Hurricane Harvey may have totaled up to 500,000 cars

August 30, 2017 by  
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Hurricane Harvey didn’t just devastate homes and businesses – it may also have totaled up to half a million cars. An estimated 500,000 Texan vehicles will likely be scrapped, leading to a massive sales wave of new and used cars in the near future. Compared to the fallout of other major storms, such as Hurricane Sandy , the density of totaled vehicles in Houston is staggering. Cox Automotive — the company behind Kelly Blue Book and Autotrader — told CNBC that nearly 500,000 vehicles are likely to be totaled. Reportedly, “scores” of trucks and cars had water up to their windows and, in some cases, over the hood and roof. Said Jonathon Smoke, chief economist for Cox Automotive, “This is worse than Hurricane Sandy . Sandy was bad, but the flooding with Hurricane Harvey could impact far more vehicles.” 250,000 vehicles were scrapped in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy battered New York and New Jersey. Related: 1,200 dead, millions homeless due to flooding in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh Whenever a hurricane hits, it leaves a legacy of damaged property, industrial waste, raw sewage, and oil spills – and the repercussions of Hurricane Harvey will be felt for many months. According to Ryan Maue with Weatherbell, 11 trillion gallons of rain dumped on the state during the actual storm ; by the time the weather dissipates completely, that number is expected to increase to 25 trillion gallons of rain. In total, 30,000 people sought temporary shelter and 450,000 are expected to seek assistance from FEMA . Via Jalopnik , CNN , CNBC Images via Defense.gov

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Hurricane Harvey may have totaled up to 500,000 cars

NASA considers puncturing Yellowstone supervolcano to save life on Earth

August 23, 2017 by  
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A new study from NASA’s Jet Propulsion unit has determined that the threat of a supervolcanic eruption to life on Earth may be more pressing than any interstellar collisions. An eruption of a supervolcano, like that found in Yellowstone National Park in the United States, could trigger a collapse of the global agricultural and economic systems and result in the deaths of potentially millions of people. Although NASA scientists can’t predict when such an event would occur, they have already begun preparing a preventative measure: drilling into the magma chamber of a supervolcano to cool it down. Although the potential consequences of a supervolcano eruption would be devastating, earthlings should rest easy knowing that the chance of such an eruption taking place this year is roughly 1-in-730,000. Even then, there is a chance that it could be nothing more than a little lava flow. Nonetheless, NASA scientists are preparing to deal with the problem before it happens. Related: World’s most active volcano harbors a tiny off-grid home—and you can stay overnight Magma eruptions occur only when it is thoroughly melted by intense heat; cooling magma down by 35 percent would prevent a supervolcano from erupting. To do this, the scientists envision using a drill to puncture above the chamber, where hydrothermal fluids are pushed to the surface. Adding water in this highly pressurized environment would be sufficient to cool the magma. To avoid fracturing the surrounding rock and potentially setting off an eruption, NASA scientists suggest drilling into the supervolcano from below. It is estimated that such a plan would cost around $3.5 billion, although governments would be encouraged to think of this as an investment : Excess heat could be captured and transformed into clean energy . Via IFLScience Lead image via Pixabay , others via Laineema/Flickr  and Peter Hartree/Flickr

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NASA considers puncturing Yellowstone supervolcano to save life on Earth

Trump waives dozens of environmental laws to speed construction of his wall

August 3, 2017 by  
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An anonymous official revealed two weeks ago that Trump intends to decimate the “crown jewel” of the national refuge system in order to build his border wall. Now, the Department of Homeland Security has announced it would disregard dozens of environmental rules in order to rush construction, which could start as soon as January. Workers have already been on site to prepare for building. The government is allowed to waive environmental requirements in order to build infrastructure, including skirting the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. In order to avoid dealing with private land owners, Trump’s wall is slated to start in the Santa Ana refuge, and while building in any refuge would be awful for the environment, the Sant Ana refuge is particularly devastating because it is home to the endangered ocelot, jaguar and jaguarondi. It is also one of the most cherished bird refuges in the US. “The lower Rio Grande is a national treasure for birds,” said Michael J. Parr, President of American Bird Conservancy . Related: “Crown jewel” wildlife refuge to be decimated as Trump starts building border wall Funding for the wall has already been approved by the House and now it is heading to the Senate for approval. It includes a provision for rebuilding the wall in San Diego, which was built just a decade ago. “Replacing the San Diego border wall only a decade after it was built shows that the border wall has always been stupid, ineffective and incredibly expensive,” Brian Segee, attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity said. “Trump’s border wall would compound this travesty by dividing and destroying more communities, wildlife and wild places.” Meanwhile, one of the most incredible bird watching refuges in the US stands to be split in half by the wall unless the Senate is convinced to kill funding. Via Grist Images via Flickr , Wikimedia and Wikimedia

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Trump waives dozens of environmental laws to speed construction of his wall

Erin Brockovich helps Oklahoma Pawnee Nation take on fracking companies

July 11, 2017 by  
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Oklahoma has become an earthquake hotspot in recent years, and many are blaming companies that engage in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking . Last year, the state saw its largest earthquake ever recorded at a 5.8 magnitude, close to the town of Pawnee. The Pawnee Nation is suing over 25 oil and gas companies, with the help of famous consumer advocate Erin Brockovich . The amount of earthquakes with a magnitude of 3 or higher in Oklahoma was greater than in California for the first time in 2014. Many people blame the practice employed by oil and gas companies of injecting wastewater from fracking into the Earth. Related: Oklahoma earthquake activity up 4000%, locals sue oil and gas companies National Geographic explained the amount of earthquakes in Oklahoma spiked as did activity from fossil fuel companies. Once the state saw either none or a couple of magnitude 3 earthquakes every year. In 2009 that number escalated to 20. From there the situation only worsened: the state had 109 magnitude 3 or higher earthquakes in 2013, 579 in 2014, 903 in 2015, and 623 in 2016. That’s two or three of these quakes every day. Brockovich actually used to spend her summers in Oklahoma with her grandparents as a child. She told National Geographic, “The only thing I’d worry about growing up there was tornadoes. Now I’d be afraid not of a tornado, but an earthquake? That’s just bizarre.” She said it’s hard “to go back to Oklahoma, to see how on edge [the Pawnee people] are. The question they keep asking is, ‘When will it end?’ The Pawnee Nation is suing Eagle Road Oil LLC, Cummings Oil Company, and 25 other companies for damage to reservation property and historical buildings, with the help of Weitz & Luxenberg along with Brockovich. They say the companies were knowingly causing the earthquakes and their actions “constitute wanton or reckless disregard for public or private safety .” Via EcoWatch and National Geographic Images via Sarah Nichols on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Erin Brockovich helps Oklahoma Pawnee Nation take on fracking companies

The UN just passed a historic treaty banning nuclear weapons worldwide

July 10, 2017 by  
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Could world peace be on the horizon? Last Friday the United Nations passed a total ban on nuclear weapons in an attempt to prevent WWIII from breaking out. The 10-page document, entitled Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons , was inspired after the U.N. reopened discussion of a global nuclear ban in March of 2017, prompting 2,500 scientists from 7 countries to sign a petition urging nuclear disarmament. Now that the first-of-its-kind ban has passed, some are optimistic for a world in which the threat of nuclear war no longer exists. In a press briefing last Thursday, U.N. conference president Elayne Whyte Gomez said, “We are on the verge of adopting the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons . She added, “This will be a historic moment and it will be the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty to be concluded in more than 20 years. The world has been waiting for this legal norm for 70 years.” TIME reports that more than 120 countries are prepared to adopt the treaty. The United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea, on the other hand, are boycotting the initiative – supposedly because they are armed with nuclear weapons. In fact, the handful of countries has suggested strengthening the nearly 50-year-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty which gives only the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China (the five original nuclear powers) the right to keep their destructive arsenal. Related: Climate change threat is as serious as nuclear war, UK minister warns Despite this, 122 member states voted in favor of negotiating “a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.” North Korea was the only nation that did not participate in the voting. Singapore abstained, the Netherlands voted against the decision and eight other nations voted yes . In a joint statement , the U.S., Britain, and France wrote: “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.” The three countries explained, “a purported ban on nuclear weapons that does not address the security concerns that continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary cannot result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon and will not enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and security.” Though the nuclear disarmament is controversial, Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, is certain nuclear weapons need to be banned to preserve life and ensure a habitable planet for future generations. She said , “If the world comes together in support of a nuclear ban, then nuclear weapons countries will likely follow suit, even if it doesn’t happen right away.” Via TIME , Futurism Images via Depositphotos and Pixabay

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The UN just passed a historic treaty banning nuclear weapons worldwide

Stephen Hawking says Trump’s Paris decision could induce irreversible climate change

July 4, 2017 by  
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Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking could very well be the world’s most famous scientist. He’s also one of the more outspoken ones, and recently talked with the BBC on his views about President Donald Trump and his potentially disastrous decision to yank America out of the 2015 Paris Agreement . Not one to mince words, Hawking warned of the consequences of such a choice: irreversible climate change . Hawking described climate change as one of the greatest dangers humanity faces today. But he said we still have time to prevent it if we take action. Trump’s utter lack of climate action is worrying for the entire planet and future generations, according to the scientist. Related: Stephen Hawking: Humans must leave Earth within 100 years to survive Hawking told the BBC, “We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible. Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus , with a temperature of two hundred and fifty degrees, and raining sulphuric acid.” Climate change could one day transform Earth into a hothouse planet. Hawking said Trump’s denial of the phenomenon “will cause avoidable environmental damage to our beautiful planet.” The BBC said the renowned scientist was pessimistic about our ability to solve our environmental dilemmas, and our future might only be safeguarded by leaving the planet. He said, “I fear evolution has inbuilt greed and aggression to the human genome. There is no sign of conflict lessening, and the development of militarized technology and weapons of mass destruction could make that disastrous. The best hope for the survival of the human race might be independent colonies in space .” Hawking recently said in the BBC documentary Expedition New Earth we have to colonize Mars within the next 100 years if we want to survive. Via the BBC Images via Lwp Kommunikáció on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Stephen Hawking says Trump’s Paris decision could induce irreversible climate change

11-year-old boy invents device to save children from dying in hot cars

July 4, 2017 by  
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Children dying in overheated cars is one of those preventable tragedies that just shouldn’t happen, and an 11-year-old boy in Texas decided to do something about it. Bishop Curry heard about a six-month-old who died in his hometown after being left inside a hot vehicle. A few hours later he had come up with his initial design for Oasis, a cooling device he hopes will one day save lives. Oasis started as a design for a fan that could be placed on a headrest. When the interior temperature of a car reached a certain level, the fan would immediately switch on to blow cool air on a child in a car seat. Curry’s father, Bishop Curry IV, told CBS News the device draws on GPS technology to determine when the vehicle is stopped. “It then detects if a child is in that car seat, and if the car is heating up. If all of those things are taking place it blows cold air on the child through an internal cooling system.” Related: 13-year-old Maanasa Mendu invents groundbreaking clean energy device that costs just $5 But 11-year-old Bishop also wanted to include a means for the child to be rescued in his design. If the fan does turn on, an antenna in Oasis will use Wi-Fi to notify the parents. Should they fail to respond, the device will then inform local authorities, using GPS to provide the child’s location. Curry IV is an engineer with Toyota , and has pitched the idea to the company. They were super impressed, so they footed the bill to send both father and son to a conference to pitch the idea to car seat manufacturers. Several have indicated interest, and Curry IV started a GoFundMe campaign earlier this year to raise money for legal and manufacturing fees. He recently posted an update saying they’ve turned in paperwork to the United States Patent and Trademark Office and are waiting to hear back. So far the GoFundMe campaign has raised over $45,000 of a $20,000 goal. You can donate here . + Help Bishop End Hot Car Deaths on GoFundMe Via Bishop B. Curry IV on GoFundMe and CBS News Images via screenshot ( 1 , 2 )

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11-year-old boy invents device to save children from dying in hot cars

Water-purifying tower could heal landscapes scarred by acid mine drainage in South Africa

July 3, 2017 by  
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Johannesburg , South Africa was built on mining . The gold mining industry began there in the late 1800s , and the city still feels the impact of acid mine drainage, which pollutes the local water supply and scars the environment . Architecture For a Change has a solution: a dam and water purification plant that could help heal the landscape – and in the future, it could even provide housing . Acid mine drainage can pollute drinking water and soil. Johannesburg – near where some of the world’s biggest gold reefs are located – is suffering from the issue. Architecture For a Change says chronic exposure to acid mine drainage can cause cancer, skin lesions, and cognitive impairment. But they’ve found a potential solution through design . Related: Modern recycled container house in South Africa operates 100% off grid They envision a network of purification stations to heal the landscape. A skyscraper would house laboratories and the purification plant, which could draw on Trailblazer KNEW Ion Exchange technology to treat contaminated water. The treatment process would not only yield clean water, but minerals and substances like dolomite, gypsum, and salt that could be used in fertilizers or building. Re-mining Johannesburg doesn’t just clean up water, but could be integrated into the city’s urban fabric. Architecture For a Change envisions three phases for the project. First, water will be pumped from a mining void and purified, creating a large body of water that could become a waterfront held in by a dam. Second, as the land recovers water levels will go down, and the walls of the dam can be turned into housing. In phase three, in the far future, when the landscape is restored, the empty dam will be turned into a park fertilized with the byproducts of the treatment process, and surrounded by housing in the dam walls. The purification plant could be turned into a solar power station to provide energy for the homes. The main building could also have room for a hotel, restaurants, offices, or retail spaces in the future. The skyscraper design is inspired by mining headgear to connect the new buildings to the city’s past. Re-Mining Johannesburg also incorporates sustainable design : the building’s geometry means there is no roof or southern facade, minimizing heat loss. Heat from the purification process could be reused to warm the building in the winter. + Architecture For a Change Images courtesy of Architecture For a Change

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Water-purifying tower could heal landscapes scarred by acid mine drainage in South Africa

Global population buys one million plastic bottles every single minute

July 3, 2017 by  
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We’re drowning in plastic bottles . You already know plastic water bottle use – and their disposal or lack thereof – is a worldwide dilemma, but new statistics released by The Guardian reveal just how staggering the issue has become. Every minute humans purchase one million plastic bottles, consuming nearly 500 billion a year. And while it’s true many of these bottles can be recycled , it’s becoming harder for us to keep up with the sheer volume of trash that needs recycling, and a great deal of it lands up polluting our oceans . In 2016 humans bought over 480 billion plastic water bottles. But that’s only the beginning of the bad news. Less than half of those 480 billion bottles were collected for recycling. And a mere seven percent of those found a second life as new bottles. What happened to the rest? You guessed it: they’re littering our oceans and landfills . And estimates from Euromonitor International indicate their use will only increase, to 583.5 billion by 2021. Related: Plastic waste pop-up pavilion rethinks recycling in the Netherlands Surfers Against Sewage chief executive Hugo Tagholm told The Guardian, “The plastic pollution crisis rivals the threat of climate change …Current science shows that plastics cannot be usefully assimilated into the food chain . Where they are ingested they carry toxins that work their way on to our dinner plates.” Plastic is already showing up in our food, according to recent studies. Scientists at Belgium’s Ghent University found people who eat seafood unwittingly consume 11,000 tiny plastic pieces yearly. Researchers at Plymouth University in England discovered plastic in one third of fish caught in the United Kingdom. According to The Guardian, plastic was first popularized in the 1940’s – but much of the material manufactured then is still around today because plastic takes hundreds of years at best to break down. These bottles could be comprised of 100 percent recycled plastic , but many brands haven’t made the switch because they prefer the shiny look of traditional plastic. And many companies have fought against a tax on single-use bottles. But a similar tax on plastic bags has been quite successful: England’s five pound plastic bag tax has resulted in usage of the polluting bags plummeting by 85 percent . Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons and Emilian Robert Vicol on Flickr

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Global population buys one million plastic bottles every single minute

Gulf of Mexicos dead zone in 2017 could be the largest on record

June 27, 2017 by  
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When humans abuse the environment and dump nitrate-and phosphorous-heavy pollutants into rivers, lakes, ponds and the sea, oxygen-deprived “dead zones” form. This is exactly what has occurred in the Gulf of Mexico and is leading to the formation of the world’s largest algae bloom on record. Roughly the size of Connecticut, the substantial “dead zone” should be a wake-up call for consumers to change their habits — hopefully before it is too late. Algae blooms , such as the one disrupting the ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico , upset the balance of the food chains in the region. With too many algae in the same area, an abnormal amount dies then sink to the seafloor, where the bacteria that break them down use substantial amounts of oxygen. This results in a huge drawdown of oceanic oxygen and ultimately results in a mass die-off of larger marine life. The occurrence is known as “hypoxia,” and it’s the reason the Gulf of Mexico is in the state it is. According to new research conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the algae bloom in the Gulf of Mexico is becoming progressively worse. In fact, it is now roughly the size of the state of Connecticut. Based on the agrochemical and wastewater runoff expected in the coming months, NOAA now predicts the dead zone will expand to encompass an area the size of New Jersey. To clarify, that is a 47 percent increase in just one year — and that’s a conservative estimate. Related: Mexico-sized algae bloom in the Arabian Sea connected to climate change According to The Washington Post , other researchers in Louisiana predict that the dead zone will actually increase to the size of Hawaii. If that happens, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico will become the largest ever recorded. As IFLScience reports, these are only predictions at this present time. However, there is cause for concern, as scientists who set off on patrol boats to measure the size of the dead zone have been scarily accurate with their estimates. Whether the numbers are perfectly accurate or not, the persistent issue of pollution cannot be ignored. If humans fail to remedy their habits, continuing to live with little regard for the environment, environmental phenomenon worse than the present algae bloom in the Gulf of Mexico will result. Via IFLScience Images via SEOS Project , Wikimedia

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