Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Climate Change

The electric Tesla Roadster comes out on top of the ethanol powered Saab 9-5 in the miles ...

Running vehicles on biofuels such as ethanol reduces CO2 emissions and offers a way to lessen the world's reliance on oil. While this sounds great from an environmental perspective, the energy required to produce the biofuel and the land clearing for crops that can result means biofuels aren’t necessarily the environmentally friendly solution they initially appear to be. Recognizing this, researchers have analyzed the best way to maximize the “miles per acre” from biomass and discovered that the far more efficient option is to convert the biomass to electricity, rather than ethanol. Another tick for the electric car.  Read More

The Bushbunker is a purpose-built fire shelter designed to maximize the likelihood of surv...

Australia’s ‘Black Saturday’ in February claimed 173 lives and countless homes and livelihoods. The country’s worst wildfire tragedy, this horrific disaster was an extreme example of an annual threat faced not only in Australia but also North America and South Africa where similar dry conditions are experienced. As the survivors struggle to come to terms with their losses and begin to rebuild their lives, questions are being asked about what could have been done, and what must be done now to better protect populations. Tougher building standards for homes in fire-prone areas will be introduced, but another option under scrutiny is fire resistant shelters - are they safe, should governments play a role in their development and how should they be designed and built? Entering this debate is the Bushbunker, a dedicated fire shelter design which aims to maximize the likelihood of survival regardless of the intensity or type of fire.  Read More

IBN scientists convert CO2 into methanol

Scientists at the Singapore-based Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) have made an unprecedented breakthrough in transforming carbon dioxide, a common greenhouse gas, into methanol, a widely used form of industrial feedstock and clean-burning biofuel. Using "organocatalysts", researchers activated carbon dioxide in a mild and non-toxic process to produce the more useful chemical compound.  Read More

Ice thickness, estimated by combining six climate models selected for this study, is shown...

According to new research the Arctic Ocean may be ice free in the summer months much faster than previously estimated. Research based on earlier climatic models suggested that this would not occur until the end of the century, but new models suggest that the Arctic might lose most of its ice cover in as little as 30 years - three times more rapid than previous studies have indicated. If this was to occur, the amount of the arctic covered by ice at the end of the summer could be down to around 1 million square kilometers (390 000 square miles) compared with the currently coverage of 4.6 million square kilometers (1.8 million square miles).  Read More

Fish oils may reduce the methane released by cattle

Omega 3 fatty acids in fish oils have many documented benefits to humans including the reduction of cholesterol, but what of the benefits to animals and the environment in general? While assisting the heart and circulatory system in animals and improving the meat quality in cattle, it is also, according to researchers at the University College Dublin beneficial in reducing methane levels from flatulence when added to the diet of cattle, meaning it's also good for the environment.  Read More

A present-day salt lake in the south of Russia
 Pic Credit: Dr. Ludwig Weißflog/UFZ

A new report by an international team of scientists has suggested that the largest mass extinction in the history of the earth may not have been caused by volcanic eruptions, methane hydrate or the impact of an asteroid as previously surmised. It may actually have been triggered by giant salt lakes, whose emissions of halogenated gases changed the atmospheric composition to such an extent that vegetation was irretrievably damaged. While this is a lot less dramatic than a volcanic eruption or an asteroid, the effect would be no less devastating and may have implications for us today with forecasts predicting an increase in the surface areas of deserts and salt lakes due to climate change that researchers expect will also lead to an increase in the effects of these halogenated gases.  Read More

Just 51% of the population believe that climate change is caused by human activities

It just goes to show you what a bad state the education system is in when just 51% of the population believe that climate change is caused by human activities. Opinion Research Corporation surveyed 1,000 people in late January and found that 29% believe climate change is occurring naturally, 15% believe climate change needs to be proven scientifically either way and 3% believe climate change doesn’t exist. Oh, and for the record, of those who got it right, 55% were male, which means ... we're no longer sure whether to be more concerned about global warming or global ignorance.  Read More

The world's largest solar power facility, located near Kramer Junction, California, consis...

The concept of delaying global warming by adding particles into the upper atmosphere to cool the climate could unintentionally reduce peak electricity generated by large solar power plants by as much as one-fifth, according to a new study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  Read More

Image credit – Willem van Aken, CSIRO

March 24, 2009 The weather conditions that lead to Southern Australia’s past two devastating bushfires may be linked to lower than normal sea-surface temperatures in the eastern Indian Ocean, according to CSIRO research presented at the Greenhouse 2009 Conference today. The Ash Wednesday bushfires in February 1983 and the Black Saturday bushfires in February were preceded by months of very dry conditions. Those dry conditions were partly caused by cooler ocean sea-surface temperatures in the eastern Indian Ocean, which contributed to a substantial reduction in spring-time rainfall over the south-east of Australia.  Read More

Ultramafic rocks (in red) that potentially could absorb CO2 (Image: U.S. Geological Survey...

The debate about the benefits of using Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) to fight against climate change is ongoing. One one hand there are reservations regarding suitable sequestration sites that provide sufficient security to store CO2 for centuries as well as the cost of implementing such a system, which could draw important funds away from the development of renewable energy technologies. On the other, we are still heavily reliant on burning fossil fuels to produce energy and this infrastructure can't be replaced overnight. CCS is obviously attractive to existing power generation companies as it allows them to keep hold of their existing infrastructure and for this reason, it is more than likely that CSS schemes will continue to gather momentum. So where to we can CO2 be stored? Scientists at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and the U.S. Geological Survey have produced a new report that maps large rock formations in the United States that can also absorb CO2 and are exploring ways to speed up the CCS process.  Read More

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