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Climate Change Update: Reports Show Growing Risks

As the UN climate change talks continue in Doha, Qatar, several reports over the past month have highlighted a sombre picture of the Earth's changing climate, raising alarm bells in particular for the world's poorest regions. A report from the World Bank launched last month (18 November) warns that the planet "is on track for a four degrees Celsius warmer world" by 2100, marked by extreme heat waves, declining food stocks, loss of biodiversity and life-threatening sea level rise. This is double the generally accepted two degrees Celsius threshold beyond which catastrophic climate change impacts are expected. >> Read the Full Article

Other Worlds, Other Tectonics, Other Life

Planets are warmed by their sun. Planets also has their own internal warmth that drives local volcanism and tectonics and helps keep water liquid and not frozen. Scattered around the Milky Way are stars that resemble our own sun—but a new study is finding that any planets orbiting those stars may very well be hotter and more dynamic than Earth and not due to their suns. That’s because the interiors of any terrestrial planets in these systems are likely warmer due to their radioactive composition than Earth—up to 25 percent warmer, which would make them more geologically active and more likely to retain enough liquid water to support life. >> Read the Full Article

NOAA predicts sea level will rise 0.2 to 2 meters by 2100

The worst potential scenario for sea level rise around the US coastline this century is more than two meters, says an authoritative report issued today by NOAA's Climate Program Office. Regardless of how much warming occurs over the next 100 years, sea level rise is not expected to stop in 2100. More than 8 million people in the US live in areas at risk of coastal flooding. Along the Atlantic Coast alone, almost 60 percent of the land that is within a meter of sea level is planned for further development, with inadequate information on the potential rates and amount of sea level rise. >> Read the Full Article

The Race for Developing Plant-based Renewable Plastics

The 20th century marked the great space race between Russia and the United States for domination in space exploration. Now the 21st century marks a new race: Coca-Cola and PepsiCo competing for leadership on plant-based renewable plastics. In March of 2010, PepsiCo announced the world's first PET plastic bottle made entirely from renewable plant-based resources ensuring production of a new 100% recyclable bottle in 2012. PET plastics are typically labeled with the #1 code near the bottom of the containers and are commonly used for soft drinks, salad dressings, water, etc. >> Read the Full Article

Grassland Carbon Storage

Plants "breathe in" CO2 and create biological mass. This is a form of sequestration. Forests, grasslands and shrublands and other ecosystems in the West sequester nearly 100 million tons of carbon each year, according to a Department of the Interior recent report. Grasslands occur naturally on all continents except Antarctica. In temperate latitudes, such as northwestern Europe and the Great Plains and California in North America, native grasslands are dominated by perennial bunch grass species, whereas in warmer climates annual species form a greater component of the vegetation. Carbon that is absorbed through natural processes reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The 100 million tons sequestered in western ecosystems is an amount equivalent to – and counterbalances the emissions of – more than 83 million passenger cars a year in the United States, or nearly 5 percent of EPA’s 2010 estimate of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions. >> Read the Full Article

Apple Brings Some Manufacturing Jobs Back to US

When President Obama sat down for dinner with Silicon Valley's top executives in February 2011, he asked Steve Jobs what would it take to make iPhones in the U.S. According to reports, Jobs replied, "Those jobs aren't coming back." So, while it looks like Jobs was right, at least for now, about the iPhones, it might be that some jobs do come back to the U.S. as Apple is shifting its assembly of some of the new, ultra-thin iMacs to the U.S. The news came up after a new 21.5-inch iMac owner reported to Fortune that instead of the usual marking “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China,"the iMac was marked "Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in the USA." It's not clear yet why the company decided to take this step and what it means for Apple. The only thing we know for sure right now, is that some jobs did come back to the U.S. >> Read the Full Article

Views from Above: New Night-time NASA-NOAA Satellite Images Released

Today scientists unveiled new night-time satellite images of planet Earth. Using a NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite, the new photographs reveal more detail of our planet and man-made lights from outer space. With a new sensor aboard the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite, which was launched last year, scientists can better observe the Earth's atmosphere and surface during night-time hours. >> Read the Full Article

The Dark Side Of Vesta

The asteroids such as Vesta are relatively small but active in their own way. They too have a form of long term geologic weather. Data from NASA's Dawn mission show that a form of weathering that occurs on the moon and other airless bodies that have been visited in the inner solar system does not alter Vesta's outermost layer in the same way. Carbon-rich asteroids have also been splattering dark material on Vesta's surface over a long span of the body's history. The results are described in two papers released today in the journal Nature. Vesta's surface is covered by regolith distinct from that found on the Moon or other asteroids such as Itokawa. Regolith evolution is dominated by brecciation and subsequent mixing of bright and dark components. >> Read the Full Article

Hydrogen could help cut emissions and boost wind and solar power

A new report reveals the significant potential for using hydrogen to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve the efficiency of renewable technologies, including wind and solar power. >> Read the Full Article

New Concerns Over Lead Exposure

Is Lead exposure limits set low enough? There is strong evidence that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) general industry standards for lead exposure, set more than 30 years ago, are inadequate to protect worker populations. A report by the National academies conducted at the request of the Department of Defense (DOD), whose employees at military firing ranges are exposed to lead recurrently when they handle ammunition, conduct maintenance on ranges, and breathe lead dust released into the air by gunfire. Lead is a highly poisonous metal (regardless if inhaled or swallowed), affecting almost every organ and system in the body. The main target for lead toxicity is the nervous system, both in adults and children. There are other potential body toxic effects too. >> Read the Full Article