CO2 levels just reached 410 ppm – the highest in millions of years

April 24, 2017 by  
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Remember when carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere hit a terrifying 400 parts per million (ppm)? That’s number’s old news now – concentrations just reached 410 ppm for the first time in millions of years. Last week, researchers at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii recorded the record-breaking level, and scientists warn the rate of increase will only slow when we reduce our carbon emissions . Mauna Loa Observatory scientists just recorded the first CO2 level above 410 ppm since they began recording in 1958. Back then, the first atmospheric CO2 concentration was a mere 313 ppm . In 2013 concentrations hit 400 ppm . Last week’s reading was 410.28 ppm. Related: CO2 levels likely to stay above 400 ppm for the rest of our lives, new study shows University of Southampton professor of isotope geochemistry Gavin Foster told Climate Central, “It’s pretty depressing that it’s only a couple of years since the 400 ppm milestone was toppled. These milestones are just numbers, but they give us an opportunity to pause and take stock and act as useful yard sticks for comparisons to the geological record.” The United Kingdom Met Office put out a CO2 forecast for the first time ever earlier in 2017, and it turned out to be pretty close to reality; they predicted CO2 concentrations could breach 410 ppm in March but very likely would by April. El Niño is partly at fault for spiking levels of CO2, but more than natural factors, humans burning fossil fuels are to blame. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) atmospheric scientist Pieter Tans said, “The rate of increase will go down when emissions decrease. But carbon dioxide will still be going up, albeit more slowly. Only when emissions are cut in half will atmospheric carbon dioxide level off initially.” In a March NOAA article , Tans said the rate of CO2 growth over the last 10 years is 100 to 200 times quicker than the rate Earth saw as it transitioned out of the Ice Age, saying “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.” Via Climate Central Images via Flickr , Flickr  and Wikimedia Commons

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CO2 levels just reached 410 ppm – the highest in millions of years

The profitable hospital system with sustainability in its DNA

April 10, 2017 by  
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Gundersen Health Systems became the first U.S. hospital to reach renewable energy independence, saved $3 million and improved community health.

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The profitable hospital system with sustainability in its DNA

Overdue: The next Copernican mindset shift

April 10, 2017 by  
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Are we wasting time busily shoehorning the uncomfortable realities of Earth system science into increasingly obsolescent economic and business models?

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Overdue: The next Copernican mindset shift

4 Simple Swaps for a Truly Sustainable Easter

April 7, 2017 by  
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Growing up, Easter was always one of my favorite holidays. There was that heady mix of the first hints of spring, the excitement of egg hunts and the delicious chocolate treats. Now that I’m a mother myself, I love seeing my own daughter…

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4 Simple Swaps for a Truly Sustainable Easter

The US solar market grew by a record-breaking 95% last year

February 16, 2017 by  
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The United States solar market grew an astounding 95 percent in 2016, installing an extraordinary 14.5 gigawatts of new solar capacity, according to the annual Solar Market Insight Report (SMI) from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). For the first time in history, solar ranked as the number one source of new electric generating capacity in the US, accounting for 39 percent of new capacity additions across all fuel types in 2016. “What these numbers tell you is that the solar industry is a force to be reckoned with,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Solar’s economically winning hand is generating strong growth across all market segments nationwide, leading to more than 260,000 Americans now employed in solar.” Related: Solar power now provides twice as many jobs as coal in U.S. A record 22 states each added more than 100 megawatts of solar, with California topping the list for cumulative solar capacity at 18,304 MW. There are now more than 1.3 million solar PV installations in the US, with a cumulative capacity of 42.3 GW. Wind energy also enjoyed a great year, accounting for 26 percent of all new electric generating capacity. Most of the new solar capacity was in utility-scale solar, which grew 145 percent from 2015. For the first time since 2011, the non-residential market outpaced residential solar installations — community solar added a record of more than 200 MW, led by Minnesota and Massachusetts; and rate design and net energy metering resulted in the development of new non-residential solar projects, particularly in California. + US Solar Market Insight Via CleanTechnica Images via Wikimedia and SEIA

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The US solar market grew by a record-breaking 95% last year

Stanford researchers pioneer world’s first affordable urea battery

February 13, 2017 by  
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Stanford University researchers have designed a new battery that could revolutionize renewable energy storage . Using urea , an affordable, natural and readily available material found in mammal urine and fertilizers, their battery is notably more efficient than past iterations. The battery, developed by Stanford chemistry professor Honjie Dai and doctoral candidate Michael Angell, uses an electrolyte made from urea – a material already produced in mass industrial quantities for use in plant fertilizers. Non-flammable and made with electrodes from abundant materials like aluminum and graphite, the battery presents a low-cost way for storing energy from many sources – including renewables . “So essentially, what you have is a battery made with some of the cheapest and most abundant materials you can find on Earth. And it actually has good performance,” says Dai in a press release. “Who would have thought you could take graphite, aluminum, urea, and actually make a battery that can cycle for a pretty long time?” Dai and his team were the first to make a rechargeable aluminum battery in 2015, which charged in less than a minute, while lasting for thousands of charge-discharge cycles. And they’ve improved on both the performance and cost of their latest model, which is about 100 times cheaper than the 2015 battery, with a higher efficiency of 1,500 charge-discharge cycles and a charging time of 45 minutes. This is also the first time that urea has been used to make a battery. Related: MIT researchers invent ingestible battery powered by stomach acid Energy storage is a huge challenge for solar power and other renewables, as users need a reliable way to store power for when their systems aren’t producing energy. The batteries currently on the market, including lithium ion and lead-acid batteries tend to be quite costly and don’t last that long. But Dai and Angell believe their battery might be the solution to the conundrum of renewable energy storage. “It’s cheap. It’s efficient. Grid storage is the main goal,” says Angell. “I would feel safe if my backup battery in my house is made of urea with little chance of causing fire,” added Dai. The researchers have licensed their battery patents to AB Systems, a company founded by Dai, and a commercial version of the battery is on the way. They’re planning to work on increasing its life span down the road by further investigating its internal chemical processes. Via Stanford Images via Pexels , US Navy and Tea Horse Trade Guest House , Wikimedia Commons

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Stanford researchers pioneer world’s first affordable urea battery

Is this a greener approach to laundry? Ask Hilton and Hyatt

February 9, 2017 by  
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Some adopters of a bead-cleaning system from British-born Xeros saved more than 1 million gallons in the first year.

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Is this a greener approach to laundry? Ask Hilton and Hyatt

Clothing brands need to pull at the threads of the apparel industry

February 9, 2017 by  
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Investment in industry-level research and development can give consumers a meaningful metric of sustainability.

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Clothing brands need to pull at the threads of the apparel industry

Greenpeace releases first images of newly-discovered Amazon reef

February 6, 2017 by  
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  Feast your eyes on some of the first images ever made of a unique coral reef near Brazil that turned a lot of heads in the scientific community –  due to its diversity of new species – when it was first discovered in 2016. Sadly, these photos may be some of the last, as oil drilling nearby may damage the reef if it goes ahead. According to The Guardian , the first images of the reef were recently released by Greenpeace, after being taken off the coast of Brazil at a depth of 220 meters by the Greenpeace ship Esperanza. Discovered in in 2016, these are the first images of the 600 mile-long reef that scientists expect will reveal various new species as it is explored further. Spanning the mouth of the Amazon river , from French Guiana to Maranhao State in Brazil, scientists have already found more than 60 species of fish, spiny lobsters and stars in the reef. “This reef system is important for many reasons, including the fact that it has unique characteristics regarding use and availability of light,” Nils Asp, a researcher at the Federal University of Pará in Belém, Brazil, told The Guardian . “It has a huge potential for new species, and it is also important for the economic well-being of fishing communities along the Amazonian coastal zone.” But oil exploration is happening in the area and companies, including Total, BP and Petrobras could start drilling at any point, if they get permission from the Brazilian government. Greenpeace, unsurprisingly, is opposed to the drilling and plans to protect the reef. Related: Ancient city constructed on a coral reef remains the only one of its kind “We must defend the reef and the entire region at the mouth of the Amazon river basin from the corporate greed that puts profits ahead of the environment,” Greenpeace campaigner, Thiago Almeida told The Guardian . Via The Guardian Images via Greenpeace  

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Greenpeace releases first images of newly-discovered Amazon reef

Trump inspires 400 scientists to run for office

January 27, 2017 by  
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It’s been a rough week for the scientific community, with President Donald Trump all but declaring war on evidence-based scholarship. Science is supposed to be nonpartisan, yet the White House has in a matter of days muzzled the National Parks Service , frozen grants at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, purged references to climate change from federal websites, and tapped a virulent anti-vaxxer to head an investigation into vaccine safety . Scientists have responded to this barrage of “alternate facts” and “fake news” with an upcoming march on Washington, D.C., and hundreds are even mulling a run for public office. #ThanksDonald ! That’s where 314 Action comes in. Named after the first three digits of pi, the political action committee is the scientist equivalent of Emily’s List , which encourages pro-choice Democratic women to take on the corridors of power, or Veterans Campaign , which does the same for former members of the military. “314 Action is concerned that STEM education in the United States is falling further and further behind the rest of the world, that our political leaders continue to deny scientific facts, and that Congress fails to fully fund scientific research so we can solve pressing environmental issues like climate change and social problems like gun violence,” reads the nonprofit’s website. Related: Scientists are preparing to march on Washington In the past two weeks, 314 Action has seen more than 400 people express interest in an online information session it’ll be holding for STEM workers who are considering running for office for the first time. If even a fraction of those people eventually get elected, it’ll be the intellectual shot in the arm Congress so desperately needs. Only 10 percent of lawmakers have any kind of post-high school STEM knowledge, according to a 2011 survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics . “A lot of scientists traditionally feel that science is above politics but we’re seeing that politics is not above getting involved in science,” 314 Action founder Shaughnessy Naughton told the Atlantic . “We’re losing, and the only way to stop that is to get more people with scientific backgrounds at the table.” + 314 Action Via the Atlantic Photos by Pixabay and Joye

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Trump inspires 400 scientists to run for office

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