Friday, July 31, 2009

A new approach to fusion

A startup snags funding to start early work on a low-budget test reactor.

Power pistons: General Fusion's reactor is a metal sphere with 220 pneumatic pistons designed to ram its surface simultaneously. The ramming creates an acoustic wave that travels through a lead-lithium liquid and eventually accelerates toward the center into a shock wave. The shock wave compresses a plasma target, called a spheromak, to trigger a fusion burst. The thermal energy is extracted with a heat exchanger and used to create steam for electricity generation. To produce power, the process would be repeated every second. Credit: General Fusion

By Tyler Hamilton

General Fusion, a startup in Vancouver, Canada, says it can build a prototype fusion power plant within the next decade and do it for less than a billion dollars. So far, it has raised $13.5 million from public and private investors to help kick-start its ambitious effort.

Unlike the $14 billion ITER project under way in France, General Fusion's approach doesn't rely on expensive superconducting magnets--called tokamaks--to contain the superheated plasma necessary to achieve and sustain a fusion reaction. Nor does the company require powerful lasers, such as those within the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, to confine a plasma target and compress it to extreme temperatures until fusion occurs.

Instead, General Fusion says it can achieve "net gain"--that is, create a fusion reaction that gives off more energy than is needed to trigger it--using relatively low-tech, mechanical brute force and advanced digital control technologies that scientists could only dream of 30 years ago.

It may seem implausible, but some top U.S. fusion experts say General Fusion's approach, which is a variation on what the industry calls magnetized target fusion, is scientifically sound and could actually work. It's a long shot, they say, but well worth a try.

"I'm rooting for them," says Ken Fowler, professor emeritus of nuclear engineering and plasma physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a leading authority on fusion-reactor designs. He's analyzed the approach and found no technical showstoppers. "Maybe these guys can do it. It's really luck of the draw."

The prototype reactor will be composed of a metal sphere about three meters in diameter containing a liquid mixture of lithium and lead. The liquid is spun to create a vortex inside the sphere that forms a vertical cavity in the middle. At this point, two donut-shaped plasma rings held together by self-generated magnetic fields, called spheromaks, are injected into the cavity from the top and bottom of the sphere and come together to create a target in the center. "Think about it as blowing smoke rings at each other," says Doug Richardson, chief executive of General Fusion. …

A New Approach to Fusion

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Homeless teens to create 'skyscraper garden' above New York City

homeless-teens-green-roof.jpg Whenever it seems like there's a surplus of doom and gloom running through the headlines, you hear about a story like this: at-risk teenagers staying in Covenant House, a homeless shelter in New York City, have set about cultivating green roofs on skyscrapers around the city. Their goal is to create a citywide "skyscraper garden" across Manhattan. The teens recently completed the first stage of the project, done in collaboration with Seeding the City--planting a green roof on the ninth story of a building in midtown Manhattan.

There, they'll be watering, maintaining, and caring for the seedlings, which will eventually be planted on other roofs around the city. By the time they've finished, they'll have created a veritable citywide skyscraper garden. …

Homeless Teens to Create 'Skyscraper Garden' Above New York City

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Fresh hope for world's fisheries

Technology has made modern vessels very efficient at landing fish. Fishing vessel (Image: CSIRO)

By Mark Kinver , Science and environment reporter, BBC News

There is fresh hope that the world's depleted fisheries can be saved from collapse, say a team of researchers.

They said that efforts introduced to halt overfishing in five of the 10 large marine ecosystems they examined were showing signs of success.

A combination of measures - such as catch quotas, no-take zones, and selective fishing gear - had helped fish stocks recover, they added.

Details of the two-year study by 19 marine scientists appear in Science.

However, the team warned, a large percentage of the world's fisheries remained unmanaged, so much work still had to be done to halt the damage caused by overfishing. …

Fresh hope for world's fisheries

Ecological restoration substantially boosts biodiversity and ecosystem services

A new analysis reports that ecological restoration generally deliver benefits for both conserving biodiversity and supporting human livelihoods, but does not completely reverse degradation caused by humans.

The research, published in Science, examined 89 studies and found that ecological restoration increased provision of biodiversity and ecosystem services by 44 percent and 25 percent respectively. Values of both, however, remained lower in restored than in intact reference ecosystems.

Still, Jose Rey Benayas and colleagues are encouraged that restoration projects could become increasingly viable under emerging payments for environmental services schemes like the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) mechanism proposed for a post-Kyoto climate agreement. Such initiatives, which could compensate developing countries for protecting and restoring ecosystems, could simultaneously deliver benefits to the environment and local communities. …

Ecological restoration substantially boosts biodiversity and ecosystem services

World's largest caterer bans 69 endangered fish From its menus

Atlantic cod. Photo: Wikipedia  

Good news for more sustainable fisheries! The world's largest contract caterer, Compass Group, has just announced that it will remove some 69 endangered and threatened fish from its menus in the UK and Ireland. The fish to be banned are those recommended by Marine Conservation Society for consumers to avoid because of overfishing and other environmental concerns. …

World's Largest Caterer Bans 69 Endangered Fish From Its Menus

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The video that Anthony Watts does not want you to see: The Climate Denial “Crock of the Week”

This is the video that Anthony Watts demanded YouTube take down.  This is what the former TV weatherman who runs a leading anti-scientific website, WattsUpWithThat, is afraid to let the public see:

Fortunately, Anthony Watts knows even less about copyright laws than he does about climate science, if that’s possible [see "Diagnosing a victim of anti-science syndrome (ASS)"].  So YouTube has put it back up after temporarily removing it, which is standard practice for them.

Here’s some background on the terrific video from DeSmogBlog:

Peter Sinclair producer of the well-known “Climate Crock of the Week” video series, posted a video debunking weatherman Anthony Watts who runs a Climate Denier Den also known as his Watt’s Up With That blog.

The video was auto-scrubbed by YouTube after Watts claimed the video broke YouTube’s copyright rules. The video has since been reviewed by a number of US copyright experts and (big surprise) there appears to be nothing that could be construed as anything but fair use. …

The video that Anthony Watts does not want you to see: The Climate Denial “Crock of the Week”

McKinsey must-read: U.S. can meet entire 2020 emissions target with efficiency and cogeneration while lowering the nation’s energy bill $700 billion!

McKinsey U.S. big 

More than perhaps any other company, McKinsey has documented how an aggressive energy efficiency strategy sharply lowers the cost of climate action (see “McKinsey 2008 Research in Review: Stabilizing at 450 ppm has a net cost near zero”).

Today they released their most comprehensive analysis to date of this country’s energy efficiency opportunity, “Unlocking energy efficiency in the U.S. economy.”  Bottom line:  If this country get serious about energy efficiency — for instance, by passing a climate and clean energy bill like Waxman-Markey — then we can sharply reduce existing emissions at a large net savings to the public and U.S. businesses.  McKinsey has a new cost-curve just of efficiency measures:

The width of each column on the chart represents the amount of efficiency potential (in trillion BTUs) found in that group of measures….  The height of each bar corresponds to the average annualized cost (in dollars per million BTU of potential). …

McKinsey must-read: U.S. can meet entire 2020 emissions target with efficiency and cogeneration while lowering the nation’s energy bill $700 billion!

Jellyfish and other small sea creatures linked to large-scale ocean mixing

A diver in aggregation of Mastigias sp. jellyfish in Jellyfish Lake, Palau. (Credit: Photo courtesy Monty Graham) 

Using a combination of theoretical modeling, energy calculations, and field observations, researchers have for the first time described a mechanism that explains how some of the ocean's tiniest swimming animals can have a huge impact on large-scale ocean mixing.

Their findings are being published in the July 30 issue of the journal Nature.

"We've been studying swimming animals for quite some time," says John Dabiri, a Caltech assistant professor of aeronautics and bioengineering who, along with Caltech graduate student Kakani Katija, discovered the new mechanism. "The perspective we usually take is that of how the ocean—by its currents, temperature, and chemistry—is affecting the animals. But there have been increasing suggestions that the inverse is also important—how the animals themselves, via swimming, might impact the ocean environment."

Specifically, Dabiri says, scientists have increasingly been thinking about how and whether the animals in the ocean might play a role in larger-scale ocean mixing, the process by which various layers of water interact with one another to distribute heat, nutrients, and gasses throughout the oceans.

Dabiri notes that oceanographers have previously dismissed the idea that animals might have a significant effect on ocean mixing, saying that the viscosity of water would damp out any turbulence created, especially by small planktonic animals. "They said that there was no mechanism by which these animals could impact large-scale ocean mixing," he notes.

But Dabiri and Katija thought there might be a mechanism that had been overlooked—a mechanism they call Darwinian mixing, because it was first discovered and described by Charles Darwin. (No, not that Darwin; his grandson.)

"Darwin's grandson discovered a mechanism for mixing similar in principle to the idea of drafting in aerodynamics," Dabiri explains. "In this mechanism, an individual organism literally drags the surrounding water with it as it goes." …

Jellyfish And Other Small Sea Creatures Linked To Large-scale Ocean Mixing

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Y-Carbon’s tunable nanoporous carbon hits high note for green jobs

 Y-Carbon's plans to manufacture tunable nanoporous carbon in depressed factory regions.

Y-Carbon, a company founded by scientists at Drexel University and Georgia Tech, is looking to bring new green jobs to old factory regions with a low-cost process for manufacturing nanoporous carbon.  The process can be adjusted, or tuned, to produce a material with precisely sized pores.  Nanoporous carbon has an enlarged surface area which makes it ideal for water filtration, desalination, and certain medical treatments.  The real excitement, though, is in the use of nanoporous carbon to improve the storage capacity of supercapacitors.  It could lead to a breakthrough in storage technology for a wide variety of sustainable energy applications including solar and wind generators. …

Y-Carbon’s Tunable Nanoporous Carbon Hits High Note for Green Jobs

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Super secretive supercapacitor CEO tells all in leaked phone call


eestor-powered Zenn electric car

In what appears to be a huge leak, the notoriously secretive Dick Weir of Eestor did a phone call with someone that got out, copied, transcribed and put up on We have been losing hope that the eeStor ultracap would ever arrive, but it appears that a car that charges in minutes and runs for hours, a wind turbine that stores its own energy, notebook computers and cellphones that charge in seconds and run for days could be months, not years, away. Tyler Hamilton of Clean Break, who has spoken to Weir a few times, confirms that it is his voice. He also does a great summary of the conversation. …

Super Secretive Supercapacitor CEO Tells All in Leaked Phone Call

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Stunning image of Endeavour and ISS in transit across the sun

Credit: Thierry Legault/Look at Sciences

Stunning Image of Endeavour and ISS In Transit Across The Sun via NasaWatch

Solar forest charging system for parking lots

sustainable design, green design, solar forest, ev infrastructure, electric vehicle, neville mars, photovoltaic trees

Although electric vehicle use is on the rise, we’re certainly not out of the woods yet in terms of providing them with a steady supply of clean energy - that’s why designer Neville Mars has conceived of an incredible EV charging station that takes the form of an evergreen glade of solar trees. His photovoltaic grove serves a dual function, acting as a go-to source for clean renewable energy while providing a shady spot for cars to park as they charge. …

Solar Forest Charging System for Parking Lots

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Revealed: the secret evidence of global warming Bush tried to hide

Photos from US spy satellites declassified by the Obama White House provide the first graphic images of how the polar ice sheets are retreating in the summer. The effects on the world's weather, environments and wildlife could be devastating

Satellite images of polar ice sheets taken in July 2006 and July 2007 showing the retreating ice during the summer. Photograph: Public Domain

By Suzanne Goldenberg and Damian Carrington

Graphic images that reveal the devastating impact of global warming in the Arctic have been released by the US military. The photographs, taken by spy satellites over the past decade, confirm that in recent years vast areas in high latitudes have lost their ice cover in summer months.

The pictures, kept secret by Washington during the presidency of George W Bush, were declassified by the White House last week. President Barack Obama is currently trying to galvanise Congress and the American public to take action to halt catastrophic climate change caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

One particularly striking set of images - selected from the 1,000 photographs released - includes views of the Alaskan port of Barrow. One, taken in July 2006, shows sea ice still nestling close to the shore. A second image shows that by the following July the coastal waters were entirely ice-free.

The photographs demonstrate starkly how global warming is changing the Arctic. More than a million square kilometres of sea ice - a record loss - were missing in the summer of 2007 compared with the previous year.

Nor has this loss shown any sign of recovery. Ice cover for 2008 was almost as bad as for 2007, and this year levels look equally sparse. …

Revealed: the secret evidence of global warming Bush tried to hide

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Raymond Blanc takes endangered fish species off the menu

Growing demand from customers prompts Michelin-starred chef to challenge competitors to follow his lead on sustainable fishing

Raymond Blanc at his Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons. ALESSANDRO ABBONIZIO / AFP

By Susie Mesure

Both are Michelin-starred restaurants with world-famous chefs. But there the similarity ends. Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, which is owned by Raymond Blanc, has thrown the spotlight back on the sushi chain Nobu's refusal to stop serving endangered species of fish by becoming the first high-end restaurant to offer diners sustainable seafood approved by the environmental charity Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Growing consumer demand for guilt-free fish dishes is putting pressure on restaurants to overhaul their sourcing policies – and to tell their customers about it. In a first for a Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Manoir's menus feature the MSC logo, which means diners can opt for dishes made with Dover sole or mackerel without having to worry about where it has come from.

Blanc called for other restaurateurs to follow his lead, adding: "By supporting MSC, I am ensuring that, as a chef, I am helping to ensure that fish stocks will be replenished for generations to come." His decision to serve certifiably sustainable seafood is in stark contrast to Nobu Matsuhisa, who has snubbed calls to take bluefin tuna off the menus at his world-renowned chain, despite evidence that it is being fished to extinction. A host of celebrities including Stephen Fry, Jemima Khan, Elle Macpherson and Sienna Miller are boycotting the sushi chain, previously a favoured A-list haunt, in protest.

Yesterday Nobu London's head chef, Hari Shetty, defended the restaurant's choice to keep serving bluefin tuna. "It's legally available and it's in demand, so there's no reason not to sell it." He said he was not aware of the MSC certification scheme, but added that the restaurant did sell sustainable fish. …

Raymond Blanc takes endangered fish species off the menu

Saturday, July 25, 2009

VASIMR plasma engine at full throttle

"This image shows our achievement of full-power full-field for the 1st stage of VASIMR. In addition, here are some recent video posts documenting this achievement with our new superconducting magnet. The maximum magnetic field within the core of VASIMR is around 2 Tesla, about the same as most MRI machines." …

Today's Videos: VASIMR Full Throttle

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Could bacteria-filled balloons stop the spread of the Sahara? Architect Magnus Larsson thinks so

magnus larsson sahara image

Nearly a year ago a "Great Green Wall" of trees was proposed to run across the entire southern border of the Sahara desert in an attempt to stop expanding desertification. At the TED Global conference in Oxford, England, architect Magnus Larsson proposes another, more solid, idea to stop the spread of the Sahara: Using bacteria-filled balloons to turn the dunes into a 6000km-long desert-break.

TED's pretty good at getting video up from their presentations, but at the time of this writing it wasn't yet available, so the BBC summary will have to do:

Bacterium Would Solidify Dunes Into Stone
Larsson proposes literally solidifying dunes, turning them into sandstone. This would be done not by thousands of years of normal geologic processes, but more quickly by flooding it with a bacterium commonly found in wetlands, Bacillus pasteurii. Larsson says that the bacterium, "is a microorganism which chemically produces calcite - a kind of natural cement." …

Could Bacteria-Filled Balloons Stop the Spread of the Sahara? Architect Magnus Larsson Thinks So

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Wireless power system shown off

Wireless power graphic

By Jonathan Fildes, Technology reporter, BBC News, Oxford

A US firm has demonstrated its technique that sends power through the air, powering and charging devices wirelessly.

The technique exploits simple physics and can be used to charge a range of electronic devices over many metres.

Eric Giler, chief executive of US firm Witricity, showed mobile phones and televisions charging wirelessly at the TED Global conference in Oxford.

He said the system could replace the miles of expensive power cables and billions of disposable batteries.

"There is something like 40 billion disposable batteries built every year for power that, generally speaking, is used within a few inches or feet of where there is very inexpensive power," he said.

Trillions of dollars, he said, had also been invested building an infrastructure of wires "to get power from where it is created to where it is used."

"We love this stuff [electricity] so much," he said.

Mr Giler showed off a Google G1 phone and an Apple iPhone that could be charged using the system. …

Wireless power system shown off

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Hubble captures rare Jupiter collision

(ESA/Hubble Information Centre) The checkout and calibration of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has been interrupted to aim the recently refurbished observatory at a new expanding spot on the giant planet Jupiter. The spot, caused by the impact of a comet or an asteroid, is changing from day to day in the planet's cloud tops. …

Hubble captures rare Jupiter collision

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US states to harvest clean energy from highways

cleant-energy-roads photo

Photo via Solar Power Rocks

Roads are teeming with possibilities for clean energy generation--they could be lined with small wind turbines, accompanied by solar arrays, even generate energy from speed bumps. And as this potential is growing in recognition, a number of states have jumped on board with some fascinating projects designed to harvest clean energy from their roadways.

According to Green Inc,

A few states are already dabbling in roadside energy production. Last year, Oregon began a “solar highway” demonstration project with a 104-kilowatt ground-mounted solar array situated at the interchange of Interstates 5 and 205. The array powers about a third of the lights on the interchange. Massachusetts recently announced a plan to install a utility-scale wind turbine – big enough to power 400 households – on land adjacent to the Massachusetts Turnpike’s Blandford Rest Area.
And states with thousands of miles of roads through relatively barren land (read: California) stand to reap huge benefits by harvesting energy from roads--and entrepreneurs have taken note. …

US States to Harvest Clean Energy From Highways

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Small fisheries cuts could conserve large coastal ecosystems

Fish boats and birds harvest herring off Bowser, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. March 2009. (Photo by Michael Shepard)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, July 22, 2009 (ENS) - A reduction of just five percent in fisheries catch could result in overfishing protection for one-third of British Columbia coastal ecosystems, finds new research from the University of British Columbia that has global importance for the protection of fish populations.

The study proposes modest catch reductions in areas where fisheries take place, rather than the current system of marine protected areas which only safeguard several commercially significant species, such as rockfish, shrimp, crab, or sea cucumber.

The article by Natalie Ban and Amanda Vincent of Project Seahorse at the UBC Fisheries Centre, is published today in PLoS ONE, an online journal of the Public Library of Science.

"The threat of over-fishing to our marine ecosystems is well-documented," says Ban, who recently completed her PhD at the UBC Fisheries Centre. "Our study suggests a different approach could reduce the impacts on fishers as well as helping us move towards achieving conservation goals."

Using British Columbia's coastal waters as a test case, the study affirms that small cuts in fishing – if they happen in the right places – could result in very large unfished areas.

For example, a two percent cut could result in unfished areas covering 20 percent of the B.C. coast, offering what the authors call "real conservation gains." …

Small Fisheries Cuts Could Conserve Large Coastal Ecosystems

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

UC scientists determine that ancient Maya practiced forest conservation -- 3,000 years ago

Researchers from the University of Cincinnati find the forest and water conservation practices of the ancient Maya hold lessons for the future — ours.

As published in the July issue of the "Journal of Archaeological Science," paleoethnobotanist David Lentz of the University of Cincinnati has concluded that not only did the Maya people practice forest management, but when they abandoned their forest conservation practices it was to the detriment of the entire Maya culture.

"From our research we have learned that the Maya were deliberately conserving forest resources," says David Lentz, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cincinnati and executive director of the Cincinnati Center for Field Studies. "Their deliberate conservation practices can be observed in the wood they used for construction and this observation is reinforced by the pollen record." …

UC scientists determine that ancient Maya practiced forest conservation -- 3,000 years ago

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jupiter 'struck by large object'

Jupiter (NASA/JPL/Infrared Telescope Facility)

The planet Jupiter shows evidence of having being hit by a large object, either a comet or asteroid.

A dark mark has appeared in its atmosphere towards the southern pole.

It was first seen by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley on 19 July, and was then quickly followed up by others including the US space agency.

Nasa used its Infrared Telescope Facility on top of the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii to obtain detailed pictures of the disturbance. …

Jupiter 'struck by large object'

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Bees are back as scientists uncover cause of colony collapse disorder

Mark Pitcher of Babe’s Honey, looks at a queen cup through a magnifying glass. Arnold Lim / News staff

By Keith Vass - Saanich News

By the time it started to make headlines three years ago, colony collapse disorder had already wiped out thousands of hives across North America and Europe.

Beekeepers and biologists were confounded as to a possible cause. Theories ranged from man-made disruptions, like cell phone radiation or pesticides, to natural causes such as solar flares, parasites or viruses.

“We’re slowly putting all the pieces together ... it has nothing to do with your cell phone,” said Mark Pitcher, president of Babe’s Honey and Saanich’s biggest beekeeper.

While the science isn’t completely settled, it’s increasingly pointing to a single-celled parasite, Nosema ceranae, as the prime cause, Pitcher explained. “What it basically does is it causes bees to get immune-deficiency disorder. So it’s actually causing the bees to almost get a version of HIV.”

Once the bees immune systems are compromised, they become susceptible to dying from a wide range of causes, Pitcher suggests, including chemicals once used to protect the bees from other parasites. …

Bees are back as scientists uncover cause of colony collapse disorder

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Super sheds: coming to your backyard soon



As we noted last year in an earlier roundup of modern sheds, they are an great way to get more space without more mortgage, and the gateway drug for modern prefab. There has been so much action in the shed world that it is time for an update. …

Super Sheds: Coming to Your Backyard Soon

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Monday, July 20, 2009

World starts to act on climate change

From the G8 to shipping, the world's climate players are starting to bring their contributions to the table – is real change imminent?

 The world's climate players are starting to bring their contributions to the table (Image: Corbis)

IT'S like a giant game of Jenga. One by one, pieces of our green future are stacking up, some more precariously than others.

At last week's summit in L'Aquila, Italy, leaders of the G8 declared formally for the first time that the world should not allow global temperatures to rise by more than 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. The group also backed Mexico's plan for a green fund to help the poorest countries develop clean-technology economies.

Meanwhile, in London this week, the shipping industry is meeting to see if it can agree on a way of cutting emissions. Come December, it will be down to UN negotiators to decide which pieces are solid and which are not.

Take the 2 °C target, for instance. The truth is that few climate scientists believe this is possible, even with the G8's proposed target of cutting global emissions of greenhouse gases by 50 per cent by 2050. "An overshoot is inevitable," concluded a recent climate science summit in Copenhagen, Denmark (New Scientist, 21 March, p 6). "Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are already at levels predicted to lead to global warming of between 2.0 °C and 2.4 °C."

Global average temperatures so far have risen by only about 0.8 °C but there are two reasons why warming three times as great seems inevitable. First, there is a time lag of several decades between when greenhouse gas levels rise and when temperatures follow. The lag means there is another 0.6 °C of inevitable warming in the pipeline.

Second, the planet is currently being cooled by about 0.5 °C by aerosols of other man-made air pollutants, such as fine soot and sulphates, which shield the planet from solar energy. This effect should decline in coming decades as countries, particularly in Asia, clean up their air to improve health. Add it all up and we're close to 2 °C above pre-industrial times.

Taking this into account, the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Climate Change told the WEF meeting in Davos in January that we should aim for a global 80 per cent emissions cut by 2050, which it estimated would give a 4 in 5 chance of staying below 2 °C. …

World starts to act on climate change

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Peeling back pavement to expose watery havens


SEOUL, South Korea — For half a century, a dark tunnel of crumbling concrete encased more than three miles of a placid stream bisecting this bustling city.

The waterway had been a centerpiece of Seoul since a king of the Choson Dynasty selected the new capital 600 years ago, enticed by the graceful meandering of the stream and its 23 tributaries. But in the industrial era after the Korean War, the stream, by then a rank open sewer, was entombed by pavement and forgotten beneath a lacework of elevated expressways as the city’s population swelled toward 10 million.

Today, after a $384 million recovery project, the stream, called Cheonggyecheon, is liberated from its dank sheath and burbles between reedy banks. Picnickers cool their bare feet in its filtered water, and carp swim in its tranquil pools.

The restoration of the Cheonggyecheon is part of an expanding environmental effort in cities around the world to “daylight” rivers and streams by peeling back pavement that was built to bolster commerce and serve automobile traffic decades ago.

In New York State, a long-stalled revival effort for Yonkers’s ailing downtown core that could break ground this fall includes a plan to re-expose 1,900 feet of the Saw Mill River, which currently runs through a giant flume that was laid beneath city streets in the 1920s.

Cities from Singapore to San Antonio have been resuscitating rivers and turning storm drains into streams. In Los Angeles, residents’ groups and some elected officials are looking anew at buried or concrete-lined creeks as assets instead of inconveniences, inspired partly by Seoul’s example. …

Peeling Back Pavement to Expose Watery Havens

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Public opinion snapshot: Public backs key elements of global warming bill

Graph: Do you think the federal government should regulate greenhouse gas emissions?

Ruy Teixeira, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, is a leading expert on public opinion analysis. This post was first published here.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act has a long way to go until it clears Congress and lands on President Barack Obama’s desk. And there’s no question that the climate change legislation under consideration is complicated and that the public’s understanding of the bill’s details is limited. But it’s worth noting that the public is supportive of the broad goal and approach of this legislation.

For example, 75 percent of respondents in a mid-June ABC News/Washington Post poll said the federal government should “regulate the release of greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars, and factories in an effort to reduce global warming.” Just 21 percent disagreed. Moreover, when those who agreed that the federal government should regulate greenhouse gases were asked if they would still support this if it raised the price of the things they buy, 80 percent of that group still said yes. …

Public opinion snapshot: Public backs key elements of global warming bill

Light's repulsive force discovered

Tang's team shows how interacting lightwaves can be used to control devices on a silicon chip. Credit: Hong Tang / Yale University

A newly discovered repulsive aspect to light could one day control telecommunications devices with greater speed and less power, researchers said today.

The discovery was made by splitting infrared light into two beams that each travel on a different length of silicon nanowire, called a waveguide. The two light beams became out of phase with one another, creating a push, or repulsive force, with an intensity that can be controlled; the more out of phase the two light beams, the stronger the force.

"We can control how the light beams interact," said Mo Li, a postdoctoral associate in electrical engineering at Yale University. "This is not possible in free space — it is only possible when light is confined in the nanoscale waveguides that are placed so close to each other on the chip."

The discovery could lead to nanodevices controlled by light rather than electricity.

Li and colleagues previously discovered an "attractive" force of light and showed how it could be manipulated to move components in semiconducting micro- and nano-electrical systems — tiny mechanical switches on a chip.

"This completes the picture," Tang said. "We've shown that this is indeed a bipolar light force with both an attractive and repulsive component."

The team, led by Yale assistant professor Hong Tang, details its findings today in the online version of the journal Nature Photonics.

Light's Repulsive Force Discovered

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Government rejects oil drilling deal in Alaska refuge

Oxbow Lake 

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rejected a controversial land trade that would have allowed oil and gas drilling in part of a national wildlife refuge in Alaska.

The service said it had made a preliminary decision to reject a Bush administration proposal in the works since 2004 to trade out land in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge so that it could be explored for oil.

Opposition from residents of Native American villages near the proposed drill sites, new information on geologic resources and a closer look at climate-change impacts led to the unexpected shift against going through with the land trade, officials said.

"The (environmental review) process worked, though it may have led us in a different direction than we had originally anticipated. Going into this effort, we did not anticipate the level of opposition we heard from some of the most affected communities within the Yukon Flats," Refuge Manager Rob Jess said in a statement. …

Government rejects oil drilling deal in Alaska refuge

Largest solar energy project in British Columbia unveiled

solar panels Tsouke Nation 

A small community on Vancouver Island is undergoing of solar project of epic proportions. T'Sou-ke First Nation in Sooke on the southern end of Vancouver Island will be powering nearly 30 buildings with solar energy. Read on to learn how other communities like yours can utilize the power of the sun.

The T'Sou-ke First Nation has launched a solar power project that will power its band office, fisheries building, canoe shed, and 25 homes on the reserve.T'Sou-ke Nation is installing solar panels to pre heat hot water and photovoltaic panels to create clean electricity to power potentially large savings as hydro prices spike, according to PEJ. The community trained nine residents in solar power installation so that they would be able to take on such a project. …

The Largest Solar Energy Project in British Columbia Unveiled

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Friday, July 17, 2009

The corporate climate crusaders

Think big business is against tough new climate change laws? Well, think again.

The corporate climate crusaders 

In the lead-up to last month’s vote on the massive Waxman-Markey clean energy bill, American TV viewers were treated to an odd sight. Jim Rogers, CEO of the country’s third-largest energy company, was calling for tough new climate change rules. …

The corporate climate crusaders.

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Wal-Mart cranks up pressure on suppliers to deliver greener products

James Murray, BusinessGreen, Friday 17 July 2009 at 12:31:00

Retail giant launches Sustainability Index initiative to map the environmental impact of its products

Wal-Mart yesterday launched a major new green initiative that will eventually see the retail giant provide sustainability rankings for all its products worldwide.

Announced at a major meeting of 1,500 of its suppliers and staff at the company's headquarters in Bentonville, Wal-Mart said the new Sustainable Product Index will aim to provide a single source of data for assessing the environmental performance of different products.

The company's president and chief executive Mike Duke said the initiative was in response to increased demand from customers for information about products' sustainability.

"Customers want products that are more efficient, that last longer and perform better," he said. "And increasingly they want information about the entire life cycle of a product so they can feel good about buying it. They want to know that the materials in the product are safe, that it was made well and that it was produced in a responsible way." …

Wal-Mart cranks up pressure on suppliers to deliver greener products

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Fishing nations spare both Atlantic and Pacific tuna species

Bluefin tuna (Photo by Tom Puchner)

PARIS, France, July 16, 2009 (ENS) - Declining populations of tunas received conservation support from countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean this week as governments realize how much damage overfishing has done to the world's tuna stocks.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France today announced his country's support for a ban of international trade in endangered Northern Bluefin Tuna, joining a growing call to list the overexploited fish under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES.

Speaking at the close of a national stakeholder consultation on France's future sustainable fisheries and maritime policy, the "Grenelle de la Mer," President Sarkozy said, "France supports listing bluefin tuna on the CITES convention to ban international trade."

Sarkozy put this in the context of France's support for a broader sustainable fisheries policy. "Ours is the last generation with the ability to take action before it's too late — we must protect marine resources now, in order to fish better in future. We owe this to fishermen, and we owe it to future generations," he said.

The Principality of Monaco was first to communicate its willingness to sponsor a proposal to ban international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, and has this week launched a formal CITES consultation process to seek the support of other range States.

Contributing to the species' steep decline are the huge overcapacity of fishing fleets, catches that far exceed legal quotas, pirate fishing, the use of illegal spotting planes to chase tuna, under-reporting of catch, fishing during the closed season, management measures that disregard scientific advice — all driven by the insatiable appetite of the world's luxury seafood markets where Northern Bluefin Tuna fetches record prices. …

Fishing Nations Spare Both Atlantic and Pacific Tuna Species

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dow Chemical partners with Algenol Biofuels to build pilot biorefinery

 algae photo

photo: Algenol Biofuels

Though it was announced over two weeks ago, perhaps because of Exxon's backing of Synthetic Genomics, Dow Chemical's backing of Algenol Biofuels is getting a bit more play. Together they will develop a pilot-scale algae biorefinery at Dow's Freeport, Texas manufacturing site: Technology Review describe the project:

CO2 From Dow's Operations Feed Into Bioreactors
The plant will consist of 3,100 horizontal bioreactors -- troughs covered with semi-transparent film, filled with salt water pumped in from the ocean, in which the algae grows -- each of which is about 5' wide and 50' long. The algae grown in these will be able to produce about 100,000 gallons of ethanol annually. CO2 from Dow's nearby operations will be fed into the bioreactors.

The thing with Algenol's method of producing algae biofuels is that it has modified the blue-green algae to directly produce ethanol through photosynthesis. What's more is that Algenol doesn't have to harvest the algae to extract the ethanol, simplifying the process and reducing costs. …

Dow Chemical Partners with Algenol Biofuels to Build Pilot Biorefinery

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Navigate subways faster with augmented reality app (video)

 augmented reality subway system image

Seriously. Augmented reality is so cool. Especially when it helps people get greener, such as an app that can make anyone feel comfortable navigating subway systems. We talked about the possibilities of augmented reality on mobile devices last week, and here's the latest awesome application - finding your way through subway systems. Click through to watch a video of AcrossAir's New York Nearest Subway app in action and see how just holding your iPhone in front of you can get you through a transit system.

AcrossAir has a New York version that will launch in Apple's iPhone Apps store as soon as Apple approves it. London and Barcelona versions are also on their way, notes CrunchGear. …

Navigate Subways Faster with Augmented Reality App (Video)

Tiny molecular bowls pull carbon dioxide out of the air

An unusual bowl-shaped molecule (shown) that pulls carbon dioxide out of the air may provide exciting new possibilities for dealing with global warming, a scientist says. (Credit: The American Chemical Society)

The discovery of a tiny bowl-shaped molecule which collects carbon dioxide right out of the air has beckoned some creative solutions to global warming.

By genetically engineering microbes to manufacture the handy molecule, scientists hope to make it useful as an industrial absorbent for CO2 capture. That could help clean up smokestacks from dirty coal-fired power plants, but it’s also possible that the molecules could be used for pulling carbon dioxide right out of the ambient air.

Tossell's new computer modeling studies found that the molecule might be well-suited for removing carbon dioxide directly from ambient air, in addition to its previously described potential use as an absorbent for CO2 from electric power plant and other smokestacks. "It is also conceivable that living organisms may be developed which are capable of emplacing structurally ion receptors within their cell membranes," the report notes.

Capturing Carbon Dioxide In Tiny Bowls: Global Warming Fix From Microbes? via  CleanTechnica

U.S. Interior Dept throws out Bush logging plan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Interior Department on Thursday killed a plan issued by the Bush administration to allow more logging in western Oregon that reduced protection areas for the endangered spotted owl, saying it was "legally indefensible and must be withdrawn."

"We have carefully reviewed the lawsuits filed against the (logging plan) and it is clear that as a result of the previous administration's late actions, the plan cannot stand up in court and, if defended, could lead to years of fruitless litigation and inaction," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

This is the latest action by the Obama administration that overturns decisions issued by the Bush administration that threaten wildlife or the environment.

Salazar previously pulled federal tracks in the West that the department had leased for oil and gas drilling under Bush. …

U.S. Interior Dept throws out Bush logging plan

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Longest insect migration revealed

Globe skimmers (Pantala flavescens)

Matt Walker, Editor, Earth News 

Every year, millions of dragonflies fly thousands of kilometres across the sea from southern India to Africa.

So says a biologist in the Maldives, who claims to have discovered the longest migration of any insect.

If confirmed, the mass exodus would be the first known insect migration across open ocean water.

It would also dwarf the famous trip taken each year by Monarch butterflies, which fly just half the distance across the Americas.

Biologist Charles Anderson has published details of the mass migration in the Journal of Tropical Ecology.

Each year, millions of dragonflies arrive on the Maldive Islands, an event which is well known to people living there.

"But no-one I have spoken to knew where they came from," says Anderson, an independent biologist who usually works with organisations such as the Maldivian Marine Research Centre to survey marine life around the islands. …

The dragonflies are clearly migrating from India across the open sea to the Maldives, says Anderson.

"That by itself is fairly amazing, as it involves a journey of 600 to 800km across the ocean," he says.

Quite how they do it was a bit of a mystery, as in October at least they appear to be flying against the prevailing winds. …

Longest insect migration revealed

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

SpaceX launches first commercial satellite to orbit

Awesome video: 

by Paul Marks

PayPal founder Elon Musk's civilian spaceflight company, SpaceX, achieved its first commercial success this week after its Falcon 1 rocket lofted a Malaysian Earth-imaging satellite into orbit.

The launch late on Tuesday from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Marshall Islands inserted the RazakSAT spacecraft into a near-equatorial orbit at an altitude of 695 kilometres.

Malaysia hopes that RazakSAT, which will fly over its territory 12 times a day, will help scientists better manage the country's forests, farmland and marine resources.

The launch for its first paying customer is a big step for SpaceX, since the firm has won a contract from NASA to haul cargo to the International Space Station. Until now its Falcon 1 rocket had only lofted a dummy payload successfully – before that it had three launch failures. …

SpaceX launches first commercial satellite to orbit

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Exxon to invest $600 million in making fuel from algae

And this is after GreenFuel went under. Hmm…

A fallen branch lays outside the Exxon Mobil refinery in Baytown, Texas September 15, 2008. REUTERS / Jessica Rinaldi

By Tom Bergin

LONDON (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp has agreed to invest possibly more than $600 million in a venture to develop biofuels from algae, the oil major, which previously dismissed renewable energy as uneconomic, said on Tuesday.

Exxon said in a statement it was forming a research and development alliance with Synthetic Genomics Inc., a privately held company focused on gene-based research.

"Algae-based fuels could help meet the world's growing demand for transportation fuel while reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Michael Dolan, senior vice president of Exxon. …

Exxon to invest $600 million in making fuel from algae

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Alanis Morissette and Woody Harrelson launch RECO Eco jeans

 reco jeans, green jeans, sustainable jeans

How harmful are your jeans? If they’re made of cotton, they most likely went through a process that included nasty pesticides, polluting dyes and waste-generating production before you decided to put them on your legs. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Singer Alanis Morissette and actor Woody Harrelson have teamed up to bring us Reco Jeans, which are made with 50% recycled denim. That might not seem like a lot - ideally it would be 100%, but Reco is one of the only jeans companies that has been able to get it to even that level. …

Bid here>

Alanis Morissette and Woody Harrelson Launch RECO Eco Jeans!

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Communities print their own currency to keep cash flowing

In Detroit, three downtown businesses have created a local currency, or scrip, to keep dollars earned locally in the community. By David Coates, The Detroit News, via AP

By Marisol Bello, USA TODAY

A small but growing number of cash-strapped communities are printing their own money.

Borrowing from a Depression-era idea, they are aiming to help consumers make ends meet and support struggling local businesses.

The systems generally work like this: Businesses and individuals form a network to print currency. Shoppers buy it at a discount — say, 95 cents for $1 value — and spend the full value at stores that accept the currency.

Workers with dwindling wages are paying for groceries, yoga classes and fuel with Detroit Cheers, Ithaca Hours in New York, Plenty in North Carolina or BerkShares in Massachusetts.

Ed Collom, a University of Southern Maine sociologist who has studied local currencies, says they encourage people to buy locally. Merchants, hurting because customers have cut back on spending, benefit as consumers spend the local cash.

"We wanted to make new options available," says Jackie Smith of South Bend, Ind., who is working to launch a local currency. "It reinforces the message that having more control of the economy in local hands can help you cushion yourself from the blows of the marketplace."

About a dozen communities have local currencies, says Susan Witt, founder of BerkShares in the Berkshires region of western Massachusetts. She expects more to do it. …

Communities print their own currency to keep cash flowing

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Illegal Amazon timber passed off as eco-certified in massive wood laundering scheme Brazilian federal prosecutor is leading an investigation into charges that illegal timber from the state of ParĂ¡ is being laundered as "eco-certified" wood and exported to markets in the United States, Europe, and Asia, reports Sunday's edition of O Globo.

Prosecutor Bruno Valente Soares has found evidence to suggest that timber companies are doctoring paperwork and using other methods to disguise timber that is being illegally cut from reserves and indigenous lands.

International buyers pay a premium for certified timber, which they can market as being more sustainable than other wood. The timber goes to furniture makers and construction companies abroad.

The scheme allegedly involves up to 3,000 companies across ParĂ¡'s timber sector, writes Liana Mello.…

Illegal Amazon timber passed off as eco-certified in massive wood laundering scheme

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Proposal for London Bridge has solar power, vertical farm

 london bridge chetwood image

London Bridge isn't falling down, it is just really boring. It used to be an exciting place, an inhabited bridge full of shops and taverns, but they got rid of all that centuries ago and then shipped the thing off to Lake Havasu in Arizona. But the idea of London Bridge is 800 years old this week, and the Royal Institute of British Architects and the wonderfully named Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects ran an architectural competition to design a new inhabited bridge. Laurie Chetwood was the winner. …

Proposal For London Bridge Has Solar Power, Vertical Farm

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Carbon capture and storage progressing toward feasibility


Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) has the potential to cut global Co2 emissions dramatically. We’re talking huge cuts. It has been estimated that a plant implementing CCS can cut emissions by 80-90 percent compared with a plant that doesn’t use CCS. Sounds great, right? Well, there are some some problems.

Cost is the number one challenge that CCS faces. “Applying it would significantly increase the cost of electricity beyond what society is likely willing to pay,” said Sarah Forbes,  a World Resources Institute Senior Associate. Another challenge is that no fully integrated demonstrations have taken place. The pieces have been tested individually, but the entire puzzle is yet to be seen.

Carbon Capture and Storage Progressing Toward Feasibility

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Critically endangered Buena Vista Lake Ornate Shrew granted a reprieve from extinction

Buena vista Lake ornate shrew 

Bakersfield, Calif.- As a result of a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed Thursday to review and redesignate habitat that is critical for the survival and recovery of the one of the most endangered mammals on the planet - the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew.

The agency had, under the Bush administration, proposed only 4,649 acres of critical habitat for the shrew in 2004, which it further slashed to a meager and unsustainable 84 acres in 2005. This move was typical of the administration, which adamantly opposed protecting species under the Endangered Species Act. Indeed, the administration protected only 62 species in eight years, compared to 522 species protected under the Clinton administration. 

Thursday's settlement requires that the agency repropose the 4,649 acres within the next 90 days and issue a final designation of the critical habitat on or before March 22, 2012. Until that date, the current designation of 84 acres remains in place.

"This settlement is an important victory for the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew and California's invaluable wetlands in the arid San Joaquin Valley," said Ileene Anderson, ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "The agreement requires that the agency that is supposed to be protecting this rare mammal take a hard look at what is needed — not only to keep this unique animal from extinction, but to increase the population to levels that ensure its survival." …

Critically Endangered Buena Vista Lake Ornate Shrew Granted a Reprieve From Extinction

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Plantagon develops vertical farm that can go anywhere

plantagon overall  image 

Plantagon is more than just another vertical farm. We learn from PSFK that it "will dramatically change the way we produce ecological and functional food. It allows us to produce ecological with clean air and water inside urban environments, even major cities, cutting costs and environmental damage by eliminating transportation and deliver directly to consumers. This is due to the efficiency and productivity of the Plantagon® greenhouse which makes it economically possible to finance each greenhouse from its own sales."...

Plantagon Develops Vertical Farm That Can Go Anywhere

Milestone: 100th coal plant unplugged

Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 11:32AM EST on July 9, 2009

As of today, 100 coal plants have been defeated or abandoned since the beginning of the coal rush. Late yesterday, news came down that Utah-based Intermountain Power Agency is abandoning plans for a third coal-fired generator in the state.

This news comes as President Obama is at the G8 summit in Italy discussing action on global warming. As other countries like China say they will not act until the U.S. does, these 100 stopped plants are a sign from Americans. We are taking action against global warming, and it's time to join us.

This also comes just a week after Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the city would end coal use by 2020, and was announced the same day as a decision by Basin Electric Power in South Dakota to pull plans for a new coal-fired power plant. The decision marks a significant milestone in the shift to clean energy.

Since the first coal-fired power plant started operation in the U.S. more than 100 years ago our country has been wedded to dirty coal power.  Despite the availability of affordable, cleaner energy alternatives, there were still plans on the drawing board for more than 150 new coal-fired power plants as recently as last year.

We are seeing a movement. That movement has kept well over 400 million tons of harmful global warming pollution out of the air, making significant progress in the fight against global warming. Stopping 100 new coal plants has also kept thousands of tons of asthma causing soot and smog pollution, as well as toxins like mercury out of our air and water.

This milestone also marks a significant shift in the way Americans are looking at our energy choices. Cities, states, businesses and electric utilities are all moving away from the polluting coal power of the past. …

Milestone: 100th Coal Plant Unplugged

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Report shows the power of US cities to mitigate climate change and steps they need to take to adapt


(Carbon Disclosure Project)

US cities are starting to plan ways of coping with climate change, says a new report. Flooding of subways and other infrastructure caused by extreme weather and sea level rise, shortages of food, water and energy, and health and economic risks are among concerns of city planners in 18 US cities surveyed, including New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, West Palm Beach, Portland and Las Vegas. Many are also implementing carbon reduction programs for municipal activities as a prelude to leading citizen CO2 reduction efforts. …

Report shows the power of US cities to mitigate climate change and steps they need to take to adapt