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The Paris attacks - the climate talks, and the war on terror
November 15, 2015 08:31 AM - Oliver Tickell, The Ecologist

Is it a coincidence that the terrorist outrage in Paris was committed weeks before COP21, the biggest climate conference since 2009? Perhaps, writes Oliver Tickell. But failure to reach a strong climate agreement now looks more probable. And that's an outcome that would suit ISIS - which makes $500m a year from oil sales - together with other oil producers.

Yes, it's still about the climate, very much so. But there are also compelling reasons of national and global security to reduce the world's dependence on fossil fuels, oil in particular.

The first thing to be said about the terrorist attacks on Paris yesterday is that they are a dreadful crime that deserves only the most fervent condemnation.

Will the upcoming UN Climate Change Summit in Paris kick the can down the road again?
November 14, 2015 07:41 AM - Mark Dwortzan, MIT News

Big hopes are riding on the 2015 United Nations climate change conference planned for Nov. 30-Dec. 11 in Paris, where more than 190 nations will strive to hammer out an international agreement aimed at lowering global temperatures through significant reductions in human-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But the meeting, known as COP21, or the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is also attracting a fair amount of skepticism.

For good reason: More than two decades of UN climate summit meetings have yielded limited results. The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 established GHG emissions reduction commitments for a small number of industrialized countries from 2008 to 2012, but was not ratified by the U.S. because it made no demands on developing countries. Overcoming this hurdle, the Copenhagen meeting in 2009 produced voluntary pledges from both developed and developing countries through the year 2020 that promised little headway in keeping global temperatures below the 2 degree Celsius threshold identified by the UNFCCC as necessary to avoid the most serious impacts of climate change.

America Recycles Day November 15th
November 13, 2015 10:13 AM - JustMeans, Justmeans

Thousands of creative recycling events are being planned for America Recycles Day (ARD), a Keep America Beautiful initiative, which takes place on and in the weeks leading up to Nov. 15.

America Recycles Day is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States. In its 18th year, ARD educates people about the importance of recycling to our economy and environmental well-being, and helps to motivate occasional recyclers to become everyday recyclers.

A number of ARD special events are focusing on this year’s theme of “Bathrooms, Bags & Gadgets." They include:

Would you choose love over food?
November 13, 2015 06:59 AM - University of Oxford

Scientists from the Department of Zoology found that mated pairs of great tits chose to prioritise their relationships over sustenance in a novel experiment that prevented couples from foraging in the same location. This also meant birds ended up spending a significant amount of time with their partners' flock-mates. And, over time, the pairs may even have learned to cooperate to allow each other to scrounge from off-limits feeding stations.

Reduction in snow pack puts large areas at risk of insufficient water supplies
November 12, 2015 08:08 PM - Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Gradual melting of winter snow helps feed water to farms, cities and ecosystems across much of the world, but this resource may soon be critically imperiled. In a new study, scientists have identified snow-dependent drainage basins across the northern hemisphere currently serving 2 billion people that run the risk of declining supplies in the coming century. The basins take in large parts of the American West, southern Europe, the Mideast and central Asia. They range from productive U.S. farm land to war-torn regions already in the grip of long-term water shortages.

Snow is an important seasonal water source mainly around large mountain chains. From higher elevations, snowmelt runs gradually into the lowlands during spring and summer growing seasons, when human demand peaks. But global warming is upsetting this convenient balance. Studies show that in many areas, more winter precipitation is falling as rain, not snow, and washing away directly; the snow that does fall is settling at progressively higher elevations, and melting earlier. The new study estimates snow’s potential to supply present human needs in both current and projected climates, taking both weather trends and population into account.

To Kill or Not to Kill: The Great Specimen Debate
November 12, 2015 07:20 AM - Shreya Dasgupta, MONGABAY.COM

Indeed, museum collections are fascinating. Many of us probably still gawk at stuffed collections of extant and extinct birds, beetles, vibrantly-colored butterflies, and other animals that fill up glass cases and exhibition halls. Many of these collections were borne out of expeditions to remote parts of the world; treks that involved trapping, killing, preserving and cataloging animals that explorers encountered. Many of these collections have been useful in shaping what we know of the natural world. However, species conservation or scientific advancement was not always the goal of animal-collection. Often, it was done simply to suit the aesthetic whims of society’s elite.

Ebola Epidemic appears to be over
November 12, 2015 07:20 AM - EurActiv

Liberia and Sierra Leone, two of the countries worst affected by the Ebola outbreak, are now virus-free according to the World Health Organisation.

On 7 November, Sierra Leone had gone 42 days without any new cases of Ebola, allowing the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare the country free of the virus. It is an important milestone for the West African country, as the country has recorded 14,089 cases of the disease since December 2013, almost half of the total that were reported to have caused the outbreak (28,571).

Increased meat consumption, cooked at high temperatures linked to elevated cancer risk
November 11, 2015 08:29 AM - University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Diets high in meat may lead to an increased risk of developing renal cell carcinoma (RCC) through intake of carcinogenic compounds created by certain cooking techniques, such as barbecuing and pan-frying. As part of a new study from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, published online this week in the journal CANCER, researchers also discovered that individuals with specific genetic mutations are more susceptible to the harmful compounds created when cooking at high temperatures.

Why do more people commute using their bikes in Europe?
November 11, 2015 05:25 AM - Anum Yoon, Triple Pundit

Though cycling to work has the potential to reduce your carbon footprint and improve your overall health, you’re probably not doing it. In many communities, bike lanes simply don’t exist, making it difficult or downright dangerous to battle automobile traffic to bike to work.

Cities like Washington, D.C., and New York have installed bike paths for commuters, and the investment has paid off. In D.C., bike commuting has increased by 120 percent, and in New York ridership has doubled, all thanks to offering cyclists appropriate infrastructure. While it’s certainly good news, the sad fact remains that the U.S. still lags far behind European nations when it comes to bicycle commuting.

A tale of two continents

Exercise, exercise, exercise if you want to add years to your life!
November 10, 2015 08:13 PM - University of Oxford

Landmark research by The George Institute for Global Health has found that exercise can save lives, with an increase in the number of steps walked each day having a direct correlation with long term mortality.

Study author Professor Terry Dwyer said this was the first time research had been able to make the link between exercise, measured directly through pedometers, and reduced mortality over time in people who appeared healthy at the outset.

'Inactivity is a major public health problem, with conditions like obesity costing the economy tens of billions of dollars every year,' Prof Dwyer said. 'This shows more clearly than before that the total amount of activity also affects life expectancy.

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