Fixing Earth’s ozone layer has other surprising benefits, new study shows

August 16, 2017 by  
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Dozens of nations signed an agreement nearly 30 years ago to stop the expansion of a massive hole in Earth’s ozone layer. Today, thanks to the Montreal Protocol, the hole in the ozone layer has shrunk as countries reduced, then eliminated, the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). A new study from  Geophysical Research Letters  now shows that the agreement not only achieved its stated aim, but has also been one of the most effective tools for fighting climate change in the United States. The recent study confirms what scientists and policymakers have been observing as the Montreal Protocol was enacted, though it focuses primarily on the United States. “This is something that’s been talked about for a while, this dual benefit of the Montreal Protocol limiting damage to the ozone layer, also curtailing climate change,” said Rachel Cleetus, climate policy manager and lead economist with the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s because all these ozone depleting substances are also very potent global warming gases.” The regulations enacted to fulfill the Montreal Protocol resulted in greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to approximately half of all other climate regulations between 2008 and 2014. Related: Antarctic ozone layer shows “first fingerprints of healing” The near-total removal of CFCs and steep decline in HCFCs in the United States was made possible by the Clean Air Act , a law that was used by the Obama Administration , as approved by the Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Though CFCs and HCFCs have been replaced by hydroflourocarabons (HFCs), which still contribute to climate change but do not burn a hole in the ozone layer, the signatories to the Montreal Protocol have amended the agreement to reduce HFCs as well in a move that was praised by US Secretary of State John Kerry as the “single most important step” in combating climate change. As the Trump Administration refuses to fulfill its duties under the Clean Air Act to protect public health, the success of the Montreal Protocol is a hopeful reminder of what can be done if dedicated parties work together and take action. Via Gizmodo Lead image via Depositphotos , others via  NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center   and  Rémi Vincent/Flickr

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Fixing Earth’s ozone layer has other surprising benefits, new study shows

Swiss grocery store chain will be the first to sell insect burgers

August 16, 2017 by  
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Would you eat a burger made of mealworms? Coop , the second-largest supermarket chain in Switzerland , will start selling food made with insects . The country will be the first in Europe to allow sales of insect-based food for people, thanks to laws changed in May. Coop will sell insect burgers and balls from Switzerland-based startup Essento . Switzerland’s food safety laws allow sales of food made from mealworms, crickets , or grasshoppers. Coop will be selling Essento Insect Burgers and Essento Insect Balls, both made with mealworms. The burgers also contain rice, vegetables like leeks and celery, and spices like chili and oregano. The balls – which could be eaten inside pita bread, for example – are filled out with chickpeas, garlic, onions, parsley, and coriander. Related: BUG BUG cutlery set might just make you want to eat insects Coop Head of Category Management Silvio Baselgia said they’re Switzerland’s first retailer to sell Essento’s insect products, which the company has been developing for more than two years. Essento co-founder Christian Bärtsch said in a statement, “As food, insects are convincing in many respects: they have a high culinary potential, their production saves resources, and their nutritional profile is high quality. Thus insects are the perfect complement to a modern diet.” According to Essento’s website, mealworms don’t produce as many greenhouse gases as animal food sources like pigs or cows. 80 percent of insects are edible, as compared with 40 percent of cows, and raising insects requires less food and water. Insects are a good source of protein and also contain unsaturated fatty acids, the vitamins A, B, and B12, and minerals like zinc, potassium, calcium, and iron. Essento’s products will be on sale on August 21 in seven Coop stores to start, including branches in Zurich and Geneva. + Essento Via The Guardian and Coop Images via Essento Facebook and Coop

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Swiss grocery store chain will be the first to sell insect burgers

Spectacular ‘Dome of Visions’ greenhouse pushes the envelope for wood construction

August 16, 2017 by  
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Finnish company Metsä Wood is known for pushing the envelope when it comes to building with wood. Their latest greenhouse dome is the largest to date – and it showcases the company’s innovative use of laminated veneer lumber as a sustainable alternative to commonly used building materials. The structure, named Dome of Visions, was designed by Atelier Kristoffer Tejlgaard  as a way to explore green building. The Dome of Visions 3.0 is the third project in a series of experiments that explore the idea of creating sustainable spaces within dome-shaped structures. It has a new system of curved wooden beams , composed of 21 mm strips of Kerto LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber). This made it possible to minimize the amount of steel while achieving both a sleek and elegant grid construction. Related: Architect designs life-sized replica of Empire State Building made of wood Using curved wooden beams, the brackets for the dome’s supports were cut as stars in a five-millimeter steel plate. The custom-made Kerto beams made it possible to avoid the use of complicated and costly welded brackets used in previous versions. Related: Mobile Greenhouse Studio Boasts a Facade of CNC-Cut “Fish Scales” in Copenhagen “Wood as a building material has obvious advantages giving sustainability for the building industry. In principle, wood is a material that comes from a solar-powered factory,” said Kristoffer Tejlgaard, referring to the ability of trees to extract CO2 from the atmosphere and store it as carbon in their trunks, solely by means of solar energy . + Atelier Kristoffer Tejlgaard + Metsä Wood

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Spectacular ‘Dome of Visions’ greenhouse pushes the envelope for wood construction

Pollution cuts solar energy production by up to 35%

June 29, 2017 by  
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We may be sabotaging our efforts to generate clean energy . New research from a team led by Duke University found polluted air may be reducing our solar energy output – by 25 percent. And areas with some of the highest investment in solar power are those impacted the most: China , the Arabian Peninsula, and India . Dust and airborne particles may be harming our ability to generate as much solar energy as we can. Duke University engineering professor Michael Bergin said, “My colleagues in India were showing off some of their rooftop solar installations, and I was blown away by how dirty the panels were. I thought the dirt had to affect their efficiencies, but there weren’t any studies out there estimating the losses. So we put together a comprehensive model to do just that.” Related: Students Create Award-Winning Robot That Cleans Solar Panels Joined by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN) and the University of Wisconsin at Madison , Duke University scientists found pollution accumulation is indeed impacting solar energy output. They measured the decrease in energy from IITGN’s solar panels as they got dirtier. Each time the panels were cleaned after several weeks, the researchers noted a 50 percent boost in efficiency. China, India, and the Arabian Peninsula are the areas of the world impacted the most. Even if their panels are cleaned monthly, they still could be losing 17 to 25 percent of solar energy production. And if the cleanings happen every two months, the losses are 25 or 35 percent. Reduced output costs countries not just in electricity but money as well. Bergin said China could lose tens of billions of dollars yearly, “with more than 80 percent of that coming from losses due to pollution.” He pointed out we’ve known air pollution is bad for health and climate change , but now we know it’s bad for solar energy as well – all the more reason for politicians to adopt emissions controls. The research was published online this month by the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters . Via Duke University Images via Duke Engineering on Twitter and Pexels

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Pollution cuts solar energy production by up to 35%

India to only sell electric cars by 2030

June 5, 2017 by  
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India is taking huge strides to escape its dubious distinction as one of the most polluted countries on Earth. The government is taking dramatic measures to clean the country’s air – including the switch to sell solely electric cars in just 13 years. If the amount of diesel and petrol cars dwindles on the streets of India, the country could lower the dangerous levels of air pollution that have led to the deaths of 1.2 million people annually. Energy minister Piyush Goyal said India would financially back the move for the first two to three years; then electric vehicle production will be “driven by demand and not subsidy.” Related: New Delhi has the worst air pollution of any city on earth The move has been praised by environmentalists and, naturally, worried the oil industry. India is the third biggest oil importer in the world – each year they spend $150 billion on oil. Moving to electric cars could save the country $60 billion in energy expenses. Indian car owners would also save money by switching to electric vehicles . Goyal, who presented the government’s plan at the Confederation of Indian Industry Annual Session 2017 in New Delhi, said the government would invest in charging infrastructure, beginning in big urban areas like Delhi. He also said they were considering methods like swapping batteries “so cars don’t have to wait for batteries to be charged,” saying, “Electric cars can then move to petrol pumps, swap their batteries, and drive out, just like they do now. And it will take less time than what it takes to put petrol in your car, like in Formula 1 races!” The transition to electric cars would also help the country slash greenhouse gas emissions. Calculations indicate India’s carbon emissions could decrease 37 percent by 2030 with the move to electric vehicles. Via World Economic Forum and International Business Times Images via Mahindra Electric Facebook

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It took more than 25 years to build this incredible walkable world map

June 5, 2017 by  
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You’d need around 11 years to walk around the globe – if you can walk on water. But a world map in Denmark makes the feat possible in a few minutes. Verdenskortet , or world map , is a walkable map , made of soil and stone, built on top of a pond. It took Søren Poulsen more than two decades to complete this extraordinary project, and it was worth the wait. Poulsen, who was born in 1888 in Denmark, realized a stone on his land was shaped similar to the Jutland Peninsula. That stone launched the idea to create a world map, and Poulsen started the project in 1944. He continued working on the map, located at his childhood home at Klejtrup Lake, until he died in 1969. Today the map comprises the center of a park offering outdoor activities and event space. Around 35,000 people visit every single year. Related: Our World: A Giant Pixelated LEGO Map Built from 1 Million Bricks! Poulson made the map out of rocks and dirt, using just hand tools, a pushcart, and a wheelbarrow. The Verdenskortet Facebook page explains the stones comprising the world map were moved onto the ice during winter, and then in spring the stones could be moved into place. Flags mark each country, and there’s even yellow bricks dividing America up into states. Red poles indicate where the equator lies. The world map is 300 feet by 150 feet, and every 10 inches represents around 69 miles in the real world. Today the park offers guided tours of Verdenskortet, paired with coffee and cake. People can play miniature golf on the grass, or take a class field trip to the map. Visitors can take a boat trip around the mini Pacific Ocean , and on land go on pony rides, play old Viking games, or jump on a trampoline. Park entry is inexpensive; around $12 for adults and $8 for kids. + Verdenskortet Via GOOD Images via Verdenskortet Facebook

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It took more than 25 years to build this incredible walkable world map

BREAKING: Trump announces U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement

June 1, 2017 by  
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During a highly anticipated speech at the Rose Garden, climate denier President Donald Trump announced that the United States of America will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement secured under Barack Obama’s leadership. President Trump stated that the accord was “bad” and poorly negotiated by the Obama administration, and that he “is keeping his campaign promise to put American workers first.” Part of Trump’s speech read, ”The Paris Accord is a BAD deal for Americans, and the President’s action today is keeping his campaign promise to put American workers first. The accord was negotiated poorly by the Obama administration and signed out of desperation. It frontloads costs on the American people to the detriment of our economy.” Before the announcement was officially made, Donald Trump was cited by The Daily Best telling congressional staffers on a conference call that he is withdrawing from the Paris accord. Energy policy adviser for the White House, Michael Catanzaro, confirmed that “the United States is getting out of the Paris agreement.” Catanzaro added that Trump “will be open to and will immediately be looking for a better deal.” Reportedly, the Trump administration will follow steps for withdrawal laid out in the agreement. In total, says Catanzaro, removing the U.S. from the deal will take four years. “But we’re going to make very clear to the world that we’re not going to be abiding by what the previous administration agreed to,” he said. Despite the fact that countries such as Costa Rica run on 100% renewable energy and Denmark once generated 400% of the power it needs from wind turbines , the Trump administration remains resistant to transitioning the U.S. to run on renewable energy resources. This is because President Trump, a businessman, believes that energy sourced from fossil fuels is the solution to making America great again – and he thinks climate change is a “hoax” invented by the Chinese . Related: China says they’ll stay in the Paris Agreement – with or without Trump At the time of its signing, 195 countries, including the United States, pledged to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change in order to prevent global catastrophes which may result from rising temperatures. President Barack Obama committed America to a goal of lowering emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The broad aim was to increase these cuts over time. With the United States exiting the Paris Agreement, carbon emissions are likely to increase, potentially propelling global disasters resulting from rising sea levels , severe weather conditions, and increased temperatures. On a positive note, China and the European Union are prepared to publicly recommit to the agreement with or without the United States. Also, Trump cannot technically withdraw from the agreement until November of 2019. Finally, many U.S.-based companies, including Apple , have ambitious goals to run on 100% clean energy in the near future. With support from educated consumers, the U.S. may reach its previously contracted emissions goal with or without the President’s support. Via CNN Images via Pixabay , Wikimedia Creative Commons

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BREAKING: Trump announces U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement

Scientists invent graphene paint that makes your house super efficient

May 30, 2017 by  
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Graphene – the strongest material known to science – is used to create everything from condoms to night-vision contact lenses. Now, thanks to the ingenuity of  The Graphene Company , paint containing the world’s “thinnest, strongest and most conductive” substance is hitting shelves in the UK. The new lime-based paint is incredibly thin, beneficial for the environment and capable of making your home, or any building, more efficient. Because  Graphenstone is composed of a lime-base with a hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms one atom thick thanks to the inclusion of graphene , the lime-based paint has superconductivity , which means it can improve the thermal regulation of buildings. As Dezeen reports , this means the invention lowers the necessity for heating and air conditioning. According to The Graphene Company director, Patrick Folkes, ”When used on interior wall surfaces, rather than heat being radiated through the walls, the graphene within the paint captures the heat. It then conducts the heat through the paint, and across the whole Graphenstone-painted surface of interior walls. This enhances the insulation measures used in buildings by slowing heat conduction through walls and out of buildings.” Because graphene is one atom thick in the paint, less is required to achieve a durable finish that is resistant to corrosion. One liter of paint would cover two eight-meter-square coats, says The Graphene Company. An additional benefit is that the paint is extremely eco-friendly . With a base made from 98 percent pure lime, the paint purifies the surrounding air as it absorbs carbon dioxide. For this reason, the company boasts it is “the most sustainable and eco-friendly paint in the world”. “Sustainability is becoming more and more important as people realise the damage that acrylics do to the environment throughout the manufacturing process and its use on walls,” said Folkes. “Graphene’s inclusion in paints, coatings and other building materials exponentially enhances hardness, durability, compression, tensile strength, elasticity, and coverage.” Related: New graphene super batteries charge up in seconds and last virtually forever After the paint is applied, a hard shell forms as the lime hardens up in the carbonization process. According to Folkes, the initial consistency is a “little bit watery.” Over a period of 10 days, however, hard coverage is provided. The best part? No fumes are released in the process. Already, the product has been used to coat the walls of hospitals , hotels, and schools. As demand for the graphene paint increases, it will likely be sold elsewhere in the world. + The Graphene Company Via Dezeen Images via The Graphene Company

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Switzerland votes to ban nuclear power and invest in renewable energy

May 22, 2017 by  
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Switzerland just passed a new energy law that promotes renewable energy and bans nuclear power plants. The landmark vote brings the nation closer to meeting its goal of generating 4,400 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of renewable energy by 2020, and 11,400 GWh by 2035. Over the weekend, approximately 42% of the population turned up to vote in the national referendum, which marks the eighth time in recent history Swiss citizens have voted on the issue. Though the Energy Strategy 2050 was approved by Parliament last year, the country’s right wing Swiss People’s Party challenged the reform to the referendum in an attempt prevent the move from taking place. The move to initiate the reform passed easily with a 58.2% vote, however, shutting down any talk of investment in nuclear energy . At a press conference, Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said “After six years of debate in parliament and at committee level, a new chapter in Switzerland’s energy policy can begin. But there is still a lot of work to do.” Related: Tunnel collapses at America’s most contaminated nuclear waste facility Energy Strategy 2050 mandates that general licenses provided for nuclear power plants (which presently provide 38% of the country’s energy) will no longer be sold, beginning in 2019. Additionally, when existing nuclear power plants reach the end of their lifespan, they will be closed and not replaced. The reform also aims to reduce per capita energy consumption by 16 percent within the next three years, and by 43 percent by 2035. Energy Strategy 2050 intends for electricity consumption to decline by 3 percent in 2020 and 13 percent in 2035. This will be managed by increasing the output of solar , wind, biomass, and geothermal energy. Supporters of the law say that investing in renewables will make Switzerland less dependent on energy imports. At the same time, the country will maintain its highly supply standard. Activists are also celebrating the fact that by phasing out investments in nuclear energy, the environment and future generations will undoubtedly benefit. Via Swiss Info Images via Pixabay

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Switzerland votes to ban nuclear power and invest in renewable energy

Architect designs solar-powered research center to save dying Lake Chad

May 22, 2017 by  
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Lake Chad in Africa spanned over 770,000 square miles in 50,000 B.C., according to Cameroon -based architecture firm Hermann Kamte & Associates (HKA). But over the centuries it has shrunk, dwindling to a mere 1,544 square miles in 2001. HKA hopes to use architecture to jumpstart regeneration of the dying lake in the form of a desalination and research center called The Forgotten – Dead or Alive. The center would begin a process that would eventually be handed over to nature . The first humans made their home near Lake Chad, according to HKA, but this body of water is in danger of disappearing forever. It could die out in this century if no steps are taken to preserve it. Lake Chad – bordered by Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, and Niger – is vital to the health of the region; HKA says its disappearance would impact over nine million people nearby, and indirectly, 30 million people in the region. Related: Green-roofed wooden tower in Lagos maximizes daylight and natural ventilation So they designed a center to help keep the lake alive. The self-sufficient Limnology Center would offer a location for researchers to study Lake Chad and the surrounding region. A desalination center onsite would actually connect the lake to the Atlantic Ocean via pipelines , which would transport water from the ocean. The desalination center would treat the saltwater so it could be reused as fresh water to help restore Lake Chad and provide a source of water for people in the region. HKA designed the center to have an amphibian-like form to blend in with the lake surroundings. They envision three stages to help revitalize the lake, beginning with the center and then slowly transitioning the job over to nature. Construction of the pipelines and lake research would take place between 2016 and 2026. In 2020 trees and vegetation will be planted around the lake. The greenery will eventually take over the job of regeneration; in 2080 pipelines will stop bringing in Atlantic Ocean water as natural regeneration takes over thanks to a thriving woodland. + Hermann Kamte & Associates Images courtesy of Hermann Kamte & Associates

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Architect designs solar-powered research center to save dying Lake Chad

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