Pillaging the Moon for the Promise of Space Energy
September 7, 2012 02:47 PM - Amy Shira Teitel, Discovery News
Between 1969 and 1972, Apollo astronauts brought just under 842 pounds of rocks and regolith back from the Moon. In 1985, engineers at the University of Wisconsin discovered significant amounts of Helium-3 in the lunar soil. Helium-3 is a stable isotope of helium -- the gas we use to fill party balloons with -- and is notable because it's missing a neutron, an important property that means we can used it in nuclear fusion reactions to produce clean energy. Unfortunately, our most plentiful stores of the isotope are a quarter of a million miles away. Current nuclear power plants use fission reactors, splitting uranium nuclei to release energy. This heat turns water into steam that drives a turbine to produce electricity. Unfortunately, radioactivity, spent nuclear fuel reprocessed into uranium, plutonium, and radioactive waste are by-products of this reaction. To get away from fission power, scientists have been working on nuclear fusion energy.
Creating Faster Charging Electric Car Batteries
September 7, 2012 08:41 AM - dave levitan, Yale Environment360
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. If stopping for gas took five or six hours, would you rethink that road trip? How about an hour? When it comes to electric vehicles, topping up the "tank" does indeed take a long time, one of the primary barriers to more widespread adoption of EVs. So it is no surprise that there is an aggressive push to improve batteries and charging infrastructure, with a goal of making a stop for a recharge no different than a stop for gas.
Deforestation affects rainfall, another reason to protect the rainforests
September 6, 2012 11:05 AM - Allison Winter, ENN
From regulating climate systems to offering food and medicines, to being home to many plants, animals, and indigenous people, rainforests are not only a local ecosystem but their benefits extend globally. Adding to its global effects is new research that shows rainforests have a huge impact on rainfall. A team from the University of Leeds and the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology found that air passing over tropical forests produces at least twice as much rain as air passing over little vegetation and can impact rainfall thousands of miles away.
U.S. Emissions Reach 20-Year Low, but its not time to congratulate ourselves just yet!
September 6, 2012 06:24 AM - Reese Rogers, Worldwatch Institute
Climate scientists are getting their fair share of surprises this year, from the record-breaking ice melt in the Arctic to the fact that first-quarter U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have hit their lowest point since 1992. CO2 emissions from energy consumption for the January-March period fell to 1.34 billion metric tons, down 8 percent from a year ago. While the depressed economy and rising renewable energy generation have contributed to emissions reductions in the past few years, the early 2012 low-point is due mainly to a combination of three factors: the relatively warm winter, reduced gasoline demand, and the continued decline in coal-fired electricity. Carbon emissions from energy consumption fell to 1.34 billion metric tons. (EIA) The declining demand for coal power is especially significant. Although emissions from natural gas and petroleum each dropped nearly 3 percent from the same period in 2011 (mainly because of lower heating demands in the mild winter), coal emissions fell 18 percent, to their lowest point since 1986.
Mackenzie River Basin Governance Forum
September 5, 2012 07:10 AM - ScienceDaily
The governance of Canada's massive Mackenzie River Basin holds enormous national but also global importance due to the watershed's impact on the Arctic Ocean, international migratory birds and climate stability, say experts convening a special forum on the topic. "Relevant parties in western Canada have recognized the need for a multi-party transboundary agreement that will govern land and water management in the Mackenzie River watershed. Successful collaboration will effectively determine the management regime for a watershed covering 1.8 million square kilometers or about 20 percent of Canada -- an area roughly three times the size of France -- and include the country's vast oil sands," says University of California Prof. Henry Vaux, Chair of the Rosenberg Forum, which meets Sept. 5-7 at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University with the support of the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation. The Forum's goals include identifying legal and scientific principles relevant to the processes leading ultimately to a coordinated basin-wide approach to management, as well as prioritizing knowledge gaps.
Ten African countries unite to protect rainforests
September 4, 2012 02:43 PM - Apollinaire Niyirora, SciDevNet
Ten central African countries have come together to protect the Congo Basin rainforest — the world's second largest rainforest — from severe deforestation, through implementing improved national forest monitoring systems and boosting regional cooperation.
Atmospheric Methane Reductions Attributed to not Venting it!
September 3, 2012 08:51 AM - ScienceDaily
Increased capture of natural gas from oil fields probably accounts for up to 70 percent of the dramatic leveling off seen in atmospheric methane at the end of the 20th century, according to new UC Irvine research being published in the journal Nature. "We can now say with confidence that, based on our data, the trend is largely a result of changes in fossil fuel use," said chemistry professor Donald Blake, senior author on the paper. Methane has 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, although CO2 is filling the atmosphere in far larger amounts. After decades of increases due to worldwide industrial and agricultural activity, the tapering off of methane from the 1980s through 2005 was remarkable. Scientists have long wrestled with the cause.
Highway in Boliva would cut through National Park
September 2, 2012 09:16 AM - Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, Yale Environment360
Growing conflicts over development in South America have come to a head in Bolivia, where indigenous groups are resisting a highway project that would slice through a national park. How Bolivia resolves this showdown could point the way for other regions seeking to balance economic growth and the environment. Carmelo Aguilera steadies the dugout canoe as his 11-year-old son, Juan Gabriel, stands precariously and aims his bow and arrow toward the Secure River below. "Fish flesh makes better bait," says the boy, explaining why the dawn expedition begins with a hunter's weapon rather than a hook and line. Deep inside Bolivia's Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory, known as TIPNIS, the Aguileras live more than 30 hours by boat from the nearest city, surviving mainly on fish and a few homegrown crops. "The river is our lifeblood," says Aguilera, 62.
Incandescent Light Bulbs have served us well but now it is time to turn them off!
September 1, 2012 10:09 AM - EurActive
After more than a century lighting up the world, the switch will be flicked off across the EU for the final time on incandescent bulbs on Saturday as the phased ban on their sale is completed. From 1 September, an EU directive aimed at reducing the energy use of lighting means that retailers will no longer be allowed to sell 40W and 25W incandescent bulbs. Similar bans came into effect for 60W and 100W incandescent bulbs over the past three years. The restrictions are predicted to save 39 terawatt-hours of electricity across the EU annually by 2020. Earlier this year, the UK government said the ban would bring an "average annual net benefit" of £108m to the UK between 2010 and 2020 in energy savings. But the phase-out of incandescents has been met with resistance by some users who say replacement technologies, such as CFLs, halogens and LEDs, do not perform as well. Despite the substantial long-term financial savings promised, the higher upfront price of replacement bulbs has also been criticised by those opposing the ban.
American Meteorological Society confirms Climate Change and Man's Role
August 31, 2012 06:29 AM - Gina-Marie Cheeseman, Triple Pundit
Weathercasters in the U.S. not only tend to not ever mention climate change, but the majority of them do not even believe it is human-caused, as an article I recently wrote shows. However, that may change. The American Meteorological Society (AMS) released an official position statement on climate change this week which not only said that it is occurring, but it is human-caused. What is so great about the statement by the AMS is that it includes so much information about climate change, including that there is scientific consensus. The AMS makes it clear that the statement is "based on the peer-reviewed scientific literature and is consistent with the vast weight of current scientific understanding." The statement details how the climate is changing, both in the U.S. and around the world. The changes listed include increases in globally averaged air and ocean temperatures, the widespread melting of snow and ice, and the rising of globally averaged sea level. As the statement puts it, "Warming of the climate system now is unequivocal, according to many different kinds of evidence." That is not good news for the world's population, but it is good news that the AMS is acknowledging that climate change is real and is occurring.