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Emissions Gap report warns of urgent need for climate change action

Action to tackle climate change needs to be urgently scaled up if the world is to have any chance of keeping a global temperature rise below 2 degrees C this century, according to UN Environment Programme (UNEP) research. The Emissions Gap Report, coordinated by UNEP and the European Climate Foundation, and released days before the convening of the Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Doha, shows that greenhouse gas emissions levels are now around 14 per cent above where they need to be in 2020. Instead of declining, concentration of warming gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) are actually increasing in the atmosphere-up around 20 per cent since 2000. >> Read the Full Article

Tree intercropping could save Africa's soils

Scientists have reported in Nature that the agroforestry approach of planting nutrient-fixing trees with food crops could help replenish Africa's poor quality soils, tackling one of the biggest threats to food security on the continent. Planting certain perennial trees together with food crops can more than double yields for maize and millet, which are among Sub-Saharan Africa's staple foods, scientists say. >> Read the Full Article

The Changing Winds of Mars

There is atmosphere on Mars and where there is atmosphere there are winds. Observations of wind patterns and natural radiation patterns on Mars by NASA's Curiosity rover are helping scientists better understand the environment on the Red Planet's surface. Researchers using the car-sized mobile laboratory have identified transient whirlwinds, mapped winds in relation to slopes, tracked daily and seasonal changes in air pressure, and linked rhythmic changes in radiation to daily atmospheric changes. The knowledge being gained about these processes helps scientists interpret evidence about environmental changes on Mars that might have led to conditions favorable for life in the past or even now. >> Read the Full Article

Estrogenic Plants May Affect Behavior Changes in Primates

While meat can contain both natural and artificial hormones, which are often added to produce faster-growing and more productive animals, researchers are now studying how plant-based foods can affect hormone levels. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are examining how certain plant-based foods that are high in estrogenic compounds can influence the behaviors of various primates and how that may have contributed to the evolution of the organisms. The research is the first to observe the connection between plant-based phytoestrogens, and behavior in a group of wild red colobus monkeys. >> Read the Full Article

After Brief Decrease Last Year, Sea Levels Resume Their Steady Rise

It is no secret that for the last couple decades, as Earth's climate has been changing, sea levels have been steadily rising. But what is not so well known is that in 2011, sea levels throughout the world fell sharply. Of course, with a body of water as large as the world's oceans, a sharp fall only equates to one quarter of an inch (1 cm). It is nonetheless, a dramatic change in general trend which caught the eye of NASA and European researchers. Using advanced satellites, they were able to track average sea levels with precision accuracy. What they have found is that after this brief decrease in sea levels, the seas have been rising again and are now back on track with their trajectory of the last twenty years. >> Read the Full Article

Great apes suffer mid-life crisis too

Homo sapiens are not alone in experiencing a dip in happiness during middle age (often referred to as a mid-life crisis) since great apes suffer the same according to new research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). A new study of over 500 great apes (336 chimpanzees and 172 orangutans) found that well-being patterns in primates are similar to those experience by humans. This doesn't mean that middle age apes seek out the sportiest trees or hit-on younger apes inappropriately, but rather that their well-being starts high in youth, dips in middle age, and rises again in old age. >> Read the Full Article

Climate change predicted to hit poorest hardest

All nations will suffer the effects of a warmer world, but the world's poorest countries will suffer most from food shortages, rising sea levels, cyclones and drought, the World Bank’s new report on climate change says. Under new World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, a former scientist, the global development lender has launched a more aggressive stance to integrate climate change into development. "We will never end poverty if we don't tackle climate change. It is one of the single biggest challenges to social justice today," Kim told reporters on Friday [16 November]. >> Read the Full Article

Owl wings may inspire new design for quieting aircrafts

Airlines and airports could soon be relying on nature for a unique way to reduce noise pollution after researchers found owl feathers are designed to minimize sound while in flight. Owls have long been known to have the uncanny ability to fly silently, relying on specialized plumage to reduce noise so they can hunt in acoustic stealth. Now researchers from the University of Cambridge, England, are studying the owl's wing structure to better understand how it mitigates noise so they can apply that information to the design of conventional aircraft. >> Read the Full Article

Tall Tower Green House Measurements

A network of integrated greenhouse gas measurements in the UK and Ireland – the first of its kind in Europe – has been established by researchers at the University of Bristol. The UK DECC (Deriving Emissions linked to Climate Change) Network consists of a network of four stations in the UK and Ireland which make high-frequency measurements of all major greenhouse gases from tall towers. Measurements made from the UK DECC Network are used by the Met Office to assess and verify atmospheric trends and UK emissions of these greenhouse gases. They are set tall to avoid ground level effects. Similar tall towers exist on continental Europe. >> Read the Full Article

General Motors Moves Deeper into the Electric Vehicle Business

GM is already the maker of the Chevrolet Volt, the first wide-selling domestic plug-in hybrid electric vehicle to hit the market. With new CAFE standards put in place by the US Government, and with growing public demand for cleaner vehicles, GM has decided to expand its electric vehicle inventory. According to GM's product development chief, by 2017, the US automaker will build up to 500,000 vehicles which utilize some sort of electric technology. Adding to its fleet of Volts will also be the new all-electric Spark, which goes on sale in select markets starting next year. The half-million vehicles expected to be produced would equal about five percent of its total global sales from 2011. >> Read the Full Article