Home Solar Panels Make Gains in America, Even in Rainy Seattle

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 4, 2014   View Article

Going solar is expensive, but a confluence of plummeting equipment prices, rising utility bills, new financing schemes and a raft of federal, state, and local incentives are encouraging homeowners across America to take the plunge and put photovoltaic panels on their roofs, even in rainy Seattle.

In 2013, 792 megawatts of solar capacity was installed on homes. That figure is expected to increase 61 percent in 2014 and another 53 percent in 2015, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a Washington-based trade group. A megawatt of solar capacity is typically enough to power 200 average U.S. homes, though the number varies depending on factors such as available sunlight and panel orientation.

On a recent drizzly July morning here, homeowner Brian Palmer gestured out the window to the falling rain. There, workers in slickers from a local solar energy company prepared to put photovoltaic panels on his roof, one of the hundreds of such installations that occur daily across the country.

Back From the Dead: Why De-Extinction May Save Humanity

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 24, 2014   View Article

If current trends continue, elephants, giraffes, and zebras could go extinct in the not-too-distant future.

Rodents teeming with parasites that carry black plague would fill the void, suggests ongoing research in Africa. If so, the threat to human health could prompt the tantalizingly feasible solution of de-extinction — that is, resurrecting the big animals and releasing them back into the wild.

De-extinction for conservation purposes is a “matter of when, not if,” said Philip Seddon, a zoologist at the University of Otaga in New Zealand. “We need to think very hard about which are the good candidate species.”

As Californians Pump Groundwater, Land Sinks and Aquifers Shrink

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 15, 2014   View Article

So much water is being pumped from the ground in parched California that the land is sinking, according to scientists.

The more Californians rely on groundwater, the worse these problems will get, experts across industry, government, and academia say. But, they said, the pumping is likely to continue given a confluence of factors that range from urban population growth to an expanding agricultural industry.

Frogs Get Their Shots: Vaccination May Curb Lethal Fungus

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 9, 2014   View Article

Around the world, the rapid spread of a pathogenic fungus has sent frogs and other amphibians hopping toward extinction. Hope for their survival may come in the form of vaccination programs similar to those that protect humans from contagious diseases, according to a new study.

No, this doesn’t mean that newborn tadpoles will be paying a visit to the veterinarian for a round of shots, or that conservationists with mini-syringes will be mucking through rain forests in search of frogs. But the reality isn’t all that different.

Hundreds of amphibians already have been removed from habitats contaminated with the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which causes chytridiomycosis — the fungal disease implicated in the global amphibian decline. One route is to vaccinate these captive-bred amphibians, explained Jason Rohr, an ecologist at the University of South Florida and the study’s senior author.

Neonicotinoid Pesticide Linked to Decline of Birds (and Bees)

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 9, 2014   View Article

A controversial agricultural insecticide that has been implicated in the collapse of bee colonies around the world also appears to be causing bird populations to drop, according to a new study. The insecticides known as neonicotinoids are designed to attack the central nervous system of insects that devour crops, but only about 5 percent of the chemical compound stays on the plant. The rest leaches into the soil and water, where it does its magic on other bugs, the researchers said.

That’s Nuts: Almond Boom Strains California Water Supply

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 22, 2014   View Article

Asia’s love of nuts is draining California dry.

Amid one of the worst droughts in the state’s history, farmers are scrambling to find enough water to irrigate lucrative almond trees they planted after abandoning other, less thirsty crops.

Why’s there such a market for California nuts? As incomes in countries such as China, South Korea, and India have risen, so has demand for nuts that formerly were out of reach for many Asians. Added to the mix are Wall Street firms who, smelling a quick buck, are paying top dollar for vegetable farms and converting them to orchards.

Cough, Cough: Climate Change May Worsen Air Pollution

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 22, 2014   View Article

Residents of bulging metropolises around the world should brace for an increase in stagnant, polluted air that hangs around for days as a result of climate change-related shifts in wind and rainfall patterns, according to a new study.

The findings highlight one way global warming can compromise human health, which is a major thrust behind the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recently proposed plan to curb power plant carbon emissions 30 percent by the year 2030, said Janice Nolen, an assistant vice president at the American Lung Association in Washington.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach