A wind farm in Texas, which leads the U.S. in wind energy production. The U.S. produces more megawatt hours of wind energy than any other nation. Photo: U.S. Department of Commerce
(First published on March 16, 2018, on State of the Planet.)
Wind and solar energy production are growing faster in the United States than any other source of electricity, and falling prices are making them more competitive with fossil fuel-driven electricity. Meanwhile, natural gas has surpassed coal as the prime fuel for power plants. Those trends helped drive down U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 to their lowest level since 1991, according to a report for the Business Council on Sustainable Energy.
That’s good news for anyone concerned about climate change. The shift to renewable energy is a key part of the global effort to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other earth-warming gases and slow down climate change by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. But critics argue that this growth wouldn’t be possible without financial support from the government. How much do renewables actually need tax breaks and other subsides?
(First published on March 8, 2017, on State of the Planet.)
The world’s fast-growing major cities are where most people feel the impacts of climate change, as New York found out in Superstorm Sandy. Mayors from cities around the world are confronting the need to adapt and plan for resilience and sustainability. The role of women in all this will be highlighted at an upcoming conference at Columbia University.
(First published on Feb. 14, 2017, on State of the Planet.)
Aaron Putnam sits atop a boulder high in the Sierras of central California, banging away with hammer and chisel to chip out a sample of ice age history. Each hunk of rock is a piece of a vast puzzle: How did our climate system behave the last time it warmed up like it’s doing today?
Filed under Climate, Science
Horses near Lake Dali, in Inner Mongolia. Scientists studying the lake have concluded that the size of the lake has changed dramatically over the distant past, due to changes in the climate and resulting shifts in the annual monsoon. Photo: Yonaton Goldsmith
(First published on Feb. 6, 2017, on State of the Planet.)
The annual summer monsoon that drops rain onto East Asia, an area with about a billion people, has shifted dramatically in the distant past, at times moving northward by as much as 400 kilometers and doubling rainfall in that northern reach. The monsoon’s changes over the past 10,000 years likely altered the course of early human cultures in China, say the authors of a new study.
(First published on Jan. 18, 2017, on State of the Planet.)
The news doesn’t come as a surprise to scientists and others who’ve been watching, but marks a milestone nonetheless: 2016 was the warmest year on record, dating back to the start of modern record keeping in 1880. And it’s the third record year in a row, keeping up a long-term trend of warming.
Groundwater pumping for agriculture and other uses has risen sharply. But a new study says it isn’t contributing as much as previously thought to sea level rise.
(First published on May 3, 2016, on State of the Planet.)
Some research suggests that, along with melting ice sheets and glaciers, the water pumped from underground for irrigation and other uses, on the rise worldwide, could contribute substantially to rising sea levels over the next 50 years. A new study published in Nature Climate Change says the magnitude is much lower than previously estimated.
Filed under Climate, Science