Turkey poop could offer a potent alternative to coal

November 24, 2017 by  
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Turkeys don’t just offer fuel on a Thanksgiving plate. Two Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers found turkey poop could act as a potent alternative energy source – and could actually replace around 10 percent of coal utilized for electricity generation. Turkey, chicken, and other poultry poop, when treated and converted to solid biomass fuel, could offer an alternative to coal. Biomass comprises 73 percent of renewable energy production around the world, according to a press release on the work, but instead of growing crops for biomass, utilizing turkey excrement could solve two problems. The researchers said in the statement, “Environmentally safe disposal of poultry excrement has become a significant problem. Converting poultry waste to solid fuel, a less resource-intensive, renewable energy source is an environmentally superior alternative that also reduces reliance on fossil fuels .” Related: 6 Ways to Convert Poo into Power They compared turkey poop as biochar and hydrochar; the first is “produced by slow heating of the biomass at a temperature of 450 degrees Celsius in an oxygen-free furnace” and the second by “heating wet biomass to a much lower temperature of up to 250 degrees Celsius under pressure” in a process known as hydrothermal carbonization (HTC). Turkey poop processed as hydrochar seemed like the better option, offering 24 percent higher net energy generation, according to the researchers, who said, “Poultry waste hydrochar generates heat at high temperatures and combusts in a similar manner to coal, an important factor in replacing it as renewable energy source.” The researchers discovered greater temperatures during the HTC process resulted in a reduction of methane and ammonia emissions , although there were increases in carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide . But researcher Amit Gross said, “Our findings could help significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity generation and agricultural waste.” The journal Applied Energy published the research online this month. Via American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Images via Andrea Reiman on Unsplash and Pixabay

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One of the world’s largest mining companies is ditching coal

November 10, 2017 by  
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Rio Tinto Group, the world’s second largest mining company, is selling off its coal mines with the goal of getting out of the business. Although environmental concerns are motivating some to act against coal, London-based Rio Tinto is choosing to dump coal due to its declining profitability. Still, Rio Tinto’s stated reason for moving away from coal must be taken in the context of a world that is shifting towards a low-carbon economy, in which renewable energy is steadily overtaking fossil fuels as the more economic choice to power the planet. Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques framed the decision as a question of making the most out of limited resources, according to Bloomberg , stating that even a company as large as Rio Tinto needs to maximize its human and financial resources. Although Rio Tinto’s decision is based on effective usage of resources and profitability, it and other mining companies are wrestling with the future returns on dirty and increasingly cost-ineffective energy sources like coal. “The big diversified miners are all trying to work out which commodities are going to be most disadvantaged in the future, and the low-carbon transition is one of the big uncertainties that they and other companies are facing,” said Helen Wildsmith, head of climate change at CCLA Investment Management, according to Bloomberg . “We’re seeing more companies integrating their thinking on climate change scenarios into the macro-economic and cyclical scenarios that they work with.” Related: Biggest grid operator in US attacks Perry’s proposal to prop up coal Despite coal’s declining prospects, Rio Tinto is finding buyers for its coal mines, much of which are located in Australia . The mining giant has been selling off its coal assets since 2015. In early 2017, Rio Tinto reached an agreement to sell its Coal & Allied Industries Ltd. to China’s Yanzhou Coal Mining Co. With coal out of the picture, Rio Tinto will be focus more of its resources on extracting more valuable materials. Via Bloomberg Images via Depositphotos (1)  ( 2 )

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Delhi residents struggle to breathe as doctors declare air pollution health emergency

November 7, 2017 by  
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Doctors in Delhi, India’s capital region, have declared a public health emergency over the densely populated, metropolitan area’s extremely high level of air pollution , the breathing of which has been described as the equivalent of smoking 50 cigarettes in a day. The Indian Medical Association has called for the capital city’s upcoming half-marathon to be cancelled to avoid “disastrous health consequences” and urges residents to remain inside to protect themselves from the pollution. Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi, described the city as “a gas chamber,” according to the Guardian , while he and other officials work to determine an effective response to the crisis. As the region struggles to breath, state and federal government have been urged to take action to protect its citizens. In response to the public health emergency, schools have been closed while transportation routes have suffered delays under the decreased visibility. While the smog contains a number of noxious chemicals, the most destructive are concentrations of fine pollutants smaller than 2.5 micro-meters, which are so tiny that they are able to slip through natural filters in the human body. These fine pollutants, which include lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury, have reached concentrations in the air eleven times the level defined as safe by the World Health Organization. “It has terrible effects on every part of your body,” said Dr. Arvind Kumar, chest surgery chairman at Sir Ganga Ram hospital in Delhi, according to the Guardian . “It can precipitate an acute asthma attack and in the long run it will increase their risk of lung cancer .” Related: India to only sell electric cars by 2030 Delhi’s air is polluted for much of the year due to open burning of trash, road dust, exhaust from vehicles, and byproducts of industrial activity. However, it becomes even more unbearable in winter when seasonal changes trap the pollution closer to the ground. Attempts to improve Delhi’s air quality have included traffic rationing, shuttering of local coal power plants , and even banning fireworks during Diwali. Unfortunately, to truly tackle this urgent problem, local, state, and federal governments will need to examine the complex systems that result in an outpouring of pollution and craft comprehensive policies to discourage unhealthy practices and encourage healthy ones. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Newly-released report stating humans are the cause of climate change at odds with Trump officials

November 6, 2017 by  
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On Friday, 13 federal agencies under the Trump Administration released a comprehensive scientific report that states clearly that humans are the dominant cause of climate change. This may come as a surprise, given the Republican position on the issue . President Trump has called climate change a hoax invented by the Chinese and has removed the United States from the landmark Paris agreement. Trump’s fellow Republicans have even tied themselves in knots to praise fossil fuels, with current US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry going so far as to link them with the prevention of sexual assault . The release of the legally mandated report highlights how far removed Trump and his Republicans remain from mainstream scientific opinion, even from within federal agencies under Trump’s leadership. The report details the ways in which climate change has already impacted the planet, including a 1.8 degree Fahrenheit temperature increase in the past 115 years. The long-term trend towards a warmer, more volatile planet and human activity’s primary role in it is “unambiguous,” reads the report, and that there is “no convincing alternative explanation” for the warming climate. The Trump Administration and the Republican Congress continues to argue otherwise in spite of the scientific consensus. “This report has some very powerful, hard-hitting statements that are totally at odds with senior administration folks and at odds with their policies,” said Philip B. Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center, according to the New York Times . “It begs the question, where are members of the administration getting their information from? They’re obviously not getting it from their own scientists.” Related: Renewables keep booming despite Trump administration’s attempts to axe Obama’s Clean Power Plan The report is the latest installment of a congressionally mandated review known as the National Climate Assessment. Every four years, hundreds of scientists within government and academia compile a peer-reviewed report that is considered the United States government’s most authoritative statement on climate science. Although members of the Trump Administration clearly take issue with the science presented in the report, they are largely focused on passing tax reform and have chosen not to engage in a fight over climate change at this moment. Nonetheless, the Trump Administration’s decision to ignore climate science could have dire consequences in the future. “This profoundly affects our ability to be leaders in developing new technologies and understanding how to build successful communities and businesses in the 21st century,” said Christopher Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, according to the New York Times . “Choosing to be dumb about our relationship with the natural world is choosing to be behind the eight ball.” Via New York Times Images via Depositphotos (1) , lead image via Ralf Kayser  

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Almost 200 countries gather at COP23 to accelerate climate action

November 6, 2017 by  
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COP21 ultimately led to the groundbreaking 2015 Paris Agreement . Now, two years later, world leaders are meeting in Bonn, Germany to talk climate action at COP23, and how they can speed up implementation of the landmark deal’s goals without support from the US. Delegates from nearly 200 countries will be present. Fiji prime minister Frank Bainimarama will serve as COP23’s president. It’s not just government leaders who are gathering, but representatives from cities, businesses, and civil society organizations. The BBC reported around 20,000 visitors and delegates will be present. Speakers will include Solar Impulse pioneer Bertrand Piccard , United Nations Special Envoy Michael Bloomberg , and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger , to name a few. Related: Nicaragua joins Paris Accord, leaving the US and Syria as lone dissenters Although President Donald Trump yanked the United States out of the Paris Agreement , the country cannot leave until 2020 so there will be an American team of negotiators present, which the BBC said is comprised largely of career civil servants. But some Trump administration members will reportedly back an event at COP23 promoting fossil fuels and nuclear energy as climate change solutions, which is upsetting some delegates. The BBC said at the event, speakers will focus on how coal and other fuels can help curb the impacts of increasing temperatures . A White House spokesperson said, “It is undeniable that fossil fuels will be used for the foreseeable future, and it is in everyone’s interest that they be efficient and clean.” International Institute for Environment and Development director Andrew Norton said the idea that fossil fuels can help tackle climate change is beyond absurd, saying, “These talks are no place for pushing the fossil fuel agenda. The US needs to come back to the table and help with the rapid cuts in emissions that the situation demands.” American governors, mayors, and business people part of the We Are Still In coalition will attend COP23 to show the world much of the country below the federal government still backs the Paris deal. Via the BBC and United Nations Climate Change Images via COP23Demo on Flickr and Takver ( 1 , 2 ) on Flickr

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This candy-colored school in Spain disappears into the sky

November 6, 2017 by  
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  The upper floor of this candy-colored school in the city of Salamanca, Spain, disappears into the sky. Locally based design studio ABLM Arquitectos used mirrored panels to make the upper floor “almost invisible,” while covering the lower story with playful  ceramic stripes. The school is located in a neighborhood on the periphery of Salamanca, which is going through a process of industrialization. Its playful design contrasts this trend, with stripes of colors introducing an element of fun and ease into the area. Related: Japanese kindergarten features awesome green courtyard where kids can run and climb The entrance canopy is covered in the same material as the upper floor of the building. This dematerialization of the structure is achieved thanks to the use of mirrored panels of composite aluminum . Another intent in using reflective materials is to reflect the surroundings and visually reduce the scale of the building. Spanish ceramicist Toni Cumella chose the colors for the lower level, deciding on a wide spectrum of colors–from pink to maroon and green. The interior contrasts the façade and features neutral colors and materials. Related: Barcelona’s Beautiful Martinet School Boasts a Sun-Shielding Ceramic Facade “The almost invisible school proposes a reflection on the domestic scale of this kind of infrastructures, where the little ones must find spaces that they can catch, and places with which they can dream,” said architects Arturo Blanco and Laura Martínez of ABLM Arquitectos. + ABLM Arquitectos Via Dezeen Photos by Miguel de Guzmán

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This candy-colored school in Spain disappears into the sky

Oxford, UK to create first zero-emissions zone in the world

October 12, 2017 by  
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Oxford , England, with its history of learning dating back to the 11th century, is now shifting into the future with an electric-vehicle only zone in the city center. In banning all internal combustion engine vehicles, the city is establishing what it says is the first zero-emissions zone in the world. Starting in 2020, six streets in Oxford’s city center will be free of smaller gas-guzzling vehicles, including buses and taxis. By 2035, the ban will have expanded to all fossil-fuel powered vehicles and will encompass the entire city center. While such a dramatic change in the city center’s urban design may encourage less driving, thus less greenhouse gas emissions, the zone was inspired by a need to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide, most of which comes from car exhaust, by three-fourths. Chronic exposure to nitrogen dioxide can cause respiratory problems and eye irritation. Data from the World Health Organization also indicates that Oxford is one of eleven British cities to exceed the safe limits of toxic particles known as PM10s and PM2.5s. A “step change” is urgently needed to prevent air pollution from “damaging the health” of Oxford residents, said city councilor John Tanner. Related: GM’s plans for “all-electric-future” spell doom for fossil fuel industry The switch-over plan is expected to cost Oxford city government, bus companies, and local businesses approximately £7 million to replace the fossil-fuel consuming vehicles, including all municipal vehicles, with electric vehicles. An additional £7 million will be spent to build compliance infrastructure , such as CCTV cameras with plate number recognition technology. Those who still choose to bring their old fashioned vehicles into the city center after the ban will face a significant fine. To sustain such a project, Oxford would require sustained commitment from local, regional, and perhaps federal government. Via The Guardian Images via  Martijn van Sabben ,  Giuseppe Milo

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The entire world could be powered by one deep-sea wind farm

October 10, 2017 by  
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What if the world’s energy problems could be solved with one deep-sea wind farm ? A new study, conducted by the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University, California, suggests it could. Scientists determined that if a renewable energy project the size of India were to be constructed in the ocean, enough electricity could be generated to fulfill the energy needs of every nation on earth. In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doctors Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira wrote: “On an annual mean basis, the wind power available in the North Atlantic could be sufficient to power the world.” The duo noted that wind speeds are on average 70 percent higher over the Earth’s oceans than on land. In order to generate the equivalent of all energy used today, a deep-sea wind farm would need to span three million square kilometers. On land, the concept would never work. This is because when more wind turbines are added to a farm, the combined drag from the turning blades limits the amount of energy that can be obtained. As a result of this effect, electricity generation for large wind farms on land is limited to about 1.5 watts per square meter . In the North Atlantic, however, the limit would be much higher — more than six watts per square meter. Related: The world’s biggest offshore wind farm is being built in the UK The Independent reports that this is possible because more heat pours into the atmosphere above the North Atlantic Ocean. As a result, the problem of “ turbine drag” is essentially overcome. Said Possner, “We found that giant ocean-based wind farms are able to tap into the energy of the winds throughout much of the atmosphere whereas wind farms onshore remain constrained by the near-surface wind resources.” During the summer, the output from the vast North Atlantic wind farm would drop to one-fifth of the annual average. Despite this, enough energy would still be generated to meet the electricity demands of all countries in the European Union . The scientists added that a deep sea wind farm would have to operate in “remote and harsh conditions,” where waves heights often reach more than 3 meters. If these hurdles were overcome, political and economic challenges would need to be tackled next. + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Via The Independent Images via Wikimedia Commons [1] , Wikimedia Commons [2] , Wikimedia Commons [3] and Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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This incredible floating tent is the stuff of camping dreams

October 10, 2017 by  
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This incredible floating tent is one of those things you never knew you needed. Ohio-based outdoor equipment company SmithFly has designed what they describe as the world’s first floating tent , the Shoal Tent . With it, according to SmithFly, “the world is your waterbed.” SmithFly’s floating tent looks like way too much fun. The base is an inflatable raft, covered by a tent topper. There are no tent poles necessary, according to the company, because the tent structure is inflatable. They also say when it is inflated, it can endure high winds. Naturally, the tent fabric is waterproof . And it seems the Shoal Tent would be a pretty cozy place to spend the night; the “six inch thick drop stitched” floor basically acts as an air mattress. Related: See-through dome lets you immerse yourself in nature and sleep beneath the stars “The tent topper sides all attach and detach using heavy duty hook and loop for the ability to use just the top and get in and out easily through the sides if the need arises suddenly,” the company said in their product description, and the floor inflates to 10 pounds per square inch (psi), while the tubes inflate to three psi. The floating tent is eight feet by eight feet, measured from outside to outside. Inside, a person 6’3″ tall can lay down or stand up in the middle. The tent weighs around 75 pounds, and can fold down to a burrito shape to fit inside a storage bag that’s around 60 by 24 by 18 inches. The company suggests camping on “your favorite farm pond, salt water flat, spring creek, or eddie on your favorite river .” SmithFly launched in 2010, the brainchild of designer and fly fisherman Ethan Smith, who aimed to create a better fly fishing vest pack. The company offers products manufactured in the United States and lists sustainability as one of their top priorities. They aim to make multi-generational products, with the hope customers “only buy one of our vests and that it lasts long enough that your great-grand kids can use it.” The Shoal Tent costs $1,499 and is available to pre-order online; SmithFly says they’re not in stock yet but the first batch will be going out in December or January. The tent kit comes with a storage bag, manual foot pump, and patch kit. + SmithFly Images via SmithFly

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Catholic churches to make massive divestment from fossil fuels

October 4, 2017 by  
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To mark the anniversary of the death of Saint Francis of Assisi, over 40 Catholic institutions have announced their imminent divestment from fossil fuels, the largest move of its kind by a faith-based organization. The announcement’s timing with Saint Francis’s feast day, October 4, seems fitting for a Catholic Church guided by Pope Francis . He has elevated environmentalism as a key tenet of his papal tenure and chose his title to honor Saint Francis, who is known for his love of the natural world and the poor. Although the specific amount of divestment has not been yet released, the number of participating Catholic organizations is over four times the previous record . In recent years, divestment from fossil fuels has gained in strength as a tool to combat climate change by denying financial support, through investments, to companies and organizations in the fossil fuel industry. The global fossil fuel divestment movement is estimated to be worth $5.5 trillion. “I hope we will see more leaders like these 40 Catholic institutions commit,” said Christiana Figueres, former United Nations climate chief who helped negotiate the Paris climate agreement, “because while this decision makes smart financial sense, acting collectively to deliver a better future for everybody is also our moral imperative.” Related: Nuns build open-air chapel to protest natural gas pipeline on their land The Catholic institutions that are participating in the latest divestment include the Archdiocese of Cape Town, the Episcopal Conference of Belgium and the German Church bank and Catholic relief organisation Caritas. The Italian town of Assisi, Saint Francis’s hometown, also divested from fossil fuels on the day prior to a visit from Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentolini. “When we pay attention to the environment, we pay attention to poor people, who are the first victims of climate change,” said Assisi Mayor Stefania Proietti. “When we invest in fossil fuels, we stray very far from social justice. But when we disinvest and invest in renewable and energy efficiency instead, we can mitigate climate change, create a sustainable new economic deal and, most importantly, help the poor.” Via the Guardian Images via Nicola/Flickr ,  Long Thiên/Flickr , and Christopher John/Flickr

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