Revelations that Volkswagen, the world’s biggest car maker, rigged its emissions testing in the United States to circumvent regulations and boost its sales have sent shock waves through the car industry. On 22 September, the company admitted that it had used special software to lower emissions during laboratory tests of some of its diesel vehicles.

Researchers are exploring unconventional sources of fresh water to quench the globe's growing thirst.

Catastrophic floods such as those that southern Britain experienced earlier this year are now more likely, owing to climate change caused by greenhouse-gas emissions. Simulations presented last week at the annual assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna show that the risk of extremely wet winters in the region has increased by about 25% compared to the pre-industrial era.

Reliable forecasts of future ‘megadroughts’ would be a boon to farmers and water managers. But results presented last week at the annual assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna suggest that such forecasts are still beyond the reach of current climate models.

Commitments made under the Kyoto climate treaty expire at the end of 2012, but emissions are rising faster than ever.

Stefan Kröpelin has carved out a career where few dare to tread — in the heart of the Sahara.

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Will the warming planet be able to sustain coming generations? Few questions about the future matter more. But although modellers can forecast temperature changes and even precipitation, they struggle to say how climate change will affect the factors that make the planet habitable, such as food and water availability. Last week at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany, researchers launched a fast-track programme to make their narratives of possible futures more coherent and useful to decision-makers.

Conservationists fear spills in icy waters as Norway awards oil-production licences.

Natural disasters around the world last year caused a record US$380 billion in economic losses. That’s more than twice the tally for 2010, and about $115 billion more than in the previous record year of 2005, according to a report from Munich Re, a reinsurance group in Germany. But other work emphasizes that it is too soon to blame the economic devastation on climate change.

As the world gears up for the next round of United Nations climate-change negotiations in Durban, South Africa, in November, evidence has emerged that a cornerstone of the existing global climate agreement, the international greenhouse-gas emissions-trading system, is seriously flawed. Critics have long questioned the usefulness of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which was established under the Kyoto Protocol.