Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee were trying to find a series of chemical reactions that could turn carbon dioxide into a useful fuel. But the unexpected occurred: they found that the first step in their process actually got the job done all by itself. The reaction turns CO2 into ethanol, which is already used to power generators and vehicles.
Most of the blame for climate change has been placed on the growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but methane also plays a major role. Estimates are that about 1/5 of greenhouse effect warming is caused by methane in the atmosphere. There is far less of it than carbon dioxide, but methane is tremendously more effective at trapping heat.
According to a recent study published in the journal Global Change Biology, rising CO2 levels in the ocean can disrupt the sensory systems of fish and can even make them swim toward predators and ignore the sounds that normally deter them from risky habitats.
Recently, negotiators from more than 170 countries reached a legally binding accord in Kigali, Rwanda to cut the use of hydroflurocarbons, or HFCs, which are chemical coolants used in air conditioners and refrigerators. HFCs are just a small percentage of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but they are supercharged greenhouse gases that have 1,000 times the heat-trapping potency of carbon dioxide.
The Canadian government has chosen a carbon tax as its national policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This aggressive move could have major repercussions around the world.
Back in December of 2013, a little less than three years ago, Earth Wise reported that the observatory on Mauna Loa in Hawaii had briefly measured carbon dioxide levels greater than 400 parts per million for the first time ever. During the following year, readings above the 400 level started to pop up occasionally elsewhere as well.
Trees are the number one way in which carbon can be removed from the atmosphere and stored in vegetation over the long term. A single tree can absorb CO2 at a rate of 48 pounds per year. Because of this, the carbon footprints of 18 average Americans can be neutralized by one acre of hardwood trees. And it has been found that managed forests accumulate more carbon per acre than unmanaged forests.
Forests are a vital part of biodiversity and are one of the planet’s most important natural repositories for carbon dioxide. They are also continually under attack by multiple forces: more mouths to feed, more wood needed to burn and build with, more paper to manufacture, and more land needed to graze cattle.
The boom in natural gas drilling by conventional methods and by fracking has led to a spike in methane emissions from pipelines, storage tanks, processing facilities, and other parts of the natural gas system. Natural gas is mostly composed of methane, so these emissions constitute waste and lost revenues. But they also represent a serious environmental problem because methane is 25 times more effective in trapping atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide.
The Carbon XPrize is a five-year, $20 million competition to identify ways to convert carbon emissions into successful, profitable and useful products. Forty-seven organizations from seven countries are competing for the prizes and include large companies, startups and university researchers.
NASA data show that the Earth’s temperature in July was the highest recorded since record-keeping began 136 years ago. It was also the 10th straight month of record-breaking temperatures and was .18 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the previous hottest July in 2011.