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Legislative & Regulatory Update

Calculating the role of lakes in global warming

Climate Change News - ENN - September 9, 2016 - 6:01pm
As global temperatures rise, how will lake ecosystems respond? As they warm, will lakes -- which make up only 3 percent of the landscape, but bury more carbon than the world's oceans combined -- release more of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane? And might that create a feedback loop that leads to further warming?To predict the effects of rising air temperatures on the carbon cycle of lakes, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute researchers will link computer models of changing weather, water temperature, and emissions of carbon dioxide and methane for 2,000 lakes across the United States, including Lake George, through 2105. The project is supported with a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, and led by Kevin Rose, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Rensselaer and the Frederic R. Kolleck '52 Career Development Chair in Freshwater Ecology.

Increased ocean acidification is due to human activities, say scientists

Climate Change News - ENN - September 8, 2016 - 6:24pm
Oceanographers from MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution report that the northeast Pacific Ocean has absorbed an increasing amount of anthropogenic carbon dioxide over the last decade, at a rate that mirrors the increase of carbon dioxide emissions pumped into the atmosphere.The scientists, led by graduate student Sophie Chu, in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, found that most of the anthropogenic carbon (carbon arising from human activity) in the northeast Pacific has lingered in the upper layers, changing the chemistry of the ocean as a result. In the past 10 years, the region's average pH has dropped by 0.002 pH units per year, leading to more acidic waters. The increased uptake in carbon dioxide has also decreased the availability of aragonite -- an essential mineral for many marine species' shells.

Tropics told to ban coral-killing sunscreen

Regulatory news - ENN - September 8, 2016 - 7:57am
Tropical island nations should team up to ban coral-killing sunscreen products, following the example of Hawaii, a conference has heard. Chemical compounds in sunscreen lotions cause irreparable damage to reefs, which are crucial to the livelihoods of 500 million people in the tropics, scientist and policymakers said at the IUCN World Conservation Congress on 3 September. Hawaii is leading a legistlative effort to ban the use of sunscreen that contains oxybenzone or similar harmful agents at its beaches.

Future fisheries can expect $10 billion revenue loss due to climate change

Climate Change News - ENN - September 7, 2016 - 12:20pm
Global fisheries stand to lose approximately $10 billion of their annual revenue by 2050 if climate change continues unchecked, and countries that are most dependent on fisheries for food will be the hardest hit, finds new UBC research.Climate change impacts such as rising temperatures and changes in ocean salinity, acidity and oxygen levels are expected to result in decreased catches, as previous research from UBC's Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries has found. In this study, the authors examined the financial impact of these projected losses for all fishing countries in 2050, compared to 2000.

New simulations of wind power generation

Climate Change News - ENN - September 6, 2016 - 3:28pm
There has been a massive boom in wind power capacity both in Europe and worldwide. In 2015 global installed capacity was around 350 gigawatt (GW), with 135 GW installed in Europe, distributed across some 87,000 wind turbines. Wind power now provides a bigger share (13 percent) of electricity than nuclear power stations. In countries such as Spain, Denmark and Germany, the amount of wind power already installed is in theory enough to cover nationwide demand for electricity under ideal conditions, i.e. maximum wind power output and low consumer demand.

Detecting forest fragility with satellites

Climate Change News - ENN - September 6, 2016 - 9:48am
Over the past decades’ forests in different parts of the world have suffered sudden massive tree mortality. Now an international team of scientists led by researchers from Wageningen University in the Netherlands has found a way to spot from satellite images which forests may be most likely to fall prey to such die-off events.

Climate change could make coffee extinct by 2080

Climate Change News - ENN - September 5, 2016 - 10:56am
The sun may be setting on a popular morning brew. According to a new report issued by the Climate Institute, global warming will underpin an estimated 50 percent drop in coffee production by 2050. Bad news for coffee lovers, but catastrophic for the 120 million people in dozens of mostly developing nations who depend on the coffee trade to make ends meet.

Clues in ancient mud hold answers to climate change

Climate Change News - ENN - September 2, 2016 - 3:51pm
New research suggests that Africa has gradually become wetter over the past 1.3 million years -- instead of drier as was thought previously.The research from Berke, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences at the University of Notre Dame and Environmental Change Initiative affiliate, suggests that Africa has gradually become wetter over the past 1.3 million years -- instead of drier as was thought previously. The findings shine new light on the "savanna hypothesis," which held that humans in Africa as a whole migrated to grasslands due to a changing climate.The sediment samples that Berke studied came from Lake Malawi in southeast Africa, whereas data used for the savanna hypothesis came from the north. Her research suggests that climate conditions across Africa may have been more variable than once thought.

Subantarctic seabed creatures shed new light on past climate

Climate Change News - ENN - September 1, 2016 - 5:59pm
A new marine biodiversity study in one of the largest Marine Protected Areas in the world reveals the impact of environmental change on subantarctic seabed animals and answers big questions about the extent of South Georgia's ice sheet during the Last Glacial Maximum around 20,000 years ago.Reporting this week in the Journal of Biogeography researchers at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) describe how colonies of seabed creatures, such as sea sponges - that play an important role in absorbing and storing carbon from the atmosphere - can take thousands of years to recover from major glaciation events.

Meet a Surprising Plastic Alternative: Milk

What if you could have your packaging and eat it too? We’ve seen rice paper packaging on Japanese candies, but edible plastic? Thanks to researchers at the USDA, it’s not too far in the future.And it’s not just an edible and environmentally-friendly plastic alternative; it’s actually better at keeping food fresh than petroleum-based plastics. It’ll be a few years before you see the material on shelves — don’t start chomping down just yet — but it represents a big revolution in the way we view food packaging.

Sediments control methane release to the ocean

Climate Change News - ENN - August 31, 2016 - 5:12pm
Methane is stored under the sea floor, concentrated in form of hydrates, crystalline ice structures that stay stable under high pressure and in low temperatures. Several studies suggest that as the ocean warms, the hydrates might melt and potentially release methane into the ocean waters and atmosphere.Several studies suggest that as the ocean warms, the hydrates might melt and potentially release methane into the ocean waters and atmosphere. This potent climate gas is profusely leaking from the seafloor in an area offshore western Svalbard, which is close to the gas hydrate stability zone.There, scientists have discovered over 250 methane flares in water depths from 90 to 240 meters.“Previous studies indicate that these seeps could be linked to gas hydrate dissociations. We suspected that dissociation of gas hydrate is not the primary control on seafloor methane seepage. We suggest that there is a strong lithological control on methane seepage.” says Dr. Giuliana Panieri, scientist at CAGE.

Climate change has less impact on drought than previously expected

Regulatory news - ENN - August 31, 2016 - 4:47pm
As a multiyear drought grinds on in the Southwestern United States, many wonder about the impact of global climate change on more frequent and longer dry spells. As humans emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, how will water supply for people, farms, and forests be affected?A new study from the University of California, Irvine and the University of Washington shows that water conserved by plants under high CO2 conditions compensates for much of the effect of warmer temperatures, retaining more water on land than predicted in commonly used drought assessments.According to the study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the implications of plants needing less water with more CO2 in the environment changes assumptions of climate change impacts on agriculture, water resources, wildfire risk, and plant growth.

Climate change has less impact on drought than previously expected

Climate Change News - ENN - August 31, 2016 - 4:47pm
As a multiyear drought grinds on in the Southwestern United States, many wonder about the impact of global climate change on more frequent and longer dry spells. As humans emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, how will water supply for people, farms, and forests be affected?A new study from the University of California, Irvine and the University of Washington shows that water conserved by plants under high CO2 conditions compensates for much of the effect of warmer temperatures, retaining more water on land than predicted in commonly used drought assessments.According to the study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the implications of plants needing less water with more CO2 in the environment changes assumptions of climate change impacts on agriculture, water resources, wildfire risk, and plant growth.

Study assesses climate change vulnerability in urban America

Regulatory news - ENN - August 31, 2016 - 8:17am
Flooding due to rising ocean levels. Debilitating heat waves that last longer and occur more frequently. Rising rates of diseases caused by ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes, such as Lyme disease, Chikungunya, and Zika. Increasing numbers of Emergency Room visits for asthma attacks due to higher levels of ground-level ozone. Impacts of climate change such as these will affect cities across the country.One of the first efforts to systematically assess how cities are preparing for climate change shows that city planners have yet to fully assess their vulnerability to climate change, leaving serious risks unaddressed. In their evaluations to-date, they see infrastructure and risks to specific human populations as the primary areas of concern. Despite these concerns, expert assessments of urban climate vulnerability often do not address the real risks that local planners face.

Study assesses climate change vulnerability in urban America

Climate Change News - ENN - August 31, 2016 - 8:17am
Flooding due to rising ocean levels. Debilitating heat waves that last longer and occur more frequently. Rising rates of diseases caused by ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes, such as Lyme disease, Chikungunya, and Zika. Increasing numbers of Emergency Room visits for asthma attacks due to higher levels of ground-level ozone. Impacts of climate change such as these will affect cities across the country.One of the first efforts to systematically assess how cities are preparing for climate change shows that city planners have yet to fully assess their vulnerability to climate change, leaving serious risks unaddressed. In their evaluations to-date, they see infrastructure and risks to specific human populations as the primary areas of concern. Despite these concerns, expert assessments of urban climate vulnerability often do not address the real risks that local planners face.

Vegetation matters

Climate Change News - ENN - August 30, 2016 - 5:59pm
In California's Sierra Nevada mountains, as more precipitation falls in the form of rain rather than snow, and the snowpack melts earlier in spring, it's important for water managers to know when and how much water will be available for urban and agricultural needs and for the environment in general.While changing precipitation patterns can have a significant impact on stream flows in the Sierra Nevada mountains, a new study by UC Santa Barbara researchers indicates that shifts in vegetation type resulting from warming and other factors may have an equal or greater effect. Their findings appear in the journal PLOS One.

Cows in glass tanks help to reduce methane emissions

Climate Change News - ENN - August 30, 2016 - 5:44pm
In the future, the breeding of the climate-friendly cow can be speeded up by using genetic information. A recent study identifies areas in the cow's genotype which are linked to the amount of methane it produces. Cows subjected to study did not unnecessarily chew their cuds when being placed in glass cases.Of the greenhouse gases produced by humans, 16 per cent consists of methane, of which one third originates in cattle production: more than one billion cattle graze the planet, and each of them emit around 500 litres of methane every day, thereby warming up the climate.Could it be possible to produce a cow with lower methane emissions through the means available for breeding? The genotype and feed affect a cow's microbial make-up and functioning. Microbes in the cow's intestine and rumen on their part play a key role in the functioning of the cow's entire biological system. "A similar interaction was previously detected in humans," says Johanna Vilkki, professor at Luke.

Obama Creates the World's Largest Marine Reserve

Regulatory news - ENN - August 30, 2016 - 8:12am
The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, first named a national monument by President George W. Bush in 2006, is a massively important marine nature reserve.Designated a World Heritage site, the region surrounding the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands teems with more than 7,000 marine and land species — some of which are unique to the area, including endangered whales and sea turtles. As a result, the region has been deemed irreplaceable by scientists.

Thousands of Homes Keep Flooding, Yet They Keep Being Rebuilt Again

Regulatory news - ENN - August 30, 2016 - 8:06am
The U.S. National Flood Insurance Program, which holds policies for more than 5 million homes, is $23 billion in debt after a string of natural disasters this century. As climate change further strains the program, analysts say it is time to shift its focus from rebuilding to mitigating risk.More than 2,100 properties across the U.S. enrolled in the National Flood Insurance Program have flooded and been rebuilt more than 10 times since 1978, according to a new analysis of insurance data by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). One home in Batchelor, Louisiana has flooded 40 times over the past four decades, receiving $428,379 in insurance payments. More than 30,000 properties in the program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have flooded multiple times over the years. Those homes, known as “severe repetitive loss properties,” make up just 0.6 percent of federal flood insurance policies. But they account for 10.6 percent of the program’s claims — totaling $5.5 billion in payments.The new data illustrates the serious problems facing the nation’s flood insurance program. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which currently provides policies for more than 5 million American homes, is $23 billion in debt following a string of major natural disasters over the last decades, including as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

Thousands of Homes Keep Flooding, Yet They Keep Being Rebuilt Again

Climate Change News - ENN - August 30, 2016 - 8:06am
The U.S. National Flood Insurance Program, which holds policies for more than 5 million homes, is $23 billion in debt after a string of natural disasters this century. As climate change further strains the program, analysts say it is time to shift its focus from rebuilding to mitigating risk.More than 2,100 properties across the U.S. enrolled in the National Flood Insurance Program have flooded and been rebuilt more than 10 times since 1978, according to a new analysis of insurance data by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). One home in Batchelor, Louisiana has flooded 40 times over the past four decades, receiving $428,379 in insurance payments. More than 30,000 properties in the program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have flooded multiple times over the years. Those homes, known as “severe repetitive loss properties,” make up just 0.6 percent of federal flood insurance policies. But they account for 10.6 percent of the program’s claims — totaling $5.5 billion in payments.The new data illustrates the serious problems facing the nation’s flood insurance program. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which currently provides policies for more than 5 million American homes, is $23 billion in debt following a string of major natural disasters over the last decades, including as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

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