Business climate action for our only future

August 21, 2019 by  
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The UN Global Compact’s CEO on the scale of the climate change challenge — and the opportunity for business to fight it.

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Business climate action for our only future

Greenland’s ice sheet lost 197 billion tons of ice in July

August 19, 2019 by  
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What melts faster than an ice cream cone on a sweltering summer day? Greenland’s ice sheet. In July, the world’s second biggest ice sheet lost 197 billion tons of ice and increased sea levels by about half a millimeter. On August 15 alone, Greenland’s ice sheet had a major meltdown, losing 11 billion tons of surface ice to the ocean, scientists reported. While it’s not unusual for Greenland’s ice sheet to melt during the summer, it usually starts at the end of May but began weeks earlier this year. Meteorologists reported that July has been one of the hottest months around the world ever recorded. For instance, global average temperatures for this July are in line with and possibly higher than July 2016, which holds the current record, according to preliminary data reported by the Copernicus Climate Change Programme . Related: Iceland will unveil monument for the first glacier lost to climate change According to Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist with Danish Meteorological Institute , Greenland’s ice sheet lost 197 billion tons of ice in July, enough to fill nearly 80 million Olympic swimming pools. Mottram told CNN the expected average of ice melt this time of year would be between 60 and 70 billion tons. What could it mean? All this wacky weather may ultimately result in one of Greenland’s biggest ice melts since 1950. With the melt season typically lasting to the end of August, Mottram said the ice sheet could see substantial melting; however, it might not be as much as in recent weeks. Melting ice isn’t the only issue facing the Arctic, as the area has also experienced wildfires , which scientists said could be because of high temperatures. Since June, Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service has observed more than 100 intense wildfires in the Arctic Circle. The recent wildfires and ice melt in the Arctic Circle could be strong indicators of more climate change -related issues ahead. Via CNN Image via NASA

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Greenland’s ice sheet lost 197 billion tons of ice in July

New climate change report underscores the need to manage land for the short and long term

August 16, 2019 by  
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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change describes how human activities have altered 70 percent of Earth’s surface.

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New climate change report underscores the need to manage land for the short and long term

3 startups hacking food to crack the climate crisis

August 12, 2019 by  
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Miyoko’s and other plant-based entrepreneurs are using food to fight the climate crisis.

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3 startups hacking food to crack the climate crisis

See the forest for more than the trees why reforestation isn’t working

August 6, 2019 by  
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We can all agree planting a tree is good for the environment — right? According to a recent study in Nature , the global crusade for reforestation as a remedy for climate change is largely missing the mark. So where did it go wrong? The new evidence reveals that most of the countries with large-scale tree-planting programs are actually developing tree plantations, which might help the economy but fail to sequester the carbon that the countries originally pledged to. The Bonn Challenge promises 350 million hectares of trees In 2011, the international Bonn Challenge was announced as an ambitious plan to plant 150 million hectares of trees by 2020. In 2014, more than 100 nations signed on under the New York Declaration of Forests, increasing the target to 350 million hectares by 2030. Unlike many lofty development goals, most countries are actually on track to exceed their promises, at least at first glance. In fact, the world actually has more forest cover now than it did in 1982. So, what’s the problem? Related: The ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ is transforming northwestern Pakistan Well, the majority of countries have been using the incentives and global momentum to back monoculture farms and counting trees that will be logged within years in their Bonn Challenge totals. According to the assessment, 45 percent of trees planted were species that will be quickly harvested for paper production. Another 21 percent were tree farm species, like fruits, nuts and cocoa . Only 34 percent of trees planted were part of so-called “natural forest,” even though the original intention of the Bonn Challenge was that all hectares planted should be natural forest. “Policymakers are misinterpreting the term forest restoration [and] misleading the public,” argued the study authors, Simon Lewis of Leeds University and Charlotte Wheeler from Edinburgh University. While agroforestry trees do provide important benefits to the environment and economy, monoculture plantations (especially when farmers clear natural forests for crops) fail to provide anywhere close to the same benefit in terms of sequestration and biodiversity . The value of natural forest A general definition of a natural forest is a “multilayered vegetation unit dominated by trees, whose combined strata have overlapping crowns, and where grasses are generally rare.” In general, a natural forest will store up to 40 times more carbon than a plantation that is harvested every decade. Related: How forest bathing can profoundly improve your health and well-being More than just trees , forests are important and intricate ecosystems. They are home to incredible biodiversity and provide sanctuary and habitat for thousands of species. They are also critical to the climate, because forests maintain rainfall and prevent desertification. Because clouds accumulate over forests, places that have destroyed all of their major forests often experience low rainfall, drought, desertification and other climate-related issues. Reforestation pledges around the world Even before the Bonn Challenge, China launched a massive reforestation program in response to flooding along the Yangtze River. Despite over two decades of reforestation, the report claims that 99 percent of all trees planted have been within monoculture plantations. Related: Philippine students must plant 10 trees to graduate, new law says In Niger, after years of complying with foreign and government extension officers who advised farmers to remove trees, farmers have finally argued that native trees serve an important purpose right where they are. Trees stabilize soil, produce nitrogen, buffer strong wind and improve organic matter in the soil. As a result of the farmers’ knowledge, deforestation has decreased, although the majority of farmers now wisely plant trees that will supplement their incomes rather than simply sequester seemingly abstract carbon. Yale Environment 360 reported that in Brazil, up to 82 percent of the forest restoration work is developing monoculture plantations and not natural forests. How to plant a forest? “Get out of the way.” According to National Geographic’s investigative article, “ How to regrow a forest: Get out of the way ,” even specific efforts by the U.S. Forest Department to plant natural forests have not worked the way they were intended to. For ease of planting and eventual use as lumber, the Forestry Department had a long-term tradition of planting native trees in neat rows at 12-foot gaps. Though the majority of trees were then left to develop into natural forests, the meticulous spacing has since exacerbated fire risk. The Department now opts for more irregular spacing and species biodiversity. Although it is more time- and cost-intensive, it ends up saving the department in firefighting costs later. Similarly, in Canada, a study found that a government campaign to drain wetlands thought to be smothering spruce trees caused a fire that destroyed 2,400 homes in 2016. Under the pretense of growing larger trees to store more carbon, peatlands were systematically destroyed. However, it is now recognized that peatlands ultimately store enormous amounts of carbon naturally and were more resilient to fires. “If you take the perspective that no matter what, more trees are better, that’s going to have unintended consequences,” said Sofia Faruqi from the World Resource Institute. “In the case of the West Coast, restoration may mean removing trees from the landscape.” Turning over a new leaf on reforestation pledges According to Faruqi, policies must acknowledge both what kind of tree is planted and how the tree “jibes with the larger health of the forest, the amount of water available or the needs of local people.” As we approach the start of the United Nation’s declared Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, many forestry experts agree that reforestation solutions must be localized — both at a national level and at the individual forest level. While the need for income, especially sustainably sourced income, is paramount, cash crop trees should be planted in addition to the 350 million acres of natural forest. Tropical forests are particularly important, because they have the potential to capture more carbon than any other forest type in the world. In many equatorial regions, where there are large amounts of land available and a high need for economic stimulation, healthy tropical forests can provide jobs, support indigenous traditions and capture an estimated 3 billion tons of carbon annually. That’s the equivalent of taking 2 billion cars off the road every year. Blanket pledges of specific tree planting targets have not worked and leave the door open for damaging misinterpretation. More research and awareness is needed to understand the importance of different ecosystems and more priority given to protecting and keeping natural ecosystems intact. The idea that any tree planted helps is simply outdated and misleading. A quote by American poet, environmentalist and farmer Wendell Berry sums it up nicely: “Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest.” + Nature Via Yale Environment 360 and National Geographic Images via Michael Benz , Marc Pell , Jesse Gardner , Janusz Maniak , Steven Kamenar and Zoer Ng

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See the forest for more than the trees why reforestation isn’t working

Greta Thunberg will sail across Atlantic to attend UN Climate Summits

August 1, 2019 by  
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Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, is faced with a dilemma: how will she get to the U.N. Climate Summit in New York City with out leaving a carbon footprint ? Enter Boris Herrmann and Pierre Casiraghi, professional sailors who offered the young activist a ride on their high-speed, zero-emissions sailboat the Malizia II . The sailboat journey will take two weeks to reach the New York Climate Summit. After New York, the group will venture on another trip to Santiago, Chile for the U.N. Framework Convention. Related: New report warns of extreme heat of 127 degrees or more in the US “This is pretty much where our future will be decided. By the year 2020, next year, the emission curve must have been bended steep downwards if we are to have a change to stay below 1.5 or 2 degrees of warming,” said Thunberg of the U.N. events. The crew has warned Thunberg the trip will not be glamorous, including no access to showers, air conditioning, refrigeration or fresh meals. There is also a chance that the seas could be rough. “I asked her if she was scared and she explained in a very analytical way that she thinks this voyage is safe, the boat has a lot of safety systems and is capable of sailing around the world in a race and therefore it’s a strong boat,” says Herrmann. The sailboat, Malizia II is one of only a few zero-emissions sailboats of its size in the world. It has solar panels and underwater turbines that generate electricity while the ship is sailing. Thunberg’s father will also be aboard the ship for the journey, along with a filmmaker to document their adventure. Thunberg has taken a year off from school in order to focus on her work as an outspoken climate activist. Via TreeHugger Image via Flickr

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Greta Thunberg will sail across Atlantic to attend UN Climate Summits

Investors and companies push clean energy to the tipping point

August 1, 2019 by  
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State pension funds, religious institutions and major philanthropic foundations are calling for action, inspired by the urgency of the climate crisis and the potential for future returns.

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Investors and companies push clean energy to the tipping point

Indian cafe offers food for trash, then turns the waste into roads

July 29, 2019 by  
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The city of Ambikapur in India’s Chhattisgarh state is launching a “garbage cafe” where anyone can eat healthy meals in exchange for collecting trash. The cafe will be centrally located in the city’s busiest bus terminal and is owned by the Municipal Corporation. Although such cafes exist in other cities around the world, the plastic trash collected for Ambikapur’s cafe is unique, because it will go directly into asphalt to pave the city’s roads. The practice of melting plastic and incorporating it into paving materials is not new in India. In fact, the government mandated that all urban areas utilize plastic waste in their roads in 2015, but most have yet to follow orders. The city of Ambikapur has one such road so far, and there are an estimated 100,000 kilometers of plastic roads throughout India . The innovative chemical process is led by professor Rajagopalan Vasudevan, but it has also been replicated and modified by engineers around the world, including the plastic-producing giant Dow Chemical . “At the end of the day, plastic is a great product. It lasts for long, which is a problem if it’s a waste product, but not a problem if we want it to last,” said engineer Toby McCartney, whose company produces recycled plastic pellets that are mixed into roads. According to McCartney, plastic roads last three times longer than conventional roads and need less maintenance. They are more resistant to flooding and less likely to get potholes. McCartney also promises his prototype does not break down into microplastics or enter ecosystems. With an initial budget of just about $7,000 USD, the cafe is a triple-win for the government’s goals to address food insecurity , clean up the roads and improve infrastructure. Via Vice Image via Rajesh Balouria

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Indian cafe offers food for trash, then turns the waste into roads

New report warns of extreme heat of 127 degrees or more in the US

July 29, 2019 by  
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Just when you thought the environmental news couldn’t get any worse, a shocking new report warns Americans that they may be facing temperatures of 127 degrees Fahrenheit. By the year 2100, more than one-third of the U.S. population could be exposed to this kind of heat and its accompanying health risks. The county-by-county survey predicts that by mid-century, more than 250 American cities will suffer from at least one month of days where the heat index surpasses 100 degrees. Historically, this number has been 29 cities. The heat-index scale combines temperature with humidity to arrive at what the temperature feels like. Related: Extreme heat wallops the US “We were very surprised at how steeply and quickly the number of days of dangerous heat increased in such a short time,” said Kristina Dahl, senior climate scientist at Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Dahl co-authored the dire new report, “ Killer Heat in the United States: Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days .” Extreme heat will hit the Southeast and Southern Great Plains the hardest. Texas and southern Arizona will also be sweltering. But even temperate areas, such as Seattle, will notice a significant increase in hot days. Humans, with a normal internal temperature of 98.6, function poorly in extreme heat. Climate researcher Tom Crowther said the increase in heat events “represents a terrifying prospect” and “a direct and immediate threat to human health and wellbeing.” Droughts, floods and wildfires will accompany the extreme temperatures. Sea level rise and compromised food production will also make life tougher. Humankind’s best hope? A fast and drastic reduction in carbon emissions . “Our past climate can no longer guide us,” said meteorologist Richard Rood. “We have to build and adapt to what’s coming.” + Union of Concerned Scientists Via National Geographic Image via Mark Hemmings

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New report warns of extreme heat of 127 degrees or more in the US

Scientific consensus reaches beyond 99% on human-caused climate change

July 25, 2019 by  
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Researchers have released three additional studies confirming the consensus among scientists that climate change is real. More than 99 percent of scientists have reached the same conclusion that global warming is real and caused by human activity, with findings showing that current warming is unprecedented when compared to the last 2,000 years. Even though most deniers are political or corporate-backed — rather than driven by science — scientists continue to release worrisome research repeating and reconfirming that all evidence indicates climate change is real in hopes that the consensus itself will be convincing. Related: Climate anxiety — is hopelessness preventing us from confronting our biggest challenge? “There is no doubt left — as has been shown extensively in many other studies addressing many different aspects of the climate system using different methods and data sets,” said Stefan Brönnimann of the University of Bern. The three studies were published in Nature and Nature Geoscience and indicate that the temperature spikes over the last few decades have not been as dramatic over the last 2,000 years . While there have been other roving and site-specific temperature changes, such as the Little Ice Age , the current record-breaking temperatures impact the entire globe. The researchers used proxy indicators such as evidence in trees , ice and sediment, which show that changes in climate have never been as severe as they are now. “The good news is public understanding of the scientific consensus is increasing,” said researcher James Cook, who wrote the original paper on scientific consensus in 2013. “The bad news is there is still a lot of work to do yet as climate deniers continue to persistently attack the scientific consensus.” Last week, the original paper was downloaded for the one millionth time, making it the most-read study by the Institute of Physics. Cook also wrote a follow-up to this study, but because of the recent rise in disasters and interest in climate change , he plans to revise his paper again. Via The Guardian Image via Christopher Michel

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