Arctic National Wildlife Refuge lease sale attracts few bidders

January 8, 2021 by  
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The Trump administration has suffered a major blow to its environmental policy rollbacks. On Wednesday, the open bid for oil companies to drill in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge came to an end, without any big oil companies placing a bid. Interestingly, only three bidders expressed interest in the leases, one of the bidders being the state of Alaska. The other two bidders were small companies based in Alaska . Nine of the coastal plane land parcels issued for lease did not receive any bidders, except for a state-owned economic development corporation. By the end of the bidding period on Wednesday, almost half of the land issued had not received a single bid. Related: Trump administration furthers Arctic drilling plan “They held the lease in ANWR — that is history-making. That will be recorded in the history books and people will talk about it,” said Larry Persily, an observer of the fossil fuels industry. “But no one showed up.” Most oil experts believe that the slow uptake of the parcels can be attributed to the global recession, a drop in oil prices and the continued pressure by environmental groups against drilling. Persily explained that even though politicians may be interested in pursuing oil in reserved areas, many oil companies are no longer interested in such a risky business. At the conclusion of the bid, the lease had raised $14.4 million. Half of all the bids came from the economic development corporation, which does not participate in oil drilling . The company has never been involved in the oil exploration business. “I laughed out loud. It was a joke. A joke to the American people,” said Desirée Sorenson-Groves, director of the Arctic Refuge Defense Campaign. “I’ll tell you, I have a message to those who bid today, there were only three. But here’s the message: ‘You will never ever drill in the Arctic Refuge. We’ll stop you.’” Via NPR Image via Alexis Bonogofsky / USFWS

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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge lease sale attracts few bidders

Climate change doubles natural disaster costs in the US

January 8, 2021 by  
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If you think that investing in solar panels and a sustainable wardrobe instead of fast fashion are expensive, take a look at how climate change is escalating the cost of repairing disasters. The U.S. spent $95 billion on fixing damage caused by natural disasters last year, which was almost twice the 2019 costs. These figures come from Munich Re, a German company that provides insurance to other insurance companies and is an expert in insurance-related risks. Last year was one of the warmest on record. In the U.S., people suffered from hurricanes in the south and east as well as massive wildfires in the west. “ Climate change plays a role in this upward trend of losses,” said Ernst Rauch, chief climate scientist at Munich Re, in an interview with The New York Times . Related: Wildfires have burned 2.3M acres across California this year Hurricane Laura, which hit southwestern Louisiana in August, was the costliest U.S. catastrophe in 2020, causing $13 billion in damage. But Hurrican Laura was only one of 30 named storms last year, 12 of which made landfall. Together they cost $43 billion in losses, accounting for nearly half the 2020 U.S. disaster total. Once hurricanes hit the land, climate change makes them likelier to stall, pummeling areas with wind and rain for more extended periods than usual, Rauch explained. Other types of costly storm activity in 2020 included tornadoes, hailstorms and derechos, a type of long-lived windstorm. An August derecho in Iowa and other parts of the Midwest decimated soybeans and cornfields and caused nearly $7 billion in damage. Insurers are worried. New buildings need to stand up better to natural disasters. “We can’t, as an industry, continue to just collect more and more money, and rebuild and rebuild and rebuild in the same way,” said Donald L. Griffin, a vice president at the American Property Casualty Insurance Association. “We’ve got to place an emphasis on preventing and reducing loss.” Of course, the U.S. isn’t the only country to be ravaged by the effects of climate change. Internationally, last year saw summer flooding in China, with only 2% of losses insured, and Cyclone Amphan, which hit Bangladesh and India, in May. Very few of Cyclone Amphan’s victims were insured. According to Munich Re, only $3 billion out of a total of $67 billion in natural disaster damage across Asia was covered last year. Via The New York Times Image via NOAA

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DIY building plans for the luxurious Patara Tiny Home are now for sale

January 8, 2021 by  
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There’s more than one great reason to consider a tiny home, whether for living minimally, reducing energy use or saving money. Now, Australian company Ubertinyhomes is making tiny homes even more accessible by selling DIY plans for its Patara Tiny Home for just $250 AUD (about $190). The plans, which were designed by Samuel Commerford, come in both metric and imperial measurements to make construction even simpler. But the most impressive part of these building plans is just how many luxurious elements and storage can fit in this tiny home. Featuring space for a full-sized fridge, oven and cooktop, the kitchen has everything you need to prepare a meal. For even more convenience, there’s room for a washing machine in the bathroom as well. Speaking of the bathroom, it is one of the most spacious and luxurious available with a full-sized soaking tub and even a double sink (a rare feature in tiny homes). Users can choose from a fully flushing, waterless or composting toilet depending on their needs. Related: Hello Wood launches flat-pack kits for DIY tiny cabins Another unique aspect to the Patara Tiny Home is the lounge, which has more than enough room for entertaining and features a cozy window nook for reading or relaxing. The stairs, which lead up to two separate sleeping lofts with standing room, double as a fully functional cupboard providing plenty of storage. The main loft also has a large cupboard space for things like clothes and linens. The package includes detailed floor plans for both ground and loft levels, exterior elevations with window locations, and interior elevations that detail cabinetry, lofts, bathrooms and stairs. The electrical plans offer recommended light switch and light locations; customers also receive information on where to place the main switchboard gas regulator and air conditioning. Of course, the DIY plans wouldn’t be complete without a list of materials. The Patara Tiny Home, which measures 9.6 meters long, 3 meters wide and 3.75 meters tall, is designed to sit on a trailer for easy transportation and can hook up to amenities on different sites. + Ubertinyhomes Via Tiny House Talk Images via Ubertinyhomes

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DIY building plans for the luxurious Patara Tiny Home are now for sale

World’s largest Arctic expedition returns with grim news

October 14, 2020 by  
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After 13 months of collecting data, history’s largest  Arctic  research expedition returned with grim news. “We witnessed how the Arctic Ocean is dying,” mission leader Markus Rex told Agence-France Presse. “We saw this process right outside our windows, or when we walked on the brittle ice.” In September 2019, the research mission set sail on the German Alfred Wegener Institute’s Polarstern ship from Tromsø, Norway. For 13 months, about 300  scientists  from 20 countries were on board at various times. Known as the  MOSAiC  Expedition — Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate — the team followed in the footsteps of Fridtjof Nansen’s 1893-1896 journey. But instead of traveling aboard an old wooden sailing ship like Nansen’s Fram, MOSAiC traveled via the Polarstern, a highly modern icebreaker designed for research. Related: Arctic wildfires are emitting 35% more carbon compared to 2019 The international scientists gathered information to better understand how the Arctic is weathering the climate crisis. Rex described this area as “the epicenter of  climate change .” The crew hopes that the finding will help predict how heatwaves, storms, floods and fires will affect the Arctic’s future. The  researchers  brought back over 1,000 ice samples and 150 terabytes of data about subjects such as Arctic clouds, biology, atmosphere, and ocean physics. It will take years, or even decades, to analyze all this intel. “We went above and beyond the data collection we set out to do,” said Melinda Webster, a sea ice expert from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Unfortunately, the expedition’s initial impressions of the situation were severe. “At the North Pole itself, we found badly eroded, melted, thin and brittle ice,” said Rex. The researchers experienced smooth sailing in some areas previously covered with  ice . Rex predicts that Arctic summers will soon be ice-free if the planet’s warming trend continues. The Polarstern’s Arctic voyage cost $177 million.  Coronavirus  upended the trip’s logistics, forcing scientists to end the mission earlier than planned. Via EcoWatch and Science Image via Pixabay

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World’s largest Arctic expedition returns with grim news

SOM designs a low-carbon waterfront community for Chinas most livable city

October 14, 2020 by  
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Global design firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has unveiled designs for Jiuzhou Bay, a new 5.6 million-square-foot mixed-use neighborhood in coastal Zhuhai, which was recently named China’s most livable city by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Selected from a shortlist of 10 global design firms, SOM’s proposal targets a low-carbon scheme that makes use of the region’s abundant natural resources — the sea and the sun — to generate renewable energy and reduce the development’s environmental footprint. Located in China’s southern Guangdong province in the Pearl River Delta, Zhuhai is a burgeoning tech hub with a reputation that has been recently elevated by a connection to the international finance and tourism centers Hong Kong and Macau via the longest sea-crossing bridge in the world. The new development will be a beacon for sustainable growth in the tech-heavy region that the architects say may soon rival Silicon Valley. The proposed Jiuzhou Bay development will include state-of-the-art office spaces, residences, retail and infrastructure, such as a robust transportation hub that offers connections to land, sea and rail across more than 40 acres. Related: Historic Zhuhai sugar factory to be reborn as a low-carbon cultural hub The city’s maritime history has also greatly informed the architects’ design decisions, particularly with the five modular canopies that wrap around the three sides of a 1.8 million-square-foot port to form a series of covered pedestrian alleyways, a lively retail environment and interlinked courtyards along the waterfront. Solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems would be integrated into the canopies. The masterplan also includes a lighthouse-inspired skyscraper with offices, a 20-story Ritz Carlton hotel , a sky bar and an observation deck. “The forms of the canopies are inspired by the local legend of the Fisher Girl and reflect the fishing nets commonly seen on the coastline throughout the region,” said Sean Ragasa, design director at SOM. “We wanted our design to resonate with the culture and history of Zhuhai, and to evoke a story that’s familiar to everyone who lives there.” + SOM Images via SOM

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LEED Platinum-seeking home in Cincinnati asks $3.25 million

October 14, 2020 by  
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Near the border of Ohio and Kentucky, a stunning sustainable home has hit the market for $3,249,000. Designed by local architect Jose Garcia , the home was built with natural materials, from the exterior cladding of cedar and cypress wood to the interior use of century-year-old reclaimed Douglas fir. The Douglas fir was sourced from a demolished cotton mill and used for the ceiling and walls. The Cincinnati home is in the process of obtaining LEED platinum certification and boasts 38 solar panels on the roof, a geothermal energy system and a smart home system for optimizing energy efficiency. Located at 1059 Celestial Street, the custom, single-family home in the city’s Mt. Adams suburb spans 6,778 square feet on a quarter-acre lot with four bedrooms, three-and-a-half baths and a three-car garage. The home’s elevated location allows for stunning views of downtown Cincinnati as well as the Ohio River, which marks the boundary between Ohio and Kentucky. A rooftop deck with a fire pit and a vegetable garden bed takes advantage of these panoramic views. The main bedroom, which is bathed in light by a skylight, connects to a bridge that leads directly to the rooftop deck.  Related: Architecture students design and build a LEED Platinum smart home in Kansas Natural light and a sense of spaciousness define the interiors of the modern home, which is centered on an atrium . The atrium allows for direct sight lines from the entrance to the pocket sliding glass doors, which open up to a 45-foot-long balcony along the entire side of the home. Full-height windows, a natural materials palette and a courtyard garden also help to usher the outdoor landscape indoors, while tall ceilings and an open-plan layout direct views toward downtown Cincinnati. The abundance of wood that lines the interior is complemented by exposed brick and concrete in parts of the home. The kitchen cabinetry, designed by the architect, is bleached European White Oak and paired with white quartzite countertops. To meet LEED Platinum standards, double-pane windows imported from Luxembourg were installed throughout the residence. Two geothermal wells were drilled beneath the driveway to provide an additional energy source to solar, which collected from the solar array on the front part of the roof. In addition to home automation, the building is equipped with an air-purifying system that filters air in the entire home. The property is listed with Coldwell Banker . + Jose Garcia Design Images via Coldwell Banker

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Greenland ice sheet loses record amount of ice in 2019

August 24, 2020 by  
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According to new satellite data analysis by a group of scientists, the Greenland ice sheet lost ice at a rate of 1 million metric tons per minute in 2019. This is the highest rate of ice melt recorded in Greenland. The findings were published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment and revealed that the Greenland ice sheet shrank by 532 billion metric tons in 2019 alone. The high rate of Greenland’s ice melt is attributed to the effects of climate change. The report shows that temperature rise in the Arctic has been double that of lower latitudes. This has led to the continued rapid melting of ice into the oceans. It is the melting ice sheets that are contributing the most to the rise in sea levels, posing threats to coastal cities. Related: Greenland’s ice sheet lost 197 billion tons of ice in July An analysis of the data, which dates back to 2003, shows that the amount of ice that melted in 2019 alone is nearly double the annual average since 2003. In past years, the Arctic lost an average of 255 billion metric tons of ice per year, while in 2019, 532 billion metric tons of ice were lost. Although scientists knew that ice loss in Greenland was accelerating, they did not expect the drastic shift experienced in 2019. The scientists behind the study say that the melting experienced last year might be the biggest loss in centuries and possibly millennia. According to Ingo Sasgen of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany and lead author of the study, the melting rate experienced in 2019 was “shocking and depressing. But it’s also not very surprising, because we had other strong melt years in 2010 and 2012, and I expect we will see more and more.” Last year also saw a lower amount of snowfall, meaning less ice was added as more ice melted. Sasgen said, “The real message is that the ice sheet is strongly out of balance.” + Communications Earth & Environment Via The Guardian Image via Jean-Christophe ANDRE

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Trump administration furthers Arctic drilling plan

August 19, 2020 by  
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The Trump administration’s environmental protection rollbacks seem to now come daily. Today’s bad news? A plan to allow  oil  and gas companies to drill in Alaska’s so-far pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In 2017, a Republican tax bill opened part of the refuge to gas and oil leasing. Monday’s development pushed the plan further, aiming to sell the first drilling leases by the end of 2020. Many Republicans back the plan, despite opposition from environmental groups and Alaska’s Indigenous communities. Related: EPA loosens restrictions on methane emissions The over 19 million-acre refuge has long remained off-limits to development. Managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, most of the refuge is true wilderness, free from roads, trails and facilities, and open to the public for exploration. The few travelers who visit access the refuge by private planes and air taxis. Visitors may witness the Polar and grizzly bears , wolves, wolverines, caribou, beluga whales, musk oxen and walruses that call this area home. Though wildlife outnumbers people here, both the Gwich’in and Iñupiat people reside on and live off resources from the land.  Sometimes calling themselves “caribou people,” the Gwich’in have based their culture around these reindeer for centuries. The Gwich’in live in 15 villages across northeast  Alaska  and northwest Canada and have actively fought against gas and oil leasing. David Smith, a Gwich’in leader in Arctic Village, worries that the industries will harm caribou and change his nation’s way of life. “I would say this is like no other place on earth, so we shouldn’t be treated like any other place on earth,” Smith said in an interview with  Alaska Public Media . “I can drive in any direction and  hunt  freely. I can drive in any direction and go trapping.” Despite the recent news, the fight to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge continues. Still, environmental groups say that once companies buy drilling rights, it will be harder for future presidents to stop  Arctic  drilling. “The Trump administration never stops pushing to drill in the Arctic Refuge — and we will never stop suing them,” said Gina McCarthy, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “America has safeguarded the refuge for decades, and we will not allow the administration to strip that protection away now.” Via Thomson Reuters Foundation Image via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters

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Canada’s last Arctic ice shelf has collapsed

August 10, 2020 by  
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The Milne Ice Shelf, the largest remaining intact ice shelf in Canada, has collapsed. According to researchers studying the Milne Ice Shelf, the ice shelf collapsed in just two days at the end of July and lost about 40% of its area. This ice shelf sits at the fringe of Ellesmere Island in the northern territory of Nunavut. For the past 30 years, the Arctic has warmed twice as fast as the global rate. The Arctic’s warming reached new levels this year, causing polar ice to hit its lowest levels in 40 years. Though ice caps melting in the heat has become more frequent, this year’s record temperatures caused unprecedented melting and disintegration of bigger ice shelves. Related: Antarctica reaches record high temperature “Above normal air temperatures , offshore winds and open water in front of the ice shelf are all part of the recipe for ice shelf break up,” The Canadian Ice Service said on Twitter. The area affected by the ice shelf breaking is significantly large. According to researchers, the shelf area shrank by 80 square kilometers — an area roughly 20 square kilometers larger than New York’s Manhattan Island. “This was the largest remaining intact ice shelf, and it’s disintegrated, basically,” said Luke Copland, a glaciologist at the University of Ottawa and Milne Ice Shelf researcher. The research team lost a campsite and several instruments when the ice shelf collapsed. According to one of the researchers, Derek Mueller of Carleton University in Ottawa , the team has noticed signs of collapse while working on the ice shelf. Mueller says the team was lucky to not be on the ice shelf when it collapsed. Given that the collapse swept away an entire campsite, the team would have faced a similar fate. Researchers now warn that the Arctic can expect more ice melting if global temperatures continue to increase. This year, the Arctic experienced temperatures rising 5 degrees Celcius above the 30-year average. If global warming continues, Arctic ice could melt entirely into the sea over time. Via Huffpost Images via Pixabay

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Canada’s last Arctic ice shelf has collapsed

Arctic wildfires rage through Siberia

July 28, 2020 by  
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The earth’s poles have made the news a lot this summer, and not for good reasons. Now, another awful update has hit, with  Arctic wildfires burning out of control. “We’ve had exceptional and prolonged heat for months now and this has fueled devastating Arctic fires,” said Clare Nullis, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) spokesperson, at a  press conference in Geneva . “And at the same time we’re seeing rapidly decreasing  sea coverage along the Arctic coast.” Related: Siberia hits record 100 degrees Scientists use satellite images to gauge the extent of the wildfires. However, fire’s dynamic nature can make it hard for authorities to track the exact number of fires burning at once. On Wednesday, data indicated “188 probable points of fire.” The worst fire blazed in Russia’s Sakha Republic and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, in the far northeast reaches of Siberia . “We’re seeing, you know, dramatic satellite images, which show the extent of the burns surface,” said Nullis. “The fire front of the northern-most currently active Arctic wildfire is less than eight kilometres from the Arctic ocean – this should not be happening.” Pollutants found in wildfire smoke include nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, solid aerosol particles and volatile organic compounds. The WMO said that Arctic wildfires emitted the equivalent of 56 megatons of  carbon dioxide  this June, up from 53 megatons in June 2019. This year’s persistent heat is caused by what meteorologists call “blocking high pressure aloft.” A blocking high pressure system can linger over an area for a prolonged time, forcing other  weather  systems to go around it. High pressure aloft traps heat by compressing air downward and preventing cooler air from pushing through and bringing the region some relief. “In general, the Arctic is heating more than twice the global average,” said Nullis. “It’s having a big impact on local populations and  ecosystems , but we always say that what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic, it does affect our weather in different parts of the world where hundreds of millions of people live.” Via AP News and Huffpost Image via Pixabay

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