• Are "improved" Cookstoves in Pakistan better than the traditional ones?

    Programmes to provide rural Pakistani households with so-called improved cookstoves have had a muted response due to a lack of awareness among target communities — particularly among the women who do the cooking, a study has found. The finding comes as separate research suggests that some improved cookstove models actually cause more pollution than traditional mud stoves. Traditional stoves — which run on biomass such as crop waste, dung and twigs — are known to cause indoor air pollution. Indoor and outdoor air pollution have been identified by the WHO has causing an estimated two million deaths each year. >> Read the Full Article
  • Enzyme Batteries

    New research at Concordia University is bringing the world one step closer to cleaner energy. It is now possible to extend the length of time a battery like enzyme can store energy from seconds to hours, as shown in a study published in the Journal of The American Chemical Society. Concordia Associate Professor László Kálmán — along with his colleagues in the Department of Physics, graduate students Sasmit Deshmukh and Kai Tang — has been working with an enzyme found in bacteria that is crucial for capturing solar energy. Light induces a charge separation in the enzyme, causing one end to become negatively charged and the other positively charged, much like in a battery. The hope is that such batteries are more sustainable in the long run with less environmental effects. >> Read the Full Article
  • A Farm Grows in Brooklyn!

    Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood will soon be home to a 100,000 square foot, multi-acre rooftop farm that will produce a million pounds of produce per year – enough to feed 5,000 people – without using any dirt. The farm will be built by BrightFarms, a new company with a unique business model that finances, builds, and operates hydroponic greenhouse farms for supermarkets and other retailers who purchase the produce. The Brooklyn farm will be located on top of an eight-story, 1.1 million square foot building that was built in 1916 as a Navy warehouse and is now part of the city’s plans to redevelop the Brooklyn industrial waterfront. Construction is slated to start in the fall with the first harvest of tomatoes, lettuces and herbs expected next spring. Company officials say that once the farm is built, it will be the largest of its kind in the world. >> Read the Full Article
  • Climate change making conservation more costly

    Climate change will make conserving the world’s biodiversity – including the human benefits associated with conservation, such as clean air and water – much more challenging and expensive, research reveals. According to a group of international researchers convened by Conservation International, climate change may in some cases drive up costs by more than 100%. Focussing on species and ecosystems in South Africa, Madagascar and California, the researchers present the first ever estimates of how much it will cost the global community to adapt conservation efforts to climate change, calling the studies a 'wake-up call'. The results of the research have been published as a series of three papers in the journal Conservation Biology, under the title 'Conservation Focus: Costs of Adapting Conservation to Climate Change'. >> Read the Full Article
  • Greenland's ice cover appears to be sliding into the ocean

    Like snow sliding off a roof on a sunny day, the Greenland Ice Sheet may be sliding faster into the ocean due to massive releases of meltwater from surface lakes, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder-based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. Such lake drainages may affect sea-level rise, with implications for coastal communities, according to the researchers. "This is the first evidence that Greenland's 'supraglacial' lakes have responded to recent increases in surface meltwater production by draining more frequently, as opposed to growing in size," says CIRES research associate William Colgan, who co-led the new study with CU-Boulder computer science doctoral student Yu-Li Liang. >> Read the Full Article
  • Tar Sands Update

    You might not know this, but Canada has oil reserves of 170 billion barrels, more than Iran and Nigeria combined. This fact is not widely known since much of that oil has been considered "not economically recoverable," lying deep underground in a mixture of bitumen, a thick, tarry substance, sand and water known as oil sands or tar sands. Development of these tar sands, located near the Athabasca River, by Suncor Energy, began in the 1960s but has been conducted at a relatively small scale because of the costs involved. Only recently, with declining supplies and increasing prices have attempts begun to try and ramp up production, especially after PetroChina acquired a 60 percent interest in two major wells in Alberta in 2009. This was followed in 2010 by Sinopec paying $4.65 billion for a 9 percent stake in Syncrude Canada Ltd. Chinese investors find this resource to be attractive, since Canada is considered to be a low political risk when compared with, say, the Middle East. As of 2010, the three biggest of many players were Syncrude Canada, Suncor, and Albian Sands, a joint venture of Chevron, Shell Canada and Marathon Oil. BP also has a substantial stake, with a 75 percent interest in Terre de Grace, which it also operates. >> Read the Full Article
  • Fungal disease threat seen increasing

    Fungal diseases are a major threat not just to wild plants and animals, but to us. A new Nature paper shows we're already heading for huge fungal damage to vital crops and ecosystems over the coming decades. If we don't do more to stop these diseases' spread, their impact could be devastating. Fungi already destroy at least 125 million tonnes a year of rice, wheat, maize and potatoes and soybeans, worth $60 billion. Researchers estimate that in 2009-10, this lost food could have fed some 8.5 per cent of the world's people. And this is just the result of persistent low-level infection; simultaneous epidemics in several major crops could mean billions starve. >> Read the Full Article
  • Pesticides in backyards implicated in Bee Colony die off

    The controversy over possible links between massive bee die-offs and agricultural pesticides has overshadowed another threat: the use of those same pesticides in backyards and gardens. Neonicotinoid pesticides are ubiquitous in everday consumer plant treatments, and may expose bees to far higher doses than those found on farms, where neonicotinoids used in seed coatings are already considered a major problem by many scientists. "It's amazing how much research is out there on seed treatments, and in a way thats' distracted everyone from what may be a bigger problem," said Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director at the Xerces society, an invertebrate conservation group. >> Read the Full Article
  • Forests and the Health of the Planet

    The health of our forests directly impacts the health of the planet. The importance of forests to the Earth’s ecosystems cannot be overstated. Research shows that forest die-offs are on the increase and this troubling trend is being linked to global warming. Heat and water stress associated with climate change are making forests vulnerable to insect attacks, fires and other problems. As reported in an October 2011 New York Times article, millions of acres of forests in the northern and central Rockies are dying. In Colorado, at least 15 percent of that state’s aspen forests are suffering due to a lack of water. The U.S. is not the only country where forests are succumbing to the effects of a warming climate, trees are also being impacted by climate change all around the globe. The evidence for global warming continues to mount with March 2012 being the warmest in recorded history in the U.S. and January to March 2012 being the warmest first quarter on record in the lower 48 states. This is but the most recent data corroborating an increasingly irrefutable body of evidence. >> Read the Full Article
  • Sunny Forecast for Solar Power

    The American solar industry more than doubled in megawatts last year, from 887 megawatts installed in 2010 to 1,855 megawatts installed in 2011. This growth represents enough solar energy to power over 350,000 homes! 2011 also marks the first time the U.S. solar market has topped one gigawatt (1,000 MW) in a single year. Many factors contributed to this growth. The cost of installing solar panels fell 20 percent last year due to lower component costs and improved installation efficiency. Expanded financing options and a shift toward larger systems nationwide also made solar more affordable. In addition the 1603 Treasury Program, which offered rebates for businesses that installed solar panels, ended Dec. 31, 2011. This looming deadline drove developers to commission projects before the end of the year. >> Read the Full Article