Top Stories

Going vegetarian could save emissions and prevent 8 million deaths a year

Oxford researchers have quantified the benefits of the world becoming vegetarian, writes Marco Springmann. Their study shows that simple changes - like moving to diets low in meat and high in fruit and vegetables - could lead to significant reduction in mortality and health care costs, while cutting food sector greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds.

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Snowshoe hare range moving northward following retreating snow cover

If there is an animal emblematic of the northern winter, it is the snowshoe hare.

A forest dweller, the snowshoe hare is named for its big feet, which allow it to skitter over deep snow to escape lynx, coyotes and other predators. It changes color with the seasons, assuming a snow-white fur coat for winter camouflage.

But a changing climate and reduced snow cover across the north is squeezing the animal out of its historic range, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Writing in the current (March 30, 2016) Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the Wisconsin researchers report that the range of the hare in Wisconsin is creeping north by about five and a half miles per decade, closely tracking the diminishing snow cover the animal requires to be successful.

 

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Severe water stress likely in Asia by 2050

Economic and population growth on top of climate change could lead to serious water shortages across a broad swath of Asia by the year 2050, a newly published study by MIT scientists has found.

The study deploys detailed modeling to produce what the researchers believe is a full range of scenarios involving water availability and use in the future. In the paper, the scientists conclude there is a “high risk of severe water stress” in much of an area that is home to roughly half the world’s population.

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Should we be feeding food waste to livestock?

Food waste is a huge global problem. About a third of the food produced globally for human consumption, approximately 1.3 billion tons each year, is wasted or lost, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Food losses in industrialized countries add up to roughly $680 billion, with $310 billion in losses in developing countries. Produce (fruits and vegetables plus roots and tubers) have the highest rates of waste. 

Taiwan has a simple solution to reduce food waste: Feed it to livestock. The Guardian reports that Taiwan is “one of a handful of countries that have institutionalized the practice” of feeding food scraps to livestock. About two-third’s of the country’s food waste is fed to its 5.5 million pigs. Pigs are Taiwan’s biggest source of meat.

“We realized there was a lot of kitchen waste and that if we put it in incinerators it would hamper incineration because it’s wet,” Chiang Tsu-nong, deputy inspector general with the government’s Bureau of Environmental Inspection, told the Guardian. “And Taiwan’s land is limited, so if you build a landfill or an incinerator people will protest.”

 

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Are we what we eat?

In a new evolutionary proof of the old adage, 'we are what we eat', Cornell University scientists have found tantalizing evidence that a vegetarian diet has led to a mutation that -- if they stray from a balanced omega-6 to omega-3 diet -- may make people more susceptible to inflammation, and by association, increased risk of heart disease and colon cancer. 

The discovery, led by Drs. Tom Brenna, Kumar Kothapalli, and Alon Keinan provides the first evolutionary detective work that traces a higher frequency of a particular mutation to a primarily vegetarian population from Pune, India (about 70 percent), when compared to a traditional meat-eating American population, made up of mostly Kansans (less than 20 percent). It appears in the early online edition of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution

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Shrinking Arctic ice is impacting Greenland melting

Vanishing Arctic sea ice. Dogged weather systems over Greenland. Far-flung surface ice melting on the massive island. 'Blocking-high' pressure systems spawn most of the warming that melts Greenland surface ice, Rutgers study says

These dramatic trends and global sea-level rise are linked, according to a study coauthored by Jennifer Francis, a research professor in Rutgers University's Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences.

During Greenland summers, melting Arctic sea ice favors stronger and more frequent "blocking-high" pressure systems, which spin clockwise, stay largely in place and can block cold, dry Canadian air from reaching the island. The highs tend to enhance the flow of warm, moist air over Greenland, contributing to increased extreme heat events and surface ice melting, according to the study.

 

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Ocean temperatures predict U.S. heat waves

The formation of a distinct pattern of sea surface temperatures in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean can predict an increased chance of summer heat waves in the eastern half of the U.S. up to 50 days in advance.

The pattern is a contrast of warmer-than-average water coming up against cooler-than-average seas. When it appears, the odds that extreme heat will strike during a particular week -- or even on a particular day -- can more than triple, depending on how well-formed the pattern is.

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Human impact on Earth's global energy

The impact humans have made on Earth in terms of how we produce and consume resources has formed a 'striking new pattern' in the planet's global energy flow, according to researchers from the University of Leicester.

The research suggests that Earth is now characterised by a geologically unprecedented pattern of global energy flow that is pervasively influenced by humans -- and which is necessary for maintaining the complexity of modern human societies.

The new study, published in the journal Earth's Future, is led by Professors Mark Williams and Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester's Department of Geology working with an international team of scholars.

 

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As EV sales slow, focus shifts for some to heavy duty vehicles

Low gasoline prices and continuing performance issues have slowed the growth of electric car sales. But that has not stymied progress in electrifying larger vehicles, including garbage trucks, city buses, and medium-sized trucks used by freight giants like FedEx.

The clang of garbage cans will still probably wake people way too early in the morning. But in Santa Rosa, California, at least, the roaring diesel engine will be quiet, replaced by a silent, electric motor. 
 

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New research on the Rio Grande and impacts of long drought

New research can help water managers along the Rio Grande make wise decisions about how to best use the flow of a river vital for drinking water, agriculture and aquatic habitat. These studies also show how conditions from the prolonged drought in the West have affected the Rio Grande watershed.

The Rio Grande forms the world’s longest river border between two countries as it flows between Texas and Mexico, where it is known as the Rio Bravo. The river runs through three states in the U.S., beginning in southern Colorado and flowing through New Mexico and Texas before it forms the border with Mexico.

Parts of the Rio Grande are designated as wild and scenic, but most of the river is controlled and passes through several dam and reservoir systems during its 1,896 mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico. The river is managed through a complex system of compacts, treaties, and agreements that determine when and how much water is released along the river’s length.

 

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