Climate

Dune Flows
February 7, 2012 10:00 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Sand dunes flow over the land subject to the winds like ocean waves or rivers. What makes them move? What makes them start or stop? In a study at the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, University of Pennsylvania researchers have uncovered a unifying mechanism to explain the beautiful dune patterns that occur. The findings may also hold implications for identifying when dune landscapes like those in Nebraska's Sand Hills may reach a tipping point under climate change, going from valuable grazing land to barren desert.

Once, men abused slaves. Now we abuse fossil fuels
February 6, 2012 04:51 PM - Andy Gryce, Population Matters

Pointing out the similarities (and differences) between slavery and the use of fossil fuels can help us engage with climate change in a new way, says Jean-François Mouhot, visiting researcher at Georgetown University, USA. In 2005, while teaching history at a French university, I was struck by the general disbelief among students that rational and sensitive human beings could ever hold others in bondage. Slavery was so obviously evil that slave-holders could only have been barbarians. My students could not entertain the idea that some slave-owners could have been genuinely blind to the harm they were doing. At the same time, I was reading a book on climate change which noted how today's machinery – almost exclusively powered by fossil fuels like coal and oil – does the same work that used to be done by slaves and servants. "Energy slaves" now do our laundry, cook our food, transport us, entertain us, and do most of the hard work needed for our survival.

The Super Green Bowl
February 3, 2012 07:20 AM - Kara Scharwath, Triple Pundit

For the past 18 years, the NFL has been working to decrease the environmental footprint of the largest annual sporting event in the U.S. – the Super Bowl. Two years ago, we wrote about several initiatives aimed at reducing the events’ impacts. Last year, we covered how Super Bowl XLV was slated to be the greenest NFL championship game in history. This year, the NFL is trying to outdo itself yet again by working with the Green Mountain Energy Company and the Indianapolis community to make Super Bowl XLVI the greenest yet. I talked with Jack Groh, Director of the NFL’s Environmental Program, to get the details on this year’s efforts.

Carbon Source or Carbon Sink: Greenhouse Gases in the Tropics
February 2, 2012 09:47 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

The lush vegetation wrapping the center of the globe is one of the most important features for regulating a stable climate in the world. Much excess CO2 emissions from industrialized regions find their way to the equator to be absorbed by abundant CO2-consuming plant life. However, as large tracts of tropical rainforest are cut down in the Amazon, Congo, and Southeast Asia, worries have grown that this vital region may turn from a carbon sink to a carbon source. Those worries can be put at ease somewhat thanks to a recent study from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC). Their report suggests that carbon storage of forests, shrublands, and savannas in the tropics are 21 percent higher than previously believed.

Early Ice Ages
February 1, 2012 02:04 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

New research led by scientists from Oxford University and Exeter University has shown that the invasion of the land by plants in the Ordovician Period (488-443 million years ago) cooled the climate and may have triggered a series of ice ages. During this period sea levels are very high and at the end of the period there was a mass extinction event. At the beginning of the period, around 480 million years ago, the climate was very hot due to high levels of CO2, which gave a strong greenhouse effect. The marine waters are assumed to have been around 45°C, which restricted the diversification of complex multi-cellular organisms. But over time, the climate become cooler, and around 460 million years ago, the ocean temperatures became comparable to those of present day equatorial waters. The dramatic cooling of the planet between 300 and 200 million years ago was also the result of the evolution of large plants with large rooting systems that caused huge changes in both of these processes. In the current results it was shown that the appearance of the first land plants had a similar effect and much earlier in time.

Volcanoes Indicted for Europe's Long, Big Chill
February 1, 2012 08:35 AM - Richard A. Kerr, Science AAAS

For years scientists have debated what could have plunged Europe into the half-millennium-long cold spell that ended only a century ago. Was it the temporarily spotless and therefore faint sun, or did a burst of volcanic eruptions loft debris that shaded out a normal sun? Or were the sun and volcanoes in cahoots? Researchers analyzing plants killed in the Little Ice Age's opening years are now pinning the blame on volcanoes alone.

NASA Confirms Man's role in Global Warming
January 31, 2012 06:52 AM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

A new NASA study confirms the fact that greenhouse gases generated by human activity - not changes in solar activity - are the primary force driving global warming. The study offers an updated calculation of the Earth's energy imbalance, the difference between the amount of solar energy absorbed by Earth's surface and the amount returned to space as heat. The researchers' calculations show that, despite unusually low solar activity between 2005 and 2010, the planet continued to absorb more energy than it returned to space. James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City, led the research. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics recently published the study.

Carbon Link to Snowball Earth reassessed
January 28, 2012 07:43 AM - Editor, Science Daily

In a study published in the journal Geology, scientists at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science suggest that the large changes in the carbon isotopic composition of carbonates which occurred prior to the major climatic event more than 500 million years ago, known as 'Snowball Earth,' are unrelated to worldwide glacial events. "Our study suggests that the geochemical record documented in rocks prior to the Marinoan glaciation or 'Snowball Earth' are unrelated to the glaciation itself," said UM Rosenstiel professor Peter Swart, a co-author of the study. "Instead the changes in the carbon isotopic ratio are related to alteration by freshwater as sea level fell."

Why Biodiversity Loss Deserves as Much Attention as Climate Change
January 27, 2012 01:58 PM - Akhila Vijayaraghavan, Triple Pundit

Biodiversity loss is probably a challenge that is often ignored as climate change looms. Currently the world is losing species at a rate that is 100 to 1000 times faster than the natural extinction rate, further, it is currently seeing the sixth mass extinction. The previous mass extinction occured 65 million years ago, and was caused by ecosystem changes, changes in atmospheric chemistry, impacts of asteroids and volcanoes. For the first time in history, the current extinction is caused by the competition for resources between a single species Homo sapiens and all others. A recent conference arranged by the Danish Ministry of Environment in the University of Copenhagen, provided an opportunity to influence the process of organizing a UN Biodiversity Panel. More than 100 scientists and decision makers from the EU countries gathered and came to the conclusion that drastic measures should be taken to decelerate current loss of biodiversity.

The Era Of Cheap Water Is Over: Deloitte
January 27, 2012 06:50 AM - Editor, Justmeans

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL) today launched the Water Tight 2012 report, which explores the future of the global water sector in the year ahead. The report examines how major global trends such as population growth, increasing economic development, and urbanization, coupled with the changes in climate patterns, underscore the importance of effective public policy and private sector water stewardship in managing this finite and shared resource. The growing demand for water is making conservation and efficient use central issues, particularly as governments, utilities, and the private sector come under increasing pressure to be stewards of this precious and shared resource. The report states that a clearer water pricing will play an important role in how customers better manage their water usage. "There is a compelling case for utilities either to increase water prices or create a better pricing system that addresses scarcity issues, allows them to invest in the replacement of ageing infrastructure, and provides them with a satisfactory financial return," says James Leigh, Global Leader for Water, DTTL. "Increasing water prices, however, is a difficult political decision, as domestic water usage is considered a basic human right. As such, raising awareness of water related issues and educating the public about the necessity of more effective water pricing is crucial."

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