Halting climate change will require "a fundamental and disruptive overhaul of the global energy system" to eradicate harmful carbon dioxide emissions, not just stabilize them, according to new findings by University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) and other scientists.
Sandia National Laboratories has launched a Sustainability Innovation Foundry that combines laboratories-wide resource conservation with efforts to turn research in fields related to sustainability into business opportunities. Sandia is on track to meet an ambitious goal of cutting energy intensity in buildings 30% by 2015, using a 2005 baseline, and it hopes that what it has learned as part of this effort will carry over into general industry practices.
The amount of heat-trapping pollution the world spewed rose again last year by 3%. China was the biggest contributor to the increase, with only the U.S. and Germany decreasing their output among the top 10 polluters. Some scientists say it's now unlikely that global warming can be limited to a couple of degrees, which is an international goal.
Beyond recent warnings from the United Nations about climate change tipping points, researchers are beginning to make practical insights about the effects a greater concentration of greenhouse gas has on areas of industry like agriculture. Researchers have recently found that certain high-yield dwarf varieties of plants such as rice are actually struggling to meet yield predictions because high carbon dioxide levels prevent them from producing a vital acid.
Results from field and lab tests have found that 7 to 9% of the kerosene in wick lamps—used for light in 250-300 million households without electricity—is converted to black carbon when burned. In comparison, only half of 1% of the emissions from burning wood is converted to black carbon. Kerosene is the primary source of light for more than a billion people in developing nations.
Even though pollution from fossil fuel burning and forest fires should decay long before it travels to Arctic regions, it nevertheless has been shown to successfully complete this lofty journey. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have used SPLAT II, an instrument that can characterize millions of particles one-by-one, to determine what happens to these airborne particles over their lifetimes.
Digging, trucking and processing make mining an energy-intensive industry that emits greenhouse gases. However, mine waste rock that is rich in the mineral magnesium silicate has an inherent ability to react with CO2 and chemically "fix" it in place as magnesium carbonate. Mining engineers in Canada believe that this ability to store carbon dioxide could five to 10 times greater than total greenhouse gas production from some mine operations.
One method of capturing carbon dioxide is through molecular sieve that is an ultra-fine filter system that captures a variety of molecules that need further filtering. Engineers in Australia have developed new sieve that allows only carbon dioxide molecules to be trapped and stored, helping to eliminate the cost and energy typically required for filtering.
Secondary organic aerosol (SOA) is a major component of smog, and people have long argued whether large diesel trucks are a bigger source of this pollution than gasoline-fueled cars. Recent University of California Berkeley research shows that diesel exhaust contributes 15 times more than gas emissions per liter of fuel burned, and can be responsible for a majority of a region’s SOA.
Increasing demand for bioenergy feedstock is generating land-use conflicts and food vs. fuel controversies. An team of 11 scientists from seven European countries and the United States have recently published a study that gives scientific background to the debate. It supports a reassessment of the land available for bioenergy feedstock production.
Overturning decades of conventional wisdom, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have found that moderately high indoor concentrations of carbon dioxide can significantly impair people's decision-making performance. The results were unexpected and may have particular implications for schools and other spaces with high occupant density.
The natural decay of organic carbon contributes more than 90% of the yearly carbon dioxide released into Earth's atmosphere and oceans. Understanding the rate at which leaves decay can help scientists predict this global flux of carbon dioxide. But a single leaf may undergo different rates of decay depending on a number of variables. Researchers have just built a mathematical model that incorporates these variables, and have discovered a commonality within the diversity of leaf decay.
Water does not forget, says Prof. Boris Koch, a chemist at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. With the combination of some new techniques, Koch and colleagues can now identify and retrace some of the biomolecular tracks left by living organism. This dissolved organic matter, detectable with mass spectrometry, is one of the largest active, organic carbon reservoirs on earth.
Researchers at Columbia University have developed a new software that can simultaneously calculate the carbon footprints of thousands of products faster than ever before. The software complies with the latest product LCA guidelines sponsored by the World Resources Institute, and any carbon footprint it calculates can easily be audited against this standard.
Some six years ago scientific textbooks had to be updated because of the surprising discovery made by a research group in Germany led by Frank Keppler that plants produce methane in an oxygen-rich environment. It had been previously thought that biogenic methane could only be formed during the decomposition of organic material under strictly anoxic conditions. Now, Keppler’s group has now made another fascinating new observation: Fungi produce methane.
It is common knowledge that the warmer the air, the more water can evaporate. Researchers in Europe have now established that this is not always the case: Although an increase in the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide makes the climate warmer, it also allows less water to evaporate. This finding has informed a set of new calculations for climate modeling.
Viewed as a potential target in the global effort to reduce climate change, atmospheric black carbon particles absorb significantly less sunlight than scientists have predicted. In the first field study of it kind, researchers found that soot particles absorb significantly less sunlight than predicted by models, raising new questions about the impact of black carbon on atmospheric warming.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers helped develop the first computational model to accurately predict the interactions between flue gases and a special variety of the carbon dioxide-capturing molecular systems known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). This new model should greatly accelerate the search for new low-cost and efficient ways to burn coal without exacerbating global climate change.
The average temperature of oceans is rising along with the temperatures in the atmosphere, raising concern that ice-like compounds called methane hydrates could dissolve this powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. An expedition to Spitsbergen in the high Arctic could help answer this question.
Despite sharp increases in carbon dioxide emissions by humans in recent decades that are warming the planet, Earth’s vegetation and oceans continue to soak up about half of them, according to a new study which showed global carbon dioxide uptake by Earth’s sinks essentially doubled from 1960 to 2010.
Current techniques for post-combustion carbon capture filter out carbon dioxide from a power plant’s flue gases as they travel up a chimney. These methods can prevent 80 to 90% of a power plant’s carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere, but researchers in the U.K. are trying to improve on that, using their nation’s synchrotron to determine the mechanism for the use of calcium oxide-based material as carbon dioxide sorbents.
The Southern Ocean is an important carbon sink. Around 40% of the annual global carbon dioxide emissions absorbed by the world’s oceans enter through this region. A team of British and Australian scientists has recently discovered how this carbon is drawn down from the surface of the Southern Ocean to the deep waters beneath.
In 2011, corn was planted on more than 92 million acres in the U.S. Because corn is a nitrogen-loving plant, farmers must use synthetic nitrogen fertilizer to their fields every year to achieve their crop target. However, nitrogen is hard to contain and can negatively affect the environment. Researchers have come up with a solution, however, and it’s tied to the relationship between nitrates and nitrous oxide emissions.
The first global analysis of carbon stored in seagrasses has revealed a surprising figure. While a typical terrestrial forest stores about 30,000 metric tons of carbon per square kilometer, most of which is in the form of wood, coastal seagrasses can account for 83,000 metric tons of carbon per square kilometer. Their global impact is significant as well.
According to a recent report from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, U.S. commercial building owners could save an average of 38% on their heating and cooling bills if they installed a handful of energy efficiency controls that make their heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems more energy efficient.