New map reveals the world’s most toxic countries

February 22, 2017 by  
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Just about every country in the world grapples with pollution , no matter how rich or poor they are. But you may not be aware of just how toxic your locale is. The Eco Experts from the United Kingdom recently cross-referenced data to rank the countries of the world by toxicity on a new map , and some of the results may surprise you. To create their map, The Eco Experts scrutinized data for 135 countries on carbon emissions , air pollution levels, and energy consumption, along with how much the countries draw on renewable energy . They also considered how many people have died from poor air quality . Bringing together all the individual rankings, The Eco Experts determined which countries are most damaging the environment and risking public health . Related: New Google Timelapse shows how humans have destroyed Earth over 32 years They ranked Saudi Arabia as the world’s most toxic country, with the highest recorded air pollution levels. Other oil-rich countries like Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates topped the list as well. The United States ranked 66, doing better than countries like Canada, China, or Russia but worse than India and the United Kingdom. One surprise was that Nordic countries like Iceland and Norway guzzle more energy than others. Meanwhile, the top five least toxic countries are all located in Africa . The world’s least toxic country is Kenya , followed by Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Cameroon. In a press release, Jon Whiting of The Eco Experts said, “This research is a way of naming and shaming the worst offenders around the world. Their lack of action against emissions not only puts their populations at risk of deadly pollution-related diseases but also threatens the future of our planet. These threats are not distant concerns for future generations; their effects are being felt now and lives are already being lost. This research highlights the need for every country to act fast and put more investment into renewable energy alternatives.” + The Eco Experts Images courtesy of The Eco Experts

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New map reveals the world’s most toxic countries

Breakthrough technology turns coal plant CO2 into baking powder

January 3, 2017 by  
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When it comes to mitigating the impact of modern civilization on our planet’s environment, many scientists and engineers have been focused on ways to clean up excess carbon dioxide, which contributes to climate change. India-based company Carbon Clean Solutions is making headway in that area, with its unique method for turning CO2 into harmless baking powder . The method can be employed by coal-burning industries to reduce CO2 emissions and turn the waste into usable byproducts that do no harm. Carbon Clean is putting its methods through the wringer at a coal-fired thermal power plant at the industrial port of Tuticorin in southern India. There, CO2 is captured from the boiler and used to make soda ash (sodium carbonate) which is the very same stuff housed in any baker’s pantry. Transforming the dangerous atmosphere-heating carbon emissions into harmless baking powder is no simple (or cheap) task, but Carbon Clean is pushing forward even so, and the firm is doing it without government subsidies. Related: Researchers accidentally turn CO2 into ethanol The firm says this process can lock up 66,000 tons of CO2 each year from the Tuticorin plant, which is the equivalent of removing 12,674 cars from the road for the same time period or burning 6,751,435 gallons of gasoline. While many firms are still leaning on carbon capture and storage (CCS), which typically involves attempting to sink carbon underground – a process which is very expensive and has no opportunity for future profit. Carbon Clean’s method is the first large-scale example of carbon capture and utilization (CCU), wherein CO2 is essentially recycled into baking powder that can be sold off to help pay for the capture process. CCU is also slightly cheaper than CCS, costing around $30 per metric ton of CO2 captured, another item in the “pro” column for Carbon Clean. While these efforts won’t be enough to turn coal into a sustainable industry, Carbon Clean’s technique could help fossil fuel industries greatly reduce their carbon footprints. Likewise, CCU methods of trapping CO2 could create new avenues of economic opportunity in places like India, where coal-based industry is widespread. Via The Guardian Images via NLC Tamil Nadu Power Ltd and  Shutterstock

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Breakthrough technology turns coal plant CO2 into baking powder

How to combat climate change? Measure emissions correctly

December 2, 2016 by  
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A new technology that measures moment-to-moment carbon emissions from electricity unlocks a host of opportunities.

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How to combat climate change? Measure emissions correctly

A catastrophic climate feedback loop long feared by scientists is happening

December 1, 2016 by  
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For years environmental scientists have warned of a catastrophic climate “feedback loop” that could pump a massive underground repository of carbon and methane into the atmosphere, significantly worsening climate change. A new study published this week confirms that fear is finally coming to pass. Rising temperatures are causing microorganisms in the soil to breathe more quickly, which releases an increased amount of carbon dioxide or methane into the atmosphere. Global warming has become so serious that greenhouse gasses are simply rising out of the ground beneath our feet worldwide. Most people don’t realize that the planet’s soil is packed with a dense network of trapped carbon, created by plants and roots that have been buried over the eons. These plants pull in carbon from the air to use as fuel, and when they die, the carbon remains within the soil. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a problem: it serves as a natural carbon sink which helps regulate the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Related: Plants are keeping atmospheric carbon levels stable, but it won’t last forever Unfortunately, rising temperatures affect microorganisms living in the soil, naturally increasing their rate of respiration – and thus the rate at which greenhouse gasses are released. The worst part is that this is not a small, insignificant amount of carbon. It’s expected that by the year 2050, this natural process could release an additional 55 billion tons of carbon into the air. The authors of the new study describe that as the same impact as “having an extra US on the planet.” This means that we now face a much shorter timeline to cut human greenhouse gas emissions – and that, despite our best efforts, we may not actually be able to limit global temperature rise within bounds that would limit the worst effects. If we exceed less than 1,000 billion tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, global temperatures could blow past 2 degrees Celsius , shattering the widely-held target of most climate scientists and environmental organizations. Related: Study Warns Methane from Melting Arctic Permafrost is ‘Certain to Trigger Additional Warming’ Unless strong action is taken immediately to limit emissions from all human sources, we could very easily exceed our planetary “carbon budget.” This study shows that it’s now more important than ever to put pressure on corporations and politicians to limit their emissions immediately. Via The Washington Post Images via Pixabay ( 1 , 2 )

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A catastrophic climate feedback loop long feared by scientists is happening

India just fired up the worlds largest solar plant to power 150,000 homes

December 1, 2016 by  
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Things are heating up in India, where one of the world’s top polluting countries has unveiled the world’s largest solar power plant . The 648-megawatt project in Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu stole the title from California’s 550MW Topaz Solar Farm, making it the largest solar power plant located on a single site. India’s newest solar plant, which was built on a speedy timeline of just eight months, is largely self-maintaining, with a host of solar-powered robots that clean the solar panels, keeping efficiency rates high and human effort to a minimum.

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India just fired up the worlds largest solar plant to power 150,000 homes

A green heart unifies BREEAM Excellent University of Cambridge Primary School

December 1, 2016 by  
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Marks Barfield Architects has completed the innovative and flexible University of Cambridge Primary School, a BREEAM Excellent -rated campus powered by solar energy. Arranged around a unifying central green, the school is arranged in a circular plan with classrooms and spaces clustered together into three blocks. The school design was informed by the latest research from the University’s Faculty of Education with considerable input by leading educationalists and Head Teachers to create an educational environment where “learning can take place everywhere.” The University of Cambridge Primary School was completed in the first phase of the University’s 150-hectare North West Cambridge Development and is the first University Training School in the United Kingdom . The school’s three non-hierarchal clusters comprise six classes, plus an early years cluster, that open up to a shared “learning street” on one end and a covered outdoor learning space on the other. In addition to providing a learning environment for primary-aged children, the school will also facilitate teacher training and educational research for the University’s Faculty of Education. These diverse objectives were made possible by the collaborative nature of the design process. “University of Cambridge Primary School is the result of team effort,” said Julia Barfield, Director of Marks Barfield Architects. “Each decision was made incrementally, based on a process that assessed the site context and the educational needs of the school, while drawing on the guidance and research of leading academics from the UoC Faculty of Education . The result is a school where the education ethos and the architecture are totally aligned, such that learning can take place everywhere.” Related: Marks Barfield Proposes a Soaring Bamboo Science Center for the Amazon Rainforest The primary school achieved BREEAM Excellence by minimizing energy use and maximizing access to natural light and natural ventilation. The glazed cloister canopy that runs around the internal perimeter of the central courtyard provides shade and is covered with artist Ruth Proctor’s digital screen print “We are under the same sky,” which features 67 unique images of the sky taken from around the world. One-quarter of the building footprint is topped with solar panels. + Marks Barfield Architects Images (c) Morley von Sternberg

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A green heart unifies BREEAM Excellent University of Cambridge Primary School

Finland may be the first country to completely ban coal

November 25, 2016 by  
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Canada and France both recently announced they plan to stop using coal , but Finland may beat them both to become the first country in the world to ban coal. The Ministry of Employment and the Economy released a statement announcing the country aims to stop using coal during the 2020s. The ultimate goal is to go carbon neutral , maybe even as soon as 2050. Right now, Finland receives 10 percent of its energy from coal and 40 percent from fossil fuels . But the country’s hoping to turn those statistics around. They want to increase energy consumption from renewable energy by 50 percent, ultimately hoping to create an energy system strongly based, according to the statement, on renewables. Related: Canada announces plan to kill coal power by 2030 Finland’s commitment could be more firm than either Canada or France. Peter Lund, Chairman of the Energy Steering Panel at the European Academies Science Advisory Council, told New Scientist that France’s plan to close their coal plants has “more degrees of freedom” than the ban Finland is considering. Similarly, Canada’s plan to close their coal plants includes wiggle room to keep using coal as long as carbon capture technology is used too. Finland’s energy system could still have its flaws, such as burning wood for energy. Finland currently obtains 27 percent of its power from burning wood, which still releases carbon dioxide; if trees aren’t planted in their stead, that CO2 won’t be absorbed. Yet a coal ban from Finland potentially could be good for curbing carbon emissions worldwide. Lund told New Scientist, “The more countries join the coal phase-out club, the better for the climate as this would force the others to follow.” Finland’s Parliament will begin discussing the ambitious energy strategy November 30, 2016. Via Quartz and New Scientist Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Finland may be the first country to completely ban coal

Plant-covered bamboo structure in Vietnam offers low-cost sanitation and food

November 25, 2016 by  
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The project is based on the same principle as the firm’s previous project in Son Lap, aiming to provide a low-cost sanitation solution that can be easily and quickly constructed and transported across the country. Toigetation 2 lightly touches the ground with a layer of vegetation on its four sides. This layer of foliage helps regulate indoor temperatures and functions as a food source. Related: Vo Trong Nghia Unveils Lovely Low-Cost Housing Made from Locally Sourced Palm Trees Local craftsmen used locally-sourced materials to construct the building. Solar panels provide energy for the lighting, while rainwater and waste water are used for cleaning and irrigating the adjacent garden. Efficient, low-cost construction methods and the use of local materials make this project replicable in areas experiencing a severe shortage of proper sanitation facilities , including schools in rural Vietnam . + H&P Architects Via Archdaily Photos by Nguyen Tien Thanh

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Plant-covered bamboo structure in Vietnam offers low-cost sanitation and food

Canada announces plan to kill coal power by 2030

November 23, 2016 by  
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Canada has just announced it will kill coal power 10 years sooner than previously planned, with a goal of shutting down all coal-fired plants by 2030. The CBC reports that the move is a key part of the Canadian government’s plan to meet its Paris climate summit commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent less than 2005 levels by 2030. Getting rid of the country’s coal power plants means a reduction of about 66 tons per year of greenhouse gas emissions . It also means that by 2030, 90 per cent of Canada’s power will come from non-carbon-intensive sources, including hydroelectricity, nuclear, wind and solar power. Canada is also in the midst of introducing a nationwide carbon tax that can be imposed on provinces that don’t come up with their own plans for mitigating carbon emissions . Despite animosity from several provinces that held out up until a recent deadline, all provinces with the exception of Saskatchewan have now agreed to create their own carbon plans. Related: France will shut down all coal power plants by 2023 Yet, while the country is cutting out coal, it is looking favorably on other projects that will result in greenhouse gas emissions. This includes a major liquid natural gas (LNG) project in British Columbia, and the potential approval of more oil pipelines to move bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands to market. Canada’s plan comes on the heels of recent announcements by France to shut down all coal power plants by 2023 , and Germany’s plan to cut carbon emissions by as much as 95 per cent by 2050. Via CBC Images via PDTillman and Sherco Generating Station , Wikimedia Commons

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Canada announces plan to kill coal power by 2030

The world will run out of breathable air unless carbon emissions are cut

June 22, 2016 by  
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As the world struggles to find effective ways to limit carbon emissions and slow global warming , a recent study has found that the stakes may be higher than anyone has realized. According to Sergei Petrovskii, an applied mathematics professor at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, an unchecked rise in global temperatures could end up drastically reducing the amount of breathable oxygen in the planet’s atmosphere, threatening life on Earth as we know it. In a study published late last year in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology , Petrovskii ran computer models looking at the phytoplankton in the world’s oceans, microscopic marine plants responsible for producing two-thirds of the world’s atmospheric oxygen. In examining the ability of phytoplankton to photosynthesize at various temperatures, Petrovskii learned something incredibly troubling — at a certain point, these plants would simply halt oxygen production, leaving the world gasping for breath. Related: Alarming study shows disastrous climate change will strike much sooner than expected Perhaps the most terrifying part of Petrovskii’s findings is the fact that this catastrophe would come with few, if any, warning signs. If global warming continues unchecked, some scientists estimate we could reach this drastic tipping point as soon as 2100 , leaving us with only about 84 years before a mass die-off of human and animal life might occur. It’s important to note that this is an avoidable, although plausible, catastrophe: this doomsday scenario will only occur if we allow the world’s oceans to warm by a total of 6 degrees Celsius. Most climate scientists warn that to avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change , global temperatures must be halted before they rise more than 2°C  above pre-industrial levels, and this is the goal recently adopted by the world’s nations at the Paris climate accord. Related: Runaway Global Emissions Make the Two-Degree Global Warming Limit Highly Unlikely That being said, the research is also showing that staying below the 2°C limit is increasingly unlikely unless global emissions can be slashed drastically, and the deals reached during the COP21 talks simply aren’t enough. The Climate Action Tracker , an independent group of European climate experts, estimates that current agreements will put eventual global temperatures at around 2.7°C , far lower than the scenario outlined in Petrovskii’s paper, but high enough to potentially trigger major sea level rise , destroy most coral reefs and glaciers , and permanently alter agricultural cycles around the world. In other words, though we’re currently on track to avoid an Earth with completely unbreathable air, we’re nowhere near where we need to be to avoid the worst effects of global climate change. Still, lawmakers must absolutely keep the possibility of this catastrophe in mind when crafting environmental policy. All life on Earth may depend on it. Via TakePart Images via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

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The world will run out of breathable air unless carbon emissions are cut

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