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Talking Point articles

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US agricultural policy, land use change, and biofuels: are we driving our way to the next dust bowl?

Recently documented cropland expansion suggests the need to reform national policies in the wake of an emerging era of US agriculture characterized by rapid land cover/land use change, says Christopher Wright.

Civil aviation, air pollution and human health

Whilst aircraft emissions are often considered as dominant near runways, there are a number of other sources and processes related to aviation that still need to be accounted for, say Roy M Harrison, Mauro Masiol and Sotiris Vardoulakis

A new drought tipping point for conifer mortality

Thomas Kolb examines the link between the standardized precipitation–evapotranspiration index (SPEI) and annual tree ring growth in semi-arid forests.

The time lag between a carbon dioxide emission and maximum warming increases with the size of the emission

Kirsten Zickfeld and Tyler Herrington discuss the implications of their finding that the time lag between a carbon dioxide emission pulse and the maximum warming increases for larger pulses.

Baseline data on forest loss and associated uncertainty: advances in national forest monitoring

Johanne Pelletier and Scott Goetz assess efforts to improve Peru's national forest monitoring system, as required by REDD+

Energy efficiency standards and innovation

If efficiency standards are, in fact, responsible for accelerated price effects, a number of interesting implications arise, says Geoff Morrison

Thunder and lightning—what determines where and when thunderstorms occur?

Michael J Rycroft examines possible mechanisms behind Owens et al's finding that there's more lightning over the UK when the magnetic field in interplanetary space points towards the Sun rather than away from it.

Adaptation strategies to climate change in the Arctic: a global patchwork of reactive community-scale initiatives

Tatiana V Loboda highlights the need for long-term strategic planning in adaptation policies spanning international boundaries and including all population groups

Robust relationship between yields and nitrogen inputs indicates three ways to reduce nitrogen pollution

Understanding the decline in nitrogen-use efficiency with increasing nitrogen inputs helps us understand the dilemma between increased agricultural production and nitrogen pollution, according to Benjamin Leon Bodirsky and Christoph Müller

A regional look at HANPP: human consumption is increasing, NPP is not

Steven Running reckons the regional trend in analysis of human appropriation of net primary production (HANPP) can quantify increasing vulnerability of the local populations to any shortfall in NPP as demand approaches supply, providing an early warning system

A growing commitment to future CO2 emissions

H Damon Matthews reckons we should account for the greenhouse-gas emissions committed to by exploring new fossil-fuel reserves, as well as those associated with building fossil-fuel energy plants

What are the physical links between Arctic sea-ice loss and Eurasian winter climate?

Ian Simmonds and Pallavi D Govekar examine new evidence on the connection between rapid Arctic sea-ice retreat and cold midlatitude winters

Can sediment plumes reveal ice-sheet melt rates?

The melting of ice sheets and glaciers contributes to sea-level rise, yet these frozen structures are often hard to study because they are so remote. Richard Hodgkins of Loughborough University, UK, details how sediment may be able to help

Heat and drought extremes likely to stress ecosystem productivity equally or more in a warmer, CO2 rich future

Considering that Earth system models generally miss a host of heat- and drought-induced mortality mechanisms that could exacerbate adverse carbon impacts, it is logical to expect that the impacts of today's heat and drought extremes are likely underestimates of what we can expect in the future with a high fossil emissions pathway, according to Christopher Williams

Identifying exposure disparities in air pollution epidemiology specific to adverse birth outcomes

Improved methods for measuring air pollution can help identify areas with disproportionately high exposure levels that lead to health inequities, according to Laura Geer

Heat and drought extremes likely to stress ecosystem productivity equally or more in a warmer, CO2 rich future

It is logical to expect that the impacts of today's heat and drought extremes are likely underestimates of what we can expect in the future with a high fossil emissions pathway, writes Christopher Williams

Identifying exposure disparities in air pollution epidemiology specific to adverse birth outcomes

Improved methods for measuring air pollution can help identify areas with disproportionately high exposure levels that lead to health inequities, according to Laura Geer

Overallocation, conflict, and water transfers

The paradox of pervasive overallocation may be that even as it heightens the need for water transfers, it also intensifies their collateral consequences, according to Dave Owen

Bias, complexity and uncertainty in ecosystem risk assessment: pharmaceuticals, a new challenge in scale and perspective

Risk assessment must expand its scale from the molecular and cellular to that of the ecosystem with real world conditions, say Lawrence K Duffy, Kriya L Dunlap and Anna R Godduhn

Water for animal products: a blind spot in water policy

Water-use efficiency in the food system as a whole remains a blind spot, according to Arjen Y Hoekstra, with national water policies focusing on "sustainable production" rather than "sustainable consumption"