Environment

  • EnergyNew approach can change climate negotiations

    Researchers argue that the most important recent innovation in the discussion over how to slow down global warming is the adoption of a “cumulative emissions” approach to emissions of carbon dioxide. The researchers say that though, in the short term, this promises to challenge negotiators trying to achieve a meaningful international climate change agreement, in the longer term it ought to help them focus on the things that matter most. The virtue of using the cumulative emissions approach is clarity: By finding a simpler way to express the overall scale of the problem, the approach – and the IPCC and Calderón reports — give governments and other players less room to pretend that opportunistic or short-term tweaks to emissions paths are sufficient to meet the goals they have set themselves.

  • EnergyIncreased use of natural gas will have little effect on CO2 emissions: Study

    Abundant supplies of natural gas will do little to reduce harmful U.S. emissions causing climate change, according to researchers. They found that inexpensive gas boosts electricity consumption and hinders expansion of cleaner energy sources, such as wind and solar.

  • WaterReduce river pollution through water-quality trading

    Allowing polluters to buy, sell, or trade water-quality credits could significantly reduce pollution in river basins and estuaries faster and at lower cost than requiring the facilities to meet compliance costs on their own, a new study finds. The scale and type of the trading programs, though critical, may matter less than just getting them started.

  • Coastal infrastructureNSF awards $15 million in second round of coastal sustainability grants

    More than half the world’s human population lived in coastal areas in the year 2000; that number is expected to rise to 75 percent by 2025. If current population trends continue, projections are for the crowded U.S. coast to see its population grow from 123 million people to nearly 134 million people by 2020. In wake of storms such as Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac, the NSF awards focus on better management of coastal environments.

  • EnergyTo stay below 2°C warming, coal’s rapid phase out is essential, but not enough

    A rapid phase out of coal as an electricity source by 2050 would reduce warming by half a degree, according to a new study. The study authors ran a number of scenarios around phasing out fossil fuel emissions from the electricity sector, which produces around 40 percent of global C02 emissions. The electricity sector needs to be decarbonized faster than other sectors, but instead is heading in the opposite direction, increasing carbon intensity and significantly driven by increased coal use, and making it one of the largest sources of recent carbon emission increases.

  • Infrastructure protectionCities seek new ways to cope with sea level rise – and look to the Dutch for advice

    Scientists predict a “tenfold increase” in the frequency of hurricanes and other storms, as well as sea-level rise of eleven to twenty-four inches within a little more than three decades – and planners and managers in U.S. coastal cities are looking at new ways to prepare their cities’ infrastructure for these challenges. In New York and New Orleans, city planners are studying the experience of the Dutch, who have gained a lot of experience – and fame — for their water control methods.

  • Coastal infrastructureRural towns lose to urban centers in competition for coastal protection funding

    Infrastructure protection planners say there are only three ways coastal communities can defend themselves against rising sea levels: defend the shoreline with both natural and man-made barriers; raise key infrastructure such as buildings and roads; or retreat from the shoreline. Each of these options costs a fortune to follow. Smaller, more rural coastal communities in many states are finding that they are having a hard time competing with more powerful interests in coastal urban cities over funding for protection against sea-level rise.

  • Infrastructure protectionFlorida Keys preparing for rising sea levels

    The Florida Keys rank third among East Coast communities at risk of “population displacement” due to higher seas which will flood nearby land. Scientists say that if sea levels continue to rise at the current rate, high waters which drowned the Keys during 2005’s Hurricane Wilma could become a normal part of living in Monroe County by 2060. Officials in Monroe County, Florida are putting together a GreenKeys Sustainability Action Plan which will help residents of the Florida Keys maintain a sustainable lifestyle while under threat of sea-level rise due to climate change.

  • BusinessNew Orleans creates economic value out of environmental vulnerability

    Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans and the state of Louisiana have become so adept at dealing with disaster reconstruction, that their new-found skills are now seen as an economic asset to be shared, for profit, with other states and localities. The area’s new environmental awareness is also a source of economic growth, as analysts now consider “emerging environmental” as one of six key industries in the city and state to focus on development, along with coastal restoration and water management, disaster mitigation and management, hazardous waste disposal, advanced bio fuels and waste water treatment.

  • FrackingBetter solutions for recycle fracking water

    Scientists have performed a detailed analysis of water produced by hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) of three gas reservoirs and suggested environmentally friendly remedies are needed to treat and reuse it. More advanced recycling rather than disposal of “produced” water pumped back out of wells could calm fears of accidental spillage and save millions of gallons of fresh water a year.

  • EnergyExisting power plants will emit 300 billion more tons of carbon dioxide during use

    Existing power plants around the world will pump out more than 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide over their expected lifetimes, significantly adding to atmospheric levels of the climate-warming gas, according to a new study. The study is the first to quantify how quickly these “committed” emissions are growing — by about 4 percent per year — as more fossil fuel-burning power plants are built. Assuming these stations will operate for forty years, the power plants constructed globally in 2012 alone will produce about nineteen billion tons of CO2 during their existence, the researchers project.

  • Food securitySouthwest may face “megadrought” within century: Study

    Due to global warming, scientists say, the chances of the southwestern United States experiencing a decade-long drought is at least 50 percent, and the chances of a “megadrought” — one that lasts up to thirty-five years — ranges from 20 to 50 percent over the next century. While the 1930s Dust Bowl in the Midwest lasted four to eight years, depending upon location, a megadrought can last more than three decades, which could lead to mass population migration on a scale never before seen in this country.

  • Infrastructure protectionAntarctica to become major contributor to sea level rise faster than previously thought

    While Antarctica currently contributes less than 10 percent to global sea level rise and is a minor contributor compared to the thermal expansion of the warming oceans and melting mountain glaciers, it is Greenland and especially the Antarctic ice sheets with their huge volume of ice that are expected to be the major contributors to future long-term sea level rise.

  • Infrastructure protectionSolar super-storms “inevitable”: Scientists

    Solar storms are caused by violent eruptions on the surface of the Sun and are accompanied by coronal mass ejections (CME). The largest ever solar super-storm on record occurred in 1859 and is known as the Carrington Event: This massive CME released about 1,022 kJ of energy — the equivalent to ten billion Hiroshima bombs exploding at the same time — and hurled around a trillion kilograms of charged particles towards the Earth at speeds of up to 3,000 km/s. These types of events are not just a threat, but inevitable. NASA scientists have predicted that the Earth is in the path of a Carrington-level event every 150 years on average — which means that we are currently five years overdue — and that the likelihood of one occurring in the next decade is as high as 12 percent.

  • TornadoesTornado strength, frequency linked to climate change

    New research shows that climate change may be playing a key role in the strength and frequency of tornadoes hitting the United States. Though tornadoes are forming fewer days per year, they are forming at a greater density and strength than ever before. “We may be less threatened by tornadoes on a day-to-day basis, but when they do come, they come like there’s no tomorrow,” one of the researchers said.