Staying Up To Date

Get the latest science, research, and policy news relating to the Global Systems Science books:

Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to this page with RSS. (What is RSS?)
Join GSS mailing list Join the GSS mailing list—send a message to GSS staff). List receives a weekly digest of the Staying-Up-To-Date articles, as well as occasional GSS news.
Complete Archive (organized by chapter)
New World View
Climate Change
Life and Climate
Losing Biodiversity
Energy Flow
Ecosystem Change
Population Growth
Energy Use
A Changing Cosmos
ABCs of Digital Earth Watch Software

Latest News and Updates

2016-07-19. Global Temperatures Are on Course for Another Record This Year.

posted Jul 21, 2016, 2:46 PM by Alan Gould

By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 4. Excerpt: ...NASA scientists announced on Tuesday that global temperatures so far this year were much higher than in the first half of 2015. Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, said that while the first six months of 2015 made it the hottest half-year ever recorded, “2016 really has blown that out of the water.” He said calculations showed there was a 99 percent probability that the full year would be hotter than 2015. Dr. Schmidt said the world was now “dancing” with the temperature targets set last year in the Paris climate treaty for nations to limit climate change. He attributed part of the rise in temperatures this year to El Niño, in which warming waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean pump a lot of heat into the atmosphere....

2016-07-19. A note from the GSS Director.

posted Jul 21, 2016, 2:44 PM by Alan Gould

The article of 2016-07-19, How Renewable Energy Is Blowing Climate Change Efforts Off Course, by Eduardo Porter, The New York times calls attention to the vital problem of electrical energy storage needed for renewable energy systems to succeed in replacing our currently unsustainable systems. In my  opinion, the problem of electrical energy storage has reached a tipping point and really needs be solved as soon as possible.  I see two routes to solution, not at all mutually exclusive:
  1. Actions by power companies to install electrical energy storage systems such as large battery farms, hydro-storage systems, or other as yet untapped advanced technologies (huge flywheels?). 
  2. Radically advancing the incentives for local domestic small-scale electrical storage systems such as home, business, and industrial battery energy storage systems. Such systems allow home owners to store energy during peak renewable times to power their homes during the times that renewable power is not operating.

2016-07-19. How Renewable Energy Is Blowing Climate Change Efforts Off Course.

posted Jul 21, 2016, 2:33 PM by Alan Gould

By Eduardo Porter, The New York Times. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10. Excerpt: ...Germany, Europe’s champion for renewable energy, ...eliminated an open-ended subsidy for solar and wind power and put a ceiling on additional renewable capacity. Germany may also drop a timetable to end coal-fired generation, which still accounts for over 40 percent of its electricity, according to a report leaked from the country’s environment ministry. Instead, the government will pay billions to keep coal generators in reserve, to provide emergency power at times when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine. ...Renewable sources are producing temporary power gluts from Australia to California, driving out other energy sources that are still necessary to maintain a stable supply of power. In Southern Australia, where wind supplies more than a quarter of the region’s power, the spiking prices of electricity when the wind wasn’t blowing full-bore pushed the state government to ask the power company Engie to switch back on a gas-fired plant that had been shut down. But in what may be the most worrisome development in the combat against climate change, renewables are helping to push nuclear power, the main source of zero-carbon electricity in the United States, into bankruptcy. ...The economics of nuclear energy are mostly to blame. It just cannot compete with cheap natural gas.  ...Displacing nuclear energy clearly makes the battle against climate change more difficult.... 0

2016-07-14. Here’s how the world could end—and what we can do about it.

posted Jul 19, 2016, 11:53 AM by Alan Gould

By Julia Rosen, Science. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 1. A treatment of 3 different threats: Solar storms; Cosmic collisions; Supervolcanoes.

2016-07-15. Grid can’t yet handle the heat as state hits solar power record.

posted Jul 16, 2016, 7:56 PM by Alan Gould

By David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10. Excerpt: ...The output from solar plants peaks at midday, stays close to that level for several hours and then tails off sharply in late afternoon. California’s wind farms produce most of their electricity from late afternoon into the night. Electricity demand, meanwhile, tends to hit its daily peak around 6 p.m. — just as solar power is fading and wind is still revving up. To fill the gap, the state relies on power plants that burn natural gas, plants that can ramp their output up and down quickly. Utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric Co. also offer customers incentives to use less power, through measures such as turning off lights, during the critical afternoon hours. On Friday, for example, PG&E asked some customers to power down devices between 2 and 7 p.m.... [Note from GSS Director: I wonder if incentives could be made for electricity consumers to purchase battery storage systems that could be charged up during the peak solar production hours, whether they have photovoltaic systems or not?]

2016-07-13. Global Risks and Research Priorities for Coastal Subsidence.

posted Jul 16, 2016, 7:54 PM by Alan Gould

By Mead Allison, et al, EoS, AGU. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 7. Excerpt: Some of the world's largest cities are sinking faster than the oceans are rising. Humans are part of the problem, but we can also be part of the solution through monitoring and modeling. Coastal lowlands, which rise less than 10 meters above sea level, are particularly vulnerable to the climate change effects forecast for the 21st century, including the threat of inundation by accelerating sea level rise and increases in severity and frequency of tropical storm surges. These threats coincide with a worldwide surge in human population in coastal areas. Coastal population centers include several megacities, whose populations exceed 10 million. ...To make matters worse, many coastal areas are sinking even faster than the waters are rising: Natural and human-driven subsidence rates arising from shallow processes can be one to two orders of magnitude greater than the rate of climate-driven sea level rise predicted for the remainder of the 21st century....

2016-07-11. Closing Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Will Save Money And Carbon.

posted Jul 16, 2016, 7:51 PM by Alan Gould

By Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute. For GSS Energy Use chapter 4. Excerpt: A widespread claim—that dozens of nuclear plants, too costly to run profitably, now merit new subsidies to protect the earth’s climate—just collided with market reality. ...Unlike previous nuclear shutdowns, some of which were too abrupt for immediate replacement with carbon-free resources, PG&E’s nuclear output will be phased out over 8–9 years, replaced timely and cost-effectively by efficiency and renewables. That means no more fossil fuel burned nor carbon emitted, all at less cost to ratepayers. How much less? Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says at least $1 billion (net present value to 2044). ...The big economic lesson here is that nuclear power’s ability to displace fossil-fueled generation is not simply about tons of carbon dioxide saved. Nuclear power also incurs an operating cost that for many reactors, including Diablo Canyon, has become very high. ...

2016-07-07. Climate Change Claims a Lake, and an Identity.

posted Jul 8, 2016, 1:14 PM by Alan Gould

Text by Nicholas Casey, Photographs and video by Josh Haner, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: After surviving decades of water diversion and cyclical El Niño droughts in the Andes, Lake Poopó basically disappeared in December. The ripple effects go beyond the loss of livelihood for the Quispes and hundreds of other fishing families, beyond the migration of people forced to leave homes that are no longer viable. ...The vanishing of Lake Poopó threatens the very identity of the Uru-Murato people, the oldest indigenous group in the area. They adapted over generations to the conquests of the Inca and the Spanish, but seem unable to adjust to the abrupt upheaval climate change has caused. Only 636 Uru-Murato are estimated to remain in Llapallapani and two nearby villages. Since the fish died off in 2014, scores have left to work in lead mines or salt flats up to 200 miles away; those who stayed behind scrape by as farmers or otherwise survive on what used to be the shore....

2016-07-04. Slowing Ocean Acidification With Kelp.

posted Jul 5, 2016, 5:59 PM by Alan Gould

By The Associated Press. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8 and Losing Biodiversity chapter 7. Excerpt: Joth Davis, a senior scientist at the Puget Sound Restoration Fund, recently unspooled 150 feet of line holding thousands of tiny spores of kelp into Hood Canal in Washington State. ...The bull kelp seedlings will eventually form thick, slimy ribbons of brown seaweed — and in the process take up carbon dioxide and other nutrients. The researchers hope kelp may provide offer a local strategy for easing the effects of ocean acidification. ...

2016-07-05. Short Answers to Hard Questions About Clean Coal Technology.

posted Jul 5, 2016, 5:41 PM by Alan Gould

By Ian Urbina, The New York Times. For GSS Energy Use chapter 4. Excerpt: Technology holds the promise of enabling coal power plants, which produce much of the world’s electricity, to run more cleanly, emitting far less of the pollution that causes climate change. But these projects have been difficult to make a reality because they are complicated and expensive. Here is a quick primer.... 0

1-10 of 811