Sweden passes law to become carbon neutral by 2045

June 22, 2017 by  
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Sweden just took a huge step towards becoming even greener than they already are. A new law passed by the country’s parliament will slash carbon emissions all the way down to zero by 2045. The move makes Sweden the first country to upgrade its carbon goals since the 2015 Paris Agreement . A cross-party committee prepared the law, which then passed with an overwhelming majority, bringing the goal to become carbon neutral from 2050 down to 2045, and puting in place an independent Climate Policy Council. The law calls for an action plan that will be updated every four years. Related: Norway moves up zero emissions target to 2030 According to New Scientist, Sweden already obtains 83 percent of its electricity from hydropower and nuclear energy . They met a goal to obtain 50 percent of energy from renewables eight years before their target. They’ll work to meet this new carbon neutral objective in part by focusing on transportation , such as through increasing use of vehicles powered by electricity or biofuels . Sweden aims to slash domestic emissions by a minimum of 85 percent. And they’ll offset any other emissions by planting trees or investing in sustainable projects in other countries. Femke de Jong, European Union Policy Director at Carbon Market Watch , said Sweden has a high chance of success, and other countries in Europe could follow suit. “With the Trump decision to get out of the Paris Agreement, Europe is more united than ever and wants to show leadership to the world,” de Jong said. Public resistance can be an obstacle to cutting emissions, but according to New Scientist in Sweden there’s an unusually high amount of support for environmentally friendly policies. But de Jong warned the country must also show leadership in forests, not simply emissions. They were recently accused along with France, Finland, and Austria of attempting to weaken rules to obscure emissions from burning wood and deforestation . Via New Scientist Images via Håkan Dahlström on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Sweden passes law to become carbon neutral by 2045

Astrophysicist warns asteroid strike is not a matter of if, but when

June 22, 2017 by  
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We humans have done a pretty good job of trashing the Earth all by ourselves, but we don’t often stop to consider external threats – like asteroids . A 1908 asteroid explosion over Tunguska, Siberia ravaged 800 square miles, and Queen’s University Belfast astrophysicist Alan Fitzsimmons said another asteroid collision is simply a matter of time, which could have devastating consequences if we remain unprepared. He said most of us don’t think about asteroids as a threat to our existence. We now remember the day of the 1908 asteroid strike as Asteroid Day . It’s June 30, and Fitzsimmons is joining other experts like physicist Brian Cox and International Space Station astronaut Nicole Stott to call attention to the threat. Fitzsimmons says it’s not a matter of if an asteroid will impact the Earth, but when. He said a strike like the Tunguska one today could demolish a mayor city – and a larger asteroid strike could be even more devastating. Related: NASA rolls out new asteroid detection program to defend Earth from destructive meteors Fitzsimmons said in a statement, “Astronomers find Near-Earth Asteroids every day and most are harmless. But it is still possible the next Tunguska would take us by surprise, and although we are much better at finding larger asteroids, that does us no good if we are not prepared to do something about them.” He said experts have gotten much better about detecting Near-Earth Asteroids, and have found more than 1,800 objects that could be potentially hazardous. But there are more out there – and we need to be prepared. Fitzsimmons is part of a European Research Council-funded project, NEOshield-2, whose mission is to figure out how to deflect the hazardous asteroids. Asteroid Day events will be live streamed here . There will be conversations with space agencies like NASA and a Neil deGrasse Tyson-narrated video series on scientists laboring to protect Earth from asteroids, to name a few. The organization says it will be the first 24-hour live broadcast about space ever. Via Queen’s University Belfast Images via Asteroid Day

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Astrophysicist warns asteroid strike is not a matter of if, but when

Global coal production falls 6.2% in the biggest decline in history

June 15, 2017 by  
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U.S. President Donald Trump may believe coal is the future , but newly-released statistics by BP Statistical Review of Energy state otherwise. According to the data, global coal production fell by an astonishing 6.2 percent last year — the largest annual decline on record. Additionally, consumption decreased for the second year in a row, dropping 1.7 percent. In wake of these findings, it should come as no surprise that once again, renewables were the fastest growing energy source, growing by a whopping 12 percent — a statistic which represents the largest annual incremental increase in output on record. The report , entitled “Energy markets in transition: BP Statistical Review shows long-term shifts underway,” concluded that the oil market is declining because fast-growing markets are shifting “towards lower carbon fuels as renewable energy continues to grow strongly and coal use falls.” The report also showed that the shift from coal is widespread. The UK, for instance, consumed 52.5 percent less in 2016, the U.S. experienced an 8.8 percent dip in consumption and China’s reliance dropped by 1.6 percent. Evidence to support these conclusions abound. For instance, the UK recently experienced its first coal-free day since the Industrial Revolution. India also intends to halt all coal plant production in the near future, as renewable technologies have become more affordable. Related: U.S. coal production dips to lowest point in 35 years due to rise of renewable energy sources Bob Dudley, BP Group Chief Executive, said, “Global energy markets are in transition. The longer-term trends we can see in this data are changing the patterns of demand and the mix of supply as the world works to meet the challenge of supplying the energy it needs while also reducing carbon emissions . At the same time markets are responding to shorter-run run factors, most notably the oversupply that has weighed on oil prices for the past three years.” As was previously mentioned, renewable energy was the fastest growing of all energy sources, increasing by 12 percent. Though solar, wind and other renewable energy sources provide only 4 percent of the world’s total energy, the increase represents almost one-third of the total growth in energy demand in 2016. Despite certain leaders’ opposition to renewable energy investments, it seems clear the future is green and that consumers will continue to invest in energy sources that are beneficial for the environment, wildlife, and future generations – and their bottom line. + BP Statistical Review of Energy Images via Pixabay

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Global coal production falls 6.2% in the biggest decline in history

Former NASA chief scientist says Americans ‘under siege’ from fake climate news

June 12, 2017 by  
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The science is in on climate change – it’s real and hurting Earth right now. But not all Americans are aware of the threat, according to former NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan. She said the country’s citizens are “under siege by fake information that’s being put forward by people who have a profit motive.” Stofan said the science on climate change is unequivocal. Nevertheless there are still deniers of the phenomenon in the United States – some holding top government positions. Stofan said disinformation and half-truths designed to confuse people have been spread about climate change, and now many people in the country are unaware of the pressing consequences of carbon emissions continuing as is. Related: Americans don’t trust climate change science because of fossil fuel industry’s disinformation She said oil and coal companies have been behind the disinformation, telling The Guardian, “Fake news is so harmful because once people take on a concept it’s very hard to dislodge it.” Stofan said she saw “an erosion of people’s ability to scrutinize information” across the political spectrum, not just on the left or the right. “All of us have a responsibility. There’s this attitude of ‘I read it on the Internet therefore it must be true,” she said. Stofan said the American science community has been realizing the threat of climate change fake news during the past six months, and are working to communicate more with the public and share information with the press. During her career Stofan pointed to planetary science as important for understanding the environment here on Earth. She said planetary science has offered proof that atmospheric carbon dioxide results in a warmer climate . She finds similarities between Earth’s carbon emissions and the runaway greenhouse effect on the planet Venus . Venus once had oceans but now the volcano and lava plain-strewn planet has temperatures nearing 500 degrees Celsius – Space.com described the planet as “our solar system’s analog to hell.” Stofan told The Guardian, “We won’t go all the way to Venus, but the consequences of putting more and more CO2 into the atmosphere are really dire. There are models that suggest if we burn off all our fossil fuels , the Earth would become uninhabitable for humans.” She said our first job should be to keep Earth habitable. Via The Guardian Images via Pexels and Wikimedia Commons

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Former NASA chief scientist says Americans ‘under siege’ from fake climate news

Scientists unveil first printable, stable perovskite solar cell good for 10K hours

June 12, 2017 by  
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The mineral perovskite has been touted as the next big thing for renewable energy , potentially giving solar cells a 31 percent maximum efficiency – but water-soluble and perovskite solar cells typically don’t last long in the real world. 11 scientists at institutions in Switzerland and Italy may have finally achieved what researchers have been working towards since around 2009: a stable perovskite solar cell. Their solar cells stayed stable in real world conditions for longer than a year. Perovskite solar cells have already been built with an efficiency of more than 22 percent, but that’s in a laboratory. Oxygen and moisture go to work on the cells once they’re outside. But this team led by scientists at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne drew on a new type of structure in the solar cell to create one the university says is ultra-stable. Related: Austrian scientists create a cheap, flexible solar cell just 3 micrometers thick They designed a hybrid 2D/3D perovskite solar cell. According to ScienceAlert, the 2D perovskite serves as a protective window to guard against moisture, so the 3D perovskite can generate electricity . The solar cells were built up layer by layer – like a sandwich, according to ScienceAlert – by putting different ingredients atop one another. The team built 10 by 10 centimeters squared solar panels , with what the university described as a fully printable industrial-scale process. The hybrid 2D/3D perovskite solar cells are resistant to oxygen and water, while still able to transport electrical charges. They absorb light from the whole visible spectrum, according to the university. The efficiency isn’t great yet – just 11.2 percent. But the university noted that efficiency was constant for over 10,000 hours, with zero loss in performance. Project leader Mohammad Khaja Nazeeruddin told ScienceAlert, “The important finding in this manuscript is identifying the presence of multi-dimensional 2D/3D interface. We believe [this] will trigger many further studies…widening the prospects for perovskite photovoltaics .” The journal Nature Communications published the advance online the beginning of this month. Via ScienceAlert and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Images via PublicDomainPictures.net and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

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Scientists unveil first printable, stable perovskite solar cell good for 10K hours

Gargantuan lace sea urchins light up the night along Singapore’s marina

June 12, 2017 by  
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A swarm of gigantic, glowing sea urchins recently appeared on Singapore’s waterfront for the iLight Marina Bay Festival. Choi+Shine Architects constructed the larger-than-life creatures as “lacy rooms” that invite visitors to walk inside and enjoy their intricate structure and visual effects. The structures are inspired by sea urchin shells, which are elnclosed yet lightweight and porous. The architects recreated the intricate patterns of urchins using white double-braided polyester chord woven in 20 segments and attached to a metal frame. It took 50 people to assemble the structures by hand over a period of two months. Related: Robots helped build and sew together this amazing sea urchin-inspired pavilion Each sea urchin measures 56 feet in size and weighs around 220 pounds. The lacy pavilions are illuminated by white spot lights, creating the illusion that they glow in the dark. The calming effect and simplicity of the installation visually contrasts Singapore’s skyscrapers and celebrates the city’s cultural diversity. + Choi+Shine Architects Photos © 2016, 2017 Choi+Shine Architects

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Gargantuan lace sea urchins light up the night along Singapore’s marina

3 low-carbon lessons from China for U.S. cities and companies

May 8, 2017 by  
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Investing in the energy performance of China’s new buildings can slash 1.2 billion tons of carbon emissions by 2030. Here’s how the U.S. can share the suite life.

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3 low-carbon lessons from China for U.S. cities and companies

Accelerating sustainably in Tel Aviv’s fast lane

May 8, 2017 by  
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The first start-up accelerator was founded in Tel Aviv as recently as 2011. By 2015, the city had accelerated like a Tesla.

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7 biggest threats to the environment – why we still need Earth Day

April 18, 2017 by  
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This Saturday is Earth Day , and while it’s a time to celebrate our planet, it’s also a prime opportunity to take a closer look at the serious environmental issues we’re facing and the solutions that need to be put in place to alleviate them. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to ignore the damage we’ve done to the environment, especially when the effects have been hitting so close to home . If you want to make this Earth Day an opportunity to educate yourself about the problems, read on as we break down the 7 biggest environmental threats facing our society right now and how we might be able to solve them before it’s too late. Climate Change Climate change is first and foremost an issue because people can’t even agree on whether or not it’s an issue in the first place. Before we even get into the solutions, we all (regardless of political party) need to come to the realization that yes, climate change is real and yes, it is affecting us in ways that we can see and feel.  If you still believe that the freakish weather and heat waves we’ve been experiencing have nothing to do with climate change, you might want to ask your neighbor what he or she thinks because the majority of Americans say they believe global warming is causing these incidents . You might have noticed that the weather’s been hotter than usual , or you might have noticed a drought in your area or conversely, unusual storms. Furthermore, even small temperature changes are causing crops to die, decreasing the amount of food available. On top of all that, higher temps are causing the polar icecaps to melt, flooding certain areas and leading to an imbalance for wildlife. So we know the threat is real, but what can we do to prevent climate change from being exacerbated even more? Some small steps you can take in your own life are to use less electricity by turning off your lights when you don’t need them, driving less, switching to LED bulbs and eating less meat . On a more global scale, leaders have come to an agreement on how to curb the harmful greenhouse gases each nation emits into the atmosphere, and steps are being taken to plant more forests (which act as natural carbon sinks). Every bit helps, but in order for us to reverse the current course the Earth is on, the United States needs to commit to the Paris Agreement  and, along with the rest of the world, work towards a greener planet. Deforestation We mentioned planting more forests above, and sadly at a time when we need more forests, trees are being uprooted at an alarming rate.  Deforestation is a rapidly-growing problem in areas like Africa, Central and South America. Not only does this mean less trees, less cleansing oxygen, and the displacement of the wildlife, deforestation means a dangerous decrease in a natural fighter of global warming – the #1 threat to our Earth right now. Removing trees also leads to much drier climates, as trees extract groundwater to release into the air. Our tropical rainforests, which are crucial to stabilizing the climate and to human survival, are being chopped down at a breakneck pace – one and a half acres of rainforest are lost every second . Humans have already chopped down about 50% of the rainforests that once existed on the planet and at the current rate of destruction, we will completely destroy the rainsforests in the next 40 years . If rainforests are so important, why are they being destroyed so carelessly? Short-sighted governments and multi-national logging companies only see the forests as a way to make money by selling timber – they don’t consider the long-term effects . Luckily, deforestation is an issue that we as individuals can combat. By using recycled paper, we can decrease the need to cut down as many trees and by buying goods made with FSC-certified wood, we can show retailers that we don’t want them to support brands that obtain lumber irresponsibly. Last but not least, why not plant a tree or even a hundred trees like this man did . Pollution Pollution comes in many forms and no matter where you live, you’ve probably seen some form of it. From litter on NYC city streets to the smog that lingers over LA to the plastic trash that floats in the  Great Pacific Garbage Patch , the visible signs of pollution are more than evident. The main reason for why pollution has gotten so out of control is that our desire for more “stuff”  has led to our old stuff being thrown away at an alarming and unnecessary rate. For more information on this, watch Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff . This need for manufactured items also leads to the air and water pollution emitted from factories, which in many countries are highly unregulated. Looking at the bigger picture, government oversight and sloppy industrial practices on the part of big companies has also exacerbated our pollution problem. The first thing we can all do to reduce the amount of pollution in our streets, air and water is to make a mental change. Before buying a new product, ask yourself if you really need it or if you might be able to purchase it secondhand. It could make a big difference in the amount of trash we see in our landfills. Secondly, if you don’t already  recycle , get into the habit. If everyone adopted these easy principles, the world would be in a much better place. Loss of Biodiversity Each species has a role in our planet, and when one dies out, it can have catastrophic effects on the rest of us. We don’t want to get all “Butterfly Effect” on you but even a population dwindling can cause major problems for the human race. For example, with their role of pollination , the decline of the  bee population has a direct effect on both the environment and food production. Currently, many other animals are in danger of becoming extinct, either from being forced out of their habitats by man or by climate change. This particular problem is more difficult for individuals to combat but we can start by educating ourselves with the facts and donating to organizations like the World Wildlife Fund that facilitate the preservation of animals on the brink of extinction. This problem is also closely linked to deforestation and unchecked habitat destruction so by fighting those two issues, we can also slow down loss of biodiversity. Melting Polar Ice-Caps and Rising Sea Levels Climate change (are you seeing a trend here?) also contributes to another dangerous problem – melting polar ice-caps, which in turn causes rising sea levels. According to the NRCD , average temperatures in the Arctic region are rising twice as fast they are elsewhere and the ice is melting and rupturing. NASA satellite images reveal that the area of our permanent ice cover is shrinking at a rate of 9% every decade. At that rate, the Arctic could be totally ice-free in the summer season within decades. And if all of that ice melted, where would it go? You guessed it – our oceans. You might think that rising tides are only a problem for people in a few isolated areas, but major cities like NY and London could be underwater soon if we don’t do something soon. Manhattan alone has already dreamt up ways to deal with the potential rising tides over the next few years, but coming up with solutions after the fact is not enough. In order to reverse the melting of polar icecaps, we have to start at the root of the problem. See our section above on climate change to learn what you can do personally to keep global warming from continuing on its deadly course. Oceanic Dead Zones Along the coasts of heavily populated communities, scientists have found more and more dead zones – areas where depleted oxygen levels cannot support marine life. 146 dead zones were found in the world’s oceans, caused by high levels of chemicals in the waters. North America’s Gulf Coast has a high concentration of dead zones, which causes fish to become unable to reproduce. You might think that if you live on land, you won’t be affected by oceanic dead zones but if you eat seafood, seaweed, or care about air quality, you won’t want to ignore this issue. The good news is that dead zones can be reversed, though it is difficult. The  Black Sea dead zone disappeared in 1991 and 2001 due to the discontinued use of fertilizers. To find out more about how you can help with dead zone cleanups, visit Oceana.org . Explosive Population Growth It’s usually true that the more the merrier, but not when the human population is growing to a point that our society and systems can’t handle. Last year, the world population hit a whopping 7 billion , and while we welcome the newcomers with open arms, we also want to make sure that we don’t continue to put a strain on our water, food, well-being, space and sanity (yes, we’re talking about you, Tokyo subway system ). If everyone were more conscious of the fact that our limited resources need to be shared (how many times have you grabbed a fistful of paper napkins when you only needed one?), we could make living together, even with such a large amount of people) a lot more pleasant. Another example is our world food supply. Statistics show that we have enough food to feed everyone on the planet but we end up wasting so much (according to the  National Resources Defense Council , Americans waste a whopping 30 to 50% of all food produced) that others go without. While we might not be able to stop the population from growing, we can educate the people who currently live here and the new ones that are being born to make smarter choices and consume more responsibly. Images from Wikimedia Commons, Shutterstock, © James Cridland , @ Kevin Crejci , and @ No Minds Vision    

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7 biggest threats to the environment – why we still need Earth Day

Scientists say we have 10 years to save Earth

April 14, 2017 by  
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Time is running out to protect Earth from the disastrous effects of climate change . An international team of eight researchers said we have just 10 years to save the planet. But their news isn’t all bad: they’ve come up with a model for balancing carbon dioxide emissions with carbon sinks , like forests, to keep temperatures from passing the 1.5 degree Celsius mark widely considered safe for life as we know it. Scientists say if the world actually intends to stick to the Paris agreement , the next decade will be critical. They say there are two ways to reduce carbon emissions: by slashing the emissions we humans produce and by restoring carbon sinks, and it’s time to take action on both. They detailed their plan in a Nature Communications study, published online yesterday. Related: Scientists say Trump’s presidency could lead to a “game over” scenario for the planet World Bank consultant Brian Walsh, who led the study while doing research for the Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), said they scrutinized carbon emissions from fossil fuels , agriculture, food production, bioenergy, and land use. They also accounted for natural ecosystems taking in carbon emissions to determine where they originate and where they go. Here’s the recommendation: we must reduce fossil fuel use to the point where it’s under 25 percent of the global energy supply by 2100; it’s at 95 percent right now. And we need to reduce deforestation to attain a 42 percent decrease in emissions by 2100. Renewable energy is also part of the answer. The researchers considered four scenarios for energy development in the future. A high-renewable scenario would see wind, solar, and bioenergy use increase by five percent a year so emissions would peak by 2022. Even that pathway would lead to a 2.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase if we don’t also employ negative emissions technologies. IIASA Energy Program Director and co-author Keywan Riahi said, “Earlier work on mitigation strategies by IIASA has shown the importance of demand-side measures, including efficiency, conservation , and behavioral change. Success in these areas may explain the difference between reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius instead of 2 degrees Celsius.” Via the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and EcoWatch Images via Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay

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