Archive by category | Earth, environment & ecology

2-degree global warming limit is a ‘prescription for disaster’, says Hansen

A mantra that has driven global negotiations on carbon dioxide emissions for years has been that policy-makers must prevent warming of more than two degrees Celsius to prevent apocalyptic climate outcomes. And, two degrees has been a point of no return, a limit directly or indirectly agreed to by negotiators at international climate talks.

Agricultural time travel: adapting through ‘climate analogues’

Agricultural time travel: adapting through ‘climate analogues’

We often talk about the impacts global warming could have on agricultural production, and researchers have spent plenty of time exploring models in order to pin down threats to particular crops in specific countries or regions. Now agricultural scientists at the United Nations climate talks in Durban, South Africa, have unveiled a new tool that could allow farmers to move beyond models and peer into their physical future. It’s a simple idea. Data from global climate models tell us something about how our climate might evolve and what a given area might look and feel like in 20 years, but  … Read more

Brazil: Amazon deforestation declines to record low

Brazil: Amazon deforestation declines to record low

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell yet again and hit a record low for the third straight year, Brazilian scientists reported Tuesday, providing the world with a pleasant surprise that runs counter to reports of localized spikes in land clearing earlier this year.  Read more

The Dead (and departed) Sea

The Dead (and departed) Sea

Sediments pulled up from a drilling project in the Dead Sea suggest that the salty lake completely disappeared about 120,000 years ago, a finding that violates assumptions long held by scientists. The results, reported at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco on 5 December, raise questions about how the warming climate will affect the endangered sea, where water levels have been dropping rapidly in the past few decades.  Read more

‘Report card’ documents the Arctic’s new normal

‘Report card’ documents the Arctic’s new normal

The Arctic has entered a new era. The region has shifted to conditions of warmer air and water, less ice covering the sea and more vegetation growing on the land, say an international team of scientists in this year’s Arctic Report Card from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Amid political storm, Chu defends Solyndra decision

Amid political storm, Chu defends Solyndra decision

When it rains it pours on the US Department of Energy. First Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry says he wants to dismantle it (though he couldn’t quite remember that at the crucial moment in a recent Republican debate). Then the department’s own inspector general releases a report recommending a large-scale restructuring of the agency (details below). And today, director Steven Chu found himself on Capitol Hill for more than three hours defending the agency’s investment in the failed solar concern, Solyndra Corporation.  Read more

IUCN Red List holds good and bad news

IUCN Red List holds good and bad news

Every year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) updates its Red List, an ever-growing catalog of the endangered species on the planet. The results usually make for depressing reading as scientists add more species to the three “hot” levels of “critically endangered,” “endangered” and “vulnerable.” Today’s update is both good and bad, according to the organization.