Climate Newsprint

The fate of Britain's environment rests on a cabinet tug of war

The Guardian Climate Change - Fri, 07/15/2016 - 11:18

Free-market red tape slashers are pitched against ministers backing a clean, green economy as the UK’s best long term bet. But who will win out?

The cast has changed following Theresa May’s reshuffle, but the play remains the same. It’s a struggle pitching free-market red tape slashers against those backing a clean, green economy as the UK’s best long term bet. The big question is whether this performance will have a different ending.

The performance directed by David Cameron was full of good lines - “the greenest government ever” – but the reviews, even by him, were poor: “cut the green crap”.

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Categories: Climate Newsprint

Clean energy won’t save us – only a new economic system can do that

The Guardian Climate Change - Fri, 07/15/2016 - 11:00

It’s time to pour our creative energies into imagining a new global economy. Infinite growth is a dangerous illusion

Earlier this year media outlets around the world announced that February had broken global temperature records by a shocking amount. March broke all the records, too. In June our screens were covered with surreal images of Paris flooding, the Seine bursting its banks and flowing into the streets. In London, the floods sent water pouring into the tube system right in the heart of Covent Garden. Roads in south-east London became rivers two metres deep.

With such extreme events becoming more commonplace, few deny climate change any longer. Finally, a consensus is crystallising around one all-important fact: fossil fuels are killing us. We need to switch to clean energy, and fast.

What would we do with 100% clean energy? Exactly what we’re doing with fossil fuels

Related: Forget 'developing' poor countries, it's time to 'de-develop' rich countries

If we keep growing at 3% a year, that means that every 20 years we need to double the size of the global economy

Related: The pope v the UN: who will save the world first?

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Categories: Climate Newsprint

Humans are greening the planet, but the implications are complicated | John Abraham

The Guardian Climate Change - Fri, 07/15/2016 - 10:00

New study shows humans are influence the growth patterns of plants, but it’s not as simple as ‘greener is better’

The Earth’s climate is changing – in fact, it always changes. But in the current context of human influence, scientists try to decipher how much of the change is natural compared to human-induced.

One clear way humans influence the Earth is through the biosystem. For instance, farming changes the biosystem. By removing natural growth and planting annual crops that are harvested, we change the system in a way that could in turn affect other parts of the Earth system. In addition, the use of nitrogen based fertilizers can increase growth rate and lead to a greening of areas that are subject to fertilization.

The study shows that humans have caused significant hemispheric-scale changes in vegetation characteristics over the past three decades, predominantly through the physiological effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration on plant growth.

About one quarter of the carbon dioxide placed annually into the atmosphere by fossil fuel combustion has been hypothesized to be removed through enhanced vegetation growth and accumulation of organic carbon in land ecosystems. This study provides statistically robust evidence that vegetation growth is enhanced by higher carbon dioxide concentrations. Land ecosystems insulate society from some of the consequences of our alteration of the chemical composition of the atmosphere.

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Categories: Climate Newsprint

Abolition of Decc 'major setback for UK's climate change efforts'

The Guardian Climate Change - Fri, 07/15/2016 - 07:45

Ex-ministers and environmental groups condemn decision to axe ministry as downgrading action to tackle climate change

The abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change has been condemned by former ministers as a major setback to British efforts to combat global warming.

Decc was closed in a series of sweeping changes to the government unveiled by the new prime minister, Theresa May, on Thursday. Its functions, which include representing the UK at international climate talks, responsibility for meeting carbon targets and levying subsidies for green energy, have been transferred to a beefed-up business department led by Greg Clark.

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Categories: Climate Newsprint

Matt Ridley accused of lobbying UK government on behalf of coal industry

The Guardian Climate Change - Fri, 07/15/2016 - 05:00

Emails show the journalist and businessman wrote to UK energy minister to tell him about a US company with ‘fascinating new technology’

An influential Conservative member of the House of Lords has been accused of lobbying the government for the benefit of the coal industry, despite previously saying he does not argue for the industry’s interests.

Viscount Matt Ridley, a journalist and businessman, benefits financially from coalmines on his estate and has used his column in the Times newspaper to downplay the seriousness of climate change.

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Categories: Climate Newsprint

[Editorial] Hazards without disasters

Science Magazine - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:00
A natural hazard need not become a human disaster if society learns and applies lessons in preparation and resilience. Earthquake history speaks well to this—engineered structures need to stand up to strong shaking. Chile learned this lesson before its 2010 earthquake of magnitude 8.8. Because it had already enforced seismic provisions of building codes, there was little loss of life due to damage to buildings. Engineered structures also performed very well during the giant 2011 Tohoku earthquake in northeast Japan; however, approximately 20,000 lives were lost to the ensuing tsunami. What survival strategies are available for communities at risk for tsunamis? Author: Marcia McNutt
Categories: Climate Newsprint

[In Brief] News at a glance

Science Magazine - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:00
In science news around the world, the United States sets final safety regulations for oil and gas drilling in its Arctic waters, Australian researchers announce that the AIDS epidemic in the country is over—but caution that too many people are still being infected with HIV, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration halts a trial of a cancer drug following the deaths of three young adults with leukemia, French researchers sharply criticize the nomination of a policy expert rather than a scientist as the next head of the country's agricultural research institute, and more. Also, an Italian judge clears bird flu expert Ilaria Capua of a series of criminal charges brought against her 2 years ago. And the world's largest population of chinstrap penguins may be in peril because of an erupting volcano on their remote south Atlantic island.
Categories: Climate Newsprint

[In Depth] Cyclists' favorite drug falls flat in trial

Science Magazine - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:00
In June, Dutch scientists finished the largest study yet to find out whether erythropoietin (EPO), a drug popular among professional cyclists, really enhances athletic performance. The researchers recruited 48 trained amateur cyclists and gave them either EPO or a placebo for 8 weeks. Participants were subjected to seven endurance tests, culminating in a race up the Mont Ventoux in France, one of cycling's legendary ascents. The researchers are still analyzing results but have already shared one key outcome: Riders on EPO weren't faster than those on placebo. Other researchers find it hard to believe that EPO would do nothing, based on previous studies and athletes' stories. But they applaud the team for subjecting EPO to a large randomized controlled trial, the gold standard in medicine. Author: Martin Enserink
Categories: Climate Newsprint

[In Depth] First farmers' motley roots

Science Magazine - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:00
Farming was such a good idea when it was invented 10,000 to 12,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent that it was quickly adopted by several different groups of people. According to three teams who used new techniques to gain glimpses of the nuclear DNA of the world's very first farmers, farming was adopted by at least three genetically distinct groups scattered across the Middle East and Anatolia. The research found that early farmers of Israel and Jordan were genetically distinct from those in the Zagros Mountains, and that both populations were distinct from the western Anatolians. This shows that farming wasn't spread initially by just one group of people, but that it was invented more than once—or was an idea that spread rapidly between groups. Author: Ann Gibbons
Categories: Climate Newsprint

[In Depth] Brain scans are prone to false positives, study says

Science Magazine - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:00
A new study suggests that common settings used in software for analyzing brain scans may lead to false positive results. Researchers led by Anders Eklund, an electrical engineer at Linköping University in Sweden, analyzed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from several public databases. Certain software settings, the team found, could give rise to a false positive result up to 70% of the time. In the context of a typical fMRI experiment, that could lead researchers to wrongly conclude that activity in a certain area of the brain plays a role in a cognitive function such as perception or memory. Author: Greg Miller
Categories: Climate Newsprint

[In Depth] A time capsule from Bronze Age Britain

Science Magazine - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:00
Reconstructing daily life in the Bronze Age has been difficult in northern Europe. Most houses were poorly preserved, traced out by postholes or barren remains of hearths, and offer up only meager fragments of pottery. A major excavation near Peterborough, U.K., promises to fill in the picture. Archaeologists have dug up 3000-year-old roundhouses that were perched on stilts above a river, perhaps for defense or facilitating trade. The building materials and much of the contents are well-preserved because the five houses were quickly abandoned during a fire and then collapsed into a river. The rich array of artifacts includes textiles, wooden objects, metal tools, and complete sets of pottery. The arrangement of artifacts could indicate how various sections of the houses were used and perhaps new details about diet. The fact that all the buildings burned down, apparently at the same time, and the belongings were left behind, suggests the fires may have been part of an attack. Author: Erik Stokstad
Categories: Climate Newsprint

[Feature] The Avenger

Science Magazine - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:00
David Fajgenbaum was in his third year of medical school at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) 6 years ago, on an obstetrics-gynecology rotation, when he was first hit by night sweats, fatigue, and weight loss. His eventual diagnosis: a deadly form of Castleman disease, a rare immune disorder for which knowledge was in depressingly short supply. So Fajgenbaum decided to dedicate himself to taking down this disease. He abandoned plans to become an oncologist, skipped medical residency, and enrolled in business school instead—building a powerhouse network of hundreds of physicians, researchers, and drug company employees around the world to help him decipher Castleman. He co-authored papers with his doctor, wrote a case study about himself, proposed a new model of the disease, and currently coordinates a dozen Castleman studies from his small office at UPenn, where he is an assistant professor. Author: Jennifer Couzin-Frankel
Categories: Climate Newsprint

[Perspective] Butterfly communities under threat

Science Magazine - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:00
Butterflies are better documented and monitored worldwide than any other nonpest taxon of insects (1). In the United Kingdom alone, volunteer recorders have sampled more than 750,000 km of repeat transects since 1976, equivalent to walking to the Moon and back counting butterflies (2). Such programs are revealing regional extinctions and population declines that began before 1900 (3, 4). In a recent study, Habel et al. report a similar story based on inventories of butterflies and burnet moths since 1840 in a protected area in Bavaria, Germany (5). The results reveal severe species losses: Scarce, specialized butterflies have largely disappeared, leaving ecosystems dominated by common generalist ones. Similar trends are seen across Europe (6) and beyond, with protected areas failing to conserve many species for which they were once famed. Author: Jeremy A. Thomas
Categories: Climate Newsprint

[Perspective] Chromatin controls behavior

Science Magazine - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:00
Chromatin structure stabilizes and compacts the genome to package it within the nucleus. This structure also serves as a dynamic regulator of gene expression, silencing or activating transcription depending on molecular signals impinging upon it. It has been understood for the past two decades that chromatin stabilizes gene readout after cell-fate determination, establishing and perpetuating the precise pattern of genes transcribed in a given cell to maintain its phenotype (1, 2). But what about dynamic regulation of chromatin structure and its biological role? On page 300 of this issue, Yang et al. (3) describe how dynamic regulation of chromatin remodeling controls cerebellar circuit development, function, and cerebellum-dependent learning and memory, and challenge prevailing epigenetics dogma in the central nervous system. Author: J. David Sweatt
Categories: Climate Newsprint

[Perspective] How much biodiversity loss is too much?

Science Magazine - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:00
How much of something do we need to keep people safe and well? This question is frequently asked by those working in risk management. Across diverse sectors from flood protection to health care, practitioners assess risk as the product of the impact of a given event and the probability of its occurrence. Although these estimates are often uncertain, policy-makers must ultimately make spending decisions aimed at averting these risks, because the costs of inaction to society can be substantial. Biodiversity loss is a similarly critical, yet uncertain, issue. On page 288 of this issue, Newbold et al. (1) quantify global biodiversity losses, providing much-needed information on the encroachment of proposed “safe limits.” Author: Tom H. Oliver
Categories: Climate Newsprint

[Perspective] Ferroelectric chalcogenides—materials at the edge

Science Magazine - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:00
A ferroelectric material possesses an intrinsic electric dipole (polarization) whose direction can be reversed with an applied field. Applications of ferroelectrics include nonvolatile memories and sensors, but for high-density electronic devices or nanoscale devices, a limitation has been that as a ferroelectric film gets thinner, the maximum temperature for retaining the dipole—the Curie temperature Tc—decreases (often well below room temperature). On page 274 of this issue, Chang et al. (1) show that ultrathin layers of tin telluride (SnTe) can display robust, room-temperature, ferroelectric properties with higher Tc than that of the bulk material. Authors: Bart J. Kooi, Beatriz Noheda
Categories: Climate Newsprint

[Perspective] Thinking abstractly like a duck(ling)

Science Magazine - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:00
In the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, when one of a trio of bungling prison escapees angrily asks another, “Who elected you leader of this outfit?” his buddy smugly quips, “I figured it should be the one with the capacity for abstract thought.” Indeed, abstract conceptual thought is held to be so central to being human that the idea of someone being incapable of this kind of thinking is a subject for (sometimes rather cruel) humor. Interest in understanding the capacity for abstract thought has been a matter of serious consideration that dates back at least three centuries to the famous English philosopher John Locke. Locke confidently contended that “brutes abstract not” (1) and insisted that exhibiting abstract thought definitively divided humans from all other animals. However, no science then existed to confirm or refute Locke's contention. On page 286 of this issue, Martinho and Kacelnik (2) put the claim that animals are incapable of abstract thought to a strong behavioral test. Author: Edward A. Wasserman
Categories: Climate Newsprint

[Policy Forum] Crisis informatics—New data for extraordinary times

Science Magazine - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:00
Crisis informatics is a multidisciplinary field combining computing and social science knowledge of disasters; its central tenet is that people use personal information and communication technology to respond to disaster in creative ways to cope with uncertainty. We study and develop computational support for collection and sociobehavioral analysis of online participation (i.e., tweets and Facebook posts) to address challenges in disaster warning, response, and recovery. Because such data are rarely tidy, we offer lessons—learned the hard way, as we have made every mistake described below—with respect to the opportunities and limitations of social media research on crisis events. Authors: Leysia Palen, Kenneth M. Anderson
Categories: Climate Newsprint

[Book Review] A toxic timeline

Science Magazine - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:00
In the 1970s, residents of a Niagara Falls neighborhood realized that chemicals from a toxic waste dump had leached into their homes, parks, and neighborhood school. Their cancers, miscarriages, and myriad chronic ailments told the tale, and in 1978 they organized, filed lawsuits, and demanded intervention. The federal government eventually complied, evacuating the residents and creating the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund Act, which provides a framework for cleaning up such sites. In his new book, Love Canal: A Toxic History from Colonial Times to the Present, Richard S. Newman urges us to see the Love Canal disaster stretched out in time, rooted in the long history of the Niagara Falls area. The crisis itself, he says, was an outcome of patterns established generations earlier that pitted developmental pressures against environmental and human health and created a "cycle of disposable land use that had long dominated area politics and economics." Author: Jacob Darwin Hamblin
Categories: Climate Newsprint

[Book Review] Big data meets human health

Science Magazine - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:00
There is a "veritable explosion" in the number of people using digital and wearable devices to record, analyze, and reflect upon data created by their own bodies and behaviors. In their new book, Self-Tracking, Gina Neff and Dawn Nafus tread carefully between the twin pitfalls of techno-utopianism and techno-dystopianism to develop a nuanced position that acknowledges both the opportunities and the challenges raised by this trend. Elad Yom-Tov's Crowdsourced Health discusses a different field of digital health, in which data are generated not through the use of wearable devices but from queries entered in search engines. Based on the premise that these searches mirror our offline behavior and that the Internet offers greater privacy and accessibility than many other possible sources of information, he shows how these data could reveal information about health that would be difficult or impossible to gather in other ways. The question that has yet to be answered is what should ultimately be done with all of these data—and by whom. Author: Conor Farrington
Categories: Climate Newsprint
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