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The Lead

Carbon-trapping “sponges” can cut greenhouse gases

December 16, 2014 8:56 am | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

In the fight against global warming, carbon capture is gaining momentum, but standard methods are plagued by toxicity, corrosiveness and inefficiency. Using a bag of chemistry tricks, Cornell Univ. materials scientists have invented low-toxicity, highly effective carbon-trapping “sponges” that could lead to increased use of the technology.

Past global warming similar to today’s, but in two pulses

December 15, 2014 1:54 pm | by Jim Erickson, University of Michigan | News | Comments

The rate at which carbon emissions warmed Earth's climate almost 56 million years ago resembles...

Warmer Pacific Ocean could release millions of tons of seafloor methane

December 9, 2014 5:29 pm | News | Comments

Off the West Coast of the United States, methane...

What agricultural ecosystems on steroids are doing to the air

November 21, 2014 9:21 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

In a study that identifies a new, "direct fingerprint" of human activity on Earth, scientists...

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World not close to avoiding dangerous warming

November 19, 2014 11:00 am | by Seth Borenstein - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The world still isn't close to preventing what leaders call a dangerous level of man-made warming, a new United Nations report says. That's despite some nations' recent pledges to cut back on carbon dioxide emissions. The report looks at the gap between what countries promise to do about carbon pollution and what scientists say needs to be done to prevent temperatures rising another two degrees.

Research quantifies health benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions

November 19, 2014 8:31 am | by Allan Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which result from the burning of fossil fuels, also reduces the incidence of health problems from particulate matter (PM) in these emissions. A team of scientists has calculated that the economic benefit of reduced health impacts from GHG reduction strategies in the U.S. range between $6 and $14 billion annually in 2020, depending on how the reductions are accomplished.

The missing piece of the climate puzzle

November 11, 2014 7:49 am | by Genevieve Wanucha | Program in Atmospheres Oceans and Climate | MIT | News | Comments

In classrooms and everyday conversation, explanations of global warming hinge on the greenhouse gas effect. In short, climate depends on the balance between two different kinds of radiation: The Earth absorbs incoming visible light from the sun, called “shortwave radiation,” and emits infrared light, or “longwave radiation,” into space.

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Where did the Deepwater Horizon oil go?

October 28, 2014 11:23 am | News | Comments

Where's the remaining oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico? The location of 2 million barrels of oil thought to be trapped in the deep ocean has remained a mystery. Until now: A national team of scientists has discovered the path the oil followed to its resting place on the Gulf of Mexico sea floor.

Shifting to higher octane

October 28, 2014 7:57 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

If the majority of light-duty vehicles in the U.S. ran on higher-octane gasoline, the automotive industry as a whole would reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 35 million tons per year, saving up to $6 billion in fuel costs, according to a new analysis by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers.

Scientists discover carbonate rocks are unrecognized methane sink

October 17, 2014 9:25 am | by Mark Floyd, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

Since the first undersea methane seep was discovered 30 years ago, scientists have meticulously analyzed and measured how microbes in the seafloor sediments consume the greenhouse gas methane as part of understanding how the Earth works. The sediment-based microbes form an important methane “sink,” preventing much of the chemical from reaching the atmosphere and contributing to greenhouse gas accumulation.

Satellite sees hot spot of methane in U.S. Southwest

October 10, 2014 9:14 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

A surprising hot spot of the potent global-warming gas methane hovers over part of the southwestern U.S., according to satellite data. That result hints that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies considerably underestimate leaks of methane, also called natural gas. While methane isn't the most plentiful heat-trapping gas, scientists worry about its increasing amounts and have had difficulties tracking emissions.

Argonne researchers create more accurate model for greenhouse gases from peatlands

October 6, 2014 8:50 am | by Louise Lerner, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have created a new model to more accurately describe the greenhouse gases likely to be released from Arctic peatlands as they warm. Their findings, based on modeling how oxygen filters through soil, suggest that previous models probably underestimated methane emissions and overrepresented carbon dioxide emissions from these regions.

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China, U.S., India push world carbon emissions up

September 22, 2014 9:42 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Spurred chiefly by China, the United States and India, the world spewed far more carbon pollution into the air last year than ever before. The world pumped an estimated 39.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air last year by burning coal, oil and gas. That is 778 million tons or 2.3% more than the previous year. World leaders gather this week to discuss how to reduce heat-trapping gases. 

The ozone hole has stabilized, but some questions remain

September 11, 2014 4:50 pm | News | Comments

The production and consumption of chemical substances threatening the ozone layer has been regulated since 1987 in the Montreal Protocol. Eight international expert reports have since been published, the most recent of which was presented on Sept. 10 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Model calculations reveal that by 2050 the ozone layer may return to its 1980 levels.

Study shows where on the planet new roads should and should not go

September 2, 2014 8:39 am | News | Comments

An ambitious study has created a “global roadmap” for prioritizing road building across the planet, to try to balance the competing demands of development and environmental protection. The map has two components: an “environmental-values” layer that estimates that natural importance of ecosystems and a “road-benefits” layer that estimates the potential for increased agriculture production via new or improved roads. 

Study: Existing power plants will spew 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide during use

August 26, 2014 4:33 pm | News | Comments

According to Univ. of California Irvine and Princeton Univ. scientists, existing power plants around the world will pump out more than 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide over their expected lifetimes, significantly adding to atmospheric levels of the climate-warming gas. The findings are the first to quantify how quickly these "committed" emissions are growing.

Study: Cutting emissions pays for itself

August 25, 2014 7:44 am | by Audrey Resutek, MIT | News | Comments

Lower rates of asthma and other health problems are frequently cited as benefits of policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions from sources like power plants and vehicles, because these policies also lead to reductions in other harmful types of air pollution. But just how large are the health benefits of cleaner air in comparison to the costs of reducing carbon emissions?

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Sunlight controls the fate of carbon released from thawing Arctic permafrost

August 22, 2014 9:20 am | by Bernie DeGroat, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Just how much Arctic permafrost will thaw in the future and how fast heat-trapping carbon dioxide will be released from those warming soils is a topic of lively debate among climate scientists. To answer those questions, scientists need to understand the mechanisms that control the conversion of organic soil carbon into carbon dioxide gas. Until now, researchers believed that bacteria were largely responsible.

Shale oil dividend could pay for smaller carbon footprint

August 19, 2014 8:16 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Unanticipated economic benefits from the shale oil and gas boom could help offset the costs of substantially reducing the U.S.'s carbon footprint, Purdue Univ. agricultural economists say. Wally Tyner and Farzad Taheripour estimate that shale technologies annually provide an extra $302 billion to the U.S. economy relative to 2007, a yearly "dividend" that could continue for at least the next two decades, Tyner said.

Not in my backyard: U.S. sending dirty coal abroad

July 28, 2014 10:48 am | by Dina Cappiello, Associated Press | News | Comments

As the Obama administration weans the U.S. off dirty fuels blamed for global warming, energy companies have been sending more of America's unwanted energy leftovers to other parts of the world where they could create even more pollution. This fossil fuel trade threatens to undermine the president's strategy for reducing the gases blamed for climate change and also reveals a side effect of countries acting alone on a global problem.

Study: Kudzu can release soil carbon, accelerate global warming

July 2, 2014 9:49 am | News | Comments

Scientists are shedding new light on how invasion by exotic plant species affects the ability of soil to store greenhouse gases. New research shows that invasive plants can accelerate the greenhouse effect by releasing carbon stored in soil into the atmosphere. Since soil stores more carbon than both the atmosphere and terrestrial vegetation combined, agricultural land management could dramatically affect carbon storage.

How much fertilizer is too much for Earth's climate?

June 11, 2014 8:53 am | News | Comments

A study published by Michigan State Univ. researchers this week concludes that helping farmers around the globe apply more precise amounts of fertilizer nitrogen can combat climate change. The study uses data from around the world to show that emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas produced in soil following nitrogen addition, rise faster than previously expected when fertilizer rates exceed crop needs.

Scientists explore using trees to clean pollution

June 9, 2014 2:20 am | by Ramit Plushnick-masti - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Before Houston and its suburbs were built, a dense forest naturally purified the coastal air along a stretch of the Texas Gulf Coast that grew thick with pecan, ash, live oak and hackberry trees. It was the kind of pristine woodland that was mostly wiped out by settlers in their rush to clear land and build communities.

Rice Univ. produces carbon-capture breakthrough

June 4, 2014 7:14 am | News | Comments

A porous material invented by the Rice Univ. lab of chemist James Tour sequesters carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, at ambient temperature with pressure provided by the wellhead and lets it go once the pressure is released. The material shows promise to replace more costly and energy-intensive processes.

Solving the puzzle of ice age climates

June 3, 2014 9:12 am | by Genevieve Wanucha, Oceans at MIT | News | Comments

The paleoclimate record for the last ice age tells of a cold Earth whose northern continents were covered by vast ice sheets. Chemical traces from plankton fossils in deep-sea sediments reveal rearranged ocean water masses, as well as extended sea ice coverage off Antarctica. Air bubbles in ice cores show that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was far below levels seen before the Industrial Revolution.

Obama rolls out rule to cut power plant pollution

June 2, 2014 11:58 am | by Dina Cappiello and Josh Lederman, Associated Press | News | Comments

The U.S. government rolled out a plan Monday to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30% by 2030, a centerpiece of President Barack Obama's efforts to reduce the pollution linked to global warming. The rule, expected to be final next year, sets in motion one of the most significant actions on global warming in U.S. history.

Cost of fighting warming 'modest,' says UN panel

April 13, 2014 12:20 pm | by Karl Ritter - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The cost of keeping global warming in check is "relatively modest," but only if the world acts quickly to reverse the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, the head of the U.N.'s expert panel on climate change said Sunday. Such gases, mainly carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, rose on average by 2.2% a year in 2000-2010.

Climate meeting to discuss future of fossil fuels

April 7, 2014 9:14 am | by Frank Jordans, Associated Press | News | Comments

After concluding that global warming almost certainly is man-made and poses a grave threat to humanity, the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, is meeting next week in Berlin to chart ways in which the world can curb the greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are overheating the planet. It is also trying to give estimates on what it would cost.

Researchers design trees that make it easier to produce paper

April 4, 2014 9:43 am | by UBC | News | Comments

Researchers have genetically engineered trees that will be easier to break down to produce paper and biofuel, a breakthrough that will mean using fewer chemicals, less energy and creating fewer environmental pollutants.                 

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