Climate change intensifies seaweed infestation in Caribbean Sea

July 2, 2019 by  
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Many consecutive years of sargassum — large brown seaweed — infestations have driven countries around the Caribbean Sea to consider declaring national emergencies. The smelly seaweed blankets beaches, turns the water brown and smothers coral reefs and marine life. Its rotten stench and unsightly appearance is causing many tourism-dependent communities and nations to lose revenue, and it is even causing a public health concern. “It produces an acid gas with a rotten egg smell [when it decomposes] that can be harmful to human health,” read a letter from the local government of Quitana Roo in Mexico, where a public emergency was declared. Mexico already spent $17 million USD trying to clear away the seaweed from popular beaches along the Riviera Maya, which contributes about 50 percent of the country’s tourism dollars. The government cleared more than 500,000 tons of the brown seaweed, with some hotels lamenting that they often have to have their staff clear the beach two or three times every day. Related: Woman arrested in Florida for stomping on sea turtle nest For nearly a decade, scientists have been concluding that the influx of seaweed is likely from fertilizers and raw sewage entering the Caribbean Sea via drains and watersheds. New research indicates that climate change is also playing a role. “Because of global climate change, we may have increased upwelling, increased air deposition or increased nutrient source from rivers, so all three may have increased the recent large amounts of sargassum,” said Chuanmin Hu, an oceanography professor at South Florida University. While small amounts of sargassum are natural and normal on beaches — and even provide habitat for crustaceans and other marine life — it is detrimental to nearshore ecosystems. Hatchling sea turtles , for example, cannot swim out to sea through the heavy seaweed, and many simply get stuck and die. Some agricultural communities are turning the seaweed into compost for crops; however, none are able to keep up with processing and clearing the massive quantities that periodically plague coastal areas. Via The Independent Image via Tam Warner Minton

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Climate change intensifies seaweed infestation in Caribbean Sea

Can climate change be made simple enough to solve?

July 2, 2019 by  
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If people don’t believe a problem is solvable, they’re more likely to deny the problem’s existence. How do we overcome that?

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Can climate change be made simple enough to solve?

The massive emissions-cutting and cost-saving potential of chemical reuse

July 2, 2019 by  
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The circular economy and digitalization will be the two most important trends employed by Germany’s chemical industry as it moves towards 2030.

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The massive emissions-cutting and cost-saving potential of chemical reuse

Shenzhen: A city miles ahead in electrification

July 2, 2019 by  
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The Chinese city’s innovative policies provide incentives that stick for users. Here’s what we can learn.

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Shenzhen: A city miles ahead in electrification

Palm Beach, Florida bans single-use plastic bags and polystyrene containers

July 1, 2019 by  
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Palm Beach, Florida has become the first town in Palm Beach County to officially ban single-use plastic bags and polystyrene containers (also known as Styrofoam containers). The ban on these items will go into effect on December 12, 2019 in order to allow businesses and vendors to use up their current inventory and start switching to more sustainable options. The town council voted to pass the ban in June and will enforce the regulations in restaurants, gas stations, drug stores and grocery stores. Private events and caterers will also have to abide by the restrictions. Town manager Kirk Blouin told the local paper, “The research has shown us these items are bad for the environment, particularly marine life , and it just makes sense to regulate it.” Related: Pacific Island Vanuatu is the first to ban disposable diapers Blouin also noted that although people are very dependent on these convenient plastic items, it is just out of habit and not necessity — and habits can change. “We are all creatures of habit,” he said. “Once we get used to a good habit, it becomes second nature to us.” Many local businesses were already on board with the measure and had ceased offering customers single-use bags as well as other items such as plastic straws and stirrers. Especially for a coastal town, these plastic items do not biodegrade and often end up on beaches and in the ocean, where they break down into microplastic particles. Microplastics are known to cause problems for marine life, and debris is unsightly on beaches. According to the Friends of Palm Beach, a clean-up group in the area, they have already cleared away 120,000 pounds of trash in their clean-ups since 2013. Over 75 percent of all trash collected from the beaches has been plastic waste that ends up in landfills or washes out to sea. Via The Hill and Palm Beach Post Image via Shutterstock

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Palm Beach, Florida bans single-use plastic bags and polystyrene containers

Climate change will push 120 million into poverty

June 27, 2019 by  
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New studies by the United Nations and Stanford University show that the extreme weather and hotter temperatures associated with climate change are — not surprisingly — making the poor poorer and the rich richer. According to the U.N., this “climate apartheid” will result in 120 million more people living in poverty by 2030. The ability to survive extreme weather is a major determining factor, with the wealthiest people frequently able to relocate, protect their assets and build back. On the other hand, the poorest people are displaced, with their homes and economic resources destroyed. Rural communities and women are particularly vulnerable, given their direct dependence on natural resources for their livelihoods and the risk of droughts, floods and storms to decimate these resources. Related: Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harm’s way “We risk a ‘climate apartheid’ scenario where the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer,” said Philip Alston, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. CNN paints a clear picture with the example of Hurricane Sandy in New York, where thousands of people in housing projects spent weeks without electricity, while the Goldman Sachs headquarters was barricaded with sandbags and up and running on privately funded generators. According to researchers at Stanford, global warming is also helping wealthy countries be more productive. While tropical islands and warmer countries see a decrease in Gross Domestic Product that the researchers attribute to global warming, countries like Norway and Canada have actually seen a significant increase in economic prosperity. This news is likely not enough to sway countries to stick to their Paris Agreement commitments to limit carbon emissions, even when the poorest countries emit the least and suffer the most. Aston said, “Perversely, while people in poverty are responsible for just a fraction of global emissions , they will bear the brunt of climate change and have the least capacity to protect themselves.” + United Nations Via CNN Image via Bertsz

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Climate change will push 120 million into poverty

Deforestation and climate change combined may split Amazon in two

June 27, 2019 by  
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Deforestation is a well-documented enemy in the Amazon, but new research suggests that the climate crisis , when coupled with the destruction of trees, could mean the end of the rainforest as we know it. The Amazon contains at least ten percent of the world’s biodiversity, but the synergistic impact of a changing climate and tree clearing could destroy up to 58 percent of the trees by 2050 and effectively split the forest in two. A new study, published in Nature Climate Change , developed and applied models of different climate scenarios to over 5,000 species of trees and layered that with possible deforestation scenarios. Related: Deforestation in tropical countries linked to European diets in new study For example, their computer program modeled scenarios where current rates of carbon emissions and deforestation remain constant and discovered that between 19 and 36 percent of trees would be lost to deforestation in addition to 31 to 37 percent from climate change. As if it weren’t enough, the loss of these species will be detrimental to other plants, animals and people who live within and depend upon the ecosystem. “The impacts of deforestation are local. We can see clearly the area we are impacting,” study author Vitor Gomes. “Climate change may impact the whole area. Climate will be changing all over the forest area.” The scientists’ models also indicated that given the current rate and location of deforestation activities, the Amazon might be split in two, with human settlements between the two disconnected sides. This ecosystem fragmentation is also devastating to animals, particularly migratory birds and wide-roaming species. In addition to policies that curb emissions and limit deforestation, the researchers suggest establishing more protected areas within the forest. Protected areas have been documented to retain more biodiversity and can be effectively managed and even sustainably harvested when under the control of local and indigenous groups. Via Earther , Nature Climate Change Image via Ibama

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Deforestation and climate change combined may split Amazon in two

Air pollution may decrease eggs in women’s ovaries

June 26, 2019 by  
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Air pollution doesn’t only affect your lungs as new research suggests air quality may also be linked to a decrease in the number of eggs in women’s ovaries. It has long been known that environmental factors impact our reproductive systems, and multiple studies linked low sperm count with environmental indicators, but fewer examine the connection to ovaries. This newest study, presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology is the first to look at the prevalence of eggs and not just fertility. Italian researchers collected hormone samples from 1,300 Italian women and compared their levels of the AMH hormone to air quality metrics. The AMH hormone typically signals a woman’s egg “reserves” but can also fluctuate depending on the woman’s age, genetics and if they are a smoker. Related: Almost all U.S. national parks have polluted air Researchers found that lower AMH hormone levels were associated with higher air pollution indices. This suggests that air pollution may be connected to lower egg count in ovaries. However, researchers also recognize that often air pollution is concentrated in areas with lower income and other environmental justice issues, therefore there are likely confounding factors that also impact women’s ovaries within these areas. The study also did not measure direct exposure to air pollution, only indirect exposure via the average air pollution index at the participants’ home address. “Living in an area associated with high levels of air pollutants in our study increased the risk of severely reduced ovarian reserve by a factor of two or three,” said Dr. Antonio La Marca, who led the research. Other studies have similarly linked air quality with womens’ reproductive health, including one study that links pollution with irregular menstrual cycles and another that connected ozone pollution with decreased fertility . More research is needed to clarify the findings and determine if this is a temporary or permanent effect for women. Via The Guardian Image via Ian MacNicol

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Air pollution may decrease eggs in women’s ovaries

Sustainably-sourced sunglasses built to last a lifetime rather than a season

June 26, 2019 by  
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Living a sustainable lifestyle is about more than backyard composting and prolific use of Mason jars in lieu of plastic. To truly reach any level of sustainability we need to be aware of every purchase we make including how the product was made and even the packaging used. Although our conscientious purchasing decisions carry weight, corporate responsibility is where the real change will occur — enter Just Human. Just Human feels the burden of that responsibility and has decided to do something about it in the form of long-lasting, quality sunglasses built to last a lifetime, not a season. Related: These sustainable sunglasses smell like coffee and decompose into fertilizer The creation of the sunglasses released earlier this year began with four principals: Focus on the entire system of product creation, from materials to manufacturing to packaging. Streamline the design so that there are only a few products in production, each with a unisex design to serve as many people as possible. Combine function and fashion with a high-performing lens. Focus on durability for a product that won’t end up in the landfill anytime soon. Rather than relying on cheap synthetic materials that have become mainstream in the industry, Just Human sources material for the frames from softwood trees that are sustainably harvested and have earned FSC certification. The glass lenses are made from sand and minerals instead of petroleum-based plastic. Even the cutoffs from lens production are recycled and used for the next round of lens material. Pineapple leaf fibers (we’re hearing a lot about these lately!) and recycled water bottles make up the material for the case that house the sunglasses. The included cleaning cloth is produced using fabric made from 2.5 plastic water bottles . Carrying the eco-friendly idea through to the packaging, Just Human uses 100 percent post-consumer cardboard, eco-friendly inks and compostable tape made from wood pulp. Just Human understands that a focus on sustainability is a mute point if the product doesn’t meet the needs of the consumer so they’ve aimed to combine that focus with function and fashion. Incorporating sports technology into the lens allows them to filter out damaging UVs and glare while providing heat and scratch resistance. In the end, the goal is to provide a luxury product that will endure decades of use without impacting the planet . Wouldn’t it be nice if more companies adopted this simple philosophy? + Just Human Images via Just Human

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Sustainably-sourced sunglasses built to last a lifetime rather than a season

Addressing the material risk of climate change in your company

June 25, 2019 by  
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Climate risks are bearing down on your company. Are you ready?

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Addressing the material risk of climate change in your company

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