Sustainability

The Promise of Fusion Power - update
August 26, 2013 02:43 PM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Wouldn't it be great to have abundant, clean power that doesn't contribute to climate change? That is the promise of fusion power. Practical fusion power remains elusive, but advances in creating self-sustaining fusion reactions and harnessing its power continue to occur. In the early morning hours of Aug.13, Lawrence Livermore's National Ignition Facility (NIF) focused all 192 of its ultra-powerful laser beams on a tiny deuterium-tritium filled capsule. In the nanoseconds that followed, the capsule imploded and released a neutron yield of nearly 3x1015, or approximately 8,000 joules of neutron energy -- approximately three times NIF's previous neutron yield record for cryogenic implosions. The primary mission of NIF is to provide experimental insight and data for the National Nuclear Security Administration's science-based stockpile stewardship program. The experiment attained conditions not observed since the days of underground nuclear weapons testing and represents an important milestone in the continuing demonstration that the stockpile can be kept safe, secure and reliable without a return to testing.

Save the World's Rarest Cat By Doing One Thing, Say Researchers
August 26, 2013 09:12 AM - Susan Bird, Care2

Conservationists can ensure the world's rarest wild cat escapes extinction by doing one simple thing, say researchers — but they need to do it soon. What's the secret? Start factoring in the effects of climate change when deciding how to save endangered species, says a new study. For the Iberian lynx, the most endangered wild feline of all, conservationists had better hurry. There are only 300 or so left in the wild. The Iberian lynx lives now only in two small areas of Spain's Andalusian region. At one time it was plentiful throughout Spain, Portugal and southern France. Years of habitat loss, poaching and a diminished food supply have decimated its numbers. Should it become extinct, the Iberian lynx will be the first wild cat to do so in 2,000 years.

Planting trees in deserts to fight climate change
August 26, 2013 06:16 AM - Earth System Dynamics, SciDevNet

Planting trees in coastal deserts could capture carbon dioxide, reduce harsh desert temperatures, boost rainfall, revitalise soils and produce cheap biofuels, say scientists. Large-scale plantations of the hardy jatropha tree, Jatropha curcas, could help sequester carbon dioxide through a process known as 'carbon farming', according to a study based on data gathered in Mexico and Oman that was published in Earth System Dynamics. Each hectare of the tree could soak up 17-25 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, they say, at a cost of 42-63 euros (about US$56-84) per tonne of gas, the paper says. This makes the technique competitive with high-tech carbon capture and storage.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
August 25, 2013 08:56 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN, Electric Forum

Electric vehicles will catch on when there are enough charging stations to make their widespread use really practical, and manufacturers will offer more EV's for sale when there is a market for them! I love driving my Tesla Model S, but have to admit that for some overnight trips I take an older internal combustion engine powered car since it is still hard to find a hotel with a charging station that I can plug in to for a battery top-off. So which comes first, more electric cars, or more charging stations? There has been a massive increase in the number of electric vehicles and complimentary products released into the marketplace over the last few weeks. There is now growing suspicion that a number of EV manufacturers, and electric car charging companies, have been holding back products and services until they deemed the market was open to new ideas and new products. This may seem a little bizarre when you consider that the EV businesses will want to see as quick a return as possible or on their investments but every day now we see new products and new services being released. While the Tesla Model S certainly caught the headlines when released earlier this year we have also seen BMW introduce its first mainstream electric vehicle, Chevrolet look to reduce the headline cost of its vehicles and earlier this week we saw the introduction of a foldaway electric car. At this moment in time there is a constant flurry of new innovations and new products to the marketplace and while they are catching the headlines today we can only hope the industry does not run out of steam.

Refrigerated Trucks To Use Fuel Cell Technology
August 23, 2013 12:09 PM - Allison Winter, ENN

In order to transport our favorite ice creams, frozen foods, and fresh produce, certain trucks are equipped with powerful refrigeration systems often powered by small diesel engines. These engines are constantly running all the way from the manufacturers of these frozen goods to the market in order to keep these groceries frozen or cool. As a result, refrigeration trucks tend to use more energy and resources to run. In an effort to reduce some reduce emissions and use a quieter, more efficient alternative to these refrigeration units, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are overseeing a project that will use an alternative energy source: fuel cells.

California's Redwoods face new threat
August 23, 2013 06:27 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

California is a magnificent state, with some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. It is also home to some of the most magnificent trees in the world, the giant Redwoods. These trees have survived for millennia, fending off attacks from diseases and fire. Now they face a new threat, the combined effects of sudden oak death and fire. Usually resistant to the effects of wildfires, California's coast redwoods are now burning as fast as other trees. Why? To find answers, plant pathologist David Rizzo of the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) and colleagues monitored more than 80,000 hectares of forests near Big Sur, Calif. In their plots, tanoaks, California bay laurels and coast redwoods grow. The study began in 2006. "In 2008, almost half our plots were burned by wildfires that lasted the better part of a month," says Rizzo. That was the beginning of the end for many coast redwoods, surprising researchers who expected the trees to be fire-proof.

85% of Brazilian leather goes to markets sensitive to environmental concerns
August 22, 2013 04:48 PM - Editor, MONGABAY.COM

Around 40% of beef and 85% of leather production serve markets that are potentially sensitive to environmental concerns, providing a partial explanation as to why Brazilian producers have made recent commitments to reducing deforestation for cattle production, finds a new study published in Tropical Conservation Science. The research, conducted by Nathalie Walker and Sabrina Patel of the National Wildlife Federation and Kemel Kalif of Amigos da Terra - AmazĂ´nia Brasileira, used government data to estimate the proportion of beef and leather production that ends up in environmentally-sensitive markets. They find that the vast majority of leather exports "could be considered to be susceptible to demand for deforestation-free products."

Sea Levels dropped in 2010 -2011, why?
August 22, 2013 06:21 AM - ScienceDaily

In 2011, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the University of Colorado at Boulder reported that between early 2010 and summer 2011, global sea level fell sharply, by about a quarter of an inch, or half a centimeter. Using data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) spacecraft, they showed that the drop was caused by the very strong La Nina that began in late 2010. That La Nina changed rainfall patterns all over our planet, moving huge amounts of Earth's water from the ocean to the continents. The phenomenon was short-lived, however. A unique and complex set of circumstances came together over Australia from 2010 to 2011 to cause Earth's smallest continent to be the biggest contributor to the observed drop in global sea level rise during that time, finds a new study co-authored and co-funded by NASA.

Pesticide Problems in the Amazon
August 21, 2013 12:48 PM - Adam Andrus, MONGABAY.COM

As the world’s population increases and agricultural frontiers expand into native tropical habitats, researchers are working furiously to understand the impacts on tropical forests and global biodiversity. But one obvious impact has been little studied in these agricultural frontiers: pesticides. However a new study in the journal Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B seeks to shine a light on the problem.

Climate change killing harp seal pups
August 20, 2013 04:55 PM - Alexander Holmgren, MONGABAY.COM

As sea ice levels continue to decline in the northern hemisphere, scientists are observing an unsettling trend in harp seal young mortalities regardless of juvenile fitness. While a recent study found that in harp seal breeding regions ice cover decreased by up to 6% a decade from 1979 on, a follow-up study in PLoS ONE compared the rate of harp seal strandings to total ice cover from 1992 to 2010. The data showed a direct relationship between the two, with seal pup strandings rising sharply as ice cover was reduced.

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