Maldives leader Mohamed Nasheed, called the “world’s most environmentally outspoken president” because of his calls for drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions, was forced to resign—at gunpoint, he claimed. He had used stunts such as an underwater cabinet meeting to highlight his island nation’s vulnerability to sea-level rise.
Global Warming behind Europe’s Winter
Global warming could be behind the Arctic blast that recently hit Europe, killing more than 200. The unusually small ice cover over the Kara and Barents Seas has changed wind patterns, pushing frigid air into Europe.
Meanwhile, most of the U.S. has been enjoying an especially mild winter—although Alaska has had one of the coldest and snowiest on record, and the Bering Sea’s ice grew to its second-highest on record in January.
Meteorologist Jeffrey Masters said it’s not clear if global warming is the culprit behind the U.S. weather, but “… over the last couple of years, it’s really not the atmosphere I know anymore.”
However, the media is too often the scapegoat, with politicians and the economy having a bigger influence on public opinion about climate change, according to a new study.
“Fracking” Study Raises Greenhouse Gas Worries
A new study, which sampled the air around sites where hydraulic fracturing is being used to extract natural gas from shale, revealed more gases—mainly methane—escape into the air than previously thought. Although natural gas is usually touted as being better for the climate than other fossil fuels, the study indicated these leaks could erase much of that benefit.
Geoengineering Gets More Scrutiny
Tycoons including Bill Gates and Richard Branson have funded research and reports on geoengineering—proposed planetary-scale projects to fight climate change—raising concerns about the power of vested interests.
Research into geoengineering is a small but fast-growing field. One recent study found that sunlight-blocking particles could cool the planet, but would change regional climate patterns, so would not be able to keep the climate as it is now. Another recent study found that such geoengineering could help food production by limiting heat stress, while retaining the boost in growth from higher CO2 levels.
Wind Power Struggles Ahead
Wind turbine installations in 2011 were up 6 percent over the year before, a slight increase compared with the rapid growth before the 2008 recession. Less than half of the installations were in Europe or North America, and Asia led the growth.
The world’s largest turbine manufacturer, Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems, has been flagging: it lost $220 million in 2011—four times more than expected—and a number of senior officers left, most recently the chairman.
In the U.S., wind-power advocates have been fighting for offshore turbines along the Atlantic for decades, and now the federal government is aiming to speed permits after a positive environmental review. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said, “We’ll have those leases issued by the end of 2012.”
Hair, No—But Grass, Yes
Reports from a few years ago that Nepalese teenagers made a solar panel from hair was apparently a hoax, but now MIT researchers have done something that seems equally unlikely: making solar panels from grass clippings. The new study described how to fairly cheaply isolate a key part of the molecular machinery behind photosynthesis, and then apply it to a metal or glass surface to create a photovoltaic panel. The researchers are trying to make it simple enough that anyone can hack together a solar panel using grass clippings and a bag of cheap chemical powder.
The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday for National Geographic’s News Watch by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.