Earth has limits to the amount of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere before the environment as we know it starts to change. Too much CO2 absorbed by the oceans makes the water more acidic. Too much in the atmosphere warms the planet. With emissions from our carbon-based economies rising, scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are developing way to prevent CO2 produced by power plants and industries from ever entering the atmosphere, and they are exploring ways to take CO2 out of the environment.
October 24, 2016
June 09, 2016
Scientists and engineers working at a power plant in Iceland have shown for the first time that carbon dioxide emissions can be pumped into the earth and changed chemically to a solid within months—radically faster than anyone had predicted. The finding may help address a fear that so far has plagued the idea of capturing and storing CO2 underground: that emissions could seep back into the air or even explode out.
March 21, 2016
Researchers have predicted that as the planet is warmed by human-produced CO2, plants may add to the emissions and amplify the warming. Now, the most comprehensive global study of its kind yet suggests that this effect has limits, and that increases in plant respiration may not be as big as previously estimated. It shows that rates of increase slow in an easily predictable way as temperatures mount, in every region of earth, from tropics to tundra.
September 01, 2015
The Amazon Rainforest sprawls across more than 2 million square miles of South America, taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen as “the lungs of the planet.” When they’re healthy, the world’s tropical forests and vegetation absorb up to 30 percent of the CO2 produced by human activities, but during droughts, that capacity falls off. To understand what that will mean as global warming produces more intense and frequent droughts, we need to understand the water and carbon cycles of the Amazon and how those cycles interact.
July 10, 2013
The desert sultanate of Oman is home to some of the weirdest—and possibly most useful—rocks on earth. The stark Hajar mountains, near the border with Saudi Arabia, contain a chunk of earth’s mantle—a zone that makes up most of earth’s mass, but normally lies inaccessible to humans, far below the surface. Here, though, a sliver of mantle has made its way up to where we can see and touch it. The outcrop has drawn scientists looking for clues to the dynamics of the deep earth; the origins of life; and, most recently, ways to fight climate change.
February 18, 2011
Northern New Jersey, southern Connecticut and environs are not necessarily where one would expect to explore the onetime extinction of much life on earth, and subsequent rise of dinosaurs. But it turns out to be a pretty good place to start. Underlying the exurbs are geological formations left by three giant episodes of volcanism starting around 200 million years ago, and intervening layers of sediments that built up in the interims between massive lava flows.
September 15, 2009
The world’s oceans are growing more acidic as carbon emissions from the modern world are absorbed by the sea. A new film, “A Sea Change,” explores what this changing chemistry means for fish and the one billion people who rely on them for food. This first-ever documentary about ocean acidification is told through the eyes of a retired history teacher who reads about the problem in a piece in The New Yorker and is inspired to find out more. His quest takes him to Alaska, California, Washington and Norway to talk with oceanographers, climatologists and others.