• Mopping up toxic fire-fighting chemicals

    Australian scientists have come up with the solution to a world-wide pollution problem — how to mop up the toxic residues left after the use of special foams to fight fires. The technology uses a modified clay to soak up potential cancer-causing substances in the foam used by fire fighters, defense facilities, and airports worldwide to suppress fires.

  • Research powerhouses team up to develop climate models for energy applications

    Eight national laboratories, four academic institutions, and one private-sector company are partnering in the Climate Modeling for Energy, or ACME, project, designed to accelerate the development and application of fully coupled, state-of-the-science Earth system models for scientific and energy applications. The project will focus initially on three climate-change science drivers and corresponding questions to be answered during the project’s initial phase.

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  • California communities running out of water

    Since January, a number of California communities in the Central Valley have been experiencing such extreme drought that they have been placed on a “critical water systems” list — a ranking indicating that the areas could run completely dry within sixty days. Many of these areas have had wells dried up since July.

  • Better planetary vital signs should replace 2° C warming goal as targets for climate action

    As climate instability increases across the planet, limiting global surface air temperature increase above pre-industrial levels to an average of 2° C (3.6° F) has become a popular metric for success in the public eye. Two researchers argue, however, that the goal is a misleading one. Though it is a relatively tangible concept to appreciate, the standard does not correlate well to prescribed government actions such as limiting fossil fuel use or establishing carbon markets. “Scientifically, there are better ways to measure the stress that humans are placing on the climate system than the growth of average global surface temperature — which has stalled since 1998 and is poorly coupled to entities that governments and companies can control directly,” the researchers say.

  • California agriculture faces greatest water loss ever seen

    California produces nearly half of U.S.-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables, and nearly a quarter of the nation’s milk and cream. Across the nation, consumers regularly buy several crops grown almost entirely in California, including tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, almonds, walnuts, grapes, olives, and figs. Researchers show that California agriculture is weathering its worst drought in decades due to groundwater reserves, but the nation’s produce basket may come up dry in the future if it continues to treat those reserves like an unlimited savings account.

  • California crippling drought linked to climate change: Scientists

    The extreme atmospheric conditions associated with California’s crippling drought are far more likely to occur under today’s global warming conditions than in the climate that existed before humans emitted large amounts of greenhouse gases. Researchers used a novel combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean that diverted storms away from California was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

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  • New 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.

  • Increased 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.

  • Reduce 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.

  • NSF 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.

  • To 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.

  • Cities 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.

  • Rural 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.

  • Florida 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.

  • New 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.