Other stories below: Civilization faces a “perfect storm of ecological and social problems”; California leads the nation in cleantech venture capital funding
The extreme Russian heatwave of 2010 was made three times more likely because of man-made climate change, according to a study led by climate scientists and number-crunched by home PC users. But the size of the event was mostly within natural limits, said the scientists, laying to rest a controversy last year over whether the extreme weather was natural or human-induced.
The 2010 heatwave broke all records for Russia – temperatures in the central region of the country, including Moscow, were around 10C above what they should have been for the time of year. More than 50,000 people died from respiratory illnesses and heat stress during that time. The temperatures also had a substantial impact on that year’s Russian wheat harvest, leading to economic losses of more than $15bn.
Two studies published in 2011 looked at the causes of the extreme weather, but they disagreed on whether it was a natural event or whether it was a result of anthropogenic climate change.
Celebrated scientists and development thinkers today warn that civilisation is faced with a perfect storm of ecological and social problems driven by overpopulation, overconsumption and environmentally malign technologies.
In the face of an “absolutely unprecedented emergency”, say the 18 past winners of the Blue Planet prize – the unofficial Nobel for the environment – society has “no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilisation. Either we will change our ways and build an entirely new kind of global society, or they will be changed for us”.
The stark assessment of the current global outlook by the group, who include Sir Bob Watson, the government’s chief scientific adviser on environmental issues, US climate scientist James Hansen, Prof José Goldemberg, Brazil’s secretary of environment during the Rio Earth summit in 1992, and Stanford University Prof Paul Ehrlich, is published today on the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the UN environment programme (Unep). The paper, which was commissioned by Unep, will feed into the Rio +20 earth summit conference in June.
GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum blamed the “radical environmental policies” of the Obama administration Monday for rising gas prices, and said he would promote “responsible environmental stewardship” as president, including support for the coal industry and approval of the Keystone Pipeline.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he told a cheering crowd of several hundred in this once-booming steel town, “we need someone who understands, who comes from the coal fields, who comes from the steel mills, who understands what ordinary working people in American need to provide for themselves and their families.”
Santorum grew up not far away, in the coal and steel country of western Pennsylvania, and often tells the story of how his grandfather came from Italy to work in the coal fields. As he introduced his wife, his in-laws and three of his seven children to the throng, he said, “It’s great to be back home.”
When it comes to U.S. venture capital funding for the most promising new green technology firms, there’s California and there’s everybody else.
California companies raked in $2.8 billion, or 57%, of the $4.9 billion in venture capital offered up in the so-called clean-tech category of funding nationwide last year, according to a recently released analysis from Ernst & Young.
Massachusetts companies were a distant second with $465.1 million, followed by Colorado companies, which pulled in $363.3 million.
“It’s a good indicator of the innovation that can be found here and of the opportunities available in California,” said Mark Sogomian, an Ernst & Young partner and leader of its clean-tech group in Los Angeles.
Global warming has forced alpine chipmunks in California to higher ground, prompting a startling decline in the species’ genetic diversity, researchers say.
Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, say their study of chipmunks in Yosemite National Parks is one of the first to measure the impact on the genetic diversity of a species whose geographic range changes because of climate change.
In a brand-new factory here, Eric Kim, chief executive of Soraa Inc., cradles a palm-size light that he refers to as “LED 2.0.” The light has a circular snowflakelike cooling frame surrounding a lens that emits a bright white light.
But it also radiates a mystery — and a continuing controversy.
Over the past few years, energy-saving LED lights have popped up nearly every place where low power is required. They provide the backlighting for cellphones, smartphones and laptops as well as for headlamps for hikers, for instance.
But in the United States in particular, LED lights have not yet caught on for home lighting, still a bastion of the incandescent light bulb — which to this day is not much more efficient than when it was invented by Thomas Edison in 1879.
The Bureau of Land Management has recommended 237,100 acres of public land in Arizona are suitable for renewable energy development, part of an effort to speed up the process for clean-energy companies looking to set up shop in the state.
The agency Friday released a draft environmental impact statement for its Restoration Design Energy Project, recommending a middle course among six alternatives that ranged in size from 43,700 acres to 321,500 acres.
“Arizona has great potential to build a strong renewable energy economy,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a prepared statement.
The BLM project is unique to Arizona, but supporters said it is being looked at for other parts of the country. A similar effort has been launched across the West by the bureau.
The Arizona report looked for lands that could become Renewable Energy Development Areas (REDA) for solar and wind energy projects. The option recommended Friday identified agency lands that are either within five miles of points of demand – such as cities or towns – or of utility corridors and existing transmission lines that could carry energy to market.