Topic: Science & Technology


What Is the Carbon Limit? <br />That Depends Who You Ask

Analysis

What Is the Carbon Limit?
That Depends Who You Ask

by fred pearce
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.
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Innovations in Energy Storage Provide Boost for Renewables

Report

Innovations in Energy Storage Provide Boost for Renewables

by dave levitan
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.
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Drive to Mine the Deep Sea <br />Raises Concerns Over Impacts

Report

Drive to Mine the Deep Sea
Raises Concerns Over Impacts

by mike ives
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.
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Interview

The Case for a Climate Goal
Other Than Two Degrees Celsius

by diane toomey
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.
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Interview

He's Still Bullish on Hybrids,
But Skeptical of Electric Cars

by kay mcdonald
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.
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Peak to Peak: An Intimate Look at <br />The Bighorn Sheep of the Rockies

An E360 Video Contest Award Winner

Peak to Peak: An Intimate Look at
The Bighorn Sheep of the Rockies

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.
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Can Carbon Capture Technology <br />Be Part of the Climate Solution?

Analysis

Can Carbon Capture Technology
Be Part of the Climate Solution?

by david biello
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.
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Badru’s Story: Early Warnings From <br />Inside an Impenetrable African Forest

E360 Video Contest Award Winner — First Place

Badru’s Story: Early Warnings From
Inside an Impenetrable African Forest

"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.
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How Drones Are Emerging <br />As Valuable Conservation Tool

Interview

How Drones Are Emerging
As Valuable Conservation Tool

by crystal gammon
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.
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As Small Hydropower Expands, <br />So Does Caution on Its Impacts

Report

As Small Hydropower Expands,
So Does Caution on Its Impacts

by dave levitan
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.
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Primate Rights vs Research: <br /> Battle in Colombian Rainforest

Report

Primate Rights vs Research:
Battle in Colombian Rainforest

by chris kraul
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.
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The Soil Pollution Crisis in China:<br /> A Cleanup Presents Daunting Challenge

Tainted Harvest: An e360 Special Report/Part III

The Soil Pollution Crisis in China:
A Cleanup Presents Daunting Challenge


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Interview

Where Will Earth Head
After Its ‘Climate Departure’?

by diane toomey
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.
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How Weeds Could Help Feed <br />Billions in a Warming World

Report

How Weeds Could Help Feed
Billions in a Warming World

by lisa palmer
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.
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New Desalination Technologies <br />Spur Growth in Recyling Water

Report

New Desalination Technologies
Spur Growth in Recyling Water

by cheryl katz
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.
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Interview

Examining How Marine Life
Might Adapt to Acidified Oceans

by elizabeth grossman
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.
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Why Wave Power Has Lagged <br />Far Behind as Energy Source

Analysis

Why Wave Power Has Lagged
Far Behind as Energy Source

by dave levitan
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.
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New Satellite Boosts Research <br />On Global Rainfall and Climate

Analysis

New Satellite Boosts Research
On Global Rainfall and Climate

by nicola jones
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.
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Scientists Focus on Polar Waters <br />As Threat of Acidification Grows

Report

Scientists Focus on Polar Waters
As Threat of Acidification Grows

by jo chandler
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.
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Rebuilding the Natural World: <br />A Shift in Ecological Restoration

Analysis

Rebuilding the Natural World:
A Shift in Ecological Restoration

by richard conniff
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.
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Soil as Carbon Storehouse: <br />New Weapon in Climate Fight?

Analysis

Soil as Carbon Storehouse:
New Weapon in Climate Fight?

by judith d. schwartz
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.
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In a Host of Small Sources, <br />Scientists See Energy Windfall

Report

In a Host of Small Sources,
Scientists See Energy Windfall

by cheryl katz
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.
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Is Weird Winter Weather <br />Related to Climate Change?

Analysis

Is Weird Winter Weather
Related to Climate Change?

by fred pearce
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.
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In Developing World, A Push to <br />Bring E-Waste Out of Shadows

Report

In Developing World, A Push to
Bring E-Waste Out of Shadows

by mike ives
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.
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Growing Insects: Farmers Can <br />Help to Bring Back Pollinators

Report

Growing Insects: Farmers Can
Help to Bring Back Pollinators

by richard conniff
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.
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How Rise of Citizen Science <br />Is Democratizing Research

Interview

How Rise of Citizen Science
Is Democratizing Research

by diane toomey
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.
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As Uses of Biochar Expand, <br />Climate Benefits Still Uncertain

Analysis

As Uses of Biochar Expand,
Climate Benefits Still Uncertain

by mark hertsgaard
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.
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Indian Microgrids Aim to <br />Bring Millions Out of Darkness

Report

Indian Microgrids Aim to
Bring Millions Out of Darkness

by david ferris
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?
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The Case Against De-Extinction: <br />It’s a Fascinating but Dumb Idea

Point/Counterpoint: Reviving Extinct Species

The Case Against De-Extinction:
It’s a Fascinating but Dumb Idea

by paul r. ehrlich
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.
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De-Extinction Debate: Should We <br />Bring Back the Woolly Mammoth?

Point/Counterpoint: Reviving Extinct Species

De-Extinction Debate: Should We
Bring Back the Woolly Mammoth?

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.
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Solar Geoengineering: Weighing <br />Costs of Blocking the Sun’s Rays

Report

Solar Geoengineering: Weighing
Costs of Blocking the Sun’s Rays

by nicola jones
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.
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Urban Nature: How to Foster <br />Biodiversity in World’s Cities

Analysis

Urban Nature: How to Foster
Biodiversity in World’s Cities

by richard conniff
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.
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In Imperiled Forests of Borneo, <br />A Rich Tropical Eden Endures

Report

In Imperiled Forests of Borneo,
A Rich Tropical Eden Endures

by william laurance
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.
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Documenting the Swift Change <br />Wrought by Global Warming

Photo Essay

Documenting the Swift Change
Wrought by Global Warming

by peter essick
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.
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A Scarcity of Rare Metals Is <br />Hindering Green Technologies

Report

A Scarcity of Rare Metals Is
Hindering Green Technologies

by nicola jones
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.
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Using Ocean Robots to Unlock <br />Mysteries of CO2 and the Seas

Interview

Using Ocean Robots to Unlock
Mysteries of CO2 and the Seas

by todd woody
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.
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Rising Waters: How Fast and <br />How Far Will Sea Levels Rise?

Analysis

Rising Waters: How Fast and
How Far Will Sea Levels Rise?

by nicola jones
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.
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Microbiomes at the Roots: <br />A New Look at Forest Ecology

Analysis

Microbiomes at the Roots:
A New Look at Forest Ecology

by richard conniff
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.
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Forum

Top Climate Scientists Assess
Latest Report from U.N. Panel

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.
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Iceland Seeks to Cash In On <br />Its Abundant Renewable Energy

Report

Iceland Seeks to Cash In On
Its Abundant Renewable Energy

by cheryl katz
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.
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In Galápagos, An Insidious <br />Threat to Darwin's Finches

Report

In Galápagos, An Insidious
Threat to Darwin's Finches

by elizabeth kolbert
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.
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How Tiny Fish Could Reveal <br />Effects of Chemical Exposure

Report

How Tiny Fish Could Reveal
Effects of Chemical Exposure

by elizabeth grossman
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.
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How High Tech is Helping <br /> Bring Clean Water to India

Interview

How High Tech is Helping
Bring Clean Water to India

by todd woody
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.
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With Rooftop Solar on Rise, <br />U.S. Utilities Are Striking Back

Report

With Rooftop Solar on Rise,
U.S. Utilities Are Striking Back

by marc gunther
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.
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Why Pushing Alternate Fuels <br /> Makes for Bad Public Policy

Opinion

Why Pushing Alternate Fuels
Makes for Bad Public Policy

by john decicco
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.
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Molecular Detective Work<br /> Yields Big Gains for Ecology

Report

Molecular Detective Work
Yields Big Gains for Ecology

by madeline bodin
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.
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Megadrought in U.S. Southwest:<br /> A Bad Omen for Forests Globally

Analysis

Megadrought in U.S. Southwest:
A Bad Omen for Forests Globally

by caroline fraser
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.
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Michael Pollan on the Links<br /> Between Biodiversity and Health

Interview

Michael Pollan on the Links
Between Biodiversity and Health

by jack hitt
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.
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Research on Microbes Points<br /> To New Tools for Conservation

Analysis

Research on Microbes Points
To New Tools for Conservation

by richard conniff
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.
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For Africa’s Solar Sisters,<br /> Off-Grid Electricity is Power

Interview

For Africa’s Solar Sisters,
Off-Grid Electricity is Power

by diane toomey
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.
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Son of Climate Science Pioneer<br /> Ponders A Sobering Milestone

Interview

Son of Climate Science Pioneer
Ponders A Sobering Milestone

by fen montaigne
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.
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Ginkgo: The Life Story of<br /> The Oldest Tree on Earth

Interview

Ginkgo: The Life Story of
The Oldest Tree on Earth

by roger cohn
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.
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Declining Bee Populations Pose<br /> A Threat to Global Agriculture

Report

Declining Bee Populations Pose
A Threat to Global Agriculture

by elizabeth grossman
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.”
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As Final U.S. Decision Nears,<br /> A Lively Debate on GM Salmon

Opinion

As Final U.S. Decision Nears,
A Lively Debate on GM Salmon

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.
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Tracking the Causes of Sharp <br/> Decline of the Monarch Butterfly

Interview

Tracking the Causes of Sharp
Decline of the Monarch Butterfly

by richard conniff
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.
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The Scientist as Guardian:<br /> A Tool for Protecting the Wild

Analysis

The Scientist as Guardian:
A Tool for Protecting the Wild

by william laurance
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.
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A Leading Marine Biologist<br /> Works to Create a ‘Wired Ocean’

Interview

A Leading Marine Biologist
Works to Create a ‘Wired Ocean’

by ben goldfarb
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.
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Why a Highly Promising<br /> Electric Car Start-Up Is Failing

Report

Why a Highly Promising
Electric Car Start-Up Is Failing

by marc gunther
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.
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Probing Impact of Warming<br /> On the World's Food Supply

Interview

Probing Impact of Warming
On the World's Food Supply

by olive heffernan
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.
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To Tackle Runoff, Cities<br /> Turn to Green Initiatives

Report

To Tackle Runoff, Cities
Turn to Green Initiatives

by dave levitan
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.
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Charting a New Course for<br /> The U.S. and the Environment

Interview

Charting a New Course for
The U.S. and the Environment

by roger cohn
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.
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What’s Damaging Marshes on<br /> U.S. Coast and Why It Matters

Interview

What’s Damaging Marshes on
U.S. Coast and Why It Matters

by kevin dennehy
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.
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Creating Clouds in the Lab <br /> To Better Understand Climate

Interview

Creating Clouds in the Lab
To Better Understand Climate

by rae ellen bichell
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.
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How Data and Social Pressure<br /> Can Reduce Home Energy Use

Report

How Data and Social Pressure
Can Reduce Home Energy Use

by dave levitan
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.
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Why Are Environmentalists<br /> Taking Anti-Science Positions?

Opinion

Why Are Environmentalists
Taking Anti-Science Positions?

by fred pearce
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.
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Green Crude: The Quest to <br /> Unlock Algae’s Energy Potential

Report

Green Crude: The Quest to
Unlock Algae’s Energy Potential

by marc gunther
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.”
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How No-Flush Toilets Can<br /> Help Make a Healthier World

Report

How No-Flush Toilets Can
Help Make a Healthier World

by cheryl colopy
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.
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The Next Pandemic: Why<br /> It Will Come from Wildlife

Analysis

The Next Pandemic: Why
It Will Come from Wildlife

by david quammen
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.
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How the Web Can Help Identify<br /> Countless Undiscovered Species

Interview

How the Web Can Help Identify
Countless Undiscovered Species

by diane toomey
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.
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High-Altitude Wind Energy:<br /> Huge Potential — And Hurdles

Report

High-Altitude Wind Energy:
Huge Potential — And Hurdles

by dave levitan
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.
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Tracking the Big Snakes<br /> Devouring the Everglades

Interview

Tracking the Big Snakes
Devouring the Everglades

by kevin dennehy
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.
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At Edge of Peruvian Andes,<br /> Tracking Impacts of Warming

Report

At Edge of Peruvian Andes,
Tracking Impacts of Warming

by elizabeth kolbert
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.
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For Electric Car Batteries, <br /> The Race for a Rapid Charge

Report

For Electric Car Batteries,
The Race for a Rapid Charge

by dave levitan
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.
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Arctic Tipping Point:<br /> A North Pole Without Ice

Report

Arctic Tipping Point:
A North Pole Without Ice

by fen montaigne
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.
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Gauging the Impact of Warming<br /> On Asia’s Life-Giving Monsoons

Report

Gauging the Impact of Warming
On Asia’s Life-Giving Monsoons

by christina larson
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?
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Easing The Collateral Damage<br /> That Fisheries Inflict on Seabirds

Report

Easing The Collateral Damage
That Fisheries Inflict on Seabirds

by jeremy hance
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.
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Are Fast-Breeder Reactors<br /> A Nuclear Power Panacea?

Analysis

Are Fast-Breeder Reactors
A Nuclear Power Panacea?

by fred pearce
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.
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Self-Driving Cars: Coming <br />Soon to a Highway Near You

Report

Self-Driving Cars: Coming
Soon to a Highway Near You

by dave levitan
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.
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Helping U.S. Farmers Increase<br /> Production and Protect the Land

Analysis

Helping U.S. Farmers Increase
Production and Protect the Land

by julie menter
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.
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Maya Lin’s Memorial to Vanishing Nature

Interview

Maya Lin’s Memorial to Vanishing Nature

by diane toomey
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.”
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Can Environmentalists Learn<br /> To Love a Texas Coal Plant?

Report

Can Environmentalists Learn
To Love a Texas Coal Plant?

by marc gunther
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?
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The Vital Chain: Connecting<br /> The Ecosystems of Land and Sea

Analysis

The Vital Chain: Connecting
The Ecosystems of Land and Sea

by carl zimmer
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.
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Taking Green Chemistry Out<br /> Of The Lab and into Products

Interview

Taking Green Chemistry Out
Of The Lab and into Products

by roger cohn
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.
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Could a Changing Climate<br /> Set Off Volcanoes and Quakes?

Analysis

Could a Changing Climate
Set Off Volcanoes and Quakes?

by fred pearce
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.
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The Folly of Big Agriculture:<br /> Why Nature Always Wins

Opinion

The Folly of Big Agriculture:
Why Nature Always Wins

by verlyn klinkenborg
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.
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Betting on Technology to<br /> Help Turn Consumers Green

Report

Betting on Technology to
Help Turn Consumers Green

by marc gunther
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.
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Can Reforming the Farm Bill<br /> Help Change U.S. Agriculture?

Report

Can Reforming the Farm Bill
Help Change U.S. Agriculture?

by jim robbins
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.
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Scientists Warn of Low-Dose<br /> Risks of Chemical Exposure

Report

Scientists Warn of Low-Dose
Risks of Chemical Exposure

by elizabeth grossman
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.
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Linking Weird Weather to<br /> Rapid Warming of the Arctic

Analysis

Linking Weird Weather to
Rapid Warming of the Arctic

by jennifer francis
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.
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Rethinking Carbon Dioxide:<br /> From a Pollutant to an Asset

Analysis

Rethinking Carbon Dioxide:
From a Pollutant to an Asset

by marc gunther
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.
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Mysteries of Killer Whales<br /> Uncovered in the Antarctic

Dispatch

Mysteries of Killer Whales
Uncovered in the Antarctic

by fen montaigne
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.
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Putting a Price on<br /> The Real Value of Nature

Interview

Putting a Price on
The Real Value of Nature

by roger cohn
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.
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What Rising Temperatures May<br /> Mean for World’s Wine Industry

Report

What Rising Temperatures May
Mean for World’s Wine Industry

by john mcquaid
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.
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Can ‘Climate-Smart’ Agriculture<br /> Help Both Africa and the Planet?

Report

Can ‘Climate-Smart’ Agriculture
Help Both Africa and the Planet?

by fred pearce
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.
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A Defender of World’s Whales<br /> Sees Only a Tenuous Recovery

Interview

A Defender of World’s Whales
Sees Only a Tenuous Recovery

by christina m. russo
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.
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Camera Traps Emerge as<br /> Key Tool in Wildlife Research

Report

Camera Traps Emerge as
Key Tool in Wildlife Research

by jeremy hance
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.
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A Rise in Fungal Diseases is<br /> Taking Growing Toll on Wildlife

Report

A Rise in Fungal Diseases is
Taking Growing Toll on Wildlife

by michelle nijhuis
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.
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Thinking the Unthinkable:<br /> Engineering Earth’s Climate

Interview

Thinking the Unthinkable:
Engineering Earth’s Climate

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.
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Climate Relicts: Seeking Clues<br /> On How Some Species Survive

Report

Climate Relicts: Seeking Clues
On How Some Species Survive

by carl zimmer
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.
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The Long Strange Journey<br /> Of Earth’s Traveling Microbes

Analysis

The Long Strange Journey
Of Earth’s Traveling Microbes

by fred pearce
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.
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Probing the Role of the Sun<br /> In an Era of Global Warming

Analysis

Probing the Role of the Sun
In an Era of Global Warming

by michael d. lemonick
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.
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Tapping Social Media’s Potential<br /> To Muster a Vast Green Army

Report

Tapping Social Media’s Potential
To Muster a Vast Green Army

by caroline fraser
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.
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Phosphate: A Critical Resource<br /> Misused and Now Running Low

Report

Phosphate: A Critical Resource
Misused and Now Running Low

by fred pearce
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.
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Brown to Green: A New Use<br /> For Blighted Industrial Sites

Report

Brown to Green: A New Use
For Blighted Industrial Sites

by dave levitan
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.
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Using the Power of the Web<br /> To Protect Africa’s Wildlife

Interview

Using the Power of the Web
To Protect Africa’s Wildlife

by christina m. russo
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.
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Forum: Is Extreme Weather<br /> Linked to Global Warming?

Forum

Forum: Is Extreme Weather
Linked to Global Warming?


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.

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Using CO2 to Make Fuel:<br /> A Long Shot for Green Energy

Report

Using CO2 to Make Fuel:
A Long Shot for Green Energy

by david biello
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.
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Facing the Dirty Truth<br /> About Recyclable Plastics

Analysis

Facing the Dirty Truth
About Recyclable Plastics

by daniel goleman
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.
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Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn Seeks<br /> Revenge for the Electric Car

Interview

Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn Seeks
Revenge for the Electric Car

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.
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The World’s Tropical Forests<br /> Are Already Feeling the Heat

Analysis

The World’s Tropical Forests
Are Already Feeling the Heat

by william laurance
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.
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What’s With the Weather?<br /> Is Climate Change to Blame?

Analysis

What’s With the Weather?
Is Climate Change to Blame?

by alyson kenward
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.
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In Aeolus Cave, A Search for the<br /> Vanishing Bats of the Northeast

Report

In Aeolus Cave, A Search for the
Vanishing Bats of the Northeast

by elizabeth kolbert
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?
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Tracking the Destructive Power<br /> Of the Pacific Ocean’s Tsunamis

Interview

Tracking the Destructive Power
Of the Pacific Ocean’s Tsunamis

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.
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Anatomy of a Nuclear Crisis:<br /> A Chronology of Fukushima

Analysis

Anatomy of a Nuclear Crisis:
A Chronology of Fukushima

by david biello
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.
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U.S. High-Speed Rail: Time to<br /> Hop Aboard or Be Left Behind

Opinion

U.S. High-Speed Rail: Time to
Hop Aboard or Be Left Behind

by andy kunz
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.
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‘Fracking’ Comes to Europe,<br /> Sparking Rising Controversy

Report

‘Fracking’ Comes to Europe,
Sparking Rising Controversy

by ben schiller
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.
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Alien Species Reconsidered:<br /> Finding a Value in Non-Natives

Report

Alien Species Reconsidered:
Finding a Value in Non-Natives

by carl zimmer
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.
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Living in the Anthropocene:<br /> Toward a New Global Ethos

Opinion

Living in the Anthropocene:
Toward a New Global Ethos

by paul j. crutzen and christian schwägerl
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.
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Can We Trust Climate Models?<br /> Increasingly, the Answer is ‘Yes’

Analysis

Can We Trust Climate Models?
Increasingly, the Answer is ‘Yes’

by michael d. lemonick
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.
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Green Roofs are Starting<br /> To Sprout in American Cities

Report

Green Roofs are Starting
To Sprout in American Cities

by bruce stutz
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.
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China Turns to Biogas to<br /> Ease Impact of Factory Farms

Report

China Turns to Biogas to
Ease Impact of Factory Farms

by eliza barclay
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.
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China Takes First Steps<br /> In the Fight Against Acid Rain

Report

China Takes First Steps
In the Fight Against Acid Rain

by christina larson
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.
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Rising Hopes that Electric Cars<br /> Can Play a Key Role on the Grid

Report

Rising Hopes that Electric Cars
Can Play a Key Role on the Grid

by dave levitan
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.
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Climate Forecasts: The Case<br /> For Living with Uncertainty

Analysis

Climate Forecasts: The Case
For Living with Uncertainty

by fred pearce
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.
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New Hope for Pavlovsk Station<br /> And Russia’s Rare Plant Reserve

Report

New Hope for Pavlovsk Station
And Russia’s Rare Plant Reserve

by fred pearce
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.
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The Effect of Clouds on Climate:<br /> A Key Mystery for Researchers

Analysis

The Effect of Clouds on Climate:
A Key Mystery for Researchers

by michael d. lemonick
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.
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High Above the Earth,<br /> Satellites Track Melting Ice

Report

High Above the Earth,
Satellites Track Melting Ice

by michael d. lemonick
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.
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The Microbe Factor and <br />Its Role in Our Climate Future

Analysis

The Microbe Factor and
Its Role in Our Climate Future

by carl zimmer
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.
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The Anthropocene Debate: <br /> Marking Humanity’s Impact

Analysis

The Anthropocene Debate:
Marking Humanity’s Impact

by elizabeth kolbert
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.
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Companies Put Restrictions<br /> On Research into GM Crops

Report

Companies Put Restrictions
On Research into GM Crops

by bruce stutz
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.
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Turning to Greener Weapons <br /> In the Battle Against Malaria

Report

Turning to Greener Weapons
In the Battle Against Malaria

by sonia shah
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.
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The Case Against Biofuels:<br /> Probing Ethanol’s Hidden Costs

Opinion

The Case Against Biofuels:
Probing Ethanol’s Hidden Costs

by c. ford runge
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.
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A High-Tech Entrepreneur<br /> On the Front Lines of Solar

Interview

A High-Tech Entrepreneur
On the Front Lines of Solar

by todd woody
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.
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Opinion/Climate Science Under Fire

Major Change Is Needed
If the IPCC Hopes to Survive

by roger a. pielke jr.
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.
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Network Theory: A Key to<br /> Unraveling How Nature Works

Analysis

Network Theory: A Key to
Unraveling How Nature Works

by carl zimmer
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.
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Geoengineering the Planet:<br /> The Possibilities and the Pitfalls

Interview

Geoengineering the Planet:
The Possibilities and the Pitfalls

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.audio
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Why I Still Oppose<Br> Genetically Modified Crops

Opinion

Why I Still Oppose
Genetically Modified Crops

by verlyn klinkenborg
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.
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New York City Girds Itself<br /> for Heat and Rising Seas

Report

New York City Girds Itself
for Heat and Rising Seas

by bruce stutz
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.
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Solar Power from Space:<br /> Moving Beyond Science Fiction

Report

Solar Power from Space:
Moving Beyond Science Fiction

by michael d. lemonick
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.
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Obama’s Science Adviser<br /> Urges Leadership on Climate

Interview

Obama’s Science Adviser
Urges Leadership on Climate

by elizabeth kolbert
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.audio
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First Comes Global Warming,<br /> Then an Evolutionary Explosion

Report

First Comes Global Warming,
Then an Evolutionary Explosion

by carl zimmer
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.
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The Challenge for Green Energy:<br /> How to Store Excess Electricity

Report

The Challenge for Green Energy:
How to Store Excess Electricity

by jon r. luoma
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.
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From the Sewage Plant,<br /> the Promise of Biofuel

Report

From the Sewage Plant,
the Promise of Biofuel

by greg breining
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.
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Hailed as a Miracle Biofuel,<br /> Jatropha Falls Short of Hype

Report

Hailed as a Miracle Biofuel,
Jatropha Falls Short of Hype

by jon r. luoma
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.
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Satellites and Google Earth<br /> Prove Potent Conservation Tool

Report

Satellites and Google Earth
Prove Potent Conservation Tool

by rhett butler
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.
READ MORE

On His Bicentennial,<br />  Mr. Darwin’s Questions Endure

Opinion

On His Bicentennial,
Mr. Darwin’s Questions Endure

by verlyn klinkenborg
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.
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What’s Killing<br/> the Tasmanian Devil?

Report

What’s Killing
the Tasmanian Devil?

by david quammen
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.
READ MORE

Saving the Seeds of the<br /> Next Green Revolution

Analysis

Saving the Seeds of the
Next Green Revolution

by fred pearce
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.
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Report

Solar’s Time Has Finally Arrived

by jon r. luoma
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.
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Analysis

After Bush, Restoring Science
to Environmental Policy

by chris mooney
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.
READ MORE

Analysis

Nanotech: The Unknown Risks

by carole bass
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.
READ MORE

The Limits of Climate Modeling

Report

The Limits of Climate Modeling

by fred pearce
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.
READ MORE

Opinion

Climate Solutions:
Charting a Bold Course

by denis hayes
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.
READ MORE

Analysis

Carbon’s Burden on the World’s Oceans

by carl safina and marah j. hardt
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.
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Opinion

The Ethics of Climate Change

by richard c. j. somerville
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.
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DNA Technology: <br />Discovering New Species

Report

DNA Technology:
Discovering New Species

by jon r. luoma
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.”
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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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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

Enlarge

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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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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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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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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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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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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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: 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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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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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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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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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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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

Enlarge

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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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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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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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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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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