The Amazon rainforest is the biggest in the world. In fact, it’s larger than the next two rainforests combined. The Amazon rainforest covers more than three million square miles, roughly the size of the lower 48 states. It functions as a critical sink for carbon in the atmosphere, and is home to 10% of all known species in the world. The region’s biodiversity is so rich that scientists are still discovering new plant and animal species today.
The threat of extinction of many animal species is something that makes headlines. But there are also thousands of critically endangered plants in the world and that situation has not generated nearly the same sense of urgency. Some biologists have used the term “plant blindness” to describe humanity’s inability to appreciate the ecological and economic importance of plants.
Honeybees, which play a critical role in agriculture by pollinating crops, are not native to the United States. Beekeepers manage most honeybee colonies and they move the bees around to support farmers.
As extreme weather events become increasingly common, arctic ice disappears, and wildfires burn for weeks on end, many people wonder just what it will take to change some of the entrenched opinions about climate change.
A recent study by Harvard University researchers published in two papers looked at the environmental impact of installing sufficient wind power to meet all the energy needs of the US. While doing so would be far better for the environment than burning coal, it would not have negligible impacts.
PCBs belong to a broad family of man-made organic chemicals known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. PCBs were once widely used in electrical equipment like capacitors and transformers, as well as in paints, dyes, and heat transfer fluids.
Oil and gas are typically produced together. If oil wells are located near gas pipelines, then the gas gets used. But if the wells are far offshore, or it is not economical to get the gas to market, then oil companies get rid of the gas by burning it – a process known as flaring.
Food waste is a huge problem. About a third of all food produced globally goes to waste, and the numbers are even worse in the US. If food waste was a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Worse yet, all of this takes place in a world where 850 million people are chronically undernourished.
Last year, China was the first country to reach the milestone of having one million electric cars. This year, China will add another million plug-in vehicles. Of course, with its huge population, China sells four times as many cars in total per year as any other country.
Researchers have for the first time calculated the capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon. The detailed analysis by UC Santa Cruz and collaborators in China and Arizona considers two key factors: the natural process of forest growth and regeneration, and effects brought about by climate change.
Brazil is the world’s second largest producer of ethanol fuel behind the United States. More than that, it has the first sustainable biofuel economy, which is based on sugarcane ethanol, not corn ethanol. It is sustainable because of Brazil’s advanced agri-industrial technology and its enormous amount of arable land. Furthermore, producing sugarcane ethanol is far more energy-efficient than corn ethanol. It actually makes energy sense to produce it.
This summer has seen record heat in many places and some record-breaking wildfires. In short, it looks a lot like the future that scientists have been warning about in the era of climate change. And still some people continue to argue about whether anything is happening to the climate.
The ascendance of natural gas over coal during the past decade has been driven primarily by fracking technology that has provided large quantities of the stuff at low prices. But beyond that, there are environmental issues as well. Natural gas emits 50 to 60% less carbon dioxide when combusted in a new, efficient natural gas power plant compared with emission from a typical new coal plant. It appears to be a win-win situation.
In recent times, there has been a downward trend in water use in the United States. It has been driven by increasingly efficient use of critical water resources in the face of persistent droughts in various parts of the country and awareness of the importance of conserving this resource.
One way or another, the fossil fuel industry seems to be destined to shrink away. A combination of technological advances and climate policies are going to drastically reduce the global demand for fossil fuels over the course of time. New research shows that the demise of the fossil fuel industry will have profound consequences.
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.
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.