Environmental Policy

What's best for creating drought resistant plants? Traditional breeding or GM?
October 5, 2014 08:29 AM - Lawrence Woodward, The Ecologist

Reports show that traditional breeding techniques are years ahead of GM technologies in developing crops to withstand drought and poor soils, writes Lawrence Woodward. Yet GM advocates are sticking rigidly to their script even as the evidence mounds against them. Since its launch in 2010, the Improved Maize for African Soils Project (IMAS) has developed 21 conventionally bred varieties which have increased yield by up to 1 tonne per hectare.

US Pledges climate change planning assistance to developing countries
October 3, 2014 04:29 PM - Editor, SciDevNet

The United States will commit to significantly improving developing countries' access to data, tools and training to help them adapt to climate change, the US president told the Climate Summit in New York last week (23 September). Barack Obama pledged to immediately release higher resolution topographical data for Africa, to scale up a training programme to boost meteorologists’ ability to monitor and predict climate change, and to create a public-private partnership to put climate-relevant information and tools in the hands of developing world policymakers.

How do we know an extreme weather event might be caused by climate change?
October 2, 2014 06:49 AM - CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, NPR

Nowadays, when there's a killer heat wave or serious drought somewhere, people wonder: Is this climate change at work? It's a question scientists have struggled with for years. And now there's a new field of research that's providing some answers. It's called "attribution science" — a set of principles that allow scientists to determine when it's a change in climate that's altering weather events ... and when it isn't. The principles start with the premise that, as almost all climate scientists expect, there will be more "extreme" weather events if the planet warms up much more: heat waves, droughts, huge storms.

Yellowstone Aspen recovering thanks to the Wolves
October 1, 2014 08:47 AM - Oregon State University

Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park is undergoing dramatic shifts with consequences that are beginning to return the landscape to conditions not seen in nearly a century, according to a series of new studies. In the park's northeast section, elk have decreased in number in their historic winter range in the Lamar Valley and are now more numerous outside the park. This change in elk numbers and distribution can be traced back to the reintroduction of wolves in 1995-96. Scientists have hypothesized that wolves affect both the numbers and the behavior of elk, thereby reducing the impact of browsing on vegetation, a concept known as a "trophic cascade."

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."

Some good news for the oceans!
September 28, 2014 08:04 AM - Kevin Mathews, Care2

Good news for aquatic life: the oceans just got a little bit safer. Okay, so most of the ocean remains vulnerable to human devastation, but on Thursday, President Barack Obama used his authority to create the most massive ocean reserve in the world. In a single day, the amount of the world’s ocean protected from commercial interests has effectively doubled. Originally, the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument was something that George W. Bush established during his last weeks in office. However, Obama has taken the symbolic ocean protection and turned it into something useful by growing the area to six times its original size.

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.

A new treaty to restore Buffalo herds and grazing land
September 24, 2014 01:29 PM - Wildlife Conservation Society

This week, dignitaries from U.S. Tribes and Canadian First Nations signed a treaty-the first among them in more than 150 years-to establish intertribal alliances for cooperation in the restoration of American buffalo (or bison) on Tribal/First Nations Reserves or co-managed lands within the U.S. and Canada. This historic signing of the "Northern Tribes Buffalo treaty" occurred in Blackfeet territory in Browning, Montana, and brought together members of the Blackfeet Nation, Blood Tribe, Siksika Nation, Piikani Nation, the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes of Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Fort Peck Indian Reservation, the Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Indian Reservation, and the Tsuu T’ina Nation.

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.

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