Top Stories

Predicting Obama Action on Climate Change in his Second Administration

Newly re-elected President President Obama gave a nod to climate change in his acceptance speech on election night, but reducing the United States' greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is still not very high on the President's agenda for his second term. Yet the looming debate on fiscal reform combined with recent weather events could create an opportunity to introduce a carbon tax. While global warming was one of Obama's top priorities going into his first mandate, in 2012, Obama stayed as far away from the topic as he could. Not only was the economy the main issue for both candidates, but it’s also likely that Obama felt vulnerable to attacks against his energy policy record following the high-profile Solyndra bankruptcy in September 2011. >> Read the Full Article

Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic

The mountain pine beetle is a species of bark beetle native to the forests of western North America from Mexico to central British Columbia. It has a hard black exoskeleton, and measures about 5 mm, about the size of a grain of rice. Mountain pine beetles inhabit ponderosa, Scotch and limber pine trees. Normally, these insects play an important role in the life of a forest, attacking old or weakened trees, and speeding development of a younger forest. A new University of Colorado Boulder study shows for the first time that episodes of reduced precipitation in the southern Rocky Mountains, especially during the 2001-02 drought, greatly accelerated development of the mountain pine beetle epidemic. >> Read the Full Article

Exploring the Ocean for Minerals

Global demand for metals continues to grow, fuelled largely by increasing populations and the industrialisation and urbanisation of China and India. To meet this demand, the international minerals industry has had to search new areas of the globe for additional resources. As Africa — the last underexplored continent — becomes more developed, it is inevitable that the oceans, which cover three-quarters of our planet, will be explored and exploited for their mineral wealth. It is a question of when and how, not if. >> Read the Full Article

Landslides and Earthquakes

A landslide or landslip is a geological phenomenon which includes a wide range of ground movement, such as rockfalls, deep failure of slopes and shallow debris flows, which can occur in offshore, coastal and onshore environments. Although the action of gravity is the primary driving force for a landslide to occur, there are other contributing factors affecting the original slope stability. Typically, pre-conditional factors build up specific sub-surface conditions that make the area/slope prone to failure, whereas the actual landslide often requires a trigger before being released. U.S. Geological Survey scientists found that last year's magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Virginia triggered landslides at distances four times farther—and over an area 20 times larger—than previous research has shown. "We used landslides as an example and direct physical evidence to see how far-reaching shaking from east coast earthquakes could be," said Randall Jibson, USGS scientist and lead author of this study. "Not every earthquake will trigger landslides, but we can use landslide distributions to estimate characteristics of earthquake energy and how far regional ground shaking could occur." >> Read the Full Article

If we're going to pave paradise, let's put up a green parking lot

Can you imagine if our roads and parking lots were painted yellow or maybe a light blue? It would challenge our concept of a typical blacktop, but according to research, "cool pavement" seems like the way of the future. Pavements from streets and exposed parking lots make up a large percentage of surface area in our growing communities. And it is easy to feel the heat that is absorbed in those dark pavements. As pavement surface heats up, local air is also heated and aggravates urban heat islands—urban areas that become warmer than their surrounding areas. To address this issue, the Heat Island Group of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has been experimenting with "cool pavement" technologies. Similar to the way lighter-colored roofs have a cooling effect by reflecting the sun's energy, cool pavements also have the same ability. Cool pavements can be made from traditional pavement materials that are lighter in color and therefore have a higher solar reflectance, or can consist of cool-colored coatings for asphalt surfaces. Because sealcoats are commonly used as asphalt pavement structures degrade over time, when roads do need to be repaved or patched up, cities may want to opt for these new technologies. The benefits of cool pavements will not only help local ambient air, but can also impact global warming and energy loads. Dark roofs and dark pavements both contribute to warming temperatures as they absorb large amounts of solar energy and then radiate that energy back into the atmosphere in the form of heat. >> Read the Full Article

The Reasons that the Great Barrier Reef Lost Massive Amounts of Coral

The expansion of European settlement in Australia triggered a massive coral collapse at the Great Barrier Reef more than 50 years ago, according to a new study. The study, published Nov. 6 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that runoff from farms clouded the pristine waters off the Queensland coast and killed the natural branching coral species, leaving a stunted, weedy type of coral in its place. The findings suggest that decades before climate change and reef tourism, humans were disrupting the ecology of the Great Barrier Reef. >> Read the Full Article

UK faces higher risk of flooding and droughts as water crisis looms

The risk of flooding and water shortage in 2013 has increased because the Government is too slow in changing the way we manage our water, environmental leaders warn. The authors of the Blueprint for Water report say that after two dry winters, it took Britain’s wettest ever summer to narrowly avert a serious drought. They warn that despite this summer’s flooding, another series of dry winters would put Britain right back under serious risk of drought. >> Read the Full Article

Ancient Global Warming Extinction Impact

The Permian–Triassic extinction event, informally known as the Great Dying, was an extinction event that occurred 250 million years ago. Some 57% of all families and 83% of all genera became extinct. Because so much biodiversity was lost, the recovery of life on Earth took significantly longer than after any other extinction event. Researchers have discovered why plants and animals had a hard time recovering from the largest mass extinction in Earth’s history 250 million years ago. The reason was global warming. Because of environmental consequences of rising temperatures, those species that survived the extinction didn’t fully recover for 5 million years. >> Read the Full Article

Shocking Number of Squatters Found in Sumatran National Park

Sumatra's Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park—home to the Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinos, tigers, and elephants—has become overrun with coffee farmers, loggers, and opportunists according to a new paper in Conservation and Society. An issue facing the park for decades, the study attempted for the first time to determine the number of squatters either living in or farming off Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the rough census—over 100,000 people—shocked scientists. "In some parts of the Park the squatters are so numerous that the area looks more like a Javanese countryside," lead author Patrice Levang with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) told mongabay.com. >> Read the Full Article

Malaysian dam project will set precedent on how to treat indigenous people

The controversial Murum dam in Malaysia is the first big overseas project for the China Three Gorges Project Company (CTGC) which is building hydro- and coal-fired power stations in 23 countries. So how it resolves its current conflict with the protesting Penan tribe will set an important precedent as to how other Indigenous people are treated. Sarawak is one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo and is covered in ancient rainforest. This pristine oasis is home to many rare species, including the Slow loris, Clouded leopard, eight species of Hornbill as well as the iconic Orang-utang. Logging practices in the Sarawak region have decimated the habitat of these, and thousands of other unique species, and caused irreparable damage to valuable peat lands. >> Read the Full Article