the environment

Liquid Cooling Bags For Data Centers Could Trim Cost and Carbon By 90 Percent

Server farms are undeniably awesome in that they store huge pools of data, enable such modern phenomena as cloud computing and Web-hosted email, and most importantly, make the Internet as it stands today possible. The downside: data centers get very, very hot. Cooling huge banks of servers doesn't just cost a lot, it eats up a lot of energy, and that generally means fossil fuels.

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So Much For "Hopenhagen"

World leaders give up on signing a climate-change treaty at the COP 15 talks next month

Over the weekend President Obama and other world leaders broke the news: No legally binding international climate-change treaty this year.

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Modified Algae Produce Clean, Easy Hydrogen

Simple organisms pave the way to the hydrogen-fueled future

Algae get a lot of airtime as a possible future source of biofuels to wean us from dirty fossil fuels, but even biofuels don't go so far as to eliminate hydrocarbons (and their constituent carbon emissions) from our energy diet. But a different use for algae could prove a better solution to the future of fuel.

A new process that produces clean, sustainable hydrogen from photosynthesis in algae could change all that. The means of manufacturing clean, usable hydrogen has heretofore required a high-energy process that drastically dilutes the upside.

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China's Weather Manipulation Brings Crippling Snowstorm to Beijing

In The People's Republic of China, it's no secret that the Party controls just about everything. But as Beijing suffers through its second major snowstorm this season, residents are growing weary of their leadership's control-freak tendencies. After all, while the storm came as a surprise to residents, the government knew about it all along. In fact, the government caused it.

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Geoengineering Moscow Mayor Promises No Snow This Winter

A Russian mayor wants to expand cloud seeding to preventing snow in Moscow

Controlling the weather with cloud seeding has previously proved popular with Chinese and Russian officials, but Moscow's mayor does not seem content with just keeping the rain off his roofs. Now Mayor Yury Luzhkov has hired the cash-strapped Russian Air Force to chemically spray clouds so that no snow will fall within his city limits.

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NASA Prepares Massive Aerial Survey of Antarctica to Fill Satellite Gap

Operation Ice Bridge will be the most extensive aerial survey ever of Antarctica

This Thursday, NASA will kick off the largest aerial survey ever undertaken of Earth's polar regions. The effort will help fill a multi-year gap between the satellite missions that usually track changes in ice, and should also help scientists understand how the changing ice sheets might contribute to sea level rise around the world.

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Green Dream Gallery: Breaking Ground

A few photos on site from the early stages of the build

Even though I spend most of my time thinking about geothermal heating systems and backyard solar plants for my green home, in the end, a house is a house; holes must be dug, foundations must be laid, steel delivered and erected, and so on. Here's a look at our progress in that less glamorous but wholly necessary department.

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Green Dream: The Swiss Cheese Staircase

Our Green Dream builder conjures a steel sculpture that will also get people to the second floor

Next week I’m going to build the primary steel staircase for the house. Over the last 24 hours the design has changed more than three times. It’s not that I don’t know what I want, it’s just that I have a crazy architect, Timon Phillips, and an even more crazy friend, Vin Marshall, who engineered and designed what I’m calling the “mouse tower” concept and will be welding it with me. (Lesson one of a DIY build: If your friends are as nuts as you are, nothing in your home is going to be normal or easy.)

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Synthetic Tree Soaks Up Carbon 1000x Faster Than the Real Thing

Each synthetic plant promises to do the work of a thousand old-style wooden trees

Trees are great absorbers of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and inhibitors of climate change -- that's why treehuggers hug them so much. But leave it to humanity to engineer a better tree. A synthetic tree, currently being tested as a prototype, ensnares carbon about 1,000 times faster than a real tree.

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Pennywise Solar Power

An eight-volt DC solar power plant that fits on a penny

No matter whether you felt that Earth Hour was a terrific conservation tactic or an overhyped PR stunt, energy on our planet is in peril. Our daily juice (be it electric, gasoline combustion, atomic, or carbon-based), has become a precious commodity with at least one guaranteed effect: to elicit an instantaneous hot-button opinion from just about everybody.

What can you do about it? Well, one great proactive demonstration would be to stop your regular consumption of dry-cell batteries. Yes, there are numerous substitutes, ranging from rechargeable varieties to alternative energy replacements, but each of these substitutions has a debit that few of us are willing to pay. You know, "costs" like always hunting for an outlet to power a battery recharging station, or getting rid of a clean, slim-line AA battery for a gargantuan solar-driven bat-winged monstrosity.

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Green Gadgets? Not So Much

Research finds that digital technologies contribute to climate change

Bad news, tech lovers. IT is not so eco-friendly. According to University of Calgary researcher Richard Hawkins, digital technologies are not reducing our environmental footprint, but may in fact be turning us all into polluters.

"It was once assumed that there was little or no material dimension to information technology, thus, it should be clean with minimal environmental impact," says Hawkins. "However, we are finding that reality is much more complicated."

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Comic: How "Clean" Can Coal Be

The term may be bandied around a lot, but does the tech work?

From the US PopSci team

Raise your hand if you're heard about clean coal. Now keep your hand up if you know what the hell it is. Still up? You're better off than I was before I started digging into this.

It's been all over the news, and in countless political speeches, so we know clean coal is popular. It's in the new economic stimulus package to the tune of US$2.4 billion. And its first pilot project was canceled last year after costs accelerated out of control, so we know clean coal is expensive. But what else is it, really...?

After the jump, a short primer in comic form.

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Volcanoes: The Real Eco-Villains?

Could CO2 emissions from the earth be bigger greenhouse-gas culprits than humans?

Dear EarthTalk: Could it really be true that a single large volcanic eruption launches more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the amount generated by all of humanity over history? -- Steve Schlemmer, London, England

This argument that human-caused carbon emissions are merely a drop in the bucket compared to greenhouse gases generated by volcanoes has been making its way around the rumor mill for years. And while it may sound plausible, the science just doesn't back it up.

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Salt Water Rising

Could rivers reverse their flow as sea levels rise?

Dear EarthTalk: With all the talk of rising seas, what could happen to the rivers that flow into the oceans? Will they reverse flow? Will rising seas back up into fresh water lakes? And what happens to our groundwater should saltwater flow backwards into it? -- Sandy Smith, concerned Michigander

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What's Good and What's Bad

Heroin is in; venison is out

Also, laying off makeup, slurping up bottled water, and more, in today's link roundup.

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