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Stanford Earth Matters

Science and insights for people who care about Earth, its resources and its environment

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Farmland at sunset

Climate change has hurt farm productivity

New research shows climate change has wiped out seven years of improvements in agricultural productivity over the past 60 years.

Jordan river from the air

Jordan's worsening water crisis a warning for the world

Prolonged and potentially destabilizing water shortages will become commonplace in Jordan by 2100, new research finds, unless the nation implements comprehensive reform, from fixing leaky pipes to desalinating seawater. Jordan’s water crisis is emblematic of challenges looming around the world as a result of climate change and rapid population growth. 

Protestors holding sign that reads clean water is a human right

Q&A: Environmental policies for all Americans?

Stanford researchers weigh in on how the Biden administration can address environmental justice and social issues that have been generations in the making.

Mackerel school

Aquaculture’s promise and peril

Twenty years ago, a Stanford-led analysis sparked controversy by highlighting fish farming’s damage to ocean fisheries. Now a follow-up study takes stock of the industry’s progress and points to opportunities for sustainable growth.

Trees in a savannah

One of Earth's biggest carbon sinks has been overestimated

The results contradict a widely accepted assumption in climate models that biomass and soil carbon will increase in tandem in the coming decades and highlight the importance of grasslands in helping to draw down carbon.

Environmental issues collage

Understanding Biden's environmental challenges and actions

The Biden administration’s ambitious plans for environmental progress face complex obstacles. The findings, expertise and policy experience of Stanford researchers working across multiple fields could help contribute to sustainable, cost-effective solutions. Dig deeper: Environmental justiceNuclear waste | Wildfire solutions | The warming Arctic | U.S. drinking water

Melting iceberg

Research and policy in a changing Arctic

Stanford University scholars discuss the Biden administration’s early actions on environmental issues in the Arctic and how the U.S. government can address threats to ecosystems, people and infrastructure in the fastest-warming place on Earth.

Artist's illustration of the exoplanet WASP-121b

A plethora of planets with water-rich atmospheres?

New research suggests that hot, rocky planets in other solar systems could form and keep thick atmospheres full of water.

Fukushima damage

Lessons from the Fukushima disaster 10 years later

A decade after a powerful earthquake and tsunami set off the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown in Japan, Stanford experts discuss revelations about radiation from the disaster, advances in earthquake science related to the event and how its devastating impact has influenced strategies for tsunami defense and local warning systems.

Fishing boats at dock

Small-scale fisheries offer strategies for resilience in the face of climate change

Small-scale fisheries, which employ about 90 percent of the world’s fishers and supply half the fish for human consumption, are on the frontlines of climate change. They may offer insights into resilience.

Katse Dam in Lesotho, South Africa

How much do humans influence Earth’s water levels?

A new study provides the first global accounting of fluctuations in lake and reservoir water levels. The research shows 57 percent of the variability occurs in dammed reservoirs and other bodies of water managed by people, highlighting the dominant role humans now play in Earth’s water cycle.

Aerial view of pollution rising from a coal fired power plant in Gansu Province

Global carbon emissions need to shrink 10 times faster

Among the dozens of countries that reduced their emissions 2016-2019, carbon dioxide emissions fell at roughly one tenth the rate needed worldwide to hold global warming well below 2°C relative to preindustrial levels, a new study finds.

Family in front of an industrial harbor

Air pollution puts children at higher risk of disease in adulthood

First of its kind study reveals evidence that early exposure to dirty air alters genes in a way that could lead to adult heart disease, among other ailments. The findings could change the way medical experts and parents think about the air children breathe and inform clinical interventions.

Covid social distancing

How behaviors complicate epidemic outcomes

A new model of disease spread describes how competing economic and health incentives influence social contact – and vice versa. The result is a complex and dynamic epidemic trajectory.

Fish swimming in plastic debris

Plastic ingestion by fish is a growing problem

A new research review finds the rate of plastic consumption in fish has doubled in the past decade and continues to increase. Fish higher up on the food chain are at the greatest risk.

Mars landscape

Are Martian landslides caused by underground salts and melting ice?

A new theory that helps explain geological and chemical processes on Mars also suggests the martian environment continues to be dynamic, with implications for both astrobiology and future human exploration of the Red Planet.

Cattle grazing at sunset in Brazil

Landscape disruptions threaten Paris climate agreement goals

A new study finds emissions from deforestation, conversion of wild landscapes to agriculture, and other changes in land use worldwide contributed 25 percent of all human-caused emissions between 2001 and 2017.

Hadza moving between camps

Men and women on the move

Research based on the daily movements of people living in a contemporary hunter-gatherer society provides new evidence for links between the gendered division of labor in human societies over the past 2.5 million years and differences in the way men and women think about space.

Bright triangle pattern

Squeezing a rock-star material could make it stable enough for solar cells

A promising lead halide perovskite is great at converting sunlight to electricity, but it breaks down at room temperature. Now scientists have discovered how to stabilize it with pressure from a diamond anvil cell.

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