In recent years there has been a great deal of discussion about animal intelligence and the idea of animal consciousness. In the past, the notion that animals have feelings had been relegated to fringe status, but these days, a wealth of scientific findings has made it much more mainstream to entertain such ideas.
The revered biologist E. O. Wilson once said that “if all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”
A growing body of work is leading to the conclusion that it may be nearly impossible to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) because we are simply not reducing emissions quickly enough. By some estimates, the current level of emissions will lock in that large a gain within the next few years. At that point, the only way to reverse the effects is to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, where it otherwise will stay for hundreds to thousands of years.
According to a new study recently published in the scientific journal Nature, some hurricanes are moving slower and spending more time over land, which is leading to catastrophic rainfall and flooding. The speed at which hurricanes track along their paths – known as translational speed – can play a major role in a storm’s damage and devastation. 17
It is often said that biodiversity is crucial for staving off extinctions. Ecosystems are complex and are essentially defined by the interdependencies among the various animals and plants. It stands to reason that removing species from an ecosystem can have significant effects up and down the food chain. Extinctions are much more likely when biodiversity diminishes.
Many extreme weather events are associated with unusual behavior by the jet stream. Jet streams are the global air currents that circle the earth. The meandering and speed changes in the jet stream affect weather and also play a big role in how long it takes aircraft to make their way across the country. The behavior that leads to extreme weather events is known as “blocking” in which the meandering jet stream stops weather systems from moving eastward.
With the United States backing away from the Paris climate agreement and with Europe taking a less active role in climate negotiations, China has become the bellwether on global climate change. Recent climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany were rather acrimonious as countries accused other countries of not doing their part or keeping their promises.
Nine years ago, engineer Richard Jenkins broke the world land speed record for a wind-powered vehicle with a sailboat on wheels driving across a dry lakebed at 126 miles per hour. After years of engineering development, his technology has now taken on the form of a saildrone that can autonomously sail the sea gathering ecologic, oceanic and atmospheric data.
Few of us cook with palm oil or have ever even seen the stuff. Nevertheless, 50% of all packaged grocery items – everything from ice cream and pizza to detergents and cosmetics – include it as an ingredient. The global market for palm oil was $65 billion in 2015, and that number was projected to grow by more than 7% each year through 2021.
In the past, coral conservationists focused their efforts on protecting reefs from direct environmental threats such as land-based pollution and damaging fishing practices. These efforts continue, but as coral reefs face increasingly dire threats, conservationists are turning toward more proactive approaches.
Large areas of forests in our country are vulnerable to drought, fires and disease. When forests are heavily damaged, there are well-known local impacts: drier soils, stronger winds, increased erosion, loss of shade and loss of habitat.
Philadelphia, America’s fifth largest city, has struggled with storm water runoff problems since the days of Benjamin Franklin. The city’s numerous streams that run into the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers were eventually covered with brick arches or cemented into underground sewers. The network of underground-to-riverfront outfalls through increasingly-larger pipes is pretty much how all U.S. cities have been coping with storm water for over 200 years.
Rising temperatures, drought, pests and diseases are moving north into the U.S. heartland and are increasingly posing a threat to the wheat crop. An insect called the Hessian fly is reducing crop yields by 10% a year in the Midwest. Average temperatures in the Midwest have risen by 2 degrees since 2000, and periods of time between rainfalls is lengthening. Conditions in some areas of the Midwest are getting to be more like those in the Middle East.
Tourism is a significant contributor to global gross domestic product. Furthermore, it is growing at an annual rate of 4%, more than many other economic sectors. There are many places around the world where it is the largest industry. But until recently, there really wasn’t very good information about its carbon footprint.
U.S. automakers have always been reluctant partners in the nation’s efforts to reduce air pollution and improve fuel efficiency. There have been struggles for decades between the carmakers and the government in setting Corporate Average Fuel Economy (or CAFÉ) standards. During the Obama administration, some of the most demanding fuel economy and emissions standards were mandated.
Automated cars are coming, but they face many challenges in sharing the roads with human drivers. The on-board sensors in these cars are very effective in many ways, but they cannot see around corners or see through buses or trucks. They won’t know if six cars ahead, someone has slammed on their breaks leading to a chain-reaction collision. Of course, human drivers have the same problems.
According to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, more than half a million new jobs were generated by the renewable energy industry last year, an increase of 5.3% when compared with 2016. The total number of people working in the renewables sector – which includes large hydropower facilities – has now exceeded 10 million people worldwide.
The climate is warming. The average global temperature is going up year after year, bringing about significant changes to weather around the world. But the fact is that these changes don’t always lead to warmer weather. And ordinary variations in local weather can also go in either direction.