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

How to celebrate World Environment Day

June 5, 2019 by  
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Today, June 5, is World Environment Day! There are many ways that you can celebrate today, and you can use the celebration as a start to building more healthy, environmentally friendly habits. Here are some suggestions for fun activities and behavior changes to consider today and every day. Group activities for World Environment Day Plan a clean-up Get together with friends and neighbors for a clean-up activity in your area, such as at a beach, park or river. Get outside Getting outside doesn’t necessarily help nature , but taking the time to enjoy it and remember why it is essential to protect in the first place is a great way to honor the environment. Find a local hiking group or coordinate a picnic in the park. If your friends aren’t as excited about outdoor activities as you are, search for outdoorsy MeetUp groups in your area and meet some new, like-minded friends. Write to your senators What environmental issues are important to you and your family? This year, the theme of World Environment Day is “Air Pollution.” Find out what your local government is doing to protect the air quality in your area and write to your senator or representatives about your concerns. Healthy personal habits you can start now Use less water Small changes in how you use water at home can add up to a significant difference and conserve a lot of water in the long run. Turn off your tap when you are brushing your teeth. Be mindful of how long your shower is. When washing dishes, fill up a pot or large mixing bowl with warm water and dish soap. Use that water to scrub all of your dishes at once, and then turn on the tap only to rinse. Do not keep the tap running the whole time to wash and rinse each dish individually. Walk more You’ve heard it a million times, but have you implemented more walking in your own life? Consider the places you go often, like work, and figure out if there are ways that you can walk — even if it is only once or twice a week. Walking is great for your health, cuts down on transportation-related carbon emissions and allows you to get to know your neighborhood in a completely different way. Carpool Take the time to discuss with friends, family and coworkers before an event or activity and find out how you can cut down on the number of cars. For places that you go frequently — like work — get to know who lives near you and decide if you can agree on a schedule to carpool. Switch your light bulbs Every time a light bulb burns out in your house, switch to a long-lasting LED bulb . These light bulbs reduce your energy consumption and last a very long time. Buy energy-efficient appliances When possible, choose ENERGY STAR-rated appliances. It is an extra cost upfront, but it will significantly reduce your energy bill long into the future. Related: 10 money-saving tips for a green home Keep fridge coils and AC vents clean If the coils on your refrigerator and the vents on your air conditioner are kept clean, they won’t need to use up additional energy just to cool to the regular temperature. Recycle e-waste When your cellphone or laptop breaks, bring it to an e-waste recycle facility rather than letting it sit around your house or tossing it into the trash. Shut off your devices When you are finished using it, turn off your computer and monitor. Avoid overcharging your cellphone or leaving it to charge overnight. Ideally, shut off your TV and other appliances through the main switch or outlet, not just the remote, so that you break the circuit and save energy . Switch to sustainable products Consider the products you use at home, like cleaning supplies and toothpaste . Switch to something more eco-friendly, ideally made from natural, biodegradable materials in plastic-free or fully recyclable packaging. Via News 18 Images via Riccardo Chiarini , Brian Yurasits and Arek Adeoye

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How to celebrate World Environment Day

This cozy cabin in the woods was once just an old tool shed

July 24, 2018 by  
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An old tool shed has undergone a dramatic transformation in the hands of James Cutler, principal architect at American design practice Cutler Anderson Architects . Reimagined as a cozy, multipurpose cabin, the Studio / Bunkhouse now serves as a work and living space for James and his 12-year-old daughter. Nestled in the woods and faced with a large expanse of glass, the 80-square-foot cabin embraces stunning views of Puget Sound on Washington’s Bainbridge Island. Placed just 30 feet away from the main house, Studio / Bunkhouse serves as a compact getaway accessible via a raised wooden walkway. The foundation was made using bags of ready-mix concrete , while the building was framed by James and his daughter out of locally milled rough-sawn Douglas Fir timbers. He also covered the exterior in rigid insulation as well as overlapping custom-cut 16-by-24-inch Corten steel shingles, which complement the surrounding Madrone and Cedar trees. A large window wraps around the west side to let in light and frame landscape views. “During the daytime hours, the building is a design studio , yet when the daughter comes home, she often joins her father and curls up on the lower bunk to read (it’s warm and cozy now),” according to the project statement. “Then, they switch the computer to TV mode and watch the evening news or movies. Since built, the building has surprised the designer and family by becoming the cozy, de facto family/media room for the main residence.” Related: Elegant net-zero home wraps around a large pond in Connecticut Inside, the two bunk beds fold up on traction struts, while the studio desk also folds up to save space. Rolling file cabinets hide the inverter/charger and 4.5 kilowatts of backup batteries. The space is also equipped with a cast iron wood-burning stove and a small fridge that can run off battery power. When all the furniture is folded away, the cabin can also be used as a poker room. + Cutler Anderson Architects Images by Art Grice

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This cozy cabin in the woods was once just an old tool shed

Elon Musk warns AI could become an immortal’ digital dictator

April 9, 2018 by  
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As if the world didn’t have enough dictators to worry about, Elon Musk  says that our future authoritarian leaders will be AI. Musk has previously warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence , particularly if control of it is concentrated the hands of a power-hungry global elite. He suggests that an AI dictator would know everything about us (thanks to being connected to computers across the planet), would be more dangerous to the world than North Korea and would unleash “weapons of terror” that could lead to the next world war. To top it all off, unlike human dictators, an AI dictator would never die. According to Musk, this dark future awaits us if we don’t regulate AI. “The least scary future I can think of is one where we have at least democratized AI because if one company or small group of people manages to develop godlike digital superintelligence, they could take over the world,” Musk said in the new documentary  Do You Trust This Computer ? “At least when there’s an evil dictator, that human is going to die. But for an AI, there would be no death. It would live forever. And then you’d have an immortal dictator from which we can never escape.” The documentary in which Musk is quoted focuses on several potentially hazardous applications of artificial intelligence, including the stock market, fake news algorithms, and autonomous weapons. In the film, Musk cites Google ‘s DeepMind project as an example of a powerful company in pursuit of superintelligence, or AI that is truly smarter than a human being. DeepMind has already achieved several milestones, including the 2016 defeat of world champion Lee Se-dol by AlphaGo in the board game Go. “The DeepMind system can win at any game ,” explained Musk. “It can already beat all the original Atari games. It is super human; it plays all the games at super speed in less than a minute.” Related: Elon Musk says trips to Mars coming as soon as next year Musk clarifies that this is not necessarily a question of good or evil, at least regarding the AI itself. “If AI has a goal and humanity just happens to be in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course without even thinking about it. No hard feelings,” Musk said. “It’s just like, if we’re building a road and an anthill just happens to be in the way, we don’t hate ants , we’re just building a road, and so, goodbye anthill.” Musk suggests that humans ultimately incorporate artificial intelligence into their very being to avoid becoming redundant. Putting his money where his mouth is, Musk is the co-founder of Neuralink that is reportedly interested in accomplishing Musk’s goal of merging the human brain to a computer. Via CNBC Images via  Steve Jurvetson/Flickr   WebSummit/Flickr and Depositphotos

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Elon Musk warns AI could become an immortal’ digital dictator

Elon Musk warns AI could become an immortal’ digital dictator

April 9, 2018 by  
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As if the world didn’t have enough dictators to worry about, Elon Musk  says that our future authoritarian leaders will be AI. Musk has previously warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence , particularly if control of it is concentrated the hands of a power-hungry global elite. He suggests that an AI dictator would know everything about us (thanks to being connected to computers across the planet), would be more dangerous to the world than North Korea and would unleash “weapons of terror” that could lead to the next world war. To top it all off, unlike human dictators, an AI dictator would never die. According to Musk, this dark future awaits us if we don’t regulate AI. “The least scary future I can think of is one where we have at least democratized AI because if one company or small group of people manages to develop godlike digital superintelligence, they could take over the world,” Musk said in the new documentary  Do You Trust This Computer ? “At least when there’s an evil dictator, that human is going to die. But for an AI, there would be no death. It would live forever. And then you’d have an immortal dictator from which we can never escape.” The documentary in which Musk is quoted focuses on several potentially hazardous applications of artificial intelligence, including the stock market, fake news algorithms, and autonomous weapons. In the film, Musk cites Google ‘s DeepMind project as an example of a powerful company in pursuit of superintelligence, or AI that is truly smarter than a human being. DeepMind has already achieved several milestones, including the 2016 defeat of world champion Lee Se-dol by AlphaGo in the board game Go. “The DeepMind system can win at any game ,” explained Musk. “It can already beat all the original Atari games. It is super human; it plays all the games at super speed in less than a minute.” Related: Elon Musk says trips to Mars coming as soon as next year Musk clarifies that this is not necessarily a question of good or evil, at least regarding the AI itself. “If AI has a goal and humanity just happens to be in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course without even thinking about it. No hard feelings,” Musk said. “It’s just like, if we’re building a road and an anthill just happens to be in the way, we don’t hate ants , we’re just building a road, and so, goodbye anthill.” Musk suggests that humans ultimately incorporate artificial intelligence into their very being to avoid becoming redundant. Putting his money where his mouth is, Musk is the co-founder of Neuralink that is reportedly interested in accomplishing Musk’s goal of merging the human brain to a computer. Via CNBC Images via  Steve Jurvetson/Flickr   WebSummit/Flickr and Depositphotos

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Elon Musk warns AI could become an immortal’ digital dictator

The CO2 intensity of the US power sector just hit a record low

April 9, 2018 by  
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Renewable energy is winning again. The Power Sector Carbon Index just revealed that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions intensity is the lowest on record. Thanks to government policy, market forces and new technologies, energy companies have moved away from carbon-intensive coal and towards cleaner, greener energy like renewables and natural gas. And the numbers aren’t insignificant – 13 years ago, carbon intensity was nearly 27% higher than it is now. Carbon emissions intensity is the rate of emissions produced relative to the amount of energy that we get from it. Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) released their 2018 Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index — which tracks power producers’ environmental performance in the United States, and compares today’s emissions to over 20 years of historical data. Assistant professor Costa Samaras said in a statement , “The Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index provides a snapshot of critical data regarding energy production and environmental performance. We’ve found this index to provide significant insight into trends in power generation and emissions. In particular, the data have shown that emissions intensity has fallen to the lowest level on record, as a combination of natural gas and renewable power have displaced more carbon-intensive coal -fired power generation.” Related: 104% of Portugal’s electricity consumption in March came from renewable energy Specifically, emissions of power plants in America averaged 967 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh) last year. That figure is 3.1 percent lower than 2016, and 26.8 percent lower than in 2005, “often used as a benchmark year for measuring progress made in reducing emissions,” according to the university. The 2017 fourth quarter (Q4) update from the university, also posted in early April, offers more insight into how renewables are playing a role. In Q4, power plant emissions actually averaged 952 pounds of CO2 per MWh. And compared against 2016 Q4, in 2017 Q4 coal generation dropped six percent, natural gas was up four percent, nuclear up four percent, hydro up one percent, wind up 13 percent, and solar up 30 percent. MHPS Americas CEO Paul Browning said, “The power industry has made significant progress in reducing emissions for over a decade, as new technology, state and federal policies and market forces have increased power generation from natural gas and renewables, and decreased power generation from coal.” + Power Sector Carbon Index + Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering + Power Sector Carbon Index — 2017 Q4 Update Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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The CO2 intensity of the US power sector just hit a record low

The CO2 intensity of the US power sector just hit a record low

April 9, 2018 by  
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Renewable energy is winning again. The Power Sector Carbon Index just revealed that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions intensity is the lowest on record. Thanks to government policy, market forces and new technologies, energy companies have moved away from carbon-intensive coal and towards cleaner, greener energy like renewables and natural gas. And the numbers aren’t insignificant – 13 years ago, carbon intensity was nearly 27% higher than it is now. Carbon emissions intensity is the rate of emissions produced relative to the amount of energy that we get from it. Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) released their 2018 Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index — which tracks power producers’ environmental performance in the United States, and compares today’s emissions to over 20 years of historical data. Assistant professor Costa Samaras said in a statement , “The Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index provides a snapshot of critical data regarding energy production and environmental performance. We’ve found this index to provide significant insight into trends in power generation and emissions. In particular, the data have shown that emissions intensity has fallen to the lowest level on record, as a combination of natural gas and renewable power have displaced more carbon-intensive coal -fired power generation.” Related: 104% of Portugal’s electricity consumption in March came from renewable energy Specifically, emissions of power plants in America averaged 967 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh) last year. That figure is 3.1 percent lower than 2016, and 26.8 percent lower than in 2005, “often used as a benchmark year for measuring progress made in reducing emissions,” according to the university. The 2017 fourth quarter (Q4) update from the university, also posted in early April, offers more insight into how renewables are playing a role. In Q4, power plant emissions actually averaged 952 pounds of CO2 per MWh. And compared against 2016 Q4, in 2017 Q4 coal generation dropped six percent, natural gas was up four percent, nuclear up four percent, hydro up one percent, wind up 13 percent, and solar up 30 percent. MHPS Americas CEO Paul Browning said, “The power industry has made significant progress in reducing emissions for over a decade, as new technology, state and federal policies and market forces have increased power generation from natural gas and renewables, and decreased power generation from coal.” + Power Sector Carbon Index + Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering + Power Sector Carbon Index — 2017 Q4 Update Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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The CO2 intensity of the US power sector just hit a record low

Bio-friendly energy storage device draws electrical power from the human body

May 23, 2017 by  
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Humans are constantly on the go, so doesn’t it make sense to harness some of that kinetic energy ? Scientists from UCLA and the University of Connecticut asked themselves that question, which eventually led to them developing an energy-storing device that can draw electrical power from the human body. The biological supercapacitor is a protein-based battery-like device capable of extracting energy from the human body. A supercapacitor is a term used to describe a high-performance electrochemical capacitor (ECs), which is similar to batteries but has a much higher power density. Supercapacitors have faster char-discharge rates, lower internal resistance, higher power density and better cycling ability than batteries. Once energy is obtained by the newly-developed energy storage device, it is then released inside an electrical circuit which looks similar to an implantable medical device. According to the paper Ultrathin Graphene – Protein Supercapacitors for Miniaturized Bioelectronics , which was published earlier this month, the supercapacitor utilizes a “harvester” that operates by using the body’s heat and movements to capture electrical charges from ions, which are found in human body fluids including blood and urine. Bleeping Computer reports , “As electrodes, the harvester uses a carbon nanomaterial called graphene, layered with modified human proteins. The electrodes collect energy from the human body , relay it to the harvester, which then stores it for later use.” Graphene sheets can be drawn as thin as a few atoms, which means the incredibly thin supercapacitors could potentially serve as alternatives to batteries. Related: Researchers close in on world’s first 100% self-charging lithium-ion battery Most importantly, the supercapacitors are bio-friendly , as they are made with natural materials. Graphene is composed of carbon, whereas current implantable medical devices are powered by classic batteries that contain toxic materials. Because the new device is thinner than a human hair, it is more flexible than traditional batteries, as well. This technology could have far-reaching implications for the medical industry. Researchers believe that an implantable medical device using a supercapacitor could last a lifetime. In result, patients wouldn’t need to go through operations at regular intervals to replace batteries – one of the main complications with implantable medical devices. In addition to being used with pacemakers, the new energy device could be paired with devices that stimulate other organs, such as the brain, stomach and/or bladder. + UCLA Via Bleeping Computer Images via Islam Mosa/University of Connecticut and Maher El-Kady/UCLA , Pixabay

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Bio-friendly energy storage device draws electrical power from the human body

Airbus and Italdesign unveil modular urban land and air transport system

March 17, 2017 by  
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Showcasing what could be the future of human transportation, Airbus and Italdesign unveiled their Pop.Up concept vehicle at the Geneva Motor Show yesterday – a modular ground and air transport system. With the goal of tackling rush hour traffic around the world, the companies have essentially created a car paired with a drone that can swoop down, pick it up and transport passengers far above the traffic below. Passengers use a smartphone app to call for the drone, and Airbus says the vehicle might one day be able to pair with future transport systems like Hyperloop . According to Airbus , their modular concept includes a capsule that connects to either a ground or air module, and can be integrated into other means of transportation. Trips in the vehicle are entirely managed by an artificial intelligence platform that offers passengers multiple optimized choices of transport combinations based on where and how they want to travel. Passengers can interact with the computer through their smartphone app, and enjoy the stress-free ride of an autonomous vehicle that travels on both land and air. Related: The world’s first flying car is finally available for pre-order The heart of the vehicle is the capsule, designed to house passengers. It becomes a city car by connecting with a battery-powered chassis ground module made of carbon fiber, to become an electric city car for two people. When traffic becomes too much to bear, the passengers can call on the air module powered by eight counter-rotating motors to come and pick up the capsule – leaving the chassis on the ground. It then essentially becomes a vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL), autonomous urban air vehicle . Airbus notes that upon depositing passengers at their destination, both the air and ground modules autonomously return to their respective charging stations to wait for their next customers. While it’s exciting, the project is likely to remain a concept for the time being, as neither Airbus nor Italdesign make any mention about production or launch of their new creation. Airbus technology incubator, A 3 is, however, hard at work on Project Vahana – a futuristic urban transit system that includes single-passenger aircraft. Via Airbus Images via Italdesign

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Airbus and Italdesign unveil modular urban land and air transport system

Archaeologist suggests ancient humans helped catalyze the Sahara’s desertification

March 17, 2017 by  
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The Sahara Desert we know, with its rolling sand dunes and hot temperatures, used to be a verdant grassland with lakes. Scientists have traditionally attributed the dramatic change to a wobble in Earth’s orbital axis , but now archaeologist David K. Wright of Seoul National University is suggesting actually, humans may have been to blame. A 10,000-year or so wet period called the African Humid Period brought moisture to northern and eastern Africa. But around 8,000 years ago the moisture balance began to change. Today below the sand-dominated landscape can be found signs of rivers and plants, remnants of a greener history. In an article published in the journal Frontiers in Earth Science , Wright explained humans used to be thought of as passive agents in the end of the African Humid Period. But he thinks humans might actually have been active agents in the change. Related: The Mediterranean will become a desert unless global warming is limited to 1.5°C Wright said, “In East Asia there are long established theories of how Neolithic populations changed the landscape so profoundly that monsoons sopped penetrating so far inland.” He thinks a similar phenomenon could have happened in the Sahara. People growing crops and raising livestock could have changed the environment , exposing soil, and sunlight bouncing from the soil could have warmed the air, influencing atmospheric conditions enough so there wasn’t as much rainfall, which only added to the desertification of the Sahara. As yet, Wright needs more evidence for other scientists to fully get on board with his ideas. He said, “There were lakes everywhere in the Sahara at this time, and they will have the records of the changing vegetation. We need to drill down into these former lake beds to get the vegetation records, look at the archaeology , and see what people were doing there.” If Wright turns out to be right, his research could yield insights into how we can adapt to large scale climate change . Via Phys.org and ScienceAlert Images via Charly W. Karl on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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