2012 AAAS Meeting

Highlights from the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Vancouver, February 16-20

New calculations boost carbon released from thawing permafrost
Changes in permafrost as it thaws could release more carbon into the atmosphere than scientists had suspected, new research suggests. When permanently frozen ground thaws, it deepens the “active layer” of soil from which carbon can percolate, Charles Koven of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California reported February 19. Under pessimistic scenarios in which greenhouse gases continue to rise, some 60 to 80 percent of permafrost could disappear by 2100, he said. Calculations of how soil types vary by depth suggest that up to 700 petagrams (700 billion metric tons) of carbon could be vulnerable to decomposition. “Typically people haven’t thought of the depth distribution of soil carbon, but that’s critical,” Koven said. —Alexandra Witze

Lab-grown meat ready to eat this year, scientists say
A hamburger made from meat grown in the lab might be ready to eat this October, Mark Post from Maastricht University in the Netherlands reported on February 19. So far, scientists using bovine stem cells have made pieces of skeletal muscle that are about 3 centimeters long. Citing the growing global demand for meat and the environmental costs of raising livestock, Post said “we need to get alternatives.” Post — who received €250,000 (about U.S. $331,000) from an anonymous donor for this project — thinks that with adequate funding, lab-grown meat products could be commercially available in 10 to 20 years. —Rebecca Cheung

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