Experts believe climate change could be the cause of recent deadly dust storms in India

May 15, 2018 by  
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India is experiencing a powerful and deadly dust storm season this year. Over the weekend, 71 people were killed as a result of dust storms and related thunderstorms . The affected area stretches from the eastern state of West Bengal to Uttar Pradesh in the north. The storms are expected to continue through this week. Though dust storms are common during India’s dry season (from April to June), this year has been particularly intense and destructive. As the 67-miles-per-hour dust whips across the landscape, it tears down trees, destroys homes, disrupts transportation and, worst of all, ends lives. Earlier this month, a separate outbreak of storms killed more than 100 people. Indian state officials are working to assess the damage. Early estimates indicate that more than 120 million people were impacted by the recent dust storms. “Thunderstorms like these are a normal part of spring climate in India,” writer and meteorologist Bob Henson told Earther . “What’s unusual this year is the strength of the downdraft winds.” The hot, arid air rises into thunderstorms, where it is rapidly cooled. This cool air then returns toward the ground as strong winds . Related: For the first time ever, all villages in India have electricity Scientists believe that this year’s intense dust storm season may be fueled by the record heat that South Asia has experienced lately. Earlier in May, Nawabshah, Pakistan  set the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth, 50.2 degrees Celsius (122.3 degrees Fahrenheit). Under current conditions, the all-time heat record may not last long. This heat and the related dust storms are exactly the type of extreme weather events that scientists predicted would occur with greater frequency and intensity because of  climate change . Via Earther Images via Alan Stark/Flickr and Umer Malik/Flickr

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Experts believe climate change could be the cause of recent deadly dust storms in India

California’s wild extremes of flooding and drought will only get worse as the planet warms

April 24, 2018 by  
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Between 2011 and 2017, California suffered through one of the worst droughts in its history. After the drought broke last year in what would be California’s wettest winter in a century, extreme flooding caused severe damage and killed several people. In a study recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change , researchers predict that similar patterns of polarized weather will continue to define California’s climate well into the 21st century, particularly if greenhouse gas emissions are not immediately and significantly reduced. If emissions continue to grow until 2100, the drastic wet-dry weather patterns could double in frequency, wreaking havoc in the state. California is not unfamiliar with bouts of strong drought and flooding . In 1862, what is known as the Great Flood devastated California in a weather event that has not be repeated since. Much of the state has a Mediterranean climate, which is conducive to dry summers, wet winters, and powerful shifts between those two extremes. However, as with much of the extreme weather expected from climate change, the frequency and intensity of such weather events are increasing. As the weather becomes more destructive, the authors predict that California could face serious challenges, particularly in water storage/access and flood control. Related: Federal court orders first hearing on the science of climate change In order to prepare for a more hostile climate, California must upgrade its infrastructure. “Few of the dams, levees and canals that currently protect millions living in California’s flood plains and facilitate the movement of water from Sierra Nevada watersheds to coastal cities have been tested by a deluge as severe” as the Great Flood of 1862, wrote the researchers.  On the other side of the world, Europe faces a drier future, with another study predicting that the percentage of drought-prone area will double if global average temperatures continue to rise beyond a 3 degrees Celsius increase. Even if the goals of the Paris agreement are met, which at the moment seems doubtful , Africa is still expected to endure potentially destabilizing extreme weather as a result of foregone climate change .   Via Phys.org Images via Wikimedia (1) (2)

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California’s wild extremes of flooding and drought will only get worse as the planet warms

Governor Cuomo announces a bill to ban single-use plastic bags in New York state

April 24, 2018 by  
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Could New York be the next state to ban plastic bags? Ten cities and towns in New York have already put plastic bag bans in place. Now the rest of state could follow. Governor Andrew Cuomo just introduced a bill to ban single-use plastic bags in the state, where people use an astonishing 23 billion of them each year. After blocking a New York City five-cent plastic bag fee bill and launching a New York State Plastic Bag Task Force last year, the governor  announced this bill based on recommendations in the task force’s report. Trash bags, garment bags, and bags for wrapping certain food like meat or fruit would not be part of the bill. Instead, the bill targets single-use , carryout plastic bags “at any point of sale.” Cuomo’s statement on the bill also said New York would launch an outreach campaign to educate the public about the environmental impact of plastic bags, and promote reusable bags . Related: Boston just officially banned single-use plastic bags Will Cuomo’s bill pass? It’s not a done deal yet. The New York Times said leaders of the Senate and Assembly opposed New York City’s bill. A spokesperson for Assembly speaker Carl Heastie told The New York Times the Assembly mainly supported a ban; a fee was a different story. The Republican-run Senate may or may not back the bill. Some people are skeptical about the timing of the bill as Cuomo faces a challenge to re-election from Cynthia Nixon, who recently unveiled her climate platform . While her web page makes no mention of plastic bags, it does come out strong on issues like energy ; for example, criticizing Cuomo for bailing out three aging nuclear power plants last year with more than $7 billion in taxpayer dollars. If passed, Cuomo’s plastic bag ban would go into effect January 1, 2019. + Governor Cuomo Introduces Program Bill Banning Single-Use Plastic Bags in New York State Via The New York Times Images via Dan DeLuca on Flickr and Depositphotos  ( 2 )

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Governor Cuomo announces a bill to ban single-use plastic bags in New York state

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

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