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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

2017-01-17. On Climate Change, Even States in Forefront Are Falling Short.

posted Jan 18, 2017, 1:39 PM by Alan Gould

By Eduardo Porter, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10 and Energy Use chapter 4. Excerpt: ...for all the pluck of the Golden State’s politicians, California is far from providing the leadership needed in the battle against climate change. Distracted by the competing objective of shuttering nuclear plants that still produce over a fifth of its zero-carbon power, the state risks failing the main environmental challenge of our time. ...even a state like New York still has work to do. An analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers argued that to ensure that the global temperature does not rise more than 3.6 degrees above its preindustrial average, which world leaders have agreed is the tolerable limit, the carbon intensity of the global economy must decline 6.3 percent per year between now and 2030. The United States must decarbonize at an annual rate of 4.3 percent under that timetable. But over the last decade and a half, only North Dakota and the District of Columbia have achieved this pace. New York is decarbonizing at about 3 percent per year, California at barely above 2 percent. ...Nuclear energy cannot compete with natural gas at current prices, of course. But its woes aren’t just about economics. Incorporating the climate costs imposed by fossil fuels would sharply increase the cost of gas generation. But rather than level the playing field, policy makers mostly squeeze nuclear generation further. There’s a reason for that: Alarmed by the prospect of nuclear meltdowns and the potential damage to ecosystems and human health, voters remain decidedly against nuclear reactors. Still, if combating climate change is an imperative, nuclear power and its risks must get a more careful assessment. Climate change will be hard to stop without it....

2017-01-14. A Big Test for Big Batteries.

posted Jan 16, 2017, 10:43 AM by Alan Gould

By Diane Cardwell and Clifford Krauss, The New York Times. For GSS Energy Use chapter 5. Excerpt: ESCONDIDO, Calif. — In Southern California in the fall of 2015, a giant natural gas leak not only caused one of the worst environmental disasters in the nation’s history, it also knocked out a critical fuel source for regional power plants. Energy regulators needed a quick fix. But rather than sticking with gas, they turned to a technology more closely associated with flashlights: batteries. They freed up the utilities to start installing batteries — and lots of them. It is a solution that’s audacious and risky. The idea is that the batteries can store electricity during daylight hours (when the state’s many solar panels are flooding the grid with power), then release it as demand peaks (early evening, when people get home). ...Utilities have been studying batteries nationwide. But none have moved ahead with the gusto of those in Southern California. ...Here, about 130 miles southeast of Aliso Canyon, the site of the immense gas leak in 2015 — the global-warming equivalent of operating about 1.7 million cars over the course of a year — 19,000 battery modules the size of a kitchen drawer are being wired together in racks. They will operate out of two dozen beige, 640-square-foot trailers. ...“California is giving batteries the opportunity to show what they can do,” said Andrés Gluski, chief executive of AES, which is installing the storage systems....

2017-01-12. Understanding How Climate Engineering Can Offset Climate Change.

posted Jan 16, 2017, 10:40 AM by Alan Gould

By Ben Kravitz, Alan Robock, and Jón Egill Kristjánsson, Eos, Earth & Space Science News, AGU. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10. Excerpt: Climate intervention, also called geoengineering or climate engineering, is an emerging, important area of climate science research. This research focuses on deliberate climate modification to offset some of the effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project (GeoMIP) was formed to better understand climate intervention through simulations conducted by multiple climate models. GeoMIP held its sixth annual meeting at the University of Oslo in Oslo, Norway, in June 2016. The meeting was held in conjunction with the Norwegian project Exploring the Potential and Side Effects of Climate Engineering (EXPECT), which seeks to understand the implications of climate intervention and to stimulate interdisciplinary collaboration among scientists in the natural and social sciences. Participants from a variety of natural science backgrounds presented modeling results from multiple climate intervention methods, including stratospheric aerosols, marine cloud brightening, cirrus thinning, and land and ocean brightening. The first results from multimodel sea spray climate intervention simulations showed strong features of commonality among the responses of different models....

2017-01-09. 2016 was 2nd warmest year on record for U.S.

posted Jan 11, 2017, 7:34 PM by Alan Gould

NOAA news release. For GSS Climate Change chapter 4. Excerpt: 15 weather and climate disasters caused 138 deaths, $46B in damages. ...depending on where you live, 2016 was either parched, soggy — or both. ...The average U.S. temperature in 2016 was 54.9 degrees F (2.9 degrees F above average), which ranked as the second warmest year in 122 years of record-keeping. This is the 20th consecutive year the annual average temperature exceeded the average. Every state in the contiguous U.S. and Alaska experienced above-average annual temperatures, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. ...This is the second highest number of disasters experienced in one year, with double the record number of inland flooding events for one year. ...1 drought (affected multiple areas); 1 wildfire (affected multiple areas); 4 inland floods; 8 severe storms; and 1 hurricane (Matthew)....

2017-01-10. The Lights Are On in Detroit.

posted Jan 11, 2017, 10:35 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Jan 11, 2017, 10:36 AM ]

By Michael Kimmelmanjan, The New York Times. For GSS Energy Use chapter 7. Excerpt: DETROIT — Just before the holidays, on a dark street a few blocks from downtown, a group of public officials crowded onto a makeshift stage before a shivering crowd, flipped a big switch — and the last of this city’s 65,000 new streetlights blazed on. ...Investments by the Obama administration in energy-efficient lighting have reduced costs, making LEDs feasible for a city like Detroit. Three years ago, nearly half the 88,000 streetlights in the city were out of commission. The more potent LED lights allow the authority to replace those 88,000 old fixtures with 65,000 new ones, strong enough for you to read one of those glossy magazines after dark. The whole thing came in under budget and on time. ...“An example of how good government should work,” as Lorna L. Thomas, chairwoman of the lighting authority, put it at the switch-flipping ceremony....

2017-01-09. Polar Bear Conservation Plan Calls Climate Change "the Primary Threat" to Their Survival.

posted Jan 10, 2017, 4:39 PM by Alan Gould

By John R. Platt, Scientific American. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8 and Losing Biodiversity chapter 8. Excerpt: Climate change is “the primary threat” to the survival of polar bears, according to a conservation management plan released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The plan—which also addresses issues such as human-bear conflict, subsistence hunting by Alaskan Native people, and minimizing the risk of oil spills—says global action on climate change is necessary to save this sea-ice dependent species, which has over the past several years become the conservation icon related to climate change. ...The 106-page plan addresses multiple issues facing polar bears, presenting a complex portrait of their threats and what it will take to save them....

2017-01-03. Climate Change Is Raising Flood Risk in the Northern U.S.

posted Jan 10, 2017, 4:35 PM by Alan Gould

By Erika Bolstad, ClimateWire, reprinted by Scientific American. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: ...Scientists who combined an on-the-ground look at stream gauge data and an above-the-ground view from satellites have determined that as the Earth warms, the threat of flooding is growing in the northern half of the United States. The research from the University of Iowa, published recently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that shifting rainfall patterns and the amount of water in the ground are likely causes for the changes. The work fed off research published in 2015 that looked at stream gauges in the central United States, said Gabriele Villarini, an associate professor in civil and environmental engineering at the university and a co-author of the new paper with Louise Slater. His earlier research showed limited evidence of significant changes in the magnitude of floods, but strong evidence pointing toward an increasing frequency of flooding. ...Their research also found that the South and West are experiencing decreasing flood risk, an unsurprising finding, he said, given that those regions have experienced both recent and long-standing drought, and that there is less water stored underground....

2016-12-30. Cheetahs in Danger of Extinction, Researchers Say.

posted Jan 10, 2017, 4:33 PM by Alan Gould

By James Gorman, The New York Times. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 1. Excerpt: The cheetah, as swift as it is in the hunt, will not be able to outrun the threats to its survival without new conservation efforts, according to an international team of researchers who reported their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They found that the threat to cheetahs, which now number about 7,000 worldwide, had been underestimated because of a focus on groups of the cats living in protected areas like parks and refuges. The team called for the International Union for Conservation of Nature to change the cheetah’s status from vulnerable to endangered, indicating the serious danger for the species....

2016-12-20. Climate Change Skepticism Fueled by Gut Reaction to Local Weather.

posted Jan 10, 2017, 4:29 PM by Alan Gould

By Scott Waldman, ClimateWire, reprinted by Scientific American. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10. Excerpt: If it’s hot outside, you’re more likely to believe in climate change. The public perception of climate change is shaped by the weather that people experience, according to a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. People who live in areas where high temperature records are broken are more likely to believe in global warming than those who do not. In areas that experienced record lows, people were less inclined to believe in the mainstream climate science that shows human activity is warming the Earth. People see climate change through a local lens, said Robert Kaufmann, the study’s lead author and director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies at Boston University.  ...“When personal experience and expert opinion don’t align on a topic that’s not critical to an individual’s well-being, they’re going to go with their gut rather than what the expert tells them,” Kaufmann said. Researchers noted that the discrepancy resulted from the public’s equating of weather with climate, which many assume are the same.  ...A majority of Americans favor political action on global warming, despite the presidential victory of Donald Trump, who questions climate science, the survey found. It shows that almost two-thirds of registered voters across all parties want the Trump administration and Congress to do more to address global warming. Almost three-quarters of Republicans and about 90 percent of Democrats want corporations to do more on climate change....

2016-12-15. Are We Entering the Photovoltaic Energy Era?

posted Jan 10, 2017, 4:24 PM by Alan Gould

By John Fialka, ClimateWire, reprinted by Scientific American. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10. Excerpt: ...Nations from all regions reported to the International Energy Agency for the first time that their markets for solar-generated electricity were growing. According to a “snapshot” of this spurt of activity released by the Paris-based agency, nations in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and South and Southeast Asia reported the world market for “PV,” as it’s commonly called, is setting a variety of records. It grew by 25 percent in 2015 as the price for solar panels, the basic unit needed to make electricity, continues a stunning eight-year drop. ...Since 2008, the price of solar panels has dropped almost 80 percent, and the main reason for that, according to the IEA, is China. ... Some large U.S. panel manufacturers have been pushed into bankruptcy, and others appear to be heading in that direction, judging from the dramatic plunge in their stock prices. According to U.S. Department of Energy experts and reports, the remaining two large American panel makers are now outsold by at least six Chinese competitors. China produces 40 percent of the world’s panels versus 20 percent by U.S. companies, and it is continuing to expand its lead. ...In the United States, for example, electric utilities are now the nation’s largest customers for solar panels, constituting 60 percent of the market that was, until recently, dominated by homeowners and commercial buyers of rooftop solar installations....

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