Legislative & Regulatory Update

Abu Dhabi project uses sand to store solar power

Climate Change News - ENN - August 5, 2016 - 12:00pm
Researchers in Abu Dhabi are testing a pilot device that can store solar energy in sand to improve the efficiency of power plants and provide energy at night.The technology, developed at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, uses gravity to drain sand from a higher basin into a lower one, heating up the sand grains with solar power during the transition. In the lower basin, the energy can be stored and withdrawn at low cost to provide extra energy if needed, for example during peak hours and at night-time."Two pilot models of the system have been tested in an effort to prove its efficiency and applicability on a large scale in big projects,” says Nicolas Calvet, an assistant professor at the Masdar institute’s department of mechanical engineering.   

Abu Dhabi project uses sand to store solar power

Researchers in Abu Dhabi are testing a pilot device that can store solar energy in sand to improve the efficiency of power plants and provide energy at night.The technology, developed at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, uses gravity to drain sand from a higher basin into a lower one, heating up the sand grains with solar power during the transition. In the lower basin, the energy can be stored and withdrawn at low cost to provide extra energy if needed, for example during peak hours and at night-time."Two pilot models of the system have been tested in an effort to prove its efficiency and applicability on a large scale in big projects,” says Nicolas Calvet, an assistant professor at the Masdar institute’s department of mechanical engineering.   

EPA On Board to Develop Emission Rules for Aircraft

Regulatory news - ENN - August 5, 2016 - 11:11am
The end of last month brought big news in the battle to rein in climate change. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from airplanes pose a threat to human health and the environment and therefore are subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.The Act was originally passed in 1970 to combat air pollution in the form of airborne lead and mercury, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulates, and ground-level ozone — to name a few. It was updated in 1990 to include emissions that threaten the ozone layer, and again in 2009 to deal with emissions known to contribute to climate change.This announcement now clears the way for the EPA to develop rules to regulate aircraft emissions, much as the agency has done for emissions from cars and trucks. Aircraft are responsible for roughly 12 percent of all U.S. transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, or a little over 3 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions.

EPA On Board to Develop Emission Rules for Aircraft

Climate Change News - ENN - August 5, 2016 - 11:11am
The end of last month brought big news in the battle to rein in climate change. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from airplanes pose a threat to human health and the environment and therefore are subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.The Act was originally passed in 1970 to combat air pollution in the form of airborne lead and mercury, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulates, and ground-level ozone — to name a few. It was updated in 1990 to include emissions that threaten the ozone layer, and again in 2009 to deal with emissions known to contribute to climate change.This announcement now clears the way for the EPA to develop rules to regulate aircraft emissions, much as the agency has done for emissions from cars and trucks. Aircraft are responsible for roughly 12 percent of all U.S. transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, or a little over 3 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions.

Do eco-friendly wines taste better?

Climate Change News - ENN - August 3, 2016 - 8:26am
t’s time to toast environmentally friendly grapes. A new UCLA study shows that eco-certified wine tastes better — and making the choice even easier, earlier research shows it’s often cheaper, too.Though consumers remain reluctant to spend more on wine from organic grapes, the new study from UCLA researchers shows that in blind taste-tests professional wine reviewers give eco-certified wines higher ratings than regular wines.

Giant forest fires exterminate spotted owls

Climate Change News - ENN - August 3, 2016 - 8:17am
As climate changes and wildfires get larger, hotter and more frequent, how should public lands in the American West be managed to protect endangered creatures that, like the spotted owl, rely on fire-prone old-growth forests?Could periodic forest thinning and prescribed burns intended to prevent dangerous “megafires” help conserve owls in the long run? Or are those benefits outweighed by their short-term harm to owls? The answer depends in part on just how big and bad the fires are, according to a new study.In a report published Aug. 1 that may help quiet a long-simmering dispute about the wisdom of using forest thinning and prescribed burns to reduce the “fuel load” and intensity of subsequent fires, a University of Wisconsin—Madison research group has documented an exodus of owls following the fierce, 99,000 acre King Fire in California in 2014.

Antarctic sea ice may be a source of mercury in Southern Ocean fish and birds

Climate Change News - ENN - August 1, 2016 - 10:27pm
New research has found methylmercury – a potent neurotoxin – in sea ice in the Southern Ocean.Published today in the journal Nature Microbiology, the results are the first to show that sea-ice bacteria can change mercury into methylmercury, a more toxic form that can contaminate the marine environment, including fish and birds.If ingested, methylmercury can travel to the brain, causing developmental and physical problems in foetuses, infants and children.

A research project coordinated by UC3M helps reduce the cost of parallel computing

Heterogeneous parallel computing combines various processing elements with different characteristics that share a single memory system. Normally multiple cores (like the 'multicores' in some smart phones or personal computers) are combined with graphic cards and other components to process large quantities of data."We hope to help transform code so that it can be run in heterogeneous parallel platforms with multiple graphic cards and reconfigurable hardware," explains the project's coordinator, José Daniel García, an associate professor in UC3M's Computer Science department. "We've made significant improvements in both performance and energy efficiency, comparable to those that can be made with a manual development process; the difference is that with a manual development process, we need months of engineering, while with our semiautomatic process we can do the same tasks in a few days."

ORNL-led study analyzes electric grid vulnerabilities in extreme weather areas

Climate and energy scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a new method to pinpoint which electrical service areas will be most vulnerable as populations grow and temperatures rise."For the first time, we were able to apply data at a high enough resolution to be relevant," said ORNL's Melissa Allen, co-author of "Impacts of Climate Change on Sub-regional Electricity Demand and Distribution in the Southern United States," published in Nature Energy.

ORNL-led study analyzes electric grid vulnerabilities in extreme weather areas

Climate Change News - ENN - July 29, 2016 - 5:25pm
Climate and energy scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a new method to pinpoint which electrical service areas will be most vulnerable as populations grow and temperatures rise."For the first time, we were able to apply data at a high enough resolution to be relevant," said ORNL's Melissa Allen, co-author of "Impacts of Climate Change on Sub-regional Electricity Demand and Distribution in the Southern United States," published in Nature Energy.

Changing Arctic Tundra Could Radically Alter Shorebird Breeding Grounds

Climate Change News - ENN - July 29, 2016 - 4:21pm
A new study projects that global warming could dramatically affect the tundra breeding habitat of 24 shorebird species, with 66 percent to 83 percent losing most of their suitable nesting territories. Researchers modeled breeding conditions for these migratory shorebird species — some of which travel more than 10,000 miles from Antarctica or southern South America to breed in the Arctic — and compared projected 21st century conditions to the last major warming event more than 6,000 years ago. 

Butterflies use differences in leaf shape to distinguish between plants

The preference of Heliconius butterflies for certain leaf shapes is innate, but can be reversed through learning. These results support a decades-old theory for explaining the evolution of the exceptional diversity of leaf shapes in passionflowers.The tropical butterfly Heliconius eratodistinguishes between shapes, and uses them as a cue for choosing the plants on which to feed and lay eggs, shows new research by scientists from the University of Cambridge and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The butterfly has an innate preference for passionflowers with particular leaf shapes, but can learn to overcome this preference in favor of other shapes, especially those that are the most abundant in the local flora. These preferences can promote the evolution of plant biodiversity.

The US Is Finally Getting Its First Offshore Wind Farm

Climate Change News - ENN - July 28, 2016 - 5:30pm
BUILDING IN RHODE Island isn’t easy. Hurricanes and tropical storms barrel through its quaint coastline towns, interrupting perfect summer weekends. Freezing winters bring blizzards that can shut down the entire state. And every season features corrosive salty winds, biting at the coast as if sent by a Britain still seething at the first American colony to declare independence.But one company sees the state’s incessant wind as a utility. Deepwater Wind has partnered with General Electric Renewable Energy to build the first offshore wind farm in the United States, off the coast of Block Island. Hooked up to the grid by the end of 2016, the system could supply 90 percent of the tourist destination’s power within the next few years. But it hasn’t been easy. Designing and building spinning fans hundreds of feet tall that stay sutured to the ocean floor in the face of currents and wicked winds has taken almost three years of work.

First whale detected by newly deployed acoustic buoy in New York Bight

A new acoustic buoy recently deployed by scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and WCS's (Wildlife Conservation Society) New York Aquarium to listen for some of the world's biggest animals in the New York Bight has detected its first whale species, and it's a really big one.Fixed in position some 22 miles south of Fire Island and fitted with a digital acoustic monitoring instrument, the hi-tech buoy is now operational and has detected the vocalizations of fin whales, enormous marine mammals second in size only to the blue whale, the largest animal species on earth. The first whale detection was made on Monday, July 4th, only 12 days after the buoy was placed in its current position on June 23rd.Since that time, the buoy has made several fin whale detections; the most recent vocalizations were detected yesterday (July 27th) and today.

Videos reveal birds, bats and bugs near Ivanpah solar project power towers

Video surveillance is the most effective method for detecting animals flying around solar power towers, according to a study of various techniques by the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System facility in southeastern California.This study is the first to examine a variety of remote sensing and sampling techniques to determine which technology might be most effective for monitoring how solar power facilities impact flying animals. The information will be used to further study the effects of solar power infrastructure on flying animals -- a subject about which little is known -- and to develop ways to lessen harmful effects.At Ivanpah, evidence of flying animals impacted by intense heat near the solar towers had been observed. The new study showed that although birds and bats were occasionally seen near the towers at Ivanpah, most observations involved insects.

Cod and climate

Climate Change News - ENN - July 27, 2016 - 3:53pm
In recent decades, the plight of Atlantic cod off the coast of New England has been front-page news. Since the 1980s in particular, the once-seemingly inexhaustible stocks of Gadus morhua-- one of the most important fisheries in North America -- have declined dramatically.In 2008, a formal assessment forecasted that stocks would rebound, but by 2012, they were once again on the verge of collapse. Two years later, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration instituted an unprecedented six-month closure of the entire Gulf of Maine cod fishery to allow stocks to recover.While overfishing is one known culprit, a new study co-authored by researchers at UC Santa Barbara and Columbia University finds that the climatological phenomenon known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is also a factor. And it contributes in a predictable way that may enable fishery managers to protect cod stocks from future collapse. The group's findings appear in the journal PLOS ONE.

Montreal households the greenest in Canada: UBC study

Climate Change News - ENN - July 27, 2016 - 12:51pm
Montreal homes are the most sustainable in the country, and Edmonton's the least, according to a new University of British Columbia study that compares average household greenhouse gas emissions in major cities across Canada.Using census data over a 12-year span, researchers ranked cities on how much carbon dioxide the average Canadian family (two to three people) with an annual income of $81,000 in each city produced in a year from the combined use of electricity, gasoline and natural gas.The average Montreal household produces five tonnes of GHG per family per year, while the average Edmonton household emits 20 tonnes per family per year.

Current atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations likely commit to warmings greater than 1.5C over land

Climate Change News - ENN - July 27, 2016 - 11:20am
Current levels of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations already commit the planet to air temperatures over many land regions being eventually warmed by greater than 1.5°C, according to new research published today (27 July 2016) in the journal Scientific Reports.The results of the new study have implications for international discussions of what constitutes safe global temperature thresholds, such as 1.5°C or 2°C of warming since pre-industrial times. The expected extra warming over land will influence how we need to design some cities. It could also impact on the responses of trees and plants, and including crops.The research was carried out by scientists from the UK's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the University of Exeter, UK.The research team found two main reasons behind the result.

The double-edged sword of wildlife-friendly yards

Climate Change News - ENN - July 27, 2016 - 8:12am
Hundreds of millions of birds are killed in collisions with windows each year in the U.S. alone, and although high-rise buildings tend to be the biggest individual culprits, the vast number of suburban homes across the continent means that even a few deaths per house add up fast. A new study in The Condor: Ornithological Applications examines the factors that affect window collision rates at homes and shows that yards that are more attractive to birds are also the sites of more collisions.Working with Alberta homeowners who collectively contributed more than 34,000 days' worth of collision data, Justine Kummer of the University of Alberta and her colleagues found that the presence of a bird feeder, whether a house was in an urban or rural area, and the height of the vegetation in the yard were the most important predictors of collisions. Of Alberta's 421 bird species, 53 were represented in the data, mostly common urban species.

Rainforest greener during 'dry' season

Climate Change News - ENN - July 26, 2016 - 5:28pm
Although the Amazon Jungle may appear to be perpetually green, a University of Illinois researcher believes there are actually seasonal differences of photosynthesis, with more occurring during the dry season and less during the wet season. Understanding how a rainforest that occupies 2.7 million square miles of South America functions is crucial to the future health of the entire planet."With the potential negative effects of climate change, one key question we are trying to answer in the study of tropical ecology is how a tropical forest responds during a long-term drought," says Kaiyu Guan, an environmental scientist at the University of Illinois. "If we don't know their daily performance or their seasonal performance, what confidence can we have to predict the forests' future 20 years, 30 years, or longer?"

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