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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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

R/V Roger Revelle

Sulfur plays a role in the ocean carbon cycle, study finds

The results suggest a possible feedback that could help trap carbon in the ocean’s low-oxygen zones, but the impact on climate change remains unclear.

Wildfire and smoke

The shifting burden of wildfires in the United States

Wildfire smoke will be one of the most widely felt health impacts of climate change throughout the country, but U.S. clean air regulations are not equipped to deal with it. Stanford experts discuss the causes and impacts of wildfire activity and its rapid acceleration in the American west.

Flooded neighborhood

Climate change has caused billions of dollars in flood damages

Flooding has caused hundreds of billions of dollars in damage in the U.S. over the past three decades. Researchers found that 36 percent of the costs of flooding in the U.S. from 1988 to 2017 were a result of intensifying precipitation, consistent with predictions of global warming.

Carbon simulation

COVID lockdown causes record drop in carbon emissions for 2020

Carbon dioxide emissions from oil, gas and coal this year are predicted to reach approximately 34 billion tons, a 7 percent drop from fossil emission levels in 2019. Emissions from transport account for the largest share of the global decrease.

Editor's picks 2020 banner

Editor's picks: Top 10 stories of 2020

Our list includes a mix of favorites, high-impact stories and some of our most-read research coverage from a tumultuous year.

Lifeless landscape

The science behind extinction

A collection of research and insights from Stanford experts who are deciphering the mysteries and mechanisms of extinction and survival in Earth’s deep past and painting an increasingly detailed picture of life now at the brink.

Dry Searsville Lake

New study allows regional prediction of uranium in groundwater

Stanford researchers can predict where and when uranium is released into aquifers and suggest an easy fix to keep this naturally occurring toxin from contaminating water sources.

Under ice bloom

Understanding the Arctic's hidden phytoplankton blooms

A growing body of evidence suggests tiny marine algae can bloom in the darkness below sea ice in the Arctic Ocean – and that such blooms occurred even before climate change began affecting the region's ice cover.

Food

Reducing global food system emissions key to meeting climate goals

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from food systems will be vital for reaching climate goals – and it will require coordinated action across sectors and between national governments, according to new research. 

Dry landscape

In a warming world, Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’ drought won’t be an anomaly

Using new high-resolution simulations, researchers conclude that climate change made the Cape Town ‘Day Zero’ drought five to six times more likely and suggest extreme drought events could become common in southwestern South Africa by the end of the 21st century.

Solar panels

Debugging climate action

Programmers write code, find what is not working, and then debug their program. It’s the same with climate change, Microsoft’s chief environment officer said in a conversation hosted as part of Stanford's Global Energy Dialogues.

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