Growing Population and Climate

Changes in population growth and composition, including aging and urbanization, could significantly affect global emissions of carbon dioxide over the next 40 years. The research, appearing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), was conducted by an international team of scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. By mid-century it is estimated that global population could rise by more than three billion people, with most of that increase occurring in urban areas. The study showed that a slowing of population growth, following one of the slower growth paths considered plausible by demographers at the United Nations, could contribute to significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The researchers found that such slow growth paths by 2050 could account for 16 to 29 percent of the emissions reductions thought necessary to keep global temperatures from causing serious impacts.

Fat Distribution Controlled by Genetics

People become overweight in different ways. Some will develop a beer gut (apple-shaped) while some will have the fat go to their rear and thighs (pear-shaped). Two new major studies have identified a set of genes that determine where the fat goes in obese people. The team of international researchers also identified genes that determine individual susceptibility to obesity.

Poverty forces Roma people to scavenge toxic e-waste

Roma communities in France, currently the subject of a controversial crackdown by the Sarkozy administration, are being forced to scavenge growing volumes of potentially dangerous e-waste in a bid to escape poverty, an Ecologist investigation has revealed.

Hurricane Paula menaces Mexico and Cuba

Mexico evacuated tourists and residents from islands off the Yucatan peninsula on Tuesday as Hurricane Paula, a Category 2 storm, was on track to sideswipe Mexico's Caribbean resorts before heading toward Cuba. Packing winds of 100 miles per hour, the storm was expected to brush past the Yucatan coast, home to hundreds of resorts, before veering toward Cuba on Wednesday, the U.S. National Hurricane center said. As it neared the Yucatan coast, Paula poured heavy rains on Cancun, Mexico's biggest tourist destination, and threatened to flood poor, outlying slums.

Plastic Solar Cells

Physicists at Rutgers University in New Jersey have discovered new properties in a material that could result in efficient and inexpensive plastic solar cells for electricity production. The discovery, posted online and slated for publication in an upcoming issue of the journal Nature Materials, reveals that energy carrying particles generated by packets of light can travel on the order of a thousand times farther in organic (carbon-based) semiconductors than scientists previously observed. This boosts scientists' hopes that solar cells based on this new type of technology may one day overtake silicon solar cells in cost and performance, thereby increasing the practicality of solar generated electricity as an alternate energy source to fossil fuels.

Massive logjam in Borneo blocks Malaysia’s longest river

A massive 50-km-long (30-mi) logjam has blocked the Rajang river in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, bringing river traffic to a standstill and posing a threat to riverbank communities, reports Malaysian state media. The Rajang, Malaysia's longest river, is presently unnavigable, according to Bernama.

Bring on Enviropig?: Can Genetic Engineering Make Meat a More Sustainable Food?

Food safety advocates may shudder at the thought, but a team of scientists in Canada have come up with a new breed of pig that is intended to make meat a greener, more sustainable food. The Enviropig is engineered to have the same meat quality as your typically breeded Yorkshire pig, with all the ideal protein and fat content developed for the market. But in addition, it is also engineered to produce less toxic manure that releases fewer pollutants into the atmosphere, thereby making it a more environmentally sustainable option for large scale pig farmers.

Huge Parts of World Are Drying Up: Land ‘Evapotranspiration’ Taking Unexpected Turn

ScienceDaily (Oct. 11, 2010) — The soils in large areas of the Southern Hemisphere, including major portions of Australia, Africa and South America, have been drying up in the past decade, a group of researchers conclude in the first major study to ever examine "evapotranspiration" on a global basis.

Night-time lights bring insects, disease

Use of artificial lighting at night can change human and insect behaviors, increasing the risk of insect-borne disease. Consider that before gas street lamps and electric light bulbs were invented in the 1800s, the world settled into darkness after sunset, relying only on the moon and stars for light. That is still the case in more remote regions of the world. But, as artificial lighting spreads through these mostly tropical areas, research is showing how night-time light can alter human and insect behavior and bring about some unexpected results – an increase in the transmission of insect-borne diseases. Altering human and insect interactions is one example of how light pollution may be changing disease risk patterns. The evidence suggests researchers should consider this when conducting future studies of how diseases spread. Synopsis by Thea Edwards

China overtakes U.S. as biggest energy consumer

IEA calculations based on preliminary data show that China has now overtaken the United States to become the world's largest energy user. China's rise to the top ranking was faster than expected as it was much less affected by the global financial crisis than the United States. For those who have been following energy consumption trends closely, this does not come as a surprise. What is more important is the phenomenal growth in demand that has taken place in China over the last decade; also prospects for future growth still remain incredibly strong. Since 2000, China’s energy demand has doubled, yet on a per capita basis it is still only around one-third of the OECD average. Prospects for further growth are very strong considering the country’s low per-capita consumption level and the fact that China is the most populous nation on the planet, with more than 1.3 billion people.