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Complete Archive (organized by chapter for each book)
New World View
Climate Change
Life and Climate
Losing Biodiversity
Energy Flow
Ecosystem Change
Population Growth
Energy Use
A Changing Cosmos
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Latest News and Updates:

2018-01-31. Campanile peregrine falcons coupling up again, with a new nest box.

posted Feb 14, 2018, 12:57 PM by Alan Gould

By Anne Brice, UC Berkeley News. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 6. Excerpt: or the second year in a row, two peregrine falcons are pairing up again atop the Campanile, but this year they’ll be nesting in style. Experts have installed a permanent nest box with sides, back and a roof that will protect the couple and their soon-to-be growing family from sun, wind and rain. ...“In the pair-bonding period, starting near the end of December, the male does all the hunting and brings food to the female,” says Malec. “They call to each other a lot and bow to each other, touching beaks. They will perch close together and fly together.” If all goes well, the female will lay eggs between mid-February and mid-March. Once on the brink of extinction, peregrine falcons have made a remarkable comeback in the past few decades, and have begun moving from their natural cliff faces into urban areas, laying their eggs on skyscrapers and other tall buildings. The Campanile is prime real estate for peregrines, says Malec, with its great views and ample supply of pigeons to eat. Peregrines mate for life (although when one dies the other will readily take a new mate) and most pairs in the area stick around during the winter, defending their territory from other birds looking to move in on their turf....

2018-02-06. Floods Are Getting Worse, and 2,500 Chemical Sites Lie in the Water’s Path.

posted Feb 14, 2018, 12:49 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Feb 14, 2018, 12:53 PM ]

By Hiroko Tabuchi, Nadja Popovich, Blacki Migliozzi, Andrew W. Lehren, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Anchored in flood-prone areas in every American state are more than 2,500 sites that handle toxic chemicals, a New York Times analysis of federal floodplain and industrial data shows. About 1,400 are located in areas at highest risk of flooding. As flood danger grows — the consequence of a warming climate — the risk is that there will be more toxic spills like the one that struck Baytown, Tex., where Hurricane Harvey swamped a chemicals plant, releasing lye. Or like the ones at a Florida fertilizer plant that leaked phosphoric acid and an Ohio refinery that released benzene. Flooding nationwide is likely to worsen because of climate change, an exhaustive scientific report by the federal government warned last year. Heavy rainfall is increasing in intensity and frequency....

2018-02-09. At Site of Japanese Volcano’s Supereruption, an Immense Lava Dome Lurks.

posted Feb 14, 2018, 7:23 AM by Alan Gould

By Nicholas S. Fleur, The New York Times. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 2. Excerpt: Some 7,300 years ago, a supereruption devastated the southern islands of what is now Japan, burying most of the archipelago in thick ash. Known as the Akahoya eruption, the blast was so powerful it caused the volcano’s magma chamber to collapse, leaving a 12-mile wide scar called Kikai Caldera, which is mostly underwater. Now in a study published Friday, scientists have discovered that a dome of lava lurks beneath the caldera. By studying its magma plumbing, volcanologists could gain insight into the entire caldera system, which could help them better predict when another eruption in the Japanese archipelago might occur. “The most serious problem that we are worrying about is not an eruption of this lava dome, but the occurrence of the next supereruption,” said Yoshiyuki Tatsumi a volcanologist at Kobe University in Japan and lead author of the study that appeared in the journal Scientific Reports....

2018-02-05. From Oil to Solar: Saudi Arabia Plots a Shift to Renewables.

posted Feb 13, 2018, 1:26 PM by Alan Gould

By Stanley Reed, The New York Times. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10. Excerpt: DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia — Life in Saudi Arabia has long been defined by the oil that flows from the kingdom. Over decades, the vast wealth it pumped out paid not just for gleaming towers and shopping malls but also for a government sector that employs a majority of working Saudis. Now, Saudi Arabia is trying to tie its future to another natural resource it has in abundance: sunlight. The world’s largest oil exporter is embarking, under Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on an ambitious effort to diversify its economy and reinvigorate growth, in part by plowing money into renewable energy. The Saudi government wants not just to reshape its energy mix at home but also to emerge as a global force in clean power. ...Saudi Arabia has talked a big game when it comes to renewables. It adopted ambitious targets for green power several years ago, but no major projects were carried out, and little changed. That is not unusual. ...For the project announced on Monday, Riyadh received bids for the solar farm, which will be built in Sakaka, in northern Saudi Arabia, that rivaled the lowest ever submitted at auctions anywhere. At 2 to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, a wholesale measure of electricity, solar power here would be below the cost of fossil fuel-generated electricity, Mr. Shehri said....

2018-02-05. No Children Because of Climate Change? Some People Are Considering It.

posted Feb 13, 2018, 1:22 PM by Alan Gould

By Maggie Astor, The New York Times. For GSS Population Growth chapter 7, Climate Change chapter 10. Excerpt: It is not an easy time for people to feel hopeful, with the effects of global warming no longer theoretical, projections becoming more dire and governmental action lagging. And while few, if any, studies have examined how large a role climate change plays in people’s childbearing decisions, it loomed large in interviews with more than a dozen people ages 18 to 43. ...there is a sense of being saddled with painful ethical questions that previous generations did not have to confront. Some worry about the quality of life children born today will have as shorelines flood, wildfires rage and extreme weather becomes more common. Others are acutely aware that having a child is one of the costliest actions they can take environmentally. ... Cate Mumford, 28, is a Mormon, and Mormons believe God has commanded them to “multiply and replenish the earth.” But even in her teens, she said, she could not get another point of doctrine out of her head: “We are stewards of the earth.”...

2018-02-02. Dams nudge Amazon's ecosystems off-kilter.

posted Feb 13, 2018, 1:20 PM by Alan Gould

By Barbara Fraser, Science. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 6, A New World View chapter 5. Summary: Once upon a time, thousands of dorados, a giant among catfish, would swim more than 3000 kilometers from the mouth of the Amazon River to spawn in Bolivia's Mamoré River, in the foothills of the Andes. But the dorado, which can grow to more than 2 meters in length, is disappearing from those waters, and scientists blame two hydropower dams erected downstream a decade ago. As countries seek new energy sources to drive economic growth, a surge in dam construction on the eastern flank of the Andes could further threaten fish migration and sediment flows, scientists warn this week in Science Advances. The main consequence of proliferating dams is habitat fragmentation. The dorado's disappearance suggests fragmentation is already taking a toll....

2018-02-02. India plans to land near moon's south pole.

posted Feb 13, 2018, 1:17 PM by Alan Gould

By Pallava Bagla, Science. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7. Summary: Sometime this summer, an Indian spacecraft orbiting over the moon's far side will release a lander. The craft will ease to a soft landing just after lunar sunrise on an ancient, table-flat plain about 600 kilometers from the south pole. There, it will unleash a rover into territory never before explored at the surface. That's the ambitious vision for India's second voyage to the moon in a decade, due to launch in the coming weeks. If Chandrayaan-2 is successful, it will pave the way for even more ambitious Indian missions, such as landings on Mars and an asteroid, as well as a Venus probe. Lunar scientists have much at stake, too. Chandrayaan-2 will collect data on the moon's thin envelope of plasma, as well as isotopes such as helium-3, a potential fuel for future fusion energy reactors. And it will follow up on a stunning discovery by India's first lunar foray, which found water molecules on the moon in 2009....

2018-01-30. Dangerously Low on Water, Cape Town Now Faces ‘Day Zero’.

posted Feb 13, 2018, 1:13 PM by Alan Gould

By Norimitsu Onishi and Somini Sengupta, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: The government cautions that the Day Zero threat will surpass anything a major city has faced since World War II or the Sept. 11 attacks. Talks are underway with South Africa’s police because “normal policing will be entirely inadequate.” Residents, their nerves increasingly frayed, speak in whispers of impending chaos. The reason for the alarm is simple: The city’s water supply is dangerously close to running dry. If water levels keep falling, Cape Town will declare Day Zero in less than three months. Taps in homes and businesses will be turned off until the rains come. The city’s four million residents will have to line up for water rations at 200 collection points. The city is bracing for the impact on public health and social order. ...after a three-year drought, considered the worst in over a century, South African officials say Cape Town is now at serious risk of becoming one of the few major cities in the world to lose piped water to homes and most businesses. ...Cape Town’s problems embody one of the big dangers of climate change: the growing risk of powerful, recurrent droughts. In Africa, a continent particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, those problems serve as a potent warning to other governments, which typically don’t have this city’s resources and have done little to adapt....

2018-01-29. New Jersey Embraces an Idea It Once Rejected: Make Utilities Pay to Emit Carbon.

posted Feb 13, 2018, 1:10 PM by Alan Gould

By Brad Plumer, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: ...Even as the Trump administration dismantles climate policies at the federal level, a growing number of Democratic state governors are considering taxing or pricing carbon dioxide emissions within their own borders to tackle global warming. New Jersey took a major step in that direction Monday when newly elected Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, ordered his state to rejoin a regional carbon-trading program that his Republican predecessor, Chris Christie, had pulled out of in 2012. The program, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, requires power plants in participating states to buy permits for the carbon dioxide they emit. State officials often use revenue from these permit auctions for energy efficiency programs. In a so-called cap-and-trade program like this, power plants can trade the carbon permits among themselves, but the overall number of permits dwindles steadily over time. That effectively raises the cost of emitting carbon dioxide, prodding utilities to seek out cleaner sources of electricity. “Pulling out of R.G.G.I. slowed down progress on lowering emissions and has cost New Jerseyans millions of dollars that could have been used to increase energy efficiency and improve air quality in our communities,” Mr. Murphy said. He estimated that New Jersey had foregone $279 million in permit auction revenue because of Mr. Christie’s withdrawal....

2018-01-26. Moving in the Anthropocene: Global reductions in terrestrial mammalian movements.

posted Jan 29, 2018, 3:16 PM by Alan Gould

By Marlee A. Tucker et al, Science. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 6. Excerpt: Until the past century or so, the movement of wild animals was relatively unrestricted, and their travels contributed substantially to ecological processes. As humans have increasingly altered natural habitats, natural animal movements have been restricted. Tucker et al. examined GPS locations for more than 50 species. In general, animal movements were shorter in areas with high human impact, likely owing to changed behaviors and physical limitations. Besides affecting the species themselves, such changes could have wider effects by limiting the movement of nutrients and altering ecological interactions. Abstract: Animal movement is fundamental for ecosystem functioning and species survival, yet the effects of the anthropogenic footprint on animal movements have not been estimated across species. Using a unique GPS-tracking database of 803 individuals across 57 species, we found that movements of mammals in areas with a comparatively high human footprint were on average one-half to one-third the extent of their movements in areas with a low human footprint. We attribute this reduction to behavioral changes of individual animals and to the exclusion of species with long-range movements from areas with higher human impact. Global loss of vagility alters a key ecological trait of animals that affects not only population persistence but also ecosystem processes such as predator-prey interactions, nutrient cycling, and disease transmission....

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