Climate Change

Carbon footprints don’t raise environmental commitment

Carbon footprints don’t raise environmental commitmentCalculating ecological footprints is a technique to quantify a person’s impact on the environment. This calculation determines how much land and sea area is required to both provide for consumption and to absorb waste. A similar technique is determining carbon footprint, which calculates the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by a person or household.

The purpose of both these techniques is to give people a better grasp of the impact of their behavior and choices on the environment. The intent is that, armed with that such knowledge, people would make better choices. A recent study indicated, however, that such techniques might have the opposite effect, particularly for people who don’t have a strong commitment being environmentally responsible.

According to Santa Clara University psychologist Amara Brook:

Researchers look to geoengineer a way out of global warming

Researchers look to geoengineer a way out of global warmingIn spite of the imaginings of climate deniers, the world is getting warmer with potentially catastrophic consequences. As politicians dither, climate researchers are not only talking about the weather, but also are considering doing something about it. They are exploring geoengineering solutions to mitigate global warming. But does the risk of geoengineering outweigh its benefits?

So what is geoengineering? Geoengineering can be defined into two broad categories: technologies that absorb carbon dioxide and address the root cause of global warming, and technologies that reduce solar radiation and address the effect of global warming.

Fart in a jar: scatological solutions to energy needs

Save gas, fart in a jar: scatological solutions to energy needsCars first began to sport bumper stickers that read “Save Gas, Fart in a Jar” during the oil shocks of the 1970’s. Now as gasoline prices again spike, this tongue-in-cheek advice may actually be on to something. Rather than relying on biofuels that are derived from food crops, renewable energy developed from food that the body already processed and eliminated might be a solution to our energy needs. Two technologies purport to do just that: to turn urine and excrement into energy.

Natural gas development: our future or our folly?

Natural gas development: our future or our folly?Natural gas is touted as a transitional fuel to a carbon-free future. And due to the recent development of shale gas technology, the US now has a lot of it. Natural gas is presented as a clean replacement for coal and as a solution to decrease carbon dioxide emissions. But will replacing one fossil fuel with another really address climate change?

The Marcellus shale gas formation, which underlays southern New York and most of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, is the second largest known gas reserve in the world. And the Utica formation below the Marcellus shale may even be larger. Based on these reserves, natural gas companies in Pennsylvania are anticipating a 200-year horizon for gas development. Such a horizon would ensure that the industry would remain a potent economic generator in this overwhelmingly rural area for a long time.

Can green energy solutions thwart Exxon’s gloomy outlook?

Can green energy solutions thwart Exxon’s gloomy outlook?Even with advances in green energy technology, fossil fuels still are needed to meet most of the world’s energy demand, and, according to ExxonMobil, will continue do so in the foreseeable future. ExxonMobil also forecasts that carbon dioxide emissions will rise significantly in the next 20 years. But all is not doom and gloom: a new study concludes that existing green energy solutions could reduce energy demand by 85%.

Lack of scientific literacy hampers global warming debate

Lack of scientific literacy hampers global warming debateIn the hotly contested debate of global warming, figuring out whom to believe can be confusing. Every argument has a counter-argument; every scientific “fact” seems to have a counter-fact. Most positions seemed to governed by ideology and belief (and perhaps campaign contributions) rather than reason. A recent study also indicates that a lack of understanding of the carbon cycle also contributes to the confusion.

When it comes to climate change, there are three possibilities to consider: 1) global warming is not occurring, 2) global warming is a natural phenomenon and there’s nothing to be done about it, or 3) global warming is caused by humans. To debate any of these positions persuasively requires an understanding of scientific principles such as the conservation of mass and the carbon cycle.

Melting ice sparks global warming debate, but who’s right?

Melting ice sparks a global warming debate, but who’s right? The crux of proving global warming hinges directly on the ability of science to suggest a trend or hypothesis that can be true over an extended period of time. Although the recent scientific study done by the University of Michigan only spans 3 decades, researchers believe the data that shows the cryosphere’s melting trend may be a significant finding for the relevancy of global warming. But is it just a short glimpse in an otherwise sinusoidal pattern?

Mark Flanner of the University of Michigan conducted the study of the Northern Hemisphere that analyzed satellite data of the earth’s cryosphere — the area on the earth’s surface covered by water in a solid form such as ice, snow, or even frozen ground.

Hopes of proving global warming killing penguins?

Hopes of proving global warming killing penguins?How about this for irony. The very tags that French scientists hoped would answer the intriguing yet puzzling questions of climate change on animals like penguins was actually the detrimental cause of impaired survival and reproduction skills in the penguins paired with scientist-applied metal bands and data chips.

In an effort to track the effect of climate change on penguins’ health living in the Crozet Islands, a sub-Antarctic archipelago of small islands, scientists placed metal bands on 50 penguins and data chips on 50 other penguins. The goal was to track the overall health of the colony by monitoring those with the bands and chips. Ironically, those with the metal bands and chips became more the handicapped runts than the glorified test subjects set to prove global warning that the scientists hoped they would be.

Ideas for sustainable eating that might make you turn green

Ideas for sustainable eating that might make you turn greenEnvironmental issues, such as invasive species or global warming, seem to be huge problems and to require equally huge efforts to be solved. But everyone eats, and choosing to eat more sustainably can be a simple way to both nourish the body and improve the environment. Provided, of course, that the menu doesn’t make you turn green.

Invasive species, such as lionfish or Asian carp, can wreck ecosystems and cause both environmental and economic damage. Lionfish – a native of the Indian Ocean and prized as an exotic fish – were released into the Gulf of Mexico in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew destroyed aquariums in south Florida. Lionfish are now decimating native reef fish. Asian carp were imported by catfish farmers to control algae growth in their ponds. The Mississippi floods of the in the early 1990’s allowed the carp to escape and take over the Mississippi river system. The carp are not only voracious eaters, they also are known to fly into the air and injure boaters.

Obama’s tax cut deal extends questionable biofuels credits

biofuelEven as the Senate extends tax credits for ethanol, more questions are being raised about the impact of corn-based ethanol on land use. New research indicates, however, that an alternative source for ethanol may be found in the sea.

The tax cut deal recently passed by the Senate includes a 45-cent credit per gallon of ethanol blended with gasoline and a 54-cent tariff on imported ethanol (the tariff specially targets ethanol imported from Brazil, which is made more economically from sugar cane). Extending the tax credit and tariff reaffirms the commitment of the US – at least for another year – to develop the corn-based ethanol industry, in spite of concerns that the overall effect of the policy may be doing more harm than good.

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