Environmental Policy

© | Delphine Debressy
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:: More ice loss through snowfall on Antarctica

Stronger snowfall increases future ice discharge from Antarctica. Global warming leads to more precipitation as warmer air holds more moisture – hence earlier research suggested the Antarctic ice sheet might grow under climate change. Now a study published in Nature shows that a lot of the ice gain due to increased snowfall is countered by an acceleration of ice-flow to the ocean.

:: A new global map displays the functionality of ecosystems

A new study explores which continental areas have the highest functionality. These are of major relevance for the sustainability of the biosphere and they are areas, which supply most services to humanity. Especially with regard to climate change these exceptionally functional areas deserve particular protection.

:: Biologists record increasing amounts of plastic litter in the Arctic deep sea

studies confirm that twice as much marine debris is lying on the seabed today compared to ten years ago. The sea bed in the Arctic deep sea is increasingly strewn with litter and plastic waste.  As reported in the advance online publication of the scientific journal Marine Pollution Bulletin by Dr. Melanie Bergmann, biologist and deep-sea expert at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association. The quantities of waste observed at the AWI deep-sea observatory HAUSGARTEN are even higher than those found in a deep-sea canyon near the Portuguese capital Lisbon.

:: North America most affected by increase in weather-related natural catastrophes

A new study by Munich Re shows that North America has been most affected by weather-related extreme events in recent decades. The publication "Severe weather in North America" analyzes all kinds of weather perils and their trends. It reports and shows that the continent has experienced the largest increases in weather-related loss events.

:: “It pays to be a forerunner”: studies explore second-best scenarios of climate policy

Industrialized countries can profit from taking early action for climate change mitigation even if the rest of the world delays greenhouse gas emission cuts. With the 2 degrees target of limiting global warming, it pays in the long term to incentivize investments into clean energy instead of fossil fuels by adopting ambitious emission reductions. This is one of the key findings of scientists exploring the economics of decarbonization in an imperfect world, in a set of seven papers now published in a special issue of Climatic Change. They will feed into the 5th assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

:: Major update to Europe's 'alien' species catalogue

The key catalogue of information on ‘alien’ (non-native) species in Europe has undergone a major update. The DAISIE (Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventory for Europe) database allows the public and policymakers to get a comprehensive overview of which alien species are present in Europe, their impacts and consequences for the environment and society.

:: Protecting ecosystems brings benefits to society

A synthesis report for policy makers. Ecosystems are essential to our well-being and prosperity as they provide us with food, clean air and fresh water. Ecosystems also represent an exceptional source of outdoor recreation opportunities. The functions performed by ecosystems that increase our well-being are called ecosystem services.

:: Most coral reefs are at risk unless climate change is drastically limited

Coral reefs face severe challenges even if global warming is restricted to the 2 degrees Celsius commonly perceived as safe for many natural and man-made systems. Warmer sea surface temperatures are likely to trigger more frequent and more intense mass coral bleaching events. Only under a scenario with strong action on mitigating greenhouse-gas emissions and the assumption that corals can adapt at extremely rapid rates, could two thirds of them be safe, shows a study now published in Nature Climate Change. Otherwise all coral reefs are expected to be subject to severe degradation.

:: Lower natural catastrophe losses in the first half of 2012

Natural catastrophe losses were relatively moderate in the first six months of 2012. Overall global losses up to the end of June were in the order of US$ 26bn, of which approximately US$ 12bn was insured. The loss statistics were dominated by natural hazard events in the USA where, due to tornado outbreaks and wildfires, nearly 85% of total insured losses worldwide were incurred.

:: Rapid acidification of the Eastern Pacific Ocean

The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is causing the acidity of the oceans to increase. Scientists at ETH Zurich have investigated how the acidity along the west coast of the USA will develop until the year 2050. They expect considerable changes in the ecosystem.

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