The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
On May 9, in conjunction with a series of landmark steps announced by the Obama Administration to unleash troves of useful data from the vaults of government, the interagency US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) launched a new online tool that promises to accelerate research relating to climate change and human health—the Metadata Access Tool for Climate and Health, or “MATCH.”
The Administration announcements made on May 9 include an Executive Order signed by the President declaring that information is a valuable national resource and strategic asset, and a new government-wide Open Data Policy requiring that, going forward, data generated by the government shall be made available in open, machine-readable formats. The move will make troves of previously inaccessible or unmanageable data more readily available to entrepreneurs, researchers, and others who can use open data as fuel for innovation, businesses and new services and tools.
MATCH is one such tool, driven by open data, which could open the door for new scientific insights in the public health and climate science communities. It is a publicly accessible digital platform for searching and integrating metadata—standardized contextual information—extracted from more than 9,000 health, environment, and climate-science datasets held by six Federal agencies.
As part of an ongoing effort to enhance energy security and reduce carbon pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized the 2013 percentage standards for four fuel categories that are part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program established by Congress. Most of these fuels are produced by American farmers and growers domestically and help reduce the carbon pollution that contributes to climate change.
This year’s second quarter saw a massive surge in solar panel shipments, with three of the four largest manufacturers outdoing projections by as much as 32 percent, Bloomberg reports. Much of that was due to rising demand in Asia, where China and Japan could soon make up half the global demand for solar — with China in particular planning to double its solar capacity to about 10 gigawatts this year, and increase it by five times by 2015. According to Stefan Linder, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), that swelling demand should soak up much of the oversupply solar manufacturers were recently struggling under. At the end of July, BNEF reported recovering solar stocks as well.
On Thursday, an industry research firm announced a new study predicting that construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would have “no material impact” greenhouse gas emissions. But while proponents and media outlets quickly reported on this “independent study,” the for-profit energy research firm behind the report is anything but independent.
The global treaty that headed off destruction of earth’s protective ozone layer has also prevented major disruption of global rainfall patterns, even though that was not a motivation for the treaty, according to a new study in the Journal of Climate. The 1987 Montreal Protocol phased out the use of chloroflourocarbons, or CFCs, a class of chemicals that destroy ozone in the stratosphere, allowing more ultraviolet radiation to reach earth’s surface. Though the treaty aimed to reverse ozone losses, the new research shows that it also protected the hydroclimate. The study says the treaty prevented ozone loss from disrupting atmospheric circulation, and kept CFCs, which are greenhouse gases, from warming the atmosphere and also disrupting atmospheric circulation. Had these effects taken hold, they would have combined to shift rainfall patterns in ways beyond those that may already be happening due to rising carbon dioxide in the air.
If history’s closest analog is any indication, the look of the oceans will change drastically in the future as the coming greenhouse world alters marine food webs and gives certain species advantages over others. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, paleobiologist Richard Norris and colleagues show that the ancient greenhouse world had few large reefs, a poorly oxygenated ocean, tropical surface waters like a hot tub, and food webs that did not sustain the abundance of large sharks, whales, seabirds, and seals of the modern ocean. Aspects of this greenhouse ocean could reappear in the future if greenhouse gases continue to rise at current accelerating rates.
Forests have a limited capacity to soak up atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to a new study from Northern Arizona University. The study, available online in the journal New Phytologist, aimed to explore how rising atmospheric carbon dioxide could alter the carbon and nitrogen content of ecosystems.
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