Sustainability

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.

Palm Oil Biodiesel and greenhouse gas emissions
January 30, 2012 06:43 AM - Editor, MONGABAY.COM

Greenhouse gas emissions from palm oil-based biodiesel are the highest among major biofuels when the effects of deforestation and peatlands degradation are considered, according to calculations by the European Commission. The emissions estimates, which haven't been officially released, have important implications for the biofuels industry in Europe. As reported by EurActiv, the data from the E.U. shows emissions from biofuels produced from palm oil (105g of carbon dioxide equivalent per megajoule of fuel), soybeans (103g CO2e/mj), and rapeseed (canola) (95g CO2e/mj) are higher than conventional gasoline (87.5g CO2e/mj). Sunflower (86g CO2e/mj) and biodiesel produced from palm oil with methane capture (83g CO2e/mj) are only slightly better than conventional crude oil, according to the data.

Cooling Lagoons aim to reduce thermal discharges to marine ecosystems, improve efficiency
January 29, 2012 07:16 AM - Tafline Laylin, Green Prophet

Gulf countries that lack freshwater resources rely deeply on seawater desalination to meet their daily needs and cool down thermal generation plants. According to Gulf News, the United Arab Emirates alone uses four trillion litres of Gulf seawater each year to cool down its power plants, foundries and desalination plants. The byproduct of these operations produces a hot briny fluid that is then pumped back into the Gulf, seriously compromising coral reefs and the overall marine ecosystem. But Crystal Lagoons – the same people who were behind the worlds largest artificial lagoon planned for the Red Sea, is marketing a new closed-loop cooling system that would ensure that no more water would have to be extracted from the Gulf to cool down industrial plants! Thermal power plants require water for cooling, but disposing of that water back into the Gulf is not only harmful to the marine ecosystem, according to Crystal Lagoons, it is also a waste of thermal energy.

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."

U.S. CO2 emissions to stay below 2005 levels
January 24, 2012 07:18 AM - Reuters

U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions will be 7 percent lower than their 2005 level of nearly 6 billion metric tons in 2020 as coal's share of electricity production continues a steady descent over the next two decades, according to new government data. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released an early version of its annual energy outlook on Monday, which predicted a slowdown in growth of energy use over the next two decades amid economic recovery and improved energy efficiency. The report highlights the fact that carbon-intensive coal generation will see a major decline in the power sector in the coming decades, which will ensure energy-related CO2 emissions will not exceed 2005 levels at any point before 2035. The report also showed that emissions per capita would fall an average of 1 percent per year from 2005 to 2035 as the new federal standards, state renewable energy mandates and higher energy prices would temper the growth of demand for transportation fuels.

Biofuel breakthrough
January 22, 2012 08:45 AM - Paula Leighton, SciDevNet

Brown seaweed's potential as a vast source of biofuels has been highlighted with the announcement that scientists have found a way of converting all its major sugars into ethanol. A team reported in Science today (19 January) that it has engineered a microbe that will convert the sugars to ethanol, overturning one of the main obstacles to making the use of brown macroalgae, or seaweed, as a biofuel feedstock competitive. The prospective ethanol yield from brown seaweed is approximately two times higher than that from sugarcane and five times higher than maize, from the same area of cultivation. But its full potential cannot be reached because of the inability of industrial microbes to break down alginate, one of the three most abundant sugars in brown seaweed, commonly known as kelp, which is the most widely grown seaweed in the world.

Globally, 9 of the 10 warmest years on record occurred since 2000
January 20, 2012 06:43 AM - Reuters

The global average temperature last year was the ninth-warmest in the modern meteorological record, continuing a trend linked to greenhouse gases that saw nine of the 10 hottest years occurring since the year 2000, NASA scientists said on Thursday. A separate report from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the average temperature for the United States in 2011 as the 23rd warmest year on record. The global average surface temperature for 2011 was 0.92 degrees F (0.51 degrees C) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline temperature, researchers at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies said in a statement. The institute's temperature record began in 1880. The first 11 years of the new century were notably hotter than the middle and late 20th century, according to institute director James Hansen. The only year from the 20th century that was among the top 10 warmest years was 1998.

UN launches International Year of Sustainable Energy for All
January 18, 2012 09:07 AM - ClickGreen staff, ClickGreen

United Nations' officials [this week] launched the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All with a call on governments, the private sector and civil society to help expand energy access, improve efficiency and increase the use of renewables. Globally, one person in five still lacks access to modern electricity and twice that number – three billion people – rely on wood, coal, charcoal, or animal waste for cooking and heating.

Genetically Modified Plants To Resist Intense Drought
January 17, 2012 04:23 PM - David Allouche, NoCamels

Israeli agro-biotechnology company, Rosetta Green, has developed a new technology to develop plants that are better able to withstand prolonged periods of severe drought. The company aims to develop new plant varieties resistant to harsh climatic condition, maintaining an increased yield. The company, based in Rehovot, Israel, experimented on tobacco plants that were irrigated with seawater instead of freshwater. The genetically modified plants created by the company were able to grow under seawater irrigation, as opposed to the control group of plants. According to the company's CEO, Amir Avniel, "the frequent droughts afflicting the world in recent years and the motivation to expand to arid lands containing brackish water require the development of plant varieties resistant to drought and irrigation with salt water." Rosetta Green is using a technology that can identify MicroRNAs, which are short RNA molecules that play an important role in the regulation of key genetic traits in major crops. The MicroRNAs identified by the company were used to develop prototype plants with significantly improved drought tolerance.

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