» Article/Journal

Shifts in mating strategies help herbicide-resistant ‘superweeds’ persist

Herbicide-resistant “superweeds” change their mating strategies over time, an evolutionary shift that helps them hold onto valuable genes and outcompete other plants, according to a new study from University of Michigan researchers. The study examined the relationships between plant mating systems and herbicide resistance in the common agricultural weed morning glory. The researchers found that morning glory populations that have evolved resistance to the herbicide Roundup rely on self-fertilization more than susceptible populations do. Read More

The New Food Fights: U.S. Public Divides Over Food Science

Food has become a flashpoint in American culture and politics. In the past generation, Americans have witnessed the introduction of genetically modified crops, the rise of the organic food industry, increasing concerns about obesity, growing awareness to food allergies and other health concerns linked with what people eat, an expanding volume of best-selling books and publications about food and the proliferation of premier chefs as superstars in popular culture. Read More

A post-occupancy evaluation of a green rated and conventional on-campus residence hall

Green buildings increasingly attract attention in the real estate sector, and the United States is no exception. Studies indicate that green rated buildings may bring higher rents and sales prices. One reason for this inequity is that the indoor environment of these buildings may outperform conventional buildings. The main objective of this paper is to conduct a post-occupancy evaluation (POE) to compare the indoor environment in a LEED certified, on-campus residence hall with a similar, non-green rated residence hall. Results are evaluated to determine if green buildings really outperform. The results suggest that the green rated building outperformed the conventional building in the majority of the indoor environmental aspects, but not all. These results can inform a cost-benefit analysis of green features for new construction and refurbishments. Read More

Household energy consumption and carbon emissions for sustainable cities – A critical review of modelling approaches

The purpose of this paper is to conduct a review of how household energy consumption and carbon emissions (HECCE) modelling paradigms have evolved over the years. This is achieved by adopting the literature review methodology for the study. The paper first reviewed the previous studies that are serving as the theoretical framework underpinning the HECCE models. Further to this, the paper identified an array of energy models that have evolved over the years together with their capability of analysing energy consumption and their associated carbon emission trends in housing sector of the economy. The results of the study showed that econometric (mainly top-down), building physics, and statistical (mainly bottom-up) methods are the existing approaches that have found application in modelling HECCE issues. However, a number of limitations were noticed in these existing modelling techniques. These are (1) lack of transparency in the model algorithms, (2) inability to account for the complex, interdependencies, and dynamic nature of the issue of energy consumption and carbon emissions, (3) limited evidence to show for the occupants–dwelling interactions, and (4) lack of enough capacity to accommodate qualitative data input. And as such, the study concluded that there is the need to scout for more robust and sophisticated modelling approaches that take into consideration the kind of complexity involved in issues relating to HECCE. Read More

Linking adaptation science to action to build food secure Pacific Island communities

Climate change is a major threat to food security in Pacific Island countries, with declines in food production and increasing variability in food supplies already evident across the region. Such impacts have already led to observed consequences for human health, safety and economic prosperity. Enhancing the adaptive capacity of Pacific Island communities is one way to reduce vulnerability and is underpinned by the extent to which people can access, understand and use new knowledge to inform their decision-making processes. However, effective engagement of Pacific Island communities in climate adaption remains variable and is an ongoing and significant challenge. Here, we use a qualitative research approach to identify the impediments to engaging Pacific Island communities in the adaptations needed to safeguard food security. The main barriers include cultural differences between western science and cultural knowledge, a lack of trust among local communities and external scientists, inappropriate governance structures, and a lack of political and technical support. We identify the importance of adaptation science, local social networks, key actors (i.e., influential and trusted individuals), and relevant forms of knowledge exchange as being critical to overcoming these barriers. We also identify the importance of co-ordination with existing on-ground activities to effectively leverage, as opposed to duplicating, capacity. Read More

Past and future climate change in the context of memorable seasonal extremes

It is thought that direct personal experience of extreme weather events could result in greater public engagement and policy response to climate change. Based on this premise, we present a set of future climate scenarios for Ireland communicated in the context of recent, observed extremes. Specifically, we examine the changing likelihood of extreme seasonal conditions in the long-term observational record, and explore how frequently such extremes might occur in a changed Irish climate according to the latest model projections. Over the period (1900–2014) records suggest a greater than 50-fold increase in the likelihood of the warmest recorded summer (1995), whilst the likelihood of the wettest winter (1994/95) and driest summer (1995) has respectively doubled since 1850. The most severe end-of-century climate model projections suggest that summers as cool as 1995 may only occur once every ∼7 years, whilst winters as wet as 1994/95 and summers as dry as 1995 may increase by factors of ∼8 and ∼10 respectively. Contrary to previous research, we find no evidence for increased wintertime storminess as the Irish climate warms, but caution that this conclusion may be an artefact of the metric employed. It is hoped that framing future climate scenarios in the context of extremes from living memory will help communicate the scale of the challenge climate change presents, and in so doing bridge the gap between climate scientists and wider society. 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

IREC Solar Consumer Protection

Record numbers of Americans are using the sun to power their homes. In just the last year, residential rooftop solar has grown more than 65 percent! That means more consumers are sitting down with contractors and salespeople to go solar — facing what could be a complex process. IREC is committed to helping consumers get the facts and understand a transaction with many parts and details — some not so obvious and some difficult to grasp. IREC’s consumer protection Trio includes the Clean Energy Consumer Bill of Rights, the “Be Solar Smart Consumer Checklist,” and a Resources list. Each one spotlights safeguards and pointers for buyers, government agencies, the industry, retailers and others in the market. Read More

Climate Central

Climate Central surveys and conducts scientific research on climate change and informs the public of key findings. Our scientists publish and our journalists report on climate science, energy, sea level rise, wildfires, drought, and related topics. 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

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