greenhouse gases
Adding seaweed to cattle feed could reduce methane production by 70%
That's equivalent to taking India’s CO2 emissions off the map.
By Bec Crew

If we add dried seaweed to 2 percent of sheep and cattle feed, we could cut methane emissions by more than 70 percent, scientists have found.

With livestock responsible for 44 percent of all human-caused methane - a gas that has 36 times the global warming potential of CO2 - this could cut a huge chunk of the 3.1 gigatonnes these animals release into the atmosphere each year in burps and farts.

To put that 3.1 gigatonnes of methane into perspective, the entire European Union releases just over that amount of CO2 each year.

And if we cut that 3.1 gigatonnes by 70 percent by adding seaweed to livestock feed, we’d be clearing 2.17 gigatonnes of methane released into the atmosphere by livestock every year.

That’s almost the amount of CO2 the entire country of India emits every year.

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Inexpensive Mini-Greenhouse

You can build this raised garden bed mini-greenhouse to extend your growing season with used railroad ties for the base and some scrap wood and sheet plastic for the cover.

By Robert Ford
Scientists Accidentally Discover Efficient Process to Turn CO2 Into Ethanol
The process is cheap, efficient, and scalable, meaning it could soon be used to remove large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have discovered a chemical reaction to turn CO2 into ethanol, potentially creating a new technology to help avert climate change. Their findings were published in the journal ChemistrySelect.

The researchers were attempting to find a series of chemical reactions that could turn CO2 into a useful fuel, when they realized the first step in their process managed to do it all by itself. The reaction turns CO2 into ethanol, which could in turn be used to power generators and vehicles.

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The fracking industry is spewing a lot more methane into the atmosphere than federal regulators think, a series of studies published Tuesday by the Environmental Defense Fund reveal. What that means is that, at least in North Texas’ Barnett Shale, where the research took place, natural gas — which burns cleaner than coal but acts an incredibly potent greenhouse gas when leaked directly into the atmosphere — is having a much larger impact on climate change than we realize. 

Emissions of the potent greenhouse gas in Texas are up to 50 percent higher than EPA estimates, new studies find


Happy Earth Day!

This is John Tyndall, whose experimental work on ‘Radiant Heat’ forms the basis of our understanding of greenhouse gases. While Prof of Natural Philosophy at the Ri, Tyndall found that water vapour is the strongest absorber of heat in the atmosphere, and the main gas plugging the leakage of the Earth’s heat into outer space. He said that without water vapour, the surface would be ‘held fast in the iron grip of frost’ – the greenhouse effect.

Using the tube above, Tyndall was the very first to experimentally prove this theory. He presented his work at the Ri in 1859 in a lecture titled ‘On the Transmission of Heat of Different qualities through Gases of Different Kinds’.

Tyndall continued to investigate radiant heat through experiments, and went on to produce his now famous book, Heat a Mode of Motion.
Researchers can now convert CO2 from the air directly into methanol fuel
By Fiona MacDonald

For the first time, researchers have shown that they can capture CO2 from the air, and convert it directly into methanol, which can then be used as an alternative fuel, as well as for hydrogen storage, in fuel cells, or as a building block for plastic.

That’s exciting, because it means that not only do we have one more reason to suck CO2 out of our atmosphere, but it can now very easily be recycled into something useful. “Direct CO2 capture and conversion to methanol using molecular hydrogen in the same pot was never achieved before,” lead researcher G. K. Surya Prakash, from the University of Southern California, told “We have now done it!”

The creation of methanol (CH3OH) from CO2 and hydrogen in itself is nothing new. But what’s cool about this research is the team has identified a catalyst that speeds up the reaction and makes it a whole lot easier.

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Methanotrophs: Could bacteria help protect our environment?    

New insight into methanotrophs, bacteria that can oxidise methane, may help us develop an array of biotechnological applications that exploit methane and protect our environment from this potent greenhouse gas.

Publishing in Nature, scientists led by Newcastle University have provided new understanding of how methanotrophs are able to use large quantities of copper for methane oxidation.

They have identified a new family of copper storage proteins called Csp that are present in a range of bacteria. These proteins store metal in a way that has not been seen previously and their widespread presence amongst diverse bacteria raises important questions about how bacteria use copper ions, which can also be toxic to cells.

Nicolas Vita, Semeli Platsaki, Arnaud Baslé, Stephen J. Allen, Neil G. Paterson, Andrew T. Crombie, J. Colin Murrell, Kevin J. Waldron, Christopher Dennison. A four-helix bundle stores copper for methane oxidation. Nature, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/nature14854

Methylococcus capsulatus cultured in the presence of a high concentration of copper. (Image: Anne Fjellbirkeland) - The Genome of a Methane-Loving Bacterium. PLoS Biol 2/10/2004: e358.


Plants need carbon dioxide to grow. Humans are emitting the stuff into the atmosphere in excess. Therefore, humans are helping plants. So goes one of the more long-lived arguments put forward by people who deny the reality of man-made climate change — an who attempt to turn the CO2 –> global warming –> bad narrative on its head. The Heartland Institute, most recently, made it the focal point of a campaign asserting that CO2 is actually good for human and environmental health.

In a 40-year study, the benefits of increased CO2 couldn’t make up for the harmful impacts of a changed climate
The 3% of studies that reject global warming are filled with errors
A new study has found they’re riddled with cherry picking, curve fitting, and disregarding known physics.
By Bec Crew

By now, most of us are aware that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that global warming trends over the past century are most likely due to human activities. But what about the remaining 3 percent that reject this conclusion based on their own scientific investigation? How did they come up with such different results, and do their analyses render the climate consensus incorrect?

To answer these questions, an international team of scientists has attempted to replicate the findings of a selection of climate contrarian papers. Publishing in the journal Theoretical and Applied Climatology, they report that these papers are riddled with false dichotomies, inappropriate statistical methods, and misconceived or incomplete physics, and displayed much the same methodological flaws, with cherry picking - selecting and omitting evidence to suit a bias - as the most widespread.

“We found that many contrarian research papers omitted important contextual information or ignored key data that did not fit the research conclusions,” one of the team, Dana Nuccitelli from Skeptical Science in Australia, writes at The Guardian.

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The Faint Young Sun Paradox

In the early days of the solar system the power of the Sun was about 75% or so of what it is now.

Observations of similar stars far away confirm similar behavior amongst other young stars.

The temperature on an Earth with a Sun blasting out 75% of what it does now would only be around 270 Kelvin (greenhouse equilibrium included).

Ice melts at 273 Kelvin.

The evidence of sedimentary rocks from this period however, shows that Earth was a water world even then. According to our established mathematical models… Earth should’ve been covered in nothing but ice.

Mars, a planet half again farther from the Sun than Earth, would only have been around 201 Kelvin - a staggering 70 Kelvin below the freezing point of water!

Yet both worlds clearly were covered in liquid water according to evidence at a time when they should’ve been balls of ice.

The potential habitability therefore of worlds seems to be something we have trouble still understanding.

Some potential solutions to these problems are that since the planets were younger, their interiors would’ve been much hotter and more radioactive still. This could’ve caused volcanic activity and an even heavier release of greenhouse gases than either are thought to have done.

Furthermore, something commonly thought to reduce average temperatures, cloud coverage, would’ve acted exactly the opposite in this situation.

Clouds today are reflective to lots of the solar energy, scattering it back into space. If the heat were coming from below the clouds however it’s possible they trapped significant amounts of greenhouse gases, exacerbating the situation enough to melt ice.

On one hand our ability to accurately determine a world’s habitability remains humble. On the other, these conditions seem to exist in many more places than we ever could’ve guessed. This is the faint young Sun paradox.

(Image credit: NASA)
Global carbon dioxide levels reach 'uncharted territory'
400 parts per million has long been considered a benchmark of irreversible damage

Global carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have surpassed 400 parts per million, and will almost certainly remain there indefinitely, according to new numbers from the Scripps carbon dioxide monitoring program at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii.

The 400-level has long been considered a benchmark of irreversible damage to the environment.

“We’re really in uncharted territory,” said Ralph Keeling from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who directs the program. “It’s too bad we’re this deep into it already, but that’s the fact.”

The level has swung above 400 parts per million before, but this is the first time it will have stayed that high for all 12 months of the year.

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