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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

2014-07-25. What Do Chinese Dumplings Have to Do With Global Warming?

posted by Alan Gould   [ updated ]

For GSS Population Growth chapter 6. Excerpt: ...Chen Zemin, the world’s first and only frozen-dumpling billionaire...named his fledgling dumpling company Sanquan, which is short for the “Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China” — the 1978 gathering that marked the country’s first steps toward the open market. ...When Chen founded Sanquan, fewer than one in 10 of his fellow citizens even owned a refrigerator. In the eastern megacities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, it wasn’t until the late 1980s — as electrical grids became more reliable and families had more disposable income — that refrigerators became a fixture of most homes. the 12 years between 1995 and 2007, China’s domestic refrigerator-ownership numbers have jumped to 95 percent from just 7 percent of urban families. ...China had 250 million cubic feet of refrigerated storage capacity in 2007; by 2017, the country is on track to have 20 times that. At five billion cubic feet, China will surpass even the United States, which has led the world in cold storage ever since artificial refrigeration was invented. And even that translates to only 3.7 cubic feet of cold storage per capita, or roughly a third of what Americans currently have — meaning that the Chinese refrigeration boom is only just beginning. This is not simply transforming how Chinese people grow, distribute and consume food. It also stands to become a formidable new factor in climate change; cooling is already responsible for 15 percent of all electricity consumption worldwide, and leaks of chemical refrigerants are a major source of greenhouse-gas pollution. Of all the shifts in lifestyle that threaten the planet right now, perhaps not one is as important as the changing way that Chinese people eat.... By Nicola Twilley, The New York Times.

2014-07. What seafood guzzles the most gas?

posted Jul 26, 2014, 6:40 AM by Alan Gould

For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7, Energy Use chapter 10. Excerpt: ...diesel is the single largest expense for the fishing industry and its biggest source of greenhouse gases. Not all fish have the same carbon finprint, however, and a new study reveals which ones take the most fuel to catch. Robert Parker, a Ph.D. student at the University of Tasmania, Hobart, in Australia, and Peter Tyedmers, an ecological economist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, analyzed more than 1600 records of fuel use by fishing fleets worldwide. They ... reported online this month in Fish and Fisheries. 7. Sardines: 71 liters ...Icelandic herring and Peruvian anchovies are the least fuel-intensive industrial fisheries known, caught with just 8 liters of fuel per ton of fish. 6. Skipjack tuna: 434 liters ...5. Scallops: 525 liters ...4. North American salmon: 886 liters ...3. Pacific albacore: 1612 liters ...2. Sole: 2827 liters ...1. Shrimp and lobster: 2923 liters ...How does wild seafood compare with other kinds of animal protein? The median fuel use in the fisheries is 639 liters per ton. In terms of climate impact, that’s equivalent to a bit more than 2 kilograms of carbon dioxide emitted for each kilogram of seafood landed. Chicken and farmed salmon and trout are roughly the same, but beef is significantly higher at 10 kg of carbon dioxide per kg of live animal. “If you’re looking at having a green diet, you want to transition away from beef,” Parker says.... by Erik Stokstad, Science.

2014-07-23. Texas Is Wired for Wind Power, and More Farms Plug In.

posted Jul 24, 2014, 9:27 AM by Alan Gould

For GSS Energy Use chapter 5. Excerpt: PANHANDLE, Tex. ...turning wind into electricity is one thing; moving the energy to a profitable market is another. For years, the wind industry has been hampered by such a severe lack of transmission lines that when the wind is strong, a local power surplus forces some machines to be shut down. Now, Texas is out to change that by conducting a vast experiment that might hold lessons for the rest of the United States. This year, a sprawling network of new high-voltage power lines was completed, tying the panhandle area and West Texas to the millions of customers around Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and Houston. ...The project, its supporters say, is essential if states are ever to wean their reliance on fossil fuels and meet new federally mandated rules to reduce carbon emissions. ...By any standard, the scale is enormous. Anywhere else, a big transmission project is a few hundred miles long and costs a few hundred million dollars; this is a network of 3,600 miles built at a cost of $7 billion, which is more money than the whole country has spent on transmission in some recent years. Texas, ...lawmakers have ordered an “if-you-build-it, they-will-come” approach. And it is working. “We’ve built it and they’re marching this way,” said Warren Lasher, the director of system planning at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the grid operator, citing plans for new wind farms. Encouraged by the new power lines and by federal tax credits that were available only to projects that broke ground by the end of last year, developers had started work on 7,000 megawatts of capacity by the end of 2013. ...The new lines are meant to handle up to 18,000 megawatts — millions of households.  ...The Panhandle 1 and Panhandle 2 wind farms cover two-thirds of the width of Carson County.... By Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times.

2014-07-23. China’s Energy Plans Will Worsen Climate Change, Greenpeace Says.

posted Jul 24, 2014, 9:14 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Jul 25, 2014, 8:16 AM by Alan Gould ]

For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: BEIJING — China’s plans for 50 coal gasification plants will produce an estimated 1.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year and contribute significantly to climate change, according to a report released Wednesday by Greenpeace East Asia. ...If China builds all 50 plants, the carbon dioxide they produce will equal about an eighth of China’s current total carbon dioxide emissions, which come mostly from coal-burning power plants and factories, the organization said.... By Edward Wong, The New York Times. See also article China’s Plan to Limit Coal Use Could Spur Consumption for Years.

2014-07-08. Blueprint for Taming the Climate Crisis.

posted Jul 11, 2014, 4:47 PM by Angela Miller

For GSS Life and Climate chapter 13. Excerpt: Here’s what your future will look like if we are to have a shot at preventing devastating climate change. Within about 15 years every new car sold in the United States will be electric. In fact, by midcentury more than half of the American economy will run on electricity. Up to 60 percent of power might come from nuclear sources. And coal’s footprint will shrink drastically, perhaps even disappear from the power supply. It offers a sobering conclusion. We might be able to pull it off. But it will take an overhaul of the way we use energy, and a huge investment in the development and deployment of new energy technologies. Significantly, it calls for an entirely different approach to international diplomacy on the issue of how to combat climate change. “This will require a heroic cooperative effort,” ...The teams, one in each of the 15 countries, looked at what would be necessary to keep the atmosphere from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius, 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above the preindustrial average of the late 19th century, a target that most of the world committed to at the climate summit meeting in Copenhagen five years ago. To do so, CO2 emissions from industry and energy use would have to fall to at most 1.6 tons a year for every person on the planet by midcentury... The decarbonization paths rely on aggressive assumptions about our ability to deploy new technologies on a commercial scale economically. For instance, carbon capture and storage is supposed to be available starting in about 10 years. Second-generation biofuels are assumed to come into play by 2020. Hydrogen fuel cells and power storage technology are deployed starting around 2030. ...Big challenges remain. Any 40-year forecast must be taken with some skepticism. Technologies that seem feasible and economic today might turn out not to be. And it bears repeating that though the teams contend they can get to 1.6 tons per person, they have not yet. By Eduardo Porter, New York Times. 

2014-07-02. NASA Launches New Carbon-Sensing Mission to Monitor Earth’s Breathing.

posted Jul 2, 2014, 12:25 PM by Alan Gould

For GSS Climate Change chapter 5. Excerpt: NASA successfully launched its first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide at 2:56 a.m. PDT.... The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) ... soon will begin a minimum two-year mission to locate Earth’s sources of and storage places for atmospheric carbon dioxide, the leading human-produced greenhouse gas responsible for warming our world and a critical component of the planet’s carbon cycle. ...OCO-2 will ... produce the most detailed picture to date of natural sources of carbon dioxide, as well as their "sinks" -- places on Earth’s surface where carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere. The observatory will study how these sources and sinks are distributed around the globe and how they change over time. ...Carbon dioxide sinks are at the heart of a longstanding scientific puzzle that has made it difficult for scientists to accurately predict how carbon dioxide levels will change in the future and how those changing concentrations will affect Earth's climate. ...OCO-2 science operations will begin about 45 days after launch. ...The observatory will uniformly sample the atmosphere above Earth's land and waters, collecting more than 100,000 precise individual measurements of carbon dioxide over Earth's entire sunlit hemisphere every day.  ...OCO-2 also will measure a phenomenon called solar-induced fluorescence, an indicator of plant growth and health. As plants photosynthesize and take up carbon dioxide, they fluoresce and give off a tiny amount of light that is invisible to the naked eye. Because more photosynthesis translates into more fluorescence, fluorescence data from OCO-2 will help shed new light on the uptake of carbon dioxide by plants.... By NASA RELEASE 14-182.

2014-07-01. A Solar Show With Mixed Reviews.

posted Jul 2, 2014, 12:04 PM by Alan Gould

For GSS Energy Flow chapter 4. Excerpt: ...the maximum — the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle, when the sun erupts with solar flares and energetic bursts of electrons and protons — may have already passed. As solar maximums go, this has been a tepid one, particularly when measured against some predictions that it would be ferocious; it has been called a “minimax.” But neither does it rival a quiet period in the second half of the 1600s that coincided with the onset of the Little Ice Age, a prolonged chill in Europe. ...“I think the general consensus is that we’ve passed the peak,” said C. Alex Young, a solar astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. But he added that some of the biggest solar storms in history occurred on the downward side of the solar cycle, and even a weak cycle can generate ferocious outbursts. “I think the expectation right now is we might see another burst of this activity five or six months from now,” Dr. Young said. “We might still have some big events.”... By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times.

2014-07. The Antarctic ozone hole: An update.

posted Jul 2, 2014, 11:55 AM by Alan Gould

For GSS Ozone chapter 9. Excerpt: In the 30 years since the ozone hole was discovered, our understanding of the polar atmosphere has become much more complete. The worldwide response to the discovery was fast, but the recovery is slow. ...Although anthropogenic CFCs are emitted mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, they are well mixed throughout the troposphere over the course of a couple of years, and air that enters the stratosphere in the tropics carries with it tropospheric levels of CFCs. ...Although the Arctic and Antarctic are similar in some ways, ozone columns below 180 DU, routine in the Antarctic, have never been observed in the Arctic. Chlorine levels are similar in both hemispheres, but winter and spring temperatures in the Antarctic are much colder than in the Arctic. ...The Northern Hemisphere’s large mountain ranges and its broad contrasts between land and sea temperatures result in a weaker polar vortex, warmer temperatures, and stronger Brewer–Dobson circulation. That stronger circulation leads to greater transport of ozone to the Arctic lower stratosphere and naturally higher ozone; year-to-year variability is also greater than in the Southern Hemisphere.... By Anne R. Douglass, Paul A. Newman and Susan Solomon, Physics Today.

2014-07. Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK.

posted Jul 2, 2014, 11:43 AM by Alan Gould

 For GSS Climate Change chapter 3. Excerpt of Abstract: The production of animal-based foods is associated with higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than plant-based foods. The objective of this study was to estimate the difference in dietary GHG emissions between self-selected meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK. ...The diets of 2,041 vegans, 15,751 vegetarians, 8,123 fish-eaters and 29,589 meat-eaters aged 20–79 were assessed using a validated food frequency questionnaire. ...GHG emissions in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents per day (kgCO2e/day) were 7.19 (7.16, 7.22) for high meat-eaters ( > = 100 g/d), 5.63 (5.61, 5.65) for medium meat-eaters (50-99 g/d), 4.67 (4.65, 4.70) for low meat-eaters ( < 50 g/d), 3.91 (3.88, 3.94) for fish-eaters, 3.81 (3.79, 3.83) for vegetarians and 2.89 (2.83, 2.94) for vegans. In conclusion, dietary GHG emissions in self-selected meat-eaters are approximately twice as high as those in vegans. It is likely that reductions in meat consumption would lead to reductions in dietary GHG emissions. By Peter Scarborough, et al.

2014-06-24. Bipartisan Report Tallies High Toll on Economy From Global Warming.

posted Jun 24, 2014, 11:35 AM by Alan Gould

For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: More than a million homes and businesses along the nation’s coasts could flood repeatedly before ultimately being destroyed. Entire states in the Southeast and the Corn Belt may lose much of their agriculture as farming shifts northward in a warming world. Heat and humidity will probably grow so intense that spending time outside will become physically dangerous, throwing industries like construction and tourism into turmoil. That is a picture of what may happen to the United States economy in a world of unchecked global warming, according to a major new report released Tuesday by a coalition of senior political and economic figures from the left, right and center, including three Treasury secretaries stretching back to the Nixon administration. ...The former Treasury secretaries — including Henry M. Paulson Jr., a Republican who served under President George W. Bush, and Robert E. Rubin, a Democrat in the Clinton administration — promised to help sound the alarm. All endorse putting a price on greenhouse gases, most likely by taxing emissions. ...“I have come to believe that climate change is the existential issue of our age,” Mr. Rubin said. “I believe that investors should insist that companies disclose their risks, including the value of assets that could be stranded.” He was referring to warnings that assets worth trillions of dollars are at risk of being stranded, or rendered obsolete, including vast coal and oil deposits that will most likely have to be left in the ground if dangerous levels of global warming are to be prevented.... By Justin Gillis, The New York Times.

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