Sustainability

The Methane Riddle: What Is Causing the Rise in Emissions?
October 25, 2016 09:34 AM - Yale Environment 360

The stomachs of cattle, fermentation in rice fields, fracking for natural gas, coal mines, festering bogs, burning forests — they all produce methane, the second most important greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide. But how much? And how can we best cut these emissions? And is fracking frying the planet, or are bovine emissions more to blame? 

Amazon Study Reveals that Rainstorms Transport Atmospheric Particles Essential for Cloud Formation
October 24, 2016 01:10 PM - Brookhaven National Laboratory

Understanding how tiny particles emitted by cars and factories affect Earth's climate requires accurate climate modeling and the ability to quantify the effects of these pollutant particles vs. particles naturally present in the atmosphere. One large uncertainty is what Earth was like before these industrial-era emissions began. In a paper just published in Nature, scientists collaborating on the GoAmazon study describe how they tracked particles in the largely pristine atmosphere over the Amazon rainforest, which has given them a way to effectively turn back the clock a few hundred years.  

Climate Change Impairs the Survival Instincts of Fish and Can Make Them Swim Towards Predators
October 24, 2016 09:20 AM - University of Exeter

Climate change is disrupting the sensory systems of fish and can even make them swim towards predators, instead of away from them, a paper by marine biologists at the University of Exeter says.

Research into the impact of rising CO2 has shown it can disrupt the senses of fish including their smell, hearing and vision.

New perovskite solar cell design could outperform existing commercial technologies, Stanford and Oxford scientists report
October 21, 2016 10:51 AM - Mark Shwartz

A new design for solar cells that uses inexpensive, commonly available materials could rival and even outperform conventional cells made of silicon.

Writing in the Oct. 21 edition of Science, researchers from Stanford and Oxford describe using tin and other abundant elements to create novel forms of perovskite – a photovoltaic crystalline material that’s thinner, more flexible and easier to manufacture than silicon crystals.

New 13-year Study Tracks Impact of Changing Climate on a Key Marine Food Source
October 20, 2016 03:08 PM - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

A new multiyear study from scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has shown for the first time how changes in ocean temperature affect a key species of phytoplankton. The study, published in the October 21 issue of the journal Science, tracked levels of Synechococcus—a tiny bacterium common in marine ecosystems—near the coast of Massachusetts over a 13-year period. As ocean temperatures increased during that time, annual blooms of Synechococcus occurred up to four weeks earlier than usual because cells divided faster in warmer conditions, the study found.

Move over, solar: The next big renewable energy source could be at our feet
October 20, 2016 02:56 PM - Will Cushman

Flooring can be made from any number of sustainable materials, making it, generally, an eco-friendly feature in homes and businesses alike.

Now, however, flooring could be even more “green,” thanks to an inexpensive, simple method developed by University of Wisconsin–Madison materials engineers that allows them to convert footsteps into usable electricity.

Reforesting Kilimanjaro could ease East Africa's severe water shortages
October 19, 2016 04:09 PM - United Nations News Centre

There is a need to reforest Africa’s highest mountain to help protect vital water supplies that are under threat across large parts of East Africa, a UN Environment report urged today.

The loss of Mount Kilimanjaro’s forests could trigger water crisis as rivers begin to dry up, notes the report, entitled Sustainable Mountain Development in East Africa in a Changing Climate, which was launched at the World Mountain Forum in Uganda today.

MIT to neutralize 17 percent of carbon emissions through purchase of solar energy
October 19, 2016 03:14 PM - David L. Chandler via Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT, Boston Medical Center, and Post Office Square Redevelopment Corporation have formed an alliance to buy electricity from a large new solar power installation, adding carbon-free energy to the grid and demonstrating a partnership model for other organizations in climate-change mitigation efforts.

The agreement will enable the construction of a roughly 650-acre, 60-megawatt solar farm on farmland in North Carolina. Called Summit Farms, the facility, the largest renewable-energy project ever built in the U.S. through an alliance of diverse buyers, is expected to be completed and to begin delivering power into the grid by the end of this year.

Unraveling the Science Behind Biomass Breakdown
October 18, 2016 04:39 PM - Rachel Harken via Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Lignocellulosic biomass—plant matter such as cornstalks, straw, and woody plants—is a sustainable source for production of bio-based fuels and chemicals. However, the deconstruction of biomass is one of the most complex processes in bioenergy technologies. Although researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) had already uncovered information about how woody plants and waste biomass can be converted into biofuel more easily, they have now discovered the chemical details behind that process.

Stanford researchers capture Central Asia's 'de-greening' over millions of years into a modern-day desert
October 13, 2016 11:43 AM - Adam Hadhazy

A new study chronicles how central Asia dried out over the last 23 million years into one of the most arid regions on the planet. The findings illustrate the dramatic climatic shifts wrought by the ponderous rise of new mountain ranges over geologic time.

Researchers have long cited the uplift of the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayan Mountains around 50 million years ago for blocking rain clouds’ entry into central Asia from the south, killing off much of the region’s plant life.

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