Environment

  • Direct CO2 removal could lower costs of climate mitigation

    Two broad strategies are typically offered to protect infrastructure from the consequences of climate change: reducing to emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere by using less fossil fuels, and mitigation (building sea walls, dams, and levees; changing building codes, etc.). Both approaches are costly. Scientists suggest that directly removing CO2 from the air could alter the costs of climate change mitigation. It could allow prolonging greenhouse-gas emissions from sectors like transport which are difficult, and thus expensive, to turn away from using fossil fuels.

  • Population growth a challenge to secure supplies of energy, food, water

    Mention great challenges in feeding a soaring world population, and thoughts turn to providing a bare subsistence diet for poverty-stricken people in developing countries. An expert says, however, that there is a parallel and often-overlooked challenge: the global population will rise from seven billion today to almost nine billion people by 2040. Providing enough food to prevent starvation and famine certainly will be a daunting problem.

  • L.A County to turn rain water into drinking water

    Residents of Los Angeles County know that on the rare occasion that it rains, staying away from the beach is a good idea. Runoff from rain typically brings heavy metals, pesticides, cigarette butts, animal waste, and other pollutants  into the streams and rivers which go into the Pacific Ocean. Now, local officials are getting together to find a solution to the water pollution and water scarcity, with an ambitious plan to make the runoff water drinkable.

  • Oregon citizens preparing for the Big One

    A new study concludes that an earthquake of a magnitude 8.0 or above will strike off the coast of the state within the next fifty years. The Cascadia Fault, which runs from Northern California to British Columbia, Canada, causes a massive earthquake every 300 years or so, and the last time an earthquake hit the region was in the year 1700.

  • Making concrete “greener”

    Many factors determine the overall energy and environmental impact of concrete. Reducing the amount of portland cement, which reacts with water to bind all the sand, stone, and the other constituents of concrete as it hardens, provides the biggest opportunity. Portland cement manufacturing accounts for more than 5 percent of U.S. industrial carbon-dioxide emissions. In addition, the U.S. cement industry consumes 400 gigajoules of energy annually.

  • Renewable energy could economically replace fossil-based energy in Australia

    A carbon price of between AU$50 and AU$100 per ton of carbon dioxide would make coal-fired and gas-fired power in Australia less economical than renewable electricity. A new study says that all fossil-fuelled power stations in Australia’s National Electricity Market could be phased out and replaced economically and reliably with commercially available renewable energy technologies by increasing the carbon price to this “medium” level.

  • U.S. nuclear industry faces a wave of nuclear power station retirements

    A wave of U.S. nuclear power station retirements is on the horizon. The typical design life of a nuclear power plant is 40 years. There are 104 nuclear power plants in the United States, and their average age is 34 years — only a few years short of, and fast approaching, their design life. Almost 30 U.S. commercial and research reactors already have started decommissioning. A $400 million is regarded as the bargain basement price tag for cleaning up a single reactor.

  • China catches 12 times more fish beyond its waters than it reports

    Chinese fishing boats catch about $11.5 billion worth of fish from beyond their country’s own waters each year — and most of it goes unreported. Researchers estimate Chinese foreign fishing at 4.6 million tons per year, taken from the waters of at least ninety countries — including 3.1 million tons from African waters, mainly West Africa.

  • Same-day water test keeps beaches open, swimmers’ health protected

    With warm summer days at the beach on the minds of millions of winter-weary people, scientists are reporting that use of a new water quality test this year could prevent unnecessary beach closures, while better protecting the health of swimmers.

  • Large robotic jellyfish to patrol the oceans

    The Office of Naval Research wants to place self-powering, autonomous machines in waters for the purposes of surveillance and monitoring the environment, in addition to other uses such as studying aquatic life, mapping ocean floors, and monitoring ocean currents. Researchers have built a device for that purpose — a life-like, autonomous robotic jellyfish the size and weight of a grown man, 5 foot 7 inches in length and weighing 170 pounds.

  • Water treatment plant ozone upgrade wins civil engineering award

    The Ozone Upgrade and Expansion Project of the Alvarado Water Treatment Plant in San Diego, California, was named the winner of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2013 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement (OCEA) Award. In addition to expanding plant capacity by 67 percent, the city of San Diego converted from chlorine to ozone disinfection. The incorporation of ozone enabled the city to provide not only safer water with lower levels of carcinogenic disinfection by-products, but also water that is odorless and better tasting.

  • Americans support preparation for extreme weather, coastal challenges: survey

    The challenges posed by rising sea levels and increasingly severe storms will only intensify as more Americans build along the coasts. A just-released NOAA report predicts that already crowded U.S. coastlines will become home to an additional eleven million people by 2020. A Stanford survey finds that the majority of Americans support stronger coastal development codes. Among the most popular policy solutions: stronger building codes for new structures along the coast to minimize damage, and preventing new buildings from being built near the coast.

  • Genetically engineered multi-toxin crops make insects insecticide-resistant

    The popular new strategy of planting genetically engineered crops that make two or more toxins to fend off insect pests rests on assumptions that do not always apply, researchers have discovered. Their study helps explain why one major pest is evolving resistance much faster than predicted and offers ideas for more sustainable pest control.

  • Using waste heat to capture CO2 before it goes up in smoke

    Power plants fired by coal and natural gas account for about half of the CO2 that humans add to the atmosphere each year; these power plants are prime candidates for new technology that captures CO2 before it goes up in smoke. Researchers seek to optimize CO2 removal from power plant emissions by employing waste heat. This is just one example of looking to improve upon a tried-and-true technology for CO2 capture. That technology — a two-phase chemical process — has been used for decades to remove naturally occurring CO2 from natural gas.

  • U.S. suffered $119 billion in disaster-related losses in 2012

    Natural and man-made disasters contributed to $186 billion in economic losses around the world last year. The United States took the biggest hit with $119 billion in losses. Insurance claims for weather-related losses in 2012 totaled $77 billion dollars, the third most expensive losses on record. Nine of the top ten most expensive insured loss events which occurred last year happened in the United States.