September 30, 2010

Tiny generators turn waste heat into power

The second law of thermodynamics is a big hit with the beret-wearing college crowd because of its implicit existential crunch. The tendency of a closed systems to become increasingly disordered if no energy is added or removed is a popular, if not depressing, "things fall apart" sort-of-law that would seem to confirm the adolescent experience.
Now a joint team of Ukrainian and American scientists has demanded more work and less poetry from the second law of thermodynamics, proposing a novel "pyroelectric" method to power tiny devices using waste heat.

National study finds strong link between diabetes and air pollution

A national epidemiologic study finds a strong, consistent correlation between adult diabetes and particulate air pollution that persists after adjustment for other risk factors like obesity and ethnicity, report researchers from Children's Hospital Boston. The relationship was seen even at exposure levels below the current EPA safety limit.
The report, published in the October issue of Diabetes Care, is among the first large-scale population-based studies to link diabetes prevalence with air pollution. It is consistent with prior laboratory studies finding an increase in insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes, in obese mice exposed to particulates, and an increase in markers of inflammation (which may contribute to insulin resistance) in both the mice and obese diabetic patients after particulate exposure.

September 24, 2010

How heating our homes could help reduce climate change

Scientists at The University of Manchester claim using sustainable wood and other biofuels could hold the key to lowering harmful greenhouse gases.

Building district heating schemes which would provide heat and hot water for a neighbourhood or community would not only drastically reduce greenhouse gases but would also be highly cost effective, the authors claim.

Focus groups to test the UK public’s eagerness for such schemes have already been held and have resulted in the majority of people being in favour of the localised centres.

A biological solution to animal pandemics

EUREKA project E! 4104 ECOPROMAT has developed a novel and environmentally-friendly type of matting for use in protection against the spread of contagious animal diseases such as avian influenza, and for routine hygiene in animal and food production. Soaked with disinfectant solution, the matting can be used for disinfecting vehicle tyres, and the shoes and boots of personnel. As it is made of 100% natural fibres, it is highly absorbent to disinfectant solution; it is also fully biodegradable and therefore avoids the high disposal costs of synthetic alternatives. The under-surface is made of densely woven fabric for strength, and impregnated with natural resin to prevent seepage of disinfectant into the ground, or dilution of disinfectant by ground water.
Outbreaks of contagious animal diseases like avian flu, foot-and-mouth disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), cause national and regional public health authorities take extensive steps to prevent these diseases from spreading. The economic costs of such outbreaks are hard to estimate, but they can cause major disruption to agricultural production and food distribution, also environmental challenges in disposal of infected animals and contaminated materials; plus widespread public anxiety.

September 22, 2010

Electricity collected from the air could become the newest alternative energy source

Imagine devices that capture electricity from the air — much like solar cells capture sunlight — and using them to light a house or recharge an electric car. Imagine using similar panels on the rooftops of buildings to prevent lightning before it forms. Strange as it may sound, scientists already are in the early stages of developing such devices, according to a report at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.
"Our research could pave the way for turning electricity from the atmosphere into an alternative energy source for the future," said study leader Fernando Galembeck, Ph.D. His research may help explain a 200-year-old scientific riddle about how electricity is produced and discharged in the atmosphere. "Just as solar energy could free some households from paying electric bills, this promising new energy source could have a similar effect," he maintained.

Ecologists find new clues on climate change in 150-year-old pressed plants

Plants picked up to 150 years ago by Victorian collectors and held by the million in herbarium collections across the world could become a powerful – and much needed – new source of data for studying climate change, according to research published this week in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Ecology.
The scarcity of reliable long-term data on phenology – the study of natural climate-driven events such as the timing of trees coming into leaf or plants flowering each spring – has hindered scientists' understanding of how species respond to climate change.
But new research by a team of ecologists from the University of East Anglia (UEA), the University of Kent, the University of Sussex and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew shows that plants pressed up to 150 years ago tell the same story about warmer springs resulting in earlier flowering as field-based observations of flowering made much more recently.

September 18, 2010

Avoiding the danger of climate change

The world will need to make substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions below current levels over the next few decades if the worst impacts of dangerous climate change are to be avoided. This was a key conclusion from UK and US climate scientists at an international workshop on the UK AVOID program in Washington, DC exploring the most policy-relevant aspects of understanding dangerous climate change.
Latest results from AVOID have shown that strong mitigation action to limit temperature rise to below 2 °C avoids many of the climate impacts, but not all of them. Examples show that 50% of the impact of water scarcity, and almost 40% of the impact of decreasing crop suitability can be avoided through early action on greenhouse gas emissions. Time is short and delaying action reduces the chance of limiting temperature rise to 2 °C and increases the chance of significant impacts.

September 16, 2010

Optimizing climate change reduction

Scientists at the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology have taken a new approach on examining a proposal to fix the warming planet.Large-scale projects to change the Earth's climate—have included erecting giant mirrors in space to reflect solar radiation, injecting aerosols of sulfate into the stratosphere making a global sunshade, and much more. Past modeling of the sulfate idea looked at how the stratospheric aerosols might affect Earth's climate and chemistry. The Carnegie researchers started out differently by asking how, if people decided what kind of climate they want, they would go about determining the aerosol distribution pattern that would come closest to achieving their climate goals. This new approach is the first attempt to determine the optimal way of achieving defined climate goals.

Coal Ash Linked To Cancer and Other Maladies

According to Earthjustice and Physicians for Social Responsibility, Water and air in 34 states are being poisoned by the waste of coal-fired power plants—creating major health risks for children and adults. The contamination occurring at hundreds of coal ash dumps and waste ponds across the country to health threats such as cancer, nerve damage and impairment of a child's ability to write, read and learn.
Coal ash has different physical and chemical properties depending on the geochemical properties of the coal being used and how that coal is burned.

September 15, 2010

Climate change is unpredictable

The fear that global temperature can change very quickly and cause dramatic climate changes that may have a disastrous impact on many countries and populations is great around the world. But what causes climate change and is it possible to predict future climate change? New research from the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen shows that it may be due to an accumulation of different chaotic influences and as a result would be difficult to predict. The results have just been published in Geophysical Research Letters.
For millions of years the Earth’s climate has alternated between about 100,000 years of ice age and approximately 10-15,000 years of a warm climate like we have today. The climate change is controlled by the Earth’s orbit in space, that is to say the Earth’s tilt and distance from the sun. But there are also other climatic shifts in the Earth’s history and what caused those?
Dramatic climate change of the past By analysing the ice cores tha

Superbugs that clean up environment

A contaminated site, of either terrestrial or aquatic ecosystems, that is polluted with toxic chemicals is deadly for the environment. The textile, leather, fertilizer and other industries are continuously releasing toxic pollut into our land and rivers, disturbing the normal balance of both the ecosystems which is alarming for a clean and healthy environment.
Although there are various ways to clean up the environment such as recycling the wastes, incineration or disposing the wastes and pollutants into landfill sites, the best and most eco-friendly way to clean up the pollutants is using the microorganisms, the process known as bioremediation. Genetically engineered microbes (GEMs) or the so called superbugs could be a very promising option to perform this job.
Don’t confuse this superbug with those resistant bacteria which are also called superbugs and are capable of resisting almost any antibiotics present to date and thus a major concern now in health sector. I will limit today’s discussion to the genetically engineered microbes with their promise for a better, cleaner and a greener environment.

September 13, 2010

Is only greenhouse gas emission responsible?

The mean temperature of the world has been rising, snow in the hemisphere and even on mount Everest is melting, sea level is rising, salt water intrusion is reducing the availability of fresh water, coastal region is facing more and frequent cyclones and storm surges. The main cause of these changes is the increase in global temperature due to increased use of fossil fuel throughout the world especially in the developed countries.
It is a very simple equation that we, the human beings are using more and more fossil fuel, emitting huge amount of greenhouse gases that trap the sun's temperature in the earth atmosphere and consequently global temperature is rising and causing climate change which will cause a devastating situation for mankind in the early future.
The earth's position with respect to the sun over time affects its climate. During its annual circuit around the sun, the earth's present elliptical orbit brings it closest to the sun in January (perihelion), and carries it farthest away in July (aphelion). The planet receives about 6% more solar energy in January than in July. The Earth's axis, a line through the poles, is tilted 23.5° with respect to the sun. Consequently, the sun's rays strike the northern hemisphere most directly on June 21st (the summer solstice) and the southern hemisphere most directly on December 21st (the winter solstice).

September 10, 2010

Main climate threat from CO2 sources yet to be built

Scientists have warned that avoiding dangerous climate change this century will require steep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions. New energy-efficient or carbon-free technologies can help, but what about the power plants, cars, trucks, and other fossil-fuel-burning devices already in operation? Unless forced into early retirement, they will emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for decades to come. Will their emissions push carbon dioxide levels beyond prescribed limits, regardless of what we build next? Is there already too much inertia in the system to curb climate change?
Not just yet, say scientists Steven Davis and Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology. But to avoid the worst impacts we need to get busy building the next generation of clean energy technologies.

September 9, 2010

Saving a million acre-feet of water through conservation and efficiency in California

A new analysis released today by the Pacific Institute recommends specific actions that can annually save a million acre-feet of water quickly and at a lower economic and ecological cost than developing new supplies. The assessment notes that new actions are immediately needed to reduce the growing tensions over the state's water resources and to address California's persistent water supply challenges.
This is a key time for California water: the California Water Bond has been tabled for at least two years and may be scrapped altogether. New reviews from around the state are calling for prompt efforts to use technology, economics, and institutional reform to address the state's water crisis. All parties seem to agree that the state will need a diverse portfolio of solutions – but it makes the most sense to do the most effective things first. The Pacific Institute's new report, California's Next Million Acre-Feet: Saving Water, Energy, and Money, quantifies more than one million acre-feet of water that can be conserved through improved efficiency, with savings coming from the urban and industrial sectors and improvements in agriculture.

September 8, 2010

Risk of beetle outbreaks rise, along with temperature

The potential for outbreaks of spruce and mountain pine beetles in western North America's forests is likely to increase significantly in the coming decades, according to a study conducted by USDA Forest Service researchers and their colleagues.
"Native bark beetles are responsible for the death of billions of coniferous trees across millions of acres of forests ranging from Mexico to Alaska," said Barbara Bentz, research entomologist with the Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station and lead author of the study. "Our study begins to explain how their populations respond to the climatic changes being projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change."

Stanford land-use expert brings satellite data down to Earth

Stanford University geographer Eric Lambin and his colleagues are exploring the complex conditions that give rise to a broad range of land-use challenges – from the reforestation of Vietnam to the spread of Lyme disease in Belgium.
For decades, orbiting satellites have peered downward to gather information about the surface of the Earth, giving scientists an unprecedented view of the planet. Using this data, researchers have created maps of deforestation and other land-use changes over time.
Satellites are precise tools, able to measure the rate of photosynthesis in a tiny clump of trees in the heart of the Amazon Basin. But satellite technology reveals little about the people living beneath the canopy who decide the fate of the trees around them. For a deeper understanding of how and why humans alter their environment, researchers need to talk face-to-face with the people who live there.

September 4, 2010

Tiger conservation in Bangladesh

Tiger, symbol of the beast and beauty, is a threatened species worldwide. Recent estimate shows that tigers only occupy 7% of their historic Asian range and about 4000 are left in the wild (Dinerstein et al. 2007). Aside from this alarming tiger status worldwide, Bangladesh possesses a relatively good number of them, mostly concentrated in the Sundarbans. Joint India and Bangladesh tiger census-2004 (using pugmark counting) estimated that there are 419 (121 male and 298 female) tigers in Bangladesh Sundarbans. The number may vary, as many scientists are sceptical about the accuracy of pugmark counting. However, it is beyond doubt that the size of the tiger population in the Bangladesh Sundarbans would be between 300-500. Being the biggest member of the cat family the Bengal tiger is popularly known as Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) for its unique hunting behaviour and spectacular physical appearance.