California may ban gas and diesel-powered cars by 2030

September 29, 2017 by  
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Following in the footsteps of France, the UK, and Scotland, the state of California is now considering passing a ban on the sale of new gas and diesel-powered vehicles. The initiative, which is supported by the state’s Air Resources Board, is being considered to curb carbon emissions and, as a result, help to prevent climate change from worsening. During an interview with Bloomberg last week, Mary Nichols, the chairman of the California Air Resources Board, confirmed the rumors. She said that after learning China is considering a similar ban, it became a matter of “when” the state would adopt similar measures, not “if.” Nichols said, “I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’ The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California .” The southwestern state already set the goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent of the 1990 levels by 2050. As Elektrek reports, that would require replacing virtually all combustion engines with sustainable alternatives by the year 2040. However, there’s no policy mandating gas and diesel-powered cars be phased out, which is why the state is considering the ban. Related: China announces plan to ban sales of fossil fuel cars and shift focus to EVs So far, no specific timeline has been set. According to Nichols, however, 2030 is not “out of the question.” She said, “There are people who believe, including who work for me, that you could stop all sales of new internal- combustion cars by 2030. Some people say 2035, some people say 2040. It’s awfully hard to predict any of that with precision, but it doesn’t appear to be out of the question.” There are presently more than 300,000 electric vehicles on California roads today. And every year, the state adds approximately 2 million more. If a ban was to be enforced, not only would the automotive industry take a hit, a new standard would be presented for other US states to uphold. Via Elektrek Images via Pixabay , Wikimedia Commons

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Here’s some climate hope: global CO2 emissions stayed static last year

September 28, 2017 by  
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The fall of coal and rise of renewable energy could be reducing global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions . The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (NEAA) published data this week showing global CO2 emissions remained stationary in 2016. Economist Nicholas Stern said, “These results are a welcome indication that we are nearing the peak in global annual emissions of greenhouse gases .” Every one of the largest emitting nations, minus India, saw their carbon emissions stay the same or fall. While that’s great news, the same can’t be said of all countries: Indonesia, for example, saw carbon emissions rise, as did Malaysia, Turkey, the Philippines, and Ukraine. NEAA attributed the slowdown in increasing CO2 emissions to switching away from coal to natural gas and renewable energy. Related: The world’s CO2 emissions have not increased in the past three years While NEAA said global CO2 emission levels “were more or less stable in 2015 and 2016,” total global greenhouse gas emissions did increase by around 0.5 percent. NEAA said that rise was largely due to an increase in non-CO2 emission levels, from compounds like nitrous oxide, methane , and fluorinated gases. NEAA report chief researcher Jos Olivier said, “There is no guarantee that CO2 emissions will from now on be flat or descending.” There’s still a victory for some major emitters. China saw CO2 emissions fall by 0.3 percent last year. The United States’ CO2 emissions fell by two percent, Russia’s by 2.1 percent, and the United Kingdom’s by 6.4 percent. The European Union’s emissions stayed flat. We need to keep taking climate action ; Stern said in order to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement , nations must accelerate their emissions reductions. But he still seemed hopeful, saying, “These results from the Dutch government show that there is a real opportunity to get on track.” Via Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and The Guardian Images via Petter Rudwall on Unsplash and Antonio Garcia on Unsplash

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Here’s some climate hope: global CO2 emissions stayed static last year

Hurricane Maria ravaged the only tropical rainforest in the United States

September 28, 2017 by  
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El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest managed by the United States Forest Service, suffered major damage as Hurricane Maria bore down on Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm. While Washington faces criticism for its apparently lackluster response to the unfolding humanitarian disaster , scientists are beginning to turn their attention to the ecological devastation wrought by the powerful hurricane. Bill McDowell, an ecologist at the University of New Hampshire who led research missions in El Yunque for decades, described the national forest and center for scientific research as “devastated.” Still, life will find a way and El Yunque, adapted for the hurricane-prone Caribbean, is expected to endure, offering scientists a glimpse into the ecological recovery process. El Yunque National Forest covers nearly 30,000 acres in the northeast region of Puerto Rico and contains a wide range of habitat, from humid lowland rainforests to cool, cloud forests in the Luquillo Mountains. El Yunque is home to sixteen species of coqui frogs , the only species of native parrot in Puerto Rico, and a wide variety of epiphytes, which survive by pulling water from the air in the chilly upland dwarf forests. The National Forest is also known for its uniquely preserved petroglyphs by the indigenous Taíno people. Related: Scientists discover the Amazon forest sets off its own rainy season While El Yunque and similar forests in the region have evolved to cope with a sometimes-volatile climate , the unique power of Hurricane Maria presents an unprecedented challenge for the ecosystem . “From a science perspective, this is a test of how resilient the forests and streams are,” said Alan Covich, an aquatic ecologist at the University of Georgia who has studied El Yunque for decades. “I think the biggest question is the intensity of the disturbance and the cumulative effect of two [major hurricanes]. It’s a situation that has taken a century to develop.” Still, researchers are optimistic about the forest’s future. “We think things are pretty resilient and will come back within weeks and months, like they did after Hugo,” said Covich. “Six to 12 months from now, the forest will be in fine shape.” However, Covich noted that in the wake of such a disruptive event, different organisms may emerge as dominant species than before the storm. In addition to its role as an ecological and scientific hotspot, El Yunque has historically supported the people of Puerto Rico in critical ways. After hurricanes , the forest typically prevents debris and landslides from contaminating the headwaters of the Loquillo Mountains. While Puerto Ricans wait for relief from FEMA, El Yunque National Forest protects the much-needed sources of clean drinking water that sustain the population. Via Earther Images via  Omar Gutiérrez del Arroyo Santiago/Earther

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Hurricane Maria ravaged the only tropical rainforest in the United States

Hurricane Harvey damaged ExxonMobil refineries, causing hazardous pollutants to leak

August 29, 2017 by  
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After Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas last weekend, you probably didn’t think the situation could get any worse. Sadly, it did. On Tuesday, ExxonMobil acknowledged that two of its refineries were damaged during the natural disaster, causing hazardous pollutants to leak into the environment. The acknowledgment was made in a regulatory filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, following repeated complaints on social media of an “unbearable” chemical smell in parts of Houston. In the filing, ExxonMobil said that a floating roof covering a tank at ExxonMobil’s Baytown oil refinery sank due to heavy rain. This, in turn, caused it to dip below the surface of oil or other materials stored there, causing “unusually high emissions, especially of volatile organic compounds, a category of regulated chemicals,” reports the Washington Post. The Baytown Refinery is the second largest in the country. ExxonMobil is seeking a permit to empty the tank and make repairs. Reportedly, the company is planning to “conduct an assessment to determine the impact of the storm once it is safe to do so.” A spokesperson for ExxonMobil refused to say what was in the tank. The extent of Hurricane Harvey’s damage doesn’t end there. ExxonMobil’s Beaumont petrochemical refinery suffered damage to its sulfur thermal oxidizers, which capture and burn sulfur dioxide. As a result, the plant expelled 1,312.84 pounds of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere — well in excess of allowable emissions. The company said in a statement, “The unit was stabilized. No impact to the community has been reported. Actions were taken to minimize emissions and to restore the refinery to normal operations.” Related: CA communities sue Exxon, Shell and 35 other fossil fuel companies over climate change According to Luke Metzger, director of the group Environment Texas, “Most of the unauthorized emissions come from the process of shutting down, and then starting up, the various units of the plant, when pollution control devices can’t be operated properly and there’s lots of flaring.” Flaring is usually done when releasing chemicals without burning them is more hazardous for the local community and environment. The company admitted to flaring hazardous materials at its Baytown refinery both Sunday and Monday. ExxonMobil isn’t the only company responsible for environmental damage in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The Washington Post reports that many facilities belonging to major companies filed notices with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The Cedar Bayou chemical plant, for instance, exceeded permitted limits for several kinds of hazardous pollutants, including 1,3-butadiene, benzene and ethylene, during shutdown procedures. Litigation may now follow, considering the release of carcinogens increases the risk of cancer for those living near the plants. Via Washington Post Images via ExxonMobil , Pixabay

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GM is selling an electric car in China that costs just $5,300

August 9, 2017 by  
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Good news for Chinese consumers. This week, General Motors will start selling a tiny electric car which, after national and local electric vehicle incentives, costs just $5,300. From front to end, the Baojun E100 measures just 63 inches. And, when unleashed and fully charged, the two-seater can reach speeds of 62 miles per hour and travel about 96 miles on a single charge. The E100, which has been outfitted with a 39-horsepower electric motor, is Baojun’s first electric car. Prices for the vehicle begin at RMB 93,900, or approximately $14,000 before incentives. Amenities include an entertainment system with a 7-inch screen and built-in WiFi . For safety measures, all versions of the car have parking sensors and pedestrian alert systems. Those who invest in high-end models can also lock and unlock the car using a touchpad. According to data from LMC Automotive, Baojun — a mass-market car brand from General Motors’ SAIC-GM-Wuling joint venture — is China’s eighth most popular car brand. It ranks just below Volkswagen , Toyota, Honda, and Buick. Considering China presently accounts for 40 percent of all electric vehicles sold worldwide, it’s clear there is a demand for non-polluting vehicles. As a result, Baojun’s ranking may very well increase. Related: The world’s first all-electric sport utility truck is finally here – and it looks incredible So far, more than 5,000 people have registered to purchase the first 200 vehicles. Another 500 will be made available later this week. Reportedly, buyers will be chosen on a first-come-first-serve basis. A GM spokesperson revealed that the first sales will initially be limited to the Guanxi region of southern China. As the car becomes more popular, GM plans to sell the cars more widely in China . + Baojun E100 Via CNN Images via General Motors

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Costa Rica eco-resort combines jungle yoga with sustainable design

August 9, 2017 by  
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NALU boutique hotel in Costa Rica is a sustainable jungle retreat for exercise and relaxation. Merging sustainability with local craftsmanship, architecture firm Studio Saxe designed a series of pavilions scattered amongst the trees, offering each occupant an extra sense of privacy. The hotel is located in Nosara, a burgeoning tourist destination for health, wellness and surfing. The owners, Nomel and Mariya Libid, wanted the design of the new building to reflect this attitude by offering several tranquil spaces for various types of recreation and exercise. Dense jungle completely surrounds the individual pavilion homes. The architects determined optimal positions for each of the structures by conducting extensive analyses of wind and sun patterns. Related: 8 gorgeous green hotels to add to your bucket list The timber roofs made of recycled Teak planks protrude over each pavilion to create shade from the intense equatorial sun. Corridors lit from the pergola roofs frame views of the lush surroundings and connect separate rooms. “Our project Nalu represents the power of simple, low-key, modern tropical architecture ,” says architect Benjamin Garcia Saxe. “It has quickly become a town favorite, which shows that there is a real desire to occupy spaces that bring people closer to nature, while addressing the needs of contemporary life,” he adds. + Studio Saxe Photos by Andres Garcia Lachner

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Triangular beachfront home is a dreamy retreat buried in the earth

August 9, 2017 by  
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A beautiful beach-front home by renowned architect, William Morgan just hit the market for $1.75 million – and while that is a huge chunk of change, you get quite a lot for your money. Designed to be the architect’s family residence, the wooden, three-story house takes the form of a slanted triangle , and it’s strategically designed to give unreal views over the Atlantic Beach coastline in Jacksonville, Florida. Morgan built the stunning 1,800-square-foot home in 1972 for his family. The house volume is comprised of two back-to-back triangular masses , with one side facing the street entry and the other overlooking the grassy incline that leads to the beach. According to scholar Robert McCarter, the unique design was “inspired by the stepped structure of the ancient Roman seaside town of Herculaneum.” Related: Architect Leo Qvarsebo’s triangular summer home doubles as a climbing wall More than just a quirky architectural whim, the stepped design also created an amazingly open living space on the home’s interior. The space is clad in honey-toned cedar wood panels throughout, with ultra-high slanted ceilings and plenty of windows and glass doors that lead to the home’s four open-air terraces. As a bonus, the new homeowners of this remarkable home will be living next door to another William Morgan work, the earth-rammed , two-bedroom Dune House that the architect built into the adjacent sand dune to protect the “ecological character” of the landscape. + William Morgan Architecture + Premier Sotheby’s International Realty Via Dwell

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We have just 3 years to ward off climate change – new report

June 29, 2017 by  
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The year 2020 could be a huge turning point for our planet. According to a new report, if we don’t limit carbon emissions by that date, we won’t meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement . That leaves just three years – but six leaders and scientists laid out a six-point plan for meeting the most pressing deadline in human history – regardless of who’s in the White House. Christiana Figueres, convener of Mission 2020 and Executive Secretary for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change between 2010 and 2016, led the group who wrote a piece for Nature outlining their vision for how we can lower emissions and meet the Paris goals. They targeted six sectors: energy , finance, land, infrastructure , transport, and industry. They said their goals may be “idealistic at best, unrealistic at worst” but they feel setting high goals will inspire people to innovate to meet them. Related: How former NYC mayor Bloomberg is filling Trump’s climate change vacuum For example, the authors said at least 30 percent of global power supply needs to be sourced from renewable energy . It’s not impossible, considering we obtained 23.7 percent of electricity from renewables in 2015. They highlight low carbon practices for the other sectors too, like reducing deforestation and increasing use of clean vehicles . The authors also laid out three steps to avoid delaying. First, base policies and action plans on science . Second, scale up existing solutions quickly. And third, be optimistic. “There will always be those who hide their heads in the sand and ignore the global risks of climate change ,” said the authors. “But there are many more of us committed to overcoming this inertia. Let us stay optimistic and act boldly together.” Numerous scientists, politicians, business leaders, analysts, and faith leaders co-signed the Nature article, such as California governor Jerry Brown and climate scientist Michael Mann . + Mission 2020 Via Nature Images via Wikimedia Commons and David Nuescheler on Unsplash

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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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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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