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Our Earth – Eco News Roundup: January 13, 2013

January 13, 2013

Our Earth

Our Earth – Eco News Roundup: January 13, 2013

The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.


Federal Advisory Committee Draft Climate Assessment Report Released for Public Review

A 60-person Federal Advisory Committee (The “National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee” or NCADAC) has overseen the development of this draft climate report.

The NCADAC, whose members are available here (and in the report), was established under the Department of Commerce in December 2010 and is supported through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is a federal advisory committee established as per the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972. The Committee serves to oversee the activities of the National Climate Assessment. Its members are diverse in background, expertise, geography and sector of employment. A formal record of the committee can be found at the NOAA NCADAC website.

Progress Made in Developing Systems for Disaster Mitigation

Pilot project in Chattanooga uses an ultra-fast, high bandwidth system to help emergency workers, local officials and the public determine how to predict and respond to disasters

Eco-friendly Company Introduces Nature’s Packing Peanuts

In a world where plastics and synthetic foams can outlive us in landfills and have detrimental impacts on the environment, there are ways to limit such effects using something that’s growing all around us.

Fungal mycelium–the root-like filaments that mushrooms spread into soil to gather nutrients as part of nature’s recycling system–provide a naturally biodegradable solution, suggest engineers Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, the founders of Ecovative Design.

Harnessing Plant-Invading Fungi for Fuel

As gas prices rise around the world, researchers are seeking a potential solution from endophytic fungi–fungi that live inside plants.

While conducting a study on endophytes and their unique products, Gary Strobel of Montana State University and his fellow researchers made a discovery that could very well change our future fuel sourcing.

In a recent study, published in the journal Microbial Ecology, Strobel and his team looked closely at an endophyte known as Hypoxylon, identifying the volatile organic compounds that it produces as well as its antimicrobial activity and genetic makeup. Hypoxylon and similar fungi are common in tropical and semitropical plants and the volatile organic compounds they produce may be useable as fuels or fuel additives.

The Colors of Fall: Are Autumn Reds and Golds Passing Us By?

It was 1947 when Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics to the popular song “Autumn Leaves.” Sixty-five years ago, Mercer likely didn’t think the reds and golds of fall might someday fade.

But that is what’s beginning to happen in the U.S. Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

Autumn colors were different there a century, or even a half-century ago, and they will likely continue to change, says ecologist David Foster, principal investigator at the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site in Massachusetts.

Major cuts to surging CO2 emissions are needed now, not down the road, study finds

Halting climate change will require “a fundamental and disruptive overhaul of the global energy system” to eradicate harmful carbon dioxide emissions, not just stabilize them, according to new findings by UC Irvine and other scientists. In a Jan. 9 paper in Environmental Research Letters, UC Irvine Earth system scientist Steve Davis and others take a fresh look at the popular “wedge” approach to tackling climate change outlined in a 2004 study by Princeton scientists Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow. They had argued that the rise of dangerous CO2 could be stopped — using existing technologies — by dividing the task into seven huge but manageable “slices.”

Heat-resistant corals provide clues to climate change survival

In a future shaped by climate change, only the strong — or heat-resistant — will survive. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences opens a window into a genetic process that allows some corals to withstand unusually high temperatures and may hold a key to species survival for organisms around the world. “If we can find populations most likely to resist climate change and map them, then we can protect them,” said study co-author Stephen Palumbi, a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and director of Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station. “It’s of paramount importance because climate change is coming.”

Penn study shows mountains are only minor contributors to erosion and climate regulation

Though churning smokestacks, cud-chewing cows and gasoline-burning vehicles are contributing constantly to greenhouse gas emissions, there are also many processes that do the reverse, pulling molecules like carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. One of these is chemical weathering, which occurs when rock turns into soil. Carbon dioxide molecules and rain combine to dissolve rock, and the weathering products, including sediment, eventually make their way through waterways to the ocean where some become trapped on the ocean bottom and in coral reefs and seashells. For years, geologists believed that mountains, due to their steep slopes and high rates of erosion, were large contributors to this “carbon draw down” effect. But a new study led by the University of Pennsylvania’s Jane Willenbring suggests that mountains do not play a significant role in this activity, turning a geological paradigm on its head.

Low extinction rates made California a refuge for diverse plant species

The remarkable diversity of California’s plant life is largely the result of low extinction rates over the past 45 million years, according to a new study published in the journal Evolution. Although many new species have evolved in California, the rate at which plant lineages gave rise to new species has not been notably higher in California than elsewhere, researchers found. Botanists have long recognized California as a biodiversity hotspot. With more than 5,500 native plant species, 40 percent of which are “endemic” (occurring nowhere else), California has more species and more endemic species than any other U.S. state, and is more species rich than most other places on Earth. The new findings highlight the importance of California as a refuge for plant species that might have gone extinct in other regions during the climatic shifts that occurred in the distant past.

Study finds flame retardant pollutants at far-flung locations

Chemicals used as flame retardants are present as environmental pollutants at locations around the globe, including remote sites in Indonesia, Nepal and Tasmania, according to a study by researchers from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs. The study, published this month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, makes use of a novel but highly effective sampling technique: measuring concentrations of the chemicals in the bark of trees, which absorbs compounds in both vapor and particle phases.

Toward reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of the Internet and telecommunications

Amid growing concern over the surprisingly large amount of greenhouse gas produced by the Internet and other telecommunications activities, researchers are reporting new models of emissions and energy consumption that could help reduce their carbon footprint. Their report appears in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.


Here are some other links you may find worthwhile:
Climate Change News Digest
Climate Progress from Center for American Progress
Rocky Mountain Institute “an independent, entrepreneurial nonprofit think-and-do tank™ that drives the efficient and restorative use of resources.”


At BPI Campus our Progressive Agenda is:
1. People matter more than profits.
2. The earth is our home, not our trash can.
3. We need good government for both #1 and #2.

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