6 ways that scientists are hacking the planet

May 28, 2018 by  
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Life on planet Earth is struggling through an historically challenging era, thanks in no small part to the actions of our species. Some scientists have proposed labeling this period as the Anthropocene epoch due to the outsize influence that humans have had on the planet’s ecosystems , especially in the past several centuries. Anthropogenic climate change is wreaking havoc across the planet, from the melting sea ice in the Arctic to the rising sea levels in the Atlantic. Plastic pollution threatens to suffocate aquatic life while deforestation destroys essential habitat; both are contributing to what some scientists have called the sixth mass extinction. As much as humanity has altered this planet in ways that are harmful to itself and other species, some humans are now attempting to hack the planet, in big ways and small, for the good of us all. 1. Refreezing the Arctic As nations around the world race toward carbon neutrality, it is nonetheless clear that the planet will continue to experience significant effects of climate change, even in best-case scenarios. Given that the global community is far from the path toward best-case conditions, some scientists have begun work on radical procedures that, if successful, could return Earth’s ecosystems to a pre-climate change state. Perhaps the region most associated with the fundamental ecological transformations under climate change is the Arctic . To protect this rapidly warming region, a team of 14 scientists led by physicist Steven Desch of  Arizona State University   have created a plan that aims to refreeze sthe Arctic with 10 million wind-powered pumps. The system would pump water onto the sea ice during winter, freezing new layers and reinforcing the sea ice. With the Arctic predicted to be sea ice-free by the summer of 2030, something must be done. “Our only strategy at present seems to be to tell people to stop burning  fossil fuels ,” Desch told the Observer . “It’s a good idea but it is going to need a lot more than that to stop the Arctic’s sea ice from disappearing.” 2. Puncturing the Yellowstone Supervolcano As the Kilauea volcano destroys buildings and forces major evacuations in Hawaii , the public is once again reminded of the dangers that volcanic eruptions can pose, often unexpectedly. If the supervolcano at Yellowstone National Park were to erupt, it could could trigger a collapse of the global agricultural and economic systems and result in the deaths of potentially millions of people. Although scientists cannot predict when such an eruption would occur, they have already prepared a plan to prevent it from occurring. Related: The world’s tallest active geyser keeps erupting in Yellowstone – and scientists don’t know why Researchers at NASA have proposed drilling into the magma chamber and adding water to cool it down, thereby preventing an eruption. However, researchers recommend drilling into the chamber from below, so as to avoid fracturing the surrounding rock and causing an eruption. Excess heat gathered through such a puncture could be converted into geothermal power. NASA estimates that such a project would cost $3.5 billion; the agency has yet to secure funding. 3. A ‘Spray-on Umbrella’ to Protect Coral Reefs Coral reefs around the world are under severe pressure, with up to one-quarter of all reefs worldwide already considered too damaged to be saved. Climate change , overfishing, and pollution all contribute to the poor health of global coral populations. Even the sun’s UV rays are damaging coral reefs by exacerbating extreme bleaching events. To protect acute vulnerabilities in coral reefs, researchers have created what has been described as a “spray-on umbrella”: an environmentally friendly substance 500 times thinner than human hair, capable of reflecting and scattering sunlight that hits the surface of the ocean. “It’s important to note that this is not intended to be a solution that can be applied over the whole 348,000 square kilometres of Great Barrier Reef ,” Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director Anna Marsden told  the Sydney Morning Herald . “That would never be practical, but it could be deployed on a smaller, local level to protect high value or high-risk areas of reef.” Real-world experiments with the lipid-calcium carbonate substance will begin soon. 4. A Chemical Sunshade As global temperatures continue to rise and climate change fundamentally alters ecosystems around the world, scientists are considering what some may see as drastic measures to correct a global climate spiraling into chaos. The deliberate large-scale manipulation of Earth’s climate to compensate for global warming is known as geoengineering. Scientists from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Jamaica, and Thailand have now joined the debate in a new study published in Nature, arguing that if there is to be geoengineering, developing countries must lead the way . Related: Trump administration could open door to geoengineering “The technique is controversial, and rightly so,” they wrote. “It is too early to know what its effects would be: it could be very helpful or very harmful. Developing countries have most to gain or lose. In our view, they must maintain their climate leadership and play a central part in research and discussions around solar geoengineering.” Specifically, these scientists are interested in studying the effect of controlled sprays of water molecules on cloud cover reflectivity. If clouds become more reflective, they could deflect more of the sun’s rays, thus cooling the planet down. While small-scale experiments have been conducted by researchers at Harvard University, geoengineering remains on the not-so-distant horizon for now. 5. Using the Color Spectrum to Cool Down Hacking the planet need not be done on such a large scale; sometimes small, local actions can effect large, global change. In this case, public works officials and workers in Los Angeles have figured out a way to hack the light spectrum by painting its streets white to reduce heat absorption. White-painted streets and rooftops are a low-cost, simple measure to reduce the urban heat island effect, thus saving energy otherwise spent on cooling. To achieve this impact, Los Angeles is covering its streets with CoolSeal, a light-colored paint that has already yielded positive outcomes. Related: Futuristic “spaceship” Lucas Museum breaks ground in Los Angeles “We found that on average the area covered in CoolSeal is 10 degrees cooler than black asphalt on the same parking lot,” said Greg Spotts, the assistant director of the Bureau of Street Services for San Fernando Valley, one of the hottest spots in greater LA. Currently, Los Angeles is one of the only places in the United States where heat-related deaths occur regularly during winter , a public health hazard that is expected to worsen as  climate change  gains strength over the next decades. If enough streets are painted white, relief from the heat may arrive in the City of Angels. 6. The Rain-Making Machine No matter how many streets are painted white, if there is no water, there will be no city. Water held within the air, even as it stubbornly refuses to rain, represents an untapped resource with which to quench the thirst of communities around the globe. The  China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation  (CASC) is currently testing devices in the Tibetan Plateau that could increase rainfall in the region by as much as 10 billion cubic meters, or around 353 billion cubic feet, per year. CASC plans to build tens of thousands of chambers across 620,000 square miles, which will burn fuel to create silver iodide. This silver iodide will then serve as a crystalline cloud-seeding agent. The chambers will be located on steep, south-facing ridges that will facilitate the sweeping of the silver iodide into the clouds to cause rainfall. As the project unfolds, 30 weather satellites will gather real-time data while the chambers work together with drones, planes, and even artillery to maximize the effectiveness of the rain-making machines. While the idea of “cloud seeding” is not new, China is the first country to pursue such a project on a large scale. Images via Good Free Photos,   Depositphotos  (1) (2) ,  Pixabay (1) , NASA/ISS  

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6 ways that scientists are hacking the planet

6 ways that scientists are hacking the planet

May 28, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Comments Off on 6 ways that scientists are hacking the planet

Life on planet Earth is struggling through an historically challenging era, thanks in no small part to the actions of our species. Some scientists have proposed labeling this period as the Anthropocene epoch due to the outsize influence that humans have had on the planet’s ecosystems , especially in the past several centuries. Anthropogenic climate change is wreaking havoc across the planet, from the melting sea ice in the Arctic to the rising sea levels in the Atlantic. Plastic pollution threatens to suffocate aquatic life while deforestation destroys essential habitat; both are contributing to what some scientists have called the sixth mass extinction. As much as humanity has altered this planet in ways that are harmful to itself and other species, some humans are now attempting to hack the planet, in big ways and small, for the good of us all. 1. Refreezing the Arctic As nations around the world race toward carbon neutrality, it is nonetheless clear that the planet will continue to experience significant effects of climate change, even in best-case scenarios. Given that the global community is far from the path toward best-case conditions, some scientists have begun work on radical procedures that, if successful, could return Earth’s ecosystems to a pre-climate change state. Perhaps the region most associated with the fundamental ecological transformations under climate change is the Arctic . To protect this rapidly warming region, a team of 14 scientists led by physicist Steven Desch of  Arizona State University   have created a plan that aims to refreeze sthe Arctic with 10 million wind-powered pumps. The system would pump water onto the sea ice during winter, freezing new layers and reinforcing the sea ice. With the Arctic predicted to be sea ice-free by the summer of 2030, something must be done. “Our only strategy at present seems to be to tell people to stop burning  fossil fuels ,” Desch told the Observer . “It’s a good idea but it is going to need a lot more than that to stop the Arctic’s sea ice from disappearing.” 2. Puncturing the Yellowstone Supervolcano As the Kilauea volcano destroys buildings and forces major evacuations in Hawaii , the public is once again reminded of the dangers that volcanic eruptions can pose, often unexpectedly. If the supervolcano at Yellowstone National Park were to erupt, it could could trigger a collapse of the global agricultural and economic systems and result in the deaths of potentially millions of people. Although scientists cannot predict when such an eruption would occur, they have already prepared a plan to prevent it from occurring. Related: The world’s tallest active geyser keeps erupting in Yellowstone – and scientists don’t know why Researchers at NASA have proposed drilling into the magma chamber and adding water to cool it down, thereby preventing an eruption. However, researchers recommend drilling into the chamber from below, so as to avoid fracturing the surrounding rock and causing an eruption. Excess heat gathered through such a puncture could be converted into geothermal power. NASA estimates that such a project would cost $3.5 billion; the agency has yet to secure funding. 3. A ‘Spray-on Umbrella’ to Protect Coral Reefs Coral reefs around the world are under severe pressure, with up to one-quarter of all reefs worldwide already considered too damaged to be saved. Climate change , overfishing, and pollution all contribute to the poor health of global coral populations. Even the sun’s UV rays are damaging coral reefs by exacerbating extreme bleaching events. To protect acute vulnerabilities in coral reefs, researchers have created what has been described as a “spray-on umbrella”: an environmentally friendly substance 500 times thinner than human hair, capable of reflecting and scattering sunlight that hits the surface of the ocean. “It’s important to note that this is not intended to be a solution that can be applied over the whole 348,000 square kilometres of Great Barrier Reef ,” Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director Anna Marsden told  the Sydney Morning Herald . “That would never be practical, but it could be deployed on a smaller, local level to protect high value or high-risk areas of reef.” Real-world experiments with the lipid-calcium carbonate substance will begin soon. 4. A Chemical Sunshade As global temperatures continue to rise and climate change fundamentally alters ecosystems around the world, scientists are considering what some may see as drastic measures to correct a global climate spiraling into chaos. The deliberate large-scale manipulation of Earth’s climate to compensate for global warming is known as geoengineering. Scientists from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Jamaica, and Thailand have now joined the debate in a new study published in Nature, arguing that if there is to be geoengineering, developing countries must lead the way . Related: Trump administration could open door to geoengineering “The technique is controversial, and rightly so,” they wrote. “It is too early to know what its effects would be: it could be very helpful or very harmful. Developing countries have most to gain or lose. In our view, they must maintain their climate leadership and play a central part in research and discussions around solar geoengineering.” Specifically, these scientists are interested in studying the effect of controlled sprays of water molecules on cloud cover reflectivity. If clouds become more reflective, they could deflect more of the sun’s rays, thus cooling the planet down. While small-scale experiments have been conducted by researchers at Harvard University, geoengineering remains on the not-so-distant horizon for now. 5. Using the Color Spectrum to Cool Down Hacking the planet need not be done on such a large scale; sometimes small, local actions can effect large, global change. In this case, public works officials and workers in Los Angeles have figured out a way to hack the light spectrum by painting its streets white to reduce heat absorption. White-painted streets and rooftops are a low-cost, simple measure to reduce the urban heat island effect, thus saving energy otherwise spent on cooling. To achieve this impact, Los Angeles is covering its streets with CoolSeal, a light-colored paint that has already yielded positive outcomes. Related: Futuristic “spaceship” Lucas Museum breaks ground in Los Angeles “We found that on average the area covered in CoolSeal is 10 degrees cooler than black asphalt on the same parking lot,” said Greg Spotts, the assistant director of the Bureau of Street Services for San Fernando Valley, one of the hottest spots in greater LA. Currently, Los Angeles is one of the only places in the United States where heat-related deaths occur regularly during winter , a public health hazard that is expected to worsen as  climate change  gains strength over the next decades. If enough streets are painted white, relief from the heat may arrive in the City of Angels. 6. The Rain-Making Machine No matter how many streets are painted white, if there is no water, there will be no city. Water held within the air, even as it stubbornly refuses to rain, represents an untapped resource with which to quench the thirst of communities around the globe. The  China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation  (CASC) is currently testing devices in the Tibetan Plateau that could increase rainfall in the region by as much as 10 billion cubic meters, or around 353 billion cubic feet, per year. CASC plans to build tens of thousands of chambers across 620,000 square miles, which will burn fuel to create silver iodide. This silver iodide will then serve as a crystalline cloud-seeding agent. The chambers will be located on steep, south-facing ridges that will facilitate the sweeping of the silver iodide into the clouds to cause rainfall. As the project unfolds, 30 weather satellites will gather real-time data while the chambers work together with drones, planes, and even artillery to maximize the effectiveness of the rain-making machines. While the idea of “cloud seeding” is not new, China is the first country to pursue such a project on a large scale. Images via Good Free Photos,   Depositphotos  (1) (2) ,  Pixabay (1) , NASA/ISS  

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6 ways that scientists are hacking the planet

Florida coral reefs plagued with mysterious disease

May 16, 2018 by  
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With coral reefs under threat worldwide, researchers in Florida are racing to understand and treat a mysterious disease that threatens to decimate the third-largest coral reef on Earth. Over the past four years, the as-yet unidentified, potentially bacterial disease has already had a significant impact on Florida’s coral species, half of which are fatally vulnerable to the disease. “When they’re affected by this, the tissue sloughs off the skeleton,” Erinn Muller, science director at Mote Marine Lab’s Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration in the Florida Keys, explained to NPR . “And we see that once a coral is infected, it usually kills the entire coral, sometimes within weeks. And it doesn’t seem to stop.” After being hired by the State of Florida to study the health of coral reefs near Miami , scientist William Precht first observed the disease moving from coral to coral, with particularly devastating effects on star and brain coral. “This is essentially equivalent to a local extinction , an ecological extirpation of these species locally,” Precht told NPR . “And when you go out and swim on the reefs of Miami-Dade County today, it would be a very rare chance encounter that you’d see some of these three or four species.” Related: Scientists made a liquid ‘umbrella’ to protect coral reefs from sun damage Researchers at Mote Marine Lab are hard at work to determine how to protect coral from the mysterious disease . “Anything from… looking at chlorine-laced epoxy as an antiseptic, and even looking at how antibiotics interact with the disease,” Muller said. “Because if it is bacterial, then antibiotics would be a way to stop it.” Mote Marine Lab is also serving as a nursery for baby coral, which are released into the wild when they are ready. At this moment, the reefs under siege will need all the help they can get. “We’re really at a critical juncture right now, where we have corals left on the reef,” said Muller. “Before we lose more corals, now is the time to start making a change.” Via NPR Images via  NOAA National Ocean Service   (1)

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Florida coral reefs plagued with mysterious disease

2018 hurricane season may be worse than last year

May 16, 2018 by  
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Hurricanes Harvey , Irma  and Maria devastated communities in the southern U.S. and Puerto Rico in 2017, and together resulted in around $265 billion in damage. Will the U.S. and Caribbean face more brutal storms this year? Forecasts of 2018’s looming hurricane season predict it could be more active than average — and you can start preparing for it now. North Carolina State University  researchers report that 14 to 18 named tropical storms and hurricanes could form in the Atlantic basin in 2018. In comparison, the average for named storms from 1950 to 2017 was 11. The researchers said of 14 to 18 storms, seven to 11 could become hurricanes, in contrast to the average of six. Three to five storms could turn into major hurricanes. Researchers at Colorado State University anticipate similar numbers.  They forecasted 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. Related: How to Prepare Your Home and Family for a Hurricane or Superstorm According to The Guardian and a study led by  Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that was  published earlier this month , Atlantic storms are intensifying quicker than they did 30 years ago. Colorado State researchers said there is a “slightly above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall” in the Caribbean and the coastline of the continental U.S. The U.S. might not see the same levels of destruction this year, but people should still be prepared. “As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them,” Colorado State researchers said. “They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.” Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. You can start preparing right now — Inhabitat created a guide for getting your home and family ready for hurricanes and  superstorms . + North Carolina State University + Colorado State University Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Scientists create ‘umbrella’ spray to protect coral reefs from sun damage

March 27, 2018 by  
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Researchers have crafted a new liquid substance that can be sprayed onto the surface of the water above vulnerable coral reefs , shielding them from intense UV and visible light beaming down from the Sun . In doing so, the spray may help to defend reefs from extreme bleaching events. 50,000 times thinner than a human hair, the biodegradable spray is made from a natural lipid and calcium carbonate, a key component of coral reefs. “It is white so it reflects and scatters all the light which hits the ocean surface,” study researcher Andrew Negri told the Sydney Morning Herald . Laboratory tests revealed that the spray was capable of reducing the amount of light reaching underwater coral by 20 percent. “In the laboratory, it actually stays on the surface for several weeks, but in the ocean it could be broken up by wave action and moved around by the currents,” explained Negri. The spray will quickly biodegrade after it is broken up. Trials in a real-world environment will begin soon to refine the spray and make it more resilient to sometimes turbulent waters . Related: Spraying spiders with graphene helps them spin webs 6 times stronger than normal Conservationists are enthused about the idea of using the spray to protect acute vulnerabilities in coral reefs. “The idea being that you could in the future, knowing there is going to be hot days ahead… spray this film on top of key reefs… and this will act as a bit of a shield… almost like an umbrella, to protect these reefs underneath and the animals underneath,” Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director Anna Marsden told the Sydney Morning Herald . “It’s important to note that this is not intended to be a solution that can be applied over the whole 348,000 square kilometres of Great Barrier Reef ,” Marsden noted. “That would never be practical, but it could be deployed on a smaller, local level to protect high value or high-risk areas of reef.” Via The Sydney Morning Herald Images via Depositphotos (2 , 3 )

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Scientists create ‘umbrella’ spray to protect coral reefs from sun damage

Most active volcano in Europe ‘sliding into the sea’

March 27, 2018 by  
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Volcanic eruptions or lava flows you’ve heard of, but what about a volcano sliding into the sea? Scientists say that’s exactly what’s happening to Mount Etna, which The Open University described as the most active volcano in Europe. It’s the first time scientists have directly observed anything like it, and it could have disturbing consequences in the future. “Constant movement could contribute to a major landslide along Etna’s coast, causing devastating tsunamis to surrounding areas.” Mount Etna in Italy is headed towards the Mediterranean Sea. Researchers have observed parts of volcanoes move, but according to the BBC , these scientists think this is the first time anyone has directly observed basement sliding of a whole active volcano. They drew on 11 years of GPS measurements all over Etna to make the discovery. Related: Mount Etna eruption creates a display of fire, ash, and lightning over Sicily The Open University ‘s John Murray, lead author of the study on the work, said Mount Etna is moving 14 millimeters (mm) a year toward the Mediterranean. “While 14 mm might not seem much, previous studies of long-extinct volcanoes found those sliding downslope in a similar way have resulted in catastrophic landslides later in their history,” Murray said in the university’s statement. Should we be worried? Etna might not slide into the sea in our lifetimes, so local residents needn’t be afraid, but “continued sliding for hundreds or thousands of years could cause it to become dangerously unstable,” Murray said. He told the BBC scientists should monitor the motion to see if it accelerates. Mount Etna’s movement may impact research today, however; Murray said it could interfere with signals that clue scientists into where magma is. It could be trickier to monitor the likelihood of an eruption. The Bulletin of Volcanology published the research online late last week; scientists from Université Clermont Auvergne in France and Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom contributed. + The Open University + Bulletin of Volcanology Via the BBC Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Rising ocean temperatures are cooking the Great Barrier Reef to death

April 10, 2017 by  
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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef offers dramatic evidence of the reality of climate change . Scientists have found an astonishing two-thirds of the reef undergoing mass coral bleaching as warmer ocean temperatures are basically boiling them to death. James Kerry, a scientist with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies , told CNN when ocean temperatures are hot for long periods of time, corals don’t simply bleach but “cook and they die very quickly.” 2016 saw a bleaching event that was the worst coral die-off we’ve ever recorded, and now a 2017 event makes matters worse. ARC Centre director Terry Hughes said the impact of back-to-back bleaching sprawls across 900 miles; only the southern third of the Great Barrier Reef is unharmed. It’s the second time in only 12 months scientists have recorded mass bleaching in the reef after aerial surveys. Related: Great Barrier Reef bleaching is the “worst coral die-off” in recorded history And 2017’s bleaching can’t be explained away by El Niño . Hughes said the bleaching “is caused by record-breaking temperatures driven by global warming .” The Great Barrier Reef has experienced severe bleaching in 1998, 2002, and now 2016 and 2017, according to scientists. Kerry said bleached corals don’t always die, but take at least a decade to make a full recovery, so with back-to-back bleaching they expect coral loss. Tropical Cyclone Debbie didn’t help either. The storm may have left damage in its wake when it hit part of the Great Barrier Reef at the end of March. Hughes said in a statement, “Clearly the reef is struggling with multiple impacts. Without a doubt the most pressing of these is global warming. As temperatures continue to rise the corals will experience more and more of these events: one degree Celsius of warming so far has already caused four events in the past 19 years. Ultimately we need to cut carbon emissions , and the window to do so is rapidly closing.” Via the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and CNN Images via Bette Willis and Ed Roberts/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

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Earth-like planet with atmosphere discovered just 39 light years away

April 10, 2017 by  
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In a development that has astronomers giddy with excitement, a new study published in Astronomical Journal has confirmed the existence of the first “Earth-like” planet with an atmosphere. The planet, known only as GJ 1132b, is about the size of Earth, with the same small, rocky composition as our own. Unlike our solar system , GJ 1132b orbits a dim red dwarf star so close to its sun that its atmosphere is likely more like Venus than Earth. Not only is the average temperature of the planet likely about 700 degrees Fahrenheit, but it’s also probably tidally locked – which means that gravity causes one side of the planet to constantly face its star, while the other side is in a state of permanent night. The exoplanet was first discovered in 2015, but the existence of an atmosphere wasn’t certain until very recently. It’s unclear exactly what the planet’s atmosphere is made of, although it’s likely to be rich in either water vapor or methane. Further observations will have to be done to clarify. Related: Astronomers announce the closest earth-like planet is just a star away Though the exoplanet is clearly unsuitable for human life, the discovery has some far-reaching implications. Exoplanets orbiting red dwarves appear to be incredibly common throughout the known universe, so there could potentially be a huge number of planets with atmospheres that might harbor life. Via the Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Tesla unveils discreet new rooftop solar panels

April 10, 2017 by  
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Elon Musk’s solar roof tiles won’t fit the bill for every home. Some homeowners won’t want to replace their entire roofs , but Tesla , of course, already has a solution. They’re now marketing sleek, low-profile solar panels that are easy to install and better blend in with roofs than traditional panels. Leave it to Tesla to offer an elegant alternative to traditional solar panels. They updated the Energy section of their website over the weekend to include new images of their solar panels. The seamless look of the new technology is thanks to “integrated front skirts and no visible mounting hardware” according to Tesla’s website. Electrek said these features come from Zep Solar , a mounting equipment company SolarCity acquired before Tesla’s acquisition . Zep Solar engineers designed the rail-less system Solar City employed to slash solar installation times in half. Related: Elon Musk says Tesla’s solar roof will be cheaper than ordinary roofs Tesla says their panels “exceed industry standards for durability and lifespan” on their website. Panasonic will be manufacturing the exclusive panels at the Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, New York. There aren’t many specifics available for the new solar panels yet, but Electrek said they will be 325-watt panels. They noted Panasonic sells other 325 watt panels, and those have a 25-year power output warranty and a 21.76 percent module efficiency. Tesla and before that SolarCity used to install solar panels from multiple suppliers as many solar companies do, but told Electrek once these new panels go into production, Tesla will use them for all residential projects in the future. It seems Elon Musk aims at offering solar solutions with better aesthetics for those who have been hesitant to go solar in the past with the bulky rooftop options. Anyone interested right now can request a custom quote on Tesla’s website . The company told Electrek production should begin this summer. Via Electrek and Engadget Images via Tesla

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Hawaii aims to ban coral reef-killing chemical sunscreens

February 20, 2017 by  
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For a long time we’ve been told to slather on sunblock to protect our skin from harsh ultraviolet radiation, but as an unintended consequence, filters in those sunscreens are washing off into the oceans and likely harming coral reefs . Now one Hawaii lawmaker is taking action. Fearing damage to the state’s fragile coral ecosystem, Senator Will Espero introduced a bill that would ban sunscreen with octinoxate and oxybenzone. Researchers detected concentrations of oxybenzone 30 times higher than levels thought to be safe for coral in Hawaii waters. The state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources said last September, “Recent studies have shown that oxybenzone causes deformities in coral larvae (planulae), making them unable to swim, settle out, and form new coral colonies. It also increase the rate at which coral bleaching occurs. This puts coral reef health at risk, and reduces resiliency to climate change .” Related: 40% of the top sunscreens don’t meet official guidelines for sun protection Haereticus Environmental Laboratory executive director Craig Downs, whose research influenced Espero’s bill, told KITV4, “Oxybenzone – it kills [coral]. It turns them into zombies if it doesn’t kill them outright.” The bill would ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate unless a user has a medical prescription. Unsurprisingly, sunscreen companies like L’Oréal have fought back, claiming there’s not enough evidence to validate such a ban. But Espero told Scientific American the science is on his side, and many people – from fishers to sailors to ocean sports enthusiasts – are behind the measure. According to TreeHugger, 14,000 tons of sunscreen wash off into oceans every single year, possibly exacerbating the worldwide coral bleaching issue. If you’re worried about sunburn but also want to consider your impact on the environment , check out the Environmental Working Group ‘s safe sunscreen guide . The organization lists several brands whose products meet their criteria. Via TreeHugger Images via Michael Dorausch on Flickr and Pixabay

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