Scientists say we have 10 years to save Earth

April 14, 2017 by  
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Time is running out to protect Earth from the disastrous effects of climate change . An international team of eight researchers said we have just 10 years to save the planet. But their news isn’t all bad: they’ve come up with a model for balancing carbon dioxide emissions with carbon sinks , like forests, to keep temperatures from passing the 1.5 degree Celsius mark widely considered safe for life as we know it. Scientists say if the world actually intends to stick to the Paris agreement , the next decade will be critical. They say there are two ways to reduce carbon emissions: by slashing the emissions we humans produce and by restoring carbon sinks, and it’s time to take action on both. They detailed their plan in a Nature Communications study, published online yesterday. Related: Scientists say Trump’s presidency could lead to a “game over” scenario for the planet World Bank consultant Brian Walsh, who led the study while doing research for the Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), said they scrutinized carbon emissions from fossil fuels , agriculture, food production, bioenergy, and land use. They also accounted for natural ecosystems taking in carbon emissions to determine where they originate and where they go. Here’s the recommendation: we must reduce fossil fuel use to the point where it’s under 25 percent of the global energy supply by 2100; it’s at 95 percent right now. And we need to reduce deforestation to attain a 42 percent decrease in emissions by 2100. Renewable energy is also part of the answer. The researchers considered four scenarios for energy development in the future. A high-renewable scenario would see wind, solar, and bioenergy use increase by five percent a year so emissions would peak by 2022. Even that pathway would lead to a 2.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase if we don’t also employ negative emissions technologies. IIASA Energy Program Director and co-author Keywan Riahi said, “Earlier work on mitigation strategies by IIASA has shown the importance of demand-side measures, including efficiency, conservation , and behavioral change. Success in these areas may explain the difference between reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius instead of 2 degrees Celsius.” Via the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and EcoWatch Images via Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay

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Scientists say we have 10 years to save Earth

Street artist constructs gigantic geometric portraits with reclaimed wood

April 14, 2017 by  
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Belgian street artist Stefaan De Croock (a.k.a. Strook ) just unveiled a gigantic portrait made entirely out of reclaimed wood . Working with wood fragments of various shapes, sizes and colors, the artist created the enormous 30-foot-high portrait on the side of a high-rise for the Crystal Ship Arts Festival in Ostend, Belgium. The large art piece was created with reclaimed wood pieces sourced from old homes, studios, boats, and even a shipwreck. Using the wood’s original color palette and natural textures as a guide, the artist painstakingly created a beautiful female form. Related: Italian artist creates extraordinary sculptures out of reclaimed driftwood The artist and graphic designer is well-known for his creative street art and was commissioned this year by the arts festival to create a large-scale piece. Strook’s portrait is one of many art pieces on display by some 20 international and local artists who were invited to attend the festival. + Strook Via This is Colossal Photography by Sasha Bogojev for Arrested Motion

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Street artist constructs gigantic geometric portraits with reclaimed wood

Clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs in most US states

March 28, 2017 by  
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Clean energy is increasingly providing work for people across the United States, contrary to what the president might think, and a new Sierra Club report reveals just how much of an impact on the economy it has made. Renewable energy jobs now exceed jobs in coal, oil, and gas in 41 American states and Washington, D.C., according to the report. Sierra Club drew on 2017 Department of Energy jobs data to discover clean energy jobs exceed those in fossil fuels by more than 2.5 to one. The energy jobs of the future, including those in wind , solar , energy efficiency , battery storage , and smart grid technology, already exceed coal, oil, and gas jobs nationally, including positions in extraction, mining, and power generation. According to Sierra Club’s analysis, clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs by over 2.5 to one, and exceed gas and coal jobs by five to one. While only nine states have more fossil fuel than clean energy jobs, just six states have more jobs in coal and gas, according to the report. Related: Solar power now provides twice as many jobs as coal in U.S. In a statement Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, “Right now, clean energy jobs already overwhelm dirty fuels in nearly every state across America, and that growth is only going to continue as clean energy keeps getting more affordable and accessible by the day. These facts make it clear that Donald Trump is attacking clean energy jobs purely in order to boost the profits of fossil fuel billionaires.” If Trump really wants to increase jobs as he claims – and not just fill the pockets of his fossil fuel friends – he should look no further than renewable energy. The report concludes policies to invest in and incentivize clean energy could generate millions of new jobs across America, more than could be created in the fossil fuel sector. Sierra Club also said the clean energy transition should benefit everyone; this means putting first communities and workers who depended on fossil fuels in the past. You can read the full report here . Via Sierra Club ( 1 , 2 ) Images via U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr and Walmart on Flickr

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Clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs in most US states

Scientists turn spinach into human heart tissue

March 28, 2017 by  
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Popeye was right: spinach really is good for the muscles, and not just the ones in your biceps. In fact, scientists have discovered a way to use the leafy stuff, which has a vascular system not dissimilar to ours, to grow layers of working heart muscle, according to a paper published this month in the journal Biomaterials . The new technique, a collaboration between Worcester Polytechnic Institute , the University of Wisconsin-Madison , and Arkansas State University-Jonesboro , marks a breakthrough in the field of human tissue regeneration, which has hitherto been stymied by scale. To wit, although current bioengineering methods can recreate cellular scaffolding on a large scope, fabricating branching networks of tiny blood vessels has proven far trickier. But then scientists noticed that plants and animals evolved parallel means of distributing water and nutrients to their respective cells. “Plants and animals exploit fundamentally different approaches to transporting fluids, chemicals, and macromolecules, yet there are surprising similarities in their vascular network structures,” the authors wrote. “The development of decellularized plants for scaffolding opens up the potential for a new branch of science that investigates the mimicry between plant and animal.” To test their theory, the researchers stripped a bunch of spinach leaves of their cells, leaving behind a network of cellulose. They then seeded the spinach veins with beating human-heart cells. With the leaf fully networked, the team pumped fluids and microbeads through their pint-size proto-heart, mimicking the flow of human cells through our own arterial system. Related: Engineers build artificial muscles from onion skin and gold So far, so successful. “We have a lot more work to do, but so far this is very promising,” said Glenn Gaudette, professor of biomedical engineering at WPI and corresponding author of the paper. And it’s not just spinach that’s up for the job. Other decellularized plants could help deliver oxygen to damaged tissue in victims of heart attacks or other kinds of cardiac trauma. Even better, bioengineers could tweak different plant species to repair a range of tissues in the body. Spinach might work best for highly vascularized cardiac tissue, for instance, but the cylindrical hollow structure of something like jewelweed might be more appropriate for an arterial graft. Similarly, the vascular columns of wood could one day play a role in healing human bones. “Adapting abundant plants that farmers have been cultivating for thousands of years for use in tissue engineering could solve a host of problems limiting the field,” Gaudette added. + Worchester Polytechnic Institute Via National Geographic

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Scientists turn spinach into human heart tissue

What rural Alaska can teach the world about renewable energy

March 13, 2017 by  
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With plenty of trickling streams and blowing wind, many remote Alaskan communities are doing away with fossil fuels altogether.

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What rural Alaska can teach the world about renewable energy

Standing Rock protesters evicted by police at gunpoint

February 24, 2017 by  
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Yesterday police in riot gear evicted Standing Rock protesters after an evacuation deadline passed. Though the majority of demonstrators left the Oceti Sakowin camp before the February 22nd deadline, about 50 Dakota Access Pipeline protesters remained. Most of these passive resistors – including veterans and tribal elders – were arrested at gunpoint by officers clad in full riot gear. The raid was livestreamed on Facebook over the course of 4 hours throughout the day. The initial evacuation was ordered on the pretext of protecting demonstrators from seasonal floods, which could potentially affect the area. While this is certainly a legitimate concern, the fact that over 200 police officers were sent to clear the area, armed with rifles and military-style equipment, makes it clear that the protesters’ safety isn’t Governor Doug Burgam’s main priority. Related: Judge throws out request to halt Dakota Access Pipeline construction Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told ABC News in a statement, “I am very happy to say that we finally introduced rule of law in the Oceti camp. I am hopeful that this announcement brings us closer to finality in what has been an incredibly challenging time for our citizens and law enforcement professionals. Having dealt with riots, violence, trespassing and property crimes, the people of Morton County are looking forward to getting back to their normal lives.” For many of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe members, there is no “normal life” to get back to. Now that the pipeline construction is slated to go forward , they live in fear that a catastrophic oil spill could put their community’s access to clean water at peril. The “violence, trespassing, and property crimes” they’ve been subject to at the hands of police in the past year include being attacked by security dogs , blasted with water cannons at hypothermia-inducing temperatures, and having land they claim was granted to them as part of a 1851 treaty given away to oil companies by the federal government. Related: Trump claims he received no calls about the Keystone and Dakota pipelines Though the protests are Standing Rock have been ended by force, the movement to force banks to stop supporting the Dakota Access Pipeline continues. Oakland , Los Angeles , and New York City are just a few of the local governments urged to divest from the pipeline. Seattle has already voted to end all financial support of the project by moving $3 billion of the city’s funds from Wells Fargo. Via ABC News Images via Kelly Hayes , Unicorn Riot , Jamil Dakwar , Standing Rock Rising

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Standing Rock protesters evicted by police at gunpoint

America will soon surpass the clean energy standards Trump wants to kill

February 9, 2017 by  
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Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan , first announced in 2015, caused no end of political controversy in conservative circles for its ambitious carbon-cutting goals. By February 2016, the Supreme Court halted enforcement of the regulations due to complaints from 29 mostly Republican-led states. Opponents argued that the plan would cause massive layoffs in the energy sector. Now, a new report shows the US is actually poised to surpass the Clean Power Plan’s federal requirements – quite a different picture from the one Trump and his cabinet are painting. The new data comes from the 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook , published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. The report notes: “Within the power sector, the progress is even more noteworthy: in 2016, greenhouse gas emissions from US power plants dropped 5.3% in just one year. Since 2005, the power sector has shrunk its carbon footprint by 24% – in other words, the US is 75% of the way to the Clean Power Plan’s “32% by 2030” headline target, with 14 additional years left to go.” Part of the reason for the lowered emissions is the fact that coal is losing its share of the energy market. Right now it only comprises 30% of the electricity grid in the US – the lowest percentage in the last 70 years. The rise in solar energy is another contributing factor – the solar industry grew by 51,000 jobs last year and seemed poised to continue growing until at least 2022, with the encouragement of the solar energy tax credit. Related: Supreme Court freezes Obama’s plan to cut CO2 emissions This report shows that the transformation in America’s energy market was in effect before the CPP was even on the table. While Obama’s clean energy policies surely accelerated it and made it easier for businesses to make the switch to renewable energy, the change was well underway. Trump’s administration may be expressing interest in repealing the rule , but it’s unlikely to stop the clean energy revolution that’s already underway. Via Gizmodo Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Army approves Dakota Access Pipeline route – and construction could begin immediately

February 8, 2017 by  
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In a surprise move, the US Army Corps of Engineers just approved construction on the final 1.5 miles of the Dakota Access Pipeline . The move cut short a public comment period and environmental impact assessment that was supposed to last two weeks – the Army was originally supposed to accept comments through February 20th, but it expedited the process under the direction of Donald Trump . The accelerated timeline makes legal challenges to the pipeline extremely difficult. The agency has also announced it’s planning to waive its usual policy of waiting 14 days after notifying Congress of the decision to grant an easement. Instead, the easement could be granted within 24 hours, allowing Energy Transfer Partners to begin construction immediately. Due to the nature of the project, it’s not necessary for the company to apply for a separate construction license. Related: 76 water protectors arrested at Standing Rock The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reports that it plans to file a lawsuit and ask for a temporary restraining order to halt construction while the decision’s legal standing undergoes a review. The protestors are also coordinating an international day of action to stand against the decision. In the past, police have soaked Standing Rock protectors with water cannons in freezing conditions, attacked them with dogs , and early in February 76 protestors were arrested during a raid on a new camp at Standing Rock. Via NPR Images via Standing Rock Uprising Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )  

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Army approves Dakota Access Pipeline route – and construction could begin immediately

Electric cars and solar power could freeze fossil fuel growth by 2020

February 3, 2017 by  
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Fossil fuels could officially be a thing of the past as early as 2020, according to a new report. The report shows the declining costs of electric vehicles and solar energy could put a stop to the growth in worldwide demand for oil and coal in less than three years time. According to the Guardian , a report by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative entitled “ Expect the Unexpected: The disruptive power of low-carbon technology,” polluting fuels could lost 10 percent of their market share to solar power and “clean cars” within a decade. To put it in perspective, a 10 percent market share loss was enough to cause the recent collapse in the U.S. coal industry , while the five major utilities in Europe collectively lost about $100 billion between 2008 and 2013 because they didn’t ready themselves for the 8 percent growth in renewable energy . Related: Ireland votes to be the world’s first country to fully divest from fossil fuels According to the study , “Big energy companies are seriously underestimating the low-carbon transition by sticking to their “business as usual” scenarios which expect continued growth of fossil fuels, and could see their assets “stranded.” The study also notes that solar photovoltaic power could supply 23 percent of global power generation by 2040, and as much as 29 percent by 2050. That’s enough to entirely phase out coal and leave natural gas with just a 1 percent market share. At the same time Exxon is predicting renewables will supply just 11 percent by 2040. The researchers also see electric vehicles making up about 35 percent of the road transport market by 2015, and as much as 67 percent by 2050. That growth trajectory will see EVs displace about two million barrels of oil per day in 2025, and grow to 25 million barrels per day by 2050. Via Guardian and Carbon Tracker Images via USAF and Ride_and_Drive , Wikimedia Commons

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Electric cars and solar power could freeze fossil fuel growth by 2020

Ireland votes to be world’s first country to fully divest from fossil fuels

January 26, 2017 by  
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In a historic move, Ireland may become the world’s first country to fully divest from all fossil fuels , according to 350.org’s Fossil Free Europe . The country’s parliament just passed “first-of-its-kind fossil fuel divestment legislation” with a majority vote. The historic bill could enable Ireland to fully divest their sovereign wealth fund, which is worth more than 8 billion Euros or around $8.5 billion, from oil, gas, and coal. Fossil Free Europe and Trócaire reported today that the bill passed in the Irish parliament’s lower house, the Dáil. Fossil Free Europe described the event as “an important moment in the history of the divestment movement.” Related: Sydney plans to divest $500 million from fossil fuels Trócaire Executive Director Éamonn Meehan said in a statement, “The Irish political system is now finally acknowledging what the overwhelming majority of people already know: that to have a fighting chance to combat catastrophic climate change we must phase out fossil fuels and stop the growth of the industry that is driving this crisis.” The bill is now headed for the committee stage, according to Trócaire and Fossil Free Europe, who noted last week all major political parties support it, except the Fine Gael political party.. Meehan thinks the move could send a powerful message to the rest of the world, as a climate change denier takes control of the White House, and said, “The support of a majority in the Dáil for this bill is an incredibly important moment for the climate justice movement in Ireland and will inspire other countries to follow our lead.” A few years ago Norway’s sovereign wealth fund also made a move to divest from some fossil fuel companies, but not all; according to EcoWatch they still had billions in other fossil fuel companies. Via Fossil Free Europe and Trócaire Images via Justin Pickard on Flickr and Fossil Free Facebook

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