Scientists say mass extinction warning signs exist and they can be observed today

March 28, 2018 by  
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Is Earth staring down a mass extinction ? Recent research from an international team of scientists reveals warning signs for the biggest mass extinction in our planet’s history were apparent far earlier than experts had thought — and we can glimpse such indicators now. Around 250 million years ago, the Permian-Triassic mass extinction saw about 90 percent of animal species eradicated, according to the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany, which led the research team. Huge volcanic eruptions and resulting greenhouse gas emissions wiped out scores of creatures. And for decades, scientists thought this so-called mother of all disasters occurred without warning “when seen on a geological time-scale,” the university said. This new research challenges that opinion. Related: Sixth mass extinction on Earth is driven by industrial farming, says leading academic Fossils in Iran hint that the first indicators of the mass extinction appeared as early as 700,000 years before the event itself. Multiple species of ammonoids, an  extinct group of marine animals, died off and surviving ones “became increasingly smaller in size and less complex” as time marched towards the mass extinction event, according to the university. Factors that led to the event are reminiscent of conditions today, according to professor and lead author Wolfgang Kiessling, who said in the statement, “There is much evidence of severe global warming, ocean acidification , and a lack of oxygen. What separates us from the events of the past is the extent of these phenomena. For example, today’s increase in temperature is significantly lower than 250 million years ago.” Even so, warning signs that were present near the Permian Period’s end can be seen in modern times, according to the university. Kiessling said, “The increased rate of extinction in all habitats we are currently observing is attributable to the direct influence of humans, such as destruction of habitat, over-fishing, and pollution. However, the dwarfing of animal species in the oceans in particular can be quite clearly attributed to climate change . We should take these signs very seriously.” Geology published the work earlier this year; scientists from institutions in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Iran contributed. + University of Erlangen-Nürnberg + Geology Images via Dieter Korn

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Scientists say mass extinction warning signs exist and they can be observed today

A step-by-step guide to zero-waste events

March 6, 2018 by  
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Zero waste shouldn’t be optional for any cutting-edge company — and neither should bin guarders.

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A step-by-step guide to zero-waste events

The majority of the National Park Service board just resigned

January 17, 2018 by  
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The majority of the 12-person National Park System Advisory Board (NPSAB) resigned this week because President Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke was unwilling to meet with them, according to NPR . Democrat Tony Knowles, former governor of Alaska, said in a resignation letter “…from all of the events of this past year I have a profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of our National Parks has been set aside.” The National Park Service (NPS) advisory board was first authorized in 1935, and today more than three-quarters of its members have left their seats. In the January 15 letter Knowles said that he will remain dedicated to the success of America’s national parks, but “For the last year we have stood by waiting for the chance to meet and continue the partnership between the NPSAB and the DOI [Department of the Interior] as prescribed by law. We understand the complexity of transition but our requests to engage have been ignored and the matters on which we wanted to brief the new Department team are clearly not part of its agenda.” Related: Ryan Zinke recommends shrinking two more national monuments Nine board members signed that letter, and all of their terms were set to expire in May. Today a tenth member – whose term doesn’t expire until 2021 – resigned as well. Project Concern International CEO Carolyn Hessler Radelet submitted a similar letter to Zinke. According to The Washington Post , this move means the federal government lacks a functioning body to “designate national historic or natural landmarks.” The publication said it also shows how federal advisory bodies have been marginalized in Trump’s administration . Zinke suspended outside committees back in May of last year for his staff to review their work. Interior spokesperson Heather Swift said boards restarted in an email to The Washington Post earlier this month, but didn’t provide other details. The two people remaining on the board at this time are University of Maryland professor Rita Colwell and Harvard University professor Linda Blimes, who told The Washington Post she didn’t resign as she’s currently conducting research funded by the National Park Foundation and wants to finish. Their terms are up in May. Via NPR and The Washington Post (1 , 2 , 3) Images by Casey Horner on Unsplash , Gage Skidmore on Flickr and NPS

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The majority of the National Park Service board just resigned

Greenbuild: The world’s biggest green building expo kicks off tomorrow in Boston

November 7, 2017 by  
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The world’s biggest conference dedicated to green building kicks off tomorrow – and you won’t want to miss it! The Greenbuild International Conference and Expo will convene sustainable building experts, professionals and leaders for mind-blowing exhibits, learning activities, a Net Zero zone, and pavilions packed with the latest in green building technology. If you are passionate about green living, then clear your calendar for November 8 – 10 and get ready for an amazing experience. This year, Greenbuild will feature education, workshops, tours, awards, and an expo hall that is not to be missed. Inhabitat regularly attends the conference, so we know first-hand how great it can be. Check out our coverage from past years to get a glimpse into what you can expect – we’ve rounded up some of our favorite innovations here , here and here . Greenbuild has a reputation for stellar education sessions, where you can learn about a huge range of topics – from passive and net zero building to tips from developers who are changing the face of the industry. Workshops qualify for continuing education credits and toward LEED certification hours. Summit topics will include Communities and Affordable Homes, The Water Summit and the International Summit. Greenbuild’s tours are always highly anticipated, and this year’s lineup promises to be exceptional. Attendees will be able to visit four net positive and passive house buildings that are breaking the mold, MIT to learn about its green building innovations, and some of Boston’s groundbreaking green spaces. Head over to Greenbuild to nab your spot now. + Greenbuild Expo Save

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Greenbuild: The world’s biggest green building expo kicks off tomorrow in Boston

Custom ordered tiny homes provide compact living options without sacrificing on comfort

November 7, 2017 by  
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Not everyone is capable of building their own tiny home, but for those who’d like to live sustainably and efficiently, Fauna Homes can make your tiny home dream come true. The home designs – which are based on the three pillars of minimalism, affordability and sustainability – come in a range of models, but all are strategically designed to provide compact living spaces that don’t sacrifice on comfort. The designs for Fauna Homes are based on providing sustainable options for those looking for an eco-friendly, but comfortable tiny home. The small stature of the structures require fewer building materials, transport, and produce less waste, making it a wise investment for a sustainable lifestyle, and the optimal dimensions provide ample living space. Related: MUJI to sell eagerly awaited $27k minimalist tiny homes this fall As far as sustainable features, the homes are designed to be mounted on a concrete slab in order to reduce its environmental impact. The building materials were chosen to create a strong thermal mass that reduces the need for energy use. The tiny homes can also be ordered with an optional heating floor system, further reducing energy use and costs. Solar rooftop panels and a household waste water recuperation system can also be implemented into the design. All of the Fauna Homes, which can be custom ordered to abide by any local building codes, offer the ultimate in space efficiency, personalized to each homeowner’s needs. Open floor plans and high ceilings with ample windows and glazed walls allow for a strong connection between the indoors and outdoors. Every layout has been optimized for maximum efficiency in terms of flexibility, meaning no space is left unused. Each model also contains a number of strategic storage options such as custom-crafted cabinets. + Fauna Homes  

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Custom ordered tiny homes provide compact living options without sacrificing on comfort

The US is now the only country in the world to refuse the Paris Climate Agreement

November 7, 2017 by  
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Today the war-torn country of Syria officially signed the Paris Climate Agreement , leaving the United States as the only country to refuse the landmark climate deal. Though Barack Obama entered the US into the deal during his time as president, Donald Trump quickly withdrew the nation after his inauguration. The Middle East nation made the announcement in Bonn, Germany, at the COP 23 UN climate summit. Even though Syria is facing its sixth year of a brutal civil conflict, it agreed to limit its carbon emissions in an effort to prevent climate change from worsening. It’s not clear what has changed, and Syria has yet to submit its targets for cutting greenhouse gases . In December 2015, nearly 200 countries signed the Paris Accord . Until last month, Nicaragua was also a holdout nation. However, that was because the Central American country did not think the deal went far enough in putting limits on emissions and helping lower-income nations adapt to an already-changing planet. One of Nicaragua’s complaints was that top polluters — like the US, EU, China, and India — were not keeping their emissions levels low enough to prevent sea levels from rising and global warming under 2 degrees Celsius — let alone the more ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100. Eventually, parties to the deal signed – as the global climate change agreement was better than none at all. Now the US is the last country to sign. In the past, President Trump said that American workers (particularly coal miners) were being put at an “economic disadvantage” by the deal. And even though the US is the second largest emitter of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the world (second to China ), Trump remains committed to the idea that investing in coal — not renewable energy — is the way forward. Related: Edible schoolyards sprout across war-torn Syria “With Syria’s decision, the relentless commitment of the global community to deliver on Paris is more evident than ever,” Paula Caballero , director of the climate change program at the World Resources Institute, told the New York Times . “The US’s stark isolation should give Trump reason to reconsider his ill-advised announcement and join the rest of the world in tackling climate change .” The countries that have signed the Paris Agreement now seek to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Via The Independent , The Verge , BBC Images via Pixabay

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The US is now the only country in the world to refuse the Paris Climate Agreement

MIT engineers devise algorithm to identify warning signs of extreme weather events

September 25, 2017 by  
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Extreme events – like a rogue wave, hurricane , or sudden extinction – often seem to strike with few hints beforehand. But what if we could predict these events before they even form? Two Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers came up with a framework, a computer algorithm , to spot patterns that come before such an event. According to MIT , their method may help anticipate “hotspots of instability affecting climate , aircraft performance, and ocean circulation.” It can be incredibly difficult to foresee extreme events, since many systems are complex, with many players or factors. The new MIT algorithm can be applied to a large range of systems to search for warning signs. In the past, researchers have tried to predict extreme events by solving mathematical models. But often scientists don’t fully understand the mechanisms shaping complex systems, which can lead to model errors. Related: INFOGRAPHIC: Countries where you are most likely to die from extreme climate events The new algorithm blends equations with available data . Sapsis said, “We are looking at the equations for possible states that have very high growth rates and become extreme events, but they are also consistent with data, telling us whether this state has any likelihood of occurring, or if it’s something so exotic that, yes, it will lead to an extreme event, but the probability of it occurring is basically zero.” MIT explained their algorithm acts as a sieve to catch precursors, or warning signs, that would be seen in the real world. To test their framework, they simulated a turbulent fluid flow and searched for precursors their framework predicted. Those precursors turned into extreme events, according to MIT, between 75 and 99 percent of the time. Sapsis said in a statement, “If you can predict where these things occur, maybe you can develop some control techniques to suppress them.” The journal Science Advances published the research late last week. Via MIT News and Inverse Images via Wikimedia Commons and Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

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MIT engineers devise algorithm to identify warning signs of extreme weather events

A tremendous translucent ‘forest’ pops up in a French courtyard

July 13, 2017 by  
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The courtyard of Fondation Martell in Cognac, France has been transformed into a translucent forest made of glass fiber-reinforced polyester sheets. Spanish architecture firm SelgasCano designed the Pavillon Martell as a temporary, mobile multipurpose space for concerts, workshops, and relaxation. The pavilion covers a 25,000-square-foot space situated behind the Foundation. Its main material, developed by French brand Onduline, is translucent and watertight and shelters a huge area where various activities can take place. Soft, changing light permeates this undulating membrane, creating an interesting and visually engaging rainbow effect. The architects typically work with off-the-shelf structural solutions. Related: German Students Create a Cloud-Like Retreat High Up in the Treetops “We started to look for the lightest and most cost-effective materials on the market. We found what we were looking for hidden away in the catalogue of Onduline, a leading French construction company with a worldwide presence,” said SelgasCano. Inflatable seats installed in the structure are attached by straps and provide visitors with places to sit, relax and organize workshops, concerts and various other events. The structure is easy to dismantle and transport to any location thanks to its modular nature and light weight. + SelgasCano Via World Architecture Photos by Iwan Baan  

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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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Al Gore will now host the climate change event the CDC canceled

January 30, 2017 by  
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This month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) called off a Climate and Health Summit – and many suspect it’s because of President Donald Trump’s dubious views on climate change . Fortunately, environmentalist Al Gore stepped in – and he’s planning to lead a one day Climate and Health Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. The new conference will convene the American Public Health Association (APHA), Gore’s Climate Reality Project , Dr. Howard Frumkin , the University of Washington Center for Health and the Global Environment , and the Harvard Global Health Institute . They will only be able to meet for a single day (instead of the CDC’s planned three day event) due to the late notice, but they still feel the vital meeting should occur. Related: Al Gore fights climate change with “An Inconvenient Sequel” Gore said in a statement, “They tried to cancel this conference but it is going forward anyway. Today we face a challenging political climate, but climate shouldn’t be a political issue. Health professionals urgently need the very best science in order to protect the public, and climate science has increasingly critical implications for their day-to-day work. With more and more hot days, which exacerbate the proliferation of the Zika virus and other public health threats, we cannot afford to waste any time.” APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin said climate change is already impacting health, and the meeting would “strengthen the public response to this growing threat.” The meeting will take place on February 16, 2017, and it will retain the focus of the CDC summit: a working session with information from public health professionals. If you want more information you can sign up for updates from the Climate Reality Project here . Via Vox and The Washington Post Images via COP PARIS on Flickr and Al Gore Facebook

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