On August 15, scientists published a study in the Institute of Physics' (IOP) journal, Environmental Research Letters, warning that heat waves will becomes more frequent as climate change worsens. Extreme heat waves, like the one that struck the U.S. in 2012, are projected to cover double the global land by 2020 and quadruple the amount of global land by 2040. Moreover, because of inertia, reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere will now have no impact. On the other hand, reducing the amount of atmospheric carbon will increase or decrease the frequency or severity of heat waves in the years after 2040.
A new government report says Australia could switch to 100% renewable fuel by 2030. Moreover, it would not be any more expensive than continuing to use fossil fuels would be. Hence, switching to renewables would be both technically and financially feasible. Australia currently plans to have 20% renewables or 41,000 gigawatt-hours by 2020. Currently, over 2.5 million Australians have homes with solar power or hot water, and another 2.3 million have wind power.
Titan Aerospace has made a solar-powered plane called the Solara, that could function as a satellite. It boasts a 150 foot wingspan and can travel up to 20,000 meters (over 60,000 feet) and then remain airborne for up to five years, powered solely by the sun. Hypothetically, this kind of solar plane could be used for anti-piracy surveillance, providing Internet access to remote regions, and many kinds of scientific studies, like ocean monitoring, weather monitoring, and atmospheric science. If a satellite can do it, the Solara probably can-- and the Solara has the advantage of being able to come back to Earth at the mission's end.
The Economy, Trade, and Industry Ministry of Japan reported that renewable energy facilities that had begun operations in 2012 totaled 2.08 million kilowatts in capacity-- which is equivalent to two nuclear reactors. The lion's share, 1.98 million kw, came from solar power. The Japanese government had hoped for 2.5 million kw, but delivery problems with some of the solar panels made that impossible.
Two new studies about ocean acidification were released. In the first, published in Nature Climate Change , Dr. Katherine Six and her colleagues found that increasing ocean acidification causes the amount of dimethylsulfide (DMS) to decrease. As marine DMS emissions are the largest natural source of atmospheric sulfur, which serves as a check against global warming. Less atmospheric sulfur therefore means yet more global warming, about a half a degree on top of the 4 to 6 degrees Celsius currently projected.
Dr. Hans Poertner, professor of marine biology at the Alfred Wegener Institute, and his colleagues also published the results of a study on ocean acidification. In their report, they state increased ocean acidification will kill marine creatures. Species that build calcium-based shells are especially at risk as the acidic water will eat away their shells. The effects will be particularly severe in warm waters. Poertner and his team researched the effects of ocean acidification on fish, echinoderms (starfish and their relations), crustaceans, molluscs, and coral. While all were adversely affected, coral, molluscs, and echinoderms, were especially severely affected.
According to GTM Research , two thirds of the solar panels used in the world were installed in just the past two and a half years. It took nearly 40 years to install the first 50 gigawatts of photovoltaic (PV) capacity worldwide-- and just two and a half years to install the next 50 gigawatts. At the same time, prices have fallen by 62 percent. GTM Research expects the current PV capacity to double over the next two and a half years.
The Limerick University announced a new technology that could increase the output of fruits and vegetables. Professor Austin Darragh and Dr. J.J. Leahy call the compact device "Vi-Aqua," which means "life water." It converts 24 volts of electricity into a radio signal, which then charges up the water through an antenna. The treated water becomes a better solvent, enabling to carry more nutrients to the plant. The treatment also adds nitrates to the water, thus making it a fertilizer. As a result, the plants are both larger and hardier-- thus reducing the need for pesticides.
According to a study published in Nature, climate change will cause more floods, and they will be increasingly expensive. By 2050, global flood damages could cost $1 trillion dollars per year, due to a combination of rising seas, sinking land, and increasing coastal development. Economist Stephane Hallegatte and his colleagues at the World Bank calculated estimated flood damage losses for the worlds' 136 largest coastal cities. His calculations included data on elevation, known risk of extreme weather, and existing coastal protections. He then extrapolated future costs using UN population and urbanization models, climate models of future sea level rise, and economic models from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.