ivory across state lines,” Obama said at a press conference in Kenya on Saturday. Current laws in the U.S. are aimed at controlling the import and export of ivory, while allowing some legal trade among states — a loophole that many illegal ivory dealers have used to their advantage. The new regulation, expected to be finalized later this year, would restrict ivory trade between states to items that are over 100 years old or contain only very small amounts of ivory. The U.S. is estimated to be the world's second largest ivory market, with sales outpacing all nations except China.
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24 Jul 2015: European Union Is Increasingly
Turning to Wind Power, Analysis Finds

The European Union met 8 percent of its electricity demand with wind power last year, up from roughly 7 percent in 2012,
North Sea wind farm

Wind farm off the coast of the Netherlands
according to a report by the Joint Research Center, the European Commission's in-house science service. That's equal to the combined total electricity consumption of Belgium, Ireland, Greece, and the Netherlands, the report notes, and it is a heartening sign for the E.U. wind power sector, which had seen turbine installations decline in 2013. Denmark generated enough wind power to meet 40 percent of its electricity demand, and in Ireland, Portugal, and Spain, wind's share made up between 19 and 25 percent of final consumption. Fifteen other E.U. nations generated 4 percent or more of their electricity from wind. By 2020, wind energy will provide at least 12 percent of Europe's electricity, the analysis says. Globally, wind power has grown dramatically over the last two decades, soaring from 3.5 gigawatts in 1994 to roughly 370 gigawatts by the end of 2014.
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23 Jul 2015: Synthetic Coral Could Remove
Mercury Pollution From Ocean, Study Finds

Chinese researchers have constructed a type of synthetic coral that could help remove toxic heavy metals like mercury from
synthetic coral mercury

Microscope image of the coral-like structure
the ocean, according to a report in the Journal of Colloid and Interface Science. Mercury can be especially toxic to corals because they very efficiently adsorb heavy metals, the scientists note. They took advantage of that ability to create a synthetic coral that can bind and remove mercury pollution in water. The coral-like structure is covered with self-curling nanoplates made of aluminum oxide — a chemical compound that can collect heavy metals. The scientists found that the synthetic coral structure could bind mercury 2.5 times more efficiently than aluminum oxide particles alone. According to the World Health Organization, up to 17 in every thousand children living in areas relying on subsistence fishing showed cognitive declines caused by eating mercury-contaminated fish.
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With Camera Drones, New Tool
For Viewing and Saving Nature


In a career spanning four decades, award-winning filmmaker Thomas Lennon has tackled topics as diverse as the Irish in America and a polluting chemical plant in China. But it was his current project — a short film about the Delaware River — that opened his eyes to what he sees as a revolutionary new tool for viewing the natural world: the camera drone. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Lennon — who produced a video of drone images from the Delaware for e360 — describes how drones are a major innovation that allows filmmakers to capture images from vantage points never before possible. “There’s an opportunity for visual excitement, but combined — and this is the key — with intimacy,” Lennon says. “And I think that can become a tool for artists as well as for environmentalists.”
Watch video | Read interview
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22 Jul 2015: Algae Could Be Environmentally
Friendly Livestock Feed, Research Finds

Algae could replace corn as feed for cattle and other livestock, according to findings published in the Journal of Animal Science. Algae — hardy
algae cattle feed

Algae-based cattle feed
microorganisms that can grow in a variety of environments and laboratory settings — require less fertilizer, water, land, and herbicides than corn, and thus could prove to be an environmentally friendly alternative for livestock feed, researchers say. The materials used in the new study were remnants of algae grown and processed for other applications, such as cosmetics, cooking oil, and biofuels, and would otherwise have been burned as waste. The researchers found that even these pre-processed leftovers were able to provide the same amount of protein as corn, along with slightly more fat. Cattle in the study readily ate the algae at a variety of concentrations and maintained their body weight as well as corn-fed cattle. Researchers say the algal meal could be priced to compete with corn and could be on the market by 2016.
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21 Jul 2015: California Almonds Have
Smaller Climate Impact Than Many Foods

California almonds could become carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative if growers were to make full use of practices such
almonds in orchard

Almonds growing in an orchard
as shell, hull, and biomass recycling, according to new research in the Journal of Industrial Ecology. Eighty percent of the world's almonds come from the drought-stricken state, and production operations there have drawn much ire since studies showed that almonds are a particularly water-intensive crop. However, the new research shows that the energy and greenhouse gas footprints of almonds can be lessened by, for example, using shells, hulls, and orchard biomass to generate electricity or feed dairy cows. "Our research shows 1 kilogram of California almonds typically results in less than 1 kilogram of CO2 emissions," said author Alissa Kendall, which is "a lower carbon footprint than many other nutrient- and energy-dense foods."
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20 Jul 2015: Nuclear Rush Will Make China
Third-Largest Nuclear Generator by 2020

With dozens of nuclear power plants planned or under construction, China will soon surpass South Korea, Russia, and Japan in

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Nuclear generating capacities
nuclear generating capacity, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports. Nuclear power currently makes up slightly more than 2 percent of the country's total power generation, but the Chinese government has a goal of generating at least 15 percent of the nation's energy using non-fossil fuel sources by 2020. To help achieve this target, China plans to increase nuclear capacity to 58 gigawatts — more than doubling its current 23-gigawatt capacity — and to have an additional 30 gigawatts under construction by 2020. By the end of 2015, China is expected to surpass South Korea and Russia in nuclear generating capacity, and by 2020, it will generate more nuclear power than all nations except the U.S. and France. All of China's nuclear plants are located along the east coast and in southern parts of the country, near the country's most populous areas, but China has increasingly considered constructing reactors farther inland following the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
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17 Jul 2015: 2014 Set Multiple Global
Climate Records, NOAA Analysis Concludes

Several climate measures indicate that 2014 was the warmest year on record, according to a new report compiled by the

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Global surface temperatures 2014

2014 surface temperatures
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Based on data collected from 413 scientists and 58 countries, the analysis found that sea surface temperatures, upper ocean heat content, and global sea level all achieved record levels in 2014. Four independent global data sets also indicated that 2014 global surface temperatures were the warmest on record. Earlier this year, NASA and NOAA released a similar study stating that 2014 was the warmest year on record based on 135 years of weather reports, and President Obama cited that finding in his 2015 State of the Union address. The new analysis confirms and extends these findings to multiple indicators of global climate change.
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16 Jul 2015: Most States Have Curbed
Power Plant Emissions Ahead of EPA Rule

A large majority of U.S. states — 42 of 50 — have already cut power plant carbon emissions ahead of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, whose rules will be finalized next month, according to an analysis published this week. The plan requires each state to limit emissions from its power plants; to do this, many states have closed coal-fired plants and replaced them with natural gas power plants, which release less carbon dioxide. In fact, the report found, the 42 states that have already lowered power plant carbon emissions did so by an average of 19 percent between 2008 and 2013. The report was conducted by the sustainability advocacy group Ceres, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Bank of America, and four large utilities. “Most parts of the country are firmly on the path toward a clean energy future, but some states and utilities have a longer way to go, and overall the carbon emissions curve is not bending fast enough,” Ceres’ president, Mindy Lubber, said.
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Interview: The High Environmental
Cost of Illicit Marijuana Cultivation

As some U.S. states move to legalize marijuana, one issue has been largely ignored in the policy debates: the serious
Mary Power
Mary Power
environmental effects of the marijuana industry. A new paper co-authored by ecologist Mary Power details many of those impacts by focusing on marijuana cultivation in California, where most of the marijuana consumed in the U.S. is grown. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Power describes how California growers siphon off scarce water resources, poison wildlife, and erode fragile soils. What’s needed, she contends, is legalization of marijuana at the federal level, which would likely drive down marijuana prices. “As long as there is a market that will pay enough to compensate for the brutally hard work they do to grow this stuff in forested mountains,” she says, “then it will keep growing.”
Read the interview.
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15 Jul 2015: 'Buckyballs' May Be Able to
Capture Carbon Dioxide, Research Finds

Researchers have made progress toward using buckyballs — tiny, spherical chemical structures composed of 60 carbon molecules — to
Buckyball

Buckyball crystal structure
pull carbon from the atmosphere, a team from Rice University reports in the journal Energy and Fuels. They had previously found that buckyballs, also known as fullerene or carbon-60 molecules, have the ability to capture CO2 from high-temperature sources such as industrial flue gases and natural gas wells when combined with a polymer known as polyethyleneimine (PEI). In the new study, the researchers found that they could modify the PEI-enhanced buckyballs to capture carbon in lower-temperature environments. The advance may open the door to fine-tuning the enhanced buckyballs for a variety of carbon capture projects, the researchers say.
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14 Jul 2015: International Poll Finds
Widespread Concern About Climate Change

Climate change is the most widespread concern of the more than 45,000 people surveyed in a 40-nation Pew Research Center poll

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Global climate concern

Climate change is the most widespread global concern.
measuring perceptions of international challenges. The survey found that a majority of people in Latin America and Africa are very concerned about climate change. In Peru and Brazil, where years of declining deforestation rates have slowly started to climb, three-quarters of people surveyed expressed anxiety about climate change. Sub-Saharan Africans also voiced substantial concerns about climate change, with a median of 59 percent saying they are very concerned. Indians (73 percent) and Filipinos (72 percent) are also particularly worried, the poll found. European nations and the U.S. are significantly less worried — only 42 percent of people in these areas say they are very concerned about the climate. In a list of potential global threats, climate change ranked sixth of seven for people surveyed in the U.S., the Pew Research Center found.
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13 Jul 2015: Australian Government Curbs
Investments in Wind and Solar Energy

The Australian Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), a government-funded organization that invests in renewable energy, will no
Australia rooftop solar

Duncan Rawlinson/Flickr
Rooftop solar panels in Western Australia
longer invest in wind technology and small-scale solar projects, the government announced Sunday. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that the CEFC should invest in new and emerging technologies, and that wind and small-scale solar projects should instead be supported by the free market. Currently, one-third of CEFC funding, which totals roughly $10 billion, goes to solar projects, the majority of which are small-scale. The funding ban could increase prices for small-scale solar projects such as rooftop photovoltaic panel installations, especially for low-income households, renters, and public housing tenants. The ban on these investments is the latest in a series of actions by the Abbott government to make cuts in environmental initiatives, including two failed attempts to abolish the CEFC.
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10 Jul 2015: Deeper Ocean Waters Have
Absorbed Much of Excess Atmospheric Heat

The waters of the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean warmed significantly from 2003 to 2012, but most of the heat is being

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western pacific ocean warming

Warming trends at depth in the Western Pacific
stored at depth rather than near the surface, NASA researchers explained this week in the journal Science. The findings shed light on mechanisms behind the so-called global warming "hiatus," in which air temperatures appeared to rise more slowly from 2003 to 2012. Warming in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean during that period started to appear at roughly 32 feet below the surface, the researchers say, and most of the heat was retained at depths of 300 to 1,000 feet. Their findings are based on two decades of ocean temperature records. “Overall, the ocean is still absorbing extra heat,” said Josh Willis, an oceanographer who coauthored the study. “But the top couple of layers of the ocean exchange heat easily and can keep it away from the surface for ten years or so. ... In the long run, the planet is still warming.”
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09 Jul 2015: Bird Fatalities at Wind Facilities
Can Be Prevented With New Model, Study Says

The U.S. Geological Survey has developed a new model that it says can help predict and prevent bird fatalities at wind facilities before
golden eagle

Golden eagle
they are even built. The model takes into account three parameters, all of which can be measured before construction: the total footprint of the turbines, avian traffic near the facility, and collision probability. The model used golden eagles as a case study because their soaring and hunting behaviors make them susceptible to turbine collisions. Golden eagles also are long-lived and reproduce relatively late in life, which means wind farm fatalities could have particularly severe population impacts. For two years, the model successfully estimated eagle collisions at a newly constructed wind facility in Wyoming, the researchers say. The model's simplicity "allows wind facility developers to consider ways to reduce bird fatalities without having to collect a complicated set of data," said Leslie New, a researcher at Washington State University, who led the project.
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Interview: How to Get People
To Care About Climate Change

Per Espen Stoknes, a Norwegian psychologist and economist, has been doing a lot of thinking about a question that has
Per Espen Stoknes
Per Espen Stoknes
bedeviled climate scientists for years: Why have humans failed to deal with the looming threat posed by climate change? That question is the focus of his recent book, What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming, in which he analyzes what he calls the psychological barriers that have made it difficult to deal realistically with the climate crisis. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Stoknes talks about these barriers and about how the discussion of climate change needs to be reframed. “We need a new kind of stories,” he says, “stories that tell us that nature is resilient and can rebound and get back to a healthier state, if we give it a chance to do so.”
Read the interview.
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08 Jul 2015: Mountaintop Removal Coal
Mining Has Slowed Significantly, Data Show

Coal production from mountaintop removal mines in the U.S. has declined 62 percent since 2008 — a much steeper drop than the downward

Watch Video
Leveling Appalachia video

Watch the e360 video Leveling Appalachia
trend in overall coal production, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports. Mountaintop removal (MTR) mines have recently been subjected to additional stringent regulations. For example, MTR operations planning to discard excess rock and soil in streams must now secure extra permits from the Environmental Protection Agency. Tennessee is considering banning some types of MTR mining altogether, and a federal stream protection rule expected to be proposed this summer could place additional limits on the practice. Lower demand for U.S. coal in general can be attributed to competitive natural gas prices, renewable energy growth, flat electricity demand, and environmental regulations, the EIA says.
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07 Jul 2015: Self-Driving Taxis Could Spur
Major Cuts in Carbon Emissions, Study Says

By 2030, self-driving electric taxis could cut greenhouse gas emissions from car travel in the U.S. by up to 94 percent, if they were
autonomous taxi

Prototype of a small, self-driving electric taxi
to replace conventional personal vehicles, according to an analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Autonomous taxis are projected to cut carbon emissions primarily through a process known as "right-sizing," or deploying a car that is specifically tailored to match occupancy needs of each particular trip. Right-sizing is cost-effective for both the fleet owner and for passengers, the researchers say, and companies and research groups are currently exploring how to efficiently manufacture small one- and two-seat vehicles. Optimal routing, smoother acceleration and braking, and a cleaner electric grid in 2030 would also contribute to lower carbon emissions. Autonomous taxis are projected to reduce emissions by 63 to 82 percent compared to hybrid cars likely to be on the road in 2030, and by 94 percent over a 2014 gasoline-powered model, the study found.
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06 Jul 2015: Researchers Discover
4,000-Year-Old Coral Species Near Hawaii

A newly discovered species of coral found in deep ocean waters near Hawaii can live to be more than
L. annosa coral

Leiopathes annosa, a new coral species
4,000 years old, making it the longest-living marine species ever known, scientists report in the journal Zootaxa. The new species, known as Leiopathes annosa, is a type of black coral found at depths of 1,000 to 1,600 feet throughout waters off the Hawaiian Islands, including the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Although it was previously misidentified as a species from the Mediterranean Sea, L. annosa has substantial physical differences from the Mediterranean species, say scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Smithsonian Institute. High-resolution radiocarbon dating of growth rings in the coral, much like those found in trees, showed that some L. annosa individuals can live for more than four millennia.
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02 Jul 2015: Water Usage for Fracking
Has Increased Dramatically, Study Shows

Oil and natural gas fracking requires 28 times more water now than it did 15 years ago, according to a study by the U.S.

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fracking water use

Water use in fracking operations in the U.S.
Geological Survey. The increased water demand is attributed to the development of new, water-intensive technologies that target fossil fuels in complicated geological formations, the researchers say. The amount of water used varies greatly with location, the study found. A fracking operation in southern Illinois, for example, can use as little as 2,600 gallons of water each time an oil or gas well is fracked. That figure jumps to more than 9 million gallons in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and south and eastern Texas. Fracking is often concentrated in arid regions and could exacerbate existing water shortages, especially as water requirements for fracking continue to increase. Most of the water used for fracking is disposed deep underground, removing it from the water cycle.
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01 Jul 2015: Church of England Divests from
Oil Firm Exploring Virunga National Park

The Church of England has divested its holdings in the British oil and gas company Soco International, citing ethical concerns over Soco's attempts to
mountain gorillas

Mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park
drill for oil in Congo's Virunga National Park. The national park, Africa's oldest, is home to the largest surviving populations of endangered mountain gorillas and hippos. The Church of England's investment fund is valued at roughly $10.5 billion, and $2.5 million of that had been invested in Soco International. The move marks only the third time in recent years that the church has divested from a company on ethical grounds. In 2012 it sold its holdings in News Corporation to protest the phone-hacking scandal, and in 2010 it divested from a mining corporation over human rights violations associated with its operations in India.
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Interview: How an Indian Politician
Became an Environmental Hawk

Jairam Ramesh was a self-described “economic hawk” when he became India’s environment minister in 2009, figuring that the
Jairam Ramesh
Jairam Ramesh
country’s ecological problems could wait as India lifted its people out of poverty. But by the time he left his post in 2011, he had become an environmental hawk after witnessing how India’s rapidly expanding economy and soaring population had caused widespread pollution and destruction of the environment. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Ramesh — an economist, parliament member, and author of a new book — talks about why a “grow-now, pay-later” philosophy is unsuitable for India and discusses his own brand of GDP, which he calls Green Domestic Product. “In the mad rush to economic growth ... we are destroying foundations of ecological security,” he says.
Read the interview.
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30 Jun 2015: Residential Solar Panels Are
Net Win for Utility Companies, Analysis Says

Households and businesses with solar panels deliver greater benefits to utility companies than they receive through programs
rooftop solar panels

Installing rooftop solar panels
like net metering, according to an analysis of 11 case studies from across the U.S. by the advocacy group Environment New York. Net metering programs credit solar panel owners at a fixed rate — equal to or less than the retail price of electricity — for providing the excess power they generate to the grid. Utility companies have been fighting those credits in recent years, saying that solar panel owners don't pay a fair share of grid maintenance and other overhead costs. However, all 11 studies showed that solar panel owners provide net benefits to their respective utility systems, Environment New York says, including reduced capital investment costs, lower energy costs, and reduced environmental compliance costs. The median value of solar power across all 11 studies was roughly 17 cents per unit, compared to the nation’s average retail electricity rate of about 12 cents.
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29 Jun 2015: Rain Harvesting Could Provide
Major Economic Benefit in India, Study Finds

Collecting precipitation in rain barrels could result in significant savings for many people in India, according to an analysis of
rain barrels

Rain Barrels
precipitation data collected by a NASA satellite. Estimates showed that harvested rain could provide at least 20 percent of average indoor water demand, or entirely irrigate a household vegetable garden. The savings associated with a vegetable garden could be between 2,500 and 4,500 rupees per year (39 to 71 U.S. dollars) — an amount equivalent to half a year’s rent in an average 1-bedroom apartment in an Indian city. In a country where the distribution of potable water is a challenge, rainwater is an untapped resource that could provide significant benefits, the researchers write in the Urban Water Journal.
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26 Jun 2015: Fuels from Canadian Oil Sands
Have Larger Carbon Footprint, Analysis Says

Gasoline and diesel refined from Canadian oil sands have a significantly larger carbon footprint and climate impact than

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Alberta oil sands extraction

Oil sands extraction in Alberta, Canada
fuels from conventional crude sources, according to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory. Oil sands-derived fuels will release on average 20 percent more carbon into the atmosphere over their lifetime — and possibly up to 24 percent more — depending on how they are extracted and refined, the study says. Methane emissions from tailing ponds and carbon emissions from land disturbance and field operations also contribute to the higher carbon footprint. "This is important information about the greenhouse gas impact of this oil source, and this is the first time it has been made available at this level of fidelity," said Hao Cai, the Argonne researcher who led the study. Roughly 9 percent of the total crude processed in U.S. refineries in 2013 came from the Canadian oil sands, and that percentage is projected to rise to 14 percent by 2020.
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Photo Gallery: Scenes From
The Golden Age of Animal Tracking


Scientists are following the lives of animals in more detail than ever before, thanks to a new generation of tracking and tagging devices. From beluga whales that collect data on the Arctic Ocean to ducks that help track the spread of avian flu, data gathered by and about animals is being used to identify conservation hotspots, reduce human-animal conflicts, and monitor the health of the planet. In an e360 gallery, we look at some intriguing projects that have used state-of-the-art animal tracking and monitoring technology.
View the gallery.
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24 Jun 2015: Global Fine Particle Pollution
On the Rise Despite Regional Improvements

Air pollution from fine particulate matter has decreased significantly in North America and western Europe over the

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fine particulate air pollution

Fine particulate air pollution levels, 2010-2012
past two decades, but increases in East and South Asia have more than made up for those improvements, as these maps based on NASA satellite data show. The U.S. and Europe have many PM 2.5 ground-based monitoring stations, but large swaths of Africa, Asia, Central America, and South America are unmonitored. To fill these gaps, researchers have been developing techniques that use satellite data to better estimate PM 2.5 levels around the globe. They've found that, as a whole, the worsening PM 2.5 pollution in Asia outweighed improvements in North America and Europe, and global PM 2.5 concentrations have increased by 2.1 percent per year since 1998.
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23 Jun 2015: Linking Disasters to Climate
Makes Skeptics Less Likely to Donate

Linking natural disasters to climate change makes global warming skeptics less likely to donate money to relief efforts, says a study by psychologists at the University of Massachusetts. They asked study participants to read an article about a drought-related famine; one version of the article attributed the droughts to climate change, and the other version made no mention of climate. The researchers then asked the participants why they would or would not donate money for relief, and about their climate change beliefs. Participants who were skeptical about global warming gave more justifications for not helping the victims when the disaster was attributed to climate change than when it was not, the study found. “What our work suggests is that when a disaster occurs and organizations are appealing to the public for aid, it is best to minimize the inclusion of heavily politicized topics,” lead author Daniel Chapman told ClimateWire.
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22 Jun 2015: Researchers Look to Design of
Owl Wings to Make Quieter Wind Turbines

A new type of coating for wind turbines inspired by the shape of owl wings may dramatically cut noise associated with onshore
Australian masked owl

Australian masked owl in flight
wind farms, according to research from the University of Cambridge. The scientists found that an owl's flight feathers have a microscopic down-like covering and numerous other intricate design details that smooth the passage of air over the wing, scattering sound as the owl flies. To replicate the structure, the researchers looked at designing a covering that would scatter the sound generated by a turbine blade in the same way. Early tests of their prototype material, a 3D-printed plastic coating, demonstrated that it could significantly quiet wind turbines without any appreciable impact on aerodynamics. Since wind turbines are heavily braked in order to minimize noise, the new technology could mean that turbines could spin at much higher speeds, producing more energy while making less noise.
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19 Jun 2015: Jet Contrails Can Affect
Air Temperature in Some Areas, Study Shows

Jet contrails can mimic the weather impact of clouds and significantly affect daytime and nighttime air temperature
jet contrails

Persistent jet contrails
swings — by up to 6 degrees Fahrenheit in some locales — researchers from Penn State have shown. Data from the three days following September 11, 2001, when air travel was highly restricted, had shown that jet contrails — thin clouds composed of ice crystals condensed from an aircraft's exhaust — likely had an effect on air temperatures. To study the issue over a longer time period, the researchers looked at daily temperature data from locations in the South and Midwest that often see persistent jet contrails. They found that contrails, like clouds, depress the difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures, typically lowering daytime highs and raising nighttime lows. In the South, this amounted to a 6 degree F reduction in daily temperature range, and in the Midwest, roughly a 5 degree F reduction.
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18 Jun 2015: Pope Calls for Global Action on
Climate Change and Environmental Problems

Pope Francis released today his highly anticipated encyclical, which is largely focused on halting climate change and
Pope Francis

Pope Francis
environmental degradation and emphasizes the importance of protecting impoverished communities from the worst effects. This is the first such letter from a leader of the Catholic Church to address environmental issues, analysts say. “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political,” Pope Francis wrote. “It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” Industrialized countries are responsible for most of the damage, he said, and are obligated to help developing nations cope with the looming crisis. Within the document, he delves deeply into both climate science and economic development policies, and chides climate change skeptics for their "denial."
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17 Jun 2015: Harnessing Evaporation Could
Yield More Power than Wind, Study Shows

Using the energy produced by evaporating water, researchers at Columbia University have shown that they can

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evaporation powered car

A miniature car driven by evaporation.
power a small toy car and a flashing light — the first step, they say, in harnessing an immense energy source that could rival power production from wind and waves. The devices they built use bacterial spores that can absorb humidity and, in doing so, expand and contract with enough force to push and pull pistons and drive a rotary engine. The spores pack more energy, pound for pound, than other materials used in engineering for moving objects, said researcher Ozgur Sahin, who co-authored the study published in Nature Communication. When evaporation energy is scaled up, he says, it could one day produce electricity from giant floating power generators that sit on bays or reservoirs or rotating machines like wind turbines that sit above water.
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Interview: Is Cloning Mammoths
Science Fiction or Conservation?

Biologist Beth Shapiro has published a new book, How to Clone a Mammoth, that looks at the many
Beth Shapiro
Beth Shapiro
questions — both technical and ethical — surrounding any attempt to revive extinct species. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, Shapiro, associate director of the Paleogenomics Institute at the University of California at Santa Cruz, explains why she believes new gene-editing technology could benefit critical ecosystems and living species that are now endangered. “We are in the midst of an extinction crisis,” she says. “Why would we not use whatever technologies are available to us, assuming we can go about doing it in a reasonable and ethical way?”
Read the interview.
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16 Jun 2015: Human Data Can Improve
Ecosystem Service Models, Study Says

Protected forests in Brazil, Costa Rica, Indonesia, and Thailand have prevented the release of more than 1 billion tons
Amazon rainforest

Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.
of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, an ecosystem service worth at least $5 billion, Georgia State University economists found. Their conclusion about the monetary benefit of those forest protections is based on a new method they derived for valuing services such as carbon capture, conservation, and improvements in air and water quality. Instead of relying on modeling alone, the new method uses interviews and on-the-ground data to see how conservation programs affect human behavior and impact ecosystems. By combining the two types of information — environmental models and social science data — public officials can gain more realistic insights into how a particular policy might affect the environment and the people who interact with it, the researchers write in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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15 Jun 2015: Biodiversity Limits Parasites
In Humans, Wildlife, and Plants, Study Says

High biodiversity generally limits outbreaks of disease among humans and wildlife, University of South Florida researchers write in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The new research is the first to quantitatively support the controversial "dilution effect hypothesis," which warns that human-driven biodiversity losses can exacerbate parasite outbreaks. Much of the debate surrounding this idea concerns whether it applies generally or only to a few select parasites. After reviewing more than 200 published scientific assessments, the USF team found "overwhelming" evidence that the dilution effect applies broadly to many parasitic species in humans and wildlife. They also found that plant biodiversity reduces the abundance of herbivore pests. The results have implications for public health efforts, the researchers say, and make a case for better management of forests, croplands, and other ecosystems.
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12 Jun 2015: National Renewable Energy
Targets Quadrupled Since 2005, Study Says

The number of nations with renewable energy targets on the books has quadrupled in the past decade, rising from 43 countries

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renewable energy targets

Nations with renewable energy targets in 2015.
in 2005 to 164 countries today, according to a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Developing and emerging economies account for an overwhelming majority of those renewable energy targets — 131 — and two additional countries, Canada and the United Arab Emirates, have set targets at provincial or regional levels. Most national targets are aimed at the electricity sector — 150 countries have renewable electricity targets — but transportation targets have more than doubled, from 27 to 59 nations, and heating and cooling commitments have increased from two countries in 2005 to 47 today, the report says.
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11 Jun 2015: Deep Sea Coral Canyons off
Atlantic Coast to Gain Fishing Protections

A stretch of ocean that includes more than two dozen undersea coral canyons will become the largest protected area ever

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deep sea coral canyon

A Paragorgia coral from one of the canyons.
established in U.S. Atlantic waters, after a vote yesterday by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. The 38,000-square-mile zone encompasses waters at the edge of the continental shelf, from Virginia to Massachusetts, and includes 27 deep sea canyons, some of which are nearly 100 miles long and are as deep as the Grand Canyon. Their steep walls are excellent habitat for a rich array of coral species that thrive in cold Atlantic waters. The new protections will shield rare, vulnerable, and ecologically important coral communities from bottom fishing and trawling — a highly destructive practice that involves dragging nets along the ocean floor, often destroying thousand-year-old coral communities in the process.
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10 Jun 2015: Jet Fuel from Sugarcane
Cuts Aviation Carbon Emissions, Study Says

Converting sugarcane to jet fuel can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from air travel by up to 80 percent and the process could be scaled up to produce commercially viable amounts
sugarcane

Sugarcane
of fuel, say researchers from the University of California, Berkeley. The new technique they developed, which is described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, relies on complex chemical reactions involving sugars and waste biomass from sugarcane. That crop, unlike the sugar beet, can be grown on marginal lands so it does not displace food production — a major concern that has tempered enthusiasm for biofuels in general. Jet fuel, which is responsible for roughly 2 percent of all carbon emissions, has been difficult to synthesize from biomass because of its stringent quality requirements. Biofuels were approved for commercial aviation as recently as 2011, and researchers have been seeking a viable production method for nearly a decade.
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09 Jun 2015: Record Level of Residential Solar
Installed in U.S. in First Quarter of 2015

U.S. homeowners installed more solar power systems in the first three months of this year than in any other previous quarter,
solar roof

Rooftop solar panels
according to data from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a trade group for the U.S. solar sector. The first quarter of any given year typically sees the fewest solar installations because of winter weather, the group notes, but the period from January through March of this year saw a solid increase over last quarter — 11 percent — and a 76 percent increase over the same period last year. The average cost for a residential solar system is now $3.48 per watt, or 10 percent lower than this time last year, the SEIA report says. It also notes that, cumulatively through the first quarter of 2015, nearly one-fourth of all residential solar installations have now come on-line without any state incentives.
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08 Jun 2015: Reforming Mobile Phone Industry
Helps Profits and Environment, Study Says

Mobile phone manufacturers and the environment would both benefit from producing less-complex phones that
unused mobile phones

Millions of unused phones are discarded each year.
use "the cloud" — a network of remote servers connected to the Internet — to carry out power-intensive tasks, researchers say. The current business model encourages consumers to upgrade devices frequently with little incentive to recycle them, researchers write in the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. There are roughly 85 million unused phones in the U.K. alone, the researchers note, and replacing the gold they contain — not to mention copper, silver, and other rare metals — would cost nearly $170 million and release an equivalent of 84,000 tons of CO2. Moving to a "cloud-based" system where heavy computing is done on remote servers would allow manufacturers to produce less-complex phones that are designed to last longer and require fewer valuable metals, the analysis found.
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05 Jun 2015: Huge Pension Fund in Norway
Will Divest Many of Its Coal Holdings

The Norwegian Parliament has voted to sell off many of the coal-related investments in the government’s massive $890 billion pension fund, a significant boost to the growing fossil fuel divestment movement. Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is the largest such government fund in the world, and parliament voted Friday to order the fund to shift its investments out of billions of dollars of stock in companies that rely at least 30 percent on coal. A spokesman for the firm that manages the government’s pension said an important reason for divesting in heavily coal-reliant companies is “long-established, climate-change risk-management expectations.” The Norwegian Parliament’s decision comes on the heels of other fossil-fuel divestment steps taken by major groups and organizations, including the Church of England, the large French insurer Axa, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
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04 Jun 2015: Seven Tiny Frog Species
Are Discovered in Brazilian Forest

Seven new species of a highly miniaturized, brightly colored frog genus known as Brachycephalus have been
new frog species

One of the species of miniaturized frogs.
discovered in the Brazilian Atlantic rainforest, researchers report today. The frog species are restricted to cloud forests in no more than a few adjacent mountaintops, making them highly vulnerable to extinction, the researchers say. The cloud forests they inhabit are particularly sensitive to climatic conditions, and small shifts can cause major changes in the distribution of the forests. The frogs' adaptation to these specific environments prevents them from migrating across valleys as the cloud forest shifts. The long-term preservation of these species might involve not only the protection of their habitats but also more direct management efforts, such as rearing in captivity, the researchers say. Brachycephalus frogs are among the planet's smallest terrestrial vertebrates, with adult sizes often not exceeding 1 cm in length.
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Interview: At Sierra Club, New Face
At Helm of Oldest U.S. Green Group

The Sierra Club made history last month when it elected Aaron Mair as its president, the first African-American to lead
Aaron Mair
Aaron Mair
the largest and oldest U.S. environmental organization. Mair rose through the group’s volunteer ranks after leading a 10-year battle to close a solid-waste incinerator that was polluting his predominately black neighborhood in Albany, New York. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Mair discusses why it’s time to end a “Victorian-era model of environmentalism” that is “only worthy of the white and the privileged” and talks about why he believes increasing minority participation in green groups is more critical than ever. “If we want to save the planet, if we want to deal with climate change,” says Mair, “we have to engage all of America.”
Read the interview.
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02 Jun 2015: Pollution From Carbon Monoxide
Has Fallen Steadily Since 2000, Data Show

As these NASA satellite maps show, carbon monoxide levels have decreased appreciably in much of the world since 2000, thanks to

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carbon monoxide levels

Global carbon monoxide levels as of 2014
improved pollution controls on vehicles and factories and fewer forest fires. Carbon monoxide, which is produced whenever carbon-based fuels are burned, contributes to the formation of ozone, a pollutant that can have adverse health effects. A NASA satellite carrying a sensor called MOPITT — Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere — measures carbon monoxide levels. Higher concentrations of CO are depicted on the map in orange and red and lower concentrations in yellow. NASA said that the decrease in CO levels from 2000 to 2014 was particularly noticeable in the northern hemisphere thanks to technological and regulatory innovations that have led to lower pollution levels from vehicles and industry. Carbon monoxide levels also have decreased in the southern hemisphere since 2000, due largely to a reduction in deforestation fires.
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01 Jun 2015: Six Major Fossil Fuel Companies
Call for Governments to Set Carbon Price

Six leading oil and gas companies have called on governments to enact a carbon-pricing system, saying this would be the most effective way to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The chief executives of Total, Statoil, Royal Dutch Shell, BG Group, BP, and Eni, in a joint letter to the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said that governments should use regulatory measures to discourage carbon-intensive energy options and to level the playing field for all energy sources, both renewables and fossil fuels. The executives said the companies are willing to do their part, but that governments need to provide a clear, stable, and long-term policy framework. Total chief Patrick Pouyanne said in a news conference that a carbon price of roughly $40 per ton is needed to spur the replacement of coal-fired power stations, which produce twice as much CO2 as those that use natural gas. And a price of $80 to $100 per ton, he said, would justify investing in carbon capture and storage systems.
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29 May 2015: Ozone Benefits of Montreal
Protocol Already Widespread, Study Says

The planet's protective ozone layer is in far better shape today thanks to the United Nations' Montreal Protocol, which came

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ozone hole without Montreal Protocol

Ozone hole without the Montreal Protocol
into force in 1987 and restricted the use of ozone-depleting substances such as CFCs, according to a new study in Nature Communications. The researchers used 3D atmospheric chemistry modeling to look at what might have happened to the ozone layer had the treaty not been implemented. The findings suggest that the Antarctic ozone hole would have grown by an additional 40 percent by 2013 and, had ozone-depleting substances continued to increase, the ozone layer would have become significantly thinner over other parts of the globe. A very large ozone hole over the Arctic would have occurred during the exceptionally cold Arctic winter of 2010-2011 — colder temperatures cause more loss — and smaller Arctic ozone holes would have become a regular occurrence.
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Designed for the Future:
Practical Ideas for Sustainability


From packing materials made of mushrooms to buildings engineered to cool and power themselves, sustainable design can play a key role in helping people adapt to a changing planet. That’s a central message of the new book Designed for the Future, in which more than 80 experts in sustainable design — architects, journalists, urban planners, and others — are asked to point to a specific project that gives them hope that a sustainable future is possible. Their selections vary widely, from communities that leave no carbon footprint to cutting-edge technological research programs. An e360 gallery highlights a few of the projects they say have inspired them.
View the gallery.
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27 May 2015: Power Plant Emissions to Drop
To 1980s Levels Under U.S. Clean Power Plan

The Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to regulate power plant emissions will cut carbon pollution to its lowest
coal power plant

Wikimedia Commons
Big Bend coal power plant in Florida
level since the 1980s, reducing CO2 emissions from power plants by 1.6 billion tons per year, according to an analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The Clean Power Plan, which was proposed last June, sets goals for reducing carbon emissions from existing power plants by 2030. Under the plan, power sector CO2 emissions are projected to fall 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 34 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, the EIA analysis found. That would bring CO2 emissions from the power sector down to levels not seen since the early 1980s, the report notes.
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26 May 2015: Officials Uncover “Mass Graves”
Of Illegal Timber in Malaysia Forest Reserve

Malaysian authorities have uncovered timber “mass graves” where illegal loggers attempted to conceal valuable timber

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mass tree graves

Muhaizan Yahya/nst.com
A "mass grave" containing illegally logged timber.
following a government crackdown on unlawful logging that started in February. The sites, located in the Belum-Temengor forest reserve, were revealed after the recent excavation of patches of land roughly the size of football fields, beneath which an estimated two stories of felled trees were stacked. “We believe that about 400 tons of logs worth more than RM1 million ($250,000 USD) were buried at the three locations and the culprits are waiting for the right time to dig them out and sell them,” says Anuar Mohd Noh, assistant commissioner for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which conducted a joint operation with the country’s forestry department to track down illicit logging activities.
Read more.
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22 May 2015: Many Trees in Southeast U.S.
Closely Related to Tree Species in Asia

DNA studies show that more than half the trees and shrubs in southern Appalachia can trace their ancestry to eastern Asia.
dogwood

A flowering dogwood tree
Based on molecular studies of more than 250 species of trees and shrubs from Georgia to Virginia, researchers at Duke University found close ties between East Asian species, such as dogwoods, and species in the southeastern U.S. Forests throughout the northern hemisphere were joined together by the supercontinent Laurasia as recently as 180 million years ago. Then, as the great northern land mass broke into continents, eras of glaciation wiped out various tree species. Forest remnants hung on in China, Japan, small parts of Europe, and Appalachia, which explains the similarity in tree species. The research was published in the American Journal of Botany.
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Interview: A Grassroots Effort to
Save Africa’s Most Endangered Ape

The Cross River gorilla population, with fewer than 300 individuals, has been pushed to the brink of extinction in equatorial
Inaoyom Imong
Inaoyom Imong
Africa. At the center of the fight to save this beleaguered ape population is Nigerian scientist Inaoyom Imong, who comes from the region and knows its forests — and its people — intimately. In a Yale e360 interview, Imong describes the various pressures that have reduced populations of this gorilla subspecies and explains how a few thousand people living in rural Nigeria and Cameroon hold the key to saving this magnificent ape.
Read the interview.
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20 May 2015: Many Wind Turbines Installed
In Critical Bird Habitat, Group Says

More than 30,000 wind turbines in the U.S. have been installed in areas critical to the survival of federally protected birds and
whooping crane

Whooping crane
an additional 50,000 turbines are planned for similar areas, according to the advocacy group American Bird Conservancy (ABC). Those figures include 24,000 turbines in the migration corridor of the rare whooping crane and nearly 3,000 turbines in breeding strongholds for greater sage grouse, a species that has already declined by up to 80 percent in recent decades due to habitat loss, ABC says. The group is asking the federal government to regulate the wind industry with regard to its impacts on birds. Areas of "critical importance," where federally protected birds face the highest levels of risk, comprise just 9 percent of the land area of the U.S. and should be avoided in wind development, ABC says.
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19 May 2015: Maps Depict China's Coasts
Under Scenario of Dramatic Sea Level Rise

Roughly 43 percent of China's population lives near the coast — a region that is expected to experience dramatically

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Shandong sea level rise

Shandong province after dramatic sea level rise
rising sea levels if global warming continues along its current trajectory. What will China's coast look like far in the future if polar ice sheets and glaciers undergo extensive melting? Cartographer Jeffrey Linn has used projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to depict the impact of a 200-foot rise in global sea level. In this map, he shows the potential inundation of a portion of Shandong province near the town of Qingdao, home to 3.5 million people and the brewery that makes the widely distributed beer Tsingtao. Earlier, Linn drew up similar maps showing the inundation western North America's coastline under scenarios of extreme sea level rise.
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18 May 2015: Low Snowpack Raising Drought
Concerns in Oregon and Washington

While drought conditions in California and the southwestern U.S. have been dominating news headlines, Oregon and

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Oregon Washington snowpack

Snowpack in May 2015
Washington could also soon be facing dangerously dry conditions due to low snowpack levels, as these photos show. Although the region has seen several months with average or just-below average precipitation, unusually warm temperatures on land and offshore led to most of that moisture arriving in the form of rain rather than snow. Like many parts of the western U.S. and Canada, the Pacific Northwest depends on mountain snowpack to melt and fill streams and rivers through warmer, drier summer months. According to state officials, snowpack in Washington was just 16 percent of normal as of May 15, and yearly runoff is predicted to be at its lowest in 64 years. Average snowpack in Oregon stood at just 11 percent of normal, its lowest level since 1992.
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15 May 2015: Indonesia Extends Major Logging
Moratorium, Which Critics Decry as Weak

Indonesia has extended a major logging moratorium aimed at preserving the archipelago's vast swathes
deforestation in Borneo

Deforestation for a palm oil plantation in Indonesia.
of tropical rainforest, but environmentalists say the logging ban does not go nearly far enough. The country, home to some of the world's most biodiverse rain forests and endangered species such as tigers and elephants, first enacted the moratorium in 2011, banning new logging permits for primary and virgin forests and peatlands. The moratorium was first extended until 2015, and now has been extended again, to 2017. Environmental groups have criticized the moratorium, however, saying that it still allows deforestation for ventures deemed in the national interest, such as infrastructure projects and agricultural plantations. Indonesia is the largest economy in Southeast Asia and third-largest carbon emitter in the world. Huge swathes of its forests have been chopped down by palm oil, mining, and timber companies.
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14 May 2015: Biologically Inspired Coating
Will Improve Solar Panels, Researchers Say

Key characteristics of moths’ eyes, which are anti-reflective, and lotus leaves, which are water-repellant, inspired a new type of glass coating that could significantly improve the efficiency of solar panels, say researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The extremely durable coating can be customized to be fog-resistant, anti-reflective, and superhydrophobic — meaning it repels water drops so efficiently that they barely make contact with the solar panel surface, literally bouncing off and carrying away dirt and dust that hamper performance. The key component is a nanostructured layer of glass film that, under a microscope, has a porous texture resembling coral, which helps the solar cells absorb more light, the researchers say. Reflecting less sunlight means a 3 to 6 percent increase in light-to-electricity conversion efficiency and power output, studies show. The coating can be fabricated using standard industry techniques, the researchers say, making it easy and inexpensive to scale up and incorporate in current products.
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A Remarkable Recovery for
The Oysters of Chesapeake Bay

In the past century, more than 90 percent of the world’s oyster beds have been lost to pollution, overharvesting, disease, and
Chesapeake Bay oysters

Wild oysters harvested from the Chesapeake Bay
coastal development. The renowned oysters of the Chesapeake Bay experienced a similar decline, with production nearly disappearing a decade ago. Now, however, Chesapeake Bay oysters are undergoing a remarkable recovery thanks to a brilliant oyster geneticist, improved state and federal management, the expansion of private hatchery operations, the cleanup of the bay, and some help in the form of average rain years and excellent reproductive oyster classes.
Read more.
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13 May 2015: Car Travel Is Six Times
More Expensive Than Bicycling, Study Finds

Traveling by car costs society and individuals six times more than traveling by bicycle, according to a study of
bicycles in Copenhagen

Bicycles parked in downtown Copenhagen
transportation trends in Copenhagen, one of the planet's most heavily bicycled cities. The analysis considered how much cars cost society and how they compare to bicycles in terms of air pollution, climate change, noise, road wear, public health, and congestion in Copenhagen. If the costs to society and the costs to private individuals are added together, the study found, the economic impact of a car is 0.50 euros per kilometer, whereas the cost of a bicycle is 0.08 euros per kilometer. Looking only at costs and benefits to society, one kilometer by car costs 0.15 euros, whereas society earns 0.16 euros on every kilometer cycled because of improvements in the public's health.
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12 May 2015: Unique Stretch Marks Show
Greenland Ice Accelerating Toward Sea

The Greenland ice sheet is accelerating as it flows toward the ocean, and the unique markings visible in this photograph

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Greenland stretch marks

Crevassing in Greenland ice
are one piece of evidence demonstrating its rapid movement. Captured as part of NASA's Operation IceBridge, which is wrapping up its seventh season of Arctic observations, this image details heavy crevassing near the coast of Melville Bay in northwestern Greenland. These fissures are essentially stretch marks on the ice, NASA researchers say. Ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are losing mass at an unprecedented rate of 500 cubic kilometers per year — enough ice to cover the Chicago metropolitan area with a layer of ice 600 meters thick — according to one recent report.
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11 May 2015: Research Charts Increase
In Algal Blooms in the Chesapeake Bay

Algal blooms in the Chesapeake Bay became increasingly frequent from 1991 to 2008, according to new research from

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Chesapeake Bay algal bloom

An algal bloom in the Chesapeake Bay in 2007
the University of Maryland. Driven by runoff containing excess nitrogen and other nutrients, algal blooms can severely deplete oxygen levels and release significant amounts of toxins in the water, killing fish and altering food webs. Harmful algal blooms have long been plaguing the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, but water quality data from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources show that the events roughly doubled in the 1991-2008 period. Major blooms of one type of microscopic algae, Kalrodinium veneficum, increased from fewer than five per year in 2003 to more than 30 per year in 2008. That type of bloom produces a toxin implicated in fish kills in the Chesapeake Bay and with oyster spawning and development problems.
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08 May 2015: Idle Electronics and Appliances
Waste $19 Billion Annually, Study Says

Roughly $19 billion worth of electricity — an amount equal to the output of 50 large power plants — is devoured annually in

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idle power usage

Idle power usage
the U.S. by household electronics and appliances when their owners are not actively using them, according to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council. These always-on but inactive devices account for nearly 23 percent of home electricity use in California, the researchers found after analyzing data from 70,000 residential smart meters. The cost of this so-called "vampire" energy drain, which provides little benefit to consumers, averages $165 per household per year, but it can be as high as $440 in areas with high electricity prices, the study says. Appliances that consume a lot of power when in use, such as heating and cooling systems and refrigerators, accounted for just 15 percent of the vampire consumption. The majority — 51 percent — is drawn by consumer electronics such as televisions, computers, printers, and game consoles.
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07 May 2015: Ethanol Refineries May Emit More
Smog-Forming Compounds Than Expected

Refineries that produce ethanol fuel may be releasing much larger amounts of smog-forming compounds than researchers and government agencies had suspected, according to a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. Airborne measurements downwind from an ethanol refinery in Illinois show that, compared to government estimates, ethanol emissions are 30 times higher and emissions of all volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which include ethanol, are five times higher. Producing one kilogram of the fuel at the Illinois refinery emits 170 times more ethanol than what comes out of a vehicle burning the same amount, the study says. Along with nitrogen oxides, VOCs can react with sunlight to form ground-level ozone, the main component of smog. Renewable fuel standards mandate that gasoline burned in the U.S. contains 10 percent ethanol — an attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and petroleum imports while boosting the renewable fuels sector.
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06 May 2015: Backyard Bird Feeders May Put
Native Species at a Disadvantage, Study Says

Backyard bird feeders tend to attract aggressive, introduced bird species while discouraging native species that eat
bird feeder

A sparrow eats at a backyard bird feeder.
insects and nectar, essentially restructuring urban bird communities and skewing them toward non-native species, a new study says. Data based on nearly 600 surveys of 18,000 birds from 33 species in New Zealand show that yards with bird feeders tended to attract non-native omnivores such as house sparrows, spotted doves, and blackbirds. Outdoor areas without bird feeders had significantly more native bird species such as the grey warbler, whose diet consists mainly of insects. Although the population trends reversed when feeders were removed, the researchers say that over time bird feeders in urban areas likely give non-native bird species a competitive and reproductive edge over native species.
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05 May 2015: Pollen May Play Surprising
Role in Climate and Cloud Formation

Grains of pollen may be seeding clouds and affecting the planet's climate in unexpected ways, University of Michigan researchers
pollen grains

Grains of pollen can break into even smaller particles.
write in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Scientists had assumed that pollen particles were too large to remain in the atmosphere long enough to interact with the sun's radiation or trigger cloud formation. The study found, however, that pollen grains are capable of disintegrating into much smaller particles and that exposure to humidity can accelerate pollen's breakdown. Using a cloud-making laboratory chamber, the researchers showed that six common types of pollen — ragweed and oak, pecan, birch, cedar, and pine trees — could break into particles small enough to draw moisture and form clouds. "What happens in clouds is one of the big uncertainties in climate models right now," author Allison Steiner said.
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04 May 2015: First Nations and B.C. Set
North America's Largest Ocean Protections

The Canadian province of British Columbia and 18 coastal First Nations have released marine plans to bring the northern

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Marine protection plan area

Area encompassed by protection plans.
Pacific Coast of British Columbia under ecosystem-based management, completing the largest ocean plan to date anywhere in North America. The ecosystem-based approach was designed to protect the marine environment while sustaining coastal communities whose culture and commerce depend on a healthy ocean, officials say. The area under the protection plans lies between Haida Gwaii archipelago on the north coast of B.C. to Campbell River on Vancouver Island — a span of nearly 40,000 square miles, equivalent to a 200-mile-wide swath from San Francisco to San Diego. The plans were based on input from a variety of stakeholders — renewable energy developers, conservationists, aquaculture companies, small-boat fishermen, and traditional and local community members — and the best available science, officials say.
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01 May 2015: One in Six Species Facing
Extinction in Current Climate Trajectory

Future increases in global temperatures will threaten up to one in six species if current climate policies are not modified,
Nursery frog

Nursery frogs are among the species most at risk.
according to new research published in the journal Science. Global extinction rates are currently at 2.8 percent, the study notes. If global average temperature rises by only 2 degrees C — a benchmark that many scientists think is no longer attainable — the extinction rate will rise to 5.2 percent, the study found. If the planet warms by 3 degrees C, the extinction risk rises to 8.5 percent. And if the current, business-as-usual trajectory continues, climate change will threaten one in six species, or 16 percent, the study says. The risk of species loss is most acute for areas that have unique climate ranges — particularly South America, Australia, and New Zealand — yet those regions are the least studied, the author notes.
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30 Apr 2015: Volcanic Eruption in Chile Could
Have an Effect on Climate, NASA Data Show

Calbuco volcano, which erupted in southern Chile last week for the first time since 1972, has been injecting climate-changing

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Calbuco volcano

Sulfur dioxide from Calbuco volcano
gases directly into an upper layer of the atmosphere, NASA satellite data show. The particularly explosive eruption shot sulfur dioxide, an acrid-smelling gas that can cause respiratory problems at ground level, up into the stratosphere, where it reacts with water vapor to create sulfate aerosols that reflect sunlight and can sometimes have a slight cooling effect. So far, Calbuco has released an estimated 0.3 to 0.4 million tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) as high as 13 miles, where it will last much longer and travel much farther than if released closer to the earth's surface. The SO2 will gradually convert to sulfate aerosol particles, but it is not clear yet whether there will be a cooling effect associated with Calbuco's eruption, researchers say.
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Interview: How British Columbia
Gained by Putting Price on Carbon

Earlier this month, Ontario announced it will join the carbon cap-and trade-program that Quebec and California participate in.
Stewart Elgie
Stewart Elgie
British Columbia, in 2008, became the first jurisdiction in North America to adopt an economy-wide carbon tax. Stewart Elgie, a professor of law and economics at University of Ottawa, has analyzed the results of that tax and describes them as “remarkable.” In a Yale Environment 360 interview, Elgie says the tax has significantly reduced British Columbia’s fossil fuel use without harming its economy. Citing the lack of support for a carbon tax at the federal level in Canada as well as in the U.S., Elgie warns that “we’re moving toward a global economy that will reward low-carbon, innovative, resource-efficient production. And if we don’t prepare ourselves for that, other countries are going to eat our lunch.”
Read the interview.
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29 Apr 2015: California Governor Orders
Tough New Greenhouse Gas Emissions Target

California will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels over the next 15 years, according to an
California Governor Jerry Brown

California Governor Jerry Brown
executive order issued today by Governor Jerry Brown. The state already has an ambitious climate law on the books, requiring emissions cuts of 80 percent from the 1990 benchmark by 2050. Brown says the new order sets a tough interim target that will be important for ensuring the state meets its 2050 goal. The state's 2030 and 2050 emissions goals build on a law enacted under former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that requires the state to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. California is on track to meet, and possibly exceed, that mark, officials say. Governor Brown has been positioning California as a world leader in efforts to curb climate change ahead of the United Nations climate talks in Paris at the end of this year.
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28 Apr 2015: World Is Poised for Major
Surge in Air Conditioner Use, Research Finds

The world is on track for dramatic increases in the use of air conditioning over the next few decades, which will place even
air conditioners in China apartment complex

Air conditioners in Chinese apartment complex.
more stress on power grids and energy prices than scientists had previously thought, according to research from the University of California, Berkeley. Looking at households throughout Mexico, the researchers found that, in the warm areas, air conditioning use increases steadily with income — 2.7 percent per $1,000 of annual household income. The team used those findings, along with population, climate, and household income projections, to model future growth in air conditioner use across the globe. Conservatively, they say, the model predicts near-universal saturation of air conditioning in all warm areas within just a few decades. That will place enormous stress on the energy infrastructure of some nations — India, for example, is already experiencing blackouts during surges in power use — and will drive up energy costs worldwide.
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27 Apr 2015: Oceans Are the World's
Seventh Largest Economy, New Report Says

The world's oceans are worth an estimated $24 trillion and produce $2.5 trillion annually in goods and services, according to
coral reef

Coral reefs are threatened by ocean acidification.
a report by WWF, Boston Consulting Group, and the Global Change Institute. If the global ocean ecosystem were a single nation, it would represent the world's seventh largest economy, the report says, providing goods such as fish catches and aquaculture and services such as coastal storm protection, shipping, and tourism. The oceans' assets are dwindling, though, due to threats such as ocean acidification, over-exploitation of fish stocks, and degradation of coral reefs, which could disappear completely by 2050, according to research cited in the report. The trends could be reversed, the report says, if global governments take strong action to curb climate change and if coastal countries make swift efforts to protect nearby marine ecosystems.
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24 Apr 2015: Long-Term CO2 Record by Keeling
Named National Historic Chemical Landmark

The Keeling Curve — a long-term record of rising carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere — will be named a National Historic

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Keeling Curve

The Keeling Curve
Chemical Landmark, the American Chemical Society announced yesterday. The late geochemist Charles David Keeling began collecting precise, systematic data on atmospheric CO2 concentrations at Hawaii's Mauna Loa Observatory in 1958. Since then, the rigorous and continuous measurements have become the most widely recognized record of humans' impact on the planet, helping to illustrate the link between rising CO2 levels from burning fossil fuels and global warming. Other works highlighted by National Historic Chemical Landmark program include the discovery of penicillin, deciphering of the genetic code, and the works of Rachel Carson, Thomas Edison, and George Washington Carver.
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Interview: Oklahoma’s Clear Link
Between Earthquakes and Energy

In recent years, Oklahoma has experienced a stunning increase in the number of earthquakes. Yet despite numerous

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earthquake map

Earthquake occurrences in Oklahoma since 2008.
studies to the contrary, state officials have remained skeptical of the link between this seismic boom and oil and gas activity. That ended last month with the announcement by the Oklahoma Geological Survey that oil and gas wastewater injection wells were, indeed, the “likely” cause of “the majority” of that state’s earthquakes. Oklahoma geologist Todd Halihan, who has examined this issue, welcomed the announcement. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Halihan outlines some ways that the abnormal seismic activity in Oklahoma might be tamped down. But he also explains why he believes the problem has no quick or easy fixes.
Read the interview.
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22 Apr 2015: Yale Plans to Charge University
Departments for Their Carbon Emissions

Yale University has announced that it will enact a novel carbon-pricing mechanism in the next academic year in hopes of curbing its greenhouse gas emissions. Devised by a committee led by economist William Nordhaus — an expert on the intersection of climate change and economic policy — the program will operate in a pilot phase for three years before possibly going into full effect, the university said. According to the committee's report, departments within the university would be charged based on how much their carbon emissions deviated from average levels in the past. The report recommends a price of $40 per ton of carbon dioxide, which is based on current federal legislation and the government's estimates for the social cost of carbon. "We didn't see anything like this" when reviewing other institutions' carbon-pricing schemes, Nordhaus told E&E News, saying he believes Yale's program is the first and most comprehensive of its kind.
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21 Apr 2015: Australia Could Attain
100 Percent Renewables by 2050, Study Says

Australia could reduce its greenhouse emissions significantly and transition to an economy
Australia wind farm

Windy Hill wind farm in Queensland, Australia.
predominantly fueled by renewable energy for very little cost, according to an analysis by the Australian National University and WWF. The country could generate 100 percent of its electricity from renewables and have zero net emissions by 2050 because wind and solar technologies have fallen rapidly in price in recent years and Australia is the world's sunniest and windiest continent. Any progress, however, will depend on the government's willingness to set clear, long-term policies and regulations encouraging renewable energy use, the authors note. Under conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Australia's current climate action plan calls for only a five percent cut in emissions from 2000 levels over the next five years.
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20 Apr 2015: Record Amount of E-Waste
Generated Globally in 2014, Report Finds

A record amount of electronic waste was discarded in 2014, with a total of 41.8 million tons of personal electronics and household
e-waste

2014 saw a record amount of e-waste.
appliances hitting landfills worldwide, a new report from the United Nations University found. The highest per-capita totals of so-called "e-waste" came from Scandinavian and European countries — Norway topped the list, followed by Switzerland, Iceland, and Denmark — and China and the U.S. were responsible for the largest volumes overall. Nearly 60 percent of e-waste by weight came from electronic components and wiring in large and small kitchen, bathroom, and laundry appliances, and 7 percent was discarded mobile phones, calculators, personal computers, and printers, the report said. It also found that less than one-sixth of all discarded electronics were properly recycled, and an estimated $52 billion in gold, copper, silver, and recoverable materials went to waste.
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17 Apr 2015: New Mapping Tool Could
Lower Cost of Finding Geothermal Energy

A new online mapping tool could help governments and investors evaluate the geothermal energy potential for locations around

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geothermal map

Geothermal mapping tool
the globe through satellite measurements, lowering the risks and costs involved in developing this clean energy source, its creators say. The tool uses gravity measurements from European Space Agency (ESA) satellites to look for certain characteristics unique to geothermal reservoirs, including areas with thin crusts, subduction zones, and young magmatic activity. This helps determine which locations are most likely to possess geothermal energy potential, narrowing the search — and cost — for prospectors. The project, which is a partnership between the ESA and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), will "help make a strong business case for geothermal development where none existed before,” said a director at IRENA.
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16 Apr 2015: Researchers Discover New
Source of Methane in the Arctic Ocean

A large reservoir of methane — a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide — was recently discovered on

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Knipovich Ridge in Arctic Ocean

Knipovich Ridge in the Arctic Ocean
Knipovich Ridge in the central Arctic Ocean, according to research published in the journal Geology. The methane in this deposit is locked up in icy crystals of water and gas called hydrates, and it was produced by abiotic geological processes rather than by microbes breaking down organic matter, as most methane is, the authors explain. Until now, scientists had not known that hydrates could contain this type of methane. "Up to 15,000 gigatons of carbon may be stored in the form of hydrates in the ocean floor, but this estimate is not accounting for abiotic methane," said co-author Jürgen Mienert. "So there is probably much more."
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Interview: For Buddhist Leader,
Religion and Environment Are One

Ogyen Trinley Dorje, spiritual leader of a 900-year-old lineage of Buddhism, says his deep concern for environmental issues
His Holiness the 17th Karmapa

His Holiness the 17th Karmapa
stems from his boyhood living close to the land on the Tibetan plateau. Now, as His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, he is promoting a program that seeks to instill good environmental practices in Buddhist monasteries in the Himalayan region. In an interview with Yale e360, the Karmapa talks about how ecological awareness fits with the Buddhist concept of interdependence, why the impacts of climate change in the Himalaya are so significant, and what role religion can play in helping meet the world’s environmental challenges. “The environmental emergency that we face is not just a scientific issue, nor is it just a political issue,” he says. “It is also a moral issue.”
Read the interview.
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15 Apr 2015: Entries Invited for e360
Contest For Best Environmental Videos

The second annual Yale Environment 360 Video Contest is now accepting entries. The contest honors the best environmental videos. Entries must be videos that focus on an environmental issue or theme, have not been widely viewed online, and are a maximum of 15 minutes in length. Videos that are funded by an organization or company and are primarily about that organization or company are not eligible. The first-place winner will receive $2,000, two runners-up will each receive $500, and all winning entries will be posted on Yale Environment 360. The contest judges will be Yale Environment 360 editor Roger Cohn, New Yorker writer and e360 contributor Elizabeth Kolbert, and documentary filmmaker Thomas Lennon. The deadline for entries is June 15, 2015.
Read more.
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15 Apr 2015: Japan Emissions Hit Near-Record
High After Nuclear Power Plant Closings

Japan's carbon dioxide emissions reached their highest levels since 2007 last year, according to a government analysis of data
The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant

Wikimedia Commons
The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Japan.
for the year ending in March 2014. Greenhouse gas emissions had been on a downward trend as the country replaced coal and natural gas power stations with nuclear plants. However, all 48 of Japan's nuclear power reactors have been offline since September 2013 — the result of rigorous safety checks enacted after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Reuters reports. The country has increased natural gas and coal consumption to fill the void left by nuclear power, which had accounted for 26 percent of its electricity generation. Reports say the country is considering committing to a 20 percent decrease in CO2 emissions by 2030 as part of the upcoming Paris climate negotiations.
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14 Apr 2015: Canada Could Lose 70 Percent
Of Glaciers by End of Century, Study Finds

British Columbia and Alberta could lose 70 percent of their glaciers by the end of the 21st century, creating major problems
Berg Glacier in British Columbia

Berg Glacier in British Columbia
for local ecosystems, power supplies, and water quality, according to a study in Nature Geoscience. Wetter coastal mountain regions in northwestern British Columbia are expected to lose about half of their glacial volume, the researchers found, but the Rocky Mountains, in the drier interior portion of Canada, could lose 90 percent of their glaciers. “Soon our mountains could look like those in Colorado or California and you don’t see much ice in those landscapes,” said Garry Clarke, lead author of the study. Alberta and British Columbia have more than 17,000 glaciers and they play an important role in hydroelectric power production. The glaciers also contribute to the water supply, agriculture, and tourism, but the greatest impact of their loss could be on freshwater ecosystems, the researchers say.
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13 Apr 2015: Public Transportation Spending
Varies With Income and Geography in the U.S.

Households in different regions of the United States spend similar amounts on transportation, but how those costs break down

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transportation spending trends

Transportation spending trends in the U.S.
between gasoline and public transportation varies widely, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the South, where the average household owns 2.1 vehicles, spending on gasoline is higher and public transportation spending is lower than in any other region. In contrast, households in the Northeast — which own an average of 1.6 vehicles per household — spend the least on gasoline and the most on public transportation of any region in the U.S. The spending breakdown also varies with income. Households in the highest income bracket spend more than $1,400 annually on public transportation — nearly three times the national average of $537 and eight times the $163 spent by lowest-income households.
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Canine Conservation: Using Dogs
In War Against Poachers in Kenya


In Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy — home to some of the most endangered subspecies of rhinoceros — officials are deploying a new weapon to combat rampant rhino poaching: highly trained K-9 dogs. Six Belgian Malinois tracking and attack dogs are now working with Kenyan rangers to protect tiny populations of northern white rhinos and eastern black rhinos, which have been hunted to near-extinction by poachers seeking rhino horn for supposed medicinal purposes. Overseen by a former military dog instructor with the U.K. Royal Army Veterinary Corps, the K-9 units are being deployed not only in Ol Pejeta but also in a Tanzanian park that has been plagued by poaching.
Read the article.
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10 Apr 2015: Coal Power Plant Closings
To Spur Large CO2 Cut in U.S. in 2015

Thanks to the closing of a record number of coal-fired power plants, emissions from the U.S. power sector in 2015 are expected to fall 15 percent below 2005 levels, according to an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The report said that seven percent of the U.S.’s coal-fired power capacity will be shut down this year, and that on the basis of emissions per-unit-of-power-generated, 2015 will be the cleanest year in more than 60 years. The loss of coal-fired power is being made up by cleaner natural gas-fired plants and by rapid growth of renewable energy, Bloomberg noted. U.S. solar power installations are expected to hit a record 9.1 gigawatts, led by California, and wind power installations should hit 8.7 gigawatts, led by Texas. “In 2015 we’ll take a giant, permanent step towards decarbonizing our entire fleet of power plants,” said analyst William Nelson.
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09 Apr 2015: Melting Arctic Permafrost
To Cause Massive but Gradual CO2 Release

A comprehensive new study of the potential climate change impacts of melting Arctic permafrost says that a vast amount of carbon dioxide will be released from thawing permafrost but that it will seep out gradually, rather than in an abrupt “carbon bomb.” Working since 2011, a group of 17 Arctic permafrost scientists studied the rate at which permafrost is thawing and the resulting release of CO2. The scientists concluded that Arctic permafrost has undergone a stunning degree of warming, rising from an average of 18 F three decades ago to 28 F today. As permafrost continues to melt, it will release an amount of carbon roughly equal to the carbon released from current rates of deforestation, the study said. The study, published in the journal Nature, said the CO2 release from thawing permafrost will be prolonged but gradual, giving society time to adapt to rising seas and other impacts of a warming climate.
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08 Apr 2015: Clay Shows Promise in
Capturing CO2 from Power Plants

Common clay can be just as effective as more advanced materials in capturing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, according to research by Norwegian and Slovak scientists. One particular type of clay mineral, known as smectite, was especially effective in absorbing CO2 emissions, the researchers said in the journal Scientific Reports. One possible use for clay would be to incorporate it into filters or scrubbers in smokestacks at power plants, the scientists said. They said their research into clay’s CO2-absorbing capabilities is preliminary and would not be available for commercial use anytime soon. But the scientists said clay offers many benefits compared to some other expensive and potentially toxic CO2-scrubbing materials.
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07 Apr 2015: Nationwide Vehicle Emissions
Database Could Help Cities Curb CO2

Researchers at Boston University have created a nationwide database for determining how much carbon dioxide

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on-road vehicle CO2 emissions

Nationwide CO2 emissions from vehicle travel
is produced by vehicle travel in U.S. cities and suburbs — an essential part of greenhouse gas reduction efforts, they say. Encompassing 33 years of data, the system provides kilometer-by-kilometer views of vehicle emission trends from roads across the country. Those emissions account for 28 percent of all fossil fuel CO2 emissions in the U.S., the researchers note. The data highlight the ongoing shift in the U.S. toward urban traffic and emissions. For example, cities have been responsible for 80 percent of the growth in vehicle CO2 emissions since 1980 and for 63 percent of total vehicle CO2 in 2012. Emission levels and trends can vary dramatically across different cities, however. Population density hasn't changed much in Salt Lake City since the 1980s, but the per-capita emissions have soared because the suburb and exurb populations are growing, the data indicate.
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06 Apr 2015: Millions of Acres of Grasslands
Cleared For Biofuel Crops, Study Finds

Biofuel crops expanded onto 7 million acres of new land in the U.S. over a recent four-year period, replacing millions of
soybeans for biofuel

Soybeans are a source of biodiesel fuel.
acres of grasslands, according to new research from the University of Wisconsin. Using high-resolution satellite imagery, the researchers calculated that converting grasslands to croplands for corn and soy biofuels could have emitted as much carbon dioxide as 34 coal-fired power plants operating for one year, or the equivalent of an additional 28 million cars on the road. Nearly 80 percent of cropland expansion replaced grasslands, which store large amounts of carbon in their soils, according to the report published in Environmental Research Letters. The study is the first comprehensive analysis of land-use change across the U.S. between 2008 and 2012, following the passage of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard.
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02 Apr 2015: Complexity of Ocean Heating and
Circulation Shown in Vibrant Simulation

This swirling, vibrant visualization of global water-surface temperatures from Los Alamos National Laboratory depicts

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metal criticality

Global ocean surface temperatures
the complexity of ocean circulation and heat absorption. Cool temperatures appear as blues and greens while warmer waters are red and yellow. A clear temperature divide exists between waters in the Northern Hemisphere and those in the Southern Hemisphere. Researchers say that oceans south of the equator have absorbed substantially more heat over the past decade. Vortices near the surface, which play key roles in ocean circulation, appear as swirls on this map.
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01 Apr 2015: Curbing Global Warming Aligns
With U.S. Christians' Beliefs, Survey Finds

A majority of American Christians think global warming is happening and that the government should support research and

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metal criticality

Majorities of U.S. Christians say global warming is real.
tax policies that promote renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency, according to a new report from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Among Catholics, 69 percent think global warming is happening, which is a higher percentage than Americans overall (63 percent). A majority of non-evangelical Protestants — 62 percent — also think global warming is occurring, as do 51 percent of evangelicals. The survey also found that majorities of Catholics, Protestants, and evangelicals say it is important to them personally to care for future generations, the natural environment, and the world’s poor. Of the three groups, evangelical Christians were the most likely to say that God expects people to be responsible stewards of nature.
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31 Mar 2015: Major Wildlife Impacts
Still Felt 5 Years After Gulf Oil Spill

Nearly five years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico continue to die at unprecedented rates, endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are experiencing diminished nesting success, and many species of fish are suffering from abnormal development among some juveniles after exposure to oil. Those are the conclusions of a new study from the National Wildlife Federation, released three weeks before the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon spill, which began on April 20, 2010. The study also said that populations of brown pelicans and laughing gulls have declined by 12 and 32 percent respectively, and that oil and dispersant compounds have been found in the eggs of white pelicans nesting in Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. The National Wildlife Federation said that the oil giant, BP, must be held fully accountable for the environmental damage and that fines and penalties should be used to restore habitats in the Gulf. Meanwhile, in advance of the spill’s fifth anniversary, BP is stepping up its public relations efforts to assure consumers that life is returning to normal in the Gulf.
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Natural Filters: Mussels Deployed
To Clean Up Polluted Waterways

Conservationists and scientists in the U.S. and Europe are working to re-establish declining or endangered freshwater mussel
Eastern elliptio freshwater mussel

An Eastern elliptio mussel
populations so these mollusks can use their natural filtration abilities to clean up pollution in waterways. One such program has been established on the U.S.’s Delaware River, where environmentalists and biologists are reseeding mussel populations in the more polluted sections of the river and in tributary streams. Water companies have expressed interest in these programs in the hope that large populations of freshwater mussels might eventually relieve the companies of some of the burden and expense of mechanical water filtration.
Read the article.
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30 Mar 2015: Warming Winters Not Main
Cause of Pine Beetle Outbreaks, Study Says

Milder winters can't be blamed for the full extent of recent mountain pine beetle outbreaks in the western United States, according
pine forest

Pine forest affected by mountain pine beetles
to a new study by Dartmouth and U.S. Forest Service researchers. Winters have been warming across the western U.S. states for decades, as overall the coldest winter night has warmed by 4 degrees C since 1960. But that warming trend could only be the primary driver of increasing pine beetle outbreaks in regions where winter temperatures have historically killed most of the beetles, such as in the Middle Rockies, eastern Oregon, and northern Colorado, the study says. Warming is unlikely to have played a major role in other regions since winters were rarely cold enough to kill the beetles, according to the study published in the journal Landscape Ecology. Other factors — including changes in the pine beetles' seasonal development patterns and forestry practices that have influenced pine density and age — were likely more important, the authors say.
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27 Mar 2015: Metals Used in High Tech
Are Becoming Harder to Find, Study Says

Metals critical to newer technologies such as smartphones, infrared optics, and medical imaging will likely become harder

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metal criticality

This chart shows the criticality of 62 metals.
to obtain in coming decades, according to Yale researchers, and future products need to be designed to make reclaiming and recycling those materials easier. The study, the first to assess future supply risks to all 62 metals on the periodic table, found that many of the metals traditionally used in manufacturing — zinc, copper, aluminum, lead, and others — show no signs of vulnerability. But some metals that have become more common in technology over the last two decades, such as rare earth metals, are available almost entirely as byproducts, the researchers say. "You can't mine specifically for them; they often exist in small quantities and are used for specialty purposes," said Yale scientist Thomas Graedel. "And they don't have any decent substitutes."
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26 Mar 2015: Pollution May Trigger Heath
Problems in Deep-Water Fish, Study Says

Fish living in deep waters near continental slopes have tumors, liver pathologies, and other health problems that may be
scabbardfish liver cells

Microscopic abnormality in a black scabbardfish liver.
linked to human-generated pollution, researchers report in the journal Marine Environmental Research. They also describe the first case of a deep-water fish species with an “intersex” condition — a blend of male and female sex organs. In the study, which looked at fish in the Bay of Biscay west of France, researchers found a wide range of degenerative and inflammatory lesions in fish living along the continental slope, which can act as a sink for heavy metal contaminants and organic pollutants such as PCBs and pesticides. The fish that live in these deep waters are often extremely long-lived — some can be 100 years old — which allows them to bioaccumulate such contaminants. However, linking the fishes' physiological changes to pollution is preliminary at this time, the researchers said.
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Interview: Why This Tea Partyer
Is Seeing Green on Solar Energy

Debbie Dooley’s conservative credentials are impeccable. She was one of the founding members of the Tea Party movement and
Debbie Dooley

Debbie Dooley
continues to sit on the board of the Tea Party Patriots. But on the issue of solar power, Dooley breaks the mold. To the consternation of some of her fellow conservatives, she has teamed up with the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations, first in Georgia and now in Florida, to form the Green Tea Coalition. The group is working to get an initiative on the Florida ballot that would allow individuals and businesses to sell power directly to consumers. In an interview with e360, Dooley explains why she supports solar energy campaigns and why she’s willing to go up against conservative organizations when it comes to this issue.
Read the interview.
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25 Mar 2015: Dutch Energy Company Heats
Homes With Custom-Built Computer Servers

A Dutch energy company is installing radiator-sized computer servers — which infamously generate large amounts of
Nerdalize radiator server

A radiator-sized computer server installed in a home.
waste heat as they churn out data — in residential homes to offset energy costs, company representatives said this week. In the trial program, Rotterdam-based Eneco has equipped a handful of houses with custom-built computer servers designed to heat rooms as the servers process data for a variety of corporate computing clients. Eneco and the company behind the radiator-servers, Nerdalize, expect each one to reduce a home's heating expenses by roughly $440 over the course of a year. Eneco will cover all computing-related energy costs, the company said, but they expect the program to reduce server maintenance costs by up to 55 percent through preventing complications that arise when servers overheat. In summer months, the server-radiators will redirect excess heat outside the home, its designers say.
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24 Mar 2015: Extreme Forest Fragmentation
Documented in Comprehensive New Study

Fragmentation of the world’s forests has become so severe that 70 percent of remaining woodlands are now within 1 kilometer of a road or other form of development, according to a new study. Using the world’s first high-resolution satellite map of tree cover, as well as an analysis of seven long-term fragmentation studies, researchers showed that the ongoing destruction of global forests is decreasing biodiversity by as much as 75 percent in some areas and adversely affecting the ability of forests to store carbon and produce clean water. The study, published in the journal Science Advances, found that 20 percent of the world’s forests are just 100 meters from a human-created “edge.” Even many parks and protected areas have undergone fragmentation, the study said. The few remaining large, virgin tracts of forest are found in parts of the Amazon, Siberia, Congo, and Papua New Guinea.
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Back from the Brink: Success Stories
Of the U.S. Endangered Species Act


A small minnow known as the Oregon chub recently became the 29th species to recover after being listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the first fish to ever join those ranks. The Endangered Species Act, signed into law in 1973, is widely considered one of the most important pieces of U.S. environmental legislation ever enacted. This e360 photo gallery highlights the 21 species native to the United States, including the bald eagle (above), that have made recoveries strong enough to be removed from the endangered list.
Read more | View gallery of recovered species
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20 Mar 2015: Glacial Melt and Precipitation
Create Massive Runoff in Gulf of Alaska

Rapidly melting glaciers, rain, and snow are combining to dump a massive amount of freshwater into the Gulf of Alaska,
Gulf of Alaska

Gulf of Alaska
with important implications for ocean chemistry and marine biology, according to a new study. So much meltwater is now flowing into the Gulf of Alaska that if all the streams and other runoff sources were combined it would create the world’s sixth-largest coastal river, according to research in The Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. The collective discharge into the Gulf of Alaska is more than four times greater than the Yukon River and 50 percent greater than the Mississippi River. They found that glaciers surrounding the Gulf of Alaska are melting and retreating at a swift pace, creating an important source of meltwater. Researchers said this flood of freshwater affects ocean temperature, salinity, currents, marine biology, and sea level.
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19 Mar 2015: Electric Vehicles Keep Cities
Cooler than Gas-Powered Cars, Study Says

Electric vehicles emit 20 percent less heat than gas-powered cars, which helps mitigate the urban heat island effect and
electric car

An electric car recharges its battery.
could lead to lower air conditioner use in major cities, according to research published in the journal Scientific Reports. Heat emanating from vehicles is an important contributor to the heat island effect — the difference between temperatures in heavily urbanized areas and cooler rural regions — and a shift toward electric vehicles could help, the researchers say. They used data from Beijing in the summer of 2012 to calculate that switching vehicles from gas to electricity could reduce the heat island effect by nearly 1 degree C. That would have saved Beijing 14.4 million kilowatt hours of electricity from air conditioning and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 11,779 tons per day, the study says.
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18 Mar 2015: Biodegradable Plastics Are as
Persistent as Regular Plastics, Study Finds

Plastics designed to degrade don't break down any faster than their conventional counterparts, according to research
plastic waste

Plastic accumulated along the Los Angeles River.
published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Because most plastics accumulate in landfills and remain intact for decades or longer, some manufacturers have begun producing plastics with proprietary blends of additives that are supposed to make the materials biodegradable, and a number of countries have adopted legislation promoting the use of those additives. But in laboratory tests, researchers found the plastics with biodegradation-promoting additives fared no better than conventional plastics in any of three different disposal scenarios — simulated landfill conditions, compost, and soil burial for three years. Previous research looked at plastics buried in soil for 10 years, the authors note, and found that only 5 percent of the so-called biodegradable plastic decomposed.
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17 Mar 2015: California Could Install Ample
Solar Power Without Damaging Habitats

California could generate enough electricity from solar power to exceed the state's energy demand five times over, even if solar equipment were only to be installed on and near existing infrastructure, a report in Nature Climate Change says. The report shows it is possible to substantially boost California's solar energy production without converting natural habitat, harming the environment, or moving solar installations to remote areas far from consumers. Roughly eight percent California's land area has been developed by humans, the study says, and residential and commercial rooftops provide ample opportunity for generating electricity through small- and utility-scale solar power installations. Additional solar facilities could be constructed in undeveloped areas that are not ecologically sensitive, such as degraded lands, the report notes. "Integrating solar facilities into the urban and suburban environment causes the least amount of land-cover change and the lowest environmental impact," says lead researcher Rebecca R. Hernandez.
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16 Mar 2015: El Niño and La Niña Can Predict
Severity of Tornado Season, Study Says

El Niño and La Niña conditions can help predict the frequency of tornadoes and hail storms in some of the most
tornado

Tornado near El Reno, Okla., in May 2013.
susceptible regions of the U.S., new research published in the journal Nature Geoscience shows. Scientists have been using El Niño and La Niña conditions, which can be identified months before the climate cycles actually develop, to make more accurate forecasts of droughts, flooding, and hurricane activity. Now, a team of researchers says they can also forecast how active the spring tornado season will be based on the state of El Niño or La Niña in December, and sometimes even earlier. Moderately strong La Niña events lead to more tornadoes and hail storms over portions of Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and other parts of the southern U.S., the study shows, whereas El Niño patterns suppress the storms. Scientists have detected El Niño conditions over the past few weeks, which indicates that this spring will be a relatively quiet one for severe storms in the southern U.S., the authors say.
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13 Mar 2015: Obama Administration Doubles
Size of Key California Marine Sanctuaries

The Obama administration yesterday expanded protections for two major marine sanctuaries off the coast of San Francisco,

View Gallery
sea stars

Sea stars on the shores of Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
California — the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries — doubling their extent to create a protected area the size of Connecticut. The sanctuaries encompass a wide array of habitats, including estuarine wetlands, rocky intertidal habitat, open ocean, and shallow marine banks, as well as areas of major upwelling where nutrients come to the surface and support a vast array of marine life, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. The expansion comes after more than a decade of of community action, scientific research, and political effort. Although it was nearly unanimously supported by San Francisco Bay Area residents, the expansion faced strong opposition from the oil and gas industry, which will now be barred from drilling in the region.
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12 Mar 2015: Bubbling From Melting Glaciers
Makes Fjords Noisiest Places in Oceans

Bubbles gushing from melting glaciers and their icebergs make fjords the noisiest places in the oceans, according to research published in Geophysical Research Letters. Researchers used underwater microphones to record noise levels in three bays where glaciers flow into ocean fjords and icebergs calve from glaciers. They found that average noise levels from bubbles in these fjords exceeded those generated by all other sources, including weather, wildlife, and machines such as ships and sonar devices. Glacial calving contributed some of the noise, but the constant melting and bubbling was the real culprit, the researchers said. Their findings raise questions about how the underwater noise in the fjords — which are foraging hotspots for seabirds and marine mammals and important breeding habitat for harbor seals — will affect animals as climate change further increases melting rates.
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11 Mar 2015: Warming To Sharply Increase
For Remainder of 21st Century, Paper Says

Within a decade, the earth — and particularly the northern hemisphere — will begin warming at rates unprecedented in the last 1,000 to 2,000 years, according to new research in the journal Nature Climate Change. Examining the rate of temperature increases in 40-year intervals over the past 2,000 years, the scientists concluded that temperatures had fluctuated up or down by about 0.2 degrees F over each interval. In the past 40 years, however, warming has approached 0.4 degrees F per decade. And beginning in 2020, temperatures could start to rise by 0.7 degrees F per decade and continue at that rate until at least 2100. Warming will be especially pronounced in the Arctic, where temperatures are expected to soar by 1.1 degrees F by 2040. The scientists warned that such greenhouse gas-driven warming is moving the planet into an unstable climatic state.
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10 Mar 2015: Solar and Wind on Track to
Dominate New U.S. Power Capacity in 2015

U.S. electric companies expect to install more than 20 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale generating capacity this year and

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generating capacity additions

Power generating capacity set to come online in 2015.
60 percent of that will be wind and solar power, according to a U.S. Energy Information Administration analysis. Energy companies plan to retire 16 GW of generating capacity this year, EIA numbers show, and 81 percent of that will be coal-fired power plants. The large number of coal plant retirements can be attributed to the EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which are slated to go into effect this year. Many companies decided that shuttering coal generators would be more cost effective than retrofitting them to meet the new standards, the EIA said. Natural gas power plants — which, although they burn fossil fuels, emit significantly less carbon than coal-fired plants — will make up roughly 32 percent of the additional capacity.
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09 Mar 2015: Blue Crabs Are Moving Into
Gulf of Maine's Warming Waters, Study Says

Blue crabs have become the first documented commercially important species to move into the Gulf of Maine
blue crab

Blue crab caught 80 miles north of its historic range.
a migration that may be driven by climate change, according to ecologist David Johnson of the Marine Biological Laboratory. Although the historic northern limit of the blue crab is Cape Cod, Massachusetts, scientists and resource managers have observed blue crabs as far north as northern Maine and Nova Scotia, Canada. Johnson says that warmer ocean temperatures in 2012 and 2013, which were 1.3 degrees C higher than the previous decade's average, allowed the crabs to move north. In the 1950s, blue crabs were observed in the gulf during a time of warmer waters, Johnson notes in the Journal of Crustacean Biology, but once the gulf returned to average temperatures, the crabs disappeared. He added that "recent observations of blue crabs may be a crystal ball into the future ecology of the Gulf of Maine."
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Interview: What Lies Behind the
Surge of Deforestation in Amazon

Ecologist Philip Fearnside has lived and worked in the Brazilian Amazon for 30 years and is one of the foremost authorities on
Philip Fearnside
Philip Fearnside
deforestation in the world’s largest tropical forest. A professor at the National Institute for Research in the Amazon, Fearnside is now watching with alarm as, after a decade of declining deforestation rates, the pace of cutting in the Amazon is on the rise again. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Fearnside explains the factors behind the resurgence in deforestation and warns that the Amazon will sustain even graver losses if Brazil’s newly re-elected President Dilma Rousseff — who is backed by large landowners and agribusiness interests — doesn’t change course.
Read the interview.
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06 Mar 2015: Los Angeles City Council Says
Vegetables Can Be Grown Along Sidewalks

The Los Angeles, California, City Council voted this week to allow residents to grow fruits
lionfish

Planting in a parkway in Los Angeles, Calif.
and vegetables in the small strips of city-owned land between the sidewalk and street. Doing so used to require a $400 permit, essentially preventing lower-income residents from using the green spaces, which are also known as parkways. Community groups have been pushing for many years to do away with the permit fee in hopes of improving low-income communities' access to healthy foods, and the council has been working on the ordinance change for almost two years. The mayor is expected to approve the change next week, and if he does, the ordinance will go into effect in 30 days.
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05 Mar 2015: Shifting to Electric Power
From Oil Not Always the Greener Choice

Transitioning from fossil fuels to electric-powered technology is widely believed to be an effective way to lower carbon emissions. However, as a new Nature Climate Change report explains, that calculus changes significantly if the electricity is produced by burning coal or oil. For electrification to lower emissions, a region must produce its electricity with less than 600 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per gigawatt hour (GWh), the report says. If a region's electricity production exceeds this 600-ton threshold — as it does in India, Australia, and China, for example — moving to electricity may increase carbon emissions and accelerate climate change. "You could speculate that incorporating electrified technologies such as high speed rail in China may not lower overall emissions," says Chris Kennedy, a University of Toronto engineer who authored the study. "It might even be more carbon friendly to fly."
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04 Mar 2015: Hurricanes Help Spread
Invasive Marine Species, Researchers Find

Hurricanes can accelerate the spread of invasive marine species — in particular the lionfish, a hardy invader that
lionfish

An adult lionfish
can overrun ecosystems and devastate native biodiversity — according to research published in the journal Global Change Biology. Researchers found that hurricanes, by forcing changes in strong ocean currents, have helped lionfish spread from the Florida Straits to the Bahamas since 1992, increasing the spread of the species by 45 percent and their population size by 15 percent. Normally the currents pose a barrier to the transport of lionfish eggs and larvae, the researchers say, but as a hurricane passes, the current shifts and carries lionfish larvae and eggs from Florida to the Bahamas. Scientists say climate change may increase the frequency or intensity of future storms, which could further accelerate the spread of marine invasives.
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03 Mar 2015: Photographs of Amazon Forest
Added to Google Street View Collection

Detailed views of the Amazon rainforest, its rivers, and indigenous communities are the latest additions to Google's

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Boaters on Rio Negro

Boaters on the Rio Negro
"Street View" collection, the company announced this week. The imagery — captured while boating down 500 kilometers of rivers, walking along 20 kilometers of trails, and ziplining through dense forest — reveals stunning views of the Amazon from the top of its canopy to the forest floor. The photos also capture daily life in 17 communities of local people who live deep within the rainforest and along the Rio Mariepauá, one of the Amazon River's largest tributaries. The images were collected in partnership with the conservation organization Amazonas Sustainable Foundation, which hopes that sharing in-depth photographs of the area will help promote conservation efforts.
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Interview: How Climate Change
Helped Lead to Conflict in Syria

Before Syria devolved into civil war, that country experienced its worst drought on record. The consequences of this disaster
Colin Kelley
Colin Kelley
included massive crop failures, rising food prices, and a mass migration to urban areas. In a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers suggest the drought and its ensuing chaos helped spark the Syrian uprising. They make the case that climate change was responsible for the severity of the drought. Colin Kelley, a climatologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, was the study’s lead author. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Kelley explains that long-term precipitation and soil temperature trends in Syria and the rest of the region correlate well with climate change models, demonstrating, he says, that the record-setting drought can’t be attributed to natural variability.
Read the interview.
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02 Mar 2015: Emperor Penguins Had Few
Refuges During Last Ice Age, Study Finds

The Ross Sea and certain other Antarctic waters likely served as refuges for the three emperor penguin populations that
emperor penguins

Emperor penguins
survived during the last ice age, when large amounts of ice made much of the rest of Antarctica uninhabitable, according to a new study published in the journal Global Change Biology. The findings suggest that extreme climatic conditions on the continent during the past 30,000 years created an evolutionary "bottleneck" that is evident in the genetic material of modern-day emperor penguins, a species known for its ability to thrive in icy habitats. But during the last ice age, the Antarctic likely had twice as much sea ice, the researchers say, leaving only a few locations for the penguins to breed — distances from the open ocean (where the penguins feed) to the stable sea ice (where they breed) were too great. The three populations that did manage to survive may have done so by breeding near areas of ocean that are kept free of sea ice by wind and currents, the researchers suggest.
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27 Feb 2015: Growing Risks to India's
Water Supply Mapped With New Online Tool

A new online tool could help water users in India understand the risks to their water supply, which is dwindling and increasingly

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India groundwater levels

Groundwater levels
polluted, recent analyses show. The tool, created by 13 organizations including the World Resources Institute, allows users to see where the competition for surface water is most intense, where groundwater levels are dropping significantly, and where pollution levels exceed safety standards. Northwest India, for example, faces extremely high surface water stress as well as low groundwater levels, as this map shows. Overall, 54 percent of India is under high or extremely high water stress, an equal portion is seeing declining groundwater levels, and more 130 million people live where at least one pollutant exceeds national safety standards, according to the World Resources Institute.
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26 Feb 2015: Heat-Trapping Effects of
CO2 Measured in Nature for First Time

Scientists have long understood how carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to global warming, but the phenomenon had not been directly documented at the earth's surface outside of a laboratory — until now. Writing in the journal Nature, researchers present 11 years of field data on carbon dioxide's capacity to absorb thermal radiation emitted from the surface of the earth. The results agree with theoretical predictions of the greenhouse effect associated with fossil fuel combustion, researchers say, and provide further confirmation that calculations used in climate models are on track when it comes to representing the impact of CO2 emissions. "We see, for the first time in the field, the amplification of the greenhouse effect because there's more CO2 in the atmosphere to absorb what the earth emits in response to incoming solar radiation," says Daniel Feldman, a scientist at Berkeley Lab and lead author of the study.
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25 Feb 2015: Global Pesticide Map Shows
Large Areas of High Water Pollution Risk

Streams across roughly 40 percent of the planet's land area are at risk of pollution from pesticides, according to

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global pesticide pollution risk

Risk for pesticide pollution
an analysis published in the journal Environmental Pollution. Surface waters in the Mediterranean region, the United States, Central America, and Southeast Asia are particularly at risk, according to the study, which produced the first global map of pesticide pollution risk. Taking into account weather data, terrain, pesticide application rates, and land use patterns, the map shows that the risk of pesticide pollution is relatively low in Canada and northern Europe but increases closer to the Equator. More areas are likely to face high pesticide pollution risk as global population grows and the climate warms, the researchers say, because agricultural activity and crop pests will both intensify, likely requiring even higher rates of pesticide use.
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24 Feb 2015: New Map Shows Background
Noise Levels Across the United States

A new map by the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) shows America's quietest and noisiest places. The park service

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U.S. background noise levels

Background noise levels
mapped background noise levels across the country on an average summer day using 1.5 million hours of acoustical data. The quietest areas of the country, such as Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, are shown in deep blue on this map and are likely as quiet now as they were before European colonization, NPS researchers say. They are collecting the data as part of an effort to determine whether and how wild animals are affected by anthropogenic noise pollution. Owls and bats, for example, rely on hearing faint rustles from insects and rodents, and scientists think human-driven noise could be drowning out those subtle signals in many areas of the country.
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23 Feb 2015: Large-scale Pumping Can
Return Oxygen To Deep Waters, Study Finds

A team of Danish and Swedish scientists reports that they have restored oxygen to the waters
wind plant locations in Texas

Deploying instruments in Byfjord, Sweden.
of a deep fjord that had suffered from a long-term lack of oxygen. The researchers used large pumps to mix oxygen-rich surface water into the deeper parts of the fjord's water column — which had long been anoxic due to its depth and geological setting — and after only two months higher oxygen concentrations became detectable in the bottom waters. "In the later phase of the experiment the entire water column began to look healthy," the researchers said, noting that bacterial species that live in well-oxygenated waters had begun to appear. Low oxygen levels make waters uninhabitable to most forms of life, and anoxic waters often harbor only a few types of bacteria, some of which produce significant levels of greenhouse gases.
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20 Feb 2015: Wind Produced 10 Percent of
Texas Electricity in 2014, Grid Operator Says

More than 10 percent of the electricity used in Texas last year came from wind turbines, according to the Electric
wind plant locations in Texas

General locations of wind plants in Texas.
Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state's electric grid. Wind's share of the Texas electric mix grew from just over 6 percent in 2009 to 10.6 percent in 2014. During that period, wind power generation actually doubled — rising from 18.8 million megawatt-hours to 36.1 million — while total electricity generation in Texas also rose by 11 percent. The share of electricity generated by wind power in Texas is more than double the U.S. figure of 4.4 percent. The growth in wind generation in Texas is a result of new wind plants coming online and grid expansions that have allowed more wind power to flow through the system to consumers, the council said.
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19 Feb 2015: New York City Set for Major
Sea Level Rise By 2050, Report Concludes

The waters surrounding New York City are on track to rise 11 to 21 inches by the 2050s, according to an analysis based on

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New York sea level rise

Future NYC flood zones
NASA climate change models. The city's average temperature, which has increased by 3.4 degrees F since 1900, is set to rise another 5 degrees F by the 2050s, the report says, and annual precipitation is also likely to rise significantly over that period. New York City has already seen sea levels rise by over 1 foot since 1900 — nearly twice the average global rate, according to the report, which was published by the New York City Panel on Climate Change. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the report highlights the urgency of mitigating climate change and adapting to its risks, and he announced a commitment to cut the city's emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
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18 Feb 2015: Disease-Carrying Ticks Expand
Range and Emerge Earlier in Warmer Climate

Warmer spring temperatures in the northeastern U.S. are leading to shifts in the emergence of ticks that carry Lyme
blacklegged tick

Adult blacklegged tick
disease, and milder weather is allowing ticks to spread into new geographic regions, according to findings published this week. The data — which span 19 years and include observations of more than 447,000 ticks — show that the insects emerged nearly three weeks earlier in warmer years. And when fall temperatures were mild, a smaller percentage of larval ticks entered dormancy and waited until spring to feed, the study found. "Here in the Northeast, warming is already having an effect, and people need to be tick-vigilant before May, as potentially infected nymphal ticks are searching for their blood meals earlier and earlier," said co-author Richard S. Ostfeld, an ecologist at the Cary Institute.
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Interview: Why Ocean Health Is
Better, and Worse, Than You Think

In a recent groundbreaking study in Science, a group of marine experts — including lead author Douglas
Douglas McCauley
Douglas McCauley
McCauley — delivered a sobering message: The world’s oceans are on the verge of major change that could cause irreparable damage to marine life. While ocean ecosystems are still largely intact, the marine world is facing unprecedented disturbances, including ocean acidification and habitat destruction from deep-sea mining, oil and gas drilling, development, and aquaculture. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, McCauley discusses the parallels of the loss of wildlife on land and at sea and explains why creating marine reserves and establishing international ocean zoning regulations would help blunt the damage from a looming “marine industrial revolution.”
Read the interview.
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17 Feb 2015: Demand for Indonesian Timber
Far Outpaces Sustainable Supply, Study Says

More than 30 percent of wood used by Indonesia’s industrial forest sector stems from illegal sources rather than
deforestation for palm oil plantation

Deforestation in Aceh, Indonesia, for palm oil.
well-managed logging concessions or legal tree plantations, according to a new report based on data from industry and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry. If Indonesian forestry industries operated at capacity, 41 percent of the wood supply would be illegal, the analysis found, and if companies were to go forward with plans for new mills, the supply would be 59 percent illegal. The source of this illegal wood is unclear, but the report suggests it is likely harvested by clear-cutting natural forests for new oil palm and pulp plantations. Part of the problem, the report says, is that Indonesia's sanctioned forestry plantations — the country's primary source of legal wood — are not currently sustainable because they are producing wood at only half the predicted rate.
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16 Feb 2015: Space-Based Measurments Can
Track Global Ocean Acidity, Researchers Say

An international team of scientists has developed new methods for studying the acidity of the oceans from space,

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ocean acidification map

Global ocean alkalinity measured from space.
according to research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Currently, scientists must rely on measurements taken from research vessels and sampling equipment deployed in oceans to determine acidity — which rises as the oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere — but this approach is expensive and geographically limited. The new techniques use satellite-mounted thermal cameras to measure ocean temperature and microwave sensors to measure salinity. Together these measurements can be used to assess ocean acidification more quickly and over much larger areas than has been possible before.
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13 Feb 2015: Study Says U.S. Southwest Set
To Face Unprecedented Drying This Century

The U.S. Southwest and Great Plains are on track to face persistent drought during the second half of this century,

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risk of future drought

Risk of future prolonged drought in the Southwest
a new study forecasts, and the drought will be worse than anything seen in modern history or even during ancient so-called "megadroughts." Many studies have predicted that the Southwest could dry due to human-induced climate change, but this is the first to say that such drying could exceed the worst conditions of the distant past. The impacts of such a future drought would be devastating, the researchers say, given the region’s much larger population and heavy reliance on water and other natural resources. “The surprising thing to us was really how consistent the response was over these regions, nearly regardless of what model we used or what soil moisture metric we looked at,” said lead author Benjamin I. Cook, a researcher with Columbia University and NASA.
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12 Feb 2015: Mange in Yellowstone Wolves
Documented Through Thermal Images

Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey are using thermal video cameras to study how mange is affecting
wolf with mange

Thermal image of a wolf with mange on its legs.
wolves in Yellowstone National Park, as shown in this video. Mange is a highly contagious skin disease caused by mites that burrow into the skin of dogs and wolves, causing infections, hair loss, irritation, and intense itching. The urge to scratch can be so overwhelming that the wolves neglect resting and hunting, researchers say, leaving them vulnerable to hypothermia, malnutrition, and dehydration, which can eventually lead to death. Thermal imagery allows scientists to document the extent of hair loss and the actual loss of heat associated with different stages of infection. Red patches on a wolf's legs, as shown in this image, indicate rapid heat loss caused by mange.
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11 Feb 2015: Learning About Geoengineering
Spurs More Agreement on Climate, Study Says

Geoengineering, an experimental series of technologies aimed at counteracting the effects of climate change, could potentially diminish political polarization over global warming, according to new research. Roughly 3,000 participants in a study displayed more open-mindedness toward evidence of climate change and more agreement on the significance of such evidence after learning about geoengineering technologies, according to a study conducted by researchers at Yale and other universities. Participants became more polarized when they were told that curbing climate change would require reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers report. The findings come after a report this week from the U.S. National Research Council recommended limited government-sponsored research into the use of sulfate aerosols, a potential geoengineering strategy known as albedo modification.
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As Arctic Ocean Ice Vanishes,
Questions About Future Fishing

With the steady retreat of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean opening up vast areas of this long-frozen marine basin, a key resource

A Russian fishing vessel trawls the Arctic Ocean.
issue is now emerging: the future of fisheries, especially in central Arctic waters. What species are migrating into the region as sea ice disappears? And could the heart of the Arctic Ocean sustain a commercial fishery in the coming decades? These issues were central to a discussion at a recent conference on the fisheries of the central Arctic Ocean. With more southerly fish species migrating into warmer and increasingly ice-free regions of the Arctic Ocean, officials from the U.S. and Canada say it’s important to negotiate an international agreement on fishing before allowing fisheries to open.
Read the article.
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10 Feb 2015: Flooding in U.S. Midwest Is
Becoming More Frequent, Research Shows

Flooding in the U.S. Midwest has become more frequent over the last half-century, a new study in Nature Climate Change has
furniture displaced in flooding

Furniture displaced by flooding in Iowa in 2008.
found, confirming what many residents of the region had already suspected. Of the nearly 800 stream sites analyzed, more than one-third had an increase in flood event frequency, while only 9 percent showed a decrease in flooding. Although the study did not attempt to link the increase in flooding with climate change, the findings do fit well with current thinking among scientists about how the hydrologic cycle is being affected by climate change, the researchers say. In general, as the atmosphere becomes warmer, it holds more moisture, and one consequence of higher water vapor concentrations is more frequent, intense precipitation.
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09 Feb 2015: Norway Divests National Fund
From Coal Companies Over Climate Concerns

Norway has divested its sovereign wealth fund — the largest in the world and worth roughly $850 billion — from coal companies, marking the first time a nation has divested for reasons related to climate change. Over the past three years, the country has dropped investments in more than 100 companies involved in coal mining, tar sands development, cement production, and mountaintop removal coal mining, officials announced. In a report released last week, the fund's directors said that risks associated with carbon emissions, deforestation, and poor water management outweigh the benefits of continuing to invest in these companies. Critics point out that the fund, which has been built with earnings from Norway's profitable oil industry, still holds roughly $40 billion in fossil fuel investments. The country says it will decide on a case- by-case basis whether to divest from those holdings.
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06 Feb 2015: Maine’s Iconic Lobsters
Face Threats From Ocean Acidification

Maine’s lobster fishery, worth $1.7 billion to the state and a vital source of employment, could be

A Maine lobster
threatened by acidifying ocean waters and rising sea temperatures, according to a new report. The report, issued by a state commission, called increasingly acidic ocean waters — caused by the absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere — an “urgent matter” that needs to be addressed by state and local governments and the fishing infustry. Facing the prospect that increasing acidity could interfere with the ability of lobsters to make their shells, the commission set forth a handful of goals, including a stepped-up research effort on the acidification of the coast’s waters and its impact on crustaceans. Maine lawmakers have already introduced legislation for limits on industrial and agricultural runoff, which contribute to coastal water acidification.
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05 Feb 2015: Ultra-Efficient Solar Cells
Can Be Adapted for Rooftops, Research Finds

Extremely efficient solar cells similar to those used in space may soon be ready for installation on residential rooftops, according to a report in Nature Communications. Concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) systems, which use lenses and curved mirrors to focus sunlight onto small solar cells, produce energy much more efficiently than conventional solar panels — 40-percent efficiency compared to less than 20 percent for standard silicon systems. But they are typically the size of billboards and have to be positioned very accurately to track the sun throughout the day. Now researchers have overcome these obstacles by developing a CPV system that uses miniaturized gallium-arsenide photovoltaic cells, 3D-printed plastic lens arrays, and a moveable focusing mechanism. The new system is small and light enough to fit on a residential rooftop and should be inexpensive to produce, researchers say.
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04 Feb 2015: Plant-Like Sea Slug Can Steal
Genes From its Food, Researchers Report

The emerald green, leaf-shaped sea slug known as Elysia chlorotica can live for months at a time by

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sea slug Elysia chlorotica

Sea slug Elysia chlorotica
photosynthesizing its own food, like a plant does, but until recently scientists did not understand how the slug acquired and maintained this rare ability. A recent report in the journal The Biological Bulletin shows that the slug steals genes and chloroplasts — the cellular machinery that converts sunlight into food — from algae that the slug eats. Genes lifted from the algae can maintain cholorplasts in the slug for up to nine months, the researchers say — much longer than the chloroplasts would last in the algae themselves. Moreover, the slug can pass on those stolen genes to its offspring. The process is a mechanism of rapid evolution, says one of the study's authors.
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03 Feb 2015: Nine of 10 Cities in China Failed
Air Quality Standards, Government Says

Roughly 90 percent of China's large cities did not meet national air quality standards last year, according to the country's

Smog over the Forbidden City in Beijing, China.
environment ministry. Only eight of the 74 cities monitored by the ministry met standards for pollution metrics such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and fine particle concentrations, according to a report published on the ministry's website. The poor results actually represent an improvement over 2013, when only three of the 74 cities met air quality standards, Reuters reports. Last year, after residents grew increasingly alarmed about air quality in metropolitan areas, China promised to "declare war on pollution" by slashing coal use and closing heavily polluting factories. Still, the government does not expect the national average for fine particle pollution to reach official standards until 2030 or later.
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02 Feb 2015: Many California Farms and
Orchards Idled By Drought, NASA Maps Show

In 2014 — the driest year ever recorded in California — farms and orchards in the state's Central Valley took a major hit

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California agriculture status

Status of CA farms in 2011 (left) and 2014 (right).
and many agricultural plots were left fallow, as shown in these maps based on NASA satellite data. The maps depict the status of crop cultivation in California in August 2011 and August 2014. Brown pixels show farms and orchards that have been left fallow, or “idled,” since January 1 in each year. Green pixels show plots where at least one crop was grown during the year. The most recent year with average or above average precipitation across the state was 2011, and, as the map shows, relatively little agricultural land was left fallow that year. In 2014, a much higher proportion of farms and orchards were idle.
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30 Jan 2015: Thunderstorms Move Ozone
Toward Surface of Earth, Research Shows

Thunderstorms move a significant amount of ozone from the stratosphere down toward the earth's surface — a process

Thunderstorms transport ozone toward earth.
that could have important impacts on climate, according to a recent study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Ozone shields the planet from the sun's ultraviolet rays when it's in the stratosphere, the second-lowest layer of the atmosphere, but ozone acts as a powerful greenhouse gas and pollutant when it's nearer to the earth's surface, in the troposphere. The study found that massive thunderheads, which can rise 50,000 feet above the ground, disturb the atmosphere and allow ozone to pour into the troposphere. Scientists had not previously known that storms play a key role in transporting ozone. The new findings could impact climate models, researchers say, especially since storms are expected to become more frequent and intense as the earth warms.
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29 Jan 2015: Iceland Rising as Climate Change
Causes Glaciers to Melt, Researchers Say

The crust under Iceland is rebounding as climate change melts the island's great ice caps, researchers report in the

GPS stations measure Iceland crust movement
journal Geophysical Research Letters. The current rapid rising, or uplift, of the Icelandic crust is a result of accelerated melting of the island's glaciers and coincides with a regional warming trend that began roughly 30 years ago, the scientists said. Some areas in south-central Iceland are moving upward as much as 1.4 inches per year — a surprisingly high speed, the researchers say. Whether the rebound is related to past deglaciation or modern glacial thinning and global warming had been an open question until now, said co-author Richard Bennett, a geoscientist at the University of Arizona. "What we're observing is a climatically induced change in the earth's surface," Bennett said.
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28 Jan 2015: Camera Trap Records Rare
Glimpse of African Golden Cat Hunting

An African golden cat, one of the least known and most elusive wild cats on the planet, has been filmed hunting in

African golden cat
Kibale National Park, Uganda, for the first time, scientists say. In the video, which was recorded by a camera trap, an African golden cat darts toward a group of red colobus monkeys feeding on a tree stump. The cat's attack is nearly too fast to be seen in real-time, but viewing the footage in slow-motion highlights the cat's swiftness and accuracy — even though its ambush failed to land a meal. The African golden cat is found only in the forests of central and West Africa, and it is threatened across its range by intensive bushmeat hunting and habitat loss. Researchers say the video provides important details about the African golden cats' hunting behavior that have never before been directly observed.
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27 Jan 2015: Pollinator Loss Could Put
Poor Nations at Risk for Malnutrition

Declining pollinator populations could leave as many as half of the people in developing countries facing nutritional deficiencies, according to researchers from the University of Vermont and the Harvard School of Public Health. In the study — the first to link pollinator declines directly to human nutrition — researchers collected detailed data about people's daily diets in parts of Zambia, Mozambique, Uganda, and Bangladesh. They found that in Mozambique, for example, many children and mothers are barely able to meet their needs for micronutrients, especially vitamin A, which is important for preventing blindness and infectious diseases. Fruits and vegetables were an important source of that nutrient for many people in the study, and those crops are highly dependent on pollinators, researchers say — for example, yields of mangoes, which are high in vitamin A, would likely be cut by 65 percent without them. Pollinator losses might also lead to folate deficiency, they say, which is associated with neural tube defects.
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26 Jan 2015: Oil Spills Can Lead to Toxic
Arsenic Water Contamination, Study Says

When petroleum breaks down in underground aquifers, toxic arsenic — up to 23 times the current drinking water

Water sampling at the Minnesota oil-spill test site.
standard — can be released into groundwater, according to a study by U.S. Geological Survey and Virginia Tech researchers, who analyzed samples collected over 32 years from a petroleum-spill research site in Minnesota. Arsenic, a toxin and carcinogen linked to numerous forms of cancer, is naturally present in most soils and sediments, but is not typically a health concern because its chemical properties keep it bound within soil and minerals. However, certain chemical reactions associated with petroleum contamination and microbial activity in low-oxygen environments, such as in aquifers, change the chemical state of the arsenic so that it can enter the groundwater, researchers say.
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23 Jan 2015: South Africa Relocates Rhinos
After Record Number Were Poached in 2014

Unable to curb poaching of rhinos within its borders, the South African government has relocated 100 rhinos to

A white rhino in Kruger National Park.
neighboring countries in an effort to stem the illegal slaughter of the animals, Reuters reports. For security reasons, officials did not reveal to which countries the rhinos had been relocated. An additional 56 rhinos were moved from poaching hotspots within South Africa's Kruger National Park — where two-thirds of the killings happen — to an "intensive protection zone" within Kruger, officials said. Poachers killed a record number of the animals in South Africa last year — 1,215 rhinos, up 20 percent from the 2013 total — and 49 have been killed so far this year. The animals are hunted intensely because their horns, which some Asian cultures incorrectly believe contain medicinal properties, are worth an estimated $65,000 per kilogram on the black market.
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22 Jan 2015: Draining of Greenland Lakes
Signals Massive Melting, Researchers Say

Researchers have discovered craters left behind when two lakes under the Greenland ice sheet rapidly drained recently — an indication

Crater left after a Greenland lake drained.
that a massive amount of meltwater has started overflowing the ice sheet's natural plumbing and is causing "blowouts" that drain lakes away, they say. One of the two lakes once held billions of gallons of water and emptied to form a mile-wide crater in just a few weeks, researchers report in the journal The Cryosphere. The other lake, described this week in the journal Nature, was two miles wide and has filled and emptied twice in the last two years. The researchers suspect that as more meltwater reaches the base of the ice sheet, natural drainage tunnels along the Greenland coast are cutting further inland. The tunnels carry heat and water to areas that were once frozen to the bedrock, potentially causing the ice to melt even faster.
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21 Jan 2015: Filtering Polluted Stormwater
Through Soil Can Protect Salmon, Study Says

Filtering polluted runoff from urban areas through a simple soil mixture dramatically reduced the water's toxic metal and

A pair of coho salmon.
hydrocarbon content and made it safe for coho salmon and the insects they eat, according to new research. Scientists collected polluted runoff from a four-lane highway in Seattle, then filtered part of the water through a mixture of sand, compost, and shredded bark. Coho salmon and aquatic insects thrived in the filtered stormwater, but they quickly died in the unfiltered water, researchers reported in the journal Chemosphere. Chemical analyses showed that filtering the water through the soil mixture reduced toxic metals by 30 to 99 percent, polyaromatic hydrocarbons to levels at or below detection, and organic matter by more than 40 percent. The research supports the use of rain gardens and other natural stormwater filtration systems, the authors say.
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20 Jan 2015: Genetic Diversity Is Key To
Food Stability in Changing Climate, UN Says

As climate change advances, much more should be done to study, preserve, and take advantage of the biological diversity

Wild red rice is hardier than cultivated varieties.
underpinning world food production, according to a new report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Between 16 and 22 percent of current crop species — including 61 percent of peanut and 12 percent of potato species — could become extinct in the next 50 years, the report notes. Wild strains, which are often better at adapting to environmental changes, will become increasingly important for feeding the global population, which is expected to grow by 3 billion people by 2050, the report says. Strengthening gene and seed banks, improving breeding practices, increasing genetic diversity on farms and in fields, and preserving soil microbiomes will be key to boosting crops' climate resilience, the FAO said.
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Interview: How Chinese Tiger Farms
Threaten Wild Tigers Worldwide

The number of tigers living in the wild has dropped to the shockingly low figure of 3,200, down from 100,000 a century ago.
Judith Mills
Judith Mills
But nearly as shocking is this statistic: An estimated 5,000 to 6,000 tigers are being legally farmed today in China, their bones steeped in alcohol to make tiger bone wine, their meat sold, and their skins turned into rugs for members of China’s wealthy elite. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, wildlife activist Judith Mills makes a passionate case against tiger farming, explaining how these magnificent creatures are bred like cattle for their body parts, how some conservation groups have chosen not to confront the Chinese government about the farms, and how tiger farming poses a direct threat to the world’s remaining wild tigers because increased availability of these bones and pelts fuels demand that strengthens the incentive to poach wild tigers.
Read the interview.
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16 Jan 2015: Solar a Better Investment Than
Stocks in Most Large U.S. Cities, Study Says

For homeowners in 46 of the 50 largest cities in the U.S., investing in a residential solar power system would yield better returns than putting money in the

stock market, according to an analysis by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State University. For 21 million owners of single-family homes in the U.S., solar energy already costs less than current local utility rates, the report says, as long as the system can be purchased with low-cost financing of 5 percent interest over 25 years. Residents of New York City, Boston, and Albuquerque would likely see the largest benefits from investing in residential solar, the report says. The findings assume, however, that government incentives encouraging solar investments — such as tax exemptions and policies allowing homeowners to sell excess solar power to utility companies — will continue, which is highly dependent on federal, state, and local politics.
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15 Jan 2015: Underwater Kelp Forests Mapped
In New Citizen Science Project

Kelp forests grow along roughly 25 percent of the world’s coastlines and provide valuable habitat and nutrients for many types of aquatic life. Now, research by the “Floating Forests” project is shedding light on how these underwater kelp forests are affected by climate change. The project is using NASA satellite data to observe changes in kelp forests over a period of more than four decades. The catch: No accurate way to automate the process exists, so the researchers rely on an international team of nearly 3,500 citizen scientists to mark the bright green kelp forests, which contrast with the deep blues of the ocean in the images.
Read more.
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14 Jan 2015: Offshore Wind More Profitable
Than Drilling on U.S. East Coast, Report Says

Offshore wind would produce twice the number of jobs and twice the amount of energy as offshore drilling

Offshore wind turbines in the Irish Sea
near the U.S. East Coast, according to a new report from the advocacy group Oceana. The report contends that recent claims by the oil and gas industry about the economic potential of offshore drilling in the region are exaggerated because many of those oil and gas reserves are not economically viable to drill. Plans to build the nation's first offshore wind farm off Cape Cod have repeatedly failed to move forward. But Oceana calculates that over the course of 20 years, offshore wind in the Atlantic could produce nearly twice as much energy as all of the economically recoverable oil and gas. Offshore wind installations also would likely create an additional 91,000 jobs — twice as many as offshore drilling would create, Oceana says.
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13 Jan 2015: California Still in Widespread
Drought, Despite Heavy Precipitation

The heavy rains and snow that fell across much of California in the first half of December did little to recharge the state's

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California precipitation deficits

California precipitation deficits
dry reservoirs or ease long-term drought conditions, an analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirms. By the middle of December, 98 percent of the state remained under drought conditions, which is the same portion as before the storms, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Dry conditions over the last three years have left the Sierra Nevada mountain range with a 30- to 50-inch precipitation deficit, NOAA reports, and the agriculture-heavy San Joaquin Valley has fared even worse. To bring the state's four-year precipitation total out of the bottom 20 percent historically — a benchmark used to declare drought conditions — every part of the state would need to exceed its average rainfall between now and September.
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12 Jan 2015: Maasai Group Plans to Sell
Biogas Made From Slaughterhouse Waste

A group of Maasai farmers in southwestern Kenya has developed a profitable way to convert animal waste and

A Keeko Biogas cylinder prototype
blood from a local slaughterhouse into biogas that can power the facility as well as other local businesses, Reuters reports. The Keeko Biogas project plans to start bottling the fuel and selling cylinders of it in March, once safety testing has been completed, project leaders say. At roughly $8 per 6-kilogram cylinder, the biogas is about half the price of liquefied petroleum gas, and it can be up to 40 percent more energy efficient than propane or butane, says the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute, which is providing technical support for the project. The facility will be able to produce 100 to 300 cylinders of biogas per week, organizers say. The project will not only offset the costs of waste management for the slaughterhouse, it will also likely help prevent deforestation in the region. "We cut down a lot of trees for charcoal and we hope to reduce that,” the chairman of the slaughterhouse told Reuters.
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Interview: Giving Local Women
A Voice in Grass-Roots Conservation

The roles of women in traditional societies can be quite different from men’s, and their knowledge of the
Kame Westerman
Kame Westerman
natural world and the way in which conservation projects affect them may also be different. But these variables aren’t necessarily taken into account when developing such projects. The results can range from missed opportunities to project failure. Earlier this year, Conservation International began piloting guidelines to help integrate gender considerations into its community projects — an initiative that Kame Westerman, the "gender advisor" for that organization, helped develop. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Westerman discusses these guidelines, as well as the perils of ignoring gender when planning conservation initiatives.
Read more.
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09 Jan 2015: Most Physicians Already Seeing
Health Effects of Climate Change in Patients

In a survey of physicians in the American Thoracic Society (ATS), the majority of doctors said their patients

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health effects of climate change

Results of survey on climate change and patient health
were already experiencing medical conditions associated with climate change and that physicians should be educating their patients and policy makers about climate-related health effects. Seventy-seven percent of ATS physicians — a group of doctors specializing in respiratory health and critical care — said air pollution associated with climate change is exacerbating chronic conditions such as asthma in their patients. Nearly 60 percent reported increases in allergies from plants or mold and injuries from severe weather related to climate change. Many of the physicians who responded to the survey said exposure to smoke from wildfires had caused or worsened lung conditions in their patients, and changes in precipitation and weather patterns seemed to be affecting patients as well, the Huffington Post reports.
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08 Jan 2015: Land Disturbances Darken Snow
And Increase Melt Rate, Researchers Say

Land disturbances, such as agricultural practices and development, may have a big impact on snow purity and

Sampling snowpack in Montana
melt rates, according to a large-scale survey of impurities in North American snow by researchers at the University of Washington. The researchers were particularly interested in the Bakken oil fields of northwest North Dakota. Before undertaking the study, they predicted that diesel emissions and air pollution associated with oil exploration would darken the snowpack, decreasing the amount of sunlight it reflects and increasing its melt rate. They found, however, that while these activities do add soot to the snow, the dirt they stir up adds an equal amount of impurities to the snowpack. Disturbances from clearing oil pads, new housing sites, agricultural activities, and extra truck traffic on unpaved roads add a significant amount of dirt to snowfields, they found.
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07 Jan 2015: Federal Judge Halts Hunting
And Trapping of Great Lakes Gray Wolves

A federal judge has stopped the hunting and trapping of gray wolves in the Upper Midwest,

Gray wolf
following their removal from the U.S. Endangered Species List in 2012 by the Obama administration. In the ruling, which affects gray wolf populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan — the so-called Great Lakes wolf population — the judge called the delisting of the wolves “arbitrary and capricious” and said it violated the Endangered Species Act. The order came roughly three years after federal protections for the wolves were dropped by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since then, the states have each held hunting seasons, resulting in 923 gray wolves killed in Minnesota, 654 in Wisconsin, and 22 in Michigan for a total of 1,599 killed. Researchers estimate that roughly 3,700 gray wolves live in the Great Lakes region.
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06 Jan 2015: Penguin Watch Projects Asks
Citizen Scientists to Monitor Birds' Habits

Penguin Watch, a citizen science project launched by researchers from the University of Oxford in the U.K., is enlisting the

Group of Gentoo penguins
public's help in counting penguins in some 175,000 photos from locations across the Southern Hemisphere. Researchers are monitoring five penguin species — Gentoo, Chinstrap, Adelie, Rockhopper, and King penguins — and recording information on the number of adults, chicks, and eggs, as well as their winter behavior, breeding success, and travel habits. The project is especially useful for monitoring penguins' winter behavior, for example, because it's logistically difficult for the researchers to visit these locations in winter, they say, and the images are far too numerous for researchers to view on their own. Understanding how the penguins live day-to-day should help shed light on how the penguins will respond to an increasingly volatile climate, the team says.
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05 Jan 2015: U.S. Cities Are Significantly
Brighter than German Cities, Scientists Say

German cities emit several times less light per capita than similarly sized American cities, according to new research published in the journal Remote Sensing.

Berlin, Germany, at night
Moreover, the differences in light emission become more dramatic as city size increases: Light per capita increases with city size in the U.S. but decreases in Germany. Factors such as the type of lamps used and architectural elements like the width of the streets and the amount of trees are likely behind the differences, the researchers say. Energy-efficient LED street lighting is currently being installed in many cities worldwide, and the researchers expect this to change the nighttime environment in many ways — for example, by reducing the amount of light that shines upward. The study also found that, in major cities in developing countries, the brightest light sources were typically airports or harbors, whereas the brightest areas in large European cities are often stadiums and city centers.
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02 Jan 2015: Historical Photos Help
Document Changes in Greenland Glaciers

Historical photographs from the early and mid-1900s have helped researchers from Denmark map the retreat

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Photo of a Greenland glacier from 1935
of Greenland's glaciers, according to findings presented recently at the American Geophysical Union meeting. This glacier near the Sukkertoppen ice cap in southwest Greenland, for example, retreated roughly two miles between 1935 and 2013, as shown in photographs from the Danish Geodata Agency and the Natural History Museum of Denmark. Older photographs, from 1900 to 1930, show even more remarkable changes. During that time, following the end of the Little Ice Age in the late-19th century, glaciers retreated more rapidly than they have been in recent years, the researchers say. They believe the findings will shed light on how quickly these glaciers might react to future temperature changes.
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29 Dec 2014: The Arctic Is Absorbing
More and More Sunlight, NASA Images Show

The Arctic has been absorbing significantly more sunlight since the year 2000, according to NASA satellite data,

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Changes in absorption of sunlight in the Arctic
a trend that mirrors the steady decrease in Arctic sea ice during that same period. These maps show changes in the amount of solar radiation absorbed over the Arctic from 2000 to 2014, as well as changes in sea ice cover during the same period. As sea ice cover declines and more dark ocean is exposed to the sun's rays, that decreases the reflectivity, or albedo, of the ocean's surface, meaning more heat is absorbed. Shades of red depict areas absorbing more sunlight and areas with less ice cover. The Arctic's rate of absorption has increased by 5 percent every June, July, and August since 2000. No other region on the planet has shown significant changes in albedo during that time, researchers say.
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23 Dec 2014: Madrid Announces Largest
Energy-Efficient Street Lighting Project

The city of Madrid has announced plans to renew its entire street lighting system with 225,000 new energy-efficient

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Madrid announces energy efficient street lighting project

New energy-efficient street lighting in Madrid, Spain.
bulbs, the world’s largest street-lighting upgrade to date. The new lights, which will afford the city a 44-percent reduction in energy costs, will pay for themselves, according to Philips, the company supplying the new system. In addition to drawing less overall power, the bulbs’ intensity will be controlled from a central command panel, resulting in less wasted energy. Of the 225,000 new lights, 84,000 will be locally manufactured LEDs, and the city is taking measures to ensure the safe recycling of heavy metals found in the old lamps. Similar, though smaller, projects have been undertaken in Argentina, Sweden, and the Netherlands. 

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A Green Dilemma for the Holidays:
Better to Shop Online or In-Store?


Various studies in recent years have suggested that online shopping typically packs a lower carbon punch than shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. But new research suggests the story is more complicated than that. The key, according to a report in the Journal of Cleaner Production, is to minimize the number of miles driven per item — whether by the shopper, a local delivery van, or a FedEx truck.
Read more.
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19 Dec 2014: 'Nuisance Flooding' Will Affect
Most of U.S. Coastline by 2050, Report Finds

By 2050, most U.S. coastal areas are likely to be threatened by 30 or more days of flooding each year due sea level

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Nuisance flooding projections for U.S. cities
rise, according to a new report the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The researchers looked at the frequency of so-called "nuisance flooding," which occurs when the water level reaches one to two feet above local high tide, and found that several cities along the East Coast are already seeing more than 30 days of nuisance flooding each year. Additional major cities — including Baltimore, Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco — will reach or exceed that benchmark by 2030, the report says. Although nuisance flooding is not typically catastrophic or dangerous, it is often costly. The report drives home the point, researchers say, that such floods will become commonplace far earlier than 2100, which is generally cited as the date when sea level rise is likely to become damaging.
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18 Dec 2014: Clearing Rainforests Distorts
Global Rainfall and Agriculture, Study Says

Clearing forests not only releases carbon into the atmosphere, it also triggers worldwide shifts in rainfall and temperatures

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Global effects of forest loss
that are just as potent as those caused by current carbon pollution and that pose great risk to future agricultural productivity, researchers report. Deforestation in South America, Southeast Asia, and Africa may alter growing conditions in agricultural areas as far away as the U.S. Midwest, Europe, and China, the study in Nature Climate Change finds. The researchers calculate that complete tropical deforestation could trigger atmospheric changes leading to an increase of 0.7 degrees Celsius in global temperatures, in addition to warming caused by greenhouse gases released from the deforestation itself. That would double the observed global warming since 1850, the researchers note. They say their findings indicate that many of the predicted changes associated with widespread deforestation are already occurring — from Thailand, which is receiving less rainfall at the beginning of the dry season, to parts of the Amazon, where once-predictable rainfall has shifted notably.
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17 Dec 2014: Obama Protects Alaska's
Bristol Bay From Oil and Gas Development

President Obama yesterday announced protections for Bristol Bay, Alaska, one

A grizzly bear catches a salmon in Bristol Bay.
of the most productive fishing grounds in the nation, from future oil and gas development. The president's action is expected to benefit commercial fishermen and Native Alaskans and boost conservation efforts in the region, which is roughly the size of Florida. Noting that Bristol Bay is the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery and the source of 40 percent of U.S. wild-caught seafood — a catch worth $2 billion annually — Obama vowed to ensure long-term safeguards for the bay. The region has been under protection intermittently since 1989, when the Exxon Valdez spill prompted a federal moratorium on offshore drilling. "It is a natural wonder, and it’s something that’s just too precious to be putting out to the highest bidder," Obama said in a video message. The federal government is still considering whether to allow development of what would be North America's largest open-pit mine in the bay's watershed.
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16 Dec 2014: Falling Gasoline Prices Have
Little Effect on Car Travel, Analysis Shows

Although the average retail price of gasoline in the U.S. has fallen 28 percent from its peak in June 2014,

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Gas prices vs. miles driven
the decline may not have much effect on automobile travel and gasoline consumption, according to an analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (E.I.A.). Typically, an increase in the price of a product leads to lower demand, and vice versa — a concept known as price elasticity. Air travel, for example, tends to be highly elastic: A 10-percent increase in the price of air fares leads to an even greater decrease in air travel. Automobile travel tends to be much less elastic, however. According to E.I.A. data, it takes a 25- to 50-percent decrease in the price of gasoline to increase automobile travel by just 1 percent. One reason for this is that the distance people drive to work and for daily errands is relatively fixed, analysts say. Increased vehicle fuel economy also balances out increases in miles traveled, leading to more stability in gasoline consumption.
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Beyond Lima: Major Investors
Must Fund Global Green Initiatives

Much of the discussion at the recent U.N. climate talks in Lima, Peru, was about the financing that

Climate talks in Lima stretched into Sunday.
will be needed to decarbonize the world’s energy supply, improve efficiency, and redesign cities and transportation systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As journalist Isabel Hilton reports for e360 from Lima, moving the broader financial markets toward green investments is critically important in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The key, Hilton writes, is to get major institutions to invest in sustainable growth, particularly renewable energy, and to get major companies and the industrial sector to understand that they must revise their strategies to address the risks of climate change.
Read Hilton's analysis.
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15 Dec 2014: Draft Climate Accord Reached
In Lima Leaves Many Doubts in Its Wake

While lead negotiators at the Lima climate talks hailed a hard-fought climate agreement forged over the weekend, many critics say the accord does not go nearly far enough in forcing meaningful reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions. The accord marks the first time that all nations, rich and poor, have agreed to submit plans outlining how they will reduce carbon emissions. But the Lima Accord, intended to lay the groundwork for crucial climate talks next December in Paris, does not include legally binding requirements that countries cut their emissions by a specific amount. As the negotiations dragged on for an additional two days, an agreement was reached on Sunday only after China and other nations killed a provision that would have required all countries to submit readily comparable emissions data. Still, many climate officials praised the plan because it marked the first time that nearly 200 nations agreed to submit blueprints on how they plan to reduce greenhouse gases.
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12 Dec 2014: Majority of Americans Support
Climate Actions and Negotiations, Poll Says

Most Americans want the United States to be a world leader in combating global warming and to be participating in international climate negotiations, according to a poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Sixty-one percent of Americans think the U.S. should lead other nations on climate change, even if it means taking action when other countries do not. A majority of both Democrats and Republicans support some specific policies intended to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., the poll found, such as funding research for clean energy and regulating CO2 emissions. Less than 20 percent of people polled think such protections would harm the economy long-term, while 60 percent say they would improve economic growth and provide jobs.
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11 Dec 2014: India and Australia Are
Focus of Attention in Lima Climate Talks

As United Nations climate talks in Lima, Peru, near an end, negotiators and observers are looking at India and Australia to see whether they will support a draft agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With China and the U.S. having agreed last month to reduce carbon emissions, India — the world’s third largest emitter of CO2 — has said its emissions will continue to rise as it pulls its people out of poverty. But India’s environment minister said in Lima yesterday that the country would spend $100 billion on clean energy and climate adaptation projects and would play its part in cutting CO2 emissions. Australia — whose Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has weakened the country’s climate laws — is playing a constructive role at the talks and may support a draft emissions-reduction agreement that could be ratified next December in Paris, observers said. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Abbott said that any climate agreement “must [move] past the developed-developing country divide that puts a brake on real action.”
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10 Dec 2014: Draft Agreement in Lima Talks
Calls for Emissions Cuts by All Nations

A draft agreement calling for all nations to commit to greenhouse gas emissions cuts is circulating among climate negotiators in Lima, Peru, The New York Times reports. The proposed text calls for each of the 196 countries involved in negotiations to publicly commit to its own plan for reducing emissions. Those individual plans, however, will be driven by national politics and economic concerns, rather than by what scientists say is needed to curb the worst effects of climate change, critics say. Historic pledges by the U.S. and China last month to cut emissions catalyzed the new draft text, negotiators say, because the two nations — the world's largest greenhouse gas emitters — had been spoilers in previous climate talks. “It’s a breakthrough, because it gives meaning to the idea that every country will make cuts,” said Yvo de Boer, the former executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. The goal for the Lima talks is to settle on a draft text, which could become the basis for a deal signed by world leaders in Paris next December.
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09 Dec 2014: As Ministers Arrive,
Lima Climate Talks Face High Hurdles

With government ministers and UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon arriving at climate negotiations in Lima, Peru, large gaps remained between developed and developing countries over the issues of formalizing aid to poorer countries to adapt to climate change. Climate negotiators in Lima are drafting a negotiating outline for key climate talks in Paris next December, which many governments hope will lead to a binding global treaty to slash carbon emissions. The U.S. and the European Union want the focus of any treaty to be on emissions cuts, or mitigation, while developing nations are seeking written guarantees from wealthy nations to provide financing and other assistance to developing countries for climate adaptation. Ban Ki-moon has said he is confident that this divide can be bridged before the Lima talks end on Friday. Delegates from the Philippines, a country hit hard recently by typhoons and other weather-related disasters, said in Lima that they will push hard for a new deal requiring all nations, including developing countries, to slash emissions.
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08 Dec 2014: Latin American and Caribbean
Nations Pledge Major Forest Restorations

Latin American and Caribbean countries yesterday launched Initiative 20x20, an effort to begin restoring

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Forest restoration commitments
20 million hectares of degraded land — an area larger than Uruguay — by 2020. The initiative has secured $365 million in funds, its leaders announced, which will be used to restore forests, avoid deforestation, and improve the use of trees and livestock in agriculture — practices known as agroforestry and silvopasture. This restoration is expected to provide extensive economic, social, and environmental benefits through improved local livelihoods and ecosystem services such as erosion prevention, water purification, and carbon storage, organizers say. Restoration commitments totaling just over 20 million hectares were announced yesterday, with Mexico and Peru making the largest pledges. The initiative was launched in Lima, Peru, alongside international climate talks.
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05 Dec 2014: U.S. Natural Gas Fracking Boom
May Be Shorter Than Predicted, Study Says

Estimates of the amount of natural gas that can be extracted from U.S. reserves is much too high and the boom may last just half as long as predicted, says a new report in the journal Nature. Official government estimates by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) suggest that peak natural gas production, driven by the rapid growth of hydraulic fracturing, will likely last until 2040 before tapering off. The new analysis suggests that that estimate is too high. Instead, researchers say, the peak will likely come in 2020, and after that production will fall off dramatically. The findings are based on higher-resolution, finer-scale estimates of oil and gas reserves — in units of a single square mile — compared to the EIA's method, which lumps together all land within a single county. The EIA's method also fails to account for the realities of economics, the reseachers say: Fracking companies tend to look for "sweet spots," which they quickly abandon as soon as the reserves become depleted and extraction costs rise.
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04 Dec 2014: Arabian Sea Whales Are Earth's
Most Isolated and Endangered Population

Humpback whales inhabiting the Arabian Sea are the most genetically distinct humpback whales and may be

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© Tobias Friedrich
An Arabian Sea humpback
the most isolated population on earth, researchers report. With fewer than 100 estimated individuals, they are "definitely the most endangered" population of humpbacks, said Wildlife Conservation Society researcher Howard Rosenbaum. The Arabian humpbacks' known range is limited to waters near Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Pakistan, and India, and possibly the Maldives and Sri Lanka, researchers say. Genetic data suggest they have remained separate from other humpback whale populations for 70,000 years — extremely unusual in a species famed for annual migrations of 9,000 kilometers or more. The genetic separation is likely reinforced by their breeding schedule, researchers say. While Arabian humpbacks breed on a northern hemisphere schedule, their closest neighbors breed on a southern schedule.
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03 Dec 2014: Public Largely Unaware of Meat
And Dairy's Contribution to Climate Change

The general public has a major lack of understanding of how eating meat and dairy contributes to climate change,

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Perceived vs. actual carbon emissions
according to a survey of Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa by the market research organization Ipsos MORI. Although meat and dairy production accounts for roughly 15 percent of total global carbon emissions — equal to exhaust emissions from the international transportation sector — less than 30 percent of survey respondents identified meat and dairy production as a major contributor to climate change. More than twice as many — 64 percent — said transportation was a major contributor. Closing the awareness gap is essential for changing meat and dairy consumption patterns, researchers said, especially in developed nations such as the U.S. Although much of the projected increase in meat and dairy consumption will likely happen in emerging economies, respondents in Brazil, India, and China demonstrated greater consideration of climate change in their food choices and above-average willingness to modify their consumption — an encouraging sign, researchers said.
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02 Dec 2014: New Proposal Outlines
Key Elements for a Global Climate Pact

Coinciding with U.N. climate talks in Lima, Peru, this week, a consortium of policy experts has released a proposal

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Key components of a global climate pact
outlining the key ingredients of a comprehensive climate agreement in Paris next year. Three major components of such a pact, the group said, will be a long-term plan to phase out all greenhouse gas emissions as early as possible in the second half of this century; a long-term goal of reducing the vulnerability and building the resilience of communities facing climate impacts; and establishing five-year cycles for assessing and strengthening nations' actions to cut emissions and adapt to climate change. The proposal stresses "fairness, equity, and justice in climate actions," and suggests different timelines and responsibilities for developed and developing countries. The analysis, from experts at 10 research institutions, is based on interviews with climate negotiators and hundreds of government representatives.
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Five Questions for Gus Speth
On His Environmental Evolution

In a career that has spanned founding major environmental organizations, heading the United Nations
James Gustave Speth
James "Gus" Speth

e360 Five Questions
Development Programme, and serving as dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, James "Gus" Speth has seen his own ideas about environmental issues change dramatically over the years. Yale Environment 360 asked Speth five questions about his new memoir, Angels by the River; his growing recognition of the global nature of environmental problems; and his dissatisfaction with the state of the environmental movement in the United States.
Read more.
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01 Dec 2014: Politics, Not Extreme Weather,
Shape Climate Perceptions, Study Finds

Climate extremes such as droughts and record temperatures are failing to change people’s minds about global warming, according to a recent study led by Michigan State University sociologists. Instead, political orientation is the most influential factor in shaping perceptions about climate change, both in the short-term and long-term, the researchers found. Some previous studies suggested temperature patterns do influence perceptions about global warming, but none measured climatic conditions as comprehensively as the current research. The study analyzed 50 years of regional climate data and climatic storm-severity measures used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from all 50 states, along with 11 years of public opinion data from Gallup polls on climate change perceptions. Although advocates of climate change reduction efforts hope that experience with a changing climate will eventually convince the public of the reality and seriousness of the problem, the current findings do not bode well for that scenario, the researchers say.
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26 Nov 2014: Aerodynamic Upgrades to
Large Trucks Would Cut Fuel Use Steeply

The fuel consumption of the 2 million tractor-trailer trucks hauling cargo across the U.S. — which currently

Airflow patterns around a tractor-trailer truck
burn 36 billion gallons of diesel fuel per year — could be cut by billions of gallons through the use of drag-reducing devices, according to researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In wind tunnel tests, researchers fitted a scale-model truck with two types of devices designed to reduce drag and improve aerodynamics: a trailer skirt, which consists of panels affixed along the lower side edges of a trailer, and a boat tail fairing, which is affixed to the back of the trailer to reduce the size of its wake. The researchers found that using the devices in combination — technology currently installed on only 3 to 4 percent of the nation’s large trucks — reduced the aerodynamic drag by as much as 25 percent, which translates to a 13-percent decrease in fuel consumption. If the U.S. tractor-trailer fleet were to improve its fuel economy by 19 percent, which the researchers say is achievable, 6.5 billion gallons of diesel fuel would be saved each year, avoiding 66 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
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25 Nov 2014: China’s Lake Ebinur Has Been
Shrinking Dramatically, NASA Image Shows

As this NASA satellite image shows, Lake Ebinur, located in northwestern China near the border of

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China's Lake Ebinur
Kazakhstan, has shrunk by 50 percent since 1955 as a result of development, agriculture, and natural fluctuations in precipitation. The lake’s saline water is light blue, and the dried lake bed appears white due to salts and other minerals that have been left behind as the water evaporates. The lake’s size fluctuates from year to year due to natural variations in snowmelt and rainfall, and human activity also plays a key role, Chinese researchers say. The nearby city of Bole, with a population of 425,000, consumes significant amounts of water, and farmers irrigate their crops — especially cotton — with water that would otherwise flow into the lake, researchers say. Frequent saline dust storms contribute to desertification, damage soils, harm wetlands, and may be hastening the melting of snow and glaciers downwind, researchers say.
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24 Nov 2014: Record Number of Rhinos Poached In South Africa, Government Says

South African officials have announced that 1,020 rhinos have been killed so far in 2014 — a total that

White rhino in South Africa
surpasses last year’s record slaughter of 1,004 of the endangered animals. Poaching has been on the rise in South Africa, home to the world’s largest population of rhinos, since 2007, when only seven rhinos were killed. The sharp increase is occurring despite steps by the government to improve enforcement and introduce new technologies and intelligence-gathering methods to curb poaching, Mongabay reports. As of 2010, South Africa was home to more than 18,000 white rhinos — over 90 percent of the global population — and nearly 2,000 black rhinos. The animals are being killed for their horns, which are in high demand in China and Vietnam for their supposed, but unproven, medicinal qualities.
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21 Nov 2014: U.S. Can Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions 80 Percent by 2050, Study Says

The United States can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, using existing or near-commercial technologies, according to researchers with the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project. The study analyzed scenarios with four types of decarbonized electricity: renewable energy, nuclear energy, fossil fuel with carbon capture and storage, and a mixed case. The scenarios achieved reductions of 83 percent below 2005 levels and 80 percent below 1990 levels, according to the study, which was released ahead of next month’s climate talks in Lima, Peru, and negotiations in Paris in December 2015. The energy efficiency of buildings, transportation, and industry would need to increase through the use of smart materials and energy-efficient designs, and vehicles will need to be fueled with electricity generated from wind, solar, or nuclear, as opposed to coal, the researchers said. They project the net costs would be on the order of 1 percent of gross domestic product per year. The 80-percent reduction by 2050 is a long-standing goal of the Obama administration, in line with global commitments to limit warming to less than 2 degrees C.
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20 Nov 2014: Real-Time Ocean Acidification
Data Now Available for U.S. Pacific Coast

Researchers, coastal managers, and shellfish farmers along the U.S. Pacific coast can now get real-time ocean

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Web portal for ocean acidification data
acidification data through an online tool developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The data — which includes measurements of pH, carbon dioxide concentrations, salinity, and water temperatures at various sites — should help organizations and businesses make decisions about managing coastal resources and craft adaptation strategies, NOAA researchers say. The tool will feature data from five shellfish hatchery sites along the Pacific coast along with readings from NOAA’s ocean acidification monitoring sites. Ocean acidification is driven primarily by absorption of atmospheric CO2 by ocean waters, which changes seawater chemistry in a way that makes it difficult for many marine organisms to form their shells.
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19 Nov 2014: Global Maritime Shipping
Traffic Has Grown by 300 Percent Since 1992

Maritime traffic has increased four-fold over the past 20 years, causing more water, air, and noise pollution in

Maritime shipping traffic has increased rapidly.
the world's oceans and seas, according to a new study quantifying global shipping traffic. Traffic went up in every ocean during the 20 years of the study, except off the coast of Somalia, where piracy has almost completely halted commercial shipping since 2006. In the Indian Ocean, where the world’s busiest shipping lanes are located, ship traffic grew by more than 300 percent over the 20-year period, according to the report published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Burgeoning ship traffic has increased the amount air pollution, particularly above the Sri Lanka-Sumatra-China shipping lane, where researchers recorded a 50-percent increase in nitrogen dioxide, a common air pollutant, over the 20-year period. Shipping is also a major source of noise pollution, which can be harmful to marine mammals, the authors note.
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18 Nov 2014: Social Media Can Help Track Severity of Air Pollution, Researchers Say

Social media posts can help researchers estimate air pollution levels with significant accuracy, according to a team of computer scientists from the University of Wisconsin. The researchers analyzed posts on Weibo — a Twitter-like site that is China's most popular social media outlet — from 108 Chinese cities over 30 days, tracking how often people complained about the air and the words they used to describe air quality. The study showed that the process can provide accurate, real-time information on the air quality index, a widely used measure of common air pollutants. Large Chinese cities sometimes have physical monitoring stations to gauge pollution levels, but smaller cities generally do not because monitors are expensive to install and maintain. The researchers hope these findings will help residents of smaller towns and less affluent areas understand the severity of their local air pollution. Between 350,000 and 500,000 Chinese citizens die prematurely each year because of air pollution, a former Chinese health minister estimated in the journal The Lancet.
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17 Nov 2014: Old-Growth Forest in China
Shrinking Despite Protections, Study Says

China’s anti-logging, conservation, and ecotourism policies are actually accelerating the loss of old-growth forests

Deforestation in China's Yunnan Province.
in one of the country's most ecologically diverse regions, according to a study published in the journal Biological Conservation. Researchers used satellite imagery and statistical analysis to evaluate forest conservation strategies in northwestern Yunnan Province, in southern China. The results show that a logging ban increased total forest cover but accelerated old-growth logging in ancient protected areas known as sacred forests. For centuries, sacred forests have effectively protected old-growth trees from clear-cutting, despite major upheavals in the region’s history. Recent environmental protection policies, however, have shifted management of these areas away from native communities to government agencies — apparently to the forests' detriment, the study shows.
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14 Nov 2014: New Material Can Trap Powerful Greenhouse Gases Efficiently, Chemists Say

Scientists from the U.S. and Taiwan have developed a new type of lightweight, self-assembling molecule that can capture large amounts of potent greenhouse gases,

This porous material traps greenhouse gases.
according to a report in Nature Communications. The molecules create a lightweight structure with many microscopic pores that can adsorb gases such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Those long-lived compounds, once widely used as refrigerants, were phased out because they damage the ozone layer, but they are still used in various industrial processes. The newly developed material is rich in the element fluorine, which helps it bind CFCs and various other hydro- and fluorocarbon gases very efficiently — to the tune of 75 percent by weight, the chemists say. Although they are less prevalent, the greenhouse effect of those gases can be hundreds- or thousands-fold more powerful than carbon dioxide, the researchers note. Heavier, metal-based materials with similar capabilities have been developed in previous studies, but these were sensitive to water and difficult to process and recycle.
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13 Nov 2014: Global Maps Detail Seasonal and Geographic Trends in Ocean Acidification

A team of scientists has published the most comprehensive analysis yet of how acidity levels vary across the world’s oceans. Drawing on four decades of

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Taro Takahashi
Ocean acidification map
measurements, researchers from Columbia University and the University of Colorado mapped changes in ocean acidity by season and location, as well as how acidity levels affect the stability of shell-building minerals. The maps reveal that the northern Indian Ocean is at least 10 percent more acidic than the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, possibly due to its unique geography, the researchers say. The maps also show that ocean acidity fluctuates most in the colder waters off Siberia, Alaska, Antarctica, and the Pacific Northwest, due to cycles of deep-water upwelling and massive plankton blooms. The oceans have taken up a quarter of the carbon dioxide humans have put in the atmosphere over the last two hundred years, and acid levels at the surface have increased by 30 percent since the beginning of the industrial era, researchers say.
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Interview: Bringing Civility and Diversity to Conservation Debate

For the past few years, an acrimonious debate has been ranging between two camps of conservationists. One faction
“Jane
Jane Lubchenco
advocates protecting nature for its intrinsic value. The other claims that if the degradation of the natural world is to be halted, nature’s fundamental value — what nature can do for us — needs to be stressed. The tone of the rhetoric has led to a petition, published this month in the journal Nature, that criticizes both sides for indulging in ad hominem attacks and unproductive arguments that have devolved into “increasingly vitriolic, personal battles.” In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Jane Lubchenco, former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, explains why she and her co-signatories are calling for a more “inclusive conservation” and why the bickering needs to stop.
Read more.
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12 Nov 2014: U.S. and China Announce
Historic Emissions Reduction Pledges

In what could prove to be a momentum-setting piece of diplomacy, the United States and China — which together account for a third of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions — jointly announced plans to pursue significant cuts in those emissions over the coming 10 to 15 years. Among the details of the joint pledges, unveiled as part of meetings this week between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama in Beijing, were commitments from the U.S. to cut its CO2 emissions by between 26 percent and 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. China, meanwhile, pledged to halt emissions growth by 2030, or earlier, and to increase the nation's share of non-fossil energy sources to roughly 20 percent over the same time frame. The inability of the world's two most consequential economies to agree on an approach to emissions reductions has been a key stumbling block in international climate negotiations for nearly two decades, and the announcement was met with cautious optimism by many climate experts, who characterized it as an important first step toward a global treaty.
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11 Nov 2014: New Mapping Tool Highlights
Carbon-Trapping Forests in Peru

A new, high-resolution mapping technique can be used to help identify and prioritize tracts of forest land with the highest

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Greg Asner
Map of carbon storage potential of land in Peru
carbon-sequestering potential, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In the study, researchers with the Carnegie Institution for Science applied the technique, which integrated satellite imaging data and advanced, three-dimensional forest mapping information, to the 128 million hectares that comprise the nation of Peru. The analysis considered each landscape's unique climate, topography, geology, and hydrology to produce a map showing a range of landscapes with varying carbon densities — a potentially crucial tool as nations prepare to negotiate global forest protections as part of United Nations climate talks next month Lima, Peru.
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10 Nov 2014: Public Views of Climate Science Hinge on Solutions, New Study Finds

People often evaluate scientific evidence not on the basis of its perceived merits, but on whether they agree with the policy implications of the research, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Using issues like climate change and air pollution as test cases, Duke University researchers sought to determine if what they call a "solution aversion" bias could be detected among self-identified Republican or Democratic survey participants. In one example, participants were provided a scientific assertion that global average temperatures could rise as much as 3.2 degrees by the end of the century, after which they were presented with potential policy solutions. If that solution involved government regulation or increased taxes, just 22 percent of Republican participants expressed confidence in the initial scientific finding. But if the solution emphasized using market forces to curb temperatures, the percentage of Republicans accepting the initial temperature predictions rose to 55 percent. Self-identified Democrats displayed no difference in the same experiment, but liberal biases were clearly elicited on other issues, the researchers found.
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07 Nov 2014: Organized Chinese Crime Behind Tanzania's Elephant Slaughter, Report Says

Chinese-led criminal organizations have been conspiring with corrupt Tanzanian officials to traffic huge amounts

Poached elephant skull in Selous Reserve
of ivory — a trade that has caused half of Tanzania’s elephants to be poached in the past five years — according to a report by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency. In some cases, Chinese military officials appeared to be complicit in the illegal activities, the report says, and in other instances, prominent Tanzanian businessmen and politicians helped protect ivory traffickers. Tanzania is the largest source of poached ivory in the world, and China is the largest importer of smuggled tusks, according to EIA. Tanzania’s famed Selous Reserve saw its elephant population plunge by 67 percent in four years, from 50,000 animals to 13,000. Tanzania appears to have lost more elephants to poaching during this period than any other country, EIA said.
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06 Nov 2014: Scientists Call For Greater Diversity of Viewpoints on Conservation

In a call to arms published this week in the journal Nature, a group of more than 200 environmental scientists, academics and others involved in the fields of conservation research, policy and advocacy, condemned what they called a lack of diversity within their ranks and the philosophical polarization they say it has engendered. Spearheaded by Heather Tallis, lead scientist at the Nature Conservancy, and Jane Lubchenco, a professor of marine biology at Oregon State University and former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the commentary argues that a once-spirited but constructive debate between two conservation philosophies — one viewing nature as intrinsically valuable, the other connecting its value with its utility — was now mired in vitriol and acrimony. "We believe that this situation is stifling productive discourse, inhibiting funding and halting progress," the authors wrote, adding that the situation was being made worse because the "dispute has become dominated by only a few voices, nearly all of them men’s."
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05 Nov 2014: Norway Best Prepared Nation
For Climate Change, Global Index Shows

Norway is the best prepared country for climate change, and has been so for almost 20 years, according to

Lofoten, Norway
rankings compiled by the University of Notre Dame. New Zealand, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark rounded out the top five, while Chad, Burundi, Eritrea, Central African Republic, and Congo make up the bottom of the Global Adaptation Index. The rankings highlight the disparities between the world’s relatively wealthy, developed nations and its developing economies when it comes to dealing with climate change. Many of the highest ranking countries do face moderate exposure to climate change, the researchers said, but access to amenities such as electricity, sanitation, clean drinking water, and functional governance have left them better prepared. The economies of many developing countries, however, depend on natural resources, which makes their political and economic stability more susceptible to climate change. The index ranked 178 countries on their vulnerability and readiness to adapt to natural disasters associated with global warming.
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Interview: Saving World’s Oceans Begins With Coastal Communities

Aggressively curbing overfishing, pollution, and development is something coastal communities
“Ayana
Ayana Johnson
can do immediately to protect their ocean resources — and with dramatic results — says marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. As the executive director of the Waitt Institute, an ocean conservation organization, Johnson recently put that approach to the test on the Caribbean island of Barbuda. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she discusses how she helped Barbuda craft rules to protect its ocean resources and why she favors community-driven conservation efforts over more top-down approaches.
Read the interview.
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03 Nov 2014: Climate Impacts To Be Severe and Irreversible Without Emission Cuts, UN Says

Climate change will have “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” on society and the environment

The U.N. climate panel's synthesis report was released on November 2.
unless nations swiftly and drastically cut carbon emissions — a goal that, while difficult, still remains within reach, according to a comprehensive new United Nations climate report released this week. Failure to curb emissions by the end of the century will likely lead to food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major coastal cities and entire island nations, and dangerous yet routine heat waves, among other impacts, the analysis concluded. But the panel also said for the first time that combating climate change is economically feasible. The new U.N. report synthesizes the findings from a series of analyses released over the past year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the panel's first major update since 2007.
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31 Oct 2014: Giant Galapagos Tortoises Are Making a Strong Comeback, Researchers Say

Giant Galapagos tortoises have made a remarkable comeback over the last five decades, and their

Giant Galapagos tortoise (Chelonoidis hoodensis)
population on the Galapagos island of Española is now secure, according to researchers from the U.S. and Ecuador. Although their global population was down to 15 individuals in the 1960s, after 40 years of captive breeding and reintroduction efforts, the species now numbers roughly 1,000, the study found. About half of the tortoises released on the island since 1975 were still alive in 2007, and they’re now reproducing on their own in the environment. Ecologically, though, the tortoises face some challenges, the study notes. A critical source of food is a native cactus species that was nearly wiped out by feral goats. This likely limits the tortoises' current range, but the reptiles are also aiding the return of the cactus, the scientists say, because they help to spread its seeds.
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30 Oct 2014: China Is Top Developing Nation for Clean Energy Investment, Analysis Finds

China is the most attractive among developing nations for low-carbon investment and deployment, according to an analysis by the Climatescope project, a partnership among various international development agencies and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. China received top marks because it is the largest manufacturer of wind and solar equipment in the world, has the largest demand market for wind and solar energy, and has taken major strides to improve its domestic policy framework score, the analysis said. Brazil ranked second, largely due to the country's aggressive approach to clean energy development and the availability of low-cost capital through its national bank, the report said. South Africa ranked third, and the analysis noted the nation had attracted $10 billion in clean energy investments in 2012 through 2013. The project ranked 55 developing countries on their past, present, and future ability to attract investment for clean energy companies and projects.
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29 Oct 2014: Weather and Climate Key in Weights of Penguin Chicks, Researchers Say

Local weather and large-scale climate trends have the largest impact on the weights of Adélie penguin chicks

An adult Adélie penguin feeds its chick.
— not food availability — according to researchers at the University of Delaware. Adélie penguins are native to the West Antarctic Peninsula, and their habitat is warming faster than most other parts of the planet. Looking at records dating back to 1987, scientists found that year-to-year changes in local weather — including wind speed, temperature, rain, and humidity — could cause chicks’ weights at the time they leave their nests to fluctuate by up to 7 ounces. That’s often the difference between a surviving and non-surviving chick, the researchers say. Biologists previously thought that food sources and parenting played the largest role in chicks’ health, but these findings suggest that exposure to elements is more important. The study "calls into question what happens to an ecosystem when you change climate quickly," principal investigator Matthew Oliver said.
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28 Oct 2014: Scientists Find Seafloor Fallout Plume of Oil from Deepwater Horizon Spill

Researchers say they have found a large fallout plume of oil on the seafloor from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon

Deepwater Horizon oil at the surface of the ocean
disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. According to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a portion of the 2 million barrels of oil thought to be trapped in the deep sea after the spill appears to have settled across a 1,250-square-mile patch of the seafloor centered around the Macondo Well, which discharged an estimated 5 million barrels of oil in the nearly three months between its blowout in April and eventual capping in July. The oil is concentrated in the top half-inch of the seafloor, and mostly distributed in patchy deposits to the southwest of the well, the study found. These deposits account for between 4 and 31 percent of the Macondo oil sequestered in the deep ocean, researchers estimate. The rest has likely been deposited outside this area, they say, but has evaded detection so far because of its patchiness.
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27 Oct 2014: Forests Protect Waterways
From Nitrogen Pollution, Researchers Find

Forest top soils capture and stabilize nitrogen pollution very quickly but release it slowly, according to new research published in the journal Ecology. The findings indicate that mature forests may be providing an under-appreciated service by storing excess nitrogen, which can lead to algal blooms and oxygen-depleted dead zones if too much is released into lakes and waterways. Older forests store nitrogen more efficiently than young forests recovering from clear-cuts, the researchers found, because they have accumulated more top soil and organic matter within the forest floor. Previously, it had been unclear how mature forests continued to capture and store nutrients such as nitrogen after they stopped adding tree biomass. The new research indicates it’s likely due to the delay between nitrogen uptake, which happens within days, and nitrogen release, which unfolds over years and decades.
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24 Oct 2014: New Mapping Tool Shows U.S. Geothermal Plants and Heat Potential

A new mapping tool from the U.S. Department of Energy lets users see how geothermal power plants

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Geothermal power plants and heat flow potential
across the country are taking advantage of the heat stored within the earth’s crust. Most of the nation’s 154 operational and planned geothermal plants are clustered in western states, where geothermal heat potential is especially high (red areas). Notably, the map identifies two areas that appear ripe for new geothermal development: one in the Great Plains and another at the border of Virginia and West Virginia. The bulk of the facilities are conventional geothermal plants, which generate power using fluid found naturally deep below earth's surface. Steam captured at the surface spins a turbine, which then powers an electric generator. A newer type of technology, called enhanced geothermal, forces cold water from the surface down into the hot crust. Both types are generally considered clean sources of energy.
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23 Oct 2014: Drones Can Help Map Spread
Of Infectious Diseases, Researchers Say

Aerial drones can help track changes in the environment that may accelerate the spread of

Researchers in Malaysia program a drone
infectious diseases, an international team of researchers writes in the journal Trends in Parasitology. Land use alterations, such as deforestation or agricultural changes, can affect the movement and distribution of people, animals, and insects that carry disease, the authors explain. One drone project, for example, tracked changes in mosquito and monkey habitats in Malaysia and the Philippines. By combining land-use information collected by drones with public health data, researchers there are hoping to better understand how changes in the environment affect the frequency of contact between people and disease vectors like mosquitoes and macaques, both of which can harbor the malaria parasite.
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In East Coast Marshes, Goats
Take On a Notorious Invader


Land managers in the eastern U.S. and Canada have spent countless man-hours and millions of dollars trying to tame a pernicious, invasive reed known as Phragmites australis. Toxic herbicides, controlled burns, and even bulldozers have been the go-to solutions to the problem. But recent research out of Duke University suggests another, less aggressive fix: goats. The approach is finding practical applications, including in New York City, where officials deployed a herd of goats at Staten Island’s Freshkills Park.
Read more.
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21 Oct 2014: Desert and Mediterranean Plants
More Resistant to Drought than Expected

Desert and Mediterranean ecosystems may be more resistant to climate change, particularly long-term
Mediterranean ecosystem
Plants in a Mediterranean ecosystem in Chile.
drought, than previously thought, a new study published in Nature Communications shows. Over the course of a nine-year experiment, researchers subjected plants in four different climatic zones to rainfall conditions predicted under future climate change scenarios. The ecosystems typically received 3.5 to 30.7 inches of precipitation annually, and researchers cut that total by roughly 30-percent to simulate drought conditions. Surprisingly, the researchers found no measurable changes in plant biomass, density, or species composition and richness in any of the four ecosystems over the course of nine generations of plants. The ecosystems already receive highly variable amounts of rainfall and the 30-percent drop likely falls within the plants’ natural "comfort zone," the researchers say, which could explain the unexpected resilience to drought.
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20 Oct 2014: Electricity Access Has Small
Effect on Emissions in India, Study Says

Expanding electricity to the homes of 650 million people in India over the past 30 years had minimal
electricity access in India
A third of all households in India lack electricity.
direct impact on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change. Although many humanitarian and development organizations have stressed the importance of improving electricity access in low-income countries, it has been unclear how this would impact overall emissions levels. An analysis of trends in India between 1981 and 2011 shows that expanding household electricity access by roughly 45 percent contributed only 3 to 4 percent to the nation's overall growth in carbon dioxide emissions. When the indirect effects of greater electricity access, such as increased wealth and consumerism, are taken into account, household electricity use raised India’s emissions by 11 to 25 percent over that period, the study found.
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17 Oct 2014: Pesticide Linked to Bee Deaths
Does Not Improve Soybean Crops, EPA Finds

Coating soybean seeds with a class of insecticides that has been implicated in honeybee deaths and partially
soybeans coated with neonicotinoids
Soybeans (left) and corn coated with pesticides
banned in the European Union does not increase soybean yields compared to using no pesticides at all, according to an extensive review by the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Seed treatment provides at most $6 in benefits per acre (an increase in revenue of less than 2 percent), and most likely no financial benefit at all, the EPA analysis concluded. The insecticides, known as neonicotinoids, are only effective for the first few weeks after planting, studies have found, when soybean pests are not typically active. Neonicotinoid seed treatments could theoretically help fend off sporadic and unpredictable pests, the report notes, but that benefit would be small and unlikely to be noticed outside of the southern U.S.
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16 Oct 2014: Global Boom in Natural Gas
Unlikely to Help the Climate, Study Suggests

Increasing global supplies of unconventional natural gas will not help to reduce the overall upward trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions and the planetary warming that comes with it, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. The findings further undercut the notion, long touted by proponents of natural gas, that the fuel — which emits less CO2 than coal when burned — represents an important "bridge" in the transition to low-carbon energy resources. The study, which synthesized models developed by numerous researchers working independently, suggested atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations over the next 35 years would remain virtually unchanged — and in some models, warming would be worsened — by increased natural gas production. This was in part attributed to the fact that the new gas supplies would provide a substitute not only for coal, but also for low-emissions technologies like nuclear power and renewables.
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15 Oct 2014: U.S. Climate Envoy Says All
Nations, Rich and Poor, Must Curb Emissions

The negotiating architecture that has governed the decades-long pursuit of an international climate
Todd Stern
Climate Envoy Todd Stern
agreement is outdated, said Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy for climate change at the State Department and the nation’s lead climate negotiator. In remarks delivered at Yale University’s Law School on Tuesday, Stern reiterated the U.S. position that all nations — both rich ones and developing ones — must be brought together under one agreement that includes pledges to cut emissions. "This split between developed and developing countries in the climate convention is the singular fault line in these negotiations," Stern said, "and has been from the beginning." Under the recently expired Kyoto protocol, developing countries like China and India were exempted from committing to emissions cuts. Climate talks are scheduled to resume in Lima, Peru later this year, with a goal of achieving a new and fully global treaty at a meeting in Paris in 2015. That pact, Stern argued, ought to require all nations to submit emissions reduction targets, tailored as needed to national interests and abilities.
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14 Oct 2014: Researchers Explain Puzzling
Stability of Some Himalayan Glaciers

Unlike nearly all other high-altitude glaciers across the globe, glaciers in the Karakoram mountain chain, part
Karakoram glacier width=
Baltoro Glacier in the Karakoram range
of the Himalayas, are not melting and are even expanding in some areas. This so-called “Karakoram anomaly” has puzzled scientists for years, but now a team of researchers has offered an explanation: While rain from warm summer monsoons tends to melt mountain glaciers in other parts of the Himalayas and the nearby Tibetan Plateau, the location and height of mountains in the Karakoram chain, which runs along the borders of China, India, and Pakistan, protect the area from this seasonal precipitation. Instead, the mountain chain receives most of its precipitation in the form of winter snowfall, according to findings published in Nature Geoscience. The study suggests that the Karakoram glaciers are likely to persist until 2100, but not long after, if global warming continues at its current pace.
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E360 Video Winner: Intimate Look
At the Bighorn Sheep of the Rockies


“Peak to Peak,” the third-place winner of the Yale Environment 360 Video Contest, focuses on a herd of bighorn sheep in Montana and features remarkable scenes of lambs as they gambol along the slopes of the northern Rockies. Produced by Jeremy Roberts, the video follows a field biologist as he monitors the sheep and talks about the possible impact of climate change on the animals’ future.
Watch the video.
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13 Oct 2014: Climate Change To Make Many
Fish Species Extinct in Tropics, Study Says

Climate change is likely to drive fish and marine invertebrates toward the poles and cause extinctions

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Local extinction hotspots
near the tropics, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia. Under the conservative climate change scenario of one degree Celsius of warming by 2100, the 802 species modeled in the study are predicted to move away from their current habitats by as much as 9 miles, or 15 kilometers, every decade — a rate similar to what scientists have observed over the past few decades. Under the worst-case scenario of three degrees of warming, the researchers predict marine species will move toward the poles at a rate of 26 kilometers per decade. Under that scenario, an average of 6.5 species per 0.5 degrees of latitude would become locally extinct closest to the equator. The shifts will be caused by the species' reactions to warming waters, changing ocean chemistry, and ecosystem structure near the tropics, as well as new habitats opening up nearer the poles, researchers say.
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10 Oct 2014: Natural Gas Production Causing
Large Methane Hotspot Over U.S. Southwest

A single methane “hotspot” in the U.S. Southwest accounts for 10 percent of the nation’s total estimated
methane coalbed
Coalbed natural gas field in northwest New Mexico
methane emissions, according to an analysis by researchers at the University of Michigan and Caltech. The area is centered in New Mexico's San Juan Basin near the shared borders of Colorado, Utah, and Arizona — the site of the largest and most active coalbed natural gas production operation in the U.S. Natural gas from the basin is more than 95 percent methane, a significantly more potent heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide. Satellite measurements collected over seven years showed natural gas production operations in the area released roughly 650,000 tons of methane to the atmosphere each year. The methane emissions are not associated with hydraulic fracturing operations in the region, which began after the measurements were collected.
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09 Oct 2014: Investment in Energy Efficiency
Outpaces the Renewable Energy Sector

Global investments in energy-efficiency measures have reached $310 billion annually — nearly $100 billion more than investments in renewable energy last year, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency. Efficiency measures saved the equivalent of 2 billion tons of oil between 2001 and 2011 in the 18 countries evaluated in the report, which is more than the annual energy demand of the U.S. and Germany combined. The residential sector saw the largest improvement in efficiency, with energy demand falling 5 percent from 2001 levels, according to the report. Homes and businesses are commonly turning to efficiency measures such as low-energy lighting, smart thermostats, and improved insulation to lower energy costs. To limit global temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, the largest share of emissions reductions — 40 percent — will need to come from improvements in energy efficiency, the agency said.
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08 Oct 2014: Floods Will Be Chronic Problem
For East Coast Cities by 2030, Study Says

By 2030, residents of Washington, D.C., and Annapolis, Maryland, could be experiencing more than 150 tidal floods every year — up

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Tidal flood frequency
from an average of just 50 today — according to a recent study of sea level rise and coastal flood risk along the U.S. East Coast by the Union of Concerned Scientists. In another 15 years, that number could jump to 400 floods annually, the study says. A home purchased in some of the more flood-prone parts of those two cities could see daily flooding before a 30-year mortgage was paid off, according to the study. The increased frequency will be driven by sea level rise, researchers say, which exacerbates the effects of so-called “nuisance flooding” linked to tidal cycles, rainfall, and storm surges. Other cities on the Atlantic coast will also see increased flood frequency, including Miami and Atlantic City, New Jersey, which can expect an average of 240 flood days per year by 2045.
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Interview: A Call for Climate Goals
Other Than Two Degrees Celsius

When international delegates meet in Paris next year to negotiate a new climate agreement, they'll be aiming to keep the global average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees
“David
David Victor
Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the maximum seen by many for avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. But David Victor, a professor of international relations at University of California San Diego, argued in a recent controversial commentary in Nature that the 2-degree goal is now unattainable and should be replaced by more meaningful goals. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Victor explains why he believes the 2-degree threshold has failed to position policy makers to take serious action on climate change and outlines the "basket of indicators" that he and his co-author are suggesting be used instead.
Read the interview.
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07 Oct 2014: Deep Oceans Not Warming
As Previously Thought, Study Finds

The deepest reaches of earth's oceans have not warmed significantly over the last decade, according to scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California — a finding that undermines a leading theory as to why the pace of global warming has slowed over the last 15 years. Scientists have speculated that the recent slowdown in rising surface air temperatures was a result of heat accumulating in the deep ocean. But in a paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the NASA researchers concluded that the vast majority of sea level rise since 2005 was attributable to just two sources: upper ocean heat expansion and glacial melting. From this they inferred that the deep ocean was not also warming. In a separate paper published in the same journal, however, scientists from the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory noted that the upper ocean was absorbing between 24 and 58 percent more heat than was previously thought. That's not enough to account for the pause in surface air warming, but the researchers suggest it is evidence that more accurate data on ocean warming is needed.
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06 Oct 2014: Number of Megacities Has
Nearly Tripled Since 1990, UN Report Says

The number of urban areas with more than 10 million inhabitants — sometimes called "megacities" — has

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Urban footprint of Tokyo
nearly tripled in the last 24 years, jumping from 10 in 1990 to 28 in 2014, according to the latest UN report on world urbanization. The total number of people living in megacities has grown from 153 million to 453 million during that period, the report says, and such areas now account for 15 percent of global GDP. Although densely populated urban areas can be environmental blights, innovations in efficient transportation have arisen from some major cities in Asia and Lagos, Nigeria, because those cities have invested heavily in public transit infrastructure, researchers say.
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03 Oct 2014: Thousands of Uncharted Ocean
Floor Features Revealed by Satellite Data

New maps of the seafloor created using satellite data reveal thousands of uncharted mountains and clues

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New detailed seafloor maps
about the formation of continents, researchers say. Among other findings, they identified a ridge in the Gulf of Mexico that had previously been associated with seafloor spreading, a major rift in the South Atlantic Ocean, and thousands of sea mountains — all of which had never before been documented. The maps are based on small ripples and dips in the surface of the ocean, which can be detected by satellites, the researchers explain in the journal Science. Using these ocean surface variations, the scientists were able to infer the shape and contours of the new seafloor features. Previously, the only way to create detailed maps was to collect depth soundings from ships sailing directly over the seafloor, so only about 20 percent of the ocean floor had been accurately mapped, researchers say.
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02 Oct 2014: Large Sediment Plumes Flowing
From Greenland Glaciers, Images Show

Plumes of sediment-laden meltwater from southwest Greenland’s glaciers are easily recognizable in this

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Sediment plumes off the coast of Greenland
NASA satellite image captured in early September. Meltwater at the top of the ice sheet starts out relatively clean, but as it flows through glacial channels down to the ground and out into the ocean, it picks up large amounts of sediment — a byproduct of the glacier scraping the bedrock. As a result, plumes like the ones that appear light-blue in this photograph, are good markers for estimating the amount of meltwater leaving the ice sheet, researchers say. Melting from the Greenland Ice Sheet could result in global sea level rise of 2 to 8 inches, according to the most recent assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
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Interview: Still Bullish on Hybrids,
But Skeptical about Electric Cars

As one of the principal designers of the gasoline-electric hybrid Prius, Bill Reinert has never been shy about sharing his views on what
“Bill
Bill Reinert
he considers the poor prospects for fully electric vehicles — and on just about anything related to alternative fuels and the future of transportation. For Reinert, who recently retired from the Toyota Motor Corporation, the physical and performance limitations of battery technology are the key stumbling blocks for electrics. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about the potential he sees in other low-emissions vehicle technologies now in development, particularly fuel cells, and the state of the global effort to find efficient and affordable alternatives to gasoline-powered cars.
Read the interview.
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01 Oct 2014: Scientists Photograph Gathering
Of 35,000 Walruses on Alaskan Beach

In one of the largest gatherings of walruses documented in recent years, Alaska biologists photographed a

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Gathering of walruses
congress of roughly 35,000 animals resting on a beach in northwestern Alaska. They swam to shore to rest, a walrus researcher explained, after the last remaining traces of sea ice melted in mid-September. Walruses typically rely on sea ice to provide a platform for resting and caring for their young as they swim to find clams, worms, and shrimp offshore, near the edge of the continental shelf. When no sea ice is available, as has been the case in the Chukchi Sea six of the last eight years, the walruses must make their way to shore. Besides taking them farther from their feeding grounds, the beach gatherings are dangerous for young walruses because they can be trampled, biologists say. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering granting Endangered Species Act protections to Pacific walruses.
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E360 Video: Indonesian Villagers
Use Drones to Protect Their Forest


The villagers of Setulang in Indonesian Borneo have enlisted a new ally in their fight against the illegal clearing of their forests for oil palm plantations: aerial drones. The indigenous Dayaks manage the surrounding forest conservation area, and they are hoping the drones can help them ward off illegal oil palm operations and protect their land. “Dayaks and Drones,” a video produced by Handcrafted Films, chronicles how the villagers teamed up with an Indonesian nonprofit to learn how to program and operate drones. Equipped with GPS technology, the small drones photograph the forest and monitor the area for illegal activities.
Watch the video.
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30 Sep 2014: Half of the Planet's
Animals Lost Since 1970, Report Says

The number of animals on the planet has fallen 52 percent in the last 40 years, according to an analysis by

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Animal population trend since 1970
the conservation organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The group's Living Planet Index, which tracked the populations of more than 10,000 vertebrate species from 1970 to 2010, revealed major declines in key populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. The situation is most dire in developing countries, the report said, where wildlife populations have fallen on average by 58 percent. Latin America saw the biggest declines, with more than 80 percent of the region's animals lost since 1970. Globally, freshwater populations have plummeted 76 percent. This year's numbers are worse than those calculated in the last report in 2012, which found declines of 30 percent since 1970. The organization attributed this to new statistical weighting, which it said better represents each region's biodiversity, though other researchers have been critical of the new methodology. Habitat loss and degradation was cited as the primary cause of biodiversity loss.
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29 Sep 2014: Inexpensive Solar Cell
Makes Hydrogen Fuel from Sunlight

Researchers have developed a device that can store solar energy by inexpensively converting it to hydrogen —
solar water splitter
Electrodes split water to hydrogen and oxygen.
an important step toward making solar power available around the clock. The technology, which which was recently described in the journal Science, is a type of "water splitter," a device that can efficiently divide water into its constituent parts: hydrogen and oxygen. The concept is important for solar energy storage because hydrogen gas can be used directly as fuel and is relatively easy to store, the researchers say. The device can convert 12.3 percent of the energy in sunlight to hydrogen, according to the report; conventional solar cells, in comparison, convert roughly 16 percent of energy from sunlight to electricity, but a significant portion of that energy is lost when converting it to a form that is easily stored. The design of this water splitter is an improvement over previous iterations, the researchers say, but the device's longevity and reliability will need to improve before it becomes a practical, large-scale solar energy storage option.
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26 Sep 2014: Aral Sea Basin Dry for First
Time in Modern History, Images Show

For the first time in modern history, the eastern basin of the South Aral Sea has gone completely dry, as this

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Drying of Aral Sea
NASA satellite image captured in late August shows. The Aral Sea is an inland body of water lying between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in central Asia. It was once one of the four largest lakes in the world, but it has been shrinking markedly and dividing into smaller lobes since the 1960s, after the government of the former Soviet Union diverted the region's two major rivers to irrigate farmland. One Aral Sea researcher suggested that it has likely been at least 600 years since the eastern basin entirely disappeared. Decreasing precipitation and snowpack in its watershed led to the drying this year, and huge withdrawals for irrigation exacerbated the problem. Water levels are expected to continue to show major year-to-year variations depending on precipitation and snowpack levels, the researcher said.
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25 Sep 2014: World's Largest Coal Company
Plans Billion-Dollar Solar Project in India

Continuing its push to increase investment in renewable energy, India’s energy ministry is working with the
Gevra coal mine India
Gevra mine, operated by Coal India Limited
state-controlled coal mining company Coal India Limited — the largest coal mining operation in the world — to install solar power projects worth $1.2 billion. The company is in the process of selecting sites for solar plants, which are expected to have a combined total energy-generating capacity of 1,000 megawatts, the Times of India reports. India currently has roughly 2,200 megawatts of grid-connected solar power capacity, so Coal India Limited's contribution would be a substantial increase. When prime minister Narendra Modi took office earlier this year, he pledged to bring electricity to the homes of the nation's entire population of 1.2 billion — 400 million of whom lack any access to electricity — within the next five years, largely through solar projects.
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Cashes Ledge: New England's
Rich Underwater Laboratory


A little over 70 miles off the coast of New England, an unusual undersea mountain range, known as Cashes Ledge, rises from the seabed. Regulators are contemplating lifting a 12-year-old ban on commercial groundfishing in some parts of this area, sparking a roiling debate. What's not in question, however, is that the highest peak in the range, Ammen Rock, teems with kelp forests, sea sponges, and a wide variety of fish and mollusks — much of it captured by ocean photographer Brian Skerry during dives made earlier this year.
View the gallery.
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24 Sep 2014: Nations Announce Agreement
To End Forest Loss by 2030 at UN Summit

The U.S., Canada, and the European Union agreed at yesterday's UN climate summit to cut global
Deforestation in Malaysian Borneo
Deforestation for palm oil in Malaysian Borneo
deforestation in half by the end of the decade and eliminate net forest losses entirely by 2030, marking the first time such a deadline has been set. If the goal is met, it will cut carbon emissions by an amount equal to taking 1 billion vehicles — every car on the planet — off the road, the UN said. Notably missing from the list of committed countries was Brazil, which has been a key player in Amazon deforestation, because of concerns that the pledge would clash with national laws permitting managed deforestation. Critics say ending deforestation is nearly impossible without Brazil's cooperation. In addition to the 32 national governments that signed onto the declaration, 35 corporations, including Kellogg's, L'Oreal, and Nestle, pledged to support sustainable forest practices in their supply chains.
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The Overview: Alberta Tar Sands


These satellite images, taken from July 1984 through May 2011, reveal the development of the Athabasca oil sands, commonly called "tar sands," which lie at the heart of Alberta’s oil deposits. Tar sands mining, which has become a significant issue for environmentalists, has been rapid and extensive, growing to cover nearly 260 square miles of the Canadian province by 2011. Nearly 2 million barrels of oil are produced every day, according to the Alberta government, with production expected to grow to nearly 4 million barrels per day over the next decade.
View the images.
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23 Sep 2014: Food Security Issues Often
Neglected After Extreme Weather Events

Extreme weather events — the sort likely to arise with increasing frequency as the planet warms — took a heavy toll on Russia and East Africa in 2010 and 2011, in large part because governments and authorities were ill-equipped to address resulting food shortages and other fallout, according to researchers at the University of Oxford. Russia experienced a heat wave that led to food hoarding and price-fixing of staple crops by speculators, according to the report, which was commissioned by Oxfam. A drought in East Africa in 2010 through 2011 was tied to an uptick in armed conflicts in the region, which interrupted international and domestic aid for six months. Crop prices reached record levels in several markets, including wheat in Ethiopia, maize in Kenya, and red sorghum grain in Somalia, the report notes. Investing in additional health facilities, establishing pre-positioned food supplies, and other tactics aimed at mitigating the effects of future heat waves, droughts, and floods, could help to blunt the effects of climate change on the poorest and most vulnerable populations, the researchers say.
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22 Sep 2014: Planet Set to Reach CO2
Threshold in 30 Years, Researchers Say

Only 1.2 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide can be emitted in the future if nations are to avoid causing the

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Global CO2 emissions
global mean surface temperature to rise more than 2 degrees C beyond the pre-industrial average, according to researchers with the Global Carbon Project. Combined historical and future carbon dioxide emissions must remain below 3.2 trillion metric tons to have a 66-percent chance of keeping that temperature increase below 2 degrees C — the internationally accepted benchmark for restraining global warming. But two-thirds of this allotment has already been emitted, and at the current pace of emissions, the global population will burn through the rest within the next 30 years, the researchers conclude. CO2 emissions rose 2.3 percent in 2013 and are on track to increase by 2.5 percent in 2014, according to the report, which was released ahead of this week's UN climate summit.
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19 Sep 2014: Global Population on Track to
Reach 11 Billion by 2100, Researchers Say

A new analysis of United Nations global population data finds an 80-percent probability that the number of

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Global population trend
people in the world, now 7.2 billion, will increase to between 9.6 and 12.3 billion in 2100. Published in the journal Science, the study counters the widely accepted projection that global population will peak at roughly 9 billion by 2050, then gradually decline. The new study instead finds a 70-percent likelihood that population will grow continuously throughout the century to reach 10.9 billion by 2100. Researchers attribute the higher projections, in part, to increasing fertility rates in sub-Saharan Africa, where population growth had been predicted to continue slowing. The Guardian notes that many widely cited global policy assessments, such as recommendations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, assume a population peak by 2050.
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18 Sep 2014: Trees Growing Significantly
Faster in Warming Climate, Study Finds

An analysis of data spanning 140 years from one of the world's oldest forest study sites indicates that trees have
Measuring trees

Collecting growth ring samples from study site
been growing significantly faster and stands have become larger since the 1960s. The study, published in Nature Communications, was based on 600,000 individual tree surveys conducted since 1870 at a central European forest study site. European beech and Norway spruce, the dominant tree species in the experimental plots, grew 77 and 32 percent faster, respectively, than they did 50 years ago, the analysis found. The trends are primarily due to rising temperatures and longer growing seasons, the researchers say, although increasing carbon dioxide and nitrogen levels in the atmosphere could also play a role. The stages of tree development haven't changed, the researchers say; instead, trees are moving through their development trajectory much faster than before. The changes could affect other plants and animals in the forest ecosystem that rely on specific phases of forest development, the study notes.
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17 Sep 2014: Shift to Mass Transit Could
Have Major Economic and Climate Benefits

Expanding public transportation and infrastructure that promotes walking and biking throughout the world's

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Urban transportation-related emissions
cities could save $100 trillion and cut transportation-related carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2050, according to an analysis by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. Urban transportation-related emissions could double by 2050 as growth continues in major cities in China, India, and other developing countries. But if China alone were to develop extensive bus rapid transit and commuter transit networks, its predicted transportation-related emissions in 2050 could be cut by 40 percent, the analysis found. The U.S. — currently the world's largest contributor to urban transportation-related emissions — is seeing declines in that sector as population growth slows, vehicle fuel efficiency improves, and people drive less. But those emissions cuts could accelerate sharply if urban mass transit were improved, the report said.
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16 Sep 2014: Tackling Climate Change Could
Pay Off in as Little as 15 Years, Report Finds

Limiting greenhouse gas emissions globally over the next 15 years is both economically feasible and likely to save money, according to a new report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. Between 2015 and 2030, nations are expected to invest roughly $90 trillion in urban land-use and energy infrastructure, the analysis estimated. Steering those investments toward renewable energy, efficiency improvements, and other low-emission technologies would make that global investment more costly, the panel of government and business leaders conceded. But these costs could eventually be offset by the lowered operating costs associated with renewable power, the report suggested. Although they are difficult to quantify, health care savings associated with improved air quality would also offset costs. According to the report, the biggest challenges for governments will be enacting stronger rules and policies that favor low-carbon development, such as cutting the $600 billion currently spent on fossil fuel subsidies.
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15 Sep 2014: Urban Air Pollution May
Affect Brains of Young Children, Study Says

Children living in areas with high air pollution are at increased risk for brain inflammation and for developing
Smog over Mexico City

Smog over Mexico City
neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, according to a study by researchers at the University of Montana. The scientists compared brain and spinal fluids of children living in low-pollution areas to those of children living in Mexico City, an area notorious for its poor air quality. They found that children living in the city had significantly increased levels of combustion-related metals in their systems, as well as higher levels of antibodies related to inflammation. The antibodies are an indicator of autoimmune response and are possibly tied to higher risks for neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, according to the researchers. They say that a study following the Mexico City children as they age is needed to determine whether there is a relationship between their autoimmune responses and documented brain and cognition changes.
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Interview: Making Farm-to-Table
A Truly Sustainable Movement

Renowned chef Dan Barber is synonymous with the farm-to-table movement. His two New York restaurants
Dan Barber
Dan Barber
feature organic ingredients grown or raised on nearby farms, including the one that surrounds his Hudson Valley restaurant. So it’s striking that in his new book, The Third Plate, Barber maintains that the movement he has been championing hasn’t gone far enough. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Barber says if the farm-to-table movement is to truly support sustainability, end the rise of monocultures, and produce delicious food, it’s the table that must support the farm, not the other way around. And that, he says, calls for a new way of cooking and eating.
Read the interview | Listen to a podcast
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12 Sep 2014: New High-Resolution Maps Show
Greenhouse Gas Emissions at City-Level

Researchers have developed a new method for mapping global carbon emissions for individual cities on an

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Emissions before and after financial crisis
hourly basis — a major improvement over previous techniques, which quantified greenhouse emissions less accurately and at coarser scales, according to researchers at Arizona State University. The maps are derived from worldwide databases of population, power plants, and national fuel use statistics, and they encompass 15 years of data. Among other findings, the analysis revealed increased emissions in China, India, Europe, and the northern U.S. in 2010, after the peak of the global financial crisis. The researchers say this reflects faster recoveries from the crisis in those regions compared to, for example, the southeastern U.S., where emissions lagged in 2010. The results of the analysis match ground-level measurements, confirming the accuracy of the maps, the researchers say.
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11 Sep 2014: Brazilian Amazon Deforestation
Jumps by 29 Percent, Government Says

Brazilian government data show destruction of the Amazon rainforest increased 29 percent over the past

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Amazon deforestation rate
year. Satellites documented the deforestation of over 2,300 square miles in the Brazilian Amazon, reversing highly praised gains in forest conservation since 2004. The largest losses were in the states of Para and Mato Grosso, in central Brazil, which are experiencing widespread agricultural development. The building of new roads and dams, along with illegal logging, also contributed to the rise in deforestation. Brazilian police frequently target illegal logging operations, but environmental groups say more enforcement is needed. Deforestation in Brazil peaked in 2004, when over 11,580 square miles of forest were destroyed. Worldwide, deforestation is responsible for roughly 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions — more than all types of transportation systems combined.
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10 Sep 2014: U.S. Renewable Energy Growth
In 2014 Dwarfs Fossil Fuel Plant Additions

The U.S. this year has significantly scaled back coal and natural gas power plant additions compared to 2013,

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2014 power additions
and solar and wind power capacity is far outpacing the 2013 installation rate, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. No utility-scale coal plants were added in the first six months of 2014, whereas more than 1,500 megawatts of coal-fired power capacity had been added during the same period last year. Natural gas additions were cut roughly in half compared to the first half of 2013, while wind additions more than doubled and solar power increased by 70 percent. The only coal plants scheduled to come online in 2014 are the Kemper plant in Mississippi, which will capture its own carbon emissions, and a small conventional steam coal plant in North Dakota, reflecting the challenging market for coal due to impending federal environmental regulations and competition from natural gas.
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09 Sep 2014: Ocean Acidification May Dull
Sharks' Ability to Smell Prey, Study Finds

Ocean acidification, which is driven by rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, may cause sharks to
Shark testing chamber

Smooth dogfish shark laboratory testing
be less interested in hunting prey, according to research published in Global Change Biology. In laboratory experiments emulating CO2 concentrations as they are expected to be by the middle and end of this century, scientists from the U.S. and Australia found that the smooth dogfish shark became uninterested in squid odors — sometimes avoiding them altogether. Sharks in control waters pursued prey scents four times more often than sharks in waters with high CO2 levels, the study found. Rising ocean acidity can disrupt the proper firing of neurons, the scientists say, because it interferes with a specific receptor present in most marine organisms with a nervous system. A study earlier this year found that fish in waters with increased acidity were also less able to detect predator odors.
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08 Sep 2014: U.S. Dietary Guidelines Would
Lead to Rise in Emissions, Study Says

Following U.S. federal guidelines for a healthy diet is likely to increase greenhouse gas emissions, even though the guidelines recommend a diet with less meat than the average American currently consumes, according to a recent analysis in the Journal of Industrial Ecology. Compared to U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines, American's don't eat enough fruits, vegetables, seafood, and dairy, and they consume too much meat, eggs, nuts, soy, oils, solid fats, and added sugars. If the population were to shift its diet to match USDA guidelines, greenhouse gas emissions would actually rise by 12 percent, researchers found, because calories from meat, eggs, fats, and sugars would largely be replaced by dairy products. Methane emissions from dairy and beef cattle contribute significantly to atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. The findings highlight a need to consider both environmental and health objectives when making dietary recommendations, the researchers say.
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05 Sep 2014: Smog in India Damaged
Enough Crops to Feed 94 Million, Study Says

Ground-level ozone, the main component of smog, damaged 6.7 million tons of Indian crops worth an
Smog in India

Smog in Delhi, India
estimated $1.3 billion in a single year, according to a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters. That's enough wheat, rice and other staple crops to feed 94 million people — roughly one-third of the country's impoverished population. Arising from a combination of vehicle emissions, cooking stoves, and industrial sources, plant-damaging ozone has left many of India's fast-developing cities among the most polluted in the world, according to the country's Air Monitoring Center. The number of vehicles there has nearly tripled in the past 10 years, rising from 50 million in 2003 to 130 million in 2013, and the country currently has no air quality standards to protect crops from ozone pollution. The researchers say the findings should be used to guide new ozone emission standards for the country.
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04 Sep 2014: Buying Video Games on Disc Is
More Energy Efficient than Downloading

Downloading video games from the Internet creates a larger carbon footprint than driving to the store to purchase the same game on a Blu-ray disc, according to findings published in the

PlayStation game console and Blu-ray disc
Journal of Industrial Ecology. For an 8.8-gigabyte PlayStation video game file — the average size of video games in 2010 — the resources required to produce, distribute, and dispose of Blu-ray discs are far less than the energy required to power servers, routers, and networks involved in downloading the game file, researchers say. The advantages of discs decrease as file sizes shrink, the analysis found, and for game files less than 1.3 gigabytes, downloading has a smaller carbon footprint than purchasing the game on Blu-ray. Between 2010 and 2013, however, game file sizes actually doubled for PlayStation4 and increased by 25 percent for PlayStation3. The analysis illustrates why it is not always true that digital distribution of media will have lower carbon emissions than distribution by physical means, the researchers say.
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Interview: Calling for Moratorium
On Development of Tar Sands Oil

In a recent commentary in Nature, aquatic ecologist Wendy Palen and seven colleagues were sharply critical of the way that Canada and the United States have gone
Wendy Palen
Wendy Palen
about developing Alberta’s vast tar sands deposits and the infrastructure needed to transport those fossil fuels to market. Rather than looking at the cumulative impact of this massive energy development on the climate and the environment, Palen and her co-authors wrote, major decisions have been made in piecemeal fashion. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Palen talks about why a moratorium on new tar sands developments is needed, how the decision-making process is biased in favor of short-term economic benefits, why the fate of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline is critical, and what can be done to begin factoring in the real costs of exploiting the tar sands.
Read the interview.
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03 Sep 2014: Mobile Phone Networks Can
Help Monitor Global Rainfall, Study Says

New research shows that mobile phone networks, which cover 90 percent of the world's population, can help track rainfall events — a task that has proven difficult for both advanced satellite systems and ground-level observation networks. By compiling data on signal disruptions from mobile phone networks in Burkina Faso in West Africa, a team of researchers was able to calculate with 95 percent accuracy both the location and volume of rain that fell, even during short-lived storms, according to a report in Geophysical Research Letters. Mobile phone companies maintain detailed records on signal disruptions, which can occur when water droplets block and deflect signals between antennae, to determine whether their networks are functioning properly. By tapping into those records, researchers could distill data on rainfall events at extremely fine spatial and temporal scales. As mobile phone networks expand across the globe, such data could be used to create highly accurate rainfall maps, researchers say, although gaining access to records could prove difficult.
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02 Sep 2014: Six Strategies Could End
Global Water Stress by 2050, Scientists Say

Global water stress could be alleviated by the year 2050 if countries work to implement six key strategies

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Strategies for reducing water stress vary by area.
ranging from building more reservoirs to controlling population growth, according to research from Canada and the Netherlands. Water stress is defined as occurring when more than 40 percent of the water from a region's rivers is unavailable because it is already being used — a situation that currently affects roughly one-third of the global population. Writing in Nature Geoscience, the scientists propose six steps they believe can help reduce water stress: planting crops that use water and nutrients more efficiently; using more efficient irrigation methods; improving the efficiency of water use in homes, industry, and municipalities; limiting the rate of population growth so global population stays below 8.5 billion by 2050; increasing reservoir water storage capacity; and intensifying water desalination operations by 50-fold.
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29 Aug 2014: New Database Tracks Ecological
Health Impacts of Dams on World's Rivers

A newly launched online database illustrates the impacts of nearly 6,000 dams on the world's 50 major

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Dams in the Yangtze basin
river basins, ranking their ecological health according to indicators of river fragmentation, water quality, and biodiversity. The "State of the World's Rivers" project was developed by the advocacy organization International Rivers and created using Google Earth. Users can compare the health of individual river basins, see the locations of existing and planned dams, and explore 10 of the most significant river basins in more depth. The 6,000 dams represented in the database are a small percentage of the more than 50,000 large dams that impact the world's rivers, the organization notes.
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28 Aug 2014: Rail Transport of U.S. Oil Up
By 9 Percent, Creating Rail Car Shortage

The amount of U.S. oil shipped by rail rose 9 percent during the first seven months of the year compared to 2013, reaching 16,000 carloads per week in July,

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Rise in rail oil transport
according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). U.S. crude oil production reached an estimated 8.5 million barrels per day in June for the first time in 18 years and is driving the increase in rail transport, the EIA said. Only 3 percent of petroleum shipped by rail in 2009 was crude oil; now crude accounts for more than half. Over the past three years, much of the oil has come from the Bakken Shale, primarily in North Dakota. Between 60 and 70 percent of the more than 1 million barrels per day of oil produced in North Dakota has been transported by rail so far in 2014, according to the North Dakota Pipeline Authority. The demand for rail cars has created a backlog that's been particularly worrisome for farmers, who say their grain is rotting before shipping space is available to take it to market.
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27 Aug 2014: Obama Seeks Climate
Accord Without Congressional Approval

The Obama administration is aiming to forge a legally binding, international agreement that would cut fossil

Barack Obama
fuel emissions and direct funds to poor nations dealing with climate change, without ratification from Congress, The New York Times reports. The agreement would combine legally binding updates to an existing 1992 climate change treaty — allowing Obama to sidestep the constitutional requirement that treaties be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate — with voluntary pledges for specific emissions targets and aid to help poorer countries adapt to climate change. Nations would then be legally required to report progress toward their emissions targets at international meetings that would "name and shame" countries making slow or no progress, the Times reports. Lawmakers from both political parties say that no climate agreement requiring congressional approval could be reached in the near future. Republican leaders are expected to oppose the agreement being worked on by the administration and say it would be an abuse of executive authority.
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26 Aug 2014: Meat Production, Especially
Beef, Strains Land and Water, Study Says

Global meat production has expanded more than four-fold over the last 50 years — and 25-fold since

Beef cattle graze in Colombia
1800 — due to growing purchasing power, urbanization, and changing diets, according to a new report from the Worldwatch Institute. Consumers in industrial countries still eat much larger quantities of meat (75.9 kilograms per person) than those in developing nations (33.7 kilograms), though that gap is beginning to close, the report says. Nearly 70 percent of the planet's agricultural land and freshwater is used for livestock, with additional land and water used to grow grains for livestock feed. Beef production alone uses about three-fifths of global farmland and yields less than 5 percent of the world's protein, according to the report. Sustainable agricultural practices such as feeding livestock with grasses instead of grains and using natural fertilizers could reduce these impacts, the report notes, but alternative dietary choices hold the most immediate promise for reducing the environmental footprint of meat production.
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25 Aug 2014: Health Care Savings Can Far
Outweigh Costs of Carbon-Cutting Policies

Implementing policies to curb carbon emissions dramatically cuts health care costs associated with poor air quality — in some cases, by more than 10 times the cost of policy implementation, according to new research published in Nature Climate Change. Policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions are as effective as laws targeting polluting compounds like ground-level ozone, also known as smog, and fine particulate matter, the MIT researchers say. An analysis of three climate policies — a clean-energy standard, a transportation policy, and a cap-and-trade program — found that savings from avoided health problems could recoup 26 percent of the cost of implementing a transportation policy, and up to to 10.5 times the cost of implementing a cap-and-trade program. A cap-and-trade program would cost roughly $14 billion to implement, whereas a transportation policy with rigid fuel-economy requirements could cost more than $1 trillion, according to the analysis.
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22 Aug 2014: Drought in Western U.S.
Has Caused Land to Rise, Researchers Say

The western U.S. has lost so much water during the ongoing severe drought that the land has sprung up by

GPS station in California's Inyo Mountains
as much as 15 millimeters (0.6 inches), according to a study in the journal Science. Water at the surface of the earth typically weighs down the land, but the region has lost enough water that the tectonic plate underlying the western U.S. has undergone rapid uplift, much like an uncoiling spring, researchers explain. California's water deficit over the past 18 months has caused some of its mountain ranges to rise by more than half an inch, and the West overall has risen by 0.15 inches, according to the study. Using ground positioning data from GPS stations throughout the region, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, estimate the water loss to be 240 gigatons (63 trillion gallons) — equivalent to a nearly four-inch layer of water spread out over the entire western U.S.
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21 Aug 2014: Antarctica and Greenland
Losing Ice at Fastest Rate Ever Recorded

Ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are losing mass at an unprecedented rate of 500 cubic kilometers per

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Antarctic ice elevation
year — enough ice to cover the Chicago metropolitan area with a layer of ice 600 meters thick — according to German researchers. Using data from the European Space Agency's CryoSat 2 satellite from 2011 to 2014, the team created the most detailed maps to date of ice elevations across Antarctica and Greenland, accurate to a few meters in height. The results reveal that Greenland alone is losing ice volume by about 375 cubic kilometers per year, doubling since 2009, the scientists report. Ice loss in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has increased by a factor of three over the same period. Combined, the two ice sheets are thinning at the highest rate observed since altimetry satellite records began about 20 years ago, the study found. Data show that East Antarctica is gaining ice volume, but at a moderate rate that doesn’t compensate the losses on the continent's other side.
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20 Aug 2014: Exporting Coal to Korea Could
Slash Emissions by 21 Percent, Analysis Says

Exporting U.S. coal to South Korean power plants could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 21 percent compared to burning it at less efficient U.S. plants, according to researchers at Duke University. The strategy could also generate more than $25 billion in economic activity in the U.S. and cut emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and particulate matter, the researchers say. For those benefits to occur, however, U.S. plants would need to replace the exported coal with natural gas, and South Korea must use the imported coal to replace dirtier sources of coal. South Korea's coal-fired power plants are newer and significantly more efficient than those in the U.S. — efficient enough to offset emissions associated with shipping the coal across the globe, the researchers say. However, they also caution that further studies are needed to assess the scenario's full environmental impacts, including water use, land use, and the degradation of vital habitats.
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Interview: Drones Are Emerging
As Valuable Conservation Tool

Ecologist Lian Pin Koh is co-founder of a project called ConservationDrones.org, which is pioneering the use of
Lian Pin Koh
Lian Pin Koh
low-cost drones in conservation efforts and biological research across the globe. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Koh, a researcher at the University of Adelaide, explains how drones – also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – can help monitor protected areas, collect data in inaccessible regions, and even deter poachers. “In just the last couple of months,” he says, “there has been tremendous interest from universities and other research institutes that finally see the value in this technology.”
Read the interview.
View a gallery.
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19 Aug 2014: Wind Energy Prices at
All-Time Low, According to U.S. Report

The cost of wind power in the U.S. is at an all-time low of 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour, according to a new report

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Major U.S. wind farms
from the U.S. Department of Energy, and utility companies are in some cases electing to use wind as an energy source over fossil fuels because of its low cost. Although wind power grew modestly in 2013 — installations were only 8 percent of those seen in the record year of 2012 — it now meets 4.5 percent of U.S. energy needs, producing enough electricity to power 16 million homes. The country ranks second only to China in installed wind capacity, the report says, and wind power accounts for 33 percent of all new U.S. electric capacity additions since 2007. That progress has been heavily dependent on federal, state, and local incentives, however, and wind power's growth could slow if those incentives expire. Its viability could also fall if natural gas becomes more affordable than wind, the report cautions.
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18 Aug 2014: Recent Glacier Losses Are
Mostly Driven by Human Activity, Study Says

Roughly one-quarter of the global glacier mass loss between the years 1851 and 2010 can be attributed to

Artesonraju Glacier in Cordillera Blanca, Peru
human activities, and that fraction increased to more than two-thirds between 1991 and 2010, according to research published in the journal Science. The study is the first to document the extent of human contribution to glacier mass loss, which is driven by both naturally caused climate factors, such as fluctuations in solar radiation, and anthropogenic influences. “In the 19th and first half of 20th century we observed that glacier mass loss attributable to human activity is hardly noticeable but since then has steadily increased,” the lead researcher said. The analysis was based on data from the recently established Randolph Glacier Inventory and included all glaciers outside of Antarctica. Changes in glaciers in the Alps and North America were particularly well documented and seem to be definitively influenced by human activities, the researchers said.
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15 Aug 2014: New Citizen Science Software
Aims to Document and Curb Illegal Fishing

Citizen scientists can now report — and potentially help stop — illegal fishing with the snap of a photo thanks to

Illegal shark fin catch
a new smartphone app developed by the Nature Conservancy. The software, called ShipWatch, was developed this summer during a "Fishackathon," a series of workshops hosted by the U.S. State Department to foster technology development and collaboration among computer programmers. ShipWatch allows users to upload photos of illegal fishing activities to a database, where they are labeled with date and location information and plotted on a central map. The developers hope the data will help authorities enforce existing fishing laws by, for example, developing flight maps for surveillance drones or strategically deploying enforcement authorities. "There are laws in place to say [the fishing] is illegal. The problem is they lack any kind of reporting mechanism," developers told Fast Co.Exist.
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14 Aug 2014: Some Chemicals in Fracking
Fluids Raise Red Flags, Researchers Say

Of the more than 200 compounds used in hydraulic fracturing fluids, eight are toxic to mammals and the

A Marcellus Shale fracking operation
health risks of roughly one-third are unknown, according to researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a drilling technique that releases natural gas and oil by injecting fluids with chemical additives deep into rock formations. The research team tracked down substances commonly used as fracking additives and found they include gelling agents to thicken the fluids, biocides to inhibit microbial growth, and compounds to prevent pipe corrosion. The industry claims the additives are non-toxic and food-grade, and while that is true in some cases, the researchers note, most fracking compounds require treatment before they can be safely released into the environment. Moreover, a number of chemicals that could pose health risks, such as corrosion inhibitors and biocides, are used in reasonably high concentrations in fracking fluids, the researchers note.
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13 Aug 2014: New Maps Show Flooding
Risks for Critical U.S. Energy Facilities

A new mapping tool shows critical energy infrastructure in the U.S., such as power plants, refineries, and crude oil rail terminals, that may be vulnerable to coastal and

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Brooklyn, NY, flood risks
inland flooding, as well as areas that may be prone to flooding in the future. The maps, created by the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, let users see which energy facilities could be in danger of flooding caused by hurricanes, flash floods, and other weather events, including street-level results for a particular address. The maps show areas that have a 1-in-100 (1 percent) and 1-in-500 (0.2 percent) chance of flooding annually, as well as areas that might be identified in the future as having a 1-percent annual flood hazard.
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12 Aug 2014: Media Still Disproportionately
Including Views of Climate Change Skeptics

Despite strong agreement among a majority of climate scientists that human activities are contributing to

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Media coverage of climate scientists
global warming, media coverage still disproportionately includes the views of contrarian scientists, according to a study published in Environmental Science and Technology. In a survey of roughly 1,900 scientists, 90 percent of the respondents who had published more than 10 peer-reviewed climate science articles "explicitly agreed with anthropogenic greenhouse gases being the dominant driver of recent global warming." However, when asked how often they were contacted by the media to comment on climate change issues, 30 percent of scientists who view greenhouse gases' impact to be “insignificant or cooling” reported being featured frequently or very frequently in the media, as opposed to 15 percent of scientists who view greenhouse gases as strongly contributing to warming.
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11 Aug 2014: Climate Effects of Keystone XL
Significantly Underestimated, Study Finds

The U.S. State Department's final environmental review of the Keystone XL Pipeline may have underestimated carbon dioxide emissions associated with the pipeline by as much as four times, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change. The addition of Keystone XL crude oil to the market will drive global oil prices down, the authors say, which in turn will increase demand for oil worldwide — by as much as 0.6 barrels for every barrel of Keystone XL oil added to the market. The extra oil consumption could add up to 110 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere each year, an amount four times larger than the State Department's estimate of up to 27 million tons annually, according to the study. President Obama has said he will let the pipeline proceed only if it will not "significantly exacerbate" greenhouse gas emissions. The State Department's final review determined that the pipeline's effect on climate change would be negligible, but that analysis did not take into account the increase in crude oil demand that could be sparked by Keystone XL, the authors of the new study say.
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08 Aug 2014: China Added Large Amount
Of Solar Power in First Half of 2014

In the first half of 2014, China added 3.3 gigawatts of solar power — as much as is installed in the entire

Distributed solar in Kunming, China
continent of Australia — China's National Energy Administration reports. The country now has 23 gigawatts of solar power installed, which is nearly twice that of the United States. China, the world's largest carbon emitter, has set a goal of 35 gigawatts of installed solar power by the end of next year. The nation's push toward solar energy will include distributed solar, such as rooftop and ground-mounted installations near homes and municipal buildings, Chinese officials say, and the government could announce distributed solar incentive programs later this month, Bloomberg News reports. Renewable energy, especially solar, has become a high priority for the Chinese government as major cities and industrial areas have experienced choking air pollution. Earlier this week, officials announced that Beijing would ban coal use by 2020.
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07 Aug 2014: Mercury Pollution in Oceans
Has Tripled Since Industrial Revolution

Globally, oceans contain roughly 60,000 to 80,000 tons of mercury pollution, according to a report published this week in Nature detailing the first direct calculation

Ahi tuna has very high mercury concentrations.
of mercury pollution in the world's oceans. Ocean waters shallower than about 300 feet (100 meters) have tripled in mercury concentration since the Industrial Revolution, the study found, and mercury in the oceans as a whole has increased roughly 10 percent over pre-industrial times. North Atlantic waters showed the most obvious signs of mercury pollution, since surface waters there sink to form deeper water flows. In contrast, the tropical and Northeast Pacific were relatively unaffected. "We don't know what that means for fish and marine mammals, but likely that some fish contain at least three times more mercury than 150 years ago," and possibly more, the lead researcher said. "The next 50 years could very well add the same amount we've seen in the past 150."
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06 Aug 2014: Western U.S. In Its Quietest
Fire Season In A Decade, Officials Report

The western U.S. is in the midst of its quietest wildfire season in a decade, according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). With 1.7 million acres burned through August 4, the 2014 fire season has destroyed well below the average of 4.4 million acres for the previous nine years through the same date. Fire season still has a few months left, however, and the year's good fortune may not last: Above normal fire potential is expected to continue over most of California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, according to the NIFC. Average temperatures have been 2 to 4 degrees above normal for most of the West; portions of the western Great Basin, northern California, and Pacific Northwest were 6 to 8 degrees warmer than normal; and exceptional drought conditions continue in California, western Nevada, and the Texas Panhandle, the center says.
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Green Innovations Are Bringing
Energy-Saving Technology Home

Advances in technology and consumer demand for energy-saving devices have made green technology

Solar shingles
increasingly accessible. Many innovations are geared toward homeowners looking to lower not only their energy bills, but also the carbon footprints of their homes and daily activities. From solar-harvesting shingles and windows to shoe insoles that can power a smartphone, this Yale Environment 360 gallery explores a few of these energy-saving technologies.
View the gallery.
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05 Aug 2014: Forests Already Seeing Effects of
Climate Change, European Researchers Say

Damage from wind, bark beetles, and wildfires has increased drastically in Europe's forests in recent years, and climate change is the driving factor, according to

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European forest damage
research published in Nature Climate Change. These disturbances have become increasingly acute over the last 40 years, damaging 56 million cubic meters of timber per year from 2002 to 2010. And researchers estimate that an additional million cubic meters of timber — roughly 7,000 soccer fields of forest — will likely be destroyed each year over the next 20 years if climate change trends continue. Damage from forest fires in particular is expected to increase on the Iberian Peninsula, while bark beetle damage will likely increase most strongly in the Alps. Wind damage is predicted to rise most notably in Central and Western Europe, the study found. To compound the problem, as more forests are damaged, there will be fewer healthy trees available to remove the climate-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the researchers note.
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04 Aug 2014: California Takes Steps to
Curb Lawn Watering During Severe Drought

In the midst of a severe, long-term drought, California is taking unprecedented steps to discourage watering of

A drought-resistant yard
residential lawns, with some areas offering residents substantial cash incentives for installing water-saving landscaping, AFP reports. The "Cash in Your Lawn" program in Los Angeles offers residents up to $6,000 ($3 per square foot) for replacing their lawns with drought-tolerant plants, rocks, and pebbles. Throughout the state, Governor Jerry Brown recently prohibited lawn watering more than two times per week and banned fines for brown lawns, which homeowner associations sometimes impose with the intent of improving a neighborhood's appearance. The drought, currently in its third year, threatens the water supply of California's 38 million residents. Agricultural regions have already seen severe water reductions, placing extra pressure on the state's groundwater reserves.
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31 Jul 2014: U.S. Public and Congress Similarly
Split on Environmental Spending, Study Says

American citizens are increasingly divided over the issue of environmental protection and seem to be taking their cue primarily from Congress, according to new research from Michigan State University. The gap between conservatives who oppose environmental protection and liberals who support it has risen drastically in the past 20 years, the study found. A national poll from 2012 (the most recent data in the study) with a question on environmental spending indicated that 68 percent of Democrats believe the country has spent too little on the environment, versus only 40 percent of Republicans. The polling data, which reach back to 1974, indicate the gap started growing particularly wide in 1992, a year after the fall of the Soviet Union. At that point, the researchers say, the conservative movement replaced the “Red Scare” with the “Green Scare” and became increasingly hostile toward environmental protection, a trend amplified in recent years by the Tea Party.
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Interview: Making the Rights of
Farm Animals a Basic Green Issue

Conservation organizations have long sought to protect pandas, polar bears, and pelicans, but the welfare of
Wayne Pacelle
Wayne Pacelle
farm animals has largely been left to activist animal-welfare groups like the Humane Society of the United States. For the past 10 years, that organization has been headed by the politically savvy Wayne Pacelle, who has greatly increased its visibility and influence. Under his leadership, the society has lobbied successfully to curb what it calls the worst excesses of “factory farms.” In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Pacelle talked about how treatment of farm animals is linked to greenhouse gas emissions, why his group is promoting “meatless Mondays,” and why consumers should be willing to pay more for products from animals that are sustainably raised.
Read more.
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30 Jul 2014: New Maps of Peru Forests
Could Help Set Conservation Priorities

New, highly detailed maps of Peru's vegetation show that three-quarters of the country's forests — a biomass

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Carbon stocks across Peru
stock that sequesters more carbon than the combined annual CO2 emissions of the U.S. and China — lie outside of protected areas and are vulnerable to deforestation, according to an analysis by researchers in the U.S. and Peru. The maps, which should prove helpful to scientists, conservationists, and policymakers working to protect the forests, offer the most detailed view to date of the different types of vegetative cover and above-ground carbon stocks across Peru, with resolution at the one-hectare scale. The analysis found that the lowlands of southern Peru, which contain extensive bamboo cover, harbor significantly less carbon than other rainforest areas, and forests in active floodplains appear to store half as much carbon as other forests.
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29 Jul 2014: Danish Wind Power To Be Half
The Price of Coal and Natural Gas by 2016

Wind power has overtaken all other energy sources as the cheapest form of electricity in Denmark, with a cost

Frederikshavn, Denmark
roughly half that of coal and natural gas projected by 2016, according to an analysis by the Danish Energy Association (DEA). Home to major turbine manufacturers Vestas and Siemens, the country has been investing steadily in wind power since the 1970s and seems to be reaping the benefits of those investments now, analysts say. Electricity from two new onshore wind power facilities set to begin operating in 2016 will cost around 5 euro cents per kilowatt-hour, according to DEA calculations. The Danish government aims to meet 50 percent of the country's total electricity needs with wind power by 2020, and another 20 percent with other renewable sources. By 2050, the government aims to produce all electricity from renewable sources.
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28 Jul 2014: Trees Save Lives and Billions in
Health Costs Annually, Forest Service Finds

Trees are saving more than 850 human lives each year and preventing 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms in the U.S., according to the first broad-scale

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Pollution removal by trees

Pollution removal by trees
estimate of trees' air pollution removal by U.S. Forest Service researchers. Looking at four common air pollutants — nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 microns — researchers valued the human health benefits of the reduced air pollution at nearly $7 billion annually in a study published in the journal Environmental Pollution. The benefits of trees vary with tree cover across the nation, the researchers note. Tree cover in the United States is estimated at 34.2 percent overall, but varies from 2.6 percent in North Dakota to 88.9 percent in New Hampshire. While the pollution-removal capabilities of trees led to an average air quality improvement of less than 1 percent, the impacts are substantial, the study found.
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25 Jul 2014: Southwestern U.S. Aquifers
Are Extremely Low, NASA Data Show

Groundwater reserves in the U.S. Southwest are severely low and prospects for their long-term viability are bleak as persistent drought continues to parch the

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Groundwater aquifer levels

U.S. groundwater stores
land and prevent recharging, according to an assessment from NASA. As shown in this map, many underground aquifers in the Southwest are extremely dry compared to average conditions over the past 60 years. Deep red areas on the map, such as in southern California and Nevada, depict aquifers that are so dry there's less than a 2 percent chance they could have experienced such levels of drought-related depletion since 1948. Although the Pacific Northwest is experiencing drought-related wildfires, its aquifers appear to be well-stocked, according to the map. The discrepancy is likely due to the long lag between dry conditions at the surface and depletion of groundwater reserves, researchers say.
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24 Jul 2014: Protecting Community Forests
Is a Major Tool in Climate Fight, Study Says

Expanding and strengthening the community forest rights of indigenous groups and rural residents can make a major contribution to sequestering carbon and

The Brazilian Amazon
reducing CO2 emissions from deforestation, according to a new report. The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Rights and Resources Initiative said that indigenous people and rural inhabitants in Latin America, Africa, and Asia have government-recognized rights to forests containing nearly 38 billion tons of carbon, equal to 29 times the annual emissions of all the world’s passenger vehicles. By enforcing community rights to those forests, the study said, governments can play a major role in tackling climate change. In the Brazilian Amazon, for example, deforestation rates are 11 times lower in community forests than in forests outside those areas. In areas where community forest rights are ignored, deforestation rates often soar. The report made five major recommendations, from better enforcement of community forest zones to compensating communities for the benefits their forests provide.
Read more.
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23 Jul 2014: "Inglorious" Produce Campaign
Is Major Success for French Grocer

A major French grocery chain, Intermarche, has launched a novel campaign to curb food waste and

Watch Video
Grotesque apple

"Grotesque Apple" poster
market visually flawed produce. The "Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables" campaign aims to revamp the image of imperfect and non-conforming produce, much of which is thrown away by growers because it doesn't meet grocery retailers' standards. Intermarche began welcoming the "Grotesque Apple," "Ridiculous Potato," "Hideous Orange," and other infamous items to its shelves, created posters to explain that the produce is as nutritious and flavorful as the more attractive versions, and reduced prices by 30 percent. The campaign was an "immediate success," Intermarche says: Stores nationwide sold 1.2 million tons of "inglorious" fruits and vegetables in the first two days, and overall store traffic increased by 24 percent.
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23 Jul 2014: Earth Observation Satellites Help
Scientists Understand Global Change


Global warming is affecting more than just atmospheric temperatures — it is also changing water cycles, soil conditions, and animal migrations. Earth observation satellites aid scientists in measuring and monitoring these changes so societies can better adapt. Although there are well over 1,000 active orbiting satellites, less than 15 percent are used to monitor Earth’s environment. Yale Environment 360 presents a gallery of satellites that scientists are using to better understand how the planet is changing.
View the gallery.
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22 Jul 2014: Costs of Urban Light Pollution
Highlighted in Citizen Science Effort

A recently launched citizen science project aims to highlight the environmental, social, and financial impacts of excessive nighttime lighting in cities around

Click to Enlarge
Shanghai, China, at night

Shanghai, China, at night
the world. The project, called Cities at Night, enlists people to help identify the cities pictured in thousands of blindingly lit photos taken by astronauts orbiting the earth. Organizers hope that when residents and officials see the bright photos of their cities at night, they will be prompted to cut nighttime light use and energy consumption. Widespread artificial lighting has made light pollution a growing problem in urban areas by disrupting behavioral patterns of people and wildlife, wasting millions of dollars in energy costs, and adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Some solutions are relatively inexpensive and straightforward, the organizers say, such as using shields to direct light down to street-level, which can allow a city to use lower-wattage streetlights.
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21 Jul 2014: India Doubles Coal Tax to
Fund Ambitious Clean Energy Initiatives

India's finance minister has doubled the tax on coal imported to or mined in the country, raising the tariff from $0.83 to $1.67 per metric ton, with plans to use the revenue to fund a host of renewable energy projects over the next decade, Clean Technica reports. The revenue will be added to the National Clean Energy Fund, which was established to provide low-cost financing for renewable energy projects. The fund's scope will be expanded to include environmental projects as well as clean energy research and development, including a national wind energy program, four major solar power projects, and an initiative that aims to establish transmission corridors for distributing electricity from renewable energy sources. The revenue will also be used to fund a new, separate ministry focused on cleaning the heavily polluted Ganges River. The tax could raise as much as $1.2 billion in the first year, according to estimates.
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18 Jul 2014: Germany Tops Energy-Efficiency
Ranking and U.S. Scores Near Bottom

Germany tops a new energy efficiency ranking of the world’s major economies, followed by Italy, China, France, and Japan, according to the American Council

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International energy-efficiency rankings

Energy-efficiency rankings
for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The United States ranked 13th out of 16 nations, behind countries such as India, China, and Canada, although new carbon pollution standards proposed this June for existing power plants would be a major stride in the right direction, the ACEEE said. The group also admonished Australia, which ranked 10th, for demonstrating "a clear backward trend" in adopting energy efficiency measures. Germany took the top spot largely due to regulations it has imposed on commercial and residential buildings. And China, despite lax enforcement of building codes, uses less energy per square foot than any other country, the analysis found.
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17 Jul 2014: Google Street View Maps
Show Extent of Methane Leaks in Cities

New maps from Google reveal the locations of natural gas leaks in U.S. cities and highlight the extent of

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Natural gas leaks in Boston

Boston's natural gas leaks
"fugitive" methane emissions associated with the nation's aging infrastructure. The Environmental Defense Fund partnered with Google Street View to map leaks in the nation's natural gas system, using cars equipped with air-quality sensors that collected millions of readings across Boston, Indianapolis, and Staten Island. The analysis found thousands of methane leaks in highly-populated areas — particularly in Boston, where half of the pipes are more than 50 years old and leaks were detected every few blocks. Although the leaks did not appear to pose explosion hazards, their prevalence highlights the potential for fugitive methane — a greenhouse gas with an impact 20 times that of carbon dioxide — to contribute to global warming.
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16 Jul 2014: Politics and Education Affect
When People Search for Climate Information

People across the United States search the Internet for information on climate change when they experience unusual or severe weather events, but the timing of their searches differs based on political ideology and education levels, according to research published in the journal Climatic Change. An analysis of Google searches and weather patterns between 2004 and 2013 found that Democratic-leaning regions and those with higher education levels were more likely to seek information about climate change when average summer temperatures were above normal, whereas those in Republican and less educated areas sought climate change information when they experienced extreme heat. Searches peaked during weather consistent with climate change as well as during cold snaps, the study found. This could indicate that people who observe unusual extreme weather conditions are genuinely interested in learning more about climate change, or that climate deniers, when experiencing unusually cool weather, go online to confirm their skeptical views, the researcher speculated.
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15 Jul 2014: California Agriculture Relying
Too Heavily on Groundwater in Drought

California's agriculture industry is relying too heavily on groundwater to irrigate drought-stricken farmlands — a trend that will not be sustainable long-term, according

Central Valley orchard
to a study by the University of California, Davis. The drought, which is the third most severe on record, is responsible for the greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture, with river water for Central Valley farms reduced by roughly one-third, the study found. Groundwater pumping will likely replace most river water losses, and some areas have more than doubled their pumping rate over the previous year. If the drought continues for two more years, the report says, groundwater reserves will continue to be depleted to replace surface water losses and pumping ability will slowly decrease, which could affect crop production. So far in the current drought, 428,000 acres of cropland — roughly 5 percent — has been made fallow across the Central Valley, Central Coast, and Southern California.
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Five Questions for Jeffrey Sachs
On Decarbonizing the Economy

Thirty scientific institutions from 15 countries recently released a report for the United Nations outlining how
Jeffrey Sachs
Jeffrey Sachs

e360 Five Questions
the world’s major carbon dioxide-emitting nations can slash those emissions by mid-century. Called the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, the initiative aims to provide leaders with a plan of action in advance of a UN summit in September and climate negotiations in Paris in late 2015. Yale Environment 360 asked Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and a key player in the decarbonization project, five questions about the initiative and the prospects for global action on the climate front.
Read more.
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14 Jul 2014: Human Activity Has Caused
Long-term Australian Drought, Model Shows

A new high-resolution climate model shows that southwestern Australia's long-term decline in fall and winter rainfall, which began around 1970 and has increased over the last four decades, is caused by

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Projected drying in Australia

Projected rainfall trends in Australia
increases in man-made greenhouse gas emissions and ozone depletion, according to research published in Nature Geoscience. Simulating both natural and man-made climate effects, scientists showed that the decline in rainfall is primarily driven by human activity. Rises in greenhouse gas emissions and thinning of the ozone hole have led to changes in large-scale atmospheric circulation, including a poleward movement of the westerly winds and increasing atmospheric surface pressure over parts of southern Australia. This has led to decreased rainfall, the study said. The drying is most severe over southwest Australia, where the model forecasts a 40 percent decline in average rainfall by the late 21st century, with significant implications for regional water resources.
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11 Jul 2014: Helsinki Aims to Slash Car Use With New Apps and Transit Services

The Finnish capital is developing a new “mobility on demand” transport network that it hopes will sharply reduce personal car use and ownership by 2025, the Guardian reports. Helsinki officials say they will transform the existing public transportation system by using smartphone apps and new transit services that will provide convenient, relatively inexpensive, and often personalized transportation options. Central to their plan is a smartphone app that will enable users to specify a destination and then get there via a new minibus system, bike share services, ferries, trams, ride sharing, and, eventually, driverless cars. Officials say the app will serve both as a journey planner and a universal payment platform. Helsinki will expand an innovative new minibus system called Kutsuplus that lets riders specify a desired pick-up point and destinations via their smartphone; these requests are aggregated and the app calculates an optimal route that most closely satisfies the various requests.
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10 Jul 2014: A Possible Advance in Fight
To Combat a Deadly Amphibian Fungus

Scientists have discovered that a certain kind of toad can acquire immunity to the deadly chytrid fungus, which has caused widespread mortality among amphibians worldwide. Reporting in Nature, the scientists say they have conferred immunity in oak toads to the chytrid fungus after repeatedly exposing them to the organism that causes the disease. The lead author of the study, Jason Rohr of the University of South Florida, said the discovery means it might be possible to confer immunity on entire communities of amphibians in the wild by lacing local water sources with dead versions of the fungus that could be absorbed by the amphibians. But Rohr said many questions remain, including how long immunity lasts, what concentration of released antigen would confer immunity, and whether such releases would harm other organisms. The chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, attacks the skin of amphibians, thickening it and preventing the animals from absorbing water and vital salts.
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09 Jul 2014: One-third of German Power
Came from Renewables in First Half of 2014

Thanks to abundant sunshine and wind, renewable energy generated 31 percent of Germany’s electricity in the first six months of this year, according to a new report. The report, released by the Fraunhofer Insititute, said that 27 percent of the country’s electricity production came from wind and solar, and four percent from hydropower. Solar power generation grew by 28 percent in the first half of 2014 compared to the first six months of 2013, and wind power grew by 19 percent over the same period. On a couple of particularly windy and sunny days in May and June, renewable energy accounted for 50 to 75 percent of Germany’s electricity production, the report said. The Fraunhofer Institute said that as Germany continues to phase out its nuclear power plants, it remains reliant on highly polluting “brown coal” to produce electricity. A substantial portion of German coal-generated electricity is being exported, the report said.
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08 Jul 2014: Protection of Parrotfish
Could Slow Decline of Caribbean Reefs

The steady loss of coral reefs in the Caribbean could be partially reversed by taking a number of relatively simple steps, including stronger measures to protect the region’s parrotfish, according to a new study. In a review of trends in Caribbean coral reefs from 1970 to 2012, the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network said that live coral only makes up about 17 percent of the region’s reef surfaces today. If present trends continue, the study said, coral reefs in the Caribbean will “virtually disappear within a few decades” because of foreign pathogens, algae invasions, pollution from tourism development, over-fishing, and warming waters. A key step in halting the decline is protecting parrotfish, which eat the algae that have been smothering coral reefs. The study said conservation measures, such as banning fish traps, have helped parrotfish populations rebound in some parts of the Caribbean, including Belize and the Bahamas.
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07 Jul 2014: A Strong Rebuke for Paper
That Forecasted `Climate Departure’

Thirteen climate scientists and meteorologists have published a sharp criticism of a paper in Nature by University of Hawaii biogeographer Camilo Mora, who calculated dates when earth’s climate will move into a new state caused by human-driven global warming. Mora and his ideas were featured in an interview last week at Yale Environment 360. In a comment article in Nature, the 13 scientists say that Mora and his colleagues used faulty methodology that produced artificially early dates when specific regions would reach “climate departure.” They also said Mora underestimated the uncertainty involved in forecasting the time of emergence of a new climate regime. “This overconfidence could impair the effectiveness of climate risk management decisions,” the 13 scientists said in their comment. In his own comment in Nature, Mora defended his methods, saying, “Our findings are conservative and remain unaltered in the light of their analysis.”
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03 Jul 2014: Human Activity Has Boosted
Plant Growth Globally, NASA Data Show

On a global scale, the presence of people corresponds to more plant growth, according to an analysis of three decades of global vegetation greenness data from

Agriculture has increased global vegetative cover.
satellites. More than 20 percent of global vegetation change can be attributed to human activities, such as agriculture, nitrogen fertilization, and irrigation, rather than climate change, researchers report in the journal Remote Sensing. The findings suggest that global climate change models, which typically don't consider human land use, should take into account the relatively large impact human settlements can have on vegetative cover, the researchers say. From 1981 to 2010, areas with a human footprint saw plant greenness and plant productivity increase by up to 6 percent, while areas with a minimal human footprint, such as rangelands and wildlands, saw almost no change. Most increases in growth and greenness were seen near rural areas and villages, where agriculture is more intense.
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02 Jul 2014: Roughly $80 Billion Wasted on
Power for Networked Devices, Report Says

The world’s 14 billion online electronic devices, such as modems, printers, game consoles, and cable boxes, waste around $80 billion in electricity annually because of inefficient technology, according to a new reportby

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Game console energy consumption

Energy consumption of a typical game console.
the International Energy Agency (IEA). In 2013, networked devices consumed around 616 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity, with most of that used in standby mode. Roughly 400 TWh — equivalent to the combined annual electricity consumption of the United Kingdom and Norway — was wasted because of inefficient technology. The problem will worsen by 2020, the agency projects, with an estimated $120 billion wasted as devices such as refrigerators, washing machines, and thermostats become networked. Much of the problem boils down to inefficient “network standby,” or maintaining a network connection while in standby mode. Most network-enabled devices draw as much power in this mode as when fully active, the report notes. Using today's best technology could cut energy consumption by 65 percent, the IEA said.
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Interview: Where Will the Earth
Head After Its ‘Climate Departure’?

The term “climate departure” has an odd ring, but its meaning is relatively straightforward. It marks the point at which the earth’s climate begins to cease resembling
“Camilo
Camilo Mora
what has come before and moves into a new state where the extreme becomes the norm. Camilo Mora — a University of Hawaii biogeographer, ecologist, and specialist in marshaling big data for climate modeling — has calculated a rough idea for the time of the earth’s climate departure: 2047. That date varies depending on region, he says. But in a widely publicized paper published in the journal Nature last year, Mora and 13 colleagues explored the concept of climate departure and what it will mean for our planet. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Mora explains why tropical regions will be most profoundly affected by climate change, why controlling population growth is at the core of the challenge posed by global warming, and the frustrations he and other scientists feel as their warnings about rising temperatures are ignored.
Read more.
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01 Jul 2014: Small Island Nation of Kiribati
Purchases Foreign Land as Climate Refuge

The small island nation of Kiribati has purchased a swath of land in Fiji as a refuge for citizens who may be displaced by rising sea levels, marking the first time a
retail greenhouse
Kiribati's location (red) in the Pacific Ocean.
country has taken such actions as a defense against climate change, the Guardian reports. Kiribati, home to 110,000 people scattered across 33 islands in the Pacific Ocean, is one of several small island nations in the Pacific and Indian oceans that could be extensively or completely submerged within a few decades. The cost of protecting such countries often far outweighs their national incomes. Kiribati, with a GDP of under $200 million, ranks among the 10 countries facing the most severe financial impacts of climate change. The tract of 20 square kilometers on the island of Vanua Levu, Fiji, could provide a future refuge for all of Kiribati's citizens, the nation's president said.
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30 Jun 2014: Antarctica's Emperor Penguins
To Be in Serious Decline By 2100, Study Says

Antarctica's Emperor penguins are facing dramatic declines by the end of the century and should be given endangered species status because of the threats posed
retail greenhouse

Sea ice loss threatens Emperor penguins.
by climate change, according to an international group of scientists. If sea ice declines at the rates projected by current climate models, at least two-thirds of the colonies will likely shrink by more than 50 percent by 2100, the researchers report in Nature Climate Change. That conclusion follows a 50-year study in eastern Antarctica of Emperor penguins, an iconic Antarctic species with 45 known colonies. Emperor penguins' survival is highly dependent on sea ice concentrations because they breed on the ice, and too little sea ice reduces the habitat for krill, a critical food source for the penguins. Granting the species protected status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act will provide tools for improving fishing practices of U.S. vessels in the Southern Ocean and potentially for reducing CO2 emissions in the U.S. under the Clear Air Act, the researchers say.
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27 Jun 2014: Going Vegetarian Could Halve
A Consumer’s Food-related CO2 Footprint

A new study of more than 50,000 people in the United Kingdom shows that going vegan, vegetarian, or even “pescatarian” can drastically reduce people’s carbon footprints. Published in the journal Climatic Change, the study concluded that if people eating more than 100 grams of meat a day went vegan, their food-related carbon footprint would shrink by 60 percent. If a person eating more than 100 grams of meat per day — and U.S. consumers eat about 225 grams daily — cut down to 50 grams per day, their food-related CO2 emissions would fall by a third, the study said. Pescatarians, who eat fish but no other meat, generate only 2.5 percent more CO2 emissions than vegetarians, according to the study. The research also concluded that vegans produce 25 percent fewer CO2 emissions than vegetarians, who still eat eggs and dairy. “In general there is a clear and strong trend with reduced greenhouse gas emissions in diets that contain less meat,” said Oxford University researcher Peter Scarborough, a co-author of the study.
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26 Jun 2014: Major U.S. Retailers to Limit
Pesticides That May Be Harmful to Bees

Home Depot and other U.S. retailers announced new policies to help limit the use of a group of pesticides suspected of contributing to widespread declines in bee
retail greenhouse

New warnings on plants aim to protect bees.
populations, Reuters reports. Under the new rules, suppliers will be required to label any plants treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, or "neonics," that are sold in home and garden stores. Home Depot will require labeling by the fourth quarter of 2014, a company vice president said, and the retailer is testing to determine whether it's feasible to eliminate neonics altogether without compromising plant health. Another retailer, BJ's Wholesale Club, which has more than 200 East Coast locations, said it will ask suppliers to eliminate neonics by the end of the year, or label plants treated with them as requiring "caution around pollinators." An analysis of 800 peer-reviewed studies released this week by an international group of scientists found that neonics have been a key factor in bee declines.
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25 Jun 2014: Blizzard Helps Scientists
Visualize Airflow Around Wind Turbines

A Minnesota blizzard has helped scientists understand airflow patterns around large wind turbines, paving the way for more efficient turbine designs and wind farm

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wind turbine airflow during blizzard

Airflow patterns are visible during blizzard.
configurations, researchers report in Nature Communications. Wind farms lose roughly 10 to 20 percent of the potential energy they could harvest, and complex airflow patterns play the largest role in those energy losses. Studying airflow around large turbines, which can be more than 100 meters tall, is not feasible in lab settings, so scientists typically test smaller turbine models in wind tunnels and use tracer particles to visualize airflow patterns. Researchers from the University of Minnesota realized they could scale up their experiments to real-world conditions by using heavy snowfall during a blizzard to trace airflow patterns, as shown in this video. Their findings show that airflow patterns under real-world conditions differ from smaller-scale laboratory tests in important ways, and those differences should be taken into account when designing turbines and wind farms.
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24 Jun 2014: Concentrated Solar Power
Could Compete with Natural Gas, Study Says

Concentrated solar power (CSP) could meet a substantial percentage of current energy demand in some parts of the world, according to research
CSP plant near San Bernardino, CA

CSP plant in San Bernardino County, CA
published in the journal Nature Climate Change. In the Mediterranean region, for example, the study shows that a grid-connected CSP network could provide 70 to 80 percent of current electricity demand, at no extra cost compared to natural gas-fired power plants. CSP could also feasibly meet energy demands in parts of southern Africa, according to researchers. CSP systems use mirrors or lenses to concentrate solar rays into a small area. The concentrated energy heats a liquid that produces steam to drive turbines, which means that the collected energy can be stored as heat and converted to electricity when needed — a major advantage over solar panels, which store energy much less efficiently.
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23 Jun 2014: How Citizen Scientists Are Using
The Web to Track the Natural World


By making the recording and sharing of environmental data easier than ever, web-based technology has fostered the rapid growth of so-called citizen scientists — volunteers who collaborate with scientists to collect and interpret data. Numerous Internet-based projects now make use of citizen scientists to monitor environmental health and to track sensitive plant and wildlife populations. From counting butterflies, frogs, and bats across the globe, to piloting personal drones capable of high-definition infrared imaging, citizen scientists are playing a crucial role in collecting data that will help researchers understand the environment. Here is a sampling of some of these projects.
View the gallery.
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20 Jun 2014: Summer Temperatures in U.S.
Have Risen Up To 5 Degrees Since 1970

Summer temperatures in the U.S. have been rising on average 0.4 degrees F per decade since 1970, or about

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U.S. summertime temperatures

Average summertime temperature increases
2 degrees F overall, but the Southwest and West regions have borne the brunt of those increases, according to an analysis by Climate Central. In the Southwest, temperatures have risen an average of 0.6 degrees per decade, with a few localized areas warming as much as 0.9 degrees per decade. In the West, some parts of California and Nevada have warmed 1.32 degrees F per decade, or more than 5 degrees total since 1970. On the other end of the spectrum, the Upper Midwest has seen the lowest increases. Temperatures in that region have increased only 0.1 degree F per decade on average. The National Climate Assessment, released last month, found that annual average temperatures in the U.S. could increase by 10 degrees F before the end of the century if the rate of greenhouse gas emissions doesn't slow.
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19 Jun 2014: Rerouting Flights to Avoid
Contrails Would Slow Climate Change

Rerouting the flight paths of commercial aircraft to minimize the condensation trails, or contrails, they leave behind would help slow global warming, even if

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Flight paths to avoid contrails

Alternate flight paths to avoid contrail formation
the new flight path is longer, according to research published today. Contrails, thin clouds composed of ice crystals condensed from an aircraft's exhaust, can persist for 17 hours or more and are likely the single largest contributor to climate change associated with aviation. They form when a plane passes through parts of the atmosphere that are very cold and moist, usually near high pressure systems. The new research shows that avoiding contrail formation has greater climate benefits than avoiding additional carbon dioxide emissions associated with slightly longer flight routes. For example, for a small aircraft that is predicted to form a contrail 20 miles long, an alternative path that adds less than 200 miles will have a smaller climate impact than the contrail. For a larger aircraft, which emits more CO2 per mile than a smaller plane, the alternative route is preferable if it adds less than 60 miles, according to researchers from the University of Reading.
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18 Jun 2014: Global Energy Systems Must
Prepare for Climate Change, Study Says

Power plants and energy systems around the world will experience potentially disastrous effects from climate change and should develop plans for dealing with those effects, according to a report released today by the World Energy Council and European researchers. Long-term droughts, for example, could threaten water supplies needed to cool large power plants as they produce electricity, the report notes. Many energy facilities are also lacking protection from floods, rising seas, and severe weather events — a problem highlighted by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Strong global political action could have major impacts on the energy sector, the report says, especially if governments make a coordinated effort to invest in renewable and low-carbon energy and upgrades to power distribution grids.
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17 Jun 2014: Livestock Maps Highlight
Regions Prone to Disease and Pollution

A new mapping tool shows the global distribution of cattle, pigs, and other livestock in high-resolution, 1-square-kilometer detail. Created by the International

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China pig density

Density of pigs in China.
Livestock Research Institute, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and British and Belgian researchers, the maps are the most detailed renditions ever produced of the planet's billions of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, and ducks. They reveal several notable trends, such as the high density of pigs in China, India's relatively high sheep and goat populations, and the affinity of the southeastern U.S. for chickens. Researchers say they will be powerful tools for tracking and predicting livestock-borne disease outbreaks, such as avian flu strains that have been linked to dense poultry markets. The maps could also predict where major livestock operations are most likely to harm the environment, researchers say. As livestock production increases, demands on land, water, and energy intensify, and so does pollution from livestock waste.
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16 Jun 2014: Skyscraper-Size Ice Structures
Discovered at Base of Greenland Ice Sheet

Melting and refreezing at the base of the Greenland ice sheet has created massive, complex structures the height of skyscrapers and the width of Manhattan, according to research published in Nature Geoscience.

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Ice structures at base of Greenland ice sheet

Massive structures below Greenland ice sheet.
The hidden formations more than a mile below the surface stand in stark contrast to the nearly flat, smooth exterior of the ice sheet and may accelerate its flow toward the sea, researchers say. Scientists had previously interpreted the irregular topography at the base of the ice as hills or mountains, but ice-penetrating radar revealed that the structures were made of ice rather than rock. Scientists from Columbia University explained that as meltwater at the bottom refreezes over hundreds or thousands of years, it radiates heat into the surrounding ice sheet, making it pick up its pace as the ice becomes softer and flows more easily. Greenland's glaciers appear to be moving more rapidly toward the sea as climate warms, but it's unclear how the refreezing process will influence this trend, researchers said.
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13 Jun 2014: U.S. Energy System Depicted
In New Mapping Tool from Federal Agency

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently launched a mapping system that allows users to

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Natural gas power plant locations

Natural gas power plant locations
explore the landscape of energy sources and power plant distribution across the nation. Among the most striking visualizations is this map showing the widespread distribution of natural gas power plants, marking the fossil fuel's growing use as an energy source. The U.S. had 1,714 natural gas power plants in 2012, accounting for 30 percent of the country's electricity generation, Vox reports. Natural gas plants are easier to build and emit fewer pollutants and roughly half as much CO2 as coal-fired plants. The EIA maps depict numerous aspects of the U.S. power system, including the distribution of wind turbines, solar installations, nuclear power plants, coal-fired plants, hydropower stations, and pipelines. More energy maps are available at Vox, or users can create their own with the EIA's tool.
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12 Jun 2014: U.S. Breweries Cut Water
Use Amid Widespread Drought Conditions

Major breweries in the U.S. are cutting back on the amount of water they use to brew beer as drought threatens their water supplies, the Associated Press reports. MillerCoors, headquartered in Chicago, has reduced its water use by 9.2 percent since 2012, a company sustainability report said. Earlier this month St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, the largest U.S. brewer, reported that it has cut water use by 32 percent in the last five years. Employing strategies such as fueling boilers with wastewater, recycling water used to clean bottles and cans, and installing sensors to fine-tune irrigation in hop and barley fields, MillerCoors has cut water use to 3.48 barrels of water for each barrel of beer, the company says. The company is also giving $700,000 to landowners in the watershed of its Fort Worth brewery who make efforts to curb erosion and runoff by, for example, planting native grasses or rotating cattle grazing lands. Craft breweries typically use twice as much water as major breweries per barrel of beer, the AP notes, because they are smaller in scale and don't have access to the same technology.
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11 Jun 2014: Group Will Pay Farmers
To Create Temporary Migratory Bird Habitat

A program started by The Nature Conservancy aims to enlist California farmers in creating temporary habitats for migrating birds — a partnership that could become

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California migratory bird habitat

Migratory bird habitat needs in California
more important as the state's long-term drought continues and the birds' wetland habitats dwindle. Using crowdsourced data, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) tracks the paths of migratory birds on their annual journey from Canada to South America to determine where and when the birds will need suitable wetland habitat for stop-overs in California's Central Valley. Then, in a sort of reverse auction, TNC asks farmers how much they would charge to temporarily flood their land to accommodate the birds, and pays farmers with the lowest bids to do so for a few weeks or months. The Nature Conservancy says the year-old program has been a success, enabling the organization to rent habitat for roughly 0.5 to 1.5 percent of what permanent protection costs. The program's budget is $1 million to $3 million annually. Forty farmers flooded roughly 10,000 acres last year, and sightings of key migratory bird species were 30 times above average, according to TNC.
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10 Jun 2014: Air Pollution Smartphone App
Seeks to Shame China's Polluting Factories

A new smartphone app seeks to shine a spotlight on major Chinese polluters by letting users see in real-time which factories are violating air pollution emissions
China air pollution app

App monitors factories' air pollution in China.
limits. The app, developed by the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), uses data from some 15,000 factories throughout China that are now required to report emissions to local officials and the Environment Ministry on an hourly basis. The government made all the data public at the beginning of this year, but now, for the first time, those data are available in one place through IPE's app and website. The app allows users to check air quality data for 190 cities and share air emissions data from polluters in those areas. Factories producing excessive emissions are shown in red. "If the air quality is bad you can switch (to the factory map) and see who is in your neighborhood," IPE's senior project manager explained.
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09 Jun 2014: Air Conditioning Can Raise
Urban Nighttime Temperature by 2 Degrees

Excess heat from air conditioners raises outdoor temperatures at night by nearly 2 degrees F (1 degree C), worsening the urban heat island effect and increasing cooling demands, according to research from Arizona State University. Studying the Phoenix metropolitan area, researchers found that air conditioning systems pumped more waste heat into the air during the day, but the effect on near-surface temperatures was negligible. The same was not true for nighttime temperatures, however, when waste heat significantly boosts air temperatures because of nighttime atmospheric conditions. Air conditioning systems can consume more than 50 percent of total electricity during extreme heat, the researchers note, and summertime extreme-heat days are projected to become more frequent and intense as a result of climate change. Redirecting waste heat from air conditioning systems to household appliances such as water heaters, for example, could help alleviate the problem, the scientists say. They project that such strategies would save at least 1,200 to 1,300 megawatt-hours of energy per day in the Phoenix metropolitan area alone.
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Interview: The Small College That
Launched Fossil Fuel Divestment

When Stanford University announced in May that it would divest its endowment of coal mining companies, it was following the lead of a tiny college in rural Maine
“Stephen
Stephen Mulkey
that dubs itself “America’s environmental college.” A year and a half earlier, Stephen Mulkey, the president of Unity College stood on a stage with Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org and lead cheerleader for the divestment movement, to announce that his college would be the first institution of higher learning to rid its endowment of all fossil fuel holdings. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Mulkey, a climate scientist, talks about the ethical imperative behind the decision to divest, and his vision for, as he puts it, a re-engineering of the way the environmental sciences are taught.
Read more.
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06 Jun 2014: Brazil Leads the World
In Cutting Deforestation, Analysis Finds

Brazil has become the world leader in reducing deforestation and, at the same time, has increased its soy and beef production, researchers report in the
Amazon rainforest near Manaus, Brazil

Amazon rainforest near Manaus, Brazil
journal Science. The country has cut its forest loss by 70 percent since 2004, sparing more than 86,000 square kilometers of rainforests and keeping more than 3.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Brazil's decline in deforestation in 2013 alone represented a 1.5 percent reduction in global emissions that year, the report says; globally, tropical forest loss accounts for 15 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. The analysis credits the success to bold government policies, pressure from environmental groups, and market fluctuations in the price of soy and beef, but the authors warn that these wins may be short-lived without more positive incentives for farmers. “These gains are globally significant, but fragile,” one researcher explained. “We’re bumping up against the limits of what can be achieved through punitive measures.”
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05 Jun 2014: Coating for Roof Tiles Could
Help Clear Smog-Causing Air Pollutants

Engineering students have created a roof tile coating that, when applied to an average-sized residential roof,
Titanium-dioxide coated roof tiles

Coated tiles (left) and an uncoated tile (right).
breaks down the same amount of smog-causing nitrogen oxides per year as a car driven 11,000 miles makes. If applied to one million roofs, the titanium-dioxide based coating, which costs roughly $5 per roof, could clear 21 tons of nitrogen oxides each day, the team calculated. That could put a noticeable dent in atmospheric levels of the pollutant; in Southern California, for example, an average of 500 tons of nitrogen oxides are emitted daily. The team, which was recently recognized in a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency student design contest, showed that their tiles could remove 88 to 97 percent of nitrogen oxides in laboratory tests — a feat that other roof tile prototypes have not demonstrated.
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04 Jun 2014: New Ozone-Depleting Gases
Discovered in Atmosphere, Researchers Say

Researchers this week identified three new ozone-depleting gases in the atmosphere, bringing the total number of such gases discovered this year to seven.
Ozone hole, September 2013

Ozone hole as of September 2013
Alone, none of the three gases were found in concentrations high enough to harm the ozone layer, researchers from the University of East Anglia. But the scientists believe more such gases will likely be discovered, and, cumulatively, they could have a significant impact. Two of the newly discovered gases are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and one is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), both of which were once widely used in refrigerants. All three of the newly discovered gases are likely man-made, researchers said. Both CFCs and HCFCs fall under the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement that bans the use of 13 such compounds. Including the four new gases discovered earlier this year, there are now a total of 20 known ozone-depleting gases.
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03 Jun 2014: Developing Countries Lead
Global Surge in Renewable Energy Capacity

The number of developing nations with policies supporting renewable energy has surged more than six-fold in just eight years, from 15 developing countries

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Countries with renewable energy policies

Countries with renewable energy policies in place
in 2005 to 95 early this year, according to a report from REN21, an international nonprofit renewable energy policy network. Those 95 developing nations today make up the vast majority of the 144 countries with renewable energy support policies and targets in place. The report credits such policies with driving global renewable energy capacity to a new record level last year — 1,560 gigawatts, up 8.3 percent from 2012. More than one-fifth — 22 percent — of the world's power production now comes from renewable sources. Overall, renewables accounted for more than 56 percent of net additions to global power capacity in 2013, the report says. Although financial and policy support declined in the U.S. and some European countries, China, the U.S., Brazil, Canada, and Germany remained the top nations for total installed renewable power. China's new renewable power capacity surpassed new fossil fuel and nuclear capacity for the first time, the analysis found.
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02 Jun 2014: New U.S. Coal Plant Rules
Could Lead to a Steep Drop in Emissions

The Obama administration today unveiled a sweeping new plan that aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants by roughly a third. Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the new rules would give states maximum flexibility to achieve the goal of reducing power plant emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Hundreds of coal-fired power plants are expected to close under the EPA plan. But rather than immediately shutting down plants, states would be allowed to reduce emissions by making changes across their electricity systems — by installing new wind and solar generation or energy-efficiency technology, continuing to expand the use of natural gas, and by starting or joining state and regional “cap and trade” programs. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution ... so each state’s path can be different,” said McCarthy. The proposed regulations could be held up by legal challenges. Obama administration officials said the rules would lift the U.S. into a clear global leadership position on combating global warming.
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30 May 2014: New Battery Technology
Could Offer Cheap Renewable Energy Storage

New battery technology that uses cheaper and safer materials to store large amounts of energy may soon enable utility companies to use more renewable power,
Enervault iron-chromium flow batteries
Iron-chromium flow battery technology
according to MIT Technology Review. The new device is a type of flow battery, and it uses liquid materials that rely on iron-chromium chemical reactions to store energy. California-based startup Enervault, developer of the new battery, figured out how to use materials that had been tried in batteries decades ago; Enervault overcame a key technical challenge that had caused the earlier batteries to quickly degrade. The new battery is large — it can store one megawatt-hour of electricity, or enough to run 10,000 100-watt light bulbs for an hour — and the materials last more than 20 years, according to its developer. Although the battery is inefficient compared to conventional batteries — it loses 30 percent of the energy used to charge it — it is still economically viable, the company says. The iron-chromium flow battery costs 80 percent less than vanadium flow batteries, a competing technology. The batteries are currently in use at a small power plant near Modesto, California.
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29 May 2014: Electric Airplane Debut
Offers Hopes for Cutting Emissions

The aircraft manufacturing giant Airbus recently unveiled a fully-electric aircraft which, if widely adopted, could reduce the aerospace industry's carbon
Airbus E-Fan electric plane
The recently debuted, fully-electric E-Fan
dioxide emissions by an order of magnitude. The E-Fan aircraft has two, 30-kilowatt electric motors powered by a series of lithium-ion batteries in the wings of the plane, as well as a 6-kilowatt electric motor in the wheel to provide extra power during takeoff and taxiing. Despite incorporating highly energy-efficient and aerodynamic design elements, however, the E-Fan has only a one-hour range and cannot leave the vicinity of the airport. Airbus says that future designs will rely on electric-hybrid engine technology and that by 2050 such airplanes should be able to accommodate 70 to 80 passengers on a three-hour flight. The plans were spurred, in part, by the European Union's Flight Path 2050, which aims to reduce the aviation sector's nitrous oxide emissions by 90 percent, noise pollution by 65 percent, and carbon dioxide emissions by 75 percent by 2050. "It's a very different way of flying," said Jean Botti, a technology officer at Airbus Group, "absolutely no noise, no emissions."
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Video Report: Americans on the
Front Lines of Climate Change


A fire chief in Colorado whose department is battling increasingly intense blazes in the American West. A Texas rancher struggling to operate in the face of years of drought. Oyster farmers in Washington state scrambling to adapt to increasingly acidic waters that are damaging their harvests. These Americans are the subjects of videos created by The Story Group, a non-profit journalism initiative. The videos are meant to put a human face on the science behind the recently released National Climate Assessment, which stressed that global warming is already having a major impact on the United States.
Watch the videos.
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27 May 2014: To Sway the U.S. Public,
‘Global Warming’ Beats out ‘Climate Change’

If politicians and scientists want to convey the urgency and importance of a warming world, they are far better off using the term "global warming" than “climate change,” according to a new report. Produced by researchers at the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University, the report says that Americans are much more familiar with the term “global warming” and that it engenders more negative associations and concern. Based on recent surveys, the report said moderates, women, Hispanics, political independents, and younger Americans associate “global warming” with alarming developments such as melting glaciers and extreme weather. Among many groups, “global warming” also creates a greater sense of threat to one’s family and future generations. “Scientists often prefer the term climate change for technical reasons, but should be aware that the two terms generate different interpretations among the general public and specific subgroups,” the report said. The survey found that among Republicans the two terms are generally synonymous.
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23 May 2014: Oil Drilling Permits
Issued for Key Area of Yasuni Park

The Ecuadorean government has issued permits to begin oil drilling in a key area of the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve and National Park, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Environment Minister Lorena

Watch e360 Video
Ecaudor's Yasuni Biosphere Reserve and National Park

Yasuni Biosphere Reserve
Tapia said the government had signed permits to begin preparations for drilling in the so-called ITT section of the park, which contains two uncontacted indigenous tribes; drilling itself could begin as early as 2016, the government said. Ecuador’s President, Rafeal Correa, had offered to ban drilling in large sections of the park if the international community raised $3.6 billion to compensate the country for leaving the oil in the ground. But after only $13 million was raised, Correa gave the green light to drilling, saying “the world has failed us.” Oil drilling has already taken place in some areas of the 6,500-square-mile park. As this Yale Environment 360 video shows, Yasuni is home to a remarkable array of species, including roughly 400 species of fish, 600 species of birds, and thousands of species of vascular plants and trees.
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22 May 2014: Donors Commit $220 Million
To Protect and Expand Huge Amazon Reserve

A coalition of private donors and government funders has pledged $220 million over the next 25 years to better protect the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA), the world’s largest protected area network. WWF, the World Bank, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank, and more than a dozen other donors are contributing funds to the initiative, which also will add another 8.9 million hectares of Amazon rainforest to the ARPA program, driving the total to more than 60 million hectares. That’s 232,000 square miles, an area larger than France. Most of the funds will be used to better police and enforce environmental laws on ARPA territory, which includes 90 parks and comprises 15 percent of the Brazilian Amazon. "The explosion in demand for natural resources has made our parks and world heritage sites vulnerable," said WWF president Carter Roberts. The initiative is also upgrading long-neglected parks and creating sustainable-use reserves for local communities and indigenous people.
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Interview: Putting San Francisco
On the Road to Zero Waste by 2020

For 20 years, Jack Macy has spearheaded San Francisco’s efforts to become a global leader in recycling. In an interview with Yale Environment 360,
Jack Macy
Jack Macy
Macy describes how San Francisco has succeeded in reusing or composting 80 percent of its garbage and how the city has engaged the public in a recycling crusade, allaying initial fears of “trash police” sifting through residents’ garbage. While San Francisco has made tremendous progress, Macy says further changes are needed. “Part of the principle of zero waste is that the local government can’t shoulder all the burden,” he says, “so it’s important that we encourage consumers to take responsibility for what they buy ... and producer responsibility for the products they design and market.”
Read more.
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21 May 2014: Trash-scooping Water Wheel
Cleans up Garbage From Baltimore Harbor

A new contraption in a Baltimore river is helping to clear trash and debris — up to 50,000 pounds of it each day — from the city's Inner Harbor. The 50-foot-long

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Trash-collecting water wheel in Baltimore

Baltimore's trash-scooping water wheel
"water wheel" gathers garbage floating in the Jones Falls River, which runs through the city to the Baltimore Inner Harbor, and deposits it in a large dumpster so the trash can be hauled away. Two large booms funnel debris toward a conveyor belt powered by the wheel, which itself is powered primarily by the flowing river. When the flow isn't strong enough to turn the wheel, water pumps, run by solar panels lining a canopy over the wheel, turn on and push water up to spin the wheel. The water wheel was designed to handle the heavy debris and larger pieces of trash that the river often carries, said its designer, Baltimore-based Clearwater Mills. It began operating earlier this month and cost $750,000, with $500,000 of that contributed by the Maryland Port Administration, Co.Exist reports.
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20 May 2014: Widespread Greenland Melting
Due to Forest Fires and Warming, Study Says

Rising temperatures and ash from Northern Hemisphere forest fires combined to cause large-scale surface melting of the Greenland ice sheet in 2012, an

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NASA Greenland Ice Melt July 2012

Extent of Greenland ice melt, July 8-12, 2012
echo of a similar event that occurred in 1889, a new study finds. The massive Greenland ice sheet — the second largest ice body in the world after the Antarctic ice sheet — experiences annual melting at low elevations near the coastline, but surface melt is rare in the dry snow region in its center. In July 2012, however, satellites observed for the first time surface melt across more than 97 percent of the ice sheet, generating reports that the event was almost exclusively the result of climate change. In the new report, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that in both 2012 and 1889 exceptionally warm temperatures combined with black carbon sediments from Northern Hemisphere forest fires to darken the surface of the ice sheet to a critical albedo threshold, causing the large-scale melting events. Since Arctic temperatures and the frequency of forest fires are both expected to rise with climate change, large-scale melt events on the Greenland ice sheet may begin to occur almost annually by 2100, the researchers say.
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19 May 2014: India's New Prime Minister
Plans To Make A Major Push on Solar Energy

India's new government plans to bring electricity to the homes of its entire population of 1.2 billion within the next five years, largely through solar panel installations,
India's prime minister Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi
Bloomberg News reports. Although nearly 400 million Indians do not have access to electricity, newly elected prime minister Narendra Modi, who won an overwhelming victory in last week's national vote, has pledged to enable every household to run at least one light bulb by 2019. If all goes well, household solar projects would allow every home to run two light bulbs, a solar cooker, and a television, one of Modi's energy advisers said. The plan follows an unfulfilled pledge from the previous administration to bring electricity to all homes by 2012. Modi, who pioneered India's first incentive program for large-scale solar projects when he was chief minister of Gujarat state, has made expanding solar a top priority because it has the potential to create jobs and supply power to millions of households, many of which are scattered throughout rural areas and not connected to the grid. "We look upon solar as having the potential to completely transform the way we look at the energy space," said the energy adviser.
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16 May 2014: U.S. Honeybee Death Rate
Too High for Long-term Survival, Study Says

Honeybees in the United States are dying at a rate too high to ensure their long-term survival, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture

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“Honeybee

U.S. honeybee deaths
(USDA). Over the past winter — a season when honeybee hives are most vulnerable — the U.S. lost 23.2 percent of its hive honeybee population. That is lower than the previous winter's 30.5 percent death rate, but the cumulative impact on honeybee populations over the past eight years poses a major threat to their long-term survival, as well as the country's agricultural productivity, the USDA said. Roughly a quarter of U.S. crops depend on honeybees for pollination. "Yearly fluctuations in the rate of losses like these only demonstrate how complicated the whole issue of honey bee heath has become," said a USDA researcher, citing factors such as viruses, pathogens, and pesticides. One class of pesticides in particular, neonicotinoids, has been implicated in honeybee deaths. The European Union banned three widely used neonicotinoids last year, but they are still used in the U.S.
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15 May 2014: Intensity of Hurricanes
Now Peaking Farther From the Equator

Powerful, destructive tropical cyclones are now reaching their peak intensity farther from the equator and closer to the poles, according to a new study in the journal
Hurricane Sandy's progression
Hurricane Sandy's progression in 2012
Nature. Over the last 30 years, tropical cyclones, also known as hurricanes or typhoons, have moved poleward at a rate of roughly 33 miles per decade in the Northern Hemisphere and 38 miles per decade in the Southern Hemisphere. Ocean temperatures between 82 and 86 degrees F seem to be "ideal for the genesis of tropical cyclones," said MIT scientist Kerry Emanuel, who co-authored the study, "and as that belt migrates poleward, which surely it must as the whole ocean warms, the tropical cyclone genesis regions might just move with it." The poleward shift of hurricanes and typhoons could lead to "potentially profound consequences to life and property" in regions that previously had not been hit by tropical cyclones.
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Five Questions for John Holdren
On the U.S. Climate Assessment

The federal government this month released its National Climate Assessment, the most comprehensive report to
John Holdren
John P. Holdren

e360 Five Questions
date on the climate impacts already being felt in the U.S. Saying climate change “has moved firmly into the present,” the report documented how drier regions are growing drier, heat waves more intense, and large swaths of forest dying from insect infestations. Yale Environment 360 asked John P. Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, five questions about the report and about plans by President Obama to intensify actions to rein in CO2 emissions and adapt to rising seas and other changes.
Read more.
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14 May 2014: Early El Niño Conditions
May Spell Big Weather Impact This Year

Indications are growing that an El Niño weather pattern may be forming in the Pacific Ocean, which could have a profound impact on global weather. El Niño events are spawned by unusually warm ocean waters in the Pacific,

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“sea

Sea surface height
and these NASA satellite images are one indication of warmer waters. The images depict sea-surface height anomalies, with above average sea-surface height shown in various shades of brown. Above average sea-surface heights are an indication of warmer waters, which expand as temperatures rise. These two images compare conditions in 1997 — a year with one of the most powerful El Niño events of the 20th century — with conditions this May. If an El Niño pattern does develop this year, it could lead to wetter conditions in western North America and South America, which could help end a severe drought now plaguing the U.S. West. The 1997/98 El Niño also created warmer and drier conditions in much of Asia. Other evidence, including data from a network of buoys in the Pacific, also shows a deep pool of warm waters sliding east across the Pacific since January.
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Interview: Can Marine Life Adapt
To the World’s Acidifying Oceans?

As the world’s oceans grow more acidic from increased absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide, marine scientists are confronting a key question: How well can
Gretchen Hofmann
Gretchen Hofmann
organisms like mollusks, crustaceans, and corals adapt to these more corrosive conditions? One of the leading authorities in this field is University of California, Santa Barbara marine biologist Gretchen Hofmann. Her work in recent years has shown, in fact, that some sea organisms that build shells do seem to have some ability to acclimate to more acidic waters. But in an interview with Yale Environment 360, Hofmann cautions that this adaptive capacity has its limits. The continuing burning of fossil fuels, she says, could push ocean acidity past a tipping point, rendering some mollusks and other organisms unable to build shells.
Read the interview.
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13 May 2014: Half of U.S. is Experiencing
Some Degree of Drought, Analysis Finds

Half of the United States is in the midst of a drought, a recent analysis from the U.S. National Drought Monitor found, with nearly 15 percent of the nation in extreme to

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“Drought

U.S. drought conditions
exceptional drought. Dry conditions are pushing north rapidly, along with warmer temperatures, and soil moisture and groundwater levels are low far in advance of the agricultural peak demand season, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center. Much of the Southwest and Great Plains regions have been in a persistent drought for several years, and as this map prepared by federal agencies shows, an exceptional drought is currently plaguing parts of those regions. The entire state of California is experiencing some level of drought, much of it extreme to exceptional. Snowpack is at half its typical level in many parts of the West and much of the snow has completely melted before it normally would, researchers say. The map is based on measurements of climate, soil, and water conditions from more than 350 federal, state, and local observers around the country.
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12 May 2014: Global Renewable Energy Jobs
Grew by 14 Percent in 2013, Report Says

Renewable energy jobs grew by 14 percent to 6.5 million employees worldwide last year, led by the solar panel industry, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency. Employing a

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“Global

Renewable energy jobs by country
total of 2.6 million workers in renewable energy jobs, China led in hiring last year, followed by Brazil and the United States. The solar industry — spurred by increasing photovoltaic panel installations in Asia and falling prices — employed 2.27 million workers at the end of 2013, largely concentrated in China, the report said. The biofuel industry, with 1.45 million employees, and wind energy, with 830,000, were the second- and third-largest employers. Although policy changes in several countries have reduced wind energy installation jobs, operations and maintenance positions have experienced some growth, according to the report.
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09 May 2014: Biodiversity, But Not Community
Composition, Surprisingly Stable Over Time

A major turnover of species in habitats around the globe is underway, resulting in the creation of novel biological communities, but overall species diversity is much more

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Biodiversity studies around the globe

Locations of biodiversity surveys across the globe
stable than scientists had believed, according to a new report in the journal Science. In a survey of 100 long-term biodiversity monitoring projects in a variety of habitats around the world, the authors found that the majority of those studies (59 percent) documented increasing species richness. Biodiversity declined in 41 percent of the studies, but, in all cases the overall change in biodiversity was modest, the researchers said. When looking at changes in the species constituting those communities, however, the researchers found a surprisingly high rate of change — an average of about 10 percent change per decade. "A main policy application of this work is that we're going to need to focus as much on the identity of species as on the number of species," one of the study's authors said. "The number of species in a place may not be our best scorecard for environmental change."
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08 May 2014: Natural Variations May Account
For Up to Half of Greenland's Warming

Up to half of the recent climate change in Greenland and surrounding regions — which have warmed at roughly twice the pace of the rest of the planet since 1979 — may be due to natural climate variations that originate in the tropical Pacific and are not connected
Melt from Greenland's Russell Glacier
Meltwater from Russell Glacier
with the overall warming of the Earth, a new study says. Still, at least half the warming remains attributable to rising global carbon dioxide emissions, according to research published in the journal Nature. Climate data and advanced computer models show that changes in the western tropical Pacific Ocean, which has been about 0.3 degrees warmer than normal, have caused shifts in atmospheric pressure over the North Atlantic. Those changes set off a stationary wave in the atmosphere that arcs in a great circle from the tropical Pacific toward Greenland, pulling warmer air over that massive island. "Along this wave train there are warm spots where the air has been pushed down, and cold spots where the air has been pulled up," one author explained. "And Greenland is in one of the warm spots."
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07 May 2014: Stanford Drops Coal Stocks
From Its $18.7 Billion Endowment Portfolio

Stanford has become the first major U.S. university to divest its shares in coal-mining companies from its endowment funds, lending support to a growing nationwide movement calling for universities and
Fossil Free Stanford
Fossil Free Stanford
pension funds to drop investments in fossil fuel companies. Citing guidelines that allow trustees to weigh whether “corporate policies or practices create substantial social injury” when choosing investments for the university's $18.7 billion endowment, the board decided, after five months of deliberation, to purge stakes in up to 100 companies worldwide that derive profits primarily from coal mining. A Stanford spokeswoman said that coal companies constitute a small fraction of the university's total endowment investments, “but a small percentage is still a substantial amount of money." Board members said their decision was made partly because coal is the most carbon-intensive of any major fossil fuel and that less carbon-intensive energy sources are available.
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06 May 2014: Darwin's Finches Fight Off
Parasitic Maggots with Treated Nest Fibers

Researchers apparently have discovered a unique way to help Darwin's finches on the Galápagos Islands fight off the parasitic maggots threatening their survival, according to a new report in the journal Current Biology. While working in the Galápagos, scientists
Darwin's finch with treated cotton
A Darwin's finch collects treated cotton for its nest
from the University of Utah noticed that the finches often collected cotton and other fibers to weave into their nests. The researchers decided to provide the birds with cotton treated with permethrin — a mild pesticide, commonly used to treat head lice in children, that is safe for birds — hoping the finches would incorporate the fibers in their nests. Finches near the test sites did just that, and their "self-fumigated" nests contained about half as many parasitic maggots — which infest and can kill newly-hatched chicks — compared to nests with untreated cotton. Darwin's finches and other bird species in the Galápagos have suffered steep population declines since the flies showed up in large numbers in the 1990s.
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05 May 2014: New European Satellites
To Give More Detailed Views of Earth

The European Space Agency has begun launching a series of satellites designed to collect detailed environmental data around the globe — from radar-based, high-definition imagery to information about the

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ESA satellite image of Brussels

Land use near Brussels, Belgium.
atmosphere's chemical composition. The first satellite in the ESA's Copernicus program, the Sentinel 1A, was launched last month and has already returned many striking images based on radar data, such as this view of Brussels, Belgium, in which the dense urban area contrasts with the city's heavily vegetated surroundings. Once Sentinel satellite 1B is launched next year, the two will be able to map the entire globe in six days, giving researchers and conservationists a powerful way to monitor both short- and long-term changes in the environment. Four additional groups of satellites are set to launch this year. Those arrays will focus on high-resolution photo imagery, topography, surface temperatures, and atmospheric chemistry.
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02 May 2014: Fracking May Induce Quakes at
Greater Distance than Previously Thought

Hydraulic fracturing and underground wastewater disposal may trigger earthquakes at tens of kilometers from the wells in which water is injected — a greater range than previously thought, according to new research from seismologists. In one case, an earthquake
Fracking well
Fracking injection well in Louisiana
swarm in Oklahoma has been linked to a cluster of fracking injection wells up to 50 kilometers (31 miles) away, Cornell University researchers report. So-called "induced seismicity" — when human activity causes tremors in the earth's crust — is gaining attention as reports of earthquakes within the central and eastern U.S. have increased dramatically over the past few years. The rise coincides with increased hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas, and the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells in many locations, including Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), an average rate of 100 earthquakes per year above a magnitude 3.0 occurred in the three years from 2010-2012, compared with an average rate of 21 events per year observed from 1967-2000.
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01 May 2014: Extent of Marine Litter
Documented in Major Seafloor Survey

A major survey of the ocean floor has found trash piling up throughout the Atlantic and Arctic oceans and Mediterranean Sea, reaching depths of nearly 3 miles below the surface, according to scientists from 15
Marine litter
Marine litter from study
European research organizations. Litter was located at each of the 600 sites surveyed, with plastic accounting for 41 percent and derelict fishing gear 34 percent. Glass, metal, wood, cardboard, clothing, pottery, and unidentified materials were also found. Garbage accumulated at sites as far as 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) from land and at depths up to 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles), according to the report. Seafloor litter is a major problem since it can accumulate in and kill marine animals that mistake it for food. The trash can also entangle fish, seabirds, and coral. "This survey has shown that human litter is present in all marine habitats, from beaches to the most remote and deepest parts of the oceans," one author said. "These were [humans'] first visits to many of these sites, but we were shocked to find that our rubbish has got there before us."
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Russian-American Collaboration
Carries on in Key Arctic Ecosystem

At a time of rapidly deteriorating relations between Russia and America, U.S. scientist Joel Berger continues his work with his Russian counterparts

Joel Berger Arctic Field Notes

Joel Berger Arctic Field Notes 3
Third in a series of blog posts from the Russian Arctic
on Siberia's Wrangel Island. In the third of three blog posts for Yale Environment 360, Berger — a biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Montana — writes about efforts to better understand how rapid climate change might affect muskoxen and other wildlife in the Russian and North American Arctic. As Berger explains, a key focus of Russian-American scientific cooperation is Beringia, the region of northwestern Alaska and extreme northeastern Russia where two countries — and continents — are divided by the Bering Sea.
Read more.
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29 Apr 2014: Exxon Mobil Arctic Project
Possibly At Risk Over Russia Sanctions

Exxon Mobil's development of a Russian Arctic oil project valued at nearly $900 billion is at risk following recent U.S. sanctions on Russian officials as a result of Ukraine's ongoing political crisis, Bloomberg News reports. Exxon Mobil has partnered with the Russian state-controlled oil company OAO Rosneft to drill an oil-rich geological structure known as Universitetskaya, which contains an estimated 9 billion barrels of oil, valued at $900 billion at current market prices. Rosneft's CEO, Igor Sechin, a longtime member of Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle, was sanctioned by the U.S. yesterday, exposing the partnership with Exxon Mobil to additional scrutiny. Exxon Mobil and Rosneft are set to invest an estimated $600 million in drilling at the site in the Kara Sea, which would make the project Exxon's most expensive to-date. A U.S. Treasury official said yesterday that U.S. companies can still do business with Rosneft, but some analysts say Russian companies could become wary of working with Western corporations in the future. Exxon said last week that the project is on schedule.
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28 Apr 2014: Economic Viability of Nuclear
Power Under Threat, Energy Group Says

Nuclear reactors in the U.S. need a boost — either through carbon taxes or regulations forcing coal-fired plants to slash emissions — or economic factors will force many to close, according to a report released today

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Replacing lost nuclear power

Replacing nuclear power
from a non-profit group. Nuclear power — currently the only major zero-carbon, around-the-clock baseload power source — supplies 19 percent of U.S. electricity and is key to meeting President Obama's pledge to reduce emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. The economic viability of the 100 nuclear reactors in the U.S. is worsening, the report says, because of the abundance of cheap natural gas and rising wind energy production. A carbon tax or some form of carbon trading — for instance, requiring coal-fired plants to purchase and blend their electricity output with nuclear power — will be essential to keeping nuclear plants from closing before the end of their lifespans, the report contends. Four power companies recently announced the early retirement of five nuclear reactors, which constitute more than 4 percent of U.S. nuclear capacity, the group says.
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25 Apr 2014: Soils Release Far More CO2
Than Previously Thought, Researchers Find

As atmospheric CO2 levels rise, soils will likely store less carbon than scientists and climate models had predicted, according to new research published in Science. Scientists have long understood that rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere spur
Soil carbon storage
photosynthesis and plant growth, adding more carbon to the soil. Scientists had thought this soil carbon was relatively stable and could remain locked away for centuries. But the new study, from researchers at Northern Arizona University shows that increasing soil carbon actually spurs microbes to produce more CO2. Higher atmospheric CO2 levels added roughly 20 percent more carbon to the soil, through increased photosynthesis, but they also increased carbon turnover by microbes by 16.5 percent. Many climate models had assumed that far more of the carbon absorbed by soils stayed there for long periods of time. "Our findings mean that nature is not as efficient in slowing global warming as we previously thought," the lead researcher said.
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24 Apr 2014: Browning of Congo Rainforest
Is Depicted in NASA Satellite Data

Persistent drought has taken a major toll on Africa's Congo rainforest, with large-scale browning intensifying and affecting a growing portion of the forest over the past decade, an analysis of NASA satellite data shows. A

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Browning of Congo rainforest

Browning of Congo rainforest
browning trend significantly dwarfed smaller areas of "greening" — a satellite-derived indicator of forest health — during April, May, and June each year from 2000 to 2012, according to research published in Nature. The browning of Congo's rainforest is significant, researchers said, because most climate models forecast that tropical forests may face increasing stress and rainfall shortages in a warmer and drier 21st century. A continued drying trend might alter the composition and structure of the Congo rainforest, affecting its biodiversity and carbon storage, according to the study. "Recent climate anomalies as a result of climate change and warming of the Atlantic Ocean have created severe droughts in the tropics, causing major impacts on forests," a NASA researcher said.
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Five Questions for IPCC Chairman
On Future of Climate Change Action

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report last month on steps the world can take
Rajendra Pachauri
Rajendra Pachauri

e360 Five Questions
to avoid the worst impacts of future climate change. It was the final interim report before the IPCC’s major Fifth Assessment Report due to be released in October. Yale Environment 360 asked Rajendra K. Pachauri, who has served as IPCC chairman since 2002, five questions about the latest report and about the prospects that the international community will finally take decisive action to address climate change at talks scheduled in Paris in 2015.
Read more.
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22 Apr 2014: Run-of-River Hydropower Set
For Big Gains, Turbine Maker Predicts

A type of hydroelectric technology known as "run-of-river" hydropower is set to grow 10-fold over the next decade, potentially becoming a $1.4 billion industry,
Hugh Keenleyside Dam, a run-of-river hydropower station
Hugh Keenleyside Dam
according to Dutch turbine maker Tocardo International BV. Run-of-river hydropower stations redirect part of a waterway through a diversion to spin turbines and generate electricity. Run-of-river is considered a more benign type of hydropower than large dam projects because it is a smaller-scale technology that doesn't create large upstream reservoirs that flood ecosystems and disrupt a river's natural flow. Some conservation groups are concerned that problems with migratory fish passage and other environmental issues could outweigh the power-generating potential of run-of-river hydro projects. The company implemented its first project to harness tidal streams at Den Oever, Holland, and it has been operating for five years.
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21 Apr 2014: Massive Data Crunch
Shows Steady Rise in Warmer Days

The proportion of days in the United States that are warmer than the long-term average increased from 42 percent in 1964 to 67 percent today, according to an analysis of 3.2 million temperature anomalies over the last

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US temperature anomalies since 1964

U.S. temperature anomalies since 1964
50 years. Enigma.io, a New York City-based company that specializes in searches of information from public databases, examined data from 2,716 U.S. weather stations to track the temperature anomalies. The company found that since 1964, temperature anomalies characterized as warm or “strong warm” have increased by an average of .5 percent a year. Enigma’s data show, for example, that in 2012, 84 percent of temperature anomalies in the U.S. skewed on the warm side. The company forecast that by the 2030s more than 70 percent of anomalous temperatures in the U.S. are likely to be higher than the historical average, rather than colder.
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18 Apr 2014: Scale and Extent of Dam Boom
In China Is Detailed in Mapping Project

China is planning to build at least 84 major dams in its southwest region, as shown in a map from the Wilson Center, eventually boosting its hydropower capacity by more than 160 gigawatts. By next year China's capacity

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China dams

Dam projects in China
will surpass Europe's, and by 2020 it's projected to be larger than that of the U.S. and Europe combined. An interactive map shows the scale and number of major dams proposed, under construction, existing, and canceled. The dam rush is part of an ongoing effort by China to increase non-fossil energy sources to 11.4 percent of the country's total energy consumption — a goal that has gained urgency due to severe air pollution in many northern Chinese cities. However, the hydropower push is not without its own major environmental consequences, the Wilson Center notes. The cascades of planned dams will submerge important corridors connecting tropical rainforests to the Tibetan Plateau that allow wildlife to migrate as temperatures rise.
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17 Apr 2014: Five Kamchatka Volcanoes
Erupt Simultaneously, NASA Images Show

A NASA satellite passing over Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula this week photographed five simultaneous volcanic eruptions. The erupting volcanoes, from north

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Karymsky volcano

Karymsky, most active of the five volcanoes
to south, are Shiveluch, Klyuchevskaya, Bezymianny, Kizimen, and Karymsky. Karymsky, a 1,536-meter (5,039-foot) peak that has erupted regularly since 1996, is the most active of the five. The tallest, Klyuchevskaya, is 4,750 meters (15,580 feet) high. Of the planet's roughly 1,550 volcanoes that have erupted in the recent geologic past, 113 are found on the Kamchatka Peninsula, in Russia's far northeast, according to NASA. Forty volcanoes on Kamchatka are active, meaning they are either erupting now or capable of erupting at any time. Kamchatka's fiery landscape is driven by plate tectonics: The Pacific Plate is slowly colliding with and sliding beneath the Okhotsk Plate. As the Pacific Plate melts, magma migrates up toward the surface, causing volcanic eruptions.
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Studying a Polar Menagerie
On an Island in Arctic Russia

Ninety miles from the Russian mainland and 300 miles above the Arctic Circle, Wrangel Island is home to an eclectic assortment of fauna and flora — muskoxen,

Joel Berger Arctic Field Notes

Joel Berger Arctic Field Notes 2
Second in a series of blog posts from the Russian Arctic
polar bears, wolves, reindeer, wolverines, walruses, Asia’s only population of snow geese, and 417 plant species. Joel Berger, a field biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Montana, spent several weeks on Wrangel Island this spring. In the second of three blog posts for e360, he describes the arduous conditions under which Russian and U.S. scientists collect data on the island’s odd assortment of creatures.
Read more.
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15 Apr 2014: Solar-Harvesting Windows
Possible with Advances in Semiconductors

New semiconductor technology is advancing the development of house windows that could double as solar panels, according to scientists from Los Alamos National Lab and Italy. Their research into so-called
Solar-harvesting materials under UV light
Solar-harvesting materials under UV light
"quantum dots" — ultra-small bits of semiconductors that transmit energy extremely efficiently and can be tuned toward specific colors — shows that quantum dots can be used in transparent materials to harvest sunlight with efficiencies comparable to standard solar panels. When highly transparent materials are embedded with quantum dots, they are known as luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs); the structures can absorb sunlight and re-radiate it at longer wavelengths directed toward the edge of the slab, where the energy is collected by a solar cell. In tests using large LSC slabs (sized in tens of centimeters), researchers reported harvesting photons at roughly 10 percent efficiency. Typical photovoltaic solar panels have an average efficiency of about 15 percent.
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14 Apr 2014: Despite Stark Warnings,
UN Panel Finds Signs of Hope on Climate

Although greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at an alarming rate, governments are beginning to embrace carbon-cutting initiatives, while technological advances are sharply reducing the cost of deploying solar and wind power, according to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The working group report on climate mitigation, released in Berlin, said that global CO2 emissions have risen about 2.2 percent a year this century — twice the rate of the last few decades of the 20th century — and that holding temperature increases to 2 degrees C (3.6 F) can only be achieved through an intensive push over the next 15 years. But the report also said that the political will to reduce carbon emissions seems to be rising around the world, and that shifting the global energy system from fossil fuels to zero- or low-carbon sources would reduce economic growth by only about .06 percent per year. “The loss in consumption is relatively modest,” said IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri. “The longer we delay the higher would be the cost.”
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11 Apr 2014: Parasitic Flatworm Could Be
Major Threat to Coral Reefs, Scientists Say

A coral-eating flatworm with a unique camouflaging strategy could be a major threat to the world's coral reefs, according to researchers in the U.K. The parasite, called Amakusaplana acroporae, infects a type of staghorn coral known as acropora, a major component
Parasitic flatworm Amakusaplana acroporae
Amakusaplana acroporae, a parasitic coral flatworm
of reefs, and can destroy its coral host very quickly. The parasite has been detected at the Great Barrier Reef, and because it has no known natural predators, researchers are concerned it could spread quickly and decimate reefs worldwide. A novel camouflaging strategy makes the flatworm difficult to detect and monitor, the researchers say. When eating the coral tissue, the worm also ingests the coral's symbiotic algae. Instead of digesting the algae completely, the worm keeps a fraction of them alive and distributes them, along with the fluorescent pigments that give coral its characteristic hue, throughout its gut so that it perfectly mimics the appearance of the coral. The parasite has been identified in numerous aquarium-based corals, and biologists worry that it could spread rapidly if aquarium-raised coral, fish, or seaweed are introduced to natural reef environments.
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10 Apr 2014: Mapping Program Helps
Cities See Money Saved by Planting Trees

New open-source software is helping cities better understand the benefits trees provide by calculating the value of the trees' ecosystem services, such as air quality improvements and CO2 storage. More than a dozen

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San Diego trees

San Diego's mapped trees
cities have undertaken tree inventory initiatives, thanks to the OpenTreeMap software, and residents have helped map more than 1.1 million trees worldwide. In addition to plotting a tree's location, users record its size, species, and other parameters that allow the software to calculate the tree's ecological value in terms of dollars saved through such benefits as cleaner air. San Diego's more than 340,000 mapped trees, for example, are estimated to provide the city more than $7 million in benefits each year, including $4 million in air quality benefits and $2 million in reduced energy costs. In the coming months, the software will allow city managers to decide where to plant trees for maximum environmental benefit.
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On Far-Flung Wrangel Island,
A Scientist Sizes up Muskoxen

As a field biologist for the University of Montana and the Wildlife Conservation Society, Joel Berger has been to his share of end-of-the-earth places. But few have

Joel Berger Arctic Field Notes

Joel Berger Arctic Field Notes
Muskoxen on Wrangel Island
rivaled Wrangel Island, the rugged, frozen outpost located 300 miles above the Arctic Circle in Russia’s extreme Far East. In the first of three reports for Yale e360, Berger describes the arduous trip to Wrangel and the scientific work that has taken him there — research with Russian colleagues on the island’s 900 muskoxen, a shaggy beast that is a relic from the Pleistocene era. In subsequent reports, Berger will describe the motley assortment of wildlife that has colonized Wrangel and the contrasting impacts of climate change on eastern Siberia and Arctic Alaska.
Read more.
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08 Apr 2014: 'Living Fences' Dramatically
Cut Livestock and Lion Killings in Tanzania

A novel, low-tech idea is helping Tanzania's lion population rebound: So-called "living fences" — which enclose livestock and are constructed of actively growing trees and chain-link fencing — have cut lion
“Masai
A Masai villager installs a living fence.
attacks and retaliatory killings by more than 85 percent in the areas they've been installed, the Guardian reports. Traditionally, the Masai have built livestock enclosures out of thorny acacia trees, but those fences are relatively fragile. Chain-link fencing alone is more durable, but leopards and small lions can scale the fences, and hyenas can tunnel in below. By interweaving actively growing African myrrh trees with the chain link fencing, the Masai have created a barrier that lions can't climb over, and their root systems prevent predators from digging under the fence. Because livestock predation has been cut, communities that had been killing six or seven lions annually now kill, on average, less than one, leading to a rebound in lion populations.
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A Personal Note on Peter Matthiessen,
Who Wrote Eloquently of the Natural World

For an editor, the prospect of working with Peter Matthiessen was intimidating. He was one of our finest writers, and he wrote with such poetic precision and lyrical grace that at first it felt presumptuous to propose
Peter Matthiessen
Peter Matthiessen
any changes to his writing at all. That feeling was heightened by his strong physical presence — an odd mix of Manhattan patrician, rugged outdoorsman, and Zen priest (all of which he was). And yet when I worked as his editor on several magazine articles in the 1990s, it was an immensely satisfying experience. He listened Zen-like, carefully considering all my editing suggestions (with him, they were suggestions only), and to my delight, accepted almost all of them. Matthiessen died on April 5 at the age of 86, near the Long Island waters he so loved to fish. Read more of e360 editor Roger Cohn’s appreciation of Matthiessen.
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07 Apr 2014: Newfound Atmospheric 'Hole'
Threatens Polar Ozone Layer, Scientists Say

Researchers have discovered a large opening in the Earth's atmosphere that is enabling pollutants to rise
Elevator to the stratosphere
Pacific atmosphere hole an elevator to the stratosphere
into the stratosphere and destroy ozone. The hole, which is in a part of the lower atmosphere called the "OH shield," is several thousand kilometers long and is centered over the tropical west Pacific Ocean. It's relatively close to Southeast Asia, a region with a booming population and rapidly increasing air pollution. The hole is a major concern because the OH shield usually scrubs air of chemical compounds emitted near the ground before they can reach the stratosphere, where those compounds can persist for long periods of time, reacting with and destroying ozone, say researchers at Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute who identified the hole. The newly discovered phenomenon acts as a sort of elevator, researchers say, drawing chlorofluorocarbons, sulfur dioxide, and other contaminants straight up to the stratosphere and bypassing the OH shield scrub.
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E360 Announces Contest
For Best Environmental Videos

Yale Environment 360 is holding a contest to honor the best environmental videos. Entries must be videos that focus on an environmental issue or theme, have not been widely viewed online, and are a maximum of 15 minutes in length. The first-place winner will receive $2,000, and two runners-up will each receive $500. The winning entries will be posted on Yale Environment 360. The deadline for entries is June 6, 2014. Read further contest information.
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04 Apr 2014: Solar Panels Could Beam Power
From Space Down to Earth, U.S. Navy Says

Researchers from the U.S. military are developing technology that would harvest solar energy in space and beam it down to Earth, according to the Naval Research Laboratory. Although the concept seems futuristic, the
Space solar satellite concept
Navy is currently testing two prototype designs, both of which combine solar panels with electronic components that convert the energy to radio waves and transmit it to Earth. Eventually, engineers plan to use robotic vehicles to transport the panels to space and assemble them into a 1-kilometer wide satellite orbiting the planet. Theoretically, harvesting solar energy in space is more efficient than on Earth, because panels can collect sunlight around the clock and regardless of weather conditions. The U.S. military, currently the world's largest oil consumer, is eager to develop the technology to save money on fuel and simplify military deployments. But the private sector also has plans for the technology: California utility company Pacific Gas & Electric plans to buy space solar power by 2016.
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03 Apr 2014: Deforestation of Sandy Soils
Increases the Release of CO2, Study Finds

The texture of the soil that microbes live in determines how much carbon they release after deforestation, with sandy soils sending the most carbon into the atmosphere, according to research led by Yale scientists.
Soil susceptibility to deforestation
Soils most affected by forest loss in red; least in yellow.
Subterranean microbes regulate carbon emissions from soil, and drastic changes to the microbial community, such as those that follow deforestation, can allow more CO2 to escape into the atmosphere and exacerbate global warming. The texture of soil, rather than such factors as temperature or nutrient concentrations, was the most important factor governing the release of CO2, the researchers found. Muddy, clay-like soils provide the most stable environment for microbial communities, likely because they're better at retaining nutrients than loose, sandy soils. The team used the findings to map areas in the U.S. where soil microbial communities would be most and least affected by deforestation, which could help inform land management practices.
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Comment: e360 Point/Counterpoint Debate
On University Fossil Fuel Divestment

Scientists Charles H. Greene, of Cornell University, and Daniel M. Kammen, of the University of California, Berkeley, offer commentary on the recent Yale Environment 360 Point/Counterpoint articles on the
Divestment protest
James Ennis/Flickr
Student protest at Tufts University last spring
issue of whether universities should take a stand against climate change by divesting from companies that produce oil, natural gas, or coal. Greene and Kammen make the case that the movement to divest is gaining ground on U.S. campuses and will eventually succeed because fossil fuels are increasingly seen as a potentially risky investment. "We predict that divestment at the nation’s colleges and universities will occur much more rapidly than anybody imagined at the start of the campaign just over a year ago," they write. Read their comment.
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01 Apr 2014: Delaware River Watershed
Is Focus Of Large-Scale Restoration Project

A Philadelphia foundation is providing $35 million to launch a host of programs aimed at better protecting the Delaware River, which flows through the heart of
Delaware River Trenton
David Olah
Delaware River at Trenton, New Jersey
the populous U.S. eastern seaboard and provides drinking water for 15 million people. The William Penn Foundation, working with nonprofit groups such as The Open Space Institute, says its Delaware River Initiative will protect more than 30,000 acres of land, launch 40 restoration projects, create incentives for businesses and landowners to protect the watershed, and set up a comprehensive program of water quality monitoring that will enable the foundation and its partners to measure the success of their programs and the overall health of the river. A cornerstone of the foundation’s initiative will be its restoration and protection work in eight so-called “sub-watersheds” that feed into the Delaware River.
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31 Mar 2014: IPCC Issues Stark Report
On Present and Future Climate Impacts

Rapidly rising levels of greenhouse gases are already having a major impact on the earth’s natural systems and the problem is likely to grow significantly worse unless these emissions are brought under control, according to a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report, released in Yokohama, Japan, said that steadily rising temperatures are melting polar ice caps, sharply diminishing Arctic sea ice, intensifying heat waves and heavy rains, causing the death of coral reefs, and placing water and food supplies under stress. The report on climate impacts, drafted by several hundred of the world’s leading climate scientists, emphasized that the world’s food supply is at considerable risk. Already, the report said, heat waves and water stress are affecting the output of wheat and corn on a global scale, impacts that are only expected to intensify in the future, further exacerbating food shortages. “Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” said IPCC chairman Rajendra K. Pachauri.
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28 Mar 2014: West Antarctic Glacial Loss
Is Rapidly Intensifying, New Study Shows

Six massive glaciers in West Antarctica are dumping far more ice into the Southern Ocean than they were 40
Pine Island Glacier
NASA
An 18-mile crack in the Pine Island Glacier
years ago and now account for 10 percent of the world’s sea level rise, according to a new study. Reporting in Geophysical Research Letters, an international team of scientists said that the amount of ice draining from the six glaciers has increased by 77 percent since 1973. The scientists said that the ice loss from the six glaciers is so substantial that it equals the amount of ice draining annually from the entire Greenland Ice Sheet. The scientists used satellite data from 1973 and 2013 to gauge the ice loss from the six glaciers. The Pine Island Glacier is moving more rapidly to the sea than any of the other six, with its speed increasing from 1.5 miles per year in 1973 to 2.5 miles per year in 2013. The glaciers are dumping more ice into the sea primarily because warmer ocean waters are loosening the ice sheets’ hold on the sea floor, which speeds up glacial flow.
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27 Mar 2014: Wind Turbine in a Blimp
Can Bring Power to Remote Locations

A Massachusetts company will soon deploy a portable wind energy system using a conventional turbine blade inside a cylindrical blimp that floats about 1,000 feet above the ground, drawing on the stronger winds at that altitude. The Buoyant Airborne Turbine (BAT), developed by Altaeros, is designed to be used in off-the-grid locations where importing diesel fuel or other energy is expensive. The company recently announced a $1.3 million demonstration project in Alaska that will supply power to about a dozen homes. Altaeros says it is also working on deals to install projects in remote locations in Canada and Australia. The BAT, made of industrial fabric, sends power back via high-strength tethers that hold it to the ground. Altaeros is one of several companies developing wind turbines that hover above the earth or fly, including Makani, which has invented a turbine that looks like a flying wing. Makani was acquired last year by Google X.
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26 Mar 2014: New Satellite Tracks Global
Precipitation in Unprecedented Detail

Launched into space late last month, a new Earth-observing satellite from NASA and the Japan space agency has captured its first images, which show an

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GPM cyclone image

Cyclone cross-section
extra-tropical cyclone off the coast of Japan at unprecedented resolution. The satellite, called the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory, combines two powerful instruments that allow scientists to monitor precipitation around the globe in great detail, as the cyclone image demonstrates. One instrument, the Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar, captured a three-dimensional cross-section of the storm, with the heaviest precipitation shown in red and yellow. The second tool, a GPM Microwave Imager, observed different types of precipitation across a broad swath of the storm. Together, the instruments will help scientists more accurately predict rainfall and calculate how much precipitation falls to the Earth's surface.
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25 Mar 2014: Consumer Products Giants
Commit to Deforestation-Free Palm Oil

Two major consumer products companies — General Mills and Colgate-Palmolive — have committed to using palm oil in their products that does not come from lands cleared from tropical forests, adding to the wave
Deforestation in Malaysian Borneo
Mongabay.com
of corporations that have pledged measures to protect southeast Asian rainforests. The consumer giants' new policies go beyond standards set by the industry's main certification body and include provisions to protect wildlife-rich rainforests, carbon-dense peatlands, and the rights of local communities. Environmental groups are welcoming the commitments, though some believe the companies' pledges should go further. The Union of Concerned Scientists questions General Mills' definition of "high carbon stock" forests, while Greenpeace is urging Colgate-Palmolive to move implementation up to 2015 from 2020. Environmental groups are hopeful that new commitments will pressure Proctor & Gamble, the last remaining consumer products giant without a similar pledge, to adopt deforestation-free palm oil policies.
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Five Questions for Mario Molina
On Climate Science’s PR Campaign

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest scientific society, recently launched the “What We Know” campaign, designed to cut through the fog of misinformation about climate change and convey to the public the current state of climate science. Chairing that effort is Mario J. Molina, a chemist who won a 1995 Nobel Prize for his work on the threat to the world’s ozone layer. Yale Environment 360 asked Molina five questions about the AAAS campaign and why it might succeed where previous efforts have failed.
Read more.
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24 Mar 2014: Ride-Sharing Could Cut Taxi
Trips by 40 Percent in NYC, Analysis Shows

New interactive maps from MIT analyze the potential environmental and economic savings of ride-sharing in dense urban areas — in particular, the benefits of sharing taxicabs in New York City. The project, called

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Hubcab map of NYC taxi routes

Potential taxi-sharing benefits in NYC
HubCab, uses data from 170 million trips made by New York City's 13,500 taxis in 2011. High-resolution GPS coordinates and timestamps for each trip allowed researchers to pinpoint locations in the city that are high-traffic hubs for taxi pick-ups and drop-offs, as well as calculate fare savings, decreases in total miles traveled, and cuts in CO2 emissions if ride-sharing existed. The researchers found that taxi-sharing could reduce the number of trips by 40 percent with only minimal inconvenience to the passengers. The findings highlight the potential benefits of ride-sharing in New York and other cities, including lower vehicle emissions, reduced congestion, and savings in time and money.
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21 Mar 2014: Koch Brothers Biggest Lease
Holders in Alberta Tar Sands, Report Finds

The largest lease holder in Canada's oil sands is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the conglomerate that is the source of the fortune owned by the controversial conservative political donors, Charles and David Koch. The Koch's holdings in the tar sands were disclosed by an activist group that analyzed mineral records of the Alberta government. The Koch subsidiary holds leases on at least 1.1 million acres in the northern Alberta oil sands, which span roughly 35 million acres; other industry experts estimate the total Koch holdings could be closer to 2 million acres. That puts Koch Industries ahead of energy heavyweights Royal Dutch Shell and Conoco Phillips, both of which lease significant acreage in the oil sands. The findings are likely to inflame the debate surrounding the proposed Keystone XL pipeline — which would transport tar sands oil to refineries in Texas — although the Koch's company has not reserved space in the pipeline. Activists argue that the Kochs do have a stake in the outcome of the Keystone XL battle because the pipeline would drive down crude oil transportation costs, benefiting all lease holders.
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20 Mar 2014: The 2013-2014 Winter Was
The 34th Coldest on Record in U.S., NASA Says

Although many residents of eastern North America may feel like they’ve just suffered through a winter of record cold, the fact is that the winter of 2013-2014 was only

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North American winter temperatures

North American winter temperature anomalies
the 34th coldest in 119 years of record keeping in the U.S. As this map from the U.S. National Climatic Data Center shows, temperatures in the eastern and southern U.S. from Dec. 1, 2013, to Feb. 28th, 2014, were as much as 8 degrees C (14 F) colder than the 2000 to 2013 average for those months. But the western U.S. and Alaska saw unusually warm weather, with California experiencing its hottest winter on record. Overall, temperatures this past winter in the U.S. were about 1 degree F above average. Meanwhile, temperatures in Russia, Asia, and much of Europe were well above average this winter, and land temperatures globally for December, January, and February were the 10th warmest on record.
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19 Mar 2014: CO2 Levels Have Crossed
400 ppm Threshold Far Earlier This Year

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have reached the 400 parts per million threshold two months earlier this year than last, an indication that the planet will soon experience the 400 ppm level year-round, according to scientists from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Last year was the first time in hundreds of thousands of years that the 400 ppm threshold was crossed. Scripps scientists expect CO2 levels to hover around 400 ppm for the next two months, when the Northern Hemisphere spring will go into full bloom and plants will suck CO2 from the atmosphere until going dormant in the fall. "It’s just a matter of time before it stays over 400 forever," said Ralph Keeling, who took over the CO2 monitoring program from his father, Charles David Keeling, who started it in 1958. Since then, atmospheric CO2 levels have risen steadily from 313 ppm as the world continues to burn fossil fuels. Scientists estimate it's been 800,000 to 15 million years since the planet has seen concentrations this high.
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18 Mar 2014: Wildflower Season in Rockies
Is 35 Days Longer as Climate Warms

A warming climate has extended the wildflower season in the Rocky Mountains by 35 days since the 1970s, according to a 39-year study of more than two million blooms. The bloom season, which used to run from late May to early September, now lasts from late April to late
Rocky Mountain wildflowers
David Inouye
Crested Butte, Colorado
September, the researchers say. Previous, less extensive studies seemed to indicate most wildflowers simply shift their bloom cycles to earlier in the year, but new findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that the changes are more complex, with the flowers reaching peak bloom sooner and flowering later in the year. The shift in the timing of blooms could have a major impact on pollinating insects and migratory birds. For example, hummingbirds that summer in the Rocky Mountains time their nesting so that their eggs hatch at peak bloom, when there is plenty of flower nectar for hungry chicks. As the bloom season lengthens, the plants are not producing more flowers. The same number of blooms is spread out over more days, so at peak bloom there may be fewer flowers and less food for hummingbirds, the researchers say.
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17 Mar 2014: Northeast Greenland Glaciers
Are Now Melting Rapidly, Study Finds

The glaciers of northeast Greenland, long thought to be the most stable part of the massive Greenland ice sheet, are melting at an accelerating pace, losing roughly 10

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Greenland ice velocities

Ice surface velocities in Greenland
billion tons of ice annually for the past decade, say researchers from the U.S. and Denmark. The finding will likely boost estimates of global sea level rise, which had previously not accounted for massive ice loss from that region, scientists say. The Zachariae ice stream in northeast Greenland, which drains 16 percent of the ice sheet, has retreated roughly 12.4 miles in the past decade, outpacing the fast-moving Jakobshavn glacier, which has retreated 21.7 miles over the last 150 years. Ice loss from the regio