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Sustainability

Global wheat yields threatened by warming with serious consequences
January 19, 2015 08:23 AM - Paul Brown, The Ecologist

Just one degree of global warming could cut wheat yields by 42 million tonnes worldwide, around 6% of the crop, writes Paul Brown - causing devastating shortages of this staple food.

Market shortages would cause price rises. Many developing countries, and the hungry poor within them, would not be able to afford wheat or bread.

Planting Milkweed for the Monarch's? Be sure to use the native species!
January 18, 2015 11:04 AM - Kevin Mathews, Care2

Sometimes we do the wrong thing for the right reasons. That appears to be the case for countless Americans hoping to aid the monarch butterfly. Hearing that pesticides have destroyed the milkweed that monarchs rely on for survival, sympathetic animal lovers have attempted to do their part to support the butterflies by growing milkweed in their own gardens. Alas, emerging research suggests that this well-intentioned plan appears to actually be harming the species even further.

Unfortunately, most of the milkweed purchased for this purpose is the “wrong kind.” This kind, known as tropical milkweed, is popular with gardening companies since it continues to bloom longer than the type to which monarch butterflies are accustomed. While monarchs are still more than content to eat this milkweed, that doesn’t make it good for them.

European study shows biofuel production can increase with low impacts
January 16, 2015 07:07 AM - EurActiv

EU countries could increase their production of biofuels with a minimum impact on the environment, Utrecht University scientists concluded in a study published on Tuesday (13 January). 

Biofuels are the main green alternative to fossil fuels used in transport, but they compete with feed crops that share the same agricultural land.

As a consequence, forests are being turned into farmland to increase the terrestrial surface for planting more food crops, a phenomenon known as indirect land use change (ILUC). 

Salting Roads takes a Toll on the Environment
January 14, 2015 10:49 AM - Kevin Mathews, Care2

The United States has a salt problem, and it extends well beyond the excessive sodium we consume in our diets. In the winter months, municipalities rely on dumping salt on the roads to minimize the effects of ice. Altogether, the U.S. uses ten times the amount of salt on roadways than it does in the processed foods we consume. While the salt may help to keep drivers safe, it does come at a cost:

1. It Increases Our Own Salt Consumption

You can throw salt down on roads, but you can’t force it to stay there. In due time, salt makes its ways into nearby waterways where it lingers. As a result, a lot of the water we wind up drinking has higher levels of salt than it would otherwise. Vox cites a study that finds 84% of city-adjacent streams have higher levels of chloride thanks specifically to these road-salting techniques. Apparently, during the months following salted roads, 29% of these streams have more salt than the federal “safety limits” for drinking water allow.

Britain brings back the battery-powered train
January 13, 2015 08:14 AM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

The first battery-powered train to run on Britain’s rail network in more than half a century is to enter passenger service this week. The pioneering engine marks an important milestone in the project to demonstrate the viability of an eco-friendly battery-powered train for the twenty-first century.

The pleasures of a tiny house
January 10, 2015 08:35 AM - Samuel Alexander, The Ecologist

There is a simple solution to the problems of rampant consumerism, debt and a lifetime of servitude, writes Samuel Alexander - radical down-sizing to a truly tiny house. For a start, it's only big enough for the things you really need. And it's so cheap to build, that it's paid for from a month or two's salary. Just one question - what will you do with your freedom?

With one's housing requirements so easily met, and having escaped the iron grip of indebtedness, one would then be faced with the exhilarating but terrifying question of what to do with a life of freedom.

Denmark Sets New Wind Power World Record
January 9, 2015 08:47 AM - Leon Kaye , Triple Pundit

Denmark has long been one of the world’s leaders in wind power. The country of 5.6 million has set a goal of generating 50 percent of its power from clean energy sources by 2020 and aims to be entirely fossil fuel-free by 2050. Those goals, especially the one for 2020, are well achievable: Denmark has announced it scored 39.1 percent of its energy from wind in 2014.

Carbon capture and the UN Economic Commission for Europe
January 9, 2015 07:32 AM - EurActiv

The only way to limit global warming to less than two degrees is to combine renewable energy and energy efficiency with a large expansion in the use of carbon capture and storage, writes Christian Friis Bach.  Christian Friis Bach is executive secretary and under-secretary-general of UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

I will admit that just a few years back I was very sceptical. Today I am convinced that we must do it. We must capture the carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels.

Oil prices tumble. Coal resources are vast. Large new gas reserves have been found. Fossil fuels will be with us for many decades and will continue to underpin social and economic development around the world. We need to invest heavily in energy efficiency and in renewable energy sources, but the only way we can hope to limit global warming to less than two degrees is to combine it with a significant expansion of the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Wave Energy looks very favorable from a cost standpoint
January 8, 2015 06:59 AM - Ted Brekken, Oregon State University

A new analysis suggests that large-scale wave energy systems developed in the Pacific Northwest should be comparatively steady, dependable and able to be integrated into the overall energy grid at lower costs than some other forms of alternative energy, including wind power.

The findings, published in the journal Renewable Energy, confirm what scientists have expected – that wave energy will have fewer problems with variability than some energy sources and that by balancing wave energy production over a larger geographic area, the variability can be even further reduced.

Why we need to reduce our "hidden water" usage
January 5, 2015 07:46 AM - ClickGreen staff, ClickGreen

The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) is urging coordinated action to reduce the amount of hidden water used in food and drink production – estimated at up to 1.8 million litres per person every year equivalent to an Olympic size swimming pool. Each person consumes between 2,000-5,000 litres of water embedded in their food, every day – or between 730,000-1,825,000 million litres annually. Currently, around 90 per cent of all freshwater is used by agriculture (70 per cent) and industry (20 per cent), leaving just 10 per cent for domestic use.

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