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Climate: Cut carbon, stream your movies online

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Study finds that online movie viewing is more energy efficient

Staff Report

FRISCO —All those trips to the video store and Red Box, and all the fossil fuel used to manufacture and transport DVDs and CDs added up to more than 4 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions that could have been avoided (in 2011) if all media were simply streamed online, scientists concluded after taking a close look at the carbon budget of the entertainment business.

The study, published May 29 in the journal Environmental Research Letters, says more energy efficient electronic devices have tipped the balance toward online consumption of movies and music. A significant proportion of the energy consumption and carbon emissions for streaming comes from the transmission of data, which increases drastically when more complex, high-definition content is streamed. Continue reading

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Study: CO2 buildup could affect food quality

Wheat field in Upper Austria

A wheat field in Upper Austria ripens under a summer sun. bberwyn photo.

Protein levels in key grains could decline by 3 percent

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with cutting yields of some key crops, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is also expected to affect the nutritional quality of food crops. Field tests by UC Davis scientists show that elevated levels of carbon dioxide make it harder for some plants to convert nitrogen into proteins.

“Food quality is declining under the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide that we are experiencing,” said lead author Arnold Bloom, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. “Several explanations for this decline have been put forward, but this is the first study to demonstrate that elevated carbon dioxide inhibits the conversion of nitrate into protein in a field-grown crop,” Bloom said. Continue reading

Climate: CO2 hits dubious 400 ppm mark two months earlier than last year

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Atmospheric CO2  concentrations are spiking higher and earlier each year, according to NOAA.

Up, up and away …

Staff Report

FRISCO — Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are spiking earlier each year, scientists said last week, announcing that concentrations reached the 400 parts per million “milestone” two months earlier than last year.

CO2 levels peak each year in the spring as the Earth breathes in a great seasonal cycle. This year’s early 400 ppm reading is another clear sign that the heat-trapping gas is building up at an ever-increasing rate, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

Continue reading

Global CO2 emissions rising unchecked

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Co2 emissions are set to reach a record level this year.

New record level expected in 2013, with U.S. still by far the largest per capita source of greenhouse gases

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Just in time for the Warsaw climate talks, climate trackers with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia said global carbon dioxide emissions are set to soar to a new record high of 36 billion tons in 2013 — 61 percent above the 1990 baseline levels set for the Kyoto Protocol.

“Governments meeting in Warsaw this week need to agree on how to reverse this trend. Emissions must fall substantially and rapidly if we are to limit global climate change to below two degrees. Additional emissions every year cause further warming and climate change,” said the Tyndall Centre’s Professor Corinne Le Quére, who led the global carbon budget report.

“Alongside the latest Carbon Budget is the launch of the Carbon Atlas, a new online platform showing the world’s biggest carbon emitters more clearly than ever before,” Le Quére said, explaining that China’s growing economy is driving the growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Continue reading

Climate: Can a lawsuit stop ocean acidification?

Conservation group eyes Clean Water Act as tool in climate fight

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Sea shells will not fare well as oceans absorb CO2. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It’s not clear if anything — besides massive cuts in carbon dioxide emissions — can stop the acidification of oceans, but the Center for Biological Diversity would at least like to see the EPA try to water quality standards as a way to tackle the problem.

The conservation group last week filed a lawsuit against the EPA for failing to address ocean acidification that may already be killing oysters in Oregon and Washington and threatening a wide range of other sea life. The lawsuit challenges the EPA’s decision that seawaters in those two states meet water-quality standards meant to protect marine life despite disturbing increases in acidity. Continue reading

Climate: Calculating the tundra’s carbon budget

Scientists say they need more consistent and widespread measurements

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Will thawing tundra become a big source of greenhouse gases?

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Danish researchers with Aarhus University say they’ve come a bit closer to calculating the carbon budget in the Arctic tundra, where vast quantities of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are stored in frozen organic soils.

To try and determine whether the tundra is a source of carbon, or a carbon sink, the research team has been measuring the amount of carbon released in the form of CO2 as living organisms respire, and the amount of carbon being stored in plants in the process of photosynthesis.

Once those two figures have been established, it is possible to calculate the carbon balance, said Aarhus University researcher Magnus Lund. Continue reading

Climate: Study shows possible pitfalls of ‘seeding’ oceans

Stimulating phytoplankton could backfire

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By Summit Voice
One of the ideas that has surfaced most often is adding certain types of nutrients to the oceans to stimulate algae production in the hopes of reducing CO2. But new research shows that the law of unintended consequences always applies, perhaps even more so when experimenting with climate on a global scale.

The new study on the feeding habits of ocean microbes shows that the idea could backfire by disturbing the natural balance of ocean chemistry. After carefully studying diatoms, one type of plankton, the scientists determined that it is uses more iron that it needs for photosynthesis and storing the extra in its silica skeletons and shells. This reduces the amount of iron left over to support the carbon-eating plankton.

“Just like someone walking through a buffet line who takes the last two pieces of cake, even though they know they’ll only eat one, they’re hogging the food,” said Ellery Ingall, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-lead author on this result.  “Everyone else in line gets nothing; the person’s decision affects these other people.” Continue reading

Climate: Is rising CO2 greening the world’s deserts?

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A May 2012 dust storm blows through the Middle East. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Study provides evidence for a carbon dioxide fertilization effect

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A new study of some arid regions — including the southwestern U.S. — suggests that the 14 percent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide sine the early 1980s has lead to an increase in green foliage in the Earth’s arid regions.

The study was led by Randall Donohue of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, who focused on the southwestern corner of North America, Australia’s outback, the Middle East, and some parts of Africa.

The team developed and applied a mathematical model to predict the extent of the carbon-dioxide fertilization effect. They then tested this prediction by studying satellite imagery and teasing out the influence of carbon dioxide on greening from other factors such as precipitation, air temperature, the amount of light, and land-use changes. Continue reading

Climate: New study helps illustrate how CO2 affects Arctic

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A new study suggests the Earth’s climate system is more sensitive to CO2 changes than assumed by the IPCC’s 2007 global climate report.

Researchers establish longest regional climate record using sediment cores from an Arctic Lake that’s been undisturbed for 3.6 million years

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Sediment cores from a crater lake in Siberia are helping scientists understand how varying concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide affect the Arctic climate.

The sediment cores help establish the longest continuous climate record from the region, showing that the Arctic was a very warm place during a period about 3.5 to 2 million years ago, when CO2 levels were similar to today’s.

The research leads to the conclusion that even small fluctuations in CO2 can result in big changes in the Arctic, according to Julie Brigham-Grette, of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The study indicates Arctic may have been much warmer during that era than other climate studies suggest, and that the planet’s climate system is probably more sensitive to CO2 levels than assumed in the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Continue reading

Climate: Atmospheric CO2 reaches 400 ppm

Concentration will wane from seasonal high point, but long-term trend is up

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Mauna Loa. Photo courtesy USGS.

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Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere this week reached a level last recorded 2 to 5 million years ago.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Climate scientists have been closely tracking atmospheric carbon dioxide levels for a long time, but this week, the colorless, odorless gas made big headlines.

An atmospheric observatory on Mauna Loa for the first time measured daily concentrations of CO2 at slightly above 400 parts per million, a dubious milestone which, better than any other number, captures the extent to which we are changing the world. Continue reading

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