Extreme weather influences climate change perception

Listen to the full story at Great Lakes Echo. See also NASA’s explanation of the difference between weather and climate.

Americans have strongly polarized beliefs about whether global warming is a reality. A survey run by the University of Michigan that’s been going on for seven years indicates that people are more likely to believe it is when they have witnessed extreme drought or brutal winter weather.

Current State’s Melissa Benmark speaks with Barry Rabe, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D. C. and a Professor at Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. He’s also the  the co-director of the National Surveys on Energy and Environment, which produced the survey and the report.

Nanostructured Glass Can Switch Between Blocking Heat and Blocking Light

Read the full story in IEEE Spectrum.

Electrochromic glass essentially uses electric charge to switch a window from allowing sunlight in to blocking it out. Some have estimated that such “smart windows” could cut lighting needs by about 20 percent and the cooling load by 25 percent at peak times.

Now researchers at the University of Texas Austin have found a way to make them even better. They developed a novel nanostructure architectcure for electrochromic materials that enables a highly selective cool mode and warm mode—something thought to be impossible a few years back.

In research published in the journal Nano Letters, the University of Texas researchers along with scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory were able to get nanostructured electrochromic materials to control 90 percent of the near-infrared (NIR) light and 80 percent of the visible light. What’s more, it only requires a few minutes to switch between these two modes, whereas previously reported materials took hours to make this transition.

Outrage over EPA emissions regulations fades as states find fixes

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Even after years of talk about a “war on coal,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell startled some of his constituents in March when he urged open rebellion against a White House proposal for cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan is “extremely burdensome and costly,” the Kentucky Republican said in letters advising all 50 states to boycott the rule when it goes into effect this summer.

The call for direct defiance was unusual even for McConnell, who has made a career of battling federal restrictions on coal. Yet more striking is what has happened since: Kentucky’s government and electric utilities have quietly positioned themselves to comply with the rule — something state officials expect to do with relatively little effort.

In this coal-industry bastion, five of the state’s older coal-burning power plants were already scheduled to close or switch to natural gas in the next two years, either because of aging equipment or to save money, state officials say. As a result, Kentucky’s greenhouse-gas emissions are set to plummet 16 percent below where they were in 2012 — within easy reach of the 18 percent reduction goal proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in a draft of the agency’s controversial carbon-cutting plan.

Shallow Fracking Requires Safeguards

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

Robert Jackson, an environmental scientist at Stanford Univ., has been immersed in the hydraulic fracturing issue for close to seven years now. His interests lie in how to make the process safe, something he believes can be done. However, what can be done and what is done are often quite different.

Study is first to measure global population/energy relationship

Read the full story from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

If you’ve lived between the year 1560 and the present day, more power to you. Literally.

That’s one of several conclusions reached by University of Nebraska-Lincoln ecologist John DeLong, who has co-authored the first study to quantify the relationship between human population growth and energy use on an international scale.

The study compiled several centuries’ worth of data from Great Britain, the United States and Sweden to profile the dynamics between a skyrocketing population and its consumption of energy from fossil fuels and renewable sources.

The data showed that energy use has generally outpaced population growth over the last few hundred years. Each generation has thus produced more energy per person than its predecessor, the study reported, even as the population has climbed from about 500 million to more than 7 billion in the 450 years analyzed by the authors.

This increasing per capita energy supply has also hiked up Earth’s carrying capacity – the number of people it can sustain at equilibrium – and allowed the population to grow at an ever-faster, or exponential, rate.

Minnesota rain gardens go big to fight pollution, reuse water

Read the full story from Minnesota Public Radio.

Many Minnesota cities use rain gardens and other “green infrastructure” now to keep stormwater from polluting nearby lakes and rivers. But they’re often small, neighborhood efforts. Inver Grove Heights, however, is putting that stormwater science to use on a massive scale at Argenta Hills, and it’s attracting national attention.

Michigan company using algae to reduce use of livestock antibiotics

Read/listen to the full story at Great Lakes Echo.

Algae doesn’t have the best reputation. It’s the green scum on your local golf course’s ponds or the toxic bloom that shut down Toledo’s water system last summer. Algae isn’t all bad, though, and one Michigan start-up is using it in some innovative and beneficial ways.

While most people think of algae as a water problem, Algal Scientific actually first got its start designing technology that uses algae to filter wastewater.  Current State talks to CEO Geoff Horst, who was was a PhD student in the Fisheries and Wildlife Department at Michigan State University when he started the biotech company.