Archive for 2013

Surviving typhoons will require smart building – and a cultural shift

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 11, 2013   View Article

As the devastation from Typhoon Haiyan becomes clear, a question lurks on the horizon: How can the world’s most vulnerable communities prepare for increased storminess on a warming planet? Answers range from using nature to weaken surging walls of water to building homes that can withstand buffeting winds. All will require a shift in priorities, experts say.

“The science is very clear about the trends in climate change, and one of the impacts is definitely more intense and potentially more frequent storms,” Imen Meliane, director of the international marine program at The Nature Conservancy in Washington, told NBC News. To prepare for this stormier world, the environmental group advocates increasing the natural protections of coastlines.

Beetle juice? Trees killed by bugs eyed as biofuel for cars

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 8, 2013   View Article

Millions of acres of U.S. forest lands are carpeted with stands of unsightly reddish-brown trees that were killed by voracious beetles the size of rice grains. A $10 million, five-year research program launched this week aims to determine if the beetle-killed trees can be turned into biofuel for cars and trucks without breaking the bank or exacerbating climate change, which is aiding the beetle mania.

“A crucial thing with biofuels is that we understand just how much greenhouse gases do we really offset. Because obviously if we use lots of fossil fuels or we cause lots of emissions in producing the biofuels, then we are really not gaining as much as we might hope to,” Keith Paustain, a soil ecologist who is leading the project at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, told NBC News.

It is time to adapt to unstoppable global warming, scientists say

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 7, 2013   View Article

Even if the world’s 7 billion people magically stop burning fossil fuels and chopping down forests today, the greenhouse gases already emitted to the atmosphere will warm the planet by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century, according to scientists who are urging a focused scientific effort to help humanity adapt to the changing climate.

And reality shows no sign of such a magic reduction in emissions. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached another new high in 2012, the World Meteorological Association announced Wednesday. In fact, concentrations of carbon dioxide, the most abundant planet warming gas, grew faster last year than its average growth rate of the past decade.

‘Crazy’ climate re-engineering could reduce vital rains, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 1, 2013   View Article

If global warming gases build up so much that record-setting rains, droughts and coastal floods routinely bankrupt businesses and cities, the world’s economic and political powers may decide to aggressively re-engineer the global climate. One option is to fill the atmosphere with enough sunlight-reflecting particles to restore surface temperatures to pre-industrial levels. If they do, would all be cool?

Absolutely not, according to a new study that asked the question to 12 models forced to simulate the global climate with four times more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than existed in 1850, the start of the industrial revolution. Under such conditions, reflecting sunlight in order to lower temperatures to pre-industrial levels would cause monsoonal rains to drop 5 to 7 percent below pre-industrial levels.

Cracked encryption? Back doors? Cellphone snooping may be easier than ever

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 31, 2013   View Article

How do you tap the cellphone of a German chancellor? While the particulars aren’t confirmed, experts think the allegations that National Security Agency spies have deployed clandestine antennas on the rooftop of the U.S. embassy in Berlin and elsewhere around the world — capable of intercepting communications from virtually any cellphone, wireless network and satellite — are not only possible but pretty likely.

Humans on course to triple daily waste by 2100

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 30, 2013   View Article

Humanity may generate more than 11 million tons of solid waste daily by the end of this century, barring significant reductions in population growth and material consumption, according to experts.

That mind-boggling large heap of trash expected by century end represents a three-fold increase in the amount of stuff people throw away today. In 1900, the world’s 220 million urban residents tossed out fewer than 330,000 tons of trash daily, such as broken household items, packaging and food waste.

Weather pattern could provide early warning for catastrophic U.S. heat waves

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 27, 2013   View Article

The emergence of a newly identified atmospheric pattern is likely to provide two to three weeks advance warning that a stifling and potentially deadly heat wave will hit the U.S., according to a new study. Since current forecasts go out no more than 10 days, the additional notice could give homeowners, farmers, electric companies and hospitals critical time to prepare for severe heat.

The precursor is a so-called “wavenumber 5” pattern, a sequence of alternating high and low pressure systems — five each — that ring the northern mid-latitudes several miles above the Earth’s surface, according the research published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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