Shining light on sustainability at the holidays — and beyond

LED_lights

“Doing what you can with what you have” may not be a common holiday theme, but it is something that staff and volunteers at the Environmental Center at CU-Boulder especially promote during this time of year when commercialism runs rampant. Those colorful lights you string up in trees and around your house need lots of energy to produce that holiday glow – more than 2.2 million MWh of electricity, or enough to provide energy to more than 173,000 homes for one year. Americans produce 25 percent more trash this time of the year, notes the center, and much of that comes from wrapping paper … [Read more...]

Seven trends spotted at United Nations climate talks

UN-climate-peru

Need help making sense of the 20th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference? Lauren Gifford, a CU-Boulder doctoral student, was at the Conference of the Parties that took place in Lima, Peru on Dec. 1-14. Gifford and fellow PhD student Jonas Bruun, from the University of Manchester, were part of the Institute for Policy Studies delegation at the talks. They called the conference a “dress rehearsal” for talks that should conclude with a new international climate agreement in 2015. With several strands of negotiations between governments and hundreds of events held in parallel, Gifford … [Read more...]

New study connects climate’s rising temps to armed conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa

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The full article originally appeared at Colorado.edu. CU-Boulder Professor John O’Loughlin led a research team that assessed more than 78,000 armed conflicts between 1980 and 2012 in the Sahel region of Africa – a semi-arid belt just south of the Saharan Desert that spans about 3,000 miles and more than a dozen countries from the Atlantic to the Indian oceans. The team was looking for links between armed conflicts and temperature and rainfall anomalies, as well as assessing other causes of violence in the Sahel. “We found a clear signal that higher temperatures in the Sahel over time … [Read more...]

Request for Applications: AirWaterGas Sustainability Research Network Grants

Air Water Gas - Sustainability Research Network logo

The AirWaterGas Sustainability Research Network (SRN) at the University of Colorado Boulder (www.airwatergas.org) is seeking grant applicants for local projects that work to improve understanding around the risks and benefits of oil and gas development. Projects should focus on impacts in your community to air quality, water quality and quantity, economic effects, or other factors. Projects can be citizen science initiatives, project-based learning, the interface of science and policy issues, or other energy-related topics that have relevance for your school, organization, and/or … [Read more...]

Is there an upper limit to the greenhouse gas effect?

Greenhouse Effect on Venus

Editor’s Note: Learn More About Climate recently received an interesting question through our Ask A Scientist feature: I have recently heard the claim that "the atmospheric absorption bands for CO2 are already saturated" so the addition of more CO2 to the atmosphere is moot. I trust this is not the whole story, and would like to understand why such a claim is not accepted by the (vast) majority of climate scientists. CU-Boulder second-year graduate student Anondo Mukherjee reached out to his colleagues at the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC). Here is Anondo's … [Read more...]

Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability – IPCC Working Group II Report Now Available

IPCC Working Group II

Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released its full contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). The report provides the most comprehensive look to date at the worldwide impacts of climate change and the opportunities for response. View and download the report here: IPCC Working Group II: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability - Summary for Policymakers In addition to the final versions of the 30-chapter report, cross-chapter materials, technical summary, and summary for policymakers, this latest release includes … [Read more...]

“Hot Spot” Near Four Corners Produces Largest Methane Concentration in the U.S.

US maps showing methane hot spot.

Scientists at NASA and the University of Michigan have published a new study showing that an area at the intersection of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada is a "hot spot" for methane emissions. In each of the seven years studied from 2003 to 2009, the area released about 0.59 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere. This is almost 3.5 times the estimate for the same area in the European Union's widely used Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research. The gas measured in the study comes from leaks in processing equipment, and is not attributed to fracking, … [Read more...]

NSIDC recovers rescued data and reveals sea ice secrets (video)

Garrett Campel

50 years ago, NASA launched Nimbus to study Earth from space. Now, experts at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (part of CIRES), are recovering valuable data and images from old, long-lost film, and expanding their understanding of sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic. When NASA launched Nimbus-1 50 years ago, the agency’s key goals were to test instruments that could capture images of clouds and other meteorological features. The Nimbus satellites made such excellent observations, NASA eventually handed over key technologies to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration … [Read more...]

Cesar Nufio picks up the trail of 13,000 dead grasshoppers and what they can tell us about climate change

Cesar Nufio, CU-Boulder

When CU-Boulder entomologist Cesar Nufio discovered a collection of 50-year-old grasshoppers in a CU lab, he knew they would be instrumental in assessing the effects of climate change on grasshoppers. Nufio is an adjoint curator in the Entomology Section of the Museum Natural History at CU, and has taught several courses in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. The collection of grasshoppers, along with notebooks cataloging detailed field notes, were the work of Gordon Alexander, former head of CU-Boulder's biology department. Stephanie Paige Ogburn of KUNC.org reports: … [Read more...]

Ozone gardens at CU-Boulder and NCAR reveal harmful effects of pollution

Ozone Garden

Most people have heard about the harmful effects of pollution on human and plant health, but until recently, visualizing such effects took some imagination. Now, new “ozone gardens” at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Museum of Natural History and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Mesa Laboratory make the evidence startlingly clear. Visits to the gardens are free and open to the public. Scientists at CU-Boulder and NCAR are growing plants that develop brown and black spots on their leaves when exposed to harmful air pollution. The ozone gardens feature particular … [Read more...]