• Germany's plan to shut down its nuclear plants will add 40 million tons of CO2 per year

    Germany's plan to shut all its nuclear power plants by 2022 will add up to 40 million tones of carbon dioxide emissions annually as the country turns to fossil fuels, analysts said on Tuesday. The extra emissions would increase demand for carbon permits under the European Union's trading scheme, thereby adding a little to carbon prices and pollution costs for EU industry. "We will see a pick-up in German coal burn," said Barclays Capital analyst Amrita Sen. "Longer term, they will be using more renewables and gas but this year and next, we should see a lot of support for coal burn." The phase-out is seen as more political than technical as German Chancellor Angela Merkel tries to capture anti-nuclear sentiment in the aftermath of Japan's Fukushima crisis. Environmentalists welcomed the shift, although some demanded a faster phase-out, hoping it would spur a shift to renewable energy which they view as less harmful by avoiding radioactive waste. >> Read the Full Article
  • Record carbon emissions leave climate on the brink

    Greenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount last year, to the highest carbon output in history, putting hopes of holding global warming to safe levels all but out of reach, according to unpublished estimates from the International Energy Agency. >> Read the Full Article
  • In 1100's, temperatures in Greenland dropped 7 degrees F in 80 years; cause of Viking's departure?

    A cold snap in Greenland in the 12th century may help explain why Viking settlers vanished from the island, scientists said on Monday. The report, reconstructing temperatures by examining lake sediment cores in west Greenland dating back 5,600 years, also indicated that earlier, pre-historic settlers also had to contend with vicious swings in climate on icy Greenland. "Climate played (a) big role in Vikings' disappearance from Greenland," Brown University in the United States said in a statement of a finding that average temperatures plunged 4 degrees Celsius (7F) in 80 years from about 1100. Such a shift is roughly the equivalent of the current average temperatures in Edinburgh, Scotland, tumbling to match those in Reykjavik, Iceland. It would be a huge setback to crop and livestock production. >> Read the Full Article
  • Melting ice roads in Arctic could have big impact

    Global warming will likely open up coastal areas in the Arctic to development but close vast regions of the northern interior to forestry and mining by mid-century as ice and frozen soil under temporary winter roads melt, researchers said. Higher temperatures have already led to lower summer sea ice levels in the Arctic and the melting has the potential to increase access for fishermen, tourists and oil and natural gas developers to coastal regions in coming decades. The melting has also led to hopes that shorter Arctic shipping routes between China and Europe will open. The Arctic is increasingly a region of deep strategic importance to the United States, Russia and China for its undiscovered resource riches and the potential for new shipping lanes. The U.S. Geological Survey says that 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and natural gas lies in the Arctic. But the warming also will likely melt so-called "ice roads", the temporary winter roads developers now use to access far inland northern resources such as timber, diamonds and minerals, according to a study published on Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change. >> Read the Full Article
  • Did Quiet Sun Cause Little Ice Age After All?

    BOSTON—For decades, astronomers and climatologists have debated whether a prolonged 17th century cold spell, best documented in Europe, could have been caused by erratic behavior of the sun. Now, an American solar physicist says he has new evidence to suggest that the sun was indeed the culprit. >> Read the Full Article
  • Two Greenland Glaciers Lose Enough Ice to Fill Lake Erie

    ScienceDaily (May 24, 2011) — A new study aimed at refining the way scientists measure ice loss in Greenland is providing a "high-definition picture" of climate-caused changes on the island. And the picture isn't pretty. In the last decade, two of the largest three glaciers draining that frozen landscape have lost enough ice that, if melted, could have filled Lake Erie. >> Read the Full Article
  • Drought in China significantly cuts hydroelectric output

    The worst drought to hit central China in half a century has brought water levels in some of the country's biggest hydropower producing regions to critical levels and could exacerbate electricity shortages over the summer. The official Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday that the water level at the world's biggest hydropower plant at the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei province has fallen to 152.7 meters, well below the 156-m mark required to run its 26 turbines effectively. Total capacity at the Three Gorges hydropower project amounts to 18.2 gigawatts, the equivalent of about 15 third-generation nuclear reactors and more than a third of Hubei's total. It generated 84.4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2010, delivering power as far afield as Shanghai on the eastern coast. The water level is expected to fall further to around 145 meters by June 10, when planned discharges are scheduled to end. The drought has struck at the time of year when China's hydropower output would normally surge. Hydro output bottoms out in January and February and peaks over the summer. During six months of last year, from May to October, 20 percent of China's electricity generation was hydropower. >> Read the Full Article
  • Waste Heat Recovery: The Next Wave of Clean Tech

    The terms renewable energy and clean technology conjure up images of photovoltaic panels baking in the desert sun, wind turbines rotating lazily in the wind, and large dams generating hydro-power. However, there is another important and growing clean energy technology that the average consumer hasn't heard of yet: waste heat recovery. Waste heat recovery employs a process that has been around since the 1960s called the organic Rankine cycle (ORC), which easily integrates into existing manufacturing infrastructures. ORC units capture heat that is currently being released into the atmosphere and converts it into useable CO2-free electricity. This technology has a small footprint, approximately the size of a tractor trailer flatbed and interest in systems that use this energy generating skid is on the rise as companies look to maximize the efficiency of existing investments and infrastructures. The market for waste heat recovery is virtually limitless. According to researchers at University California Berkley, the U.S. currently consumes about 100 quadrillion BTUs of energy per year. However, between 55 and 60 quadrillion BTUs are currently vented into the atmosphere as waste heat. With ORC technology these emissions are harnessed on-site to generate useable CO2-free electricity that is fed directly back into a manufacturing process. Pulp and paper, lumber, refinery, cement and power plant operations are especially well-suited for waste heat recovery systems since they consume large amounts of electricity and maintain consistent waste heat streams with temperatures between 400° and 800°F. >> Read the Full Article
  • The best Job in the World? Filming in the Jungle, new from BBC Earth

    Often the attraction of working in natural history is the thrill of the wild. The untamed, the undomesticated, the possibility of discovering the unknown! However even as a dedicated natural history program maker, there are certain hostile and remote locations where it is essential to have your super-human senses switched on. As a cameraman, crouching down to get that perfect shot on the dark and damp forest floor. It is your ears you need to rely on above all else, as often the only proof of the vast amounts of animal life around you…is what you hear! The high humidity of this environment creates ideal conditions for the strangest animals to live, breed and sing! Through the cacophony of rival mating calls, warning cries, sharing the location of a known food source and social interaction; the sounds of the wilderness could leave you overwhelmed. But it is a specific sound you are listening out for… As an enthusiastic drummer of the jungle, the chimpanzee has worked out a less stressful way of communicating with each other than exhaustive calls...which transpires is also a highly enjoyable one! While scouring the forest in search of their next meal, the troops will use buttress roots and hollow trunks to sound out! Drumming as they pass, the chimpanzee’s will make distinctive bass sounds (some even repeatedly on their favorite trees!) using their hands and feet to make clear - who is where, and how successful each party has been with their search. >> Read the Full Article
  • Farm states suffer expanded drought

    A dire drought that has plagued Texas and parts of Oklahoma expanded across the key farming state of Kansas over the last week, adding to struggles of wheat farmers already dealing with weather-ravaged fields. Harvest in Kansas, the top U.S. wheat-growing state, is set to begin within weeks. But a report issued Thursday by a consortium of climatologists said the three most severe levels of drought spread across the state over the last week, with the most dire conditions concentrated in the key wheat-growing south-central and southwest parts. "It is pretty bad," said Kansas state climatologist Mary Knapp. "For a lot of these areas... the last significant rainfall was in July of last year." Kansas now has 50 percent of the state suffering severe levels of drought or worse, up from 41 percent last week, according to the Drought Monitor report. Just three months ago, less than 4 percent of Kansas was suffering severe drought or worse. The drought is eroding production potential at a time when every bushel counts. >> Read the Full Article