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Mongabay.com news articles on climate science in blog format. Updated regularly.









Growth of cities can affect local weather

(06/19/2006) In the past half-century, cities have begun to expand in some of the Earth's most arid areas. While scientists have known for some time that the so-called "heat-island" effect of large cities such as Atlanta and Houston can affect their weather, they knew less about this effect and other processes in arid cities, such as Phoenix, which have experienced explosive population growth.


The tropics may be expanding due to climate change

(05/26/2006) A new study published in Science by scientists from the University of Utah and the University of Washington indicates that the tropics have expanded farther from the equator since 1979.Analyzing atmospheric temperature measurements by satellites, the researchers say that widening of the tropics amounts to 2 degrees of latitude or 140 miles but are not sure whether the expansion is the result of natural climate variation or by human-induced global warming due to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The researchers warm that the trend could expand some of the world's driest regions. "It's a big deal. The tropics may be expanding and getting larger," says study co-author Thomas Reichler, an assistant professor of meteorology at the University of Utah. "If this is true, it also would mean that subtropical deserts are expanding into heavily populated midlatitude regions."


Extreme global warming likely by end of century

(05/24/2006) Climate models predicting a 5.6 degrees Celsius increase in Earth's temperature by the end of the century may have underestimated the increase by as much as 2.3C according to researchers at the University of California at Berkeley.


Global warming may be worse than predicted

(05/22/2006) Climate change estimates for the next century may have substantially underestimated the potential magnitude of global warming says a new study from a team of European scientists. The paper, published in the May 26 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, says that warming may be 15-to-78 percent higher than estimates that do not consider the feedback mechanism involving carbon dioxide and Earth's temperature.


2006: Expect another big hurricane year says NOAA

(05/22/2006) The 2006 hurricane season in the north Atlantic region is likely to again be very active, although less so than 2005 when a record-setting 15 hurricanes occured, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. On average, NOAA says the north Atlantic hurricane season produces 11 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including two major hurricanes. In 2005, the Atlantic hurricane season contained a record 28 storms, including 15 hurricanes. Seven of these hurricanes were considered major, of which a record four hit the United States. The warning from NOAA comes after a slew of studies have indicated that climate change could increase the frequency and intensity of powerful storms. Last year, two earlier studies published in the journals Nature and Science found a strong correlation between rising tropical sea surface temperatures and an increase in the strength of hurricanes.


Bush Administration misleads public on deforestation effort

(05/21/2006) The Bush Administration is misleading the American public and the United Nations about its efforts to address tropical deforestation according to analysis by the Tropical Forest Group, an environmental advocacy group based in Santa Barbara, California. The Tropical Forest Group alleges that the US Tropical Forest conservation Act (TFCA), a key initiative to reduce carbon emissions and tropical deforestation, has been neglected for a year and a half despite recent claims by the Bush Administration that it was actively supporting the program.


Scientists endorse plan to save rainforests through emissions trading

(05/19/2006) The Association for Tropical Biology and conservation (ATBC), the world's largest scientific organization devoted to the study and wise use of tropical ecosystems, has formally endorsed a radical proposal to help save tropical forests through carbon trading. Under the initiative proposed by an alliance of fifteen developing countries led by Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica, tropical nations that show permanent reductions in deforestation would be eligible to receive international carbon funds from industrial nations who could purchase carbon credits to help them meet their emissions targets international climate agreements like the Kyoto Protocol.


New York at high risk of flooding from climate change

(05/17/2006) For many, sea-level rise is a remote and distant threat faced by people like the residents of the Tuvalu Islands in the South Pacific, where the highest point of land is only 5 meters (15 feet) above sea level and tidal floods occasionally cover their crops in seawater.


Africa's glaciers gone by 2025

(05/15/2006) Fabled equatorial icecaps will disappear within two decades, because of global warming, a study British and Ugandan scientists has found. In a paper to be published 17 May in Geophysical Research Letters, they report results from the first survey in a decade of glaciers in the Rwenzori Mountains of East Africa. An increase in air temperature over the last four decades has contributed to a substantial reduction in glacial cover, they say.


US has low-cost alternatives to oil; peak oil frenzy and human-induced climate change avoidable says Columbia University

(05/14/2006) Surging oil prices have fueled calls for the United States to develop new sources of affordable and secure domestic energy. While renewable energy -- especially biofuels, wind power, and solar technologies -- is an area of particular interest, researchers from the Earth Institute at Columbia University say that the U.S. already has relatively low-cost alternatives to imported oil, including coal, tar sands, and oil shale. These resources can be extracted and used at a lower cost to the environment than some might expect. In a report published in the most recent issue of Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Klaus S. Lackner and Jeffrey D. Sachs argue that "coal alone could satisfy the country's energy needs of the twenty-first century." They say that "coal liquefaction, or the process of deriving liquid fuels from coal, is already being used in places and with expanded infrastructure could provide gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel at levels well below current prices." Further, Sachs and Lackner suggest that "environmental constraints such as increased carbon dioxide emissions arising from greater use of coal and other fossil fuels could be avoided for less than 1 percent of gross world product by 2050," a sum far less than others have estimated.


Carbon savings from biofuels quantified

(05/12/2006) A British fuels company has quantified carbon dioxide emission savings made through the sale of biofuels. Greenergy Fuels Ltd, which supplies biofuels retailed through supermarket forecourts, said it supplied 17.1 million liters of bioethanol and biodiesel, saving more than 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions during the first quarter of 2006. The firm compared this savings to taking more than 50,000 average family cars off the road for three months.


Droughts in India to worsen with climate change -- study

(05/12/2006) India could face worse droughts according to a new study by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. In a study published in the May 15 issue of Journal of Climate, Chul Eddy Chung and V. Ramanathan of Scripps Oceanography say that cooler-than-normal temperatures in the northern part of the Indian ocean have weakened the region's natural climate circulation and monsoon conditions, resulting in reduced rainfall over India and increased rainfall over the Sahel area south of the Sahara in Africa,


Study reveals another contributor to polar warming

(05/10/2006) Arctic climate already is known to be particularly prone to global warming caused by industrial and automotive emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Now, a University of Utah study finds a surprising new way society's pollutants warm the far north: the Arctic's well-known haze -- made of particulate pollution from mid-latitude cities -- mixes with thin clouds, making them better able to trap heat.


Study questions link between hurricanes and global warming

(05/10/2006) New research calls into question the linkage between major Atlantic hurricanes and global warming. That is one of the conclusions from a University of Virginia study to appear in the May 10, 2006 issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters. In recent years, a large number of severe Atlantic hurricanes have fueled a debate as to whether global warming is responsible. Because high sea-surface temperatures fuel tropical cyclones, this linkage seems logical. In fact, within the past year, several hurricane researchers have correlated basin-wide warming trends with increasing hurricane severity and have implicated a greenhouse-warming cause.


China and India show rapid increase in global warming emissions

(05/10/2006) Carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise with a mix of old and new polluters, according to the Little Green Data Book 2006, launched today on the occasion of the Fourteenth Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. An annual publication of the World Bank, according to this year?s edition, CO2 emissions worldwide have now topped 24 billion metric tons, an increase of 15 percent compared to the 1992 levels.


High oil prices fuel bioenergy push

(05/09/2006) High oil prices and growing concerns over climate change are driving investment and innovation in the biofuels sector as countries and industry increasingly look towards renewable bioenergy to replace fossil fuels. Bill Gates, the world's richest man, has recently invested $84 million in an American ethanol company while global energy gluttons ranging from the United States to China are setting long-term targets for the switch to such fuels which potentially offer a secure domestic source of renewable energy and fewer environmental headaches. Biofuels are fuels that are derived from biomass, including recently living organisms like plants or their metabolic byproducts like cow manure. Unlike fossil fuels -- like coal, petroleum, and natural gas, which are finite resources -- biofuels are a renewable source of energy that can be replenished on an ongoing basis. In general, biofuels are biodegradable and, when burned, have fewer emissions than traditional hydrocarbon-based fuels. Typically, biofuels are blended with traditional petroleum-based fuels, though it is possible to run existing diesel, engines purely on biodiesel, something which holds a great deal of promise as an alternative energy source to replace fossil fuels. Further, because biofuels are generally derived from plants which absorb carbon from the atmosphere as they grow, biofuel production offers the potential to help offset carbon dioxide emissions and mitigate climate change.


California butterflies disappear, climate change have impact

(05/08/2006) 2006 is looking like to could be the worst year in memory for California's butterflies due to cold and wet conditions in late winter, says Art Shapiro, a professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis. His observations raise concerns that future climate change could lead to declines in the state's native buttefly populations.


Antarctic glaciers show Earth's climate system capable of rapid shifts

(05/08/2006) Researchers at Syracuse University have determined that glaciers once covered a much larger area of Antarctica than originally thought, suggesting that Earth's climate system is capable of rapid shifts. Looking at sediments from marine deposits and rock sources on Seymour Island, Syracuse University Professors Linda C. Ivany and Scott D. Samson along with colleagues at the University of Leuven in Belgium and Hamilton College found evidence that glaciers once covered extensive parts of the West Antarctica ice sheet. Previously, scientists had assumed that glaciers were confined to the eastern part of Antarctica, where the biggest ice sheet is today. The findings are significant because they suggest that the climatic response to the drop in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere 34 million years ago was greater than initially believed.


Man may be responsible for prehistoric extinctions

(05/05/2006) New research suggests that prehistoric horses in Alaska may have been hunted into extinction by man, rather than doomed by climate change as previously thought. Until now the leading theory said that the demise of wild horses occurred during a period of climate cooling long before the extinction of mammoths and the arrival of humans from Asia.


Carbon prices tumble 65 percent

(05/04/2006) Carbon prices tumbled 65 percent as a number of European countries announced lower than expected carbon emissions in 2005, suggesting there will be a surplus of pollution-permitting carbon credits. Several important conservation initiatives are based on the concept of a market where industrialized countries buy carbon emissions credits from developing nations in exchange for forest protection


Birthplace of hurricanes heating up say NOAA scientists

(05/03/2006) The region of the tropical Atlantic where many hurricanes originate has warmed by several tenths of a degree Celsius over the 20th century, and new climate model simulations suggest that human activity, such as increasing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, may contribute significantly to this warming. This new finding is one of several conclusions reported in a study by scientists at the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., published today in the Journal of Climate.


NOAA report reconciles atmospheric temperature discrepancy

(05/03/2006) The U.S. Climate Change Science Program issued the first of 21 Synthesis and Assessment Products today with findings that improve the understanding of climate change and human influences on temperature trends.


Pacific wind pattern driving el Nino slows due to global warming

(05/03/2006) Global warming has caused a key wind circulation pattern over the Pacific Ocean to weakened by 3.5 percent since the mid-1800s and scientists warn that it be further diminished by another 10% by 2100. The study, published in the May 4 issue of Nature, says that the weakening of the Walker circulation could could alter climate -- including el Nino and La Nina events -- and the marine food chain across the entire Pacific region. The Walker circulation, an atmospheric circulation of air at the equatorial Pacific Ocean which spans almost half the circumference of Earth, pushes the Pacific Ocean's trade winds from east to west, generating rainfall in Indonesia while creating ocean upwelling off the coast of South America that nourishes marine life.


China's glaciers shrinking by 7 percent per year

(05/02/2006) The glaciers of China's Qinghai-Tibet plateau are shrinking by 7 percent a year due to global warming according to a report from Xinhua, the state news agency of China. In an interview with the agency, Professor Dong Guangrong with the Chinese Academy of Sciences warned that melting glaciers could turn parts of Tibet into desert, worsening droughts and increasing the incidence of sandstorms that regularly blast Chinese cities. He based his conclusions based on analysis of 40 years' worth of data from China's weather stations.


How Plants Respond to Elevated Carbon Dioxide

(05/02/2006) An important source of uncertainty in predictions about global warming is how plants will respond to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Now biologists at the University of California, San Diego have made significant advances toward understanding the mechanism plants use to regulate their carbon dioxide intake. The researchers say that their findings provide important insights into the cellular and genetic mechanisms through which increasing carbon dioxide emissions will impact the world's vegetation.


Evolution is twice as fast in the tropics

(05/01/2006) Tropical species evolve twice as fast as temperate species according to research published in Tuesday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The study. which compared the genetics of 45 common tropical plants with similar species from cooler geographical areas, suggests that evolution takes place at a faster rate in warmer climates due to higher rates of metabolism, which leads to more genetic mutation, and shorter generations, so genetic changes are rapidly passed on to offspring. The researchers found that tropical plant species -- including species from Borneo, New Guinea, northeast Australia and South America -- had more than twice the rate of molecular evolution as closely related species in temperate parts of North America, southern Australia, Eurasia and New Zealand.


Greenhouse gases hit record in 2005

(05/01/2006) Atmospheric levels of gases believed to be fueling global warming continued to climb in 2005 according to analysis released by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency said its index of greenhouse gases -- the Annual Greenhouse Gas Index or AGGI -- showed an increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide but a leveling off of methane, and a decline in two chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), gases that contribute to the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica. NOAA reports that overall, the AGGI "shows a continuing, steady rise in the amount of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere."


Global warming to be more moderate than some expect

(04/19/2006) A new study published in Nature says that climate change will be more moderate than some recent projections. Nevertheless, says lead author Gabriele C. Hegerl of Duke University, we can expect significant changes in the future. The study looked to refine climate sensitivity, or the change in global mean surface temperature in response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.


US Greenhouse gas emissions hit record in 2004

(04/19/2006) EPA findings quietly released on Monday following Easter. Figures released Monday show that US greenhouse gas emissions hit a record in 2004, surging 1.7 percent over 2003. The increase, equivalent to a rise of 115 million tons of carbon dioxide, was the largest annual increase since 2000. In total, the United States released the equivalent of nearly 6,300 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. America is the world's largest polluter in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.


Global warming could doom the walrus finds new study

(04/14/2006) Add the walrus to the list of species threatened by climate change. A new study finds unprecedented pup abandonment in the Arctic due to disappearing sea ice. A new study warns that walrus calves are being stranded by melting sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. Researchers aboard the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy during a cruise in the Canada Basin in the summer of 2004 found lone walrus calves swimming far from shore--something never before documented. The sightings suggest that increased polar warming may be forcing mothers to abandon their pups as they follow the rapidly retreating ice northwards. If these observations portray a larger trend, a warming Arctic ice may lead to decreases in the walrus population say the scientists whose research was published in the April issue of Aquatic Mammals.


Global warming could dry Caribbean, Central America

(04/14/2006) Parts of the Caribbean and Central America are likely to experience drier summers by 2050 according to research presented by UCLA atmospheric scientists in the April 18 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Analyzing 10 global climate computer simulations from various agencies, the researchers found that the majority of the computer models predict a substantial decrease in tropical rainfall to occur by mid-century. By the end of this century, the models show that summer rainfall could decline by 20 percent or more in parts of the Caribbean and Central America.


Greener coal? Process converts coal into diesel fuel

(04/14/2006) Coal-to-Diesel could reduced foreign dependence on oil. As the United States' oil reserves dwindle, some say the nation will have to rely on synthetic petroleum fuel made from its large stores of coal. A two-step chemical process augments a method of making cleaner-burning alternative fuel from coal and other carbon sources by transforming some of its waste products into diesel fuel, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, report.


Carbon trading could save rainforests

(04/12/2006) A new rainforest conservation initiative by developing nations offers great promise to help slow tropical deforestation rates says William Laurance, a leading rainforest biologist from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, in an article appearing Friday in New Scientist.


Plants may absorb less carbon dioxide than initially believed

(04/12/2006) The world's land plants will probably not be able to absorb as great a share of the rising atmospheric carbon dioxide as some models have predicted, according to a new study led by Peter B. Reich, professor in the department of forest resources at the University of Minnesota. The work showed that limitations on the availability of nitrogen, a necessary nutrient, will likely translate to limitations on the ability of plants to absorb extra carbon dioxide.


Climate change is serious threat to biodiversity

(04/11/2006) The Earth could see massive waves of species extinctions around the world if global warming continues unabated, according to a new study published in the scientific journal conservation Biology.


Long-term cooling driven by Antarctica, not glaciers in Northern Hemisphere

(04/10/2006) Researchers from Brown University have reconstructed 5-million years of climate using tiny marine fossils found in mud off the coast of South America. The climate record unearthed by the Brown team is the longest continuous record of ocean temperatures on Earth.


Recent Coral Bleaching at Great Barrier Reef

(04/05/2006) An international team of scientists are working at a rapid pace to study environmental conditions behind the fast-acting and widespread coral bleaching currently plaguing Australia's Great Barrier Reef. NASA's satellite data supply scientists with near-real-time sea surface temperature and ocean color data to give them faster than ever insight into the impact coral bleaching can have on global ecology. Australia's Great Barrier Reef is a massive marine habitat system made up of 2,900 reefs spanning over 600 continental islands. Though coral reefs exist around the globe, researchers actually consider this network of reefs to be the center of the world's marine biodiversity, playing a critical role in human welfare, climate, and economics. Coral reefs are a multi-million dollar recreational destinations, and the Great Barrier Reef is an important part of Australia's economy.


Report makes case for regulating carbon dioxide emissions

(04/05/2006) A new report evaluating air pollution trends at the nation's 100 largest electric power producers shows that emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) have fallen markedly in recent years, but carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increased and will likely spike in coming years. The report comes amid increasing public concern and intensifying pressure for limits on heat-trapping emissions from U.S. power plants and rising investor concern about companies' long-term financial risk from climate change. In the absence of federal regulations, business uncertainty is growing as more U.S. states and regions move to enact their own limits on CO2 emissions from power plants. The U.S. government has opted for voluntary controls on carbon dioxide, but last year the U.S. Senate adopted a resolution calling for mandatory emission limits.


Climate change threatens coldwater reefs

(04/03/2006) Increasing amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, are dissolving into the oceans, causing them to become slightly more acidic. This change in seawater chemistry could harm deep-sea calcifying animals like corals.


Prairies at risk from climate change, drought, human activities

(04/03/2006) The Canadian prairies are facing an unprecedented water crisis due to a combination of climate warming, increase in human activity and historic drought, says new research by the University of Alberta's Dr. David Schindler, one of the world's leading environmental scientists/


Pacific Ocean getting warmer and more acidic

(03/31/2006) The Pacific Ocean is getting warmer and more acidic, while the amount of oxygen is decreasing, due to increased absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide say scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and the University of Washington.


Past mass extinction events linked to climate change

(03/29/2006) Most mass extinctions were caused by gradual climate change rather than catastrophic asteroid impacts says Peter Ward, a paleontologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, in an upcoming article in New Scientist magazine.


40 percent of the Amazon could be grassland by 2050

(03/22/2006) Scientists today warned that 40 percent of the Amazon rainforest could be lost by 2050 due to agricultural expansion unless strict measures are taken to protect the world's largest tropical forest.


Is climate change worsening malaria?

(03/21/2006) A widely-cited study published a few years ago said global warming was not contributing to the resurgence of malaria in the East African Highlands, but new research by an international team that includes University of Michigan theoretical ecologist Mercedes Pascual finds that, while other factors such as drug and pesticide resistance, changing land use patterns and human migration also may play roles, climate change cannot be ruled out.


Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are melting find new studies

(03/17/2006) Scientists have confirmed that climate warming is changing how much water remains locked in the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, according to an article published in the Journal of Glaciology.


Global warming causing stronger hurricanes

(03/16/2006) The link between warmer ocean temperatures and increasing intensity of hurricanes has been confirmed by scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Last year, two studies published in the journals Nature and Science found a strong correlation between rising tropical sea surface temperatures and an increase in the strength of hurricanes.


76% of Americans say government not doing enough to address global warming

(03/15/2006) A new survey released today by the nonpartisan Civil Society Institute found that 76 percent think the federal government is not doing enough to address global warming and develop alternative energy sources in order to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.


Pollution from smog linked to climate warming in the Arctic

(03/15/2006) In a global assessment of the impact of ozone on climate warming, scientists at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies evaluated how ozone in the lowest part of the atmosphere changed surface temperatures over the past 100 years. Using the best available estimates of global emissions of the various gases that produce tropospheric ozone, the GISS computer model study reveals how much this single air pollutant and greenhouse gas has contributed to warming in specific regions of the world.


Clean coal could fight climate change

(03/13/2006) A new chemical process for removing impurities from coal could lead to significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power stations say researchers sponsored by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Britain's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences.


Climate change due to water vapor from cosmic explosion, not fossil fuels says new theory

(03/13/2006) A controversial new theory attributes climate change not to atmospheric carbon dioxide levels but water vapor. In an unpublished paper, Vladimir Shaidurov of the Russian Academy of Sciences argues that the apparent rise in average global temperature recorded by scientists over the past hundred years could be due to atmospheric changes resulting from the Tunguska Event, a massive explosion over Siberia on the June 30th, 1908 that is thought to have resulted from an asteroid or comet entering the earth's atmosphere and exploding



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