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.

UN: Meat Consumption Must be Cut to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

In the developed world, citizens take advantage of the enormous bounty of meat while shopping at markets and dining in restaurants. For some, a meal can only be classified as real if it contains some kind of meat in it. According to the UN, the attitude towards meat consumption has to change, and people must cut back. This is a necessary step in reducing one of the most potent greenhouse gases, nitrous oxide (N2O). A recent study by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that the developed world needs to cut its meat consumption by 50 percent per person by the year 2050.

Dropping Solar Panel Costs and Grid Parity

Solar is, by any measure, a hot industry. Even with the reduction in subsidies from Germany and Italy, the world's two largest solar markets, global spending on solar installations continues to be high. Analysts suggest that this year's solar purchases will amount to roughly the same as last year's, 27 GW globally, despite the reduction in subsidies in many parts of the world. Part of this growing demand is the reduction in costs. Solar's installed cost has dropped 10 percent just in the last 4 months, as manufacturers are being forced to compete in a heavily commoditized market.

Forests and the Health of the Planet

The health of our forests directly impacts the health of the planet. The importance of forests to the Earth’s ecosystems cannot be overstated. Research shows that forest die-offs are on the increase and this troubling trend is being linked to global warming. Heat and water stress associated with climate change are making forests vulnerable to insect attacks, fires and other problems. As reported in an October 2011 New York Times article, millions of acres of forests in the northern and central Rockies are dying. In Colorado, at least 15 percent of that state’s aspen forests are suffering due to a lack of water. The U.S. is not the only country where forests are succumbing to the effects of a warming climate, trees are also being impacted by climate change all around the globe. The evidence for global warming continues to mount with March 2012 being the warmest in recorded history in the U.S. and January to March 2012 being the warmest first quarter on record in the lower 48 states. This is but the most recent data corroborating an increasingly irrefutable body of evidence.

Sunny Forecast for Solar Power

The American solar industry more than doubled in megawatts last year, from 887 megawatts installed in 2010 to 1,855 megawatts installed in 2011. This growth represents enough solar energy to power over 350,000 homes! 2011 also marks the first time the U.S. solar market has topped one gigawatt (1,000 MW) in a single year. Many factors contributed to this growth. The cost of installing solar panels fell 20 percent last year due to lower component costs and improved installation efficiency. Expanded financing options and a shift toward larger systems nationwide also made solar more affordable. In addition the 1603 Treasury Program, which offered rebates for businesses that installed solar panels, ended Dec. 31, 2011. This looming deadline drove developers to commission projects before the end of the year.

Shale Oil Impact in Russia

Shale oil, known also as kerogen oil or oil-shale oil, is an unconventional oil produced from oil shale by pyrolysis, hydrogenation, or thermal dissolution. These processes convert the organic matter within the rock (kerogen) into synthetic oil and gas. The resulting oil can be used immediately as a fuel or upgraded to meet refinery feedstock specifications by adding hydrogen and removing impurities such as sulfur and nitrogen. The refined products can be used for the same purposes as those derived from crude oil. The largest known reserves are in the US. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has urged his country's gas industry to rise to the challenge of shale gas as the United States and some European countries forge ahead with developing the controversial energy source. US shale gas production may seriously restructure supply and demand in the global hydrocarbons market, Putin said yesterday in his final address to the Russian Duma before he takes over as president on 7 May.

Climate Change Effects on Long-Term Plant Growth in Arizona

Climate change around the world is not predicted to be uniform. Most places will get warmer, some will get more rain and others will get less. For areas of Arizona, warmer temperatures are expected to provide a boost in plant growth caused by a longer growing season and more carbon dioxide in the air. However, a new study from Northern Arizona University suggests the contrary. Warming temperatures will cause an initial boost in plant growth, but will quickly diminish over the years. This may lead to significant deterioration in future plant growth.

In the News: New National Park provides hope for world’s rarest wild cat

With fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild, the Amur leopard is thought to be the world’s rarest wild cat, and the creation of a new protected area in Russia is an important step towards the conservation of this highly threatened species.