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Better traffic signals can cut greenhouse gas emissions

March 31, 2015 7:34 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Sitting in traffic during rush hour is not just frustrating for drivers; it also adds unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Now a study by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology could lead to better ways of programming a city’s stoplights to reduce delays, improve efficiency and reduce emissions.

Report: Photosynthesis hack needed to feed world by 2050

March 30, 2015 8:03 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Using high-performance computing and genetic engineering to boost the photosynthetic efficiency of plants offers the best hope of increasing crop yields enough to feed a planet expected to have 9.5 billion people on it by 2050, researchers report in Cell.

Do biofuel policies seek to cut emissions by cutting food?

March 30, 2015 7:36 am | by Catherine Zandonella, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

A study found government biofuel policies rely on reductions in food consumption to generate greenhouse gas savings. Shrinking the amount of food that people and livestock eat decreases the amount of carbon dioxide that they breathe out or excrete as waste. The reduction in food available for consumption, rather than any inherent fuel efficiency, drives the decline in carbon dioxide emissions in government models, the researchers found.

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Antarctic ice shelves rapidly thinning

March 27, 2015 10:08 am | by Mario Aguilera, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

A new study led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the Univ. of California, San Diego, researchers has revealed that the thickness of Antarctica’s floating ice shelves has recently decreased by as much as 18% in certain areas over nearly two decades, providing new insights on how the Antarctic ice sheet is responding to climate change.

Critters found in Antarctic ice shows how tenacious life is

March 27, 2015 2:10 am | by Luis Andres Henao And Seth Borenstein, Associated Press | News | Comments

Deep below the ice, far from the playful penguins and other animals that bring tourists to Antarctica, is a cold and barren world that by all indications should be completely void of life. But recently, scientists researching melting ice watched a half-foot-long (15-cm) fish swim by. Not long after that, they saw shrimp-like creatures.

Algae from clogged waterways could serve as biofuels, fertilizer

March 25, 2015 11:31 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Water-borne algal blooms from farm fertilizer runoff can destroy aquatic life and clog rivers and lakes, but scientists will report today that they are working on a way to clean up these environmental scourges and turn them into useful products. The algae could serve as a feedstock for biofuels, and the feedstock leftovers could be recycled back into farm soil nutrients.

Air pollutants could boost potency of common airborne allergens

March 23, 2015 11:43 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

A pair of air pollutants linked to climate change could also be a major contributor to the unparalleled rise in the number of people sneezing and wheezing during allergy season. The gases, nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone, appear to provoke chemical changes in certain airborne allergens that could increase their potency. That, in combination with changes in global climate, could explain why airborne allergies are more common.

Sewage could be a source of valuable metals, critical elements

March 23, 2015 8:42 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Poop could be a goldmine, literally. Surprisingly, treated solid waste contains gold, silver and other metals, as well as rare elements such as palladium and vanadium that are used in electronics and alloys. Now researchers are looking at identifying the metals that are getting flushed and how they can be recovered. This could decrease the need for mining and reduce the unwanted release of metals into the environment.

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New membranes deliver clean water more efficiently

March 23, 2015 8:31 am | by Univ. of Melbourne | News | Comments

Researchers from the Melbourne School of Engineering at the Univ. of Melbourne, in conjunction with CSIRO, have developed new membranes or microfilters that will result in clean water in a much more energy-efficient manner. Published in Advanced Materials, the new membranes will supply clean water for use in desalination and water purification applications.

U.N. warns world could have 40% water shortfall by 2030

March 20, 2015 8:15 am | by Katy Daigle, AP Environment Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

The world could suffer a 40% shortfall in water in just 15 years unless countries dramatically change their use of the resource, a U.N. report warned Friday. Many underground water reserves are already running low, while rainfall patterns are predicted to become more erratic with climate change.

Massive amounts of fresh water, glacial melt pouring into Gulf of Alaska

March 20, 2015 8:00 am | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

Incessant mountain rain, snow and melting glaciers in a comparatively small region of land that hugs the southern Alaska coast and empties fresh water into the Gulf of Alaska would create the sixth largest coastal river in the world if it emerged as a single stream, a recent study shows.

U.S. climate change envoy: China, U.S. working closer on deal

March 20, 2015 6:04 am | by Jack Chang, Associated Press | News | Comments

A U.S. envoy for climate change said Friday that China and the U.S. are working more closely than ever ahead of a conference this year in Paris that raises hopes for a global plan to cut greenhouse emissions. Special Envoy Todd Stern told reporters in Beijing that he still expects hard negotiations between many countries in advance of the U.N. summit.

Ocean pipes “not cool”, would end up warming climate

March 19, 2015 1:52 pm | by Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

To combat global climate change caused by greenhouse gases, alternative energy sources and other types of environmental recourse actions are needed. There are a variety of proposals that involve using vertical ocean pipes to move seawater to the surface from the depths in order to reap different potential climate benefits.

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In climatic tug of war, carbon released from thawing permafrost wins handily

March 18, 2015 3:55 pm | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

There’s a carbon showdown brewing in the Arctic as Earth’s climate changes. On one side, thawing permafrost could release enormous amounts of long-frozen carbon into the atmosphere. On the opposing side, as high-latitude regions warm, plants will grow more quickly, which means they’ll take in more carbon from the atmosphere. Whichever side wins will have a big impact on the carbon cycle and the planet’s climate.

Many plastics labeled “biodegradable” don’t break down as expected

March 18, 2015 1:43 pm | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Plastic products advertised as biodegradable have recently emerged, but they sound almost too good to be true. Scientists have now found out that, at least for now, consumers have good reason to doubt these claims. In a new study appearing in Environmental Science & Technology, plastics designed to degrade didn’t break down any faster than their more conventional counterparts.

A better way of scrubbing carbon dioxide

March 17, 2015 12:46 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A means by which the removal of carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants might one day be done far more efficiently and at far lower costs than today has been discovered by a team of researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. By appending a diamine molecule to the sponge-like solid materials known as MOFs, the researchers were able to more than triple the carbon dioxide-scrubbing capacity of the MOFs.

East Antarctica melting could be explained by oceanic gateways

March 16, 2015 3:46 pm | by Monica Kortsha, Univ. of Texas at Austin | News | Comments

Researchers at The Univ. of Texas at Austin have discovered two seafloor gateways that could allow warm ocean water to reach the base of Totten Glacier, East Antarctica’s largest and most rapidly thinning glacier. The discovery probably explains the glacier’s extreme thinning and raises concerns about how it will affect sea level rise.

Finding fault: New information may help understand earthquakes

March 16, 2015 8:58 am | by Larry Rivais, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst | News | Comments

New modeling and analyses of fault geometry in the Earth's crust by geoscientist Michele Cooke and colleagues at the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst are advancing knowledge about fault development in regions where one geologic plate slides past or over another, such as along California's San Andreas Fault and the Denali Fault in central Alaska.

Carbon emissions stabilize despite growing economy

March 13, 2015 1:48 pm | by Associated Press | News | Comments

Global energy emissions stayed stable last year even though the economy grew, according to data released Friday that could boost chances for a landmark climate accord later this year. The rising use of renewable energy, particularly in China, played a role in keeping emissions from the energy sector to 32.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide last year, the same as in 2013, the International Energy Agency said.

Just Released A Product At Pittcon? Enter It Into the R&D 100 Awards

March 11, 2015 8:42 am | by Lindsay Hock, Editor | News | Comments

The editors of R&D Magazine have announced an eligibility extension for products to be entered into the 2015 R&D 100 Awards. The 2015 R&D 100 Awards will honor products, technologies and services that have been introduced to the market between January 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015.

Hunting for meteorites

March 10, 2015 1:52 pm | by Julia Evangelou Strait, WUSTL | News | Comments

Every austral summer, a group of volunteers heads off to a remote region of Antarctica to set up a field camp on the ice. For the next month, they search the ice and nearby debris piles left by glaciers for dark rocks that might be extraterrestrial in origin. The program is called the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET).

Bird Study Finds Older Parents Have Fewer Grandkids

March 10, 2015 8:44 am | by Max Planck Institute for Ornithology | News | Comments

In a long term study on a population of house sparrows, researchers found that offspring of older parents themselves produced fewer young. Such a transgenerational effect is important for the understanding of the evolution of longevity.

Team Sees Circadian Clock Gene that Strengthens Crop

March 10, 2015 7:00 am | by Dartmouth | News | Comments

Researchers have identified a circadian clock gene that helps a key crop plant to withstand extreme cold and salty conditions, which could help to develop hardier crops with improved yield. The next step is to extend these studies to corn, rice, wheat and soybean, the world's four major crops.  

Methane in Lake Traced to Seasonal Thawing

March 10, 2015 7:00 am | by UC Santa Cruz | News | Comments

Scientists have long known that Arctic lakes emit methane, which comes primarily from the action of microbes in the water and lake sediments. Global warming may ramp up the flow of methane from groundwater into Arctic lakes, allowing more of the potent greenhouse gas to bubble out into the atmosphere.

Researchers Explain How Aluminum Damages Crops

March 9, 2015 10:02 am | by The Univ. of Queensland | News | Comments

One third of the world’s food-producing land has been lost in the past 40 years as a result of soil degradation, putting global food security at risk. Researchers have discovered how aluminum, a toxic result of soil acidification, acts to reduce plant growth.  

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