Satellites orbiting the earth are becoming an increasingly powerful tool for counting and monitoring wildlife populations and to answer a host of other questions about the natural world.
Microbeads are little spheres of plastic less than half a millimeter in diameter that are added to a variety of personal care and cleaning products such as cosmetics, sunscreens and fillers. They give these products a desirable smooth texture. However, they are so small that sewage filtration systems can’t remove them and they end up in rivers and oceans where they are ingested by birds, fish and other marine life.
The methanol economy is an idea that was promoted by the late Nobel-prize-winning chemist George Olah since the 1990s. The idea is to replace fossil fuels with methanol for energy storage, ground transportation fuel, and raw material for hydrocarbon-based products. Methanol is the simplest alcohol and can be produced from a wide variety of sources ranging from fossil fuels to agricultural products to just carbon dioxide. Methanol can be used directly as a fuel or it can be reformed into hydrogen, which can then itself be used as a fuel.
Plastics clogging up our landfills and polluting our oceans are a scourge of modern life and we struggle with ways to combat this growing problem. The biggest issue is that most plastics are simply not biodegradable. Polyethylene, the common plastic found in shopping bags and numerous other products, takes between 100 and 400 years to degrade in a landfill.
Scientists at UC Berkeley and MIT have demonstrated a water harvester that uses only sunlight to pull liters of water out of the air each day in conditions as low as 20% humidity, a level common in arid areas.
Sea lions in California are under duress from a rather unassuming source: algae. Driven by higher water temperatures and pollution, toxic algae is leading to fatal brain damage in many California sea lions.
On several occasions, we have talked about the enormous amount of plastic that litters the world’s oceans. Bits of bottles, bags, toys, fishing nets and other objects collect in gyres, or so-called garbage patches, which have grown and grown over the decades.
There are many environmental problems associated with ruminant livestock and these problems continue to grow as the demand for meat-rich diets increases around the world. One of the biggest problems is that cows emit methane through eructation (or belching) as they chew their cud. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, some 25 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. More than a quarter of all human-originated methane going into the atmosphere comes from raising livestock.
One of the most exciting possibilities for future solar energy technology is that of solar cells that can be sprayed or printed on to surfaces like the windows of skyscrapers, the roofs of sports utility vehicles, or the walls of houses. And the expectation is that such technology would be far cheaper than today’s silicon-based solar panels.
Most of the planet’s freshwater stores are found in the northern hemisphere, a region that is changing rapidly in response to human activity and shifting climate trends. A recent study analyzed 147 northern lakes and found that many rely on nutrients from tree leaves, pine needles, and other land-grown plants to feed aquatic life.
Public opinion about global warming is an important influence on decision making about policies to combat global warming and to be prepared for its consequences. An extensive polling effort by Yale University has produced an estimate of public opinions down to state, congressional district, and county levels.
According to a new paper published in the journal Nature, global warming has damaged huge sections of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The authors of the paper warn that the resilience of the reef – which is the world’s largest living structure – is waning rapidly.
One of the arguments some people make when discussing human causes of climate change is that people can’t cause such massive changes. However, there is a long historical record of human-driven ecological and climatic change in Europe, North America and New Zealand, among other places.
This Saturday is Earth Day and it’s also the occasion for the March for Science taking place in Washington, DC and in many other cities around the world. The purpose is to express support for scientific research and evidence-based policies in a tumultuous political environment.
DNA analysis has become commonplace and inexpensive. Millions of people have their DNA tested to learn about their origins and family connections. And the technology has spread to biological research in the form of Environmental DNA or eDNA, which is such a powerful tool that it is transforming the field of wildlife biology.
Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles are just starting to enter the market but they have a long way to go before they can even catch up with their battery-powered counterparts. Powering cars with hydrogen has the advantage that fueling the vehicle is much like what we are used to: pull up to the pump, fill your tank for a few minutes, and drive off.
Most of the world has accepted the analysis of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists that shows that our planet is warming and that our actions are the primary cause. However, some people – notably a number holding high office – reject this analysis. What exactly does it imply to say that climate change is not happening or is not caused by us?
We recently brought you the rediscovery story of cave squeakers. These tiny frogs, known for their high-pitched whistling calls, were native to the mountainous region of eastern Zimbabwe but had not been seen since 1962. That all changed in late 2016, when researchers found four cave squeakers, confirming that after 58 years the species was not extinct. Cave squeakers remain critically endangered according to the IUCN’s Red List of Endangered Species.
Regardless of the new administration’s position on climate change, America’s corporations have assumed a leadership role in the country’s ability to meet and beat previous domestic climate pledges.