National Park Service touts green themes and waives fees

It's not easy being green, but the National Park Service (NPS) has decided it’s worth the effort. On Thursday, the agency that oversees 397 units comprising 84 million acres of land across the country unveiled a new plan to integrate sustainable practices into all aspects of its operations.

Rivers flowing into the sea offer vast potential as carbon-free energy source

A new genre of electric power-generating stations could supply electricity for more than a half billion people by tapping just one-tenth of the global potential of a little-known energy source that exists where rivers flow into the ocean, a new analysis has concluded. A report on the process, which requires no fuel, is sustainable and releases no carbon dioxide - the main greenhouse gas, appears in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Are “improved” Cookstoves in Pakistan better than the traditional ones?

Programmes to provide rural Pakistani households with so-called improved cookstoves have had a muted response due to a lack of awareness among target communities — particularly among the women who do the cooking, a study has found. The finding comes as separate research suggests that some improved cookstove models actually cause more pollution than traditional mud stoves. Traditional stoves — which run on biomass such as crop waste, dung and twigs — are known to cause indoor air pollution. Indoor and outdoor air pollution have been identified by the WHO has causing an estimated two million deaths each year.

Enzyme Batteries

New research at Concordia University is bringing the world one step closer to cleaner energy. It is now possible to extend the length of time a battery like enzyme can store energy from seconds to hours, as shown in a study published in the Journal of The American Chemical Society. Concordia Associate Professor László Kálmán — along with his colleagues in the Department of Physics, graduate students Sasmit Deshmukh and Kai Tang — has been working with an enzyme found in bacteria that is crucial for capturing solar energy. Light induces a charge separation in the enzyme, causing one end to become negatively charged and the other positively charged, much like in a battery. The hope is that such batteries are more sustainable in the long run with less environmental effects.

Measuring Microplastics in their Final Resting Place

Recycling plastics have become much more popular around the world, but large amounts are still thrown away. Through the power of wind, gravity, and moving water, much of the globally produced plastics find their way into the oceans. But the plastic bottles we see washing up along the shoreline only tell a small fraction of the marine plastics story. Most plastic debris in the ocean are nearly invisible to the naked eye. These are known as microplastics, and they are far more dangerous to oceanic wildlife than larger plastic debris. After previous studies on this subject have failed to estimate the extent of microplastic pollution in the ocean, a team of researchers has proposed a new set of guidelines for their recording and characterization.

Another Buffett Rule: No Shortcuts on the Environment

While the Senate attempts to deal with the so called Buffett Rule, which would force rich folks to pay taxes at least at the same rate as their secretaries, the rule's namesake, the billionaire investor Warren Buffett, has also spoken out on the environment in financial terms.

One of the Coldest Months

There is a lot not clear about the weather. In the US Northeast, it is clearly quite warm and almost hot. The average global temperature for March 2012 made it the coolest March since 1999, yet the 16th warmest since record keeping began in 1880. Arctic sea ice extent during the month was below average but was the largest extent since 2008 and one of the largest March extents of the past decade. Additionally, La Niña conditions continued to weaken during March as temperatures across the equatorial Pacific Ocean warmed during the last two months. According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, La Niña is expected to dissipate by the end of April 2012.

Greenland’s ice cover appears to be sliding into the ocean

Like snow sliding off a roof on a sunny day, the Greenland Ice Sheet may be sliding faster into the ocean due to massive releases of meltwater from surface lakes, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder-based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. Such lake drainages may affect sea-level rise, with implications for coastal communities, according to the researchers. "This is the first evidence that Greenland's 'supraglacial' lakes have responded to recent increases in surface meltwater production by draining more frequently, as opposed to growing in size," says CIRES research associate William Colgan, who co-led the new study with CU-Boulder computer science doctoral student Yu-Li Liang.

Europe announces huge green energy package for developing nations

The European Commission has announced a new multi-million Euro initiative to support developing countries in their drive towards sustainable energy generation. The green aid programme will prove specialists from across Europe to help poorer nations develop low-carbon sources of energy. And the scheme will provide hundreds of millions of Euros to underwrite the roll-out, which has the goal of providing sustainable energy to 50 million people by 2030. Speaking at the EU Sustainable Energy For all Summit in Brussels today, José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission, announced details of the plan. He said: "We have now clear scientific evidence that we need to embrace new ways of producing energy to avoid damaging global climate; we need to act upon this advice. The EU is therefore ready to help those countries that demonstrate such commitment, and to increase its efforts. To that end, I am delighted to announce today the launch of a new Commission initiative: Energising Development. Firstly, we will create a world-leading EU Technical Assistance Facility, initially in excess of 50 million euro over the next two years, to stand behind and support those countries that "opt in" to the initiative and commit to the necessary reforms. We will draw on the best EU experts in the field and promote the development and growth of expertise in developing countries themselves. I mentioned before that the Commission is already spending over 600 million euro per year in supporting energy; collectively EU Member States are spending even more than this, as we will no doubt hear later today. This is a strong base and, with our Agenda for Change and the mainstreaming of "green aid", we can confidently expect this figure to significantly increase from 2014 onwards, concentrating on sustainable and inclusive energy investments."

To Live or Die in the Shade

Shade avoidance syndrome or SAS. When it is hot most people enjoy the shade but not plants which live for the sun. They have SAS. Now, the molecular details of SAS have been brought to light by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. To step out of their neighbors' shade, plants switch on a natural chemical factory for the synthesis of the plant growth hormone auxin that lets a plant grow and ultimately stretch toward the sun.