Staying Up To Date

Get the latest  news relating to the GSS books:

Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to this page with RSS. (What is RSS?) ...or
Join GSS mailing list Receive GSS news by email about once a week. Make request to GSS staff <> with Subject: Add me to GSS Staying Up To Date email list.
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
ABCs of Digital Earth Watch Software

Latest News and Updates

2017-11-17. Treaty to Phase Out ‘Greenhouse Gasses on Steroids’ to Enter Force.

posted Nov 20, 2017, 2:14 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Nov 20, 2017, 2:16 PM ]

By Somini Sengupta, The New York Times. For GSS Ozone chapter 10 and Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: UNITED NATIONS — Hydrofluorocarbons. It’s a mouthful of a name for a chemical that keeps the turkey frozen in our refrigerators and also heats up the planet. Now, a landmark international agreement to eliminate HFCs, as the chemicals are better known, is poised to come into effect. On Friday, Sweden became the 20th country to ratify the treaty.... That meets the threshold for the agreement to enter into force... January 1, 2019. It requires every country in the world to phase out the use of HFCs, compounds that are regarded as a sort of greenhouse gas on steroids, able to trap much more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. The agreement was reached, after seven painstaking years of negotiations, in October 2016 in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Known as the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, it required 20 countries to ratify it in order to go into effect — just in time for a global meeting on a broader treaty designed to protect the ozone layer, which starts next week in Montreal. ...the ratification sends a message to companies that make the compounds and to companies that use coolants in their products that they will have to come up with alternatives. ...The United States has not yet ratified the measure, ...and if it fails to ratify the agreement, it could potentially hinder the ability of American companies to sell coolants to other countries that have ratified the agreement. ...China, a leading manufacturer of household appliances that contain HFCs, hasn’t yet ratified it either, but is expected to, Mr. Zaelke said....

2017-11-17&18. Climate Summit in Bonn, Germany.

posted Nov 19, 2017, 1:02 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Nov 19, 2017, 1:02 PM ]

For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. 2017-11-18. At Bonn Climate Talks, Stakes Get Higher in Gamble on Planet’s Future. By Brad Plumer, The New York Times. Excerpt: Perhaps the most revealing moment at this year’s United Nations climate talks came on Wednesday, when Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany addressed the nearly 200 nations gathered here. ...Ms. Merkel acknowledged that Germany was likely to miss the goals it had set itself for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 because of its continued reliance on coal power.... --- 2017-11-18. What Happened (and Didn’t) at the Bonn Climate Talks. By Lisa Friedman and Brad Plumer. The New York Times. Excerpt: ...After wrangling through the night, the 23rd conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change wrapped up early Saturday with modest accomplishments, paving the way to complete by next year the rules that will set the Paris agreement in motion.... -- 2017-11-17. Island Nations, With No Time to Lose, Take Climate Response Into Their Own Hands. By Brad Plumer and Lisa Friedman. The New York Times. Excerpt: two weeks of negotiations on bolstering the Paris agreement draw to a close, island leaders say the décor seems a cruel taunt. ...Fiji, a sunny island nation in the South Pacific, is the official host of the climate discussions here in chilly Bonn. But leaders say their hopes that island issues would take center stage have mostly been dashed. Almost none of the measures to help their countries adapt to the impacts of global warming have been resolved, and few delegates say they are hopeful the final hours of talks will bring decisions....

2017-11-16. A Population of Billions May Have Contributed to This Bird’s Extinction.

posted Nov 19, 2017, 12:53 PM by Alan Gould

By Steph Yin, The New York Times. For Losing Biodiversity chapter 1, Ecosystem Change chapter 7. Excerpt: North America was once a utopia for passenger pigeons. When European colonizers first arrived, as many as 5 billion of the gray-backed, copper-breasted and iridescent beauties roamed the continent, possibly the most abundant bird to have ever graced the planet. ...Then, in just a few decades, the inconceivable happened: Commercialized and excessively hunted, the birds vanished. A paper published in Science on Thursday sheds new light on why the creatures went extinct so swiftly and thoroughly. Analyzing the DNA of preserved birds, the researchers found evidence that natural selection was extremely efficient in passenger pigeons. This might have made the pigeons particularly well-suited for living in dense flocks, but unable to cope with living in sparse groups once their numbers started to plummet, the authors suggest. Biologists generally assume that a large population corresponds to high genetic diversity, which acts as a buffer to extinction.... But passenger pigeons were so plentiful and so mobile that beneficial genetic mutations spread and detrimental ones disappeared very quickly throughout their population. This caused a loss in overall genetic diversity, which meant less raw material for adapting to human-induced change. ...“We were astounded to learn that the passenger pigeon population had been enormous for at least 20,000 years,” Dr. Shapiro said. “That meant they were really big during the last ice age, and they remained big even as the climate changed dramatically during the warming period after.”  ...The passenger pigeon illustrates that even species with colossal population sizes are not safe from disappearing....

2017-11. Climate Change Is Complex. We’ve Got Answers to Your Questions.

posted Nov 19, 2017, 12:48 PM by Alan Gould

By Justin Gillis, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10. Excerpt: We know. Global warming is daunting. So here’s a place to start: 17 often-asked questions with some straightforward answers....

2017-11-16. Tesla Unveils an Electric Rival to Semi Trucks.

posted Nov 18, 2017, 11:34 AM by Alan Gould

By Neal E. Boudette, The New York Times. For GSS Energy Use chapter 9. Excerpt: HAWTHORNE, Calif. — ...Elon Musk, Tesla on Thursday unveiled a prototype for a battery-powered, nearly self-driving semi truck that the company said would prove more efficient and less costly to operate than the diesel trucks that now haul goods across the country. And of course, it will emit no exhaust. In a surprise, Mr. Musk also showed he was not letting up on the car side of the business, unveiling a new Tesla Roadster that he said would be able to reach 60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds and travel 620 miles before needing to recharge. ...It has a top speed of at least 250 miles per hour, said Mr. Musk, ... “The point of doing this is to give a hard-core smackdown to gasoline cars,” ...“You’ll be able to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back.” ...He said the truck ...would have a single-charge range of 500 miles, ...go from zero to 60 miles per hour in five seconds without a trailer, and in 20 seconds when carrying a maximum load of 80,000 pounds, less than a third of the time required for a diesel truck, he said. He ...hinted that it would be costly. ...But he also said the electric truck would be less expensive to operate, in part because it has fewer components that require regular maintenance (no engine, transmission or drive shaft). Instead, the truck, called the Tesla Semi, is powered by a giant battery beneath the cab. It has two rear axles, each outfitted with two electric motors, one for each wheel. ...Tesla is estimating it will cost $1.26 per mile to operate, compared with $1.51 a mile for a diesel truck. ...It will be equipped with radar sensors, cameras and processors to enable drivers to use a version of Autopilot, the advanced driver-assistance system featured in Tesla cars such as the Model S and the new Model 3. ...Mr. Musk said Tesla expects to begin producing the truck by the end of 2019....

2017-11-16. Keystone Pipeline Leaks 210,000 Gallons of Oil in South Dakota.

posted Nov 18, 2017, 11:24 AM by Alan Gould

By Mitch Smith and Julie Bosman, The New York Times. For GSS Energy Use chapter 3. Excerpt: About 5,000 barrels of oil, or about 210,000 gallons, gushed out of the Keystone Pipeline on Thursday in South Dakota, blackening a grassy field in the remote northeast part of the state and sending cleanup crews and emergency workers scrambling to the site. ...The spill, near Amherst, S.D., comes just days before regulators in neighboring Nebraska decide whether to grant the final permit needed to begin construction on a different pipeline proposal, the Keystone XL, which would be operated by the same company. An announcement in Nebraska is expected on Monday. ...Opponents of Keystone XL, which is proposed to run about 1,100 miles and would become part of the Keystone system, quickly cited Thursday’s spill as evidence of the risks posed by such pipelines, and urged Nebraska regulators to take note. “We’ve always said it’s not a question of whether a pipeline will spill, but when, and today TransCanada is making our case for us,” Kelly Martin of the Sierra Club said in a statement. “This is not the first time TransCanada’s pipeline has spilled toxic tar sands, and it won’t be the last.” Keystone XL has the strong support of President Trump and most Republican politicians, but it has faced years of vocal opposition in Nebraska from some farmers and ranchers who worry that a spill could spoil their groundwater and decimate agricultural land. ...Thursday’s episode is one of several major pipeline spills in recent years. More than a million gallons leaked from a pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010, and 50,000 gallons of oil gushed into the Yellowstone River in Montana in 2015, contaminating drinking water there....

2017-11-15. Nearby Earth-sized world may be the best candidate yet in the search for alien life.

posted Nov 16, 2017, 11:02 AM by Alan Gould

By Loren Grush, The Verge. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 8. Excerpt: ...Meet Ross 128 b, a newly discovered planet found orbiting around a small, faint star known as a red dwarf. The world, which is about one-and-a-half times the mass of Earth, may be in the star’s habitable zone, too. (That’s the spot where temperatures are just right, possibly allowing liquid water to pool on a planet’s surface.) Most exciting of all is that this planet is situated just 11 light-years away. That makes Ross 128 b the second closest potentially habitable exoplanet to Earth we know about after Proxima b, a rocky world that orbits around the nearest star to our Solar System, Proxima Centauri. However, Proxima Centauri isn’t a very “life-friendly” star. Also a red dwarf, frequently burps out intense, high-energy solar flares. ...But Ross 128 b’s star doesn’t seem to flare much at all. ...Ross 128 b is very close to its sun, in an orbit that takes just 10 Earth days to complete. That puts the planet about 20 times closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun. But this star is also 280 times less luminous than our Sun, so Ross 128 b only receives about 40 percent more light than Earth does. That means the planet may have a surface temperature similar to Earth. ...a new giant telescope is being built in Chile — aptly named the Extremely Large Telescope, or ELT — which could use to peer into this planet’s atmosphere. ...the ELT may be powerful enough to directly image Earth-sized exoplanets and figure out what their atmospheres are made of... and find the critical gases associated with life — water vapor, oxygen, and methane — then scientists will have a better idea of whether life is present....

2017-11-11. Lessons From Hurricane Harvey: Houston’s Struggle Is America’s Tale.

posted Nov 12, 2017, 8:02 PM by Alan Gould

By Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: HOUSTON — The mayhem that Hurricane Harvey unleashed on Houston didn’t only come from the sky. On the ground, it came sweeping in from the Katy Prairie some 30 miles west of downtown. ...Climate change holds a mirror up to every place its impact is felt. Global warming may not specifically have caused Harvey, any more than a single major league home run can be attributed to steroids. That said, scientists have little doubt that climate change is making storms worse and more frequent. The floods that ravaged Houston on Memorial Day in 2015 and in April of 2016 — now called the Tax Day flood — left behind billions of dollars in damage. Coming right after those events, Harvey has led even some pro-development enthusiasts to rethink the city and its surroundings. ...“Three 500-year floods in three years means either we’re free and clear for the next 1,500 years,” as he put it, “or something has seriously changed.” After every natural calamity, American politicians make big promises. They say: We will rebuild. We will not be defeated. Never again will we be caught unprepared. But they rarely tackle the toughest obstacles. The hard truth, scientists say, is that climate change will increasingly require moving — not just rebuilding — entire neighborhoods, reshaping cities, even abandoning coastlines....

2017-11-10. After Irma and Maria: How 3 Spots on the U.S. Virgin Islands Are Faring.

posted Nov 12, 2017, 7:57 PM by Alan Gould

By Richard Pérez-Peña, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Hurricanes Irma and Maria both hit the United States Virgin Islands in September as rare Category 5 storms, but the devastation there has been largely overshadowed by the damage and death this year’s hurricane season left behind in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean nations. The United States Virgin Islands were as hard-hit as any place in the country; in a territory with just 103,000 residents, more than 33,000 individuals and families have applied for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and government agencies reported on Thursday that 73 percent of customers still had no power. The storms so denuded the islands’ lush vegetation that where they once showed up in satellite photos as a green jewels in the sea, they were brown after the hurricanes passed....

2017-11-01. IPCC Chair Discusses Limiting Global Warming to 1.5°C.

posted Nov 4, 2017, 10:12 PM by Alan Gould

By Randy Showstack, Eos/AGU. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: Several forthcoming reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change examine what needs to be done to take control of our climate future. ...With a United Nations climate change conference scheduled for Bonn, Germany, from 6 to 17 November, two high-level reports released this week warn about the increasing risk of climate change. In addition, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is working on a separate report, to be issued in 2018, about the effects of global warming at 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. A 30 October report from the World Meteorological Organization warned that in 2016, globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide surged in 1 year from 400 to 403.3 parts per million, the highest level in 800,000 years. Also, a 31 October report from the United Nations (UN) sounds an alarm about the need for accelerated short-term actions and enhanced longer-term national ambitions to meet the Paris climate agreement goal of holding global warming to well below 2°C compared to preindustrial levels. ...In most countries, governments are addressing climate change in the context of other national priorities such as energy security and poverty alleviation, Lee said, adding that “improvements to climate policy programs need to engage these broader national priorities.” ...the UN report released yesterday questions whether a 1.5°C goal is possible. It notes that the gap between emissions reductions that are needed and national pledges, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), on climate action “is alarmingly high.” It “is clear that if the emissions gap is not closed by 2030, it is extremely unlikely that the goal of holding global warming to well below 2.0° can still be reached,” the UN report states....

1-10 of 1089