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


Carbon-Sucking Golf Balls And Other Crazy Climate Patents

An afternoon searching recent US patents pulls up some curious climate solutions.

Polar bear attacks: scientists warn of fresh dangers in warming Arctic

A polar bear attack in Canada that left two people injured has brought new warnings from scientists of a dangerous rise in human-bear encounters in a warming Arctic.

The friends had just walked out of the door in the pre-dawn hours after a party when the young polar bear crept up behind them, unheard and unseen.

By the time, the bear was driven off by neighbours wielding a shovel, banging pots and pans, and firing multiple rounds from a shotgun, two people were badly mauled: the young woman who was the original target of the attack and an older male neighbour who tried to come to her rescue.

Carbon emissions must be cut ‘significantly’ by 2020, says UN report

The chances of keeping the global temperature increase below 2C will “swiftly diminish” unless the world takes immediate action to escalate cuts in carbon emissions, the United Nations has warned.

The UN Environment Program said that even if nations meet their current emissions reduction pledges, carbon emissions in 2020 will be eight to 12 gigatonnes above the level required to avoid a costly nosedive in greenhouse gas output.

The Emissions Gap Report 2013, which was compiled by 44 scientific groups in 17 countries, warns that if the greenhouse “gap” isn’t “closed or significantly narrowed” by 2020, the pathway to limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5C will be closed.

Typhoon Haiyan: what really alarms Filipinos is the rich world ignoring climate change

I met Naderev Saño last year in Doha, when the world’s governments were meeting for the annual UN climate talks. The chief negotiator of the Filipino delegation was distraught. Typhoon Bopha, a category five “super-typhoon” with 175mph winds (282km/h) had just ripped through the island of Mindanao. It was the 16th major storm of the year, hundreds of thousands of people had lost their homes and more than 1,000 had died. Saño and his team knew well the places where it had hit the hardest.

“Each destructive typhoon season costs us 2% of our GDP, and the reconstruction costs a further 2%, which means we lose nearly 5% of our economy every year to storms. We have received no climate finance to adapt or to prepare ourselves for typhoons and other extreme weather we are now experiencing. We have not seen any money from the rich countries to help us to adapt … We cannot go on like this. It cannot be a way of life that we end up running always from storms,” he said.

Culprit in mysterious elk deaths found

A hunter stumbled upon a bizarre sight on a 75,000-acre ranch north of Las Vegas, N.M., on Aug. 27: the remains of more than 100 dead elk. Livestock deaths are not unusual, but so many animals dying off, and doing so in what seems to be under 24 hours, was puzzling to scientists.

Officials with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish investigated the mysterious elk deaths and ruled out several possible causes for the elk deaths, including poachers, anthrax, lightning strikes, epizootic hemorrhagic disease (an often-fatal virus known to affect deer and other ruminants), botulism, poisonous plants, malicious poisoning and even some sort of industrial or agricultural accident.

[…] Through science and further testing of elk tissue samples and water samples, the real killer has finally been found: pond scum. Or, more specifically, a neurotoxin produced by one type of blue-green algae that can develop in warm, standing water.

Gas-injection wells triggered earthquakes in Texas

Recent earthquakes that rattled the Cogdell oil field in northern Texas were triggered by gas-injection wells meant to boost oil production, a study finds.
People living in Snyder and other towns near the Cogdell drilling sites recall a similar earthquake swarm that shook homes between 1974 and 1982, which has been linked to fluid injection.

Leading Canadian ecologist calls on scientists to recover policy influence

It’s easy sometimes to believe that we live in a uniquely cynical, anti-science age when it comes to environmental issues.

The scope and intensity of the climate-change denialists’ campaign, for one example, might make us wish for times when the subjects and the science seemed simpler, and solutions more readily achievable. Times when, say, we scrubbed our power-plant plumes of the pollutants causing acid rain, or banned the phosphate detergents that were causing lakes to bloom with algae, or got the dioxins out of the watery discharges from paper plants.

Alas, hindsight paints those times in rosier tones than they in fact deserve, as David Schindler made plain in a talk Tuesday evening entitled “Letting the Light In: Providing Environmental Science to Direct Public Policy,” on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.


If a tree falls in Brazil…? Amazon deforestation could mean droughts for western US

In research meant to highlight how the destruction of the Amazon rainforest could affect climate elsewhere, Princeton University-led researchers report that the total deforestation of the Amazon may significantly reduce rain and snowfall in the western United States, resulting in water and food shortages, and a greater risk of forest fires. The researchers report in the Journal of Climate that an Amazon stripped bare could mean 20 percent less rain for the coastal Northwest and a 50 percent reduction in the Sierra Nevada snowpack, a crucial source of water for cities and farms in California.

Drilling for hydrocarbons can impact aquatic life

The degradation of drilling sumps associated with hydrocarbon extraction can negatively affect aquatic ecosystems, according to new research published November 6th in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Joshua Thienpont and colleagues at Queen’s University and other institutions. Hydrocarbons are a primary source of energy as combustible fuel. Although hydrocarbon exploration and extraction are profitable enterprises, hydrocarbons contribute to the formation of greenhouse gases and are therefore a major stressor to the environment.

During the process of exploring for hydrocarbons, drilling sumps are used to permanently store the waste associated with drilling. In the Mackenzie Delta region of Canada’s western Arctic, more than 150 drilling sumps were constructed for this purpose. Although the areas surrounding the sumps were believed to be frozen by the surrounding permafrost, recent findings suggest that these areas may actually be thawing. In this study, the authors examine the environmental effects of this type of drilling sump containment loss in the Mackenzie Delta.


Preparing for hell and high water

Changes are already happening to Earth’s climate due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and large-scale agriculture. As changes get more pronounced, people everywhere will have to adjust. In this week’s issue of the journal Science, an international group of researchers urge the development of science needed to manage climate risks and capitalize on unexpected opportunities. “Adapting to an evolving climate is going to be required in every sector of society, in every region of the globe. We need to get going, to provide integrated science if we are going to meet the challenge,” said senior scientist Richard Moss of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “In this article, we describe the foundations for this research and suggest measures to establish it.”

Researchers suggest plan to address hypoxia in Gulf of Mexico

Despite a 12-year action plan calling for reducing the hypoxia zone in the Gulf of Mexico, little progress has been made, and there is no evidence that nutrient loading to the Gulf has decreased during this period. University of Illinois researchers have identified some of the biophysical and social barriers to progress and propose a way forward. “We are suggesting that a partnership of researchers work closely with farmers to develop the suite of practices that are needed to reduce nutrient losses from agricultural fields,” said U of I biogeochemist Mark David who has been studying nitrate loss since 1993. “Working with farmers is essential to develop realistic practices on real-world farms — where the constraints that influence management are present — to document the effectiveness, and to communicate the environmental and socioeconomic results regionally.”


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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