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      Resilience implications of policy responses to climate change : Resilience implications of policy responses to climate change

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          Environmental, economic, and energetic costs and benefits of biodiesel and ethanol biofuels.

          Negative environmental consequences of fossil fuels and concerns about petroleum supplies have spurred the search for renewable transportation biofuels. To be a viable alternative, a biofuel should provide a net energy gain, have environmental benefits, be economically competitive, and be producible in large quantities without reducing food supplies. We use these criteria to evaluate, through life-cycle accounting, ethanol from corn grain and biodiesel from soybeans. Ethanol yields 25% more energy than the energy invested in its production, whereas biodiesel yields 93% more. Compared with ethanol, biodiesel releases just 1.0%, 8.3%, and 13% of the agricultural nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticide pollutants, respectively, per net energy gain. Relative to the fossil fuels they displace, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced 12% by the production and combustion of ethanol and 41% by biodiesel. Biodiesel also releases less air pollutants per net energy gain than ethanol. These advantages of biodiesel over ethanol come from lower agricultural inputs and more efficient conversion of feedstocks to fuel. Neither biofuel can replace much petroleum without impacting food supplies. Even dedicating all U.S. corn and soybean production to biofuels would meet only 12% of gasoline demand and 6% of diesel demand. Until recent increases in petroleum prices, high production costs made biofuels unprofitable without subsidies. Biodiesel provides sufficient environmental advantages to merit subsidy. Transportation biofuels such as synfuel hydrocarbons or cellulosic ethanol, if produced from low-input biomass grown on agriculturally marginal land or from waste biomass, could provide much greater supplies and environmental benefits than food-based biofuels.
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            Rising variance: a leading indicator of ecological transition.

            Regime shifts are substantial, long-lasting reorganizations of complex systems, such as ecosystems. Large ecosystem changes such as eutrophication, shifts among vegetation types, degradation of coral reefs and regional climate change often come as surprises because we lack leading indicators for regime shifts. Increases in variability of ecosystems have been suggested to foreshadow ecological regime shifts. However, it may be difficult to discern variability due to impending regime shift from that of exogenous drivers that affect the ecosystem. We addressed this problem using a model of lake eutrophication. Lakes are subject to fluctuations in recycling associated with regime shifts, as well as fluctuating nutrient inputs. Despite the complications of noisy inputs, increasing variability of lake-water phosphorus was discernible prior to the shift to eutrophic conditions. Simulations show that rising standard deviation (SD) could signal impending shifts about a decade in advance. The rising SD was detected by studying variability around predictions of a simple time-series model, and did not depend on detailed knowledge of the actual ecosystem dynamics.
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              Early warning of climate tipping points

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change
                WIREs Clim Change
                Wiley-Blackwell
                17577780
                September 2011
                September 2011
                : 2
                : 5
                : 757-766
                Article
                10.1002/wcc.133
                © 2011
                Product
                Self URI (article page): http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/wcc.133

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