climate change

Greening the Planet: The Fertilizer Effect of CO2 Slows Warming

A new study led by UC Berkeley Lab researcher Trevor Keenan suggests that increased plant growth is slowing the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a finding that could help explain the mystery of why the uptick in CO2 concentrations has leveled off since 2002, even as emissions have increased. “We believed one of the planet’s main carbon sinks had unexpectedly strengthened,” Keenan explained in a Lab press release. “The question was: which one?”

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Notes from Understory: A Berkeley Biologist Gauges the Health of the Redwoods from the Ferns on the Forest Floor.

Emily Burns was driving north from the Bay Area one day, idly woolgathering, when it hit her.

“Western sword ferns,” she recalls thinking. “They’re twice as big in the northern end of their range as in the southern end. And it struck me that it had to be due to water availability. The fact that it’s wetter in Redwood National Park in Humboldt County than, say, Lime Kiln Creek on the Big Sur coast translates as larger ferns in the north. It all seems obvious now, but there was nothing in the literature on it.”

Strip It and Stash It: Climate Scientists Focus on Extracting the Carbon Already in Our Air

For decades, most of the strategizing about how to slow down climate change has focused on cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, mainly by shifting away from fossil fuels. Other proposals range from reducing meat consumption (cattle belch massive quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas) to curtailment of chlorofluorocarbons (compounds that both retain heat and destroy atmospheric ozone) in refrigerants and aerosols. 

Setting Misery to Music: Collaboration Lets Listeners “Hear” Effects of Climate Change

As the 2015 U.N. climate change conference continues in the outskirts of Paris—pursuing a global agreement to slow down the devastating effects of global warming—there will be graphs. There will be charts. There will be slideshows.

But if presenters really want to tug at a world leader’s heartstrings, they might want to bring a violin. Break out a synthesizer, a keyboard, and play a snippet of what climate change sounds like: Earth, out of tune and distorted, an orchestra gone a little haywire.

How the University of California is Playing a Unique Role in Global Race Against Warming

The Golden Bear has taken on a distinct greenish tinge this week. First there was the announcement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference outside Paris that the University of California is the sole university participant in Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a conglomerate of investors dedicated to developing low-carbon energy sources. UC will dedicate $1.25 billion to the venture over the next five years.

Startup Wants University Endowments to Lend Money so Homeowners Can Go Solar

A new startup founded by two UC Berkeley Haas Business School students aims to give homeowners going solar the leverage to affect more than just the environment.

Window Street Financial—which emerged last fall from an idea generated by Johnny Gannon and Ben Purvis—wants to give them the option of taking a solar loan made up of capital from the endowments of universities, nonprofits and foundations.

Turbo-Charging Cloud Research: Now It’s Easier to Decipher Clues to Climate Change

For most people, clouds are mere grist for metaphor, as with Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.” But clouds have deep implications beyond late 1960s pop music lyrics. Geophysical implications. Their frequency, type, direction, density and velocity all say a great deal about weather, climate—even atmospheric ozone depletion. The problem is that it’s hard to draw a bead on clouds, to obtain the precise measurements in real time that can translate into useful data. They are clouds, after all: nebulous, evanescent—indeed, vaporous.

Anthropocene Now: Has the Human Race Created a New Geological Epoch?

There’s no question that humans have drastically altered the environment. But just how drastically? As a member of the Anthropocene Working Group, UC Berkeley paleontologist Anthony D. Barnosky works with an international team of geologists, archaeologists, biologists, and historians to determine whether humans have changed Earth’s geology and atmosphere enough to merit the establishment of a new geological epoch, and if so, when that should begin.

From the Spring 2015 Dropouts and Drop-ins issue of California.

Welcome to the Decentralized Energy Revolution: Cleanly Electrifying the World

While the boons of electricity are obvious to anyone who has watched a 49ers game on a 70-inch ultra HDTV or whipped up a frozen margarita in a blender, it also has its downsides—most of them environmental. Coal and natural gas power plants belch planet-warming CO2 into the atmosphere, while nuclear plants produce highly lethal radwaste.

Saving the Sequoias: The Most Magisterial of Trees in California Face a Big Risk

Ronald Reagan was (in)famously unmoved by ancient forests, claiming that “when you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all.” But most of us still feel a frisson when we stroll among old-growth trees, particularly when they’re the biggest dang trees on the planet: Sequoiadendron giganteum, otherwise known as giant sequoias. (That’s biggest by volume, by the way. Coast redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens, may be taller but typically are more slender.)

The Locavore’s Dilemma

Despite its immense popularity, it doesn’t yet have a common name: some call it “locavorism,” others “localism.” In terms of clarity, the compound “eating locally” may be best.

From the Winter 2009 Food for Thought issue of California.

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