New research compares environmental costs of livestock-based foods

Trust me, no one loves a nice, big, juicy steak more than me and while I have no immediate plans of becoming a vegetarian, I am a little concerned about the resources and costs it takes to produce the proteins of our favorite meals. From the land that is used by livestock to the supplies and energy it takes to raise these animals for our consumption, it is evident that environmental resources take a toll. But what is the real cost? New research at the Weizmann Institute of Science, conducted in collaboration with scientists in the US, calculates these environmental costs and compares various animal proteins to give a multi-perspective picture of what resources are really being used.

Devil Rays are deep divers!

Thought to dwell mostly near the ocean's surface, Chilean devil rays (Mobula tarapacana) are most often seen gliding through shallow, warm waters. But a new study by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and international colleagues reveals that these large and majestic creatures are actually among the deepest-diving ocean animals. "So little is known about these rays," said Simon Thorrold, a biologist at WHOI and one of the authors of the paper, published July 1, 2014, in the journal Nature Communications. "We thought they probably travelled long distances horizontally, but we had no idea that they were diving so deep. That was truly a surprise."

Chinese Tesla owner’s unique solution to range anxiety

Chinese businessman Yi Zong decided to install charging stations himself after he purchased his Tesla earlier this year. He realized that charging his vehicle would be a problem in China because, well, there are few stations in that country. Zong installed recharging facilities on his own dime, or yuan as the case may be, in 16 cities between Beijing and his home in Guangzhou — a 3,573-mile corridor. Zong, one of the first Chinese owners of the Model S, calls his project the country’s "first electric-charging road," according to a report at Caixin Online, a Beijing-based media group.

Obama allocates funds to help communities build climate adaptation

More extreme droughts, floods and wildfires – these are just some of the impacts of climate change that won't just occur in the distant future to our great-great grandchildren, but are happening now. To address the changing climate's current effects on communities in the U.S., President Barack Obama announced a plan to strengthen national infrastructure and help cities, states and tribal communities better prepare for and recover from natural disasters.

What do volcanos look like deep underground?

By measuring how fast Earth conducts electricity and seismic waves, a University of Utah researcher and colleagues made a detailed picture of Mount Rainier's deep volcanic plumbing and partly molten rock that will erupt again someday. "This is the most direct image yet capturing the melting process that feeds magma into a crustal reservoir that eventually is tapped for eruptions," says geophysicist Phil Wannamaker, of the university's Energy & Geoscience Institute and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "But it does not provide any information on the timing of future eruptions from Mount Rainier or other Cascade Range volcanoes."

Update: Melting permafrost and Global Warming

You have probably heard that melting permafrost is a big contributor to increasing the levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, and that melting permafrost may even cause an unstoppable acceleration of global warming. New research, however, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), counters this widely-held scientific view that thawing permafrost uniformly accelerates atmospheric warming, indicating instead that certain arctic lakes store more greenhouse gases than they emit into the atmosphere. The study, published this week in the journal Nature, focuses on thermokarst lakes, which occur as permafrost thaws and creates surface depressions that fill with melted fresh water, converting what was previously frozen land into lakes.

Two Years After Coming Into Effect, Australia Kills Carbon Tax

In a significant victory for Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the Australian Senate has voted to repeal the country's two-year-old carbon tax. Abbott made dismantling the tax one of the cornerstones of his campaign last September even as Australia remains one of the highest carbon emitters per capita in the industrialized world.

California NEEDS dry farming!

Residents of California have been noting something disconcerting when they hit the grocery store this year: it's a terrible year for stone fruit. Despite the fact that it's the height of summer, peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, cherries and their ilk are much more expensive than unusual, and of much poorer quality, too. What's going on? The answer lies in the state's extreme drought, which wreaked havoc on numerous crops this year, including stone fruit. The state's agriculture may be undergoing some major shifts in the coming years thanks to climate change and natural shifts in rainfall levels, and it's not the only region looking at a drier future.

Only 10% of Wind Farm Fires Reported

Wind farming is one of the leading industries in the renewable energy sector. The process is simple: wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft, which connects to a generator and makes electricity. However, converting this kinetic energy into mechanical power has resulted in quite a few wind turbines catching fire, and according to researchers not all fires are being fully reported. Researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Edinburgh and SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden carried out a global assessment of the world's wind farms, which in total contain an estimated 200,000 turbines. The team found that ten times more fires are happening than are being reported. Instead of an average of 11.7 fires each year, which is what is reported publicly, the researchers estimate that more than 117 separate fires are breaking out in turbines annually.

New Insect Repellent Graphic Released by EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today unveiled a new graphic that will be available to appear on insect repellent product labels. The graphic will show consumers how many hours a product will repel mosquitoes and/or ticks when used as directed. "We are working to create a system that does for bug repellents what SPF labeling did for sunscreens," said Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. "By providing vital information to consumers, this new graphic will help parents, hikers and the general public better protect themselves and their families from serious health threats caused by mosquitoes and ticks. We are encouraging manufacturers to submit applications so they can add the graphic to their registered repellent products."