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Energy


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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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

Click to Enlarge

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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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

Click to Enlarge

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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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,

Click to Enlarge

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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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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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,

Click to Enlarge

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.
PERMALINK

 

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.
PERMALINK

 

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

Click to Enlarge
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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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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