Tolkien gesture – scientist maps climate of Lord of the Rings

Mount Doom is like LA and the Shire like Lincolnshire, so says a climate model based on author’s famously detailed maps. Climate sceptics regularly work themselves into a lather dismissing mainstream climate science as fantasy – but for once they have a point. A researcher at Bristol University has trained his powerful supercomputer not at predicting the earth’s future climate, but on the fictional world of Middle Earth – the backdrop for JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Read more

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UN shows how mobile-phone data can map human need

Tracking people’s movements after the Haiti earthquake, mapping malaria spread in Kenya, evaluating Mexico’s government policies on flu outbreak, improving national census surveys in Latin America and Africa… These are just a few examples of how mobile-phone data has been used in development, as highlighted by a recent UN report. Read more

Europe’s biggest renewable energy plant completes switch from coal to biomass

Britain’s largest coal-fired power station is set to become one of Europe’s biggest renewable electricity generators today, with the potential for new future generation on the site to be based on truly clean coal. Energy Secretary Ed Davey opened the Drax coal-to-biomass conversion plant, and announced the Government was awarding funding to further the White Rose CCS project, also based at the site.

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Amazon rainforest more able to withstand drought than previously thought

New research suggests that the Amazon rainforest may be more able to cope with dry conditions than previously predicted. Researchers at the University of Exeter and Colorado State University used a computer model to demonstrate that, providing forest conservation measures are in place, the Amazon rainforest may be more able to withstand periods of drought than has been estimated by other climate models.

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Ozone pact helped cool the planet, study reports

A slowdown in global warming that climate sceptics cite in favour of their cause was partly induced by one of the world’s most successful environment treaties, a study said on Sunday. The UN’s Montreal Protocol, designed to phase out industrial gases that destroy Earth’s protective ozone layer, coincidentally applied a small brake to the planet’s warming, it said. Without this treaty, Earth’s surface temperature would be roughly 0.1 degrees Celsius (0.2 degrees Fahrenheit) higher today, according to its authors.

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