IN THE POOR (GREEN)HOUSE: Poverty and climate change are becoming increasingly intertwined, Green Inc.'s James Kanter writes today, since global warming disproportionately threatens the world's poor, and many poor countries can't afford to invest in clean energy or slow their deforestation. That relationship will only grow in relevance this year, as world leaders prepare to draft a successor to the Kyoto climate treaty in December. Countries such as China, India and Indonesia have become major emitters of greenhouse gases, and the United States notoriously pulled out of Kyoto in 2001 over its failure to require emissions controls from developing nations. (Source: The New York Times)
SWELTER FROM THE STORM: While we know climate change may lead to rougher storms, a new study by a Florida State researcher suggests hurricanes can also alter the climate for months after their churning carnage has ceased. By pulling up cool, deep water and leaving a trail of warmer air, cyclone seasons regulate how turbulent winter storms are and may even have more sweeping — and possibly beneficial — repercussions we don't yet understand. (Sources: The Houston Chronicle, Discovery News)
SOMEONE'S IN THE KITCHEN WITH DNA: Slate takes an eco-contrarian look at using genetically modified organisms as food, examining what environmental benefits could be gleaned by gene-swapping among crops. Critics often cite ecological concerns as arguments against GMOs, but Slate points out that genetically altered grass can reduce cows' methane emissions, which contribute to global warming, and that scientists are developing crops with improved nitrogen absorption, reducing the amount of fertilizer that ends up polluting soil and water. Click here for more background on GM crops. (Source: Slate)
20/20 FISSION: Fans of nuclear power have long pushed it as a carbon-free alternative to fossil fuels, but its troubling by-product of radioactive waste often derails the discussion. University of Texas at Austin physicists may have found a solution: a nuclear fusion-fission hybrid reactor. This system uses fusion to burn the long-lasting, radiotoxic "sludge" that can't be stably eliminated in conventional reactors. Most current nuclear power plants store their waste on-site, and while Yucca Mountain could hold about 77,000 tons starting in about 2020, the United States is expected to exceed that amount of nuclear waste next year. There's still the issue of nuclear plants' heavy water use, but these could solve that problem. (Sources: ScienceDaily, InsideTech)
THOU SHALE NOT: Canada's heavy use of oil shale — aka oil sands and tar sands — has a new detractor: God. At least that's the message relayed via Bishop Luc Bouchard of St. Paul's Diocese, who wrote a letter to parishioners arguing that "The present pace and scale of development in the Athabasca oil sands cannot be morally justified." That jibes with the pope's Obama-like aggression toward greenhouse gases, although The Wall Street Journal points out that Bouchard will be leading parishioners on a two-week luxury trip around the Mediterranean that involves round-trip, CO2-heavy flights from Edmonton. Click here for more on Canada's oil sands. (Source: WSJ)
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