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Energy, Climate Programs Affected by Federal Government Shutdown

Washington braced for a prolonged shutdown, the first in 17 years, this week after members of Congress failed to pass a budget. The closure has affected the workforce of many climate and energy programs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for one, lost more than 90 percent of its employees, disrupting monitoring of air and water quality as well as potentially setting back efforts to…

EPA Issues New Source Rules, Separates Requirements for Coal and Gas-Fired Plants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a long-awaited revised proposal for Clean Air Act standards to curb carbon pollution from new power plants. The rule sets separate standards for new gas-fired and coal-fired plants. It would require future coal-fired plants to limit emissions of carbon dioxide to 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour (MWh). The average U.S. coal-fired plant currently emits nearly…

Proposed Rules to Limit Power Plant Emissions Expected This Week

In a move initiated by the Obama administration to address global changes in climate, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected this week to release a proposal for regulations to reduce carbon emissions from new power plants. Although details about the regulations remain confidential, the New York Times reports the proposal could contain standards different for coal…

Despite Dominance of Syria Debate, Environmental Policies Make Headway

Disagreements over the Syrian chemical weapons crisis didn’t stop leaders from reaching a consensus to phase down production and consumption of refrigerant greenhouse gases and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies at the G-20 Summit in Russia. The world’s top greenhouse gas emitters—the U.S. and China—agreed to set up a contact group to explore specific issues related to…

Using the Clean Air Act to Regulate Carbon Emissions

In an attempt to address global changes in climate, the Obama administration set specific deadlines for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use the Clean Air Act to cut carbon dioxide pollution from new and existing power plants. Just weeks away from the deadline for release of proposed rules for new power plants (full disclosure: Duke scholars will…

Reports: Ocean Acidification Heats Planet, Changes Ecosystems

Two new studies showcase the greater dangers of rising ocean temperatures. The first, in the journal Nature Climate Change, finds rising carbon dioxide levels that make oceans more acidic can also raise global temperatures. The authors find ocean acidification would lead certain marine organisms to emit less of the sulphur compounds that help with cloud…

New Theory Explains Africa’s Mysterious Fairy Circles

In dry ecosystems like Namibia, where fairy circles are common, competition for water is fierce. Therefore, while we may see a calm savannah landscape, fierce resource competition is actually being waged below the surface, at root level.

“We hypothesize that these barren spots arise due to below-ground resource competition between grasses,” states the report. “Enhanced growth in individuals that are strong competitors for below-ground resources results in the decline in growth of neighboring individuals, thus forming larger interspaces or barren patches.”

In other words, whoever wins the water war essentially condemns his neighboring grasses to death by dehydration, creating a barren patch – the nexus of the fairy circle.

Old Growth Rainforest—What Still Stands is More Valuable Than Ever

No matter where I have traveled in the world, I have found that the many of the larger stretches of primeval forests can only be reached by logging roads. Consider the old growth stands of Sitka spruce and red cedar in the Carmanah Valley, on a remote part of southeast Vancouver Island.  Canada’s tallest tree,…

Mesmerizing GIFs of Breathing Earth

The biodiversity of Earth as we know it is made up of millions of species—from Baobab trees to narwhals to tiny anemones attached to the ocean floor. But can we think of Earth in a holistic way, as one living entity of its own, instead of the sum of its parts? This is what John…

EPA Finalizes Biofuel Mandate

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced final 2013 biofuel volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Issued Tuesday, the final rule lowers targets for biofuels production in 2014—requiring that 16.55 billion gallons of renewable fuels be blended into the U.S. fuel supply including 1.28 billion gallons from biomass-based diesel fuel and 2.75 billion gallons from advanced biofuels. These are the same quotas…

McCarthy: Climate Change Is “Opportunity of a Lifetime”

In her first public speech, newly minted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy vowed to curb climate-altering pollution, an effort that she said would spark business innovation, grow jobs and strengthen the economy. McCarthy, who was confirmed to lead the EPA in July after pushbacks from Republicans, spoke before an audience in her native…

Getting Charged up About Blue Power

Earlier this summer while the U.S. was celebrating its independence from Britain the Prime Minister of Britain inaugurated the world’s largest offshore wind farm that can power half a million homes. The small nation of Denmark now gets a quarter of its power from mostly offshore wind and wants to double that by 2020.  When…

Warming Leading to Record Temps, Melting

Last month was among the top five warmest Junes on record, according to new data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The average global temperature, according to NOAA, was 60.54 degrees Fahrenheit—1.15 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average of 59.9 degrees Fahrenheit. June’s record…

U.S. Energy Production Linked to Earthquakes

As U.S. production of crude oil continues to grow, new studies in the journal Science say the very methods used to extract the resource could be behind some U.S. earthquakes. The studies find that the gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing can cause some small earthquakes and that the disposal of wastewater following this and other energy production methods can produce…

U.N. Agency Says Global Temperatures Hottest Since Meteorological Measurement Began

The United Nations agency charged with understanding weather and climate released new findings indicating the world experienced above average temperatures from 2001 to 2010. In fact, the first decade of the 21st century was the warmest since modern meteorological measurement began in 1850. “Rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are changing our climate, with far-reaching implications for our environment and our…