Coffee cherries

Weekly Environmental News, April 22-28 – Coffee Trouble, Hotter Core, Keystone XL Objection

This week’s stories include how a lack of coffee-tree diversity is harming Latin American growers, Earth’s core may be hotter than we thought, new “flow” batteries could help boost solar and wind power, evidence of when global cooling ended, and the EPA speaks out on the Keystone XL pipeline project.

Exploring Coffee’s Past to Rescue Its Future
A report from NPR explains how the genetic uniformity of cultivated coffee makes the industry more vulnerable to shocks like a changing climate, or disease. Much of the coffee trees in Latin America descend from two genetic strains of Coffee arabica. Now, leaf rust disease is devastating the coffee plantations there. The best response may be to breed new varieties of coffee.

Earth’s Core Far Hotter Than Thought
New experiments show the planet’s inner core may be as hot as the sun’s surface, 6000 degrees C. French scientists used X-rays to probe tiny samples of iron at extraordinary pressures to examine how the iron crystals form and melt. The results appeared April 26 in the journal Science.

New Battery Design Could Help Solar and Wind Power the Grid
Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy and Stanford University have designed a low-cost, long-life battery that could enable solar and wind energy to become major suppliers to the electrical grid. The new lithium-polysulfide flow battery has a simplified, inexpensive design that could make it a candidate for large-scale production.

Study Finds Global Cooling Trend Ended in the 19th Century
An international consortium of scientists evaluated temperature changes on the continents over the last 1,000 to 2,000 years and concluded that a long-term cooling trend–caused by factors including fluctuations in the amount and distribution of heat from the sun, and increases in volcanic activity–ended late in the 19th century. A National Science Foundation press release detailed the findings, which were published in the May issue of Nature Geoscience.

EPA Wants State to Rework Analysis of Keystone XL Pipeline
The Environmental Protection Agency recommended the State Department reassess the amount of greenhouse gases that would be emitted by the development of oil sands in Alberta, Canada, according to the Washington Post. EPA says the total amount of gases emitted could be higher than what State estimated. The agency also wants State to reassess the difficulty of cleaning up spills of the heavy crude oil. The Post’s Juliet Eilperin says EPA’s objection is important, because it could signal EPA’s willingness to challenge State in the final stage, when State will issue its “national interest determination.” If no agency challenges the determination, then State can issue the permit. If an agency does, then President Obama would have to make the final permit decision.

(Creative Commons image “fresh picked coffee,” courtesy of tonx via Flickr.)

Leave A Comment