Carbon Capture? Is it a Foreseeable Reality?
August 15, 2012 11:56 AM - Danielle Thé
Interesting new research by MIT takes a look at the viability of capturing carbon from the air. The study suggests that at least in the near future, this would not be a cost effective measure. Since most of the world’s governments have not yet enacted regulations to curb emissions of greenhouse gases, some experts have advocated the development of technologies to remove carbon dioxide directly from the air. But a new MIT study shows that, at least for the foreseeable future, such proposals are not realistic because their costs would vastly exceed those of blocking emissions right at the source, such as at the powerplants that burn fossil fuels. Some purveyors of various new technologies for scrubbing carbon dioxide out of the air are reminiscent of "snake-oil salesmen," says Howard Herzog, a senior research engineer at the MIT Energy Initiative and co-author of the new analysis published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was co-authored by MIT civil and environmental engineering postdoc Kurt Zenz House, along with researchers at C12 Energy in Berkeley, Calif., and at Stanford University.
Northwest Passage is open again - NASA
August 15, 2012 06:39 AM - Editor, MONGABAY.COM
A satellite image released by NASA last week shows a key channel that forms part of the Northwest Passage is partially free of ice. The image, acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite, shows that more than two-thirds of the Parry Channel was ice-free on July 30. The median coverage for that date was 79 percent from 1980-2010. The Parry Channel separates Victoria Island from Melville Island in Canada's far north.
Record Burmese Python found in the Florida Everglades
August 14, 2012 07:15 AM - Megan Gannon, MSNBC
A double record-setting Burmese python has been found in the Florida Everglades. At 17 feet, 7 inches (5.3 meters) in length, it is the largest snake of its kind found in the state and it was carrying a record 87 eggs. Scientists say the finding highlights how dangerously comfortable the invasive species has become in its new home. "This thing is monstrous, it's about a foot wide," said Kenneth Krysko, of the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida. "It means these snakes are surviving a long time in the wild, there's nothing stopping them and the native wildlife are in trouble."
Rate of Arctic summer sea ice loss is much greater than predicted
August 13, 2012 01:12 PM - EurActiv
Sea ice in the Arctic is disappearing at a far greater rate than previously expected, according to data from the first purpose-built satellite launched to study the thickness of the Earth's polar caps. Preliminary results from the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 probe indicate that 900 cubic kilometres of summer sea ice has disappeared from the Arctic ocean over the past year. This rate of loss is 50% higher than most scenarios outlined by polar scientists and suggests that global warming, triggered by rising greenhouse gas emissions, is beginning to have a major impact on the region. In a few years the Arctic ocean could be free of ice in summer, triggering a rush to exploit its fish stocks, oil, minerals and sea routes.
Black Carbon from Slash and Burn Practices Still a Problem in Brazil
August 13, 2012 06:44 AM - Rachel Nuwer, Science
Although nearly 40 years have passed since Brazil banned slash-and-burn practices in its Atlantic Forest, the destruction lingers. New research reveals that charred plant material is leaching out of the soil and into rivers, eventually making its way to the ocean. So much of this "black carbon" is entering the marine ecosystem that it could be hurting ocean life, although further tests will be needed to confirm this possibility. People have used fire to shape Earth's vegetation for millennia. In Brazil's Atlantic Forest, Europeans began burning trees to make way for settlements and agriculture in the 16th century. What once blanketed 1.3 million square kilometers and ranked as one of the world's largest tropical forests had shrunk to 8% of its former size by 1973, when protective laws were put in place.
Extreme Drought Impacting Crop Yields
August 11, 2012 07:32 AM - NBC News wire reports
Federal forecasters are predicting record prices for corn and soybeans, raising fears of a new world food crisis as the worst U.S. drought in half a century continues to punish key farm states. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday said production of U.S. corn and soybeans is expected to be down 17 percent from its forecast last month of nearly 13 billion bushels, and 13 percent lower than last year. It was the second month in a row when the USDA has cut its production estimate. Corn prices briefly surged to a record on the USDA's forecast, but then retreated because the government said demand for the grain would fall due to its soaring cost.
Living Fences in Costa Rica a growing idea
August 10, 2012 06:28 AM - Molly Redfield | Nourishing the Planet, Worldwatch Institute
Drive around Costa Rica’s windy mountainous roads and you will see numerous trees, from those bearing colorful fruits to others sporting thick spines, planted about 1 to 3 meters apart. Connected by long lines of barbed wire, these rudimentary-looking arrangements, known as living fences, have both economic and environmental benefits over their dead wood counterparts. Farmers across Central America plant living fences because these green barriers are a more economically feasible and readily accessible method for containing livestock and protecting crops. For one, the main materials of living fences are the branches of tree species that root from sticks and grow into larger trees. Shared among neighbors or sold at local markets, these sticks are much cheaper and more common than manufactured posts. Without the need for paint or preservatives, which can add toxins into the environment, maintenance costs also remain low. Additionally, animals graze on living fences, saving farmers costs in livestock feed.
U.S. Auto Industry Jobs Up Nearly A Quarter Million Since 2009 - Fuel Efficiency a Key Driver
August 9, 2012 07:09 AM - NRDC
With the launch of new federal vehicle fuel economy rules only about one week away, the American auto industry has grown by nearly a quarter million jobs (236,600) since June 2009 when the auto industry hit bottom, according to a new report available from DrivingGrowth.org. The report from DrivingGrowth.org finds that fuel efficiency is a major factor behind the gains in U.S. auto jobs. A website that tracks the revitalization of the U.S. auto industry, DrivingGrowth.org is sponsored by three leading U.S. environmental organizations: The Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. Manufacturing of motor vehicle and parts has grown by 165,100, or 26.4 percent since June 2009. Another 71,500 jobs have been added at U.S. auto dealerships. Automakers, their suppliers and their dealers are now looking ahead to a brighter future after the dark days of the recession.
Shrimp Farms and Sustainablity
August 8, 2012 12:06 PM - Marc Gunther, Yale Environment 360
As shrimp aquaculture has boomed globally to keep pace with surging demand, the environmental toll on mangroves and other coastal ecosystems has been severe. Now, conservation groups and some shrimp farmers are creating a certification scheme designed to clean up the industry and reward sustainable producers. Carlos Perez, a well-to-do businessman, has been farming shrimp in Ecuador since 1979. He has seen the industry boom: Ecuador exported about $1.2 billion worth of shrimp last year, and its shrimp farmers employ about 102,000 people. He has also watched as shrimp farms have played a major role in the destruction of two-thirds of the country’s mangrove swamps — rich ecosystems that serve as buffers against storms, store carbon, and support fish, birds, and small mammals.
Climate Change predicted to reduce output of California Hydro-electric plants
August 8, 2012 07:36 AM - ScienceDaily
California's hydropower is vulnerable to climate change, a University of California, Riverside scientist has advised policymakers in "Our Changing Climate," a report released July 31 by the California Natural Resources Agency and the California Energy Commission (CEC). "Climate change is expected to affect the quantity and timing of water flow in the state," explained Kaveh Madani, a former postdoctoral research scholar in UC Riverside's Water Science and Policy Center (WSPC), who led a research project on climate change effects on hydropower production, demand, and pricing in California. "Under dry climate warming, the state will receive less precipitation, with most of it as rain instead of snow, impacting hydropower supply and operations."