Top Stories

Climate change pushing tropical trees upslope 'exactly as predicted'

Tropical tree communities are moving up mountainsides to cooler habitats as temperatures rise, a new study in Global Change Biology has found. By examining the tree species present in ten one-hectare plots at various intervals over a decade, researchers found that the proportion of lowland species increased in the plots at higher elevations. >> Read the Full Article

Extreme wildfires - the new normal?

It has been a deadly year for the people who fight wildfires. In total, 32 people have lost their lives fighting fires in 2013; the highest number in nearly 20 years, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Just one incident accounts for most of those deaths, the Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona. In June, the blaze blasted through a firefighting crew known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots; 19 of the 20 men died. As people move farther into wildland areas and climate change turns landscapes into tinder, experts say the wildfire danger around the country will likely only grow. But there may be a lesson to learn from how the U.S. stifled an earlier fire crisis in urban settings. >> Read the Full Article

New UN climate change report

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been leading the effort in collecting scientific evidence of climate change and in looking to answer the most important question, is it caused by human activity? Some argue that it is caused mostly by natural variability, and non-human factors. The new IPCC report, released this week, provides more evidence that human activity is a major cause. The UN is calling for a global response to combat climate change, following new findings by the IPCC stating it is "extremely likely" that humans have been the dominant cause of unprecedented global warming since 1950. "The heat is on. Now we must act," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a video message to the launch of the report of the UN-backed IPCC. "This new report will be essential for Governments as they work to finalize an ambitious, legal agreement on climate change in 2015," Mr. Ban said. "The goal is to generate the political commitment to keep global temperature rise below the agreed 2-degree Celsius threshold." >> Read the Full Article

Borneo Tribesmen Block Road as Controversial Rainforest Dam Impoundment Begins

Indigenous leaders have set up roadblocks in Malaysian Borneo to protest Sarawak's newest dam, report environmental activists who oppose the project. >> Read the Full Article

Air pollution danger areas mapped by NASA

Air pollution is a global problem, but it is not evenly distributed. Some areas are worse than others, of course. And air pollution can cause premature death from the diseases it can cause. Earth scientists studying air pollution have just released a map that shows air pollution deaths over time on a global scale. The stark map shown above was created at NASA Earth Observatory by data visualizer and designer Robert Simmon. This atmospheric computer model shows the average number of deaths per 386 square miles per year due to air pollution between 1850 and 2000. It’s based on data from Jason West, an assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering at University of North Carolina. He and his colleagues published their findings earlier this year in Environmental Research Letters. >> Read the Full Article

Norway Devotes Big Bucks To Crop Diversity

Earlier this week, the government of Norway pledged US$23.7 million to conserve and sustainably manage some of the world's most important food crops, citing the critical need for crop diversity at a time when populations are soaring and climate change is threatening staples like rice and maize, according to the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT). "In just 10 years we will have a billion more people at the global dinner table, but during that same time we could see climate change diminish rice production by 10 percent with a one-degree increase in temperature," said Marie Haga, executive director of the GCDT. "Our best hedge against disaster is to make sure we have a wide array of food crops at our disposal to keep harvests healthy in the bread baskets of the world." >> Read the Full Article

An Account of the Climate as Told by the Trees

Researchers at the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam, Germany are reconstructing temperature data from trees in Turkey to better define and understand the climactic conditions. Researchers have confidently chronicled a block of time that reflects the medieval warm period including a little ice age between the 16th and 19th centuries up to the transition into the more modern warm phase in the mountains near Antalya, the coastal Mediterranean coastal region of Turkey. Researchers led by Ingo Heinrich from the GFZ have studied this time series using carbon isotope ratios reflected in the tree rings of the region. >> Read the Full Article

Our daily bread

Put yourself in Novak Djokovic’s tennis shoes. It’s 2009. You have been playing tennis passionately since the age of 4, even beneath a sky peppered with F-117 bombers in war-torn Serbia. It is your dream to win Grand Slam tournaments and be the best. But no matter how hard you train, your body betrays you. Djokovic had collapsed in matches before and now he was defending his title in the Australian Open against top player Andy Roddick. The whole world was watching. The last thing he wanted was to bow out from fatigue before the end of the match, but that is exactly what he had to do. He felt exhausted, his body had no fight left - it just wouldn’t do what he wanted it to. The tennis world was unimpressed and shocked that someone would give up because they felt tired! But not all the spectators were bemused. The Serbian doctor who had been watching the match contacted Djokovic to suggest that he might be gluten intolerant. Willing to try anything, the tennis player subjected himself to a series of tests that confirmed, yes, he had a very high intolerance to wheat, as well as sensitivity to dairy and tomatoes. >> Read the Full Article

Could payphones be converted to EV charging stations?

In an intriguing development across New York City there is speculation that the authorities may soon look at converting existing payphones into electric car charging stations. On the surface this may look like yet another crazy idea connected with the electric vehicle industry but if you take a step back, consider the options, it may just be feasible. In yet another sign that the electric vehicle industry is set to go mass-market, people are now actually looking at converting existing payphone units into electric vehicle charging stations. But what are the potential problems and drawbacks? Perhaps the major problem which the EV industry will encounter when converting existing payphones into electric vehicle charging stations is their location. The vast majority are located in situations which are not amenable to parking cars to recharge their batteries although there are some which could be transformed with very little fuss. It will be interesting to see how the authorities tackle this particular problem. >> Read the Full Article

'America’s Power Plan' Envisions New Business Model For Utilities

The Obama Administration has been putting the coal industry’s feet to the fire with new carbon-cutting initiatives, and a new report certainly won’t help coal’s case. Under the title, America’s Power Plan, the authors argue that the U.S. already has the technology in hand to make a rapid transition to renewable energy. >> Read the Full Article