UNEP chief: Polluters should pay for environmental destruction, not taxpayers

September 21, 2017 by  
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Companies often profit from environmental destruction , leaving taxpayers to pick up the cleanup bill. That shouldn’t be the case, according to Erik Solheim, executive director for the United Nations Environment Program . At a conference at Columbia University earlier this week, he said, “The profit of destroying nature or polluting the planet is nearly always privatized, while the costs of polluting the planet or the cost of destroying ecosystems is nearly always socialized. This cannot continue.” Solheim said we can turn around Earth’s environmental fortunes if businesses, citizens, and politicians work for a shared goal – with the biggest polluters paying for damage. He said, “Anyone who pollutes, anyone who destroys nature must pay for the cost of that destruction or that pollution.” Related: The oil industry knew about dangerous climate change in the 1960s Two scientists made a similar point in a recent opinion piece for The Guardian, saying big oil companies should pay for climate change . The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Director of Science and Policy Peter Frumhoff and University of Oxford professor of geosystem science Myles Allen pointed to July lawsuits against ExxonMobil, BP, and Chevron, saying they should pay for damages coastal communities face from rising sea levels . They, together with other researchers, published a peer-reviewed study quantifying sea level rise and rising temperatures coming from emissions from fossil fuel companies. Solheim also said businesses must play a role by creating new technologies to address needs. He pointed to China as an example, highlighting the work of bike-sharing firm Mobike, which boasts over a million shareable bicycles in the Beijing area. Meanwhile, China is also working on transportation with a high-speed rail network and urban metro systems. He also pointed to India , where addressing environmental issues has been good for the country. Solar power has created jobs, simultaneous boosting the economy and helping the planet. Solheim said, “Change is happening. Economic-wise, we are on the right track, but we need to speed up because the challenge is so big.” Via Thomson Reuters Foundation and EcoWatch Images via Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon/Army National Guard and Steve Snodgrass on Flickr

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UNEP chief: Polluters should pay for environmental destruction, not taxpayers

Trump administration halts study on health risks of living near coal mining sites

August 25, 2017 by  
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The Donald Trump administration seems to be plugging its ears against the mention of any health risks of residing near coal mines. His Department of the Interior (DOI) recently shut down a study on potential health impacts for such people in Central Appalachia, reportedly citing a changing budget. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign representative Bill Price told The Washington Post, “It’s infuriating that Trump would halt this study…that people in Appalachia have been demanding for years.” The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine were conducting a study on health risks for people living near surface coal mining sites when they were told to stop by the DOI as the agency reviewed projects needing more than $100,000. The National Academies was still allowed to hold scheduled meetings in Kentucky earlier this week. But they’ve been told to cease all other work on the project. Related: Montana judge stops massive coal mine expansion, citing climate impact Central Appalachia coal mining sometimes employs mountaintop removal , a practice scientists say is particularly destructive . Price told The Washington Post, “Everyone knows there are major health risks living near mountaintop removal coal mining sites, but communities living with daily health threats were counting on finally getting the full story from the professionals at the National Academies of Science.” The National Mining Association seemed to stand behind the Trump administration’s move, pointing to an analysis from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences examining multiple reports which said the studies usually didn’t account for lifestyle and extraneous health effects. The association also pointed to a United States Energy Information Administration analysis saying mountaintop mining only comprises under one percent of coal production and a study of health impacts may be unnecessary. The National Academies said they believe the study is important and they stand ready to continue the work, hoping they’ll be allowed to continue. But they don’t know the end date of the DOI’s review. Via The Washington Post Lead image via Pixabay , others via iLoveMountains.org on Flickr and Pixabay

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Undergrad student leads scientists to discover nearly 100 unknown volcanoes – in Antarctica

August 14, 2017 by  
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There’s a new contender for the continent with Earth’s biggest volcanic region: Antarctica . Researchers found 91 previously unknown, massive volcanoes , ranging in height from around 328 to 12,631 feet. A University of Edinburgh third-year undergraduate student tipped the researchers off to the incredible discovery. Third-year student Max Van Wyk de Vries had the idea to analyze radar mapping data of the continent, and proposed a study to the university. Scientists were then able to verify there are indeed many volcanoes, concentrated in a region called the West Antarctic Rift System, and concealed by West Antarctica’s ice sheet. They say the newly discovered volcanic region is quite similar to East Africa’s volcanic ridge, which currently holds the title for the region with the world’s densest concentration of volcanoes. Related: Colossal landforms discovered under Antarctic ice sheet are 5X bigger than any on Earth Scientists drew on ice-penetrating radar measurements, satellite records, and geological information from aerial surveys to confirm Van Wyk de Vries’ concept. Van Wyk de Vries said in a statement, “Antarctica remains among the least studied areas of the globe, and as a young scientist I was excited to learn about something new and not well understood. After examining data on West Antarctica , I began discovering traces of volcanism. Naturally, I looked into it further, which led to this discovery of almost 100 volcanoes under the ice sheet .” Researchers say the discovery could help them better understand how Antarctica has changed during the varying climates of history, and how volcanoes influence ice sheet fluctuations. They have not determined if the volcanoes are active or not, but the awareness of their presence could help scientists researching seismic monitoring in Antarctica. The research has been published in the Geological Society Special Publications series. Via the University of Edinburgh Images via Cassie Matias on Unsplash and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Flickr

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Undergrad student leads scientists to discover nearly 100 unknown volcanoes – in Antarctica

Nebraska landowners fight Keystone XL pipeline with solar panels right in its path

July 12, 2017 by  
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Many Nebraska landowners are opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline slashing through their land. So they’re fighting the proposed oil pipeline with a clean, renewable tactic: solar panels . Activists have launched the Solar XL campaign to install solar on land Nebraska locals refuse to sell – directly in the path of the pipeline. The Solar XL campaign is intended to raise money for solar installations to power ranches and farms in Nebraska. Landowner Bob Allpress is one of those people hoping for a solar array. He said, “The need for the KXL pipeline product is non-existent in the United States. The monetary benefit to the peoples of Nebraska will be gone in seven years, while the risks to our state are for the life of this pipeline. The installation of wind and solar production in Nebraska will provide many good Nebraska jobs and provide years of cheap electricity for everyone in our great state.” Related: The Keystone XL pipeline would only create 35 full-time, permanent jobs Keystone XL could threaten multiple Nebraska sites like the Ponca Trail of Tears, the Ogallala Aquifer, and the Sandhills. Bold Nebraska , 350.org , Indigenous Environmental Network , CREDO , and Oil Change International are backing the campaign, and hope to install the first solar array at Jim and Chris Carlson’s farm. The Carlsons have refused to sell their land even though TransCanada , the company behind Keystone XL, has offered them $307,000. Family-owned company North Star Solar Bears would install the panels, which will be connected to the grid . According to the campaign, “If Keystone XL is approved, TransCanada would have to tear down clean and locally-produced energy to make way for its dirty and foreign tar sands.” If you’d like to donate to the Solar XL campaign, you can do so here . Each nine-panel installation costs $15,500, including labor and connection to the grid. Donations go to Bold Nebraska. + Solar XL Via Curbed Images via Mary Anne Andrei/Bold Nebraska ( 1 , 2 ) and 350.org on Flickr

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Nebraska landowners fight Keystone XL pipeline with solar panels right in its path

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

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

Chinese province runs entirely on renewable energy for 7 days

June 27, 2017 by  
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A province in China just showed it is indeed possible to obtain all of our electricity from renewable sources . Qinghai Province recently ran solely on solar , wind , and hydropower for around a week. The province, which is home to over five million people, used up the amount of electricity that 535,000 tons of coal could have generated in those seven days – without all the air-polluting carbon emissions . The State Grid Corporation of China ran the trial in the Qinghai Province to show fossil fuels aren’t a necessary component of our energy future. So between June 17 and midnight on June 23, the province got its power from only clean energy : 72.3 percent from hydropower and the rest from other sources like solar and wind. Related: Renewables will reign supreme by 2040, latest BNEF report shows During the week the people of Qinghai consumed 1.1 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity. The province is home to the Laxiwa hydropower station, which generates 10.2 billion kWh annually, and the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, which as of February this year was the largest solar farm in the world . ScienceAlert pointed out the figures have not been independently confirmed, and the information comes from a state-run news agency . But if the numbers are verified it will help show an electrical grid can remain stable without gas or coal for base load energy. The province already obtains a large amount of power from renewables. All told Qinghai’s power grid has an installed capacity of 23.4 million kilowatts (kW) – and 82.8 percent is found in cleaner sources like hydropower, solar, and wind – though some environmentalists will take issue with the claim that hydropower is a ‘green’ energy source. Still, plans for more renewable sources are in the works – the province aims to boost wind and solar capacity to 35 million kW by 2020 and supply 110 billion kWh of clean power yearly to areas of eastern and central China. The government will reportedly invest around $370 billion in renewable energy over the next three years, creating over 13 million jobs . Via ScienceAlert and Xinhua Images via Ken Marshall on Flickr and Pixabay

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Scientists discover water has not one, but two liquid phases

June 27, 2017 by  
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We know from our early science classes that water exists as a solid, liquid, and gas. But an international team of 19 scientists say that’s not the case. They discovered that liquid water actually has two phases – low and high density – and can fluctuate between them. While providing new information, the research reminds us how much we still don’t know about a substance that covers over 70 percent of the planet. There’s still a lot we don’t have a clue about when it comes to water. The substance has around 70 properties as a liquid that are utterly unique from other liquids, according to the team led by physicists at Stockholm University in Sweden, who used X-ray imaging to scrutinize water molecules in new detail to discover water fluctuates between high density and low density liquid forms. Related: Scientists figured out how to make water freeze at boiling temperatures Physicist Lars G. M. Pettersson said in a statement, “In a nutshell: water is not a complicated liquid, but two simple liquids with a complicated relationship.” He said their research supports the idea of water at room temperature being unable to decide which form it should be in, so it changes between the two distinct phases. The two phases differ in their density and structure. There have been hints of water’s second liquid phase in the past. In 2016 Oxford University researchers found liquid water could switch states between 104 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, with each state exhibiting different properties. The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America published the research online this week. Scientists at institutions in the United States, Germany, and Austria were also part of the study. Their findings are intriguing but for now, there’s still a lot about water that remains a mystery. Nature consultant editor Philip Ball once said in an article, “No one really understands water.” Via ScienceAlert Images via Mattias Karlén and Mark Doda on Unsplash

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Scientists discover water has not one, but two liquid phases

Trump administration ‘declares war’ on West Coast turtles, dolphins, and whales

June 13, 2017 by  
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Environmentalists say President Donald Trump’s administration has declared war on California marine animals after an announcement this week from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The administration canceled proposed limits on the amount of endangered whales, sea turtles , and dolphins that can be hurt or killed on the West Coast by sword-fishing nets. The proposed limits were backed by the fishing industry and environmentalists. But NOAA said other protections have helped slash the amount of marine creatures that get trapped in the nets – called gill nets – like better training for fishing boat skippers and sound warnings so creatures can leave the area. NOAA Fisheries spokesperson Michael Milstein told the Los Angeles Times, “The cap would have imposed a cost on the industry to solve a problem that has already been addressed.” Related: Unusually high number of humpback whale deaths prompts NOAA inquiry NOAA statistics reveal injuries and deaths for protected whales dropped from over 50 in 1992 to one or two every year by 2015. For common dolphins, the numbers fell from nearly 400 to just a few. But environmentalists disagree. Turtle Island Restoration Network director Todd Steiner said the Trump administration has declared war. He said the drop in numbers is due to the decline in the gill-net fishing fleet in California. He told the Los Angeles Times, “The numbers caught per set have not gone down. The California gill-net fishery kills more marine mammals than all other West Coast fisheries combined.” The restrictions were strong: if two endangered sea turtles or whales were seriously harmed or killed during two years, the gill net fishery would be shuttered for as long as two years. If any combination of four bottlenose dolphins or short-finned pilot whales were hurt or died, the fishery would also be shut down. Center for Biological Diversity senior attorney Catherine Kilduff said rare species are still being killed. And the numbers of some species are so small that the death of just one can be devastating. She told the Los Angeles Times, “Government scientists have said that West Coast fisheries can’t catch more than one leatherback every five years. They estimate that four times that have caught just in the gill-net fishery alone.” Via the Los Angeles Times Images via Salvatore Barbera on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Trump administration ‘declares war’ on West Coast turtles, dolphins, and whales

Nike makes Air Max shoebox from recycled milk jugs and coffee lids

June 13, 2017 by  
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Nike is thinking inside the box—the shoe box, that is. 30 years after the Air Max 1 changed the sneaker industry forever, the sportswear giant is revolutionizing the shoe’s packaging with a polypropylene receptacle derived entirely from post-consumer recycled milk jugs, juice containers, and coffee-cup lids. The brainchild of Arthur Huang, CEO of Taipei-based engineering firm Miniwiz , the revamped shoe box features a modular design that makes stacking for storage or display a cinch. Even better, it can be repurposed as a hardshell backpack. Another bonus? At the end of its life, the shoe box can easily be recycled. No waste, no haste. The container’s pro-planet traits dovetail neatly with Miniwiz’s own business philosophy, Huang said in a statement. “These are all intentional features and qualities which revolve around the intent of every Miniwiz product—reducing the impact on the environment in every way it can,” Huang said. “In this case, we’re adding features and efficiency to an existing product—shoe boxes—and by reusing non-virgin materials in a sustainable and responsible way.” Related: Clever Little Bag: Fuseproject and PUMA revolutionize the shoe box The sneaker the container was designed to support, the NikeLab Air Max 1 Royal, takes a similar resource-conserving tact. It’s clad in Nike’s Flyknit fabric, which the company stitches together using a seamless technique said to produce 60 percent less waste than conventional cut-and-sew means. Related: Nike’s stunning Flyknit Feather Pavilion lights up the night “We love Flyknit as a technology,” Huang said. “It gives designers a new canvas to create cool, while lowering environmental impact. We want to be associated with that and are glad that we are a part of this revolution.” + Nike Air x Arthur Huang Via Dezeen

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Nike makes Air Max shoebox from recycled milk jugs and coffee lids

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