Tipping points accelerated climate change in the last Ice Age, new research shows

June 27, 2017 by  
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Could reaching environmental tipping points really impact the Earth’s climate all that much? New research from an international team of four scientists says yes. Their study is the first to show that in our planet’s past, gradual changes in carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations led to tipping points that then set off temperature spikes of as much as 10 degrees Celsius in only a few decades. Scientists led by Xu Zhang of the Alfred Wegener Institute were able to show how sudden changes in our climate, or Dansgaard-Oeschger events, came from CO2 concentrations that rose gradually. Researchers had known temperatures shot up thanks to Greenland ice core samples, but they weren’t sure why – and the new study provides some answers. Zhang said in a statement, “With this study, we’ve managed to show for the first time how gradual increases of CO2 triggered rapid warming .” Related: Scientists warn of uncontrollable climate change amid drastic Arctic melt The team drew on a climate model to find how interactions between the atmosphere and ocean currents led to the temperature spike of 10 degrees Celsius, or 18 degrees Fahrenheit, in Greenland during the last Ice Age, which ended around 11,700 years ago. Here’s how it works. Increased CO2 strengthened Central America trade winds, and the eastern Pacific Ocean warmed more than the western Atlantic Ocean. From there more moisture left the Atlantic, so the salinity and density of that ocean’s surface waters increased. These changes resulted in an abrupt amplification of the circulation pattern of the Atlantic, which according to Zhang can lead to sudden temperature increases. Will we see rapid changes if we hit tipping points today? Gerrit Lohmann of the institute and the University of Bremen said, “We can’t say for certain whether rising CO2 levels will produce similar effects in the future, because the framework conditions today differ from those in a glacial period. That being said, we’ve now confirmed that there have definitely been abrupt climate changes in the Earth’s past that were the result of continually rising CO2 concentrations.” The journal Nature Geoscience published the research online this month. Via the Alfred Wegener Institute and New Atlas Images via Coen Hofstede

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Tipping points accelerated climate change in the last Ice Age, new research shows

The threatened Great Barrier Reef is estimated to be worth $42 billion

June 26, 2017 by  
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Our unsustainable habits are propelling climate change , and as a result, the Great Barrier Reef is under immense environmental stress.  Coral bleaching has reached record levels and no one knows if or when the coral will ever recover. This is concerning not just from an environmental perspective, but, as a new report by Deloitte Access Economics shows, that loss of the reef would represent an “economic catastrophe” as it is estimated to be worth $56 billion (AUS), or $42 billion (USD). As water temperatures rise, the coral expels algae living within, causing it to turn ghostly white (a phenomenon known as coral bleaching). Though consumers everywhere are changing their habits to reduce greenhouse emissions and prevent global warming from worsening, no one knows for sure how long it will take — or even if — the bleached portions will bounce back. To determine that the Great Barrier Reef’s economic worth, the report took into consideration a few factors. All in all, it was concluded that $29 Billion (AUS) is generated from the tourism industry — including the creation of 64,000 jobs, $24 billion (AUS) to indirect or non-use value (describing people who have heard of the reef but haven’t yet visited) and $3 billion (AUS) from recreational use, such as boating. Commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the report is the first in the world to calculate the economic value of the reef.   Survey answers from 1,500 Australian and international respondents from 10 countries were taken into account and ended up revealing the extent to which some people have come to depend on the Unesco World Heritage Site. Said U.S. politician and environmentalist Al Gore in the report , “This timely report is a much needed, holistic view of the incredible economic value and opportunities provided by the Great Barrier Reef. Any failure to protect this indispensable natural resource would have profound impacts not only to Australia but around the world.” Related: Rising ocean temperatures are cooking the Great Barrier Reef to death According to Great Barrier Reef Foundation director Steve Sargent, the report “sends a clear message that the Great Barrier Reef—as an ecosystem , as an economic driver, as a global treasure—is too big to fail.” He added that at $42 billion (USD), “the reef is valued at more than 12 Sydney Opera Houses.” Located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, the largest coral reef system in the world isn’t just affected by warming waters. As Gizmodo reports, farming runoff, urban development. cyclic outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish and boating accidents are also damaging the reef at an increasing rate. Experts are presently collaborating to find solutions which will preserve the Great Barrier Reef. Ideas so far include the construction of coral nurseries, increasing the efficiency of starfish culls and cutting greenhouse gas emissions to prevent a further increase in sea surface temperatures. + Deloitte Via Gizmodo Images via Pixabay  ( 1 , 2 )

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The threatened Great Barrier Reef is estimated to be worth $42 billion

EPA to eliminate 1,228 employees by August – including dozens of scientists

June 21, 2017 by  
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Although 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is a real threat, the Trump administration maintains that global warming is a “hoax” – and it’s gutting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) . Under administrator Scott Pruitt the EPA has scrubbed climate science from its website, and now it’s eliminating thousands of employees — including dozens of scientists — by failing to renew their contracts in August. The Washington Post reports that members of the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) were alerted via email that their terms will not be renewed in August. While they do have the opportunity to re-apply by September, the news came as a shock to many – on average, scientists serve three terms and are re-elected to a fourth if they are willing to serve. Peter Meyer, an economist with the E.P. Systems Group, resigned from the board’s sustainable and healthy communities subcommittee as a form of protest. Meyer said: “We were told quite explicitly by the leadership of the sustainable and healthy communities group … that our assignment was a four-to-five-year assignment. That was what we were told at our first meeting. That produces an assumption that you’re going to get reappointed so that you can complete the job.” Deborah Swackhamer, chair of the board’s executive committee and professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Minnesota, added, “It effectively wipes out the BOSC and leaves it free for a complete reappointment.” Related: EPA dismisses 5 members of major scientific review board Because this is the second time this year the agency failed to renew scientists’ terms, some claim the Trump administration is politicizing the agency, which exists to benefit wildlife and preserve the environment. In response, EPA officials stated that the cuts provide a new opportunity to reach out to a broad array of applicants and draw on their expertise. “ EPA is grateful for the service of all BOSC members, past and present, and has encouraged those with expiring terms to reapply,” said agency spokeswoman Amy Graham. “We are taking an inclusive approach to filling future BOSC appointments and welcome all applicants from all relevant scientific and technical fields.” The BOSC advises the agency’s Office of Research and Development on whether its research can adequately address important scientific questions. Due to cuts, only five scientists remain on the executive committee. The ultimate fear is that the EPA could eliminate members that hold different opinions than the Trump administration , and fill those positions with people who are more favorable to the communities being regulated by the agency. Reportedly, the agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) will also be changed in the near future. “This gives me a great deal of concern about the erosion of science in this administration,” said Robert Richardson, an ecological economist and associate professor in Michigan State University’s Department of Community Sustainability . “It’s hard to understand the rationale behind a decision like this. I understand they might simply want to repopulate [the board] with people of their own choosing. However, this could also be a way of just weakening advisory boards, of diminishing their role by not replacing members.” Via Washington Post Images via EPA , PBS

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Scientists report enormous Texas-sized melting in Antarctica

June 16, 2017 by  
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A recent snowmelt event in West Antarctica could provide scientists with more information to understand how climate change will alter our world. A team of 14 scientists from American and Australian institutions documented widespread melting that happened in 2016, precipitated largely by warm winds from El Niño . An unusually hot summer didn’t help either. We have evidence warm waters are melting ice shelves in Antarctica, but this event was one of the first instances where researchers were able to document how warm air could induce melting from the skies. An area of West Antarctica more than double the size of California partially melted in January 2016. The Ross Ice Shelf’s surface had a sheet of meltwater that remained for up to 15 days in some locations. And as luck would have it, researchers had just deployed instruments to measure the environment just before the melt event happened. Dan Lubin of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography said, “These atmospheric measurements will help geophysical scientists develop better physical models for projecting how the Antarctic ice sheet might respond to a changing climate and influence sea level rise .” Related: Massive chunk of Antarctic ice shelf likely to break away soon Warm air from El Niño influenced the mass melting. Such melt event usually happen when westerly winds are weak, but scientists say this event was unique because the westerly winds were strong during the melt event. Without those winds the melting might have been even worse. David Bromwich, geography professor at The Ohio State University , said in a statement, “…because we expect stronger, more frequent El Niños in the future with a warming climate, we can expect more major surface melt events in West Antarctica.” If melting happens more often, the ice sheet would deteriorate faster, he said. The journal Nature Communications published the research online this week. Via The Ohio State University and The Washington Post Images via Colin Jenkinson, Australian Bureau of Meteorology and Julien Nicolas, The Ohio State University

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Scientists report enormous Texas-sized melting in Antarctica

London could be getting its first ultra-green, tidal-powered school

June 16, 2017 by  
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London-based Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture just unveiled plans for what could become London’s greenest building – a tidal powered school situated on the banks of the Thames River. The five-story building would be entirely powered by energy harvested from a series of large turbines built underneath the waterway. According to the proposal, the school’s location is key to the tidal power project. Currently, the proposed site is being used as a city trash collection center where boats pick up and transport the city’s refuse to a landfill outside of the city. However, this exact site happens to be located on the narrowest section of the Thames – the point in the river with the highest velocity of tidal surge. Related: Is tidal power finally coming of age? “As far west as Teddington, the power of the coastal tides is felt twice daily along the Thames, with a rise and fall of as much seven metres of water,” said Wayne Head, one of the studio’s two directors. “The movement of water due to tides represents an untapped source of power that it’s high time London harnessed for good,” he told Dezeen . “The site is located directly at the narrowest section of the Thames – meaning that the velocity of the tidal flow at this point will be the highest in the river. The plan is to capture this four-times daily energy through submerged tidal turbines as the primary means to supply the building with carbon neutral power.” The proposal, which will be built to meet the Passivhaus standard as well as the BEEAM Outstanding rating, calls for using the building’s natural environment of clean air and cooler temperatures to create a pleasant microclimate on the interior. The school would also be installed with a number of carbon monitoring systems that would help the occupants limit their carbon footprint as much as possible. Additionally, the various renewable materials used in the structure would be left exposed to serve as an example for future architecture projects. Although the proposal is at its very early stages, the architect envisions the carbon neutral project as not only the city’s greenest building, but also a beacon for future of sustainable architecture in the city, “The Thames Tidal Powered School is potentially London’s greenest public building,” he said. “The design is conceived as an exemplar of low embodied energy and carbon construction technologies, using natural and bio-renewable materials sourced through local supply chains.” + Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture Via Dezeen Renderings by Forbes Massie

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London could be getting its first ultra-green, tidal-powered school

Gorgeous Japanese-inspired reading nook breathes new life into a Frank Gehry-designed home

June 16, 2017 by  
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A slice of reading heaven has been inserted into this Frank Gehry -designed home in Los Angeles’ Sawtelle Japantown. Local studio Dan Brunn Architecture gutted and renovated the 1970s house named Hide Out with a minimalist aesthetic that pays homage to Gehry’s original design. Commissioned by a pair of art collectors, the stylish home disrupts its art gallery-like feel with large walnut surfaces that add warmth and even carve out an enviable reading nook by the garden. Formerly owned by the Janss Family, the 3,600-square-foot Hide Out house was overhauled to create an open-air area on the first floor for displaying the work of the new owner, artist James Jean. Since the Janss Family discarded some of Gehry’s signature details in the original construction of the home, Dan Brunn Architecture used the renovation as an opportunity to bring back those lost architectural details. In addition to the oversized rectangular skylight in the center of the home—the only major architectural detail from Gehry’s design that the Janss retained—the architects added dynamic shapes and a simple material palette typical of Gehry’s style in the 1970s and 1980s. The renovated Hide Out features a simple material palette of walnut , concrete, and glass and is filled with natural light from the rectangular skylight and new glazed openings. White walls and pale concrete floors are broken up by eye-catching walnut surfaces, such as the handcrafted and beautifully sculptural walnut staircase at the heart of the home. The open-plan layout is decorated with minimal furnishings to keep focus on the art. Related: How Frank Gehry’s provocative designs go from concept to reality In reference to the home’s surroundings in the Little Osaka neighborhood, the architects drew inspiration from Japanese design for multiple aspects of the home, including furnishing. The reclaimed timber coffee table, for instance, was custom made with traditional Japanese joinery. Traditional Japanese tearooms provided inspiration for an inserted walnut volume that functions as a reading nook, meeting space, or meditation room. The room overlooks a garden planted with traditional Japanese species of bamboo, gingko, and maple. + Dan Brunn Architecture Via Dezeen Images © Brandon Shigeta

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Gorgeous Japanese-inspired reading nook breathes new life into a Frank Gehry-designed home

Former NASA chief scientist says Americans ‘under siege’ from fake climate news

June 12, 2017 by  
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The science is in on climate change – it’s real and hurting Earth right now. But not all Americans are aware of the threat, according to former NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan. She said the country’s citizens are “under siege by fake information that’s being put forward by people who have a profit motive.” Stofan said the science on climate change is unequivocal. Nevertheless there are still deniers of the phenomenon in the United States – some holding top government positions. Stofan said disinformation and half-truths designed to confuse people have been spread about climate change, and now many people in the country are unaware of the pressing consequences of carbon emissions continuing as is. Related: Americans don’t trust climate change science because of fossil fuel industry’s disinformation She said oil and coal companies have been behind the disinformation, telling The Guardian, “Fake news is so harmful because once people take on a concept it’s very hard to dislodge it.” Stofan said she saw “an erosion of people’s ability to scrutinize information” across the political spectrum, not just on the left or the right. “All of us have a responsibility. There’s this attitude of ‘I read it on the Internet therefore it must be true,” she said. Stofan said the American science community has been realizing the threat of climate change fake news during the past six months, and are working to communicate more with the public and share information with the press. During her career Stofan pointed to planetary science as important for understanding the environment here on Earth. She said planetary science has offered proof that atmospheric carbon dioxide results in a warmer climate . She finds similarities between Earth’s carbon emissions and the runaway greenhouse effect on the planet Venus . Venus once had oceans but now the volcano and lava plain-strewn planet has temperatures nearing 500 degrees Celsius – Space.com described the planet as “our solar system’s analog to hell.” Stofan told The Guardian, “We won’t go all the way to Venus, but the consequences of putting more and more CO2 into the atmosphere are really dire. There are models that suggest if we burn off all our fossil fuels , the Earth would become uninhabitable for humans.” She said our first job should be to keep Earth habitable. Via The Guardian Images via Pexels and Wikimedia Commons

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Former NASA chief scientist says Americans ‘under siege’ from fake climate news

Rise of just 0.5 degrees C in India has already resulted in deadly heat

June 9, 2017 by  
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As the world works to keep temperature increase from climate change below 2 degrees Celsius , a smaller increase than that has already led to deadly heat in India . A new study reveals an average temperature increase of just 0.5 degrees Celsius means the country is two and a half times more likely to be hit with a deadly heat wave than it was 50 years ago. Between 1960 and 2009, average temperatures in India increased by 0.5 degrees Celsius, which is under one degree Fahrenheit. The probability of a large heat-related mortality event – where more than 100 people perish – skyrocketed by 146 percent, according to the new study. Researchers also found the amount of heat wave days increased by 25 percent in much of the country. Between 1985 and 2009 part of south and west India saw 50 percent more heat wave events, or extreme heat that lingers for more than three or four days, compared to the 25 years prior. Related: India shatters records with temperature of 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit Climatologist Omid Mazdiyasni of the University of California, Irvine and lead author on a study from 11 researchers in the United States and India said, “It’s getting hotter, and of course more heat waves are going to kill more people. We knew there was going to be an impact, but we didn’t expect it to be this big.” This is bad news for a region already grappling with heat. Neighboring Pakistan experienced the hottest ever temperature recorded in May in the world with a temperature of 53.5 degrees Celsius, or 128.3 degrees Fahrenheit, in the city of Turbat on May 28. And in New Delhi , temperatures have spiked higher than 44 degrees Celsius, or 111 degrees Fahrenheit, in the last couple of weeks. Study co-author Amir AghaKouchak, another UC Irvine climatologist, said, “The general public may think that a one or two degree temperature rise is not that significant, but our results show that even small changes can result in more heat waves and more death.” The journal Science published the study this week. Via Phys.org Images via Abhishek Singh Bailoo on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Researchers find widespread acidified water along US West Coast

June 6, 2017 by  
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Climate change is altering the planet in ways we might not often think about, such as in the acidification of the world’s oceans . A team of 20 scientists from institutions around the United States discovered acidified ocean water in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem. Study lead author Francis Chan of Oregon State University said, “The threat of ocean acidification is global and though it sometimes seems far away, it is happening here right now on the West Coast of the United States and those waters are already hitting our beaches.” Scientists conducted a three-year survey of the California Current System to uncover acidified water throughout what Oregon State University described as an ecologically critical nearshore habitat. Researchers also found hotspots of water with pH measurements as low as those found in oceanic surface waters anywhere else around the world. Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide has contributed to the phenomenon. Related: Large section of Arctic Ocean is six times more acidic than 20 years ago Ocean acidification is a problem because many organisms are sensitive to pH changes. Researchers noted shell dissolution on small swimming snails , for example, but they’re not the only species impacted. Richard Feely of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Washington said, “This is about more than the loss of small snails. These pteropods are an important food source for herring, salmon, and black cod, among other fish. They also may be the proverbial ‘canary in the coal mine’ signifying potential risk for other species, including Dungeness crabs, oysters, mussels, and many organisms that live in tide pools or other nearshore habitats.” The researchers didn’t just uncover bad news though. They also found refuges of moderate pH environments they think could become havens for marine creatures as other waters become more acidic. These havens could offer a resource for ecosystem management. Chan called for minimizing environmental stressors and managing for diversity in the region to help marine species adapt. The journal Nature Scientific Reports published the study online the end of May. Scientists from research institutions and universities in Oregon, California, Florida, Washington, Massachusetts, and Hawaii contributed to the study. Via Oregon State University Images via Oregon State University

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Electric cars could reach cost parity with conventional cars by next year

June 5, 2017 by  
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Are you eager to get your hands on a new electric vehicle,  but the price is too steep? You’re in luck – electric cars will likely reach cost parity with vehicles that have internal combustion engines by next year, and electric vehicles could be cheaper that gas by as soon as 2025, according to a new report by USB . The report makes it clear that while electric vehicles will still cost more than ICE cars, owning a new EV will be comparable to owning a gas or diesel car in the long-term. Analysts took into consideration the fuel costs, maintenance costs and other related expenditures related to owning all vehicles and used the information to determine that over time, the cost of owning a green vehicle is comparable to owning a conventional one. As Green Car Reports  reports , it is becoming more affordable to own an EV due to breakthroughs in battery capacity, charge times and a growing demand for environmentally-friendly technology. Part of the analysis required UBS to break down a $37,000 Chevrolet Bolt in order to estimate how much the vehicle cost to build. It was discovered that “the EV powertrain is $4,600 cheaper to produce than we thought and there is more cost reduction potential left.” Analysts continued that the 238-mile range Bolt costs around $28,700 to build and that GM is only expected to produce 30,000 Bolts in 2018. Therefore, there won’t be a huge incentive for it to be profitable. Related: UK solar smashes record, supplying 25% of electricity demand On the other hand, the Tesla Model 3 is expected to be produced in numbers as high as 500,000 by 2018. When extras are added on to the base price of the Model 3 at $35,000, the company is expected to break even. UBS declared that electric vehicles are the “most disruptive car category since the Model T Ford” and that though total sales for electric cars is still relatively small, global EV sales will reach 14% by 2025 (4.2 million vehicles). Europe is expected to take the lead in this department, selling 30% of the world’s electric cars within eight years. Now that EVs will soon cost the same to own as a car or truck with an ICE, a massive shift is expected to take place within the auto industry . + UBS Via  Green Car Reports

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