Are Environmentalists basing positions on science, or not?

On issues ranging from genetically modified crops to nuclear power, environmentalists are increasingly refusing to listen to scientific arguments that challenge standard green positions. This approach risks weakening the environmental movement and empowering climate contrarians. From Rachel Carson's Silent Spring to James Hansen's modern-day tales of climate apocalypse, environmentalists have long looked to good science and good scientists and embraced their findings. Often we have had to run hard to keep up with the crescendo of warnings coming out of academia about the perils facing the world. A generation ago, biologist Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb and systems analysts Dennis and Donella Meadows' The Limits to Growth shocked us with their stark visions of where the world was headed. No wide-eyed greenie had predicted the opening of an ozone hole before the pipe-smoking boffins of the British Antarctic Survey spotted it when looking skyward back in 1985. On issues ranging from ocean acidification and tipping points in the Arctic to the dangers of nanotechnology, the scientists have always gotten there first — and the environmentalists have followed.

Electric Vehicles: Transitioning to a Sustainable Future

The US has a car culture. In 2010, 95% of American households owned a car and 85% of Americans drove to work each day. This is radically different from the lifestyle most Americans had after World War II, when 40% of Americans did not own cars. China and India are rapidly adopting the US living standard, and cars are flooding the streets. In 2011, China had 100 million cars on its streets, or about 10 percent of the more than 1 billion cars on streets worldwide. On average, 9.51 million automobiles were added each year between 2006 and 2010, exceeding the government’s ability to add roads and prepare for the increasing demand on transport infrastructure. Reacting to this mismatch, cities are establishing car quotas to attempt to slow the growth. This year in Beijing, for example, a car-quota system was put into effect, allowing the registration of no more than 240,000 new cars annually.

Solar Power Adoption is Contagious

Apparently doing something good can be contagious. Or at least this seems to be the case with solar power adoption. According to a study by Yale and New York University published though Marketing Science, individuals are most likely to install solar panels on their home if one of their neighbors has also done so. The study, "Peer Effects in Diffusion of Photovoltaic Panels", took a close look at solar installation clusters between January 2001 and December 2011 throughout the state of California. They found that a resident was most likely to install solar panels if solar panels had already been installed within that resident’s same zip code.

Decline in Salt Marshes in US Caused by Increased Nutrient Levels

Salt Marshes are marshy areas found near estuaries and low-energy coastlines. The water can vary from completely fresh to completely salt water, and is greatly affected by the tides. Salt marshes support diverse wildlife up and down the east coast of the United States. They also serve an important function in stabilizing the coastlines because the plant roots anchor the otherwise highly erodible soil. Unfortunately, salt marshes have been dying away over the past 20 years without a full understanding of how and why. A new report from the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, MA postulates that the cause of the decline is due to excess nutrients seeping into the marshes. These nutrients from sewer systems and lawn fertilizers, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, have been shown to cause salt marsh loss.

African farmers could soon grow virus-resistant cassava

Researchers in Zurich, Switzerland, have successfully developed a strain of virus-resistant cassava, and now hope to train scientists in Africa to develop the technology in laboratories on the continent.

How can Conservation Efforts help species adapt to climate change?

As the climate changes, conservationists are divided over the most effective way to preserve animal and plant diversity because they cannot simply preserve the status quo. Ensuring species can shift to track the climate to which they are suited is a complex problem, especially when there are competing demands on land use. A simple prediction is that more habitat would help species to shift, but it is not obvious what the best spatial locations for habitat would be. A new study led by scientists at the University of York says that well placed habitat "stepping stones" would lead to faster range expansion than the equivalent amount and quality of habitat tacked onto existing sites. The result applies to situations where a species will have to cross gaps of several times the distance one individual can normally traverse, i.e. to species whose habitat is fairly rare.

Ice Sheets Coming and Going

There are many factors that can speed up or slow down climate caused changes in glaciers and ice sheets. Ice-sheet retreat can halt temporarily even during a long warming phases. A UK team led by Durham University has found that the geometry of channels beneath the ice can be a strong control on ice behavior, temporarily hiding the signals of ice retreat.

Will we need to pull carbon out of the atmosphere to save ourselves?

This year saw the Arctic sea ice extent fall to a new and shocking low, while the U.S. experienced it warmest month ever on record (July), beating even Dust Bowl temperatures. Meanwhile, a flood of new research has convincingly connected a rise in extreme weather events, especially droughts and heatwaves, to global climate change, and a recent report by the DARA Group and Climate Vulnerability Forum finds that climate change contributes to around 400,000 deaths a year and costs the world 1.6 percent of its GDP, or $1.2 trillion. All this and global temperatures have only risen about 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.44 degrees Fahrenheit) since the early Twentieth Century. Scientists predict that temperatures could rise between 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) to a staggering 6.4 degrees Celsius (11.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.

The Dying Salt Marsh

A salt marsh, also known as a coastal salt marsh or a tidal marsh, is a coastal ecosystem in the upper coastal intertidal zone between land and open salt water or brackish water that is regularly flooded by the tides. It is dominated by dense stands of salt-tolerant plants such as herbs, grasses, or low shrubs. Salt marshes have been disintegrating and dying over the past two decades along the U.S. Eastern seaboard and other highly developed coastlines, without anyone fully understanding why. This week in the journal Nature, MBL Ecosystems Center scientist Linda Deegan and colleagues report that nutrients—such as nitrogen and phosphorus from septic and sewer systems and lawn fertilizers—can cause salt-marsh loss.

10 Ways Abu Dhabi Leads The Arab Gulf’s Green Revolution

Abu Dhabi's stellar efforts to raise green performance across industry sectors position that Gulf state as regional leader in both conceiving sustainable solutions, and more critically, setting them in action. There are some more famous projects like the multi-million dollar zero-energy city Masdar. But this is just the tip of the bucket.