Top Stories

Asteroids and Life

Asteroid belts such as between Mars and Jupiter do not seem to have any obvious planetary system purpose. Solar systems with life-bearing planets may be affected by asteroids according to a study by Rebecca Martin, a NASA Sagan Fellow from the University of Colorado in Boulder, and astronomer Mario Livio of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md. They suggest that the size and location of an asteroid belt, shaped by the evolution of the sun's planet-forming disk and by the gravitational influence of a nearby giant Jupiter-like planet, may determine whether complex life will evolve on an Earth-like plane. >> Read the Full Article

How Will the World Feed Itself in the Future?

The world's food security depends on the quality of the forward-looking agricultural studies we are carrying out today, says Mark Holderness. Climate change, population growth and competing demands for land and resources are putting great pressure on the world's food systems. Smallholder farmers in the developing world, who produce much of the food for the poorest people, are threatened by devastating droughts and floods, food price spikes, and persistent poverty. Scientific advances have greatly alleviated hunger and poverty. The introduction of higher yield crop varieties and better agricultural management practices have saved and improved millions of lives. >> Read the Full Article

Iskander Malaysia: World's First "Smart Metropolis"

Malaysia is currently building the world's most advanced low-carbon mega-city comparable in size to the area of Luxembourg, with an expected population of 3 million by 2025. Iskandar Malaysia, the first "smart metropolis" of Southeast Asia founded on principles of social integration as well as low carbon emissions thanks to a green economy and green technologies, is a potential template for urban development in emerging countries with burgeoning populations, international experts say. >> Read the Full Article

Hurricane Sandy and Potentially Hazardous Waters

When flood waters hit lubricating oils, heating oil, gasoline and diesel fuel and other potentially hazardous or toxic liquids, there is the potential for contamination of surface waters in ponds and rivers. The US Geological Survey is undertaking sampling of waters to see if contamination exceeds acceptable levels. As recovery efforts for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy continue, U.S. Geological Survey crews are sampling water for nutrients, sediment, and pesticides to document water quality in areas affected by the hurricane. This sampling effort is part of the federal government’s broad efforts to ensure public health and to support the state, tribal, and local response to the storm. "We tend to think of events like Sandy in terms of the ephemeral effect of the wind, rain, waves, and even snow as it swept through our communities, but in fact this superstorm can have a longer-term effect in the large pulse of sediment and associated pollutants swept into our waterways," said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. "It is particularly important to quantify the input of this one unusual event before concluding that certain efforts to reduce pollutant run-off from year to year have or have not been effective." >> Read the Full Article

Researchers study effects of open-fire cooking on air quality and human health

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has just launched a study examining the impact of open-fire cooking on regional air quality and human health. The study will look at atmospheric air pollutants and human diseases in terms of the effects of smoke from traditional cooking methods in households, villages, and entire regions particularly in northern Ghana. There are many factors that force developing countries to rely on cooking food with open flame fires. For example, electricity and energy sources are extremely scarce and lead natives to use dried plant stalks and other mediums for fuel. Research suggests that the continued use of these open fire pits and stoves has the potential to create problems for local populations. >> Read the Full Article

"Fertilizer to Fork" Approach Contributes to Climate Change

Growing, transporting, refrigerating, and wasting food accounts for somewhere between 19-29 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions in 2008, according to a new analysis by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). In hard numbers that's between 9.8 and 16.9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, more than double the fossil fuel emissions of China in the same year. Over 80 percent of food emissions came from production (i.e. agriculture) which includes deforestation and land use change. >> Read the Full Article

Hope for Shark Finning Bans Continues

Last month in Cambridge, volunteers from the community group Fin Free Cambridge delivered a petition with over three and a half thousand signatures to the Guildhall. The group, and all the signatories, are hoping to make Cambridge the first UK city to ban the use of shark fins. Currently four businesses in Cambridge use shark fins and the UK is ranked 19th in the world for shark fin exports. Shark finning is a cruel and wasteful activity, with around 73 million sharks being killed each year for their fins alone. The number of threatened shark species in the world has grown to more than 180 from a total of just 15 in 1996. >> Read the Full Article

Economics of Coal Power and Wind are shifting in favor of Wind

While the cost of wind power has been dropping, a fascinating article in The Washington Post describes how coal mining is becoming more difficult and expensive. The coal industry cites environmental regulations as the main source of upward pressure on costs but WaPo writer Steven Mufson makes a convincing case that factors within the coal fields themselves are the main culprit. Mufson is careful to note that the trend varies from one coal field to another, but it is occurring in the key coal-producing region of Appalachia among others. Against the backdrop of falling wind prices, the rising cost of coal provides businesses with yet another incentive to explore ways of tapping the wind to power their operations. >> Read the Full Article

Climate change mitigation 'far cheaper than inaction'

Tackling the global climate crisis could reap significant economic benefits for both developed and developing countries, according to a new report. The impacts of climate change and a carbon-intensive economy cost the world around US$1.2 trillion a year — 1.6 per cent of the total global GDP (gross domestic product), states 'Climate Vulnerability Monitor: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of A Hot Planet'. >> Read the Full Article

Hurricane Sandy Update: Eight to Ten Million Cumulative Power Outages Predicted

Hurricane Sandy is weakening and moving faster than anticipated. Therefore a computer model developed by an engineer at The Johns Hopkins University is now predicting fewer power outages than initially expected. Seth Guikema is predicting that an overall cumulative total of 8 to 10 million people will lose power in the wake of the hurricane, based on the last storm track and intensity forecast at 2 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, Oct. 30. It is important to note that the computer model predicts cumulative outages, not peak outages. Cumulative means the total count of anyone who has lost power, versus peak, which is the number of people without power at any one point in time. For instance, in Maryland, the local utility company reported approximately 290,000 cumulative power outages as of 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 29, but their peak was approximately 210,000 because they were actively restoring outages while new outages were occurring. >> Read the Full Article