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December 10, 2012

Conservatives can be persuaded to care more about the environment, study finds

By Yasmin Anwar, UC Berkeley Media Relations

When it comes to climate change, deforestation and toxic waste, the assumption has been that conservative views on these topics are intractable. But new research from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that such viewpoints can be changed after all, when the messages about the need to be better stewards of the land are couched in terms of fending off threats to the “purity” and “sanctity” of Earth and our bodies.


Study finds that conservatives can be moved to support pro-environmental policies when messages emphasize fending off threats to the purity of our bodies.
A UC Berkeley study has found that while people who identified themselves as conservatives tend to be less concerned about the environment than their liberal counterparts, their motivation increased significantly when they read articles that stressed the need to “protect the purity of the environment” and were shown such repellant images as a person drinking dirty water, a forest filled with garbage, and a city under a cloud of smog.

Published today (Dec. 10) in the online issue of the journal Psychological Science, the findings indicate that reframing pro-environmental rhetoric according to values that resonate strongly with conservatives can reduce partisan polarization on ecological matters.

“These findings offer the prospect of pro-environmental persuasion across party lines,” said Robb Willer, a UC Berkeley social psychologist and coauthor of the study. “Reaching out to conservatives in a respectful and persuasive way is critical, because large numbers of Americans will need to support significant environment reforms if we are going to deal effectively with climate change, in particular.”

Read the complete story at the source

December 7, 2012

New gene found that turns carbs into fat, could be target for future drugs

By Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley Media Relations

A gene that helps the body convert that big plate of holiday cookies you just polished off into fat could provide a new target for potential treatments for fatty liver disease, diabetes and obesity.

Shown is an image of fatty liver tissue. The lipid has been stained red, and the liver cell nuclei are stained blue. (Image courtesy of The Sul Lab)
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are unlocking the molecular mechanisms of how our body converts dietary carbohydrates into fat, and as part of that research, they found that a gene with the catchy name BAF60c contributes to fatty liver, or steatosis.

In the study, to be published online Dec. 6 in the journal Molecular Cell, the researchers found that mice that have had the BAF60c gene disabled did not convert carbohydrates to fat, despite eating a high-carb diet.

“This work brings us one step forward in understanding fatty liver disease resulting from an excessive consumption of carbohydrates,” said the study’s senior author, Hei Sook Sul, professor at UC Berkeley’s Department of Nutritional Science and Toxicology. “The discovery of this role of BAF60c may eventually lead to the development of treatment for millions of Americans with fatty liver and other related diseases.”

Read the complete story at the source

December 4, 2012

Plants and soils could accelerate climate's warming, study warns

By Robert Krier, InsideClimate News

When climate scientists try to estimate how much the Earth will warm due to increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, a key consideration is the role of plants and soils. The more carbon they absorb, the more they reduce the global warming potential.

But recent studies indicate that assumptions about plants' and soils' capacity in the so-called "carbon cycle" may be overly optimistic. If these studies are correct, even bigger cuts in greenhouse gas emissions will be needed to prevent drastic, irreparable climate shifts.

Not only is it possible that plants won't be able to absorb as much carbon as climate models currently project, but plants' response to the carbon cycle could actually amplify global warming, Paul Higgins and John Harte write in the November edition of the Journal of Climate.

It all comes down to mobility.

Carbon dioxide is recognized as critical for photosynthesis, so the more there is in the atmosphere, the more there is available for plant growth. As Earth's climate warms, the theory has been that trees and other plant communities would treat the added CO2 as fertilizer and grow bigger and faster.

Read the complete story at the source

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Conservatives can be persuaded to care more about the environment, study finds
New gene found that turns carbs into fat, could be target for future drugs
Plants and soils could accelerate climate's warming, study warns

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