The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
(WILDLIFE) AFRICA — Unknown to many Americans across the country, the production of palm oil is deadly to many living things, and it’s a product that manifests itself in over 50 percent of packaged goods including chips, cookies, cake mix, canned soup, and even baby formula. Palm oil is also predominantly found in cooking oil, soaps, and cosmetics.
The market’s increase in demand for palm oil over the past several years has threatened rainforests around the world, specifically Southeast Asia. Recently, however, the industry has invaded a different region, Cameroon, Africa.
In Southeast Asia, palm oil production has already caused the loss of over 80 percent of rainforests in the Sumatra and Borneo islands, destroying vital habitats for orangutans and other species who call the area home.
Most experts agree that slowing climate change is going to have to involve some kind of price on carbon dioxide pollution. Although the last attempt to pass a federal carbon price in the US failed in 2009, some of the world’s most-polluting companies haven’t let down their guard. A report last week from the nonprofit Carbon Disclosure Project found that 29 companies that operate or are headquartered in the US are planning for the future by using their own internal carbon price.
So how much do these companies think carbon pollution is worth? Not every company released a specific number, but we plotted those that did on the chart above. As you can see, there’s quite a broad range, with the price officially recommended by the Obama White House ($37 per metric ton of carbon) falling north of the middle. For comparison, we also included the current prices in British Columbia (which levies a flat tax) and the European Union (which operates a carbon credit-trading market). An oversupply of credits on the EU market has recently driven the price to record lows, below where most economists believe it can be effective in curbing emissions. But a decision yesterday by the European Parliament to slash the number of available credits is expected to drive the price up 35 percent over the next year.
A new greenhouse gas that is 7,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the Earth has been discovered by researchers in Toronto.
The newly discovered gas, perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA), has been in use by the electrical industry since the mid-20th century.
The chemical, that does not occur naturally, breaks all records for potential impacts on the climate, said the researchers at the University of Toronto’s department of chemistry.
An abandoned mineral mine near Stanford University is providing geoscientists new insights on how to permanently entomb greenhouse gas emissions in the Earth. For two years, a team of Stanford researchers has been trying to unravel a geological mystery at the Red Mountain mine about 70 miles east of the campus. The abandoned mine contains some of the world’s largest veins of pure magnesium carbonate, or magnesite — a chalky mineral made of carbon dioxide (CO2) and magnesium. How the magnesite veins formed millions of years ago has long been a puzzle.
Now the Stanford team has proposed a solution. Their findings could lead to a novel technique for converting CO2, a potent greenhouse gas, into solid magnesite. The results will be presented at the 2013 fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco.
Rivers and streams release carbon dioxide at a rate five times greater than the world’s lakes and reservoirs combined, contrary to common belief. Research from the University of Waterloo was a key component of the international study, the findings of which appear in a recent issue of the journal Nature.
“Identifying the sources and amounts of carbon dioxide released from continental water sources has been a gap in understanding the carbon cycle. Our findings show just how much carbon dioxide inland waters release and identified that rivers and streams are the main source not lakes and reservoirs, as previously thought,” said Professor Hans Dürr, research professor from the Faculty of Science at Waterloo.
Millions of people across the world live or depend on deltas for their livelihoods. Formed at the lowest part of a river where its water flow slows and spreads into the sea, deltas are sediment-rich, biodiverse areas, a valuable source of seafood, fertile ground for agriculture, and host to ports important for transportation.
At least half of the deltas around the world are so-called “wave dominated deltas” — open to the sea and under the impact of wave erosion. And many more deltas will come under wave dominance as dammed rivers carry less and less sediment. In a warming climate, sea levels are rising and storms are increasing in frequency and severity, posing threats to these deltas and the people and habitats dependent on them.
A groundbreaking study by Harvard University’s Harvard Forest and the Smithsonian Institution reveals that, if left unchecked, recent trends in the loss of forests to development will undermine significant land conservation gains in Massachusetts, jeopardize water quality, and limit the natural landscape’s ability to protect against climate change. The scientists researched and analyzed four plausible scenarios for what Massachusetts could look like in the future. The scenarios were developed by a group of forestry professionals, land-use planning and water policy experts, and conservation groups. The scenarios reflect contrasting patterns and intensities of land development, wood harvesting, conservation, and agriculture. The two-year study is unique in its forward-looking approach and its use of sophisticated computer models to conduct a detailed acre-by-acre analysis of the entire forested landscape of Massachusetts over 50 years.
Less than 20 miles from the site where melting ice exposed the 5,000-year-old body of Ötzi the Iceman, scientists have discovered new and compelling evidence that the Italian Alps are warming at an unprecedented rate. Part of that evidence comes in the form of a single dried-out leaf from a larch tree that grew thousands of years ago.
A six-nation team of glaciologists led by The Ohio State University drilled a set of ice cores from atop Mt. Ortles in northern Italy, and described their early findings on Monday, Dec. 9 at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.
From 2000 to 2010, about 1,900 cyclones churned across the top of the world each year, leaving warm water and air in their wakes — and melting sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. That’s about 40 percent more than previously thought, according to a new analysis of these Arctic storms.
A 40 percent difference in the number of cyclones could be important to anyone who lives north of 55 degrees latitude — the area of the study, which includes the northern reaches of Canada, Scandinavia and Russia, along with the state of Alaska.
The finding is also important to researchers who want to get a clear picture of current weather patterns, and a better understanding of potential climate change in the future, explained David Bromwich, professor of geography at The Ohio State University and senior research scientist at the Byrd Polar Research Center.
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