The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
It was the biggest climate change talking point of 2013 and beyond — the idea that global warming had slowed down, paused or, as some put it, hit a “speed bump.”
The argument was widely used by climate doubters to undermine the mega-release of the U.N.’s fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. And no wonder, for it came, to a substantial extent, from scientists themselves. The IPCC itself acknowledged that the rate of warming from 1998 to 2012 had been somewhat slower than the rate of warming since 1951.
Now, though, a new study in the journal Science suggests that the global warming “pause” may soon run its course, and, anyway, it seems to have been caused by natural variability in the climate system. Thus, the slowdown, such as it was, certainly is no reason not to worry about a longer-term climate trend driven by humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The climate-changing greenhouse effect exists and has been directly measured in the United States, a new study reports.
The results confirm what scientists had already proved through models and laboratory experiments: Pumping carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere is warming the Earth’s surface.
“We’re actually measuring the fact that rising carbon dioxide concentrations are leading to the greenhouse effect,” said lead study author Dan Feldman, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. “This is clear observational evidence that when we add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, it will push the system to a warmer place.”
On the surface, the Sahara Desert and Amazon rain forest don’t seem to have much in common. One is dry and mostly filled with sand. The other is lush, green and one of the best examples of biodiversity on the planet. And yet, according to new research, the Sahara plays a critical role in the health of the Amazon by delivering millions of tons of nutrient-rich dust across the Atlantic, replenishing the rain forest’s soil with phosphorus and other fertilizers.
Researchers revealed in a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that about 22,000 tons of phosphorus get blown across the Atlantic Ocean. And it’s a good thing, considering that number mirrors the estimated amount of phosphorus the Amazon loses each year due to rain and flooding.
Thanks to the same un Américain renewable energy firm behind Whole Foods Brooklyn’s wind- and solar-powered parking lot, the world’s most selfie-riddled architectural landmark, the Eiffel Tower, will now be producing a decent amount of energy on-site with a pair of vertical axis wind turbines.
Installed about 400 feet over the streets of Paris directly above the iconic edifice’s second level, the wind turbines are the latest in a slew of green retrofits to hit the 125-year-old Eiffel Tower in recent years including a LED lighting makeover along with the addition of a rainwater catchment system, a solar thermal array and high-efficiency heat pumps.
Not long after Apple announced its massive solar power purchase and Google debuted its bird-saving wind power deal, I was contacted by a PR company touting General Motors’ latest renewable energy move, purchasing 34 megawatts of wind power for its Mexico-based manufacturing facilities:
Seventy-five percent of the energy coming from the wind turbines will power most of GM’s Toluca Complex sitting on 104 acres, making it the company’s largest user of renewable energy. The remaining capacity will help power its Silao, San Luis Potosi and Ramos Arizpe complexes. The use of renewable energy helps these facilities avoid nearly 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
This announcement marks yet another major corporation opting to purchase renewable energy directly from the producers, tying in a predictable cost of energy for several decades to come. The purchase also marks a significant milestone in GM’s sustainability efforts because, once completed, the company will have reached its goal of powering 12 percent of its North American operations with renewable energy.
On the face of it, of course, 12 percent does not feel like a whopping figure, given that operations like Apple, Ikea and Google are pushing all out for 100 percent renewable energy. But what’s significant here is that the 12 percent figure is a 2020 goal.
When exposed to nitrogen fertilizer over a period of years, nitrogen-fixing bacteria called rhizobia evolve to become less beneficial to legumes — the plants they normally serve, researchers report in a new study. These findings, reported in the journal Evolution, may be of little interest to farmers, who generally grow only one type of plant and can always add more fertilizer to boost plant growth. But in natural areas adjacent to farmland, where fertilizer runoff occurs, or in areas where nitrogen oxides from the burning of fossil fuels settle, a change in the quality of soil rhizobia could have “far-reaching ecological and environmental consequences,” the researchers wrote.
While people in the eastern two-thirds of the U.S have been dealing with Arctic Air, the bulge in the Jet Stream over the eastern Pacific Ocean has been keeping the western third of the U.S. in warmer than normal temperatures over the last two months. Infrared data from NASA provided a look at those surface temperature extremes from west to east. Californians have been flaunting their flip-flops and tee shirt weather at friends and relatives on the frigid East Coast. The contrast is extreme, Californians are experiencing their warmest winter since modern record keeping began and Bostonians are staggering through 8 foot and higher snowdrifts. Why?
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