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NASA scientists flew over the Kuskokwim river in southwest Alaska in 2017 to investigate how water levels in the Arctic landscape change as permafrost thaws. Peter Griffith, NASA

By Tim Radford

Scientists have identified yet another hazard linked to the thawing permafrost: laughing gas. A series of flights over the North Slope of Alaska has detected unexpected levels of emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide from the rapidly warming soils.

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leonard_c / E+ / Getty Images

By Tim Radford

For forests, it really does help to be young. British scientists who have identified the vital factor that shows what makes a forest a good carbon sink say young forests use carbon best and absorb it most efficiently.

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences seems on the face of it to settle an old puzzle with an unsurprising answer. New and young forests make the most efficient and effective carbon sinks.

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Colorful, fresh organic vegetables. fcafotodigital / Getty Images

By Tim Radford

An international panel of health scientists and climate researchers has prescribed a new diet for the planet: more vegetables, less meat, fresh fruit, whole grains and pulses, give up sugar, waste less and keep counting the calories.

And if 200 nations accept the diagnosis and follow doctor's orders, tomorrow's farmers may be able to feed 10 billion people comfortably by 2050, help contain climate change, and prevent 11 million premature deaths per year.

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Forest area in SW Cameroon cleared for oil palm plantation. Mokhamad Edliadi / CIFOR

By Alex Kirby

Companies selling products which contain palm oil need to be upfront about where it comes from, so as to relieve consumers of the burden of making sustainable choices, a UK study says.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge say companies should not rely simply on purchasers' own awareness of the need to make environmentally responsible decisions, but should publicly disclose the identities of their palm oil suppliers.

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Shanghai panoramic skyline at sunrise. zorazhuang / Getty Images

By Tim Radford

China's cities now have a better idea of what global warming is going to cost. New research warns that for every rise of one degree Celsius in global average temperatures, average electricity demand will rise by 9 percent.

And that's the average demand. For the same shift in the thermometer reading, peak electricity demand in the Yangtze Valley delta could go up by 36 percent.

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Black autumn truffles from France with leaves of oak, beech and hazel. kabVisio / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Tim Radford

Only a small percentage of the wild plant ancestors vital to human life can be considered safe from extinction.

Botanists who have monitored the conservation status of almost 7,000 species—the wild forerunners of plants that humans use for food, medicine, shelter, fuel and livestock feed—found that most could be counted as not properly conserved and protected.

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Vehicle charging points at a railway station in France. François GOGLINS via Wikimedia Commons

By Paul Brown

Oil and gas companies have underestimated probable electric vehicle sales and the effect they will have on their own businesses and profits, a new report says.

If the car manufacturers' projections of future sales of electric cars are correct, then demand for oil will have peaked by 2027 or even earlier, sending the price of oil in a downward spiral as supply exceeds demand, said Carbon Tracker (CT), an independent financial think-tank carrying out in-depth analysis on the impact of the energy transition on capital markets.

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Low – or no – water in a drought-stricken Spanish reservoir in 2016. Basotxerri / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

By Tim Radford

If average global temperatures rise by just 3°C, then Europe's drought risk could increase to double the area faced with drying out. Right now, just 13 percent of the continent can be counted as a drought-prone region. As the thermometer soars, this proportion could rise to 26 percent.

And 400 million people could feel the heat as the water content in the European soils begins to evaporate. The worst droughts will last three to four times longer than they did in the last decades of the last century.

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About 2,700 square miles of Amazonia's forest is destroyed annually. Dallas Krentzel / Flickr

By Tim Radford

The world's unregarded forests are at risk. Intact forest is now being destroyed at an annual rate that threatens to cancel out any attempts to contain global warming by controlling greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study.

A second study finds that trees in the tropical regions are dying twice as fast as they did 35 years ago—and human-induced climate change is a factor.

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Solar panel array at the George Washington Carver Center in Belstville, MD. Tom Witham / USDA / Flickr

By Kieran Cooke

The U.S. solar industry is losing its shine. Although solar power is seen as a key way to avoid the use of climate-changing fossil fuels, U.S. solar companies are cutting investments and laying off workers. An industry employing more than 230,000 people and with an estimated worth of $28 billion is now warning of trouble ahead.

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Madrid, Spain. iStock

By Tim Radford

Europe's cities are about to bake. The worst-case scenario for ever-hotter temperatures now suggests that later this century the Austrian city of Innsbruck—for example—could be subjected to heatwaves 14°C hotter than any in the past.

Altogether more than 400 cities could under such circumstances expect heatwaves at least 10°C hotter than any today. Droughts in Europe could be 14 times worse than any droughts experienced today.

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