Energy, Climate & Environment

December 23, 2017

Deploying drones to follow the water

Drones will play a key role in assessing the impact of highly variable water resources around the state thanks to a new $2.2 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
December 4, 2017

California’s dry regions are hotspots of plant diversity

The first “big data” analysis of California’s native plants, using digitized information from more than 22 herbaria and botanical gardens around the state, provides some surprises about one of the most thoroughly studied and unique areas in the country.
November 1, 2017

Climate video series: ‘stillsuits’ for cities

Today, as an expert on water, David Sedlak says that cities may soon have to develop their own version of the stillsuit to recycle wastewater, from storm runoff to household sewage, for drinking.
October 23, 2017

Saguaro and other towering cacti have a scrambled history

Visitors to Mexico and the U.S. Southwest can’t help but stand in awe of the solitary and majestic saguaro, the towering clusters of the organ pipe cactus and Baja’s cardón, the appropriately named “elephant” cactus and the largest cactus in the world.
August 3, 2017

Climate policies study shows Inland Empire economic boon

According to the first comprehensive study of the economic effects of climate programs in California’s Inland Empire, Riverside and San Bernardino counties experienced a net benefit of $9.1 billion in direct economic activity and 41,000 jobs from 2010 through 2016.
July 31, 2017

Climate change causing suicides in India as crops fail

Climate change has already caused more than 59,000 suicides in India over the last 30 years, according to estimates in a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that suggests failing harvests that push farmers into poverty are likely the key culprits.
March 27, 2017

Renewable energy has robust future in much of Africa

As Africa gears up for a tripling of electricity demand by 2030, a new Berkeley study maps out a viable strategy for developing wind and solar power while simultaneously reducing the continent’s reliance on fossil fuels and lowering power plant construction costs.
January 12, 2017

Climate change could kill off parasites, destabilizing ecosystems

Photogenic animals, from polar bears to people, aren’t the only creatures under threat from global climate change. A new review led by UC Berkeley suggests the phenomenon threatens parasites with extinction, which could have big consequences for ecosystems.
January 11, 2017

Noise pollution from fracking may harm human health

Fracking creates noise at levels high enough to harm the health of people living nearby, according to the first peer-reviewed study to analyze the potential public health impacts of ambient noise related to fracking.
January 10, 2017

A Chain Reaction to Spare the Air

Jeffrey Long reported devising a new material that can capture and release CO2 at a lower temperature and in a much greater volume than present-day technologies.
January 4, 2017

Global warming hiatus disproved — again

A controversial paper published two years ago that concluded there was no detectable slowdown in ocean warming over the previous 15 years — widely known as the

December 7, 2016

Drones help monitor health of giant sequoias

Todd Dawson’s field equipment always includes ropes and ascenders, which he and his team use to climb hundreds of feet into the canopies of the world’s largest trees, California’s redwoods.
June 27, 2016

To improve Beijing’s air quality, cut household fuel use too

China’s plans to curb Beijing’s health-damaging air pollution by focusing on restricting emissions from power plants and vehicles may have limited impact if household use of coal and other dirty fuels is not also curtailed, according to a new study.

June 21, 2016

California is new headquarters for smart manufacturing institute

On June 20, at a conference of global business leaders in Washington, D.C., President Obama announced the creation of a new $140 million Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CESMII), to be headquartered at UCLA, with a Berkeley-based regional center.

May 9, 2016

An Energy Strategy that Can Take the Heat

Water and energy are tightly linked in the 21st century. Per Peterson’s research seeks to develop water-saving ways of cooling energy plants, both nuclear and solar.  

March 24, 2016

Climate Change is Here. Now What?

On March 24, Berkeley Lab’s Bill Collins, an internationally recognized expert in climate modeling and climate change science, updated the Science in the Theater audience on what we know about climate change.

February 16, 2016

The critical zone: Studying where all of life happens

Science isn’t generally considered an extreme sport, but you wouldn’t know that by watching researchers in the Eel River Critical Zone Observatory scale hundred-foot-tall trees and wade through rushing rivers.

January 14, 2016

The state, the drought and El Niño: It’s complicated

Just last year, researchers were saying there was no end in sight for California’s recent drought. But things are looking up. El Niño has swept into the Golden State and is breathing life back into the area.

August 6, 2015

Is drought killing California’s giant sequoias?

California’s giant sequoias are showing signs of stress — some have leaves that are drier and sparser than usual — and UC Berkeley tree biologist Anthony Ambrose thinks the drought is to blame.

July 30, 2015

Scientists urge ban on salamander imports to fend off new fungus

Five California amphibian experts warn that a recently discovered fungus already devastating salamanders in Europe could imperil American salamanders, and urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately halt salamander imports until there is a plan to detect and prevent the spread of the fungus.

June 24, 2015

Putting Energy Savings Programs to the Test

Philomathia Innovation Seed Fund recipients Catherine Wolfram and Meredith Fowlie carried out a rigorous study that found surprisingly low savings relative to costs in part of a nationwide effort to improve home energy-efficiency.

June 24, 2015

Environment takes big hit from water-intensive marijuana cultivation

The debate over the legalization of marijuana has focused primarily on questions of law, policy and health. But a new paper co-authored by UC Berkeley researchers shines a spotlight on the environmental damage caused by illegal marijuana plantations in sensitive watersheds.

June 15, 2015

Leaving on a Biofueled Jet Plane

The problem is simple to understand. Molecules of carbon and other greenhouse gases absorb heat. The more greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere, the warmer the atmosphere becomes, exacerbating global climate change. Solving the problem is not so simple, especially with regards to aviation – the source of two-percent of the annual greenhouse gas emissions from human activity.

May 29, 2015

Power to the People

Philomathia Innovation Seed Fund recipient Eric Brewer works with tech savvy students in electrical engineering and computer science, urban planning, business, and economics to help developing countries gain access to affordable energy.

May 19, 2015

Cold-blooded animals find it hard to adjust to global warming

Cold-blooded and other animals that are unable to regulate their internal temperature may have a hard time tolerating global warming, according to an analysis by biologists from the University of California, Berkeley, and San Francisco State University.

May 15, 2015

The Economics of Change

Philomathia Innovation Seed Fund recipient Edward Miguel applies the tools of economics to such social issues as access to affordable energy and the possible links between climate and conflict.

May 8, 2015

Forecasting Change, Welcome or Not

Plant ecologist David Ackerly has calculated that some animals and plants would need to migrate as much as four miles a year to track their preferred temperature in a rapidly warming climate. 

May 7, 2015

Human security at risk as depletion of soil accelerates, scientists warn

Steadily and alarmingly, humans have been depleting Earth’s soil resources faster than the nutrients can be replenished. If this trajectory does not change, soil erosion, combined with the effects of climate change, will present a huge risk to global food security over the next century.

April 16, 2015

Major Advance in Artificial Photosynthesis Poses Win/Win for the Environment

A potentially game-changing breakthrough in artificial photosynthesis has been achieved with the development of a system that can capture carbon dioxide emissions before they are vented into the atmosphere and then, powered by solar energy, convert that carbon dioxide into valuable chemical products.

March 11, 2015

New material captures carbon at half the energy cost

Capturing carbon from power plants is likely in the future to avoid the worst effects of climate change, but current technologies are very expensive. A new material, a diamine-appended metal-organic framework, captures and releases CO2 with much reduced energy costs compared to today’s technologies, potentially lowering the cost of capturing this greenhouse gas.

January 20, 2015

Warmer, drier climate altering forests statewide

Historical California vegetation data that more than once dodged the dumpster have now proved their true value, documenting that a changing forest structure seen in the Sierra Nevada has actually happened statewide over the past 90 years.

January 16, 2015

Solving an Organic Semiconductor Mystery

Organic semiconductors are prized for light emitting diodes (LEDs), field effect transistors (FETs) and photovoltaic cells. As they can be printed from solution, they provide a highly scalable, cost-effective alternative to silicon-based devices. Uneven performances, however, have been a persistent problem. That’s now changed.

January 14, 2015

Tropical paradise inspires virtual ecology lab

An international collaboration including Neil Davies, Director of UC Berkeley's Gump Station, is preparing to create a digital representation of of the Pacific island of Moorea to create a virtual lab to test and hypothesize the impact of human activities. 

January 12, 2015

From the Bottom Up: Manipulating Nanoribbons at the Molecular Level

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a new precision approach for synthesizing graphene nanoribbons from pre-designed molecular building blocks. Using this process the researchers have built nanoribbons that have enhanced properties—such as position-dependent, tunable bandgaps—that are potentially very useful for next-generation electronic circuitry.

December 15, 2014

New Discovery Opens Door for Radical Reduction in Energy Consumed by Digital Devices

A new study led by engineers at UC Berkeley and CITRIS describes the first direct observation of a long-hypothesized but elusive phenomenon called “negative capacitance.” The work describes a unique reaction of electrical charge to applied voltage in a ferroelectric material that could open the door to a radical reduction in the power consumed by transistors and the devices containing them.

November 13, 2014

Lightning expected to increase by 50 percent with global warming

Today’s climate models predict a 50 percent increase in lightning strikes across the US during this century as a result of warming temperatures associated with climate change. UC Berkeley climate scientists look at predictions of precipitation and cloud buoyancy in 11 different climate models and conclude that their combined effect will generate more frequent electrical discharges to the ground.

June 3, 2014

Tobacco Gets a Makeover as New Source for Biofuel

Peggy Lemaux, UC Berkeley cooperative extension specialist, is working with Berkeley Lab and the University of Kentucky to develop a genetically engineered tobacco plant that will produce oil that can be used as a biofuel. KQED Science wrote this story about the research effort.

May 12, 2014

Top graduating senior makes a splash in water policy

Rebecca Peters’ IQ score measured so low in fourth grade that her school did not deem her to be college material. Her parents didn’t buy it, and neither did she. Today she’s a diehard clean-water-access warrior, the winner of three of America’s top 10 scholarships — and UC Berkeley’s top graduating senior

May 7, 2014

No Ocean-Borne Radiation from Fukushima Detected on West Coast Shoreline

Scientists working together on Kelp Watch 2014 announced today that the West Coast shoreline shows no signs of ocean-borne radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, following their analysis of the first collection of kelp samples along the western U.S. coastline.

May 5, 2014

Study says green buildings don’t create happier workers, yet

People working in buildings certified under LEED’s green building standard appear no more satisfied with the quality of their indoor workplace environments than those toiling in conventional buildings, according to new research from UC Berkeley, and the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.

April 30, 2014

Bottom-up model predicts depth to fresh bedrock under hillslopes

William Dietrich and graduate student Daniella Rempe have proposed a method to determine underground details without drilling, potentially providing a more precise way to predict water runoff, the moisture available to plants, landslides and how these will respond to climate change.

March 26, 2014

Wind Power Can Be Cost-Comparable, New Analysis Reveals

The costs of using wind energy and natural gas for electricity are virtually equal when accounting for the full private and social costs of each, making wind a competitive energy source for the United States, according to a new study on the federal tax credit for wind energy.
March 11, 2014

CHAMACOS: How pesticides harm young minds

Children born to mothers who work in California’s pesticide-treated fields show signs of developmental problems, according the pathbreaking CHAMACOS study, led by UC Berkeley professor Dr. Brenda Eskenazi in the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health.

January 28, 2014

Seafloor carpet catches waves to generate energy

UC Berkeley Professor Reza Alam, an expert in wave mechanics, is looking to harness the power of big ocean waves by using the seafloor “carpet”, which he proposes will convert ocean waves into usable energy.

January 21, 2014

Why state’s water woes could be just beginning

As 2013 came to a close, the media dutifully reported that the year had been the driest in California since records began to be kept in the 1840s. UC Berkeley paleoclimatologist B. Lynn Ingram didn’t think the news stories captured the seriousness of the situation.

January 15, 2014

Eel River Observatory seeks clues to watershed’s future

University of California, Berkeley, scientists will receive $4,900,000 over the next five years to study the nearly 10,000 square kilometer Eel River watershed in Northern California and how its vegetation, geology and topography affect water flow all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

January 10, 2014

Symposium spotlights clean-technology solutions

In the atrium of Sutardja Dai Hall, a screen displayed real-time results as audience members texted votes they based on what they’d just seen on stage. The audience was voting on favorites from a spate of innovative, environmentally friendly energy technologies being developed and refined through Cleantech to Market (C2M), a unique collaboration of UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
December 10, 2013

Classroom treaty talks speak volumes on climate politics

While negotiators stalled in Warsaw, students in Kate O’Neill’s class on international environmental politics made headway in a simulated climate-change conference — and learned some vital lessons about the challenges facing their real-world counterparts.

December 3, 2013

Report warns of climate change ‘tipping points’ within our lifetime

UC Berkeley’s Tony Barnosky joined climate scientists this morning at a press conference at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., to summarize a new report issued today focusing on the short-term effects of climate change and the need to monitor them closely.

November 18, 2013

Students tackle climate change in neighboring Richmond

Residents of Richmond, Calif., on the northeastern edge of San Francisco Bay, expect climate change to present their city with major challenges –- from rising sea levels to higher temperatures, flood risks and increased energy and water consumption –- in coming years. For help meeting these challenges, the city is turning to planning students at UC Berkeley.

October 28, 2013

Berkeley Lab Scientist Invents Portable DNA Extraction Kit, Helps Haiti

What does the coastal community of Bolinas, California have in common with the impoverished island nation of Haiti? The surprising answer is a fledgling sanitation strategy whereby human waste is composted into nutrient-rich fertilizer, all supported by research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist Gary Andersen.
October 3, 2013

UC Berkeley, Berkeley Lab announce Kavli Energy NanoScience Institute

The Kavli Foundation has endowed a new institute at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) to explore the basic science of how to capture and channel energy on the molecular or nanoscale and use this information to discover new ways of generating energy for human use.

September 27, 2013

Newly released climate change report reinforces need for action

The release today (Friday, Sept. 27) of Assessment Report 5, a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), bolsters the conclusions of its 2007 report that humans are responsible for global warming, and it highlights the need for immediate action to reduce carbon emissions.

August 27, 2013

Office too hot or cold? Researchers aim for comfort, energy efficiency

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are working to take research innovations from their labs into the real world to cut commercial building energy consumption by close to a third, and give office workers an unprecedented sense of control over their thermal environments.

August 1, 2013

College launches new energy engineering major

The College of Engineering has launched a new major—driven largely by undergraduate interest—that focuses in a comprehensive way on the generation, transmission and storage of energy, with additional courses on energy policy.

July 24, 2013

Research Brief: Technology could bring high-end solar to the masses

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed an inexpensive new way to grow thin films of a material prized in the semiconductor and photovoltaic industries, an achievement that could bring high-end solar cells within reach of consumer pocketbooks.

February 7, 2013

Two UC Berkeley faculty members named to NAE

Two faculty members at the University of California, Berkeley, have been named to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Election to the NAE is considered one of the most prestigious professional distinctions accorded to an American engineer.

February 5, 2013

Berkeley Lab Study Finds Big Energy Savings in The New York Times Building

Designing a building holistically, and making sure that its components and systems work together according to design intent, can pay big dividends in energy savings and occupant satisfaction, according to a study of The New York Times Building by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

January 18, 2013

Scientist sees the light on solar energy

Heinz Frei, the acting director of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory was recently featured in the San Francisco Chronicle. JCAP’s efforts focus on generating fuels from sunlight.

December 10, 2012

Cleantech to Market Bridges Gap from Lab to Launch

Mechanical engineer Lindsay Miller, PhD 12, knew there was a market for her doctoral thesis project—a device the size of a stick of gum that harvests energy from machinery vibrations, generating enough electricity to run wireless sensors without ever having to change a battery.

October 10, 2012

The Best of Both Catalytic Worlds

Catalysts are substances that speed up the rates of chemical reactions without themselves being chemically changed. Industrial catalysts come in two main types – heterogeneous, in which the catalyst is in a different phase from the reactants; and homogeneous, in which catalyst and the reactants are in the same phase.

September 24, 2012

Cal Energy Corps interns field-test smart solutions

Recently returned from their summer sojourns, 32 UC Berkeley undergraduates shared experiences interning on myriad sustainability projects around the world during the second annual Cal Energy Corps symposium at the David Brower Center Thursday.

September 11, 2012

New ‘energy incentive’ links kilowatt usage with the bottom line

The Energy Incentive Program, as it’s named, encourages reduction in electricity usage through energy-saving measures by UC Berkeley building occupants as well as building managers like Stark. It’s one part of Operational Excellence’s work to save the campus $75 million annually.

September 10, 2012

New Report on Electric Vehicle Policies

The environmental law centers at UCLA and UC Berkeley Schools of Law today released a new report on industry actions and federal, state, and local policies needed to stimulate long-term, mass adoption of electric vehicles.

August 20, 2012

Speeding the Search for Better Carbon Capture

A computer model that can identify the best molecular candidates for removing carbon dioxide, molecular nitrogen and other greenhouse gases from power plant flues has been developed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), the University of California (UC) Berkeley and the University of Minnesota.

July 26, 2012

Future of California high-speed rail looks green

A new analysis gives Californians good reason to be optimistic about the green credentials of the state’s proposed high-speed rail project, due to begin construction in 2013 thanks to funding recently approved by state legislators. Arpad Horvath at the University of California, Berkeley, and Mikhail Chester at Arizona State University compared the future sustainability of California high-speed rail with that of competing modes of transportation, namely automobile and air travel.

July 1, 2012

U.S. could quadruple biofuel use in 25 years, experts say

UC Berkeley scientists Chris Somerville and Heather Youngs of the Energy Biosciences Institute argue in The Scientist that within 25 years, the U.S. could scale up biofuel production to meet 30 percent of the nation’s demand for liquid transportation fuel, four times the current contribution.
June 27, 2012

UC Berkeley chemists installing carbon dioxide sensors in Oakland

Using inexpensive detectors that can fit inside a shoebox, UC Berkeley chemists are installing carbon dioxide and other air pollution sensors in 40 sites around Oakland to explore how detailed, neighborhood-by-neighborhood information can help communities monitor greenhouse gas and other harmful emissions.

June 19, 2012

Two UC Berkeley grads launch printable battery startup

With moral and monetary support from UC Berkeley and UC’s Office of the President, two UC grads – Christine Ho and Brooks Kincaid – have formed a company to create ‘printable’ batteries that are efficient, environmentally friendly and could be made as small as a postage stamp. The start-up is a tribute to the campus’s entrepreneurial environment and its innovative students.

June 12, 2012

Analysis of global fire risk shows big, fast changes ahead

Climate change is widely expected to disrupt future fire patterns around the world — with some regions, such as the western U.S., seeing more frequent fires within the next 30 years, according to a new analysis led by UC Berkeley researchers in collaboration with an international team of scientists. The study used 16 different climate-change models to produce one of the most comprehensive projections to date of how climate change might affect global fire patterns.

June 11, 2012

Let it burn: Prescribed fires pose little danger to forest ecology, study says

UC Berkeley-led research is giving the green light to fighting fire with fire. An analysis of controlled burns and mechanical thinning nationwide did not find substantial ecological harm from fuel-reduction treatments used to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires. And with a rise in wildfires predicted in many parts of the country, researchers say more treatments are needed to manage this risk.

June 8, 2012

UC Berkeley students present recommendations for clean energy policy in Washington, DC

A group of students from UC Berkeley met with top energy policy makers in Washington DC to present their recommendations on developing a national clean energy plan. These recommendations were based on an extensive report that represented the culmination of a semester's worth of work in the class “Renewable Energy and Other Cleaner Fuels: Energy Policy to Save the Planet, the Country, and the Economy” co-taught by Jannifer Granholm and Steve Weissman in spring 2012.

June 6, 2012

Scientists uncover evidence of impending tipping point for Earth

UC Berkeley professor Tony Barnosky and 21 scientists from around the world argue inNature magazine that planet Earth is frighteningly close to a tipping point that would send the globe into a state that could spell disaster for humans. The new Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology is focused on recognizing the signs of impending doom so that we can stop short of the precipice.

June 6, 2012

Environmental ed project teams Berkeley with global practitioners

A new environmental education program brings the latest research and expertise from UC Berkeley, to the far reaches of the world’s developing countries announced its inaugural call for proposals on June 5, 2012. The program, tirled “Sustainable Solutions: Teaming Berkeley with Global Practitioners,” is a pilot project funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
May 31, 2012

Hazy days: Berkeley Lab tackles pollution in Mongolia

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) are known for designing high-efficiency cookstoves for Darfur and Ethiopia. Now they are applying their expertise to the windswept steppes of Mongolia, whose capital city, Ulaan Baatar, is among the most polluted cities in the world. The scientists are working with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. foreign aid agency, to improve air quality in the capital city by lowering emissions from outdated stoves and boilers.
May 14, 2012

Microbe that can handle ionic liquids

Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have identified a tropical rainforest microbe that can endure relatively high concentrations of an ionic liquid used to dissolve cellulosic biomass for the production of advanced biofuels.
May 3, 2012

Scientists core into Clear Lake to explore past climate change

One of the oldest lakes in the world, Clear Lake has deep sediments that contain a record of the climate and local plants and animals going back perhaps 500,000 years. UC Berkeley scientists are drilling cores from the lake sediments to explore this history and fine-tune models for predicting the fate of today’s flora and fauna in the face of global warming and pressure from a burgeoning human populations.

May 2, 2012

Ashok Gadgil gets $100,000 award for global innovation

The Lemelson-MIT Program has awarded Ashok Gadgil, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the 2012 $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation. The award recognizes Gadgil, who is known for his work on affordable water disinfection systems and fuel-efficient cookstoves for developing nations, for “his steady pursuit to blend research, invention and humanitarianism for broad social impact.”

May 2, 2012

Bringing the electric grid into the 21st century

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) are working on a project that would modernize the grid and essentially bring it into the Internet age by using automated control software to manage demand in real time.

April 20, 2012

Sustainability Summit marks progress toward ever-greener campus

At the campus's 9th Sustainability Summit, progress in "greening" the Berkeley campus was everywhere evident — from the sheer number of student projects in the works to the metric tons of greenhouse gases not being emitted thanks to new institution-wide programs.

April 19, 2012

CalCAP wins clean-air leadership award

UC Berkeley's Cal Climate Action Partnership was honored Thursday with a clean air award from Breathe California, for its leadership in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
March 8, 2012

Risks of bioenergy underestimated, new report says

The net effect on climate of large-scale biofuels deployment is highly uncertain, and could actually lead to a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new paper co-authored by UC Berkeley researchers
January 18, 2012

UC’s green investments pay off

The University of California is saving $32 million a year on energy and remains the higher-education leader in adopting green-building standards. Those achievements and others are outlined in the "2011 UC Annual Report on Sustainable Practices."

January 10, 2012

Biofuels, land and ethics

Growing dedicated energy crops on lands that won’t support food crops is one of the promises of emerging cellulosic fuels.Bioenergy Connection looks at how much land is available, its energy-producing potential and which plants are the most promising alternatives.
December 22, 2011

CAD for RNA

Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) researchers have developed computer assisted design (CAD)-type tools for engineering RNA components to control genetic expression in microbes. This holds enormous potential for microbial-based production of advanced biofuels, biodegradable plastics, therapeutic drugs and a host of other goods now derived from petrochemicals.

December 12, 2011

Climate change blamed for dead trees in Africa

Trees are dying in Africa’s Sahel, and human-caused climate change is to blame, according to a new study led by a scientist at UC Berkeley. Using climate change records, aerial and satellite images and field data, researchers found that one in five tree species disappeared in the past half-century. They attribute the tree deaths to the historic drops in rainfall and increased temperatures in the region.

December 7, 2011

Can ‘carbon ranching’ offset emissions in California?

Could cultivating dense fields of weeds help mitigate climate change by soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere? Berkeley scientists Dennis Baldocchi and Whendee Silver are exploring that possibility in California’s agricultural heartland, the San Joaquin Valley. National Public Radio reports.

November 29, 2011

Bacteria turn switchgrass into advanced biofuels

Jay Keasling and his colleagues at the Joint BioEnergy Institute have engineered bacteria to turn switchgrass – a hard to digest plant – into gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. This could vastly reduce the cost of producing plant-based fuels to replace fuels from oil and coal.

November 10, 2011

Wood smoke from cooking fires linked to pneumonia, cognitive impacts

UC Berkeley-led researchers have found a dramatic one-third reduction in severe pneumonia diagnoses among children in homes with smoke-reducing chimneys on their cookstoves. Reducing wood smoke could have a major impact on the burden of pneumonia, the leading cause of child mortality in the world, the researchers said. A separate pilot study also found a link between prenatal maternal exposure to woodsmoke and poorer performance in markers for IQ among school-aged children.

November 4, 2011

UC Berkeley start-up creates energy-efficient buildings

In 2005, Charlie Huizenga and two UC Berkeley MBA graduates started Adura Technologies to install energy efficient wireless lighting systems in buildings. Their technology, based on innovations by UC Berkeley architects and engineers, has significantly reduced lighting costs in more than 2 million square feet of public and private buildings, including UC Berkeley’s undergraduate library.

October 25, 2011

Student finds inspiration in the clouds

UC Berkeley graduate student Greg Goldsmith may have his head in the clouds, but he is firmly grounded in the reality of global warming and the danger it poses to the Central American cloud forests he loves. He developed an elementary school curriculum as a way to help save them.

October 24, 2011

BERC symposium energizes Cal students

Record attendance at last week’s fifth-annual Energy Symposium at UC Berkeley demonstrated the swelling interest among students on campus and nationwide in bridging the gap between universities’ renewable energy research and the private sector.

October 21, 2011

CalSol zips to the finish in Aussie solar race

UC Berkeley’s Solar Vehicle Team, is one day from successfully completing the 3,000-kilometer trans-Australia World Solar Challenge, which brought 37 solar cars to the Aussie outback. This is the first time Berkeley has competed.

October 18, 2011

$2.5 million grant to fund global change research

The Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology was awarded a $2.5 million grant by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for research focusing on global change forecasting for California ecosystems. The grant funds seven major projects involving faculty members from eight campus departments.
October 14, 2011

Modified corn genes may improve biofuel efficiency

Modified corn genes have the potential to make switch grass a much more efficient biofuel, according to new research by a team led by George Chuck of Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources. The study was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
September 23, 2011

Lessons to be Learned from Nature in Photosynthesis

Lessons to be learned from nature could lead to the development of an artificial version of photosynthesis that would provide us with an absolutely clean and virtually inexhaustible energy source, says Berkeley Lab photosynthesis authority Graham Fleming and three international colleagues.

September 22, 2011

DOE grant to fund research into new nuclear reactors

Nuclear engineering professors Per Peterson and Ehud Greenspan are part of a $7.5 million project led by MIT and funded by the Department of Energy to research salt-cooled nuclear reactor technology. The grant is part of a larger initiative by the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Projects to maintain U.S. leadership in nuclear energy research.
September 12, 2011

Ferroelectrics could pave way for ultra-low power computing

UC Berkeley engineers have shown that by using ferroelectric materials, they can pump up the charge accumulated at a capacitor for a given voltage, a phenomenon called negative capacitance. The achievement could reduce the power draw of today’s electronics, and break the bottleneck that has stalled improvements in computer clock speed.

September 7, 2011

Success of amphibian social networking spawns Reptile BioBlitz

Photos and observations posted to the website of the Global Amphibian BioBlitz now cover more than 700 species: 10 percent of the world’s frog, toad and salamander species that the social networking effort hopes to track. This success has now spawned a Reptile BioBlitz.

September 7, 2011

There’s something in the California air

UC scientists built and worked in towers — some as tall as 1,500 feet — as part of the largest single atmospheric research effort in the state. The data they’ve collected will guide policymakers dealing with air pollution.

August 23, 2011

Storing vertebrates in the cloud

UC Berkeley is leading an effort to take information on the vertebrate collections in museums around the world and store it in the cloud for easy use by researchers and citizen scientists alike.

August 5, 2011

Fungi helped destroy forests during mass extinction 250 million years ago

The Permian extinction 250 million years ago was the largest mass extinction on record, and among the losers were conifers that originally blanketed the supercontinent of Pangaea. Now researchers say that climate change led to the proliferation of tree-killing soil fungi that helped destroy the forests – something that could happen as a consequence of global warming today.

August 3, 2011

Nuclear commission outlines new strategies for managing radioactive waste

The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future has released a draft report that recommends significant changes to the U.S. strategy for managing the country’s growing stockpile of high-level nuclear waste. Per Peterson, UC Berkeley professor and chair of nuclear engineering, is one of 15 members of the commission, which was formed in 2010 after plans to store nuclear waste at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain were halted.

July 26, 2011

Getting to the root of the water cycle

In a remarkable outdoor laboratory in the Sierra, UC Merced and UC Berkeley researchers are using sensors to gather a mother lode of data to greatly improve ecological measurement and hydrologic forecasting.

July 19, 2011

Tools and Toys for Builders: New Test Center for Low-Energy Buildings

Like a giant, life-size set of building blocks, the new User Test Bed Facility will allow researchers and manufacturers to test buildings systems and components under “real-world” conditions by swapping out systems and changing configurations and then allow rigorous monitoring of performance of every key building element that impacts energy consumption.

July 14, 2011

Ecosystems take hard hit from loss of top predators

A new paper reviewing the impact of the loss of large predators and herbivores high in the food chain confirms that their decline has had cascading effects in marine, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems throughout the world. The study, co-authored by UC Berkeley researchers, highlights the impact “apex consumers” have on the dynamics of fire, disease, vegetation growth, and soil and water quality.

July 1, 2011

Breaking Kasha’s Rule

Berkeley Lab researchers created tetrapod molecules of semiconductor nanocrystals and watched them break a fundamental principle of photoluminescence known as “Kasha’s rule.” The discovery holds promise for multi-color light emission technologies, including LEDs.

July 1, 2011

Magnetic memory and logic could achieve ultimate energy efficiency

Information theory dictates that a logical operation in a computer must consume a minimum amount of energy. Today’s computers consume a million times more energy per operation than this limit, but magnetic computers with no moving electrons could theoretically operate at the minimum energy, called the Landauer limit, according to UC Berkeley electrical engineers.

June 16, 2011

Eco-driving: Ready for prime time?

UC researchers are optimistic that improved driving techniques can cut fuel use by 10 to 20 percent. And the time may be right to sell the public on these methods, they say.

June 7, 2011

New website makes California climate change science available to all

Extensive climate change research being conducted at California universities and research centers is now openly available through a public website, Cal-Adapt.org, developed at UC Berkeley and sponsored by the California Energy Commission and the California Natural Resources Agency.

May 6, 2011

Sun-driven and Australia-bound

A team of Berkeley students is burning lots of midnight oil to build a car powered completely by the sun. Their sleek solar vehicle, named Impulse, is on track to compete this October in the world’s premier solar car competition: an 1,800-mile road race across Australia.

May 2, 2011

Fungus may be to blame for historic amphibian decline

A fungal pathogen may be the culprit behind the rapid decline of amphibians in recent decades, according to a new study by researchers at UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University. By swabbing the skin of amphibians preserved in UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, scientists confirmed through DNA the presence of the deadly Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd, fungus. They also determined that salamanders in parts of Mexico and Guatemala, and frogs and salamanders in Costa Rica’s Monteverde cloud forests began to disappear at the same time the fungus first appeared in these areas.

April 22, 2011

MBA students, Haas School faculty win sustainability research grants

The Haas School of Business’s Center for Responsible Business made an Earth Day announcement today (Friday, April 22) that several MBA students and Haas School faculty have won research grants to work on innovative sustainability projects dealing with reinforcing friends’ healthy habits to green supply chains and clean water.

April 19, 2011

Agilent helps launch new synthetic biology center

Agilent Technologies Inc. has signed up to support the newly launched Synthetic Biology Institute (SBI), which will help advance efforts to engineer cells and biological systems in ways that could transform health and medicine, energy, the environment and new materials.

April 13, 2011

When it comes to carbon footprints, location and lifestyle matter

A UC Berkeley analysis of the carbon footprints of households around the country shows that consumers need different strategies in different cities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. An online “carbon calculator” helps consumers decide how to change their lifestyles for the maximum reduction in their footprints.

March 17, 2011

Report says green economy producing jobs, but urges work quality improvement

To achieve the state’s energy efficiency goals and provide better career opportunities for Californians, the state should modify its clean energy programs and its extensive but fragmented training and education programs, according to a report led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, released today (Thursday, March 17).

March 14, 2011

Berkeley Scientists Achieve Breakthrough in Nanocomposite for High-Capacity Hydrogen Storage

Berkeley researchers have designed a new composite material for hydrogen storage consisting of magnesium metal nanoparticles embedded in a Plexiglas-type polymer that rapidly absorbs and releases hydrogen at modest temperatures without oxidizing the metal after cycling. This achievement is a major breakthrough in materials design for hydrogen storage, batteries and fuel cells.

March 2, 2011

Has the Earth’s sixth mass extinction already arrived?

UC Berkeley biologists and graduate students delved into the fossil record to compare past animal extinctions — in particular the five “mass extinctions” that occurred within the past 540 million years — with today’s extinctions. They find that, while the rate of extinctions today is higher than during past mass extinctions, conservation efforts could help us avoid a sixth.

March 1, 2011

Designing city streets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

City planners in the U.S. have typically designed streets to enhance the comfort of the automobile driver. Unfortunately, these same features tend to discourage foot traffic, bicycles, and transit use — and increase greenhouse gas emissions. A new report from Berkeley Law examines the historical basis for these design habits, and the feasibility of choosing a better way.
March 1, 2011

Turning bacteria into butanol biofuel factories

While ethanol is today’s major biofuel, researchers aim to produce fuels more like gasoline. Butanol is the primary candidate, now produced primarily by Clostridium bacteria. UC Berkeley chemist Michelle Chang has transplanted the enzyme pathway from Clostridium into E. coli and gotten the bacteria to churn out 10 times more n-butanol than competing microbes, close to the level needed for industrial scale production.

February 24, 2011

CITRIS researchers deploy IT tools to help monitor California water supply

While more than half of California’s water comes from snow in the Sierra Nevada, it is difficult for water managers to measure and track through the year. Now, scientists at UC Berkeley and UC Merced — supported by the multi-campus Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) — are using networks of wireless sensors to measure snow depth and other environmental factors.

February 16, 2011

Study to examine giant sequoia groves

Forestry scientists are working to understand how wildfire and other “disturbances” affect the health of some of the oldest trees on the plant — the giant sequoias of the Sierra Nevada.

February 15, 2011

Transportation experts to help test plug-in hybrids

UC Berkeley transportation experts will test 10 Toyota Prius plug-in hybrids during the next year as part of a year-long demonstration and research program. The researchers are partnering with the Bay Area Air District, Toyota and San Jose for the project, which was kicked off today (February 15)
February 8, 2011

Addressing societal as well as technological challenges of biofuels

Producing cheap liquid biofuels is not the only challenge in weaning the U.S. off fossil fuels. A team supported by the Energy Biosciences Institute identified social, economic and environmental issues that need to be addressed, including the impacts on farmers and on public health.

January 31, 2011

Bread mold genomes demo 'reverse-ecology'

In a demonstration of “reverse-ecology,” UC Berkeley biologists have shown that one can determine an organism’s adaptive traits by looking first at its genome and checking for variations across a population. The study offers a powerful new tool in evolutionary genetics research, one that could be used to help monitor the effects of climate change and habitat destruction.

January 28, 2011

Cow rumen yields enzyme bonanza

Sequencing of microbes in the rumen of the cow has turned up a treasure trove of new enzymes that degrade tough plant material, providing new avenues for research to boost biofuel production from plants. The research, funded by the Energy Biosciences Institute, involves UC Berkeley chemical engineer Doug Clark and colleagues at LBNL and the Joint Genome Institue.

January 24, 2011

Study finds greenhouse gas emissions can hurt companies' stock value

A study by the Haas School’s Yuan Sun and colleagues at UC Davis and the University of Otago, New Zealand, found that the stock value of a company typically drops when it increases carbon emissions. The finding supports arguments that firms should be required to disclose to investors any action that impacts climate change.

January 13, 2011

Backyard solutions to urban planning issues

Hundreds of visitors flocked to a new, 420-square-foot cottage in West Berkeley to examine the tiny, sustainably designed “accessory home” as a possible wave of the future.

December 1, 2010

Reserves give species new lease on life

The International Union for Conservation of Nature this year singled out the University of California's system of 36 natural reserves — a haven for the state's diverse ecosystems and species for nearly half a century — as one of the "20 best biodiversity success stories." Read more about the efforts by the reserves to reintroduce and foster the survival of endangered and threatened species.

December 1, 2010

Study shows a third of the lead in our air comes from Asia

In a first-of-its-kind study, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab scientists tracked the amount of lead transported across the Pacific over time. About a third of the airborne lead particles recently collected at two sites in the Bay Area came from Asia. The finding underscores the far-flung impacts of air pollution.

November 16, 2010

A New Twist for Nanopillar Light Collectors

UC Berkeley researchers have created unique dual-diameter nanopillars – narrow at the top, broad at the bottom – that absorb light as well or even better than commercial thin-film solar cells, using far less semiconductor material and without the need for anti-reflective coating.

October 28, 2010

A Wiki for the Biofuels Research Community

Biofuels hold great promise as an alternative to greenhouse-gas-generating gasoline, if a cost-effective means of commercial production can be found. Professor Harvey Blanch and other researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute have designed an online wiki that allows experts to collectively analyze and discuss biorefinery data and production costs.

September 10, 2010

Researchers expand yeast's sugary diet to include plant fiber

Yeast cells don't normally eat complex sugars or carbohydrates, only simple sugars like glucose and sucrose. UC Berkeley's Jamie Cate and colleagues have now added genes to yeast that allow it to eat more complex sugars, called cellodextrins. These yeast could find use in the biofuels industry, which hopes to use cellulosic plant fibers to make alcohol.

September 9, 2010

Prop. 23 creates legal turmoil, cuts state revenue, reduces job growth

An independent analysis of Proposition 23 says the initiative would create legal uncertainty, reduce California state revenue, and jeopardize new and existing clean energy jobs. The white paper, released today by UC Berkeley School of Law's Center for Law, Energy & the Environment, reports Prop. 23 would also slow California's efforts to reduce climate change and could have a domino effect on other states.

September 9, 2010

Dan Kammen appointed to World Bank

Energy-policy expert Dan Kammen has been appointed to a new position at the World Bank, where he will help distribute billions of dollars to developing countries to improve energy efficiency and foster low-carbon, renewable sources of energy.

September 8, 2010

Two scientists receive DOE grant for biofuels 'crop residue' research

Plant biologists Markus Pauly and Sarah Hake have been awarded a three-year, $793,000 grant from the Department of Energy for research on the genetic diversity of corn. They hope to identify and develop strains of corn with higher yields of fermentable sugars, allowing the plant's stems and leaves to be used for fuel production.

August 26, 2010

NSF funds interdisciplinary team's grey water disinfection plan

A UC Berkeley team has been awarded a $2 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for research on biologically-inspired technologies for grey water reuse and thermal energy management that may propel sustainable building into a new era.The grant comes from the NSF’s Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation’s 2010 Science in Energy and Environmental Design program for engineering sustainable buildings. Leading UC Berkeley’s award-winning research team as principal investigator is Maria Paz-Gutierrez, assistant professor of architecture in the College of Environmental Design, and the only architect serving as principal investigator for any of the NSF’s eight EFRI-SEED grants this year.

July 1, 2010

Capturing carbon

Researchers at Berkeley and other universities to find ways to capture carbon dioxide, produced by burning coal and natural gas, from the waste stream of power plants so that it can be sequestered underground.

May 20, 2010

Bobbing for carbon

Marine plankton convert a huge portion of the carbon in seawater into seafood. Exactly how much of this biological carbon gets stored in the oceans has a tremendous impact on future climate scenarios. Jim Bishop, a Berkeley professor of earth and planetary science, has designed robots that can measure ocean carbon in all seasons and weathers—critical data for a warming world.

May 14, 2010

Scientists benefit as much as students from "Cleantech to Market" program

Launched as a pilot project at Berkeley Lab, the Cleantech to Market program is finishing its first semester as an official class at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, and it's safe to say the students learned more than they expected on how to take a technology from the laboratory to the marketplace. What was less expected is how much the scientists got out of the program.

May 5, 2010

Biotech incubator opens its doors at UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley's QB3 will launch a biotech incubator on May 6, hoping to duplicate the success of a similar incubator at QB3's Mission Bay outpost. UC Berkeley grad Wesley Chang, CEO of the start-up Aperys, LLC, is the first tenant of the QB3 Garage@Berkeley.

April 20, 2010

Can California fix the Delta before disaster strikes?

Finding ways to better manage the overlapping infrastructure systems in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is the goal of a four-year, $2 million project headed by UC Berkeley researchers and funded by the National Science Foundation.

April 1, 2010

Rethinking nuclear power

With climate change concerns escalating, fossil fuel supplies diminishing and electricity consumption expected to double in 10 years, nuclear power has regained some of its lost luster.

February 23, 2010

NSF awards $24.5 million for center to stem increase of electronics power draw

The NSF has awarded $24.5 million to UC Berkeley researchers to head an ambitious, multi-institutional center that could one day lead to a million-fold reduction in power consumption by electronics. The researchers said such a dramatic increase in energy efficiency could allow the digital revolution to continue well beyond the limits that would otherwise be imposed by its growing demand for energy.
December 23, 2009

Climate change puts ecosystems on the run

To keep up with global warming, the average ecosystem will need to shift about a quarter mile each year, says a new study by scientists at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

December 22, 2009

Center announces most livable buildings for 2009

A Seaside, Calif., school that incorporates an ambitious sustainability goal of net-zero electricity usage is the winner of the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment 2009 top Livable Building Award. Honorable mentions go to the design teams of the Cohos Evamy Toronto Studio on the 10th floor of a Toronto high-rise and of the renovated William P. Robinson Building at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va.

December 18, 2009

Study shows loss of 15-42 percent of mammals in North America

Many biologists warn that the planet's plants and animals are headed toward a mass extinction as a result of human-caused environmental damage, including global warming. A UC Berkeley/Penn State team has now analyzed the status of North American mammals, estimating that they may be one-fifth to one-half the way toward a mass extinction event like the "Big Five" the Earth has seen in the last 450 million years.

November 23, 2009

Climate change could boost incidence of civil war in Africa, study finds

Climate change could increase the likelihood of civil war in sub-Saharan Africa by over 50 percent within the next two decades, according to a new study led by a team of researchers at University of California, Berkeley, and published in the online issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

October 22, 2009

Error in climate treaties could lead to more deforestation

A team of 13 prominent scientists and land-use experts has identified an important but fixable error in legal accounting rules for bioenergy that could, if uncorrected, undermine efforts to reduce greenhouse gases by encouraging deforestation.

October 8, 2009

College of Chemistry steers course to sustainable 'green' chemistry

The College of Chemistry is moving toward sustainable "green" chemistry with a new emphasis on sustainability in its undergraduate courses, a new endowed chair in sustainable chemistry, and its participation in the campuswide Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry.

September 4, 2009

Research restructuring leads to net reduction in jobs

In mid-July, Vice Chancellor for Research Graham R. Fleming announced that the dire budget circumstances facing the campus necessitated taking a hard look, as quickly as possible, at the structure of services and deployment of resources administered from his office.

April 28, 2009

$30 million from DOE for carbon capture, sequestration

Two UC Berkeley faculty members will receive $30 million over the next five years from the U.S. Department of Energy to find better ways to separate carbon dioxide from power plant and natural gas well emissions and stick it permanently underground.



February 26, 2009

Speaker series on California climate change challenges

A new speaker series at UC Berkeley will explore the state's landmark climate control legislation's critical connections to sustainable development and land-use planning. The series, "Growing Sustainability in a Low-Carbon World," is being sponsored by UC Berkeley's Institute for Urban and Regional Development (IURD). 


February 17, 2009

Cheaper materials could be key to low-cost solar cells

Unconventional solar cell materials that are as abundant but much less costly than silicon and other semiconductors in use today could substantially reduce the cost of solar photovoltaics, according to a new study from the Energy and Resources Group and the Department of Chemistry at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.