Smog-filled Beijing is building a ‘green necklace’ around the city to curb pollution

March 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Beijing’s pollution problem is no secret – earlier this year the city even created an environmental police squad in a bid to stop smog . Now, the nearby province of Hebei  – which contributes to Beijing’s smog with it’s heavy industry economy – is taking some creative new steps to combat the dangerous health risk that kills millions of people each year. The government is turning to nature to create a “green necklace” of trees and green belts as a natural way to fight pollution. People have recently pointed fingers at Hebei’s heavy industry as a source for some of Beijing’s hazardous pollution . The city has suffered from numerous smog outbreaks, often during the winter, according to Reuters. So the Hebei government announced this week both they and Beijing will plant trees and use wetlands and rivers to create a green necklace to protect the major global city. In a website notice, the government said it will increase forest coverage and set up green belts with the help of river systems, farms, mountains, and wetlands near Beijing. Related: China’s crazy smog-sucking vacuum tower might actually be working Transportation rules for Beijing and border areas are also part of the plan, which according to Reuters is part of a government effort to integrate the city, Hebei, and Tianjin, a major port city just southeast of Beijing. What have been described as fortress economies in the area could have prompted a race to the bottom in environmental law enforcement, according to Reuters. The cross-regional plan could also help address overpopulation – around 22 million people currently live in Beijing – by trying to limit urban development on the city’s borders. Beijing also plans to move some industries and “non-capital functions” out to Hebei, hoping such moves will also help cut pollution and congestion. Limited coal consumption is another piece of the strategy to clear the skies over Beijing, and the city just decommissioned the last coal-fired power plant earlier in March. Via Reuters Images via Bert Oostdijk on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Smog-filled Beijing is building a ‘green necklace’ around the city to curb pollution

World’s biggest river island could be India’s first carbon-neutral sector

March 23, 2017 by  
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Pollution has plagued India recently; a 2017 report showed people are more likely to die from air pollution not in China, as might be your first guess, but in India. But one area of the country could receive a breath of fresh air. Majuli, which is the largest river island in the world, could become the country’s first carbon-neutral district. Majuli, which is found in India’s Assam state, is home to plentiful biodiversity and the neo-Vaishnavite culture, which according to The Guardian is a monotheistic branch of Hinduism. But the river island is in trouble: monsoons and the river absorb homes as land is disappearing rapidly. In the middle of the 19th century, the river island was around 463 square miles, but in 2015 it was just around 154 square miles, and some research says Majuli could be gone in two decades. Related: New Delhi has the worst air pollution of any city on earth “Majuli is facing an existential crisis and therefore initiatives like designating [it] a carbon neutral district and biodiversity heritage site are [the] needs of the hour to preserve its rich heritage and legacy,” said Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. The government aims to make the river island the country’s first carbon-neutral sector by 2020 . Sonowal aims to raise awareness among locals as the area works to become free of pollution. He suggested parents could give a sapling to their children for their birthdays, and plant trees around their homes. He also started an electronic registry to scrutinize the climate impact of any projects proposed for Majuli. A project called the Sustainable Action for Climate Resilient Development, started late last year, will ensure the river island’s infrastructure is low carbon . According to Sonowal’s office as quoted by The Times of India, “Further declaration of Majuli as a Biodiversity Heritage Site, the first in the state, enforces the rich biological biodiversity in the wild, cultivated areas of the island and cultural heritage of Majuli.” Via India Times , The Times of India , and The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Czech zoo to remove horns from rhino herd after poacher attack in France

March 16, 2017 by  
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A zoo in the Czech Republic announced Tuesday that it plans to preemptively remove the horns from its herd of rare rhinos. The decision comes a week after poachers broke into a French zoo, shot dead an endangered white rhino and hacked off its horn. As extreme as it sounds, the surgery could be potentially lifesaving. “It’s for the sake of rhino safety,” Andrea Jirousova, spokeswoman for the zoo in the central Czech town of Dvur Kralove nad Labem, told AFP . “The attack put us on alert, the danger is really intense.” The March 7 death of 4-year-old Vince from Thoiry Zoological Park outside Paris sent shockwaves through the wildlife community. Experts say that the animal’s death likely marks the first time a rhino has been killed in a zoo. The message the tragedy sent was chillingly clear: No living rhino, not even one held in captivity, is safe from poachers. The Dvur Kralove zoo currently houses 21 black and southern white rhinos, including three calves who will be excluded from the surgery. At up to $60,000 per kilogram, rhino horn sells more on the black market than gold or cocaine. Most of the demand for horn comes from China and Vietnam, where it’s prized for its purported medicinal and aphrodisiac properties. Related: Poachers broke into a French zoo to kill a rhino and steal its horn Jirousova said that the rhinos would be kept under anesthesia for the procedure, which involves removing the horns with a chainsaw, then filing down the edges. The move, she added, is entirely unprecedented. “We have never done this because of poachers,” Jirousova added. “We did it for other reasons like transport or health concerns.” Via AFP Photos by Flowcomm and Son of Groucho

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Czech zoo to remove horns from rhino herd after poacher attack in France

Trump orders review of Obama-era fuel economy standards

March 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

In another move aimed at dismantling former President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, President Donald Trump on Wednesday told car executives and auto workers gathered near Detroit that he would order a review of the fuel economy standards for cars and trucks that were put in place by the Obama Administration in 2012. The rules would have raised average fleetwide fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 — well above the current 35.5 mpg requirement that has been credited with decreasing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that climate scientists say are the primary drivers of global warming. Trump spoke at a former WWII bomber factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan that is being repurposed to test autonomous vehicles. The president said that he would “ensure that any regulations we have protect and defend your jobs, your factories,” adding that the White House is “setting up a task force in every federal agency to identify and remove any regulation that undermines American auto production.” Related: US vehicle emissions hit record low as fuel economy climbs to record high While Trump talked of ending the “assault” on the US auto industry, it is unclear exactly what he is referring to. Despite carmakers complaining about the EPA’s fuel economy standards, a recent report from the regulatory agency found that Detroit was actually outperforming the GHG emission standards while at the same time selling a record number of new cars and trucks. Last year automakers sold a record 17.55 million vehicles  in the US — the seventh straight year of rising sales. Also, Trump didn’t mention that Obama has been credited with helping to save the domestic auto industry. A bipartisan congressional oversight panel concluded that the government intervention resulted in the industry becoming more efficient, allowing automakers “to become more flexible and better able to meet changing consumer demands, while still remaining profitable.” Via The Christian Science Monitor Image 1 , 2 via Wikimedia

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Trump orders review of Obama-era fuel economy standards

China approves massive new park for endangered leopards and tigers

March 15, 2017 by  
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China just approved a massive new national park to help protect endangered big cats . The 5,637 square mile park – which will be 60 percent bigger than America’s Yellowstone National Park – will serve as a sanctuary for Siberian tigers and Amur leopards. Big cats have struggled in northeast China, where the park will be built. Excessive logging deteriorated the ecosystem and caused the population of wild Siberian tigers to plummet dramatically. A field survey by scientists from the United States, Russia, and China found signs of just six to nine of the tigers in the area in 1998. A 2015 northeast China logging ban may have helped; now experts estimate there are around 27 Siberian tigers there. Meanwhile Amur leopards are critically endangered , according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which said there are only over 60 of these animals still alive in the world. Related: Russia built a critical wildlife corridor to help save endangered big cats Small habitat areas have prompted Siberian tigers and Amur leopards to roam into residential areas looking for food, according to EcoWatch, which quoted a Jilin Forestry Department spokesperson as saying to ease conflict between humans and the big cats, they will relocate some communities and factories currently inside the area for the park. China’s new national park will be in the provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang, bordering Russia . The park will include a monitoring and rescue center for wild big cats, along with research facilities. WWF Beijing’s Species Program Director Fan Zhiyong said the initiative could help improve cooperation between the two countries to conserve wildlife . Jilin Forestry Department Director Lan Hongliang also said they expected the national park to act as a channel for international interchange on protecting wild animals. The Jilin government said they will start preparing for national park management by the end of this year. According to Xinhua, a plan and pilot park could be finished before 2020. Via Xinhua and EcoWatch Images via Tambako The Jaguar on Flickr and PublicDomainPictures.net

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European firms eye artificial island for North Sea wind and solar farm

March 15, 2017 by  
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Of all the opponents of wind turbines , few are as vociferous as the loose collective that planners and developers deride as “Nimby,” a term that derives from the acronym for “not in my backyard.” Driven to stake out real estate further offshore, a group of European companies have devised a plan almost breathtaking in its audacity: create a vast artificial island in the middle of the tumultuous North Sea, populate the area around it with thousands of spinning pylons, and drum up enough renewable energy for millions of Europeans by 2050. The venture, born of the 2050 goals laid out by the Paris agreement on climate change , is a collaboration between Denmark’s Energinet and the German and Dutch arms of electricity firm TenneT . To solidify the partnership, the companies will be meeting with Maroš Šef?ovi?, the European Commissioner for Energy, at the North Seas Energy Forum in Brussels next week to sign a trilateral agreement. If greenlit, the proposed 2.5-square-mile Power Link Island, also known as the North Sea Wind Power Hub, will boast its own harbor, air strip, solar farm, and artificial lake, along with homes for in-residence staff. Early estimates place the price of construction in the ball park of $1.3 billion. Dogger Bank, a large sandbank about 62 miles off the east coast of England, is thought to be the ideal location for the island because it’s centrally located, has waters shallow enough for turbines, and is buffeted by constant wind. Related: China is building artificial islands in disputed South China Sea territory Underwater transmission lines, coursing with energy, could potentially power the homes of 80 million people in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Belgium. By linking the energy markets of those countries, Power Link Island could facilitate international trading in electricity. It could even consolidate energy by serving as a connective hub for other, scattered wind farms or bud off smaller but similar enclaves. “This project can significantly contribute to a completely renewable supply of electricity in Northwest Europe,” said Mel Kroon, CEO of TenneT. There’s another upside: An island of significant scope could, through economies of scale, also whittle down costs. “Offshore wind has in recent years proved to be increasingly competitive and it is important to us to constantly focus on further reduction in prices of grid connections and interconnections,” said Peder Østermark Andreasen, CEO of Energinet. “We need innovative and large-scale projects so that offshore wind can play an even bigger part in our future energy supply.” + Energinet + TenneT Via The Next Web

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European firms eye artificial island for North Sea wind and solar farm

Cambridge scientists use light and plants to make cheap, clean hydrogen

March 15, 2017 by  
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Everyone from startups to car companies as big as Toyota have seen the potential of hydrogen as a clean fuel source for vehicles, since its only byproduct is water. But hydrogen is often made with natural gas , which may be less polluting than oil but isn’t exactly clean, so six University of Cambridge scientists developed a way to make the fuel source using sunlight and biomass like leaves. The researchers created clean hydrogen with biomass as a starting point. They suspended biomass in alkaline water and added catalytic nanoparticles. In a laboratory, these components were placed in light mimicking light from the sun , and the nanoparticles got to work, using the light to begin the chemical reactions necessary to produce hydrogen from lignocellulose, part of plant biomass. The university notes the process is both sustainable and relatively cheap. The journal Nature Energy published their research online earlier this week. Related: Startup creates renewable hydrogen energy out of sunlight and water In the past, to turn lignocellulose into hydrogen scientists had to use high temperatures in a gasification process, but the Cambridge scientists say they could simply use sunlight in their method instead. Joint lead author David Wakerley pointed out biomass stores lots of chemical energy, but since it’s unrefined, it’s not feasible to just burn biomass in car engines, for example. He said, “Our system is able to convert the long, messy structures that make up biomass into hydrogen gas, which is much more useful.” The scientists were able to make hydrogen with leaves, paper, and wood. Co-author Erwin Reisner said, “Our sunlight-powered technology is exciting as it enables the production of clean hydrogen from unprocessed biomass under ambient conditions. We see it as a new and viable alternative to high temperature gasification and other renewable means of hydrogen production. Future development can be envisioned at any scale, from small scale devices for off-grid applications to industrial-scale plants.” A United Kingdom patent application has already been filed for the process and thanks to Cambridge Enterprise , which helps academics bring their concepts to market, discussions with a possible commercial partner are ongoing. Via New Atlas and the University of Cambridge Images via Wilerson S Andrade on Flickr and the University of Cambridge Department of Chemistry

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Cambridge scientists use light and plants to make cheap, clean hydrogen

Trump to purge climate change from federal government

March 15, 2017 by  
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Al Gore tried to convince President Donald Trump about the importance of acting on climate change. So did Leonardo DiCaprio . Elon Musk joined Trump’s tech council . German Chancelor Angela Merkel reportedly is going to bring up climate change at her White House meeting with the president. But it all appears to be in vain as the Trump Administration begins to purge the federal government of any association with global warming. The president is expected to sign an executive order possibly as soon as this week that would drop climate change from environmental reviews and rescind other Obama-era climate policies — dramatically reducing the role that climate change plays in government decision-making. The directive will also urge the US Environmental Protection Agency to dismantle the Clean Power Plan , which has yet to be implemented because of legal challenges from conservative states. Regulators will be directed to rescind Obama-era regulations limiting methane emissions — a potent greenhouse gas that escapes into the atmosphere from various points along the natural gas supply chain. Related: Trump tries to keep 21 kids’ climate change lawsuit from going to trial The order will also ask the government to reconsider using the “social cost of carbon” metric when considering new regulations. In what was described by The Daily Beast as the “most historic climate change decision” ever taken by the federal government, for the first time in US history the government put a price on carbon at $36 per ton. Conservatives, including Republican elder statesmen who wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal recently supporting a revenue neutral carbon tax, should be discouraged by the fact that Trump does not want the federal government to factor carbon pollution in the rule-making process. Trump is also determined to revive the dying coal industry that has been replaced by cheap natural gas and renewables such as solar and wind. The president is expected to lift the coal leasing moratorium the Obama Administration put in place January 2016. When he was running for president, Trump pledged to end what he described as a “war on coal” and put coal workers back to work. Last September, Trump said that he would “rescind the coal mining lease moratorium, the excessive Interior Department stream rule, and conduct a top-down review of all anti-coal regulations issued by the Obama Administration.” Via Reuters Image 1 , 2 via Wikimedia

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Environmental activists deface Trumps California golf course

March 15, 2017 by  
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Under the cover of darkness early Sunday morning, a group of anonymous environmental activists broke into one of Donald Trump’s golf courses and defaced the green in an act of civil disobedience. In six-foot tall letters, they left a message that read simply: “NO MORE TIGERS. NO MORE WOODS.” The Trump National Golf Club, located in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, overlooks the ocean just south of Los Angeles and was ranked last year as the 43rd best course in California. The activist collective sent a video of the protest, along with a statement, to the Washington Post . The vandalism was intended as a reaction to the Trump administration’s “blatant disregard” for the environment. In an anonymous interview with the paper, one group member noted, “Tearing up the golf course felt justified in many ways. Repurposing what was once a beautiful stretch of land into a playground for the privileged is an environmental crime in its own right.” All told, the protest took about an hour to complete. Four people scaled a fence and walked down a steep hill dotted with cacti to access the green near hole five, then dug up the grass using basic gardening tools. The LA County Sherriff’s Department confirmed that the course called with a complaint about the damage on Sunday. Related: Trump tries to keep 21 kids’ climate change lawsuit from going to trial This isn’t the first time a Trump property has been vandalized in recent months. In October, Black Lives Matter graffiti was left on the side of Trump’s new Washington hotel. Reportedly, neither the Trump Organization nor the golf course itself were willing to issue a statement to the Washington Post responding to the new incident. Via The Washington Post

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Environmental activists deface Trumps California golf course

Swiss resident begins peddling jars of Alps mountain air starting at $97

March 5, 2017 by  
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Got an extra $97 lying around? With that money you can now purchase a jar of fresh mountain air from Switzerland . Resident John Green has started collecting air from the Alps and peddling it online, saying “the air in the mountains is like champagne [so] I decided I had better start selling it.” Born in London, Green says he’s resided in Switzerland for 20 years. He’s now decided to sell that fresh Swiss air from his website MountainAirFromSwitzerland.com , in three sizes. A pint costs $97, a quart $167, and a 3/4 gallon jar will run you $247. He includes a certificate of authenticity with each purchase, and captures the air in what he describes as a secret location. “Let’s just say it’s collected by a babbling mountain stream, fed by melt water from a famous glacier , near a very famous mountain,” says the website. Related: Australian entrepreneurs are selling canned fresh air to polluted China But anyone brave enough to shell out that money will also get GPS coordinates, according to the website, so they can pinpoint the location of their air on a map. Green suggests owners put the jar in the freezer first for the full effect should the owner decide to open the jar. On the website he says, “I seriously feel almost reborn every time I go to the Alps and breath the fresh air; there’s definitely something magic in that air. So get your little bit of magic right here, right now!” Green even says he’s donating 25 percent of profits to World Vision . He told The Local, a Swedish publication, “I know it’s a bit crazy but it’s a fun idea and it helps give some money to a charity that I think is deserving.” As for the price, he said he wants to make the business sustainable and must consider the costs of shipping the air worldwide. “And also don’t forget, it’s Swiss air! Everything in Switzerland is expensive.” When asked if anyone had been willing to purchase the air, he said, “It’s starting slowly, let’s put it like that!” + Mountain Air from Switzerland Via The Local Images via Wikimedia Commons and Mountain Air from Switzerland

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