Sustainability

Mysterious Rise in Ocean Salinity
September 13, 2012 06:13 AM - RICHARD MATTHEWS, Global Warming is Real

Scientists have observed unexpected changes in the seawater salinity and they are increasingly concerned about the potential impact on ocean currents. The salinity of seawater can accelerate the water cycle which can cause extreme weather events like floods and drought. To investigate the issue of ocean salinity scientists have boarded the research vessel Knorr, which set sail on September 6, 2012. NASA’s Aquarius instrument is part of a separate research project that has been measuring seawater salinity from space since August 2011. In addition to ocean salinity, researchers are exploring the water cycle which involves the ways that water circulates between the Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, and land. This process involves precipitation and return to the atmosphere by evaporation and transpiration.

Global Auto Production Driving to New Record
September 12, 2012 06:10 AM - Michael Renner | VITAL SIGNS ONLINE, Worldwatch Institute

Production of passenger vehicles (cars and light trucks) rose from 74.4 million in 2010 to 76.8 million in 2011—and 2012 may bring an all-time high of 80 million or more vehicles, according to new research conducted for our Vital Signs Online service. Global sales of passenger vehicles increased from 75.4 million to 78.6 million over the same period, with a projected 81.8 million in 2012. The major driver of increased production and sales are the so-called emerging economies, especially China. Rising sales translate into ever-expanding fleets. An estimated 691 million passenger cars were on the world's roads in 2011. When both light- and heavy-duty trucks are included, the number rises to 979 million vehicles, which was 30 million more than just a year earlier. By the end of 2012, the global fleet could top 1 billion vehicles—one for every seven people on the planet.

Wind Power and Climate Change
September 11, 2012 09:02 AM - ScienceDaily

Though there is enough power in Earth's winds to be a primary source of near-zero emission electric power for the world, large-scale high altitude wind power generation is unlikely to substantially affect climate. That is the conclusion of a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory climate scientist and collaborators who studied the geophysical limits to global wind power in a paper appearing in the Sept. 9 edition of the journal Nature Climate Change. "The future of wind energy is likely to be determined by economic, political and technical constraints rather than geophysical limits," said Kate Marvel, lead author of the paper and a scientist in the Laboratory's Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison.

What Caused the Significant Fish Mortality in Lake Erie?
September 8, 2012 08:23 AM - Miguel Llanos, NBC News

Tens of thousands of dead fish that washed up on Lake Erie beaches in Ontario, Canada -- and had locals wondering if something or someone had poisoned the water -- were likely killed by a lack of oxygen caused when lake sediment was stirred up, the province reported Friday. Water samples "do not show evidence of a manure spill or anything unusual in terms of contaminants," Ministry of Environment spokeswoman Kate Jordan told NBC News. Jordan said it wasn't known if the die-off was unprecedented, but that "it was a significant number -- tens of thousands." The fish were found along 25 miles of beach, with locals first coming across them on Monday.

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.

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.

Tropical Forests Sustainability
September 5, 2012 11:02 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has recently released a report, "Wood for Good: Solutions for Deforestation-Free Wood Products," analyzing tropical wood production’s effect on deforestation and offering solutions for sustainable production. According to the report, governments and businesses must begin using sustainably established plantation forests to minimize the toll logging is taking on tropical forests. Many of the products used every day by American businesses and consumers are made from tropical wood, including paper, furniture, building material and shipping supplies. The destruction of virginal tropical forests for forestry products should be replaced with sustainable and repeatable plantation forests.

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.

Perfluorooctanoic Acid and Heart Disease
September 4, 2012 07:51 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Perfluorooctanoic acid is a synthetic, stable perfluorinated carboxylic acid and fluorosurfactant. It has been used in the manufacture of such prominent consumer goods as Teflon and Gore-Tex. Exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a man made chemical used in the manufacture of some common household products, appears to be associated with cardiovascular disease and peripheral arterial disease in a study of 1,216 individuals, according to a report published Online First by Archives of Internal Medicine. Surveys have suggested that PFOA (widely used in the manufacture of products such as lubricants, polishes, paper and textile coatings, and food packaging) is detectable in the blood of more than 98 percent of the U.S. population. Some evidence has suggested that an association may be biologically plausible between PFOA exposure and cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to the study background.

How Can Cities Reduce the "Heat Island" They Create?
September 4, 2012 06:19 AM - RICHARD HARRIS, NPR

More than 20,000 high-temperature records have been broken so far this year in the United States. And the heat is especially bad in cities, which are heating up about twice as fast as the rest of the planet. High temperatures increase the risk of everything from asthma to allergies, and can even be deadly. But a researcher in Atlanta also sees this urban heat wave as an opportunity to do something about our warming planet. The story starts at Ebenezer Baptist Church, arguably the most famous place in Atlanta; it was Martin Luther King Jr.'s church and the heart of the civil rights movement.

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