Yale Environment 360

Lack of Data May Be Hiding True Extent of Biodiversity Loss

The number of species facing extinction may be much higher than previously thought, according to a new study. While scientists have surveyed the risks facing more than 147,000 plants and animals to determine which belong on the list of threatened or endangered species maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, thousands more species are not assessed at all because of a lack of data on threats they might be facing. In some cases, scientists have yet to track these species in the field, but in others the lack of data may reflect their already precipitous decline, the new study suggests.
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Pathogens Able to Travel on Floating Plastic Waste, Study Finds

The plastics had only been submerged in the ocean off Falmouth, England for a week, but in that time a thin layer of biofilm, a slimy mix of mucus and microbes, had already developed on their surfaces. Michiel Vos, a microbiologist at the University of Exeter in England, had sunk five different types of plastic as a test. He and his colleagues wanted to know which of the myriad microbes living in the ocean would glom on to these introduced materials.

Long a Climate Laggard, Ireland Lays Path to Cut Emissions in Half by 2030

Ireland, which has historically lagged behind other European nations in tackling climate change, has set a course to slash emissions by 51 percent by 2030. The plan is the result of negotiations that sought to balance cuts to agricultural emissions with cuts to emissions from transport, power, and other sectors. Agriculture accounts for 38 percent of Ireland’s carbon output, with belching sheep and cattle a significant source of heat-trapping methane. To halve its carbon footprint, Ireland would need to make deep cuts to emissions from farming, a daunting prospect, or draw down emissions from other sectors to compensate for the impact of livestock.

More Energy on Less Land: The Drive to Shrink Solar’s Footprint

From the ground, the new solar farm shimmers like a mirage oasis on a hot summer day. Instead of row after slanting row of shiny panels stretching taller than corn, this array, mounted directly on the earth, lies flat as water. From the air, it looks like an acre-sized swimming pool. Yet despite its modest stature, this new type of photovoltaic plant — one of five now producing a combined 2.5 megawatts of energy in California’s Central Valley — can match the output of conventional solar farms nearly three times its size.

Gone for Thousands of Years, Wild Bison Return to the UK

Wild bison, absent from the United Kingdom for thousands of years, are being reintroduced to a forest near Canterbury, England to help restore the woods to their natural state. The Wilder Blean project, a partnership of Wildwood Trust and Kent Wildlife Trust, is returning bison to the West Blean and...

China Sees Rooftop Solar Take Off as New Policies Bolster Growth

China is expecting to install 108 gigawatts of solar capacity this year, almost double the 55 gigawatts installed in 2021, with much of the growth driven by rooftop solar. Just this week, China announced it is aiming for 50 percent of new factory rooftops to sport solar installations by 2025, China Dialogue reports, as distributed solar increasingly figures into the energy plans of the world’s biggest emitter.

Shifting Sands: Carolina’s Outer Banks Face a Precarious Future

Rounding the corner near the village of Rodanthe, there is a stretch of highway known as the S-Curves because of its twisting loops and turns. It is, by almost any measure, one of the most vulnerable sections of roadway in North Carolina, if not the nation. Years ago, highway officials erected a massive dike here with 2,200 sandbags — each bag was 15 feet long, two feet tall, and five feet wide — and then buried the dike in even more sand in an effort to keep the ocean at bay and the highway, known as NC 12, open.