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Cooperative Institute for Research In Environmental Sciences (CIRES)

At CIRES, a partnership of NOAA and CU Boulder, hundreds of environmental scientists work to understand the dynamic Earth system, including people’s relationship with the planet. Science in Service to Society At CIRES, the Cooperative Institute for Research In Environmental Sciences, more than 800 environmental scientists work to understand the dynamic Earth system, including people’s relationship with the planet. CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and the University of Colorado Boulder, and our areas of expertise include weather and climate, changes at Earth’s poles, air quality and atmospheric chemistry, water resources, and solid Earth sciences. Our vision is to be instrumental in ensuring a sustainable future environment by advancing scientific and societal understanding of the Earth system. Mission To conduct innovative research that advances our understanding of the global, regional, and local environments and the human relationship with those environments, for the benefit of society. Read More

Light pollution is associated with earlier tree budburst across the United Kingdom

The ecological impact of night-time lighting is of concern because of its well-demonstrated effects on animal behaviour. However, the potential of light pollution to change plant phenology and its corresponding knock-on effects on associated herbivores are less clear. Here, we test if artificial lighting can advance the timing of budburst in trees. We took a UK-wide 13 year dataset of spatially referenced budburst data from four deciduous tree species and matched it with both satellite imagery of night-time lighting and average spring temperature. We find that budburst occurs up to 7.5 days earlier in brighter areas, with the relationship being more pronounced for later-budding species. Excluding large urban areas from the analysis showed an even more pronounced advance of budburst, confirming that the urban ‘heat-island’ effect is not the sole cause of earlier urban budburst. Similarly, the advance in budburst across all sites is too large to be explained by increases in temperature alone. This dramatic advance of budburst illustrates the need for further experimental investigation into the impact of artificial night-time lighting on plant phenology and subsequent species interactions. As light pollution is a growing global phenomenon, the findings of this study are likely to be applicable to a wide range of species interactions across the world. Read More

Scenario planning to leap-frog the Sustainable Development Goals: An adaptation pathways approach

Few studies have examined how to mainstream future climate change uncertainty into decision-making for poverty alleviation in developing countries. With potentially drastic climate change emerging later this century, there is an imperative to develop planning tools which can enable vulnerable rural communities to proactively build adaptive capacity and ‘leap-frog’ the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Using an example from Indonesia, we present a novel participatory approach to achieve this. We applied scenario planning to operationalise four adaptation pathways principles: (1) consideration of climate change as a component of multi-scale social-ecological systems; (2) recognition of stakeholders’ competing values, goals and knowledge through co-learning; (3) coordination of responses across multiple decision-making levels; and (4) identification of strategies which are ‘no regrets’, incremental (tackling proximate drivers of community vulnerability) and transformative (tackling systemic drivers). Workshops with stakeholders from different administrative levels identified drivers of change, an aspirational vision and explorative scenarios for livelihoods in 2090, and utilised normative back-casting to design no regrets adaptation strategies needed to achieve the vision. The resulting ‘tapestry’ of strategies were predominantly incremental, and targeted conventional development needs. Few directly addressed current or possible future climate change impacts. A minority was transformative, and higher level stakeholders identified proportionately more transformative strategies than local level stakeholders. Whilst the vast majority of strategies were no regrets, some were potentially mal-adaptive, particularly for coastal areas and infrastructure. There were few examples of transformative innovations that could generate a step-change in linked human and environmental outcomes, hence leap-frogging the SDGs. We conclude that whilst effective at integrating future uncertainties into community development planning, our approach should place greater emphasis on analysing and addressing systemic drivers through extended learning cycles. Read More

Watch your language: Power words at the human–nature interface

Words are integral to thinking and communicating. Words also carry old baggage. The Anthropocene necessitates new thinking and communication at the human–nature interface. Words like progress, natural, and thresholds are pervasive in both scientific and policy discourse, but carry baggage that will likely slow understanding of the Anthropocene and appropriate adaptation. The dynamic systems thinking with emergent properties of ecology needs to replace the efficiency and growth framework of economics. Diversity and resilience are productive and less historically burdened words. Read More

The Nature Conservancy Global Solutions

We are optimists about Earth’s future. The Nature Conservancy envisions a world where people and nature thrive together. But today our world is at a crucial juncture. We will soon be nine billion people sharing one planet. A development boom is lifting billions out of poverty, but increasing demands for food, water and energy are stressing nature to its limits. We are trapped in a vicious cycle in which we over-exploit and degrade nature, in turn impoverishing life for people. We see another way forward – one that accounts for nature’s full value in all the decisions we make. It’s about creating a virtuous cycle, in which we take care of nature so that nature can continue to take care of us. Pursuing Global Solutions: In response to current Global Challenges, we will pursue Global Solutions at the intersection of nature’s and people’s needs. The Solutions are areas where we will develop specific strategies and link them to our place-based work at the system scale. These are the leverage points that take our work to a greater relevance beyond the acres we can conserve directly. Read More

The Innovation Bottom Line (MIT Sloan)

For the fourth year, MIT Sloan Management Review, in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group, conducted a global survey on sustainability, to which more than 4,000 executives and managers of all industries and regions responded. An analysis of the findings was published in the research report, “The Innovation Bottom Line.” Sustainability-Driven Innovators The global study found that many companies are profiting from their sustainability efforts and changing their business models to generate that profit. We call these respondents Sustainability-Driven Innovators (SDIs) and they comprise 23% of our survey respondents. These interactive charts explore what sets SDIs apart from the average respondent. Read More

The Changing Effect of Economic Development on the Consumption-Based Carbon Intensity of Well-Being, 1990–2008

Recent sustainability science research focuses on tradeoffs between human well-being and stress placed on the environment from fossil fuel consumption, a relationship known as the carbon intensity of well-being (CIWB). In this study we assess how the effect of economic development on consumption-based CIWB—a ratio of consumption-based carbon dioxide emissions to average life expectancy—changed from 1990 to 2008 for 69 nations throughout the world. We examine the effect of development on consumption-based CIWB for the overall sample as well as for smaller samples restricted to mostly high-income OECD nations, Non-OECD nations, and more nuanced regional samples of Non-OECD nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We find that the effect of economic development on CIWB increased through time for the overall sample. However, analyses of the Non-OECD and OECD samples indicate that while the effect of development on CIWB increased from null to a moderate level for the Non-OECD nations, the effect of economic development was much larger, relatively stable through time, and more unsustainable for the OECD nations. Additional findings reveal important regional differences for Non-OECD nations. In the early 1990s, increased development led to a reduction in CIWB for Non-OECD nations in Africa, but in more recent years the relationship changed, becoming less sustainable. For the samples of Non-OECD nations in Asia and Latin America, we find that economic development increased consumption-based CIWB, and increasingly so throughout the 19 year period of study. Read More

Engaging with energy reduction: Does a climate change frame have the potential for achieving broader sustainable behavior

Reducing energy use is key in meeting ambitious climate change targets being set around the world. This research considers the psychological impact, and potential for behavioural spillover, resulting from receiving energy information framed in terms of financial costs or the environment. We utilised an online tool in order to present undergraduate participants with an energy display simulation of their own energy use and presented energy use in terms of kilowatt-hours, carbon dioxide (CO2), or costs. Study 1 found increased motivations to save energy for climate change reasons and some indications that environmental behaviour might increase after participants received CO2 information compared to alternatives. Study 2 found that CO2 information increased climate change salience, which mediated effects observed on environmental behaviour intentions. Data suggest that highlighting climate change in relation to energy savings may be useful for promoting broader environmental behaviour. Read More

Global Change Project

The Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth recognize, based on scientific research, that humans are responsible for a large proportion of current climate change. Throughout this website you will see scientific support for this hypothesis. The goal of this website is to collect and synthesize available information on global change and present it in a straightforward, unbiased, easily-accessed format for scientists, educators, students, and members of the public. Much information is available on the internet and in the media about the important subject of global change, and it can be difficult to sift through. This site is a resource for those wishing to educate themselves and others so that as individuals and citizens we can make informed choices and learn to live more lightly on the planet. Read More

Design a Campus Sustainability Project

The Research Station, designed by Dr. David Eagan, will take you through the steps of defining your campus greening project. This online guide for conducting environmental projects on campus includes guidance on project design, sample projects, tips and pitfalls, and more. Read More


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EERL is a product of a community college-based National Science Foundation Center, the Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center (ATEEC), and its partners.

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