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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
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Latest News and Updates

2016-02-12. Climate confusion among U.S. teachers.

posted Feb 12, 2016, 9:34 AM by Alan Gould

By Eric Plutzer et al, Science. For GSS Climate Change chapter 4. Excerpt: Although more than 95% of active climate scientists attribute recent global warming to human causes and most of the general public accepts that climate change is occurring, only about half of U.S. adults believe that human activity is the predominant cause, which is the lowest among 20 nations polled in 2014. We ...find that, whereas most U.S. science teachers include climate science in their courses, their insufficient grasp of the science may hinder effective teaching. Mirroring some actors in the societal debate over climate change, many teachers repeat scientifically unsupported claims in class.  ...30% of teachers emphasize that recent global warming “is likely due to natural causes,” and 12% do not emphasize human causes (half of whom do not emphasize any explanation and thereby avoid the topic altogether). ...Some teachers may wish to teach “both sides” to accommodate values and perspectives that students bring to the classroom. ...teachers might experience overt pressure from parents, community leaders, or school administrators not to teach climate change.  ...teachers also may not be very knowledgeable about a wide range of evidence—e.g., CO2 measurements from ice cores and from direct measures at Mauna Loa—and how climate models work. ...many teachers are unaware of the extent of scientific agreement. ...when asked “what proportion of climate scientists think that global warming is caused mostly by human activities?”—only 30% of middle-school and 45% of high-school science teachers selected the correct option of “81 to 100%.”....

2016-02-09. U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit.

posted Feb 9, 2016, 10:40 AM by Alan Gould

Government website. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: First introduced in November 2014, the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit provides scientific tools, information, and expertise to help people manage their climate-related risks and opportunities, and improve their resilience to extreme events. The site is designed to serve interested citizens, communities, businesses, resource managers, planners, and policy leaders at all levels of government....

2015-12-05. Community Choice Energy: Power to the People!

posted Feb 7, 2016, 2:42 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Feb 7, 2016, 2:42 PM ] from UNFCCC COP21 side event. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10. or

2016-02-03. Articles on sustainable energy projects.

posted Feb 7, 2016, 2:24 PM by Alan Gould

...for GSS Energy Use, chapter 10:

2016-02-06. Cover Crops, a Farming Revolution With Deep Roots in the Past.

posted Feb 7, 2016, 1:10 PM by Alan Gould

By Stephanie Strom, The New York Times. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 5. Excerpt: Mark Anson..., 60, and his two brothers, together with assorted sons and sons-in-law, run Anson Farms, a big commercial soybean and corn operation in Indiana and Illinois. Concern about the soil quality of the family’s fields had nagged at him for some time. “Our corn was wilting when temperatures hit 103 degrees,” he said, and such heat isn’t so unusual in the summer. ...What he learned about the benefits of cover crops gave him hope. But to [his brother] Doug, planting some noncommercial crops seemed an antiquated practice, like using a horse-drawn plow. Cover crops had long been replaced by fertilizers. Still, he shared his brother’s concern about their soil. Its texture was different, not as loamy as it had once been, and a lot of it was running off into ditches and other waterways when it rained. So in 2010 the family decided to humor Mark by sowing some 1,200 acres, which Mark describes as highly eroded farmland, with wheat cleanings and cereal rye. ...The next spring, Doug had to admit that the soil texture on that strip was better. ...But Doug didn’t become a believer until 2013, when the family was grappling with a terrible drought. “In the part of a field where we had planted cover crops, we were getting 20 to 25 bushels of corn more per acre than in places where no cover crops had been planted,” he said. “That showed me it made financial sense to do this.” Now some 13,000 of the 20,000 acres that the family farms across nine counties are planted with cover crops after harvesting, and farmers around them are beginning to embrace the practice. ...The practice of seeding fields between harvests not only keeps topsoil in place, it also adds carbon to the soil and helps the beneficial microbes, fungus, bacteria and worms in it thrive. ...Cover cropping is still used only by a small minority of farmers. When the Agriculture Department asked for the first time about cover cropping for its 2012 Census of Agriculture report, just 10.3 million acres — out of about 390 million total acres of farmland sown in crops — on 133,124 farms were planted with cover crops. ...Before cultivation, Indiana was blanketed in prairie grasses and forest, and the carbon content of the soil was as high as 10 percent in places. Today, after decades of tillage, which moves carbon from the soil into the atmosphere, and monocropping, the level on many farms is below 2 percent.... Cover crops restore organic matter back into the soil, at a rate of about 1 percent every five years....

2016-02-02. Glyphosate Now the Most-Used Agricultural Chemical Ever.

posted Feb 7, 2016, 12:42 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Feb 7, 2016, 12:44 PM ]

By Douglas Main, Newsweek. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 7. Excerpt: The world is awash in glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, produced by Monsanto. It has now become the most heavily-used agricultural chemical in the history of the world, and many argue that’s a problem, since the substance comes with concerning albeit incompletely-determined health effects. A study published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe reveals that Americans have applied 1.8 million tons of glyphosate since its introduction in 1974. Worldwide, 9.4 million tons of the chemical have been sprayed onto fields. For comparison, that’s equivalent to the weight of water in more than 2,300 Olympic-size swimming pools. ...the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer unanimously determined that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans”  ...Research has also shown that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor, meaning that it interferes with the proper functioning and production of hormones, in human cell lines.  ...Monsanto says that glyphosate does not pose a threat to humans. ...More obviously, the mass-spraying of glyphosate has led to the explosion of resistant weeds, which have evolved to survive despite being sprayed. Already, weeds resistant to the herbicide are found on half of all American farmers’ fields.... ...the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has relaxed its rules about what it considers a safe level of glyphosate. Fifty times more glyphosate is allowed on corn grain now than in 1996.... The agency has also increased what it considers a safe amount of glyphosate exposure by a factor of 17. is robbing farmers of income, which is diverted to companies that produce herbicides and herbicide-resistant crops like Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn and soybeans. “The bottom line is that at least 30 percent of the net income that used to go to farmers is now going to [these companies],” Benbrook says, and it continues to get worse. That’s frustrating to weed scientists like Mortensen, who knows that there are ways to combat crops without using quite so much herbicide. For example, the use of winter cover crops like wheat can reduce the amount of weeds that grow in the spring, with the additional benefit of reducing erosion and improving water quality....

2016-02-02. Great Bear Rainforest agreement creates 'a gift to the world'.

posted Feb 7, 2016, 12:09 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Feb 7, 2016, 12:09 PM ]

By Fiona Morrow, CBC News. For GSS A New World View chapter 2. Excerpt: An area bigger than Vancouver Island is now under complete protection from industrial logging. The protection of B.C.'s Great Bear Rainforest is now assured, after a decade of complex negotiations between the province, First Nations and industry.  Under terms of the agreement announced Monday morning by Premier Christy Clark, 85 per cent (3.1 million hectares) of the forested area of the northern wilderness will be completely — and permanently — protected from industrial logging. ...The agreement to protect the region was first announced 10 years ago, following a period of deep conflict between First Nations and timber firms over old growth logging that made headlines worldwide, and led to commercial pressure to avoid products sourced in the area....

2016-02-04. Bison go from seasonal outlaws to year-round residents in a large swath of Montana.

posted Feb 6, 2016, 3:41 PM by Alan Gould

By Alisa Opar, onEarth, NRDC. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 2. Excerpt: The preferred breakfast companions of Karrie Taggart in springtime are bison. Taggart lives on Horse Butte Peninsula, ...about 10 miles northwest of Yellowstone National Park. ...Hundreds of bison migrate to low-elevation habitat outside the park in search of food during the winter, moving onto surrounding public lands and private property (like Taggart’s yard). But when spring comes, the enormous herbivores become fugitives in these parts, and wildlife officials round them up and force them back into the park. ...Montana’s governor, Steve Bullock, announced in December that his administration will be granting bison year-round access to 250,000 acres along Yellowstone’s western border. ...The agencies that manage bison, including the National Park Service and the InterTribal Buffalo Council, still have to adopt the change, but the plan is expected to go forward. ...“This is a huge deal,” says Matt Skoglund, director of NRDC's Northern Rockies office (disclosure). “It puts in place a foundation for year-round bison habitat in Montana, which is a great step in the right direction.” The move is timely, as it comes amid the early stages of revising the Interagency Bison Management Plan. That plan, set in place 16 years ago, calls for hazing bison outside the park due to fears that the animals will transmit brucellosis, a disease that can cause cattle to abort their pregnancies. ...A lot has changed since then, says Sam Sheppard, a regional supervisor with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. First, research hasn’t found any case in which cattle have contracted brucellosis from wild bison (in fact, elk may pose a bigger threat).  ...In the meantime, however, bison will likely continue to be slaughtered; this winter, a near-record-high 600 to 900 of the animals face culling. Scientists say that if the bison weren’t killed, the population would increase to nearly 6,000 by the end of the winter—twice the limit put forth in a 2000 court-mediated agreement....

2015-11-12. Global shift to bicycling could save world trillions of dollars, 10 percent of transport emissions.

posted Feb 5, 2016, 10:34 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Feb 5, 2016, 10:35 AM ]

By Kat Kerlin, UC Davis. For GSS Energy Use chapter 9. Excerpt: A dramatic global shift to increased cycling and electric biking, or e-biking, could cut energy use and carbon dioxide emissions from urban transport by up to 10 percent by 2050 compared to current estimates, while saving society nearly $25 trillion. That is according to a report by the University of California, Davis, and the New York-based Institute for Transportation & Development Policy. The report, “A Global High Shift Cycling Scenario,” takes a comprehensive look at the future of cycling for urban transportation. “This is the first report that quantifies the potential carbon dioxide and cost savings associated with a worldwide shift toward much greater use of cycling in urban areas,” said report co-author Lew Fulton, co-director of the STEPS Program within the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis. ...Currently, cycling accounts for about 6 percent of urban trips worldwide, more than half of which occurs in China, Japan and a few European countries, like the Netherlands and Denmark. In the United States and Canada, only 1 percent of urban trips are by bicycle. According to the study, the right mix of investments and public policies can bring bikes and e-bikes to cover up to 14 percent of urban miles traveled by 2050 — ranging from about 25 percent in the Netherlands and China to about 7 percent in the U.S. and Canada. The potential is enormous when considering that typically more than half of all urban trips worldwide are less than 6 miles and potentially could be done by bike.... 0

2016-02-01. Studying the Heart of El Niño, Where Its Weather Begins.

posted Feb 5, 2016, 10:02 AM by Alan Gould

By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. For GSS Dnergy Flow chapter 8. Excerpt: ...In a Gulfstream jet more accustomed to hunting hurricanes in the Atlantic, researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were cruising this desolate stretch of tropical ocean where the northern and southern trade winds meet. ...“One of the most important questions is to resolve how well our current weather and climate models do in representing the tropical atmosphere’s response to an El Niño,” said Randall Dole, a senior scientist at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory and one of the lead researchers on the project.  ...An El Niño forms about every two to seven years, when the surface winds that typically blow from east to west slacken. As a result, warm water that normally pools along the Equator in the western Pacific piles up toward the east instead. Because of this shift, the expanse of water — which in this El Niño has made the central and eastern Pacific as much as 5 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than usual — acts as a heat engine, affecting the jet streams that blow at high altitudes. That, in turn, can bring more winter rain to the lower third of the United States and dry conditions to southern Africa, among El Niño’s many possible effects....

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