Archive: Science & Technology
16 Jun 2016
The Paris climate conference set the ambitious goal of finding ways to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, rather than the previous threshold of 2 degrees. But what would be the difference between a 1.5 and 2 degree world? And how realistic is such a target?
06 Jun 2016
A steel structure in the Amazon, taller than the Eiffel Tower, will soon begin monitoring the atmosphere above the world’s largest tropical forest, providing an international team of scientists with key insights into how this vital region may be affected by global warming.
25 May 2016
Former U.S. Senator Timothy Wirth and former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray argue that environmental criticisms of corn ethanol are unwarranted and that the amount in gasoline should be increased. In rebuttal, economist C. Ford Runge counters
that any revisionist view of ethanol ignores its negative impacts on the environment and the food supply.
25 May 2016
The revisionist effort to increase the percentage of ethanol blended with U.S. gasoline continues to ignore the major environmental impacts of growing corn for fuel and how it inevitably leads to higher prices for this staple food crop. It remains a bad idea whose time has passed.
23 May 2016
Physicist Klaus Lackner has long advocated deploying devices that extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to combat climate change. Now, as emissions keep soaring, Lackner says in a Yale Environment 360 interview that such “air capture” approaches may be our last best hope.
27 Apr 2016
For climate scientist Kim Cobb, this year’s massive bleaching of coral reefs is providing sobering insights into the impacts of global warming. Yale Environment 360 talked with Cobb about the bleaching events and the push to make reefs more resilient to rising temperatures.
25 Apr 2016
The ʻohiʻa is Hawaii’s iconic tree, a keystone species that maintains healthy watersheds and provides habitat for numerous endangered birds. But a virulent fungal disease, possibly related to a warmer, drier climate, is now felling the island’s cherished 'ohi'a forests.
21 Apr 2016
In the face of rising temperatures and worsening drought, the world’s repositories of agricultural seeds may hold the key to growing food under increasingly harsh conditions. But keeping these gene banks safe and viable is a complicated and expensive challenge.
13 Apr 2016
With new marine protected areas and an emerging U.N. treaty, global ocean conservation efforts are on the verge of a major advance. But to enforce these ambitious initiatives, new satellite-based technologies and newly available online data must be harnessed.
12 Apr 2016
Climate scientist James Hansen has crossed the classic divide between research and activism. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he responds to critics and explains why he believes the reality of climate change requires him to speak out.
07 Apr 2016
One of President Obama’s signature achievements on climate has been strict standards aimed at improving auto fuel efficiency to nearly 55 miles per gallon by 2025. But credits and loopholes, coupled with low gas prices, may mean the U.S. will fall well short of this ambitious goal.
04 Apr 2016
Until recently, little was known about the extent of methane leaking from urban gas distribution pipes and its impact on global warming. But recent advances in detecting this potent greenhouse gas are pushing U.S. states to begin addressing this long-neglected problem.
24 Mar 2016
Low gasoline prices and continuing performance issues have slowed the growth of electric car sales. But that has not stymied progress in electrifying larger vehicles, including garbage trucks, city buses, and medium-sized trucks used by freight giants like FedEx.
21 Mar 2016
If the world is to have another Green Revolution to feed its soaring population, it must be far more sustainable than the first one. That means finding ways to boost yields with less fertilizer and rethinking the way food is distributed.
03 Mar 2016
Agribusinesses are increasingly using computer databases to enable farmers to grow crops more efficiently and with less environmental impact. Experts hope this data, detailing everything from water use to crop yields, can also help the developing world grow more food.
02 Mar 2016
Landscape architect Kristina Hill focuses on helping cities adapt to climate change, particularly sea level rise. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she discusses the challenges, solutions, and costs of saving cities from encroaching oceans.
11 Jan 2016
An increasing number of nonprofit organizations are relying on satellite imagery to monitor environmental degradation. Chief among them is SkyTruth, which has used this data to expose the extent of the BP oil spill, uncover mining damage, and track illegal fishing worldwide.
04 Jan 2016
Entomologist Diana Six is focused on the beetle infestation that is wiping out conifer forests in western North America. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she explains why the key to combating this climate-related scourge is deciphering the trees’ genetic ability to adapt.
21 Dec 2015
Mexican scientists are striving to plant oyamel fir trees at higher altitudes in an effort to save the species, as well as its fluttering iconic winter visitor — the migrating monarch butterfly — from the devastating effects of climate change.
10 Dec 2015
Numerous technologies exist to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and new companies are entering the field. But can CO2 ‘air capture’ scale up from a niche business to an industry that will lower atmospheric concentrations of CO2?
24 Nov 2015
High-tech batteries may be garnering the headlines. But utilities from Spain to China are increasingly relying on pumped storage hydroelectricity – first used in the 1890s – to overcome the intermittent nature of wind and solar power.
27 Oct 2015
Small-scale microgrids are increasingly seen as the most promising way to bring electricity to the 1.3 billion people worldwide who currently lack it. In Kenya, an innovative solar company is using microgrids to deliver power to villages deep in the African bush.
26 Oct 2015
In a Yale Environment 360 interview, Australian scientist and author Tim Flannery explains how the development of technologies that mimic the earth’s natural carbon-removing processes could provide a critical tool for slowing global warming.
22 Oct 2015
Rare and extensive reefs of glass sponges are found only one place on earth – a stretch of the Pacific Northwest coast. Now, efforts are underway to identify and protect these fragile formations before they are obliterated by fishing vessels that trawl the bottom.
28 Sep 2015
On ancestral lands, the Fond du Lac band in Minnesota is planting wild rice and restoring wetlands damaged by dams, industry, and logging. Their efforts are part of a growing trend by Native Americans to bring back traditional food sources and heal scarred landscapes.
21 Sep 2015
The concept of the "solar suburb" includes a solar panel on every roof, an electric vehicle in every garage, ultra-efficient home batteries to store excess energy, and the easy transfer of electricity among house, car, and grid. But will the technological pieces fall in place to make this dream a reality?
17 Sep 2015
The first runner-up in the 2015 Yale Environment 360 Video Contest captures stunning images of the abundant sockeye salmon runs in Bristol Bay, Alaska, and tells the story of a 70-year-old project that has been studying the millions of salmon that annually pour into the region’s rivers to spawn.
17 Aug 2015
Is it 150 species a day or 24 a day or far less than that? Prominent scientists cite dramatically different numbers when estimating the rate at which species are going extinct. Why is that?
13 Aug 2015
Scientist Carl Safina has examined our steadily evolving understanding of the complex interactions among the more social members of the animal world. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about why it’s vital to our humanity to empathize more deeply with wild creatures.
04 Aug 2015
With the world’s coral reefs increasingly threatened by warmer and more acidic seas, scientists are selectively breeding corals to create species with the best chance to survive in the coming century and beyond. Are genetically modified corals next?
23 Jul 2015
Filmmaker Thomas Lennon says camera drones have opened up dramatic new possibilities for seeing the natural world and inspiring the public to protect it. In an e360 interview, he talks about how his drone video from the Delaware River illustrates the potential of this new technology.
13 Jul 2015
As climate change puts ecosystems and species at risk, conservationists are turning to a new approach: preserving those landscapes that are most likely to endure as the world warms.
09 Jul 2015
Norwegian psychologist Per Espen Stoknes has studied why so many people have remained unconcerned about climate change. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, he talks about the psychological barriers to public action on climate and how to overcome them.
17 Jun 2015
Biologist Beth Shapiro has published a new book that looks at the many questions – both technical and ethical – surrounding any attempt to revive extinct species. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, she explains why she believes new genetic technology could benefit critical ecosystems.
15 Jun 2015
The record-breaking drought in California is not chiefly the result of low precipitation. Three factors – rising temperatures, groundwater depletion, and a shrinking Colorado River – mean the most populous U.S. state will face decades of water shortages and must adapt.
04 Jun 2015
Officials in the Florida Keys are seeking to use a GM mosquito that could help prevent a recurrence of dengue fever there. But fears among some residents — which scientists say are unfounded — are slowing the release of mosquitoes whose offspring are genetically programmed to die.
21 May 2015
The Cross River gorilla population in equatorial Africa has been pushed to the brink of extinction. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, a Nigerian scientist working to save the gorillas describes how local villagers are vital to protecting these apes.
23 Apr 2015
Oklahoma officials this week said oil and gas activity was the likely cause of the stunning increase in earthquakes in the state. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Oklahoma geologist Todd Halihan talks about what has caused this growing problem and what can be done about it.
20 Apr 2015
On eBay and elsewhere on the Internet, illegal wildlife and wildlife parts — from elephant ivory to tiger skins to monkey and crocodile skulls — are being sold. Bringing an end to this illicit activity is proving to be a daunting challenge.
30 Mar 2015
The main reason soaring greenhouse gas emissions have not caused air temperatures to rise more rapidly is that oceans have soaked up much of the heat. But new evidence suggests the oceans’ heat-buffering ability may be weakening.
03 Mar 2015
A new study draws links between a record drought in Syria and the uprising that erupted there in 2011. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, Colin Kelley, the study’s lead author, discusses how the severity of that drought was connected to a long-term warming trend in the region.
09 Feb 2015
With a warmer atmosphere expected to spur an increase in major storms, floods, and other wild weather events, scientists and meteorologists worldwide are harnessing advanced computing power to devise more accurate, medium-range forecasts that could save lives and property.
26 Jan 2015
After years of fitful starts, the Pacific island nation of Kiribati this month banned all commercial fishing inside its huge marine reserve. New satellite transponder technology is now helping ensure that the ban succeeds in keeping out the big fishing fleets.
11 Dec 2014
Promising new technologies, including more efficient photovoltaic cells that can harvest energy across the light spectrum, have the potential to dramatically increase solar power generation in the next two decades. But major hurdles remain.
06 Nov 2014
Scientists are offering widely varying estimates of how much carbon we can emit into the atmosphere without causing dangerous climate change. But establishing a so-called carbon budget is critical if we are to keep the planet a safe place to live in the coming century.
27 Oct 2014
Because utilities can't control when the sun shines or the wind blows, it has been difficult to fully incorporate solar and wind power into the electricity grid. But new technologies designed to store the energy produced by these clean power sources could soon be changing that.
20 Oct 2014
Armed with new high-tech equipment, mining companies are targeting vast areas of the deep ocean for mineral extraction. But with few regulations in place, critics fear such development could threaten seabed ecosystems that scientists say are only now being fully understood.
08 Oct 2014
Scientists and climate negotiators have largely agreed that limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius is an important goal. But political scientist David Victor disagrees, arguing that the benchmark is too simplistic and should be abandoned in favor of other indicators.
02 Oct 2014
Former Toyota executive Bill Reinert has long been dubious about the potential of electric cars. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about the promise of other technologies and about why he still sees hybrids as the best alternative to gasoline-powered vehicles.
17 Sep 2014
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.
08 Sep 2014
Some scientists and analysts are touting carbon capture and storage as a necessary tool for avoiding catastrophic climate change. But critics of the technology regard it as simply another way of perpetuating a reliance on fossil fuels.
02 Sep 2014
"Badru’s Story," which documents the work of researchers in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, is the first-place winner of the Yale Environment 360 Video Contest. Filmmakers Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele trek along with scientist Badru Mugerwa and his team as they monitor the impact of climate change on one of Africa’s most diverse forests and its extraordinary wildlife.
20 Aug 2014
Lian Pin Koh believes drones can be a key part of conservation efforts, particularly in remote regions. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, he talks about how his project, ConservationDrones, is promoting the use of drones for everything from counting orangutans to stopping poaching.
04 Aug 2014
Small hydropower projects have the potential to bring electricity to millions of people now living off the grid. But experts warn that planners must carefully consider the cumulative effects of constructing too many small dams in a single watershed.
21 Jul 2014
A Colombian conservationist has been locked in a contentious legal fight against a leading researcher who uses wild monkeys in his search for a malaria vaccine. A recent court decision that banned the practice is seen as a victory in efforts to restrict the use of monkeys in medical research.
14 Jul 2014
02 Jul 2014
Will the planet reach a point where its climate is significantly different from what has existed throughout human history, and if so, when? In an interview with Yale Environment 360, biogeographer Camilo Mora talks about recent research on this disquieting issue and what it means for the coming decades.
05 Jun 2014
Scientists in the U.S. and elsewhere are conducting intensive experiments to cross hardy weeds with food crops such as rice and wheat. Their goal is to make these staples more resilient as higher temperatures, drought, and elevated CO2 levels pose new threats to the world’s food supply.
03 Jun 2014
Desalination has long been associated with one process — turning seawater into drinking water. But a host of new technologies are being developed that not only are improving traditional desalination but opening up new frontiers in reusing everything from agricultural water to industrial effluent.
14 May 2014
In an interview with Yale Environment 360, marine biologist Gretchen Hofmann discusses how well mollusks and other shell-building organisms might evolve to live in increasingly corrosive ocean conditions caused by soaring CO2 emissions.
28 Apr 2014
Researchers have long contended that power from ocean waves could make a major contribution as a renewable energy source. But a host of challenges, including the difficulty of designing a device to capture the energy of waves, have stymied efforts to generate electricity from the sea.
03 Apr 2014
Although it may seem simple, measuring rainfall worldwide has proven to be a difficult job for scientists. But a recently launched satellite is set to change that, providing data that could help in understanding whether global rainfall really is increasing as the planet warms.
31 Mar 2014
A sophisticated and challenging experiment in Antarctica is the latest effort to study ocean acidification in the polar regions, where frigid waters are expected to feel most acutely the ecological impacts of acidic conditions not seen in millions of years.
17 Mar 2014
From forests in Queens to wetlands in China, planners and scientists are promoting a new approach that incorporates experiments into landscape restoration projects to determine what works to the long-term benefit of nature and what does not.
04 Mar 2014
The degradation of soils from unsustainable agriculture and other development has released billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. But new research shows how effective land restoration could play a major role in sequestering CO2 and slowing climate change.
27 Feb 2014
The emerging field of “energy scavenging” is drawing on a wide array of untapped energy sources — including radio waves, vibrations created by moving objects, and waste heat from computers or car exhaust systems — to generate electricity and boost efficiency.
24 Feb 2014
Scientists are trying to understand if the unusual weather in the Northern Hemisphere this winter — from record heat in Alaska to unprecedented flooding in Britain — is linked to climate change. One thing seems clear: Shifts in the jet stream play a key role and could become even more disruptive as the world warms.
06 Feb 2014
For decades, hazardous electronic waste from around the world has been processed in unsafe backyard recycling operations in Asia and Africa. Now, a small but growing movement is seeking to provide these informal collectors with incentives to sell e-waste to advanced recycling facilities.
03 Feb 2014
With a sharp decline in pollinating insects, farmers are being encouraged to grow flowering plants that can support these important insects. It’s a fledgling movement that could help restore the pollinators that are essential for world food production.
28 Jan 2014
New technology is dramatically increasing the role of non-scientists in providing key data for researchers. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Caren Cooper of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology talks about the tremendous benefits — and potential pitfalls — of the expanding realm of citizen science.
21 Jan 2014
Research shows that biochar made from plant fodder and even chicken manure can be used to scrub mercury from power plant emissions and clean up polluted soil. The big question is whether biochar can be produced on a sufficiently large scale to slow or reverse global warming.
16 Jan 2014
Powered by solar panels and biomass, microgrids are spreading slowly across India, where 300 million people live without electricity. But can these off-grid technologies be scaled-up to bring low-carbon power to tens of millions of people?
13 Jan 2014
Even if reviving extinct species is practical, it’s an awful idea. It would take resources away from saving endangered species and their habitats and would divert us from the critical work needed to protect the planet.
13 Jan 2014
A group led by futurist Stewart Brand
is spearheading a movement to try to use genetic technology to revive extinct species, such as the woolly mammoth and the passenger pigeon. In a Yale Environment 360 debate, Brand makes the case for trying to bring back long-gone species, while biologist Paul R. Ehrlich
argues that the idea is ill conceived and morally wrong.
09 Jan 2014
With prominent scientists now calling for experiments to test whether pumping sulfates into the atmosphere could safely counteract global warming, critics worry that the world community may be moving a step closer to deploying this controversial technology.
06 Jan 2014
As the world becomes more urbanized, researchers and city managers from Baltimore to Britain are recognizing the importance of providing urban habitat that can support biodiversity. It just may be the start of an urban wildlife movement.
19 Dec 2013
In Borneo's Danum Valley — one of the last, untouched forest reserves in a region ravaged by logging and oil palm cultivation — a team of international and Malaysian scientists is fighting to preserve an area of stunning biodiversity.
18 Dec 2013
Photographer Peter Essick has traveled the world documenting the causes and consequences of climate change. In a Yale Environment 360
photo essay, we present a gallery of images Essick took while on assignment in Antarctica, Greenland, and other far-flung locales.
18 Nov 2013
A shortage of "rare earth" metals, used in everything from electric car batteries to solar panels to wind turbines, is hampering the growth of renewable energy technologies. Researchers are now working to find alternatives to these critical elements or better ways to recycle them.
11 Nov 2013
Marine phytoplankton are vital in absorbing ever-increasing amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, researcher Tracy Villareal explains how he is using remotely operated robots to better understand how this process mitigates climate change.
21 Oct 2013
Although the latest U.N. climate report significantly increases its projections for sea level rise this century, some scientists warn even those estimates are overly conservative. But one thing is certain: Predicting sea level rise far into the future is a very tricky task.
07 Oct 2013
With advances in genetic sequencing technology, scientists are now able to readily identify the microbes living in and around the roots of trees. This information is proving to have important implications for everything from tropical forest restoration to climate change planning.
03 Oct 2013
Yale Environment 360 asked some leading climate scientists to discuss what they consider to be the most noteworthy or surprising findings in the recently released report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s working group on the physical science of a warming world.
03 Oct 2013
Still reeling from recent financial crises, Iceland is hoping to use its bountiful sources of geothermal and hydroelectric energy to help boost its economy. Among the country’s more ambitious plans is an undersea cable to carry renewably generated electricity to the U.K.
26 Sep 2013
The birds that have come to be known as Darwin's finches have long intrigued students of evolution. But now a parasitic fly introduced to the Galápagos Islands is threatening the future of one or more of these iconic finch species.
09 Sep 2013
Researchers at a lab at Oregon State University are using zebrafish to assess the impacts of multiple chemical exposures. Their findings could help lead to a better understanding of how chemicals in the environment and in consumer products affect human health.
05 Sep 2013
Anand Shah runs a company that is using solar-powered “water ATMs” to bring clean water to remote villages in India. In an e360
interview, Shah talks about how his company is using a high-tech approach to address one of India’s most intractable public health issues.
03 Sep 2013
Faced with the prospect of a dwindling customer base, some U.S. power companies are seeking to end public subsidies and other incentives for rooftop solar. In Arizona, the issue has sparked a heated public relations battle that could help determine the future of solar in the United States.
22 Aug 2013
Every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan has backed programs to develop alternative transportation fuels. But there are better ways to foster energy independence and reduce greenhouse gas emissions than using subsidies and mandates to promote politically favored fuels.
08 Jul 2013
The field of stable isotope analysis was once the realm of geologists and anthropologists. But rapid advances and plummeting costs mean that environmental scientists are increasingly using the technology to gain insight into the migration and behavior of various animals.
20 Jun 2013
Scientists studying a prolonged and severe drought in the southwestern U.S. say that extensive damage done to trees in that region portends what lies in store as other forests worldwide face rising temperatures, diminished rainfall, and devastating fires.
28 May 2013
Author Michael Pollan has often written about people’s relationship to the natural world. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, he talks about researching his latest book and what he learned about the connections between ecology and human health.
23 May 2013
Improvements in DNA technology now make it possible for biologists to identify every living organism in and around a species. Scientists say this could have profound implications for everything from protecting amphibians from a deadly fungus to reintroducing species into the wild.
21 May 2013
U.S. businesswoman Katherine Lucey is working with a network of women entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa to sell inexpensive, household solar energy systems. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Lucey explains how solar electricity can transform lives, particularly those of rural women and girls.
14 May 2013
Climate scientist Ralph Keeling has followed in the footsteps of his father, who pioneered the measurement of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, the younger Keeling talks about the implications of crossing an alarming CO2 threshold this month.
01 May 2013
Revered for its beauty and its longevity, the ginkgo is a living fossil, unchanged for more than 200 million years. Botanist Peter Crane, who has a written what he calls a biography of this unique tree, talks to Yale Environment 360 about the inspiring history and cultural significance of the ginkgo.
30 Apr 2013
The danger that the decline of bees and other pollinators represents to the world’s food supply was highlighted this week when the European Commission decided to ban a class of pesticides suspected of playing a role in so-called “colony collapse disorder.”
18 Apr 2013
In an online debate for Yale Environment 360, Elliot Entis, whose company has created a genetically modified salmon that may soon be for sale in the U.S., discusses the environmental and health impacts of this controversial technology with author Paul Greenberg, a critic of GM fish.
01 Apr 2013
A new census found this winter’s population of North American monarch butterflies in Mexico was at the lowest level ever measured. Insect ecologist Orley Taylor talks to Yale Environment 360 about how the planting of genetically modified crops and the resulting use of herbicides has contributed to the monarchs’ decline.
25 Mar 2013
An expanding body of evidence shows that the presence of field biologists and their assistants is playing an important part in deterring poaching, illegal logging, and other destructive activities in the world’s parks and wildlife reserves.
20 Mar 2013
Stanford University scientist Barbara Block heads a program that has placed satellite tags on thousands of sharks, bluefin tuna, and other marine predators to better understand their life cycles. Now, using data available on mobile devices, she hopes to enlist public support for protecting these threatened creatures.
05 Mar 2013
Better Place was touted as one of the world’s most innovative electric vehicle start-ups when it launched six years ago. But after selling fewer than 750 cars in a major initiative in Israel and losing more than $500 million, the company’s experience shows that EVs are still not ready for primetime.
07 Feb 2013
One of the few potential advantages attributed to soaring carbon dioxide levels has been enhanced crop growth. But in an interview with Yale Environment 360, botanist Stephen Long talks about his research showing why rising temperatures and an increase in agricultural pests may offset any future productivity gains.
24 Jan 2013
Urban stormwater runoff is a serious problem, overloading sewage treatment plants and polluting waterways. Now, various U.S. cities are creating innovative green infrastructure — such as rain gardens and roadside plantings — that mimics the way nature collects and cleanses water.
23 Jan 2013
After more than four decades as a leading environmentalist, Gus Speth is disillusioned with what has been accomplished. What’s needed now, he says in an interview with Yale Environment 360, is a transformative change in America’s political economy that will benefit both society and the planet.
26 Dec 2012
A nine-year study led by researcher Linda Deegan points to the damage that human-caused nutrients inflict on salt marshes along the U.S. East Coast. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, she describes what these findings mean for an ecosystem that provides critical services, from nourishing marine life to buffering the coast from storms like Sandy.
13 Dec 2012
Scientists are conducting a lab experiment to help solve a key riddle: the role of clouds in climate change. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, research leader Jasper Kirkby discusses the mysteries of clouds and why it’s important to know if clouds are contributing to global warming.
04 Dec 2012
With the relationship between utilities and their customers changing in unprecedented ways, new companies are deploying vast amounts of data and social psychology techniques to try to persuade people to use less electricity in their homes.
22 Oct 2012
On issues ranging from genetically modified crops to nuclear power, environmentalists are increasingly refusing to listen to scientific arguments that challenge standard green positions. This approach risks weakening the environmental movement and empowering climate contrarians.
15 Oct 2012
A host of startup companies are pursuing new technologies that they claim will soon lead to large-scale commercialization of biofuels made from algae. But questions remain about the viability and environmental benefits of what some of its developers are calling “green crude.”
11 Oct 2012
Inadequate sewage systems and the lack of toilets in much of the developing world have created a major public health and environmental crisis. Now various innovators are promoting new kinds of toilets and technologies that use little or no water and recycle the waste.
04 Oct 2012
Experts believe the next deadly human pandemic will almost certainly be a virus that spills over from wildlife to humans. The reasons why have a lot to do with the frenetic pace with which we are destroying wild places and disrupting ecosystems.
27 Sep 2012
Taxonomist Quentin Wheeler is calling for a concerted effort to classify the millions of unidentified species in the world. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about the new field of “cybertaxonomy” and how it is harnessing the Web to speed up the effort to catalog life on earth.
24 Sep 2012
A host of start-up companies are exploring ways to harness the enormous amount of wind energy flowing around the earth, especially at high altitudes. But as these innovators are discovering, the engineering and regulatory challenges of what is known as airborne wind power are daunting.
12 Sep 2012
The invasive Burmese python has altered ecosystems in Florida’s Everglades, decimating populations of native animals. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, python expert Michael Dorcas describes the ecological damage these huge snakes have caused and why it will be nearly impossible to get rid of them.
10 Sep 2012
The Andes in eastern Peru, with steep slopes and remarkable biodiversity, are what one scientist calls a “perfect laboratory” for studying the effects of climate change. E360 contributor Elizabeth Kolbert trekked there with researchers seeking to determine if tree populations can move uphill fast enough to survive warming temperatures.
06 Sep 2012
The amount of time it takes to recharge lithium-ion batteries has been a major impediment to consumer acceptance of electric vehicles. But a host of companies and researchers are working intensively to develop a battery that can recharge in 10 minutes and power a car for hundreds of miles.
30 Aug 2012
Scientists say this year’s record declines in Arctic sea ice extent and volume are powerful evidence that the giant cap of ice at the top of the planet is on a trajectory to largely disappear in summer within a decade or two, with profound global consequences.
20 Aug 2012
In Mongolia, U.S. scientists are studying climate clues in ancient tree rings to help answer a crucial question: How will global warming affect Asia’s monsoon rains, which supply water for agriculture and drinking to half the world’s population?
09 Aug 2012
Two recent studies highlight the harm that industrial fisheries are doing to the world’s seabirds, either by overharvesting the birds’ favorite prey or by drowning birds hooked on longlines. But tighter regulations and innovative technologies are starting to significantly reduce seabird “bycatch,” slashing it by 90 percent in some regions.
30 Jul 2012
Proponents of this nuclear technology argue that it can eliminate large stockpiles of nuclear waste and generate huge amounts of low-carbon electricity. But as the battle over a major fast-breeder reactor in the UK intensifies, skeptics warn that fast-breeders are neither safe nor cost-effective.
23 Jul 2012
Vehicles that virtually drive themselves are no longer the stuff of science fiction, with Google and other companies working to develop self-driving cars. These automated vehicles not only offer improved safety and fewer traffic jams, but real environmental benefits as well.
05 Jul 2012
American agriculture is steeped in a chemical-intensive system that wastes money and pollutes the environment. But by making use of new technology and innovative approaches, farmers can boost production and profits — while at the same time improving soil quality, enhancing biodiversity, and protecting habitat.
25 Jun 2012
The designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is now focused on the mass extinction of species, a threat she is highlighting on an interactive Web site. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Maya Lin talks about her “What is Missing” project, which she calls her “last memorial.”
31 May 2012
A planned carbon capture and storage plant in West Texas is being billed as the “cleanest coal plant in the world.” But can the $3 billion project help move the global power industry toward the elusive goal of low-carbon electricity, or is it just another way of perpetuating fossil fuels?
17 May 2012
A new study from a Pacific atoll reveals the links between native trees, bird guano, and the giant manta rays that live off the coast. In unraveling this intricate web, the researchers point to the often little-understood interconnectedness between terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
16 May 2012
Paul Anastas pioneered the concept of green chemistry and has led the effort to rethink the way we design and make the products we use. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, he talks about the challenges of bringing this approach to policy making and the frustrations of tackling environmental issues in a politically polarized era.
07 May 2012
A British scientist argues that global warming could lead to a future of more intense volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. And while some dismiss his views as preposterous, he points to a body of recent research that shows a troubling link between climate change and the Earth’s most destructive geological events.
09 Apr 2012
Large-scale industrial agriculture depends on engineering the land to ensure the absence of natural diversity. But as the recent emergence of herbicide-tolerant weeds on U.S. farms has shown, nature ultimately finds a way to subvert uniformity and assert itself.
05 Apr 2012
U.S. consumers tell researchers they want to buy environmentally friendly products, but so far they haven’t been doing that on a large scale. Now a host of companies and nonprofits are trying to use new technology — from smartphones to social networking — to make it easier for buyers to make the green choice.
22 Mar 2012
For decades, farm bills in the U.S. Congress have supported large-scale agriculture. But with the 2012 Farm Bill now up for debate, advocates say seismic shifts in the way the nation views food production may lead to new policies that tilt more toward local, sustainable agriculture.
19 Mar 2012
A new study finds that even low doses of hormone-disrupting chemicals — used in everything from plastics to pesticides – can have serious effects on human health. These findings, the researchers say, point to the need for basic changes in how chemical safety testing is conducted.
05 Mar 2012
The loss of Arctic summer sea ice and the rapid warming of the Far North are altering the jet stream over North America, Europe, and Russia. Scientists are now just beginning to understand how these profound shifts may be increasing the likelihood of more persistent and extreme weather.
23 Feb 2012
Three startup companies led by prominent scientists are working on new technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The scientific community is skeptical, but these entrepreneurs believe the process of CO2 removal can eventually be profitable and help cool an overheating planet.
02 Feb 2012
Two of the world’s leading experts on the world’s top marine predator are now in Antarctica, tagging and photographing a creature whose remarkably cooperative hunting behavior and transmission of knowledge across generations may be rivaled only by humans.
05 Jan 2012
Indian banker Pavan Sukhdev has been grappling with the question of how to place a monetary value on nature. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, he discusses the ways natural ecosystems benefit people and why policymakers and businesses must rethink how they assess environmental costs and benefits.
19 Dec 2011
Warming temperatures associated with climate change are already affecting vineyards from France to Chile, often in beneficial ways. But as the world continues to warm, some traditional winemaking regions are scrambling to adapt, while other areas see themselves as new wine frontiers.
15 Dec 2011
One idea promoted at the Durban talks was “climate-smart agriculture," which could make crops less vulnerable to heat and drought and turn depleted soils into carbon sinks. The World Bank and African leaders are backing this new approach, but some critics are skeptical that it will benefit small-scale African farmers.
14 Dec 2011
Biologist Roger Payne played a key role in helping end the wholesale slaughter of whales. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Payne discusses the mysteries of these legendary marine mammals and the threats they continue to face.
05 Dec 2011
Scientists and conservationists are increasingly relying on heat- and motion-activated camera traps to study rare or reclusive species in remote habitats. And the striking images they provide are proving to be a boon for raising conservation awareness worldwide.
24 Oct 2011
In an increasingly interconnected world, fungal diseases are spreading at an alarming rate and have led to deadly outbreaks in amphibian, bat, and bee populations. And in the last decade, researchers note, some of the most virulent strains have infected people.
12 Oct 2011
A U.S. panel has called for a concerted effort to study proposals to manipulate the climate to slow global warming — a heretical notion among some environmentalists. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Jane C. S. Long, the group’s chairwoman, explains why we need to know more about the possibilities and perils of geoengineering.
29 Aug 2011
In pockets ranging from mountain peaks to bogs, scientists are discovering plants and animals that survived previous eras of climate change. Now, conservation biologists say, these climate “relicts” could shed light on how some species may hang on in the coming centuries.
22 Aug 2011
Airborne microbes can travel thousands of miles and high into the stratosphere. Now scientists are beginning to understand the possible role of these microbes — such as bacteria, fungal spores, and tiny algae — in creating clouds, causing rain, spreading disease, and even changing climate.
01 Aug 2011
Some skeptics have suggested the real culprit behind rising temperatures is increased solar activity. But a wide variety of data and experiments still provide no solid evidence to refute the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions are the major reason the planet is heating up.
11 Jul 2011
A rapidly expanding universe of citizens’ groups, researchers, and environmental organizations are making use of social media and smart phone applications to document changes in the natural world and to mobilize support for taking action.
07 Jul 2011
Phosphate has been essential to feeding the world since the Green Revolution, but its excessive use as a fertilizer has led to widespread pollution and eutrophication. Now, many of the world’s remaining reserves are starting to be depleted.
23 Jun 2011
Few places in the U.S. are as well suited to developing renewable energy as the contaminated sites known as “brownfields.” But as communities from Philadelphia to California are discovering, government support is critical to enable solar and wind entrepreneurs to make use of these abandoned lands.
08 Jun 2011
Paula Kahumbu runs a conservation organization with a distinctly 21st-century mission: Posting field blogs from conservationists to attract global support for wildlife protection. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Kahumbu talks about her group’s triumphs and struggles as it battles to preserve Africa’s magnificent animals.
02 Jun 2011
In the past year, the world has seen a large number of extreme weather events, from the Russian heat wave last summer, to the severe flooding in Pakistan, to the recent tornadoes in the U.S. In a Yale Environment 360
forum, a panel of experts weighs in on whether the wild weather may be tied to increasing global temperatures.
19 May 2011
What if the ever-increasing amounts of carbon dioxide that are heating up the atmosphere could be used to produce an abundant supply of liquid fuels? The U.S. government and private labs are pursuing that Holy Grail of renewable energy — but for now the cost of large-scale production is prohibitive.
05 May 2011
The recyclable plastic bags you get at the green grocer are not biodegradable. But product life-cycle assessments, which are about to become more prominent in the marketplace, fail to consider whether those bags will break down in landfills or just end up as litter.
04 May 2011
Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn believes the technology currently exists to produce affordable, all-electric cars that will find a global market. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, he talks about Nissan’s new Leaf and why he is confident that, despite earlier setbacks, the time for all-electric vehicles is now.
02 May 2011
Much attention has been paid to how global warming is affecting the world’s polar regions and glaciers. But a leading authority on tropical forests warns that rising temperatures could have an equally profound impact on rainforests and are already taking a toll on some tropical species.
21 Apr 2011
One of the thorniest questions facing climate scientists is whether human-induced climate change is leading to more heat waves, floods, and extreme weather events. Now, employing increasingly sophisticated methods of studying weather extremes, climatologists say they are closer to answering that key question.
24 Mar 2011
When wildlife biologists ventured into a Vermont cave this month, they found disturbing evidence that white-nose syndrome was continuing to take its toll on once-abundant bat populations. But the question remains: What can be done to halt the spread of this still-mysterious ailment?
22 Mar 2011
The devastating tsunami in northeastern Japan is only one of many that have battered Japan over the eons. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, tsunami and earthquake expert Lori Dengler describes the historic and paleological record of tsunamis across the Pacific, and what it may mean in the future for Japan and the western United States.
21 Mar 2011
The world’s worst nuclear reactor mishap in 25 years was caused by a massive natural calamity but compounded by what appear to be surprising mistakes by Japanese engineers. The result has been a fast-moving disaster that has left officials careening from one emergency to the next.
10 Mar 2011
In recent months, several conservative governors have rejected federal funds to begin constructing high-speed rail lines in their states. But a high-speed rail advocate argues that such ideologically driven actions are folly, as other U.S. states and countries around the world are moving swiftly to embrace a technology that is essential for competitive 21st-century economies.
28 Feb 2011
As concerns grow in the U.S. about the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to extract natural gas from shale, companies have set their sights on Europe and its abundant reserves of this “unconventional” gas. But from Britain to Poland, critics warn of the potentially high environmental cost of this looming energy boom.
24 Feb 2011
One of the tenets of conservation management holds that alien species are ecologically harmful. But a new study is pointing to research that demonstrates that some non-native plants and animals can have beneficial impacts.
24 Jan 2011
A decade ago, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Paul Crutzen first suggested we were living in the “Anthropocene,” a new geological epoch in which humans had altered the planet. Now, in an article for Yale Environment 360
, Crutzen and a coauthor explain why adopting this term could help transform the perception of our role as stewards of the Earth.
18 Jan 2011
Forecasting what the Earth’s climate might look like a century from now has long presented a huge challenge to climate scientists. But better understanding of the climate system, improved observations of the current climate, and rapidly improving computing power are slowly leading to more reliable methods.
02 Dec 2010
Long a proven technology in Europe, green roofs are becoming increasingly common in U.S. cities, with major initiatives in Chicago, Portland, and Washington, D.C. While initially more expensive than standard coverings, green roofs offer some major environmental — and economic — benefits.
11 Nov 2010
In China, millions of tons of waste from livestock farms are causing severe water pollution and massive emissions of methane. Now, some large livestock operators are turning to biogas fuel production in hopes of creating “ecological” factory farms.
28 Oct 2010
Amid China’s seemingly boundless emissions of industrial pollutants, there are signs of hope. Discharges of sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain, have actually decreased, offering some evidence that China is starting to establish a culture of pollution monitoring and control.
14 Oct 2010
Will electric cars one day become part of a network of rechargeable batteries that can help smooth out the intermittent nature of wind and solar power? Many experts believe so, pointing to programs in Europe and the U.S. that demonstrate the promise of vehicle-to-grid technology.
05 Oct 2010
As climate science advances, predictions about the extent of future warming and its effects are likely to become less — not more — precise. That may make it more difficult to convince the public of the reality of climate change, but it hardly diminishes the urgency of taking action.
20 Sep 2010
In the early 20th century, Russian botanist Nikolai Vavilov created a preserve outside St. Petersburg that today contains one of the world’s largest collections of rare seeds and crops. Now, scientists and conservationists are waging an international campaign to save the reserve’s fields from being bulldozed for housing development.
30 Aug 2010
As climate scientists wrestle with the complexities of how the planet will react to rising greenhouse-gas levels, no variable is more difficult to decipher than the impact of clouds. But thanks to new satellite data and other technologies, clues are emerging that may help solve the puzzle.
06 Jul 2010
The surest sign of a warming Earth is the steady melting of its ice zones, from disappearing sea ice in the Arctic to shrinking glaciers worldwide. Now, scientists are using increasingly sophisticated satellite technology to measure the extent, thickness, and height of ice, assembling an essential picture of a planet in transition.
01 Jun 2010
Within the planet’s oceans and soils are trillions of bacteria that store and release far more carbon dioxide than all of the Earth’s trees and plants. Now, scientists are attempting to understand how the world’s bacteria will influence — and be influenced by — a warming climate.
17 May 2010
Is human activity altering the planet on a scale comparable to major geological events of the past? Scientists are now considering whether to officially designate a new geological epoch to reflect the changes that homo sapiens
have wrought: the Anthropocene.
13 May 2010
A battle is quietly being waged between the industry that produces genetically modified seeds and scientists trying to investigate the environmental impacts of engineered crops. Although companies such as Monsanto have recently given ground, researchers say these firms are still loath to allow independent analyses of their patented — and profitable — seeds.
03 May 2010
Insecticides such as DDT have long been used to combat the scourge of malaria in the developing world. But with the disease parasite becoming increasingly adept at resisting the chemical onslaught, some countries are achieving striking success by eliminating the environmental conditions that give rise to malarial mosquitoes.
11 Mar 2010
Despite strong evidence that growing food crops to produce ethanol is harmful to the environment and the world’s poor, the Obama administration is backing subsidies and programs that will ensure that half of the U.S.’s corn crop will soon go to biofuel production. It’s time to recognize that biofuels are anything but green.
03 Mar 2010
After making his fortune with Idealab and a host of technology start-ups, Bill Gross has turned his attention to renewable energy. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Gross talks about the solar power plant technology his company eSolar is developing and about the future of solar.
25 Feb 2010
Well before the recent controversies, the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was marred by an unwillingness to listen to dissenting points of view, an inadequate system for dealing with errors, conflicts of interest, and political advocacy. The latest allegations of inaccuracies should be an impetus for sweeping reform.
25 Jan 2010
In the last two decades, network theory has emerged as a way of making sense of everything from the World Wide Web to the human brain. Now, as ecologists have begun applying this theory to ecosystems, they are gaining insights into how species are interconnected and how to foster biodiversity.
21 Oct 2009
Interfering with the Earth’s climate system to counteract global warming is a controversial concept. But in an interview with Yale Environment 360, climate scientist Ken Caldeira talks about why he believes the world needs to better understand which geoengineering schemes might work and which are fantasy — or worse.
17 Sep 2009
Introduced more than a decade ago, genetically modified crops are now planted on millions of acres throughout the world. But the fundamental questions about them remain — both about their safety and their long-term impact on global food security and the environment.
10 Sep 2009
By the end of the century, New York’s climate could resemble that of present-day Raleigh, North Carolina and its harbor could easily rise by two feet or more. Faced with this prospect, the city is among the first urban centers to begin changing the way it builds its infrastructure — and the way it thinks about its future.
31 Aug 2009
For more than 40 years, scientists have dreamed of collecting the sun’s energy in space and beaming it back to Earth. Now, a host of technological advances, coupled with interest from the U.S. military, may be bringing that vision close to reality.
13 Aug 2009
John Holdren, the president’s top science adviser, is playing a key role in shaping the Obama administration’s strategy to combat global warming. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Holdren discusses the prospects for achieving key breakthroughs on climate change, both in Congress and at upcoming talks in Copenhagen.
03 Aug 2009
In a matter of years or decades, researchers believe, animals and plants already are adapting to life in a warmer world. Some species will be unable to change quickly enough and will go extinct, but others will evolve, as natural selection enables them to carry on in an altered environment.
13 Jul 2009
For years, the stumbling block for making renewable energy practical and dependable has been how to store electricity for days when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing. But new technologies suggest this goal may finally be within reach.
01 Jul 2009
Researchers throughout the world are working to produce biofuel from algae. But a few are trying a decidedly novel approach: Using an abundant and freely available source — human waste — to make the fuel of the future while also treating sewage.
04 May 2009
The scrubby jatropha tree has been touted as a wonder biofuel with unlimited potential. But questions are now emerging as to whether widespread jatropha cultivation is really feasible or whether it will simply displace badly-needed food crops in the developing world.
26 Mar 2009
Armed with vivid images from space and remote sensing data, scientists, environmentalists, and armchair conservationists are now tracking threats to the planet and making the information available to anyone with an Internet connection.
17 Feb 2009
Charles Darwin brought an insatiable inquisitiveness to his view of the natural world. On the bicentennial of his birth, author Verlyn Klinkenborg reflects on what Darwin’s most fundamental observations mean to us.
16 Oct 2008
Scientists have been trying to identify the cause of a cancer epidemic that is wiping out Australia’s Tasmanian devils. Now new research points to an alarming conclusion: because of the species’ low genetic diversity, the cancer is contagious and is spreading from one devil to another.
22 Sep 2008
With food prices skyrocketing and climate change looming, the world needs a green revolution like the one a generation ago. But many valuable seed varieties have been lost – and scientists now are scrambling to protect those that remain before they vanish down the genetic drain.
28 Jul 2008
After years of optimistic predictions and false starts, it looks like solar's moment is here at last. Analysts say a pattern of rapid growth, technological breakthroughs, and falling production costs has put solar power on the brink of becoming the world's dominant electricity source.
25 Jun 2008
The Bush administration has been widely criticized for placing politics over science when it comes to environmental policy-making. The next president must act to reverse that trend.
23 Jun 2008
Nanotechnology, now used in everything from computers to toothpaste, is booming. But concern is growing that its development is outpacing our understanding of how to use it safely.
16 Jun 2008
As the public seeks answers about the future impacts of climate change, some climatologists are growing increasingly uneasy about the localized predictions they are being asked to make.
10 Jun 2008
A cap-and-trade system is not the answer, according to a leading alternative-energy advocate. To really tackle climate change, the United States must revolutionize its entire energy strategy.
03 Jun 2008
The burgeoning amount of carbon dioxide in oceans is affecting a lot more than coral reefs. It is also damaging marine life and, most ominously, threatening the future survival of marine populations.
03 Jun 2008
When it comes to setting climate change policy, science can only tell us so much. Ultimately, a lead report author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change writes, it comes down to making judgments about what is fair, equitable, and just.
03 Jun 2008
By taking bits of a single gene, scientists are using DNA barcoding to
identify new species. If a portable hand-held scanning device can be
developed, one ecologist says, it could “do for biodiversity what the
printing press did for literacy.”