US stops Arctic Council joint statement over climate change language

May 8, 2019 by  
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On May 7, the Arctic Council released a statement of various priorities, but for the first time it could not publish a joint declaration, reportedly due to push-back from the U.S. over climate change language. The Arctic Council is comprised of indigenous leaders and eight nations, including the U.S., Canada, Finland, Russia, China, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland. After meetings in Rovaniemi, Finland, the group released its disjointed statement, but it could not agree on a declaration of urgent challenges and strategies for the next two years. “A majority of us regarded climate change as a fundamental challenge facing the Arctic and acknowledged the urgent need to take mitigation and adaptation actions and to strengthen resilience,” the chair of the meeting, Finnish Minister Timo Soini, said in the statement. Minister Soini refused to point fingers at which nations would not acknowledge climate change as a fundamental challenge. Related: 1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report Indigenous leaders argue that climate change is indeed the most pressing issue in the Arctic and should be a primary focus. Scientists suggest that temperatures are rising twice as fast  fast in the Arctic region than in the rest of the world. Melting ice is contributing to sea level rise in low-lying countries, but it is also creating new shipping routes and opening access to undiscovered oil reserves. The Arctic contains 13 percent of the world’s untapped oil and 30 percent of natural gas reserves. This fossil fuel wealth makes it a controversial region, and development there is highly sought after, particularly by world powers like the U.S., China and Russia. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed too many versions of the declaration as the reason the Council could not reach an consensus, and spent most of his floor time pointing fingers at Russia and China for going against previous agreements and rendering them ineffective. + Arctic Council Via Reuters Image via  Patrick Kelley, U.S. Coast Guard / U.S. Geological Survey

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Maryland could become the first state to ban plastic foam containers

April 9, 2019 by  
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Last week, the Maryland General Assembly voted 100 to 37 to approve a ban on plastic foam containers. If the bill is approved by Governor Larry Hogan, Maryland will become the first U.S. state to ban such containers because of their harmful impact on human health and the environment. The bill will now go to Republican Governor Larry Hogan for approval. Although Governor Hogan has not yet expressed a position, the bill has enough votes from the House and Senate that it would be able to override a potential veto, should the Governor decide to issue one. Related: TemperPack raises $40M to combat plastic foam waste “After three years of hard work, I’m thrilled to see Maryland be a leader in the fight to end our reliance on single-use plastics that are polluting our state, country and world by passing a bill to prohibit foam food containers,” Brooke Lierman, Democratic representative from Baltimore and sponsor of the bill,  said in a statement . “The health of the Chesapeake Bay, our waterways, our neighborhoods and our children’s futures depends on our willingness to do the hard work of cleaning the mess that we inherited and created.” Plastic foam  is widely used for food containers, because it helps maintain temperature and prevents spills; however, the material is highly toxic to humans and the environment. The problem with plastic foam Styrofoam is actually a trademarked brand name for the plastic material Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam. In her book  My Plastic-Free Life , Maryland based author and anti-plastic expert Beth Terry explained the four major problems with Expanded Polystyrene foam: 1. Polystyrene materials do not biodegrade. This means that every food container used once and thrown away will stay on the Earth forever. The containers do break apart into smaller pieces, but never compost . 2. Plastic foam is made with fossil fuels and toxic chemicals. Plastics are made from fossil fuel products and are detrimental to the Earth in their manufacturing, use and disposal. ESP includes the chemical polystyrene, which was labeled as a “ probable carcinogen ” by the World Health Organization. Not only does the manufacturing of polystyrene products pollute the air and cause serious health problems for factory workers, but the chemical also leaches into drinks and hot or oily food. This is especially problematic, considering plastic foam containers are frequently used, particularly for hot foods. Polystyrene is linked to cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma. As The Story of Stuff explained , “Yes it keeps your coffee hot, but it might be adding toxic chemicals to it, too.” By the Center for Disease Control’s current estimates,  100 percent of humans have traces of polystyrene in their fat tissues — an example of how pervasive this pollution and toxic problem is. 3. Animals try to eat it. Because plastic foam never biodegrades and floats on the surface of water, small pieces are often mistaken as food by marine animals , like sea turtles. In Baltimore Harbor, a trash-collecting machine has scooped up more than 1 million bits of plastic foam since it launched in 2014. The machine, locally nicknamed “Mr. Trash Wheel,” records approximately 14,000 plastic foam containers collected every month from the Harbor. Related: Baltimore’s floating trash-eaters have intercepted 1 million pounds of debris 4. Plastic foam cannot be recycled. Unlike some other types of plastic, polystyrene products cannot be recycled in most facilities; therefore, they often end up in landfills if not carried out to the ocean. The few facilities that do accept plastic foam only allow clean, uncontaminated products, which rarely exist because the containers are typically used for messy food items. The first state-wide ban Several counties in Maryland and throughout the U.S. have already banned plastic foam , but this will be the first state-wide ban. To see what cities and counties have banned the hazardous material, check Groundswell’s map . Opponents of the bill argue that it will unfairly hurt small farmers, food businesses and nonprofits, because biodegradable food containers are more expensive to source. Eco-friendly alternatives include containers made from cardboard, bamboo , mushrooms and other organic materials. These novel inventions are significantly pricier than plastic foam. Maryland’s ban will notably not include plastic foam items packaged outside of the state, such as microwavable instant noodle bowls. It will also not include the foam trays sold with raw meat products, nor will it cover non-food related items. This is Representative Brooke Lierman’s third attempt to get the bill passed. If successful, the bill will go into effect in July 2020 and be punishable by a fine of $250. Via Phys.org Images via  Matthew Bellemare ,

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Bananatex launches a sustainable material revolution at Milan Design Week

April 9, 2019 by  
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A party of three has collaborated to create a multi-purpose material sourced entirely from banana leaves. Swiss bag brand QWSTION, a yarn specialist from Taiwan, and a Taiwanese weaving partner spent four years developing the new material, which is being revealed at the 2019 Milan Design Week. The strong, flexible material, called Banantex, offers a new universal option in the search for sustainable materials . Beginning at the source, the banana leaves come from a natural ecosystem of sustainable forestry in the Philippines. The banana trees grow naturally without the use of pesticides or other chemicals. Plus, they do not require any additional water. The banana plants are a boon to an area previously eroded by palm plantations, bringing back vegetation and a livelihood for local farmers. Related: See how banana trees are recycled into vegan “leather” wallets in Micronesia With a long history of creating materials from sustainable resources, QWSTION saw the strength and durability of the banana leaves that were used in the Philippines for more than a century as boat ropes. Following three years of research and development, the bag company finalized the plant-based material. As a bag company, the first products they put together are backpacks and hip pouches, made completely with the plastic-free material. The larger goal, however, is for other companies to use Banantex in their own production, spreading the application to any number of industries that could eliminate many of the synthetic materials on the market today. United with the common goal of inspiring responsible product development, the team conceived the idea as an open source project with this in mind. The characteristics of the material makes this idea easy to imagine since it is durable, pliable and waterproof. Plus, it is biodegradable at the end of the life cycle, significantly reducing post-consumer waste rampant in the clothing and accessories industries in particular. The display will be open to the public at Milan Design Week on April 9-14, 2019. + QWSTION Images via QWSTION

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Renewable electricity could overtake fossil fuels in Britain by next year

January 28, 2019 by  
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A new report from British power analysts EnAppSys is predicting renewable electricity will overtake fossil fuels as the main source of Great Britain’s electricity generation by next year if current trends continue. In their annual market review report for 2018, EnAppSys says that the levels of power generation from coal and gas-fired power stations fell by 6.7 percent, while generation from renewables increased 15.2 percent. If renewables do pass up fossil fuels in Great Britain in 2020, it will be a first, and it will prove that renewable energy has staying power. “It’s clear that renewables will be generating most of our power in the years ahead, with wind playing the leading role,” said Luke Clark, RenewableUK’s Head of External Affairs, told Clean Technica. During 2018, a large number of offshore wind farms were commissioned or went into full operation and the increase of wind energy led the way in renewable energy generation. Since the cost of offshore wind continues to decrease this means it will likely become the primary source of renewable  energy generation, at least in the short term. Related: Greenhouse gas emissions rose during 2018 after three year decline Currently, offshore wind power generation has a 55.4 percent share of the renewables mix. Between the moratorium on onshore wind and the falling costs of offshore wind, that share should climb even higher. However, there are still some concerns about the UK fuel mix because of the suspension of their Capacity Mechanism— a measure designed to ensure the security of the electricity supply by paying for reliable sources. In November, the European Union ruled that the Capacity Mechanism was illegal. Those payments were going to old coal, gas , and nuclear plants, and some saw them as government subsidies. But, without that money, some of those plants may leave the market. If that happens, it will lead to “decreased security of supply.” Ultimately, the Capacity Mechanism payments will need to be reinstated or an alternative will need to be implemented to fill the gap created by the lost income. Via Clean Technica Image via Free-Photos

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Extreme fossil fuel financing has surged to $115BN under Trump

March 28, 2018 by  
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Financing for extreme fossil fuels  like tar sands  swelled in 2017 under Trump, according to a new report.  Banking on Climate Change 2018  tracks 36 of the largest banks in the world to discover they poured $115 billion into these polluting projects, up 11 percent from 2016, according to the Rainforest Action Network (RAN). Coal mining and power, Arctic and ultra-deepwater oil, and liquefied natural gas export are among the extreme fossil fuels covered by the report, endorsed by more than 50 groups — but the tar sands sector leaped ahead of the pack, overtaking coal to become the most heavily backed extreme energy sector. From 2016 to 2017, financing increased by 111 percent, and banks poured almost $47 billion into tar sands. Related: Here’s every bank funding the Dakota Access Pipeline, and how to switch Organizations including RAN, BankTrack , Oil Change International , Honor The Earth , Indigenous Environmental Network , and Sierra Club , graded banks worldwide on their financing, and found JPMorgan Chase was the number one Wall Street funder of these polluting fuels. That institution, along with the Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto Dominion Bank, passed what RAN described as coal-heavy Chinese banks to be extreme fossil fuels’ biggest bankers in 2017. According to RAN’s statement, “JPMorgan Chase increased funding to coal mining by a shocking 21 times and quadrupled its financing of tar sands oil.” Multiple European banks pledged to reduce financing for fossil fuels like shale or oil sands, according to The Independent , but the report revealed banks in North America, especially in Canada, increased funding. “Every single dollar that these banks provide for the expansion of the fossil fuel industry is a dollar going to increase the climate crisis ,” Oil Change International executive director Stephen Kretzmann said in a statement. “The World Bank, which understands the deep threat that climate change poses to poverty alleviation, has gotten the message and is ending its financing of upstream oil and gas projects. Meanwhile, it seems some commercial banks appear intent on going in the opposite direction. It’s time banks like Chase and TD and US Bank took the World Bank’s lead and stop funding fossils. Until they do, these banks will be complicit in our climate catastrophe.” Find out how your bank stacks up in the Banking on Climate Change 2018 report on RAN’s website. + Banking on Climate Change 2018 + Rainforest Action Network Via The Independent Images via Depositphotos and Backbone Campaign on Flickr

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Abundant solar threatens fossil fuel companies in Texas to the tune of $1.4 billion

January 19, 2018 by  
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In Texas, demand for power peaks in the summer, which also happens to be when solar power is at its most productive. With the state slated to add up to 15 gigawatts of solar in the next few years, it spells big trouble for companies peddling fossil fuels – a $1.4 billion problem. Hear that tapping sound? It’s another nail being hammered in the coffin for fossil fuels . The state’s solar boom could wipe out $2.76 per megawatt hour (wholesale) during the summer from fossil fuels, according to Bloomberg . Since gas and coal power generators rely on high summer prices to counteract the winter dip in demand, solar’s proliferation is a double-whammy threat to the industry. Related: Tesla’s new Solar Roof is actually cheaper than a normal roof Texas isn’t the only state to face this “problem.” California’s fossil fuel prices regularly dip into the negative during summer hours. The good news for fossil fuels is that this shift won’t happen right away. Texas will likely only have 1.8 gigawatts of solar power within the next two years. Via Bloomberg Images via Deposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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California bill could ban all new fossil-fueled cars by 2040

January 4, 2018 by  
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California could ban all new fossil fuel cars from 2040 under a bill introduced this week by Assemblymember Phil Ting , a Democrat of San Francisco. If it passes, the Clean Cars 2040 act would require all new cars sold in the state to be zero emissions vehicles. Ting said in a statement , “We’re at an inflection point: we’ve got to address the harmful emissions that cause climate change .” AB 1745, or the Clean Cars 2040 Act, would require every passenger vehicle sold in California to be zero emissions after January 1, 2040. Ting said fossil fuel vehicles are responsible for almost 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, so “achieving the goal of electrification of transportation is crucial for the health of our people and the planet.” NextGen America president Tom Steyer said polluting cars are California’s biggest source of carbon emissions . The bill would not apply to commercial vehicles greater than 10,000 pounds, just passenger cars. It also wouldn’t apply to cars owned by people in other states moving to California. Related: Scotland to phase out new gas and diesel cars by 2032 California hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent under 1990 levels by 2030. Governor Jerry Brown aims to have 1.5 million zero emission cars on the streets by 2025, and there are almost 300,000 EVs registered in CA already. But the state still has a ways to go: the San Francisco Chronicle said in 2016 that while 2.1 million new cars were sold, only 1.9 percent of those were zero emissions. The bill already has support from some environmental groups. Earthjustice staff attorney Adrian Martinez said in Ting’s statement, “Reducing fossil fuels emissions should be California’s highest priority. With this legislation, California will be taking combustion polluting vehicles off the road…helping us to finally address air pollution and better equipping us to combat climate change. I urge our state’s leaders to pass this important legislation.” Via Assemblymember Phil Ting , the San Francisco Chronicle , and Engadget Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 , 3 )

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2017: the year climate change spiraled out of control

January 4, 2018 by  
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With its extreme weather and unraveling public policy, 2017 provided the world with a glimpse of its climate-chaotic future if changes are not made immediately. Ferocious wildfires burned across California, back-to-back major hurricanes devastated coastal and even inland areas, and the Arctic continued to melt. All the while, Washington DC took action to halt the marginal but meaningful progress made under the Obama Administration by withdrawing from the Paris agreement and stacking the Environmental Protection Agency with those who would serve the interests of industry first. In what is yet another warning sign in a long line of alarm bells ringing, 2017 served as a reminder that the disruptive power of climate change is real and that our failure to act will cost us dearly, today and tomorrow. Although global emissions had remained flat for three years prior, 2017 marked a return to form, with greenhouse gas emissions rising by two percent. While the United States , despite its change in leadership, maintained a slight decline in emissions, this was more than offset by increases in China and India. This continued rise means that in order to meet the emissions goals to avoid catastrophic climate change, substantial cuts will need to be made quickly over the next few decades. Meanwhile, the worst-case climate-change scenarios predicted by scientists seem to be increasingly likely, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature . Related: Climate change is squishing the Earth and making oceans heavier If the numbers aren’t convincing, the visceral experience of 2017 should make clear the dangers of climate change. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria devastated the United States and the Caribbean, leaving much of Puerto Rico still without power and over $200 billion in damages during what was the costliest hurricane season in history. On the other side of North America, wildfires raged in what was also the costliest wildfire season on record. While climate change doesn’t cause wildfires or hurricanes, it creates the conditions that facilitate extreme weather. Meanwhile, the Arctic continues to melt as scientists declare that the region is no longer reliably frozen due to a downward spiral of warming temperatures. The world is not doomed to this climate catastrophe. However, time is rapidly running out. Via MIT Technology Review Images via Depositphotos (1)

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This lawyer wants Big Oil to pay for climate change

December 26, 2017 by  
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Steve Berman is perhaps best known for winning a $206 billion settlement from tobacco companies in the 1990s, although he’s also taken on big companies like Enron and Volkswagen. Now he’s setting his sights on fossil fuel companies. Vice spoke to Berman about a lawsuit demanding five of the most powerful oil companies in the world pay for causing climate change . Berman, the managing partner of Hagens Berman , is one of the attorneys representing San Francisco and Oakland in two lawsuits filed against BP, Chevron, Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell, and ConocoPhillips “alleging that the Big Oil giants are responsible for the cities’ costs of protecting themselves from global warming-induced sea level rise , including expenses to construct seawalls to protect the two cities’ more than five million residents,” according to Hagens Berman. Related: UNEP chief: Polluters should pay for environmental destruction, not taxpayers The case suggests Big Oil borrowed moves from Big Tobacco, which researched cancer even as tobacco companies denied cigarettes were harmful. Berman has evidence that Exxon , for example, knew burning oil leads to global warming in the 1950’s – and oil companies worked to protect Arctic pipelines and offshore oil rigs from the impacts of climate change even as they denied the science. Vice pointed out no one has yet won a similar lawsuit. A Chevron spokesperson told Vice, “Should this litigation proceed, it will only serve special interests at the expense of broader policy, regulatory, and economic priorities.” Berman failed to win a lawsuit like this one in 2012, when he attempted to hold fossil fuel companies including Exxon responsible for the sea level rise threatening Kivalina, Alaska. A federal court dismissed the case; United States District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong wrote, “There is no realistic possibility of tracing any particular alleged effect of global warming to any particular emissions by any specific person, entity, group at any particular point in time.” Leaps in climate science since then could help Berman in this new lawsuit. Researchers have calculated nearly two-thirds of greenhouse gases emitted during the past 150 years can be connected back to 90 companies; BP, Chevron, Exxon, ConocoPhillips, and Shell are in the top ten, according to Vice. Berman told the publication, “We have better science . We think causation will be easier to prove.” Via Vice and Hagens Berman Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Canadas newest funicular makes one of North Americas largest urban parklands more accessible

December 26, 2017 by  
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Edmonton wants you to see it from a new point of view—literally. The Canadian city recently launched a $24 million funicular that links the valley floor to a 20-meter cantilevered lookout with sweeping views of the North Saskatchewan River. Clad in the eco-friendly timber material Kebony, the cable-mechanized incline elevator designed by Canadian firm Dialog Architects taps into an old yet charming transit method in hopes of boosting tourism and access to the Edmonton River Valley, one of North America’s largest areas of urban parkland. Estimated to be approximately 21 times larger than New York City’s Central Park , Edmonton River Valley is a linear park system connecting 22 major parks with over 150 kilometers of trails. The new publicly funded river valley funicular and lookout —formally known as the 100 Street Funicular and Frederick G. Todd Lookout—offers a new way for citizens and tourists to access the green space from the downtown core. The funicular can transport mobility aids, bikes, and strollers, and is complemented by a staircase. There is no charge to use the funicular, which can hold up to 20 people at a time. Related: New Edmonton Freezeway communal ice trail opens in Canada “The project is an entrance to the river valley for everyone, regardless of age and ability, and a focal point that will bring people together in the heart of Edmonton,” said Dialog Architects. “It allows Edmontonians to become tourists in their own backyard. The City of Edmonton has long sought to improve connectivity for the public between urban areas and the North Saskatchewan River valley, and this project is a major step towards greater connectivity throughout the city.” Kebony wood, used for decking, cladding, and seating accents, was chosen for its resistance to rot and ability to last six times longer than pressure-treated wood. + Dialog Architects Via ArchDaily Images © Brock Kryton

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Canadas newest funicular makes one of North Americas largest urban parklands more accessible

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