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Legislative & Regulatory Update

Canadian and European boreal forests differ but neither is immune to climate change, says U of T researcher

Climate Change News - ENN - November 16, 2016 - 9:09am
Rudy Boonstra has been doing field research in Canada’s north for more than 40 years.Working mostly out of the Arctic Institute’s Kluane Lake Research Station in Yukon, the U of T Scarborough biology professor has become intimately familiar with Canada’s vast and unique boreal forest ecosystem.But it was during a trip to Finland in the mid-1990s to help a colleague with field research that he began to think long and hard about why the boreal forest there differed so dramatically from its Canadian cousin. This difference was crystallized by follow-up trips to Norway.

A New Way to Image Solar Cells in 3-D

Next-generation solar cells made of super-thin films of semiconducting material hold promise because they’re relatively inexpensive and flexible enough to be applied just about anywhere.Researchers are working to dramatically increase the efficiency at which thin-film solar cells convert sunlight to electricity. But it’s a tough challenge, partly because a solar cell’s subsurface realm—where much of the energy-conversion action happens—is inaccessible to real-time, nondestructive imaging. It’s difficult to improve processes you can’t see.Now, scientists from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a way to use optical microscopy to map thin-film solar cells in 3-D as they absorb photons.

2016 Temperatures Measure 1.2 Degrees C Above Pre-Industrial Levels

Climate Change News - ENN - November 14, 2016 - 1:44pm
This year is on track to become the hottest year on record, with global temperatures measuring 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 F) above pre-industrial levels, according to the World Meteorological Organization(WMO). 

Study reveals 82% of the core ecological processes that underpin ecosystems and provide services to people are now affected by climate change

Climate Change News - ENN - November 14, 2016 - 10:20am
Most studies of global climate change attempt to predict what might happen to the Earth as temperatures rise in future.  A new study representing an international collaboration by ecologists and conservation biologists shows that global changes in climate have already impacted every aspect of life on Earth, from genes to entire ecosystems. It was published in the prestigious journal Science on November 10, 2016. The research team, led by the University of Florida and with participation from the University of Hong Kong, showed that of a total of 94 ecological processes evaluated globally, 82% of them showed evidence of impact from climate change.  Land, freshwater and marine ecosystems and species have all been all affected, and consequential impacts on people could range from increased pests and disease outbreaks, to unpredictable changes in fisheries and decreasing agriculture yields. 

Experts call on international climate change panel to better reflect ocean variability in their projections

Climate Change News - ENN - November 14, 2016 - 9:48am
A commentary on what should be included in the next IPCC special interdisciplinary report on oceans and the cryosphere has been released today in Nature by Daniela Schmidt, Professor of Palaeobiology from the University of Bristol and Philip Boyd, a professor of marine biogeochemistry from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania.The IPCC is an international body which was set up in 1988 to assess the science related to climate change.Currently on its sixth assessment cycle, the goal of the IPCC is to inform policymakers of the science on climate change, the impacts, future risks and potential options for adaption and mitigation.The latest IPCC report had for the first time chapters dedicated to the Oceans. This year, the IPCC are going one step further with a special interdisciplinary report on the ocean and the cryosphere which will be published in 2019.

30% of Global Electricity Already Prepping For Rapid Decarbonization

A full 30 percent of the world’s electricity generation comes under the umbrella of just nine energy companies, and they have just joined forces to ramp up technology investments aimed at decarbonization. The global, collaborative effort was announced earlier this week by the companies’ nonprofit organization, the Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership.To be clear, the decarbonization announcement leaves plenty of wiggle room for “clean” coal and natural gas, at least in the near future. However, a look at the group’s sole U.S. member, American Electric Power, demonstrates that a Republican administration cannot stop the global transition to low and zero-carbon electricity.

30% of Global Electricity Already Prepping For Rapid Decarbonization

Climate Change News - ENN - November 14, 2016 - 9:04am
A full 30 percent of the world’s electricity generation comes under the umbrella of just nine energy companies, and they have just joined forces to ramp up technology investments aimed at decarbonization. The global, collaborative effort was announced earlier this week by the companies’ nonprofit organization, the Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership.To be clear, the decarbonization announcement leaves plenty of wiggle room for “clean” coal and natural gas, at least in the near future. However, a look at the group’s sole U.S. member, American Electric Power, demonstrates that a Republican administration cannot stop the global transition to low and zero-carbon electricity.

Just 1 Degree C of Warming Has Altered Nearly Every Aspect of Life on Earth

Climate Change News - ENN - November 11, 2016 - 3:19pm
Climate change has already impacted nearly every aspect of life on earth, according to a new study in the journal Science. Warming global temperatures have altered everything from entire ecosystems down to the individual genes of species. 

New maps reveal safe locations for wastewater injection

Stanford geophysicists have compiled the most detailed maps yet of the geologic forces controlling the locations, types and magnitudes of earthquakes in Texas and Oklahoma.These new “stress maps,” published in the journals Geophysical Research Letters and Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, provide insight into the nature of the faults associated with recent temblors, many of which appear to have been triggered by the injection of wastewater deep underground.“These maps help explain why injection-induced earthquakes have occurred in some areas, and provide a basis for making quantitative predictions about the potential for seismic activity resulting from fluid injection,” said study co-author Mark Zoback, the Benjamin M. Page Professor of Geophysics in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

Thawing ice makes the Alps grow

Climate Change News - ENN - November 11, 2016 - 9:22am
The Alps are steadily “growing” by about one to two millimeters per year. Likewise, the formerly glaciated subcontinents of North America and Scandinavia are also undergoing constant upward movement. This is due to the fact that at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) about 18,000 years ago the glaciers melted and with this the former heavy pressure on the Earth’s surface diminished. The ice reacted rapidly to climate change at that time whereas the Earth’s crust is still responding today to this relatively sudden melting of ice. 

Climate, human influence conspired in Lake Urmia's decline

Climate Change News - ENN - November 10, 2016 - 10:01am
The dramatic decline of Iran’s Lake Urmia—once the second-largest hypersaline lake in the world—has both direct human and climatic causes, according to a new study published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research.   The study was the first to compare the relative impact of climate and water management on the water flowing into the lake.

Solar Cells Get Boost with Integration of Water-Splitting Catalyst onto Semiconductor

Scientists have found a way to engineer the atomic-scale chemical properties of a water-splitting catalyst for integration with a solar cell, and the result is a big boost to the stability and efficiency of artificial photosynthesis.Led by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), the project is described in a paper published this week in the journal Nature Materials.

A Major Ocean Current is Widening as Climate Warms

Climate Change News - ENN - November 10, 2016 - 9:37am
A new study by University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science researchers found that the Indian Ocean’s Agulhas Current is getting wider rather than strengthening. The findings, which have important implications for global climate change, suggest that intensifying winds in the region may be increasing the turbulence of the current, rather than increasing its flow rate.

Rising CO2 Threatens Coral And People Who Use Reefs

Climate Change News - ENN - November 9, 2016 - 4:26pm
As atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels rise, very few coral reef ecosystems will be spared the impacts of ocean acidification or sea surface temperature rise, according to a new analysis. The damage will cause the most immediate and serious threats where human dependence on reefs is highest.A new analysis in the journal Plos One, led by Duke University and the Université de Bretagne Occidentale, suggests that by 2050, Western Mexico, Micronesia, Indonesia, parts of Australia and Southeast Asia will bear the brunt of rising temperatures. Reef damage will result in lost fish habitats and shoreline protection, jeopardizing the lives and economic prosperity of people who depend on reefs for tourism and food.

A new study concludes warm climate is more sensitive to changes in CO2

Climate Change News - ENN - November 9, 2016 - 2:46pm
It is well-established in the scientific community that increases in atmospheric CO2 levels result in global warming, but the magnitude of the effect may vary depending on average global temperature. A new study, published this week in Science Advances and led by Tobias Friedrich from the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, concludes that warm climates are more sensitive to changes in CO2 levels than cold climates.

Study: Carbon-Hungry Plants Impede Growth Rate of Atmospheric CO2

New findings suggest the rate at which CO2 is accumulating in the atmosphere has plateaued in recent years because Earth’s vegetation is grabbing more carbon from the air than in previous decades.That’s the conclusion of a multi-institutional study led by a scientist from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). It’s based on extensive ground and atmospheric observations of CO2, satellite measurements of vegetation, and computer modeling. The research is published online Nov. 8 in the journal Nature Communications.

Study: Carbon-Hungry Plants Impede Growth Rate of Atmospheric CO2

Climate Change News - ENN - November 8, 2016 - 4:47pm
New findings suggest the rate at which CO2 is accumulating in the atmosphere has plateaued in recent years because Earth’s vegetation is grabbing more carbon from the air than in previous decades.That’s the conclusion of a multi-institutional study led by a scientist from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). It’s based on extensive ground and atmospheric observations of CO2, satellite measurements of vegetation, and computer modeling. The research is published online Nov. 8 in the journal Nature Communications.

Major advance in solar cells made from cheap, easy-to-use perovskite

Regulatory news - ENN - November 8, 2016 - 10:38am
Solar cells made from an inexpensive and increasingly popular material called perovskite can more efficiently turn sunlight into electricity using a new technique to sandwich two types of perovskite into a single photovoltaic cell.Perovskite solar cells are made of a mix of organic molecules and inorganic elements that together capture light and convert it into electricity, just like today’s more common silicon-based solar cells. Perovskite photovoltaic devices, however, can be made more easily and cheaply than silicon and on a flexible rather than rigid substrate. The first perovskite solar cells could go on the market next year, and some have been reported to capture 20 percent of the sun’s energy.

Major advance in solar cells made from cheap, easy-to-use perovskite

Solar cells made from an inexpensive and increasingly popular material called perovskite can more efficiently turn sunlight into electricity using a new technique to sandwich two types of perovskite into a single photovoltaic cell.Perovskite solar cells are made of a mix of organic molecules and inorganic elements that together capture light and convert it into electricity, just like today’s more common silicon-based solar cells. Perovskite photovoltaic devices, however, can be made more easily and cheaply than silicon and on a flexible rather than rigid substrate. The first perovskite solar cells could go on the market next year, and some have been reported to capture 20 percent of the sun’s energy.

New Delhi Air Pollution Reaches Highest Level In 20 Years

Regulatory news - ENN - November 7, 2016 - 3:20pm
Indian officials declared an emergency in New Delhi over the weekend as the capital city entered its second week with air pollution levels as high as 30 times above World Health Organization guidelines, several news outlets reported.Construction sites have been closed, operations at a coal-fired power station halted, diesel generators stopped, and officials are preparing to reinstate traffic restrictions, all to reduce smog levels across the city, which have reached their highest levels in 20 years. Officials say field burning on nearby farmland and fireworks from the recent Diwali festival helped worsen the smog conditions. 

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