Renewable energy capacity increases, nuclear declines
September 30, 2014 05:03 PM - Editor, Worldwatch Institute
Advocates of nuclear energy have long been predicting its renaissance, yet this mode of producing electricity has been stalled for years. Renewable energy, by contrast, continues to expand rapidly, even if it still has a long way to go to catch up with fossil fuel power plants, writes Worldwatch Institute Senior Researcher Michael Renner in the Institute’s latest Vital Signs Online analysis (bit.ly/NuclearRE). Nuclear energy’s share of global power production has declined steadily from a peak of 17.6 percent in 1996 to 10.8 percent in 2013. Renewables increased their share from 18.7 percent in 2000 to 22.7 percent in 2012.
New MIT report predicts serious future warming
September 30, 2014 07:38 AM - Audrey Resutek | MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change
Global temperature is likely to rise 3.3-5.6 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, unless international climate negotiations in Paris next year are more effective than expected, according to a report released Monday by the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. The predicted temperature increase surpasses the threshold identified by the United Nations as necessary to avoid the most serious impacts of climate change, altering precipitation patterns and heightening the pressures of population and economic growth. "Our world is rapidly changing," says John Reilly, co-director of the MIT Joint Program and a coauthor of the report. "We need to understand the nature of the risks we’re facing so we can prepare for them."
Causes of California drought linked to climate change, Stanford scientists say
September 29, 2014 03:34 PM - Ker Than, Stanford University
The atmospheric conditions associated with the unprecedented drought currently afflicting California are "very likely" linked to human-caused climate change, Stanford scientists write in a new research paper. In a new study, a team led by Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh used a novel combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean that diverted storms away from California was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.
Connecting Productivity of Office Workers and Climate Change
September 29, 2014 09:57 AM - John Alker, The Ecologist
Energy efficiency in office buildings struggles to gain the attention of top management, writes John Alker - because energy is too cheap to really matter. But with 90% of operating costs spent on staff, a new report shows that green building design makes employees happier and more productive. There would seem to be no connection between the productivity of office workers and the great challenge of climate change. But a report published by the World Green Building Council suggests otherwise.
Climate change more of a risk to the Greenland Ice Sheet than thought
September 29, 2014 07:56 AM - University of Cambridge
A new model developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge has shown that despite its apparent stability, the massive ice sheet covering most of Greenland is more sensitive to climate change than earlier estimates have suggested, which would accelerate the rising sea levels that threaten coastal communities worldwide. In addition to assessing the impact of the increasing levels of meltwater created and spilled into the ocean each year as the climate continues to warm, the new model also takes into account the role that the soft, spongy ground beneath the ice sheet plays in its changing dynamics. Details are published today (29 September) in the journal Nature Communications.
Reducing global trade would cut carbon emissions
September 27, 2014 11:12 AM - John Weeks, The Ecologist
If the world's leaders really cared about climate change, there's one easy way to reduce emissions, writes John Weeks - drop the obsession with increasing trade, and all the pollution that goes with it. A world based on local production, consumption and finance will be a better one for people and the environment. Let us join Keynes to imagine if we can a world in which goods are 'homespun' and finance is 'primarily national'. If we cannot imagine such a world, there is little hope for the planet. The Obama administration has proposed several ad hoc multi-country economic agreements, and in doing so has abandoned de facto the World Trade Organization (WTO) as insufficiently malleable to its interests.
'Transponders' from Japan was ashore along US West Coast
September 26, 2014 06:37 AM - Oregon State University
Northwest anglers venturing out into the Pacific Ocean in pursuit of salmon and other fish this fall may scoop up something unusual into their nets — instruments released from Japan called "transponders." These floating instruments are about the size of a 2-liter soda bottle and were set in the ocean from different ports off Japan in 2011-12 after the massive Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Researchers from Tattori University for Environmental Studies in Japan have been collaborating with Oregon State University, Oregon Sea Grant, and the NOAA Marine Debris Program on the project.
A concrete idea: MIT develops better, greener, concrete
September 25, 2014 01:06 PM - David L. Chandler, MIT News Office
Concrete is the world's most-used construction material, and a leading contributor to global warming, producing as much as one-tenth of industry-generated greenhouse-gas emissions. Now a new study suggests a way in which those emissions could be reduced by more than half - and the result would be a stronger, more durable material. The findings come from the most detailed molecular analysis yet of the complex structure of concrete, which is a mixture of sand, gravel, water, and cement. Cement is made by cooking calcium-rich material, usually limestone, with silica-rich material - typically clay - at temperatures of 1,500 degrees Celsius, yielding a hard mass called "clinker." This is then ground up into a powder. The decarbonation of limestone, and the heating of cement, are responsible for most of the material's greenhouse-gas output.
Amazing maps of what Antarctica looks like under all that ice
September 25, 2014 08:01 AM - British Antarctic Survey
New maps of the sub-ice features in Antarctica and the Arctic, featured in the new edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World published on 25 September 2014, reveal an unseen world of canyons, lakes, trenches and mountains. The 14th edition of the Atlas also includes a new double page map of the Arctic Ocean, which highlights the dramatic long-term decline of Arctic sea ice cover. The sub-ice maps draw on bedrock data, provided by the British Antarctic Survey, to show physical features which are obscured by ice cover. In the Antarctic, one of the most striking features is the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains, which are as large as the Alps but are currently completely covered by ice.
Encouraging planting trees will sequester carbon and conserve habitat
September 23, 2014 04:00 PM - Oregon State University
Rewarding landowners for converting farmland into forest will be key to sequestering carbon and providing wildlife habitat, according to a new study by Oregon State University and collaborators. Current land-use trends in the United States will significantly increase urban land development by mid-century, along with a greater than 10 percent reduction in habitat of nearly 50 at-risk species, including amphibians, large predators and birds, said David Lewis, co-author of the study and an environmental economist in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.