Japanese cherry blossoms spring into unusual fall blooms

October 22, 2018 by  
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The springtime cherry blossom festival in Japan is an annual celebration that draws in spectators from all around the world. For the Japanese, the ‘hanami,’ or flower viewing, is a moment shared among family and friends who gather to celebrate nature’s beautiful and awe-inspiring rebirth. This week, however, cherry blossoms have been blooming two seasons ahead of schedule following two recent typhoons in the area. The premature fall blooms are extremely uncharacteristic of the sakura trees, which seemed to have been tricked by the extreme weather events to spring before … well, spring. “I have never seen anything like this,” tree surgeon Hiroyuki Wada said to local broadcasters. “This year’s storms affected wide regions, and the strong winds may have caused the blooming.” The strength of the September and October typhoons stripped many cherry blossom trees of their leaves, which experts are saying caused early indications for the trees to bloom. Furthermore, warm temperatures following the typhoons misled the trees by inviting the early flowering. Related: Climate change is causing spring to come earlier in national parks Normally, the earliest blooms are witnessed in the northern parts of Japan , where cherry blossom festivals begin as early as February in Naha. For the rest of the nation, the viewing season is concentrated around the first week in April, and the latest viewings in Hakodate and Sapporo occur in early May. While the current blooms are not expected to affect this year’s spring hanami, the unusual events are drawing attention to the issue of earlier bloom patterns. Last year, a report in The Washington Post shed light on the work of Yasuyuki Aono, an environmental sciences professor at Osaka Prefecture University, who assembled a data set of Kyoto’s blossom-flowering dates . The research chronicles blooms as far back as A.D. 850 and, when graphed, shows an undeniable and worrisome change in bloom periods over the past 200 years. Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann said, “Kyoto is just one location on the planet. But the large-scale warming of the past century is so distinct and widespread that it is increasingly evident from diverse records all around the globe.” Mann isn’t wrong. In 1912, Japan gifted Washington D.C. 3,000 sakura trees as a sign of friendship between the two nations. The National Park Service’s records, dating back to 1921, show a similar pattern of earlier and earlier blooming each year. Meteorologist Jason Samenow explained, “In both Kyoto and Washington, the warming trends and earlier blooms are most likely due to a growing urban heat island effect and increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.” Beautiful though they may be, the second blooming of the cherry blossom trees are not a welcome sight for the Japanese nor for scientists. While there is hope that this is a once in lifetime event, there is still much work to be done in ensuring this anomaly doesn’t become commonplace. Via NPR , The Washington Post  and Japan Specialist Image via Don Kawahigashi

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Beer prices expected to soar as climate change challenges barley production

October 17, 2018 by  
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Shrinking barley yields caused by climate change will be disrupting the beer industry in the coming decades. The grain is central to beer production, and a new study published on Monday signals trouble for brewers who rely on the failing crop. Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage worldwide, and consumers are equally as dismayed by the report, which will cause a surge in beer prices up to two times its current cost for some nations. The shortages in barley production are caused by extreme weather that has intensified because of global warming . Both heat waves and droughts are expected to decimate the beer industry in the second half of the century. These events, which are predicted to occur every two or three years, are directly linked to rising temperatures. At the current expected rates of temperature rise, experts say the production drop is inevitable. Related: A beer crisis is brewing in Germany as bottle recycling slows amid heatwaves The study, published by researchers at the University of East Anglia, said that brewery troubles are minor in comparison to other challenges the planet will face from climate change. Among these are food security, fresh water and storm damage. Even so, the 3 to 17 percent drop in barley yields is disheartening for beer fans who will face shortages and price spikes. China is set to face the most shortages this century, with the U.S. as a runner up. Beer production in Germany and Russia will also fall on hard times, but Ireland, Italy, Canada and Poland will see the largest price increases. In Ireland, which is home to a popular brew culture, the price for a 500ml bottle could rise from $2.50 to a whopping $5. “Climate change will affect all of us, not only people who are in India or African countries,” said Dabo Guan, professor of climate change economics and lead author of the study. Guan emphasized the importance of recognizing that climate change is not something that developed nations will be immune to. Ultimately, the answer lies in supporting policies that reduce the emissions causing this climate disruption, and many companies are moving forward and instating their own regulations. One such company is Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest brewing house, which is planning on cutting its emissions by 25 percent by 2025. The company is also working on a drought-resistant strain of barley that could offset shortages as well as strains that could be grown throughout the winter. Via Reuters Image via Raw Pixel

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Meat consumption must drop by 90% to avert a climate crisis

October 16, 2018 by  
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While the meat industry’s negative impacts on the environment have proved troublesome for some time, an assembly of scientists from various European research institutes have released a thorough analysis of the Earth’s food system that shows if farming practices and food trends continue unchecked, the planet’s capabilities of feeding the global population will be decimated within the coming decades, and global warming will not be able to stay under 1.5 degrees Celsius. Greenhouse gas emissions, land and water consumption, deforestation , biodiversity loss and aquatic dead zones are the central burdens of agriculture evaluated by experts. However, this year’s research study determined a new problem — food supply — to be the most concerning of all. With a booming population that is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, the environmental damages are enough that widespread food insecurity is knocking on our door. Related: Look out, meat industry – flexitarianism is on the rise “It is pretty shocking,” said Marco Springmann, lead researcher from the University of Oxford. “We are really risking the sustainability of the whole system.” The team examined precise data from every country to assemble the most comprehensive assessment of food production and global environment to date. Their diagnosis? Surviving within environmental limits requires a drastic reduction in meat consumption. “Feeding a world population of 10 billion is possible, but only if we change the way we eat and the way we produce food,” explained Professor Johan Rockström from Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Greening the food sector or eating up our planet: this is what is on the menu today.” While the problem requires multi-dimensional confrontation from technological , governmental and social standpoints, the experts are encouraging dietary changes on an individual level. The study recommends an astounding 90 percent reduction in meat consumption and a 60 percent cut in milk consumption for people in countries such as the U.S. and U.K., as well as the adoption of more sustainable farming practices, in order to keep temperature rise under control. “There is no magic bullet, but dietary and technological [farming] change are the two essential things, and hopefully they can be complemented by reduction in food loss and waste,” Springmann said. Calling it the “flexitarian” diet, the researchers recommended a surge in bean , pulse, nut and seed consumption to replace the standard meat intake. Taking the average world citizen, the diet stresses a 75 percent cut in beef, a 90 percent cut in pork and a 50 percent cut in egg consumption to halve livestock emissions and help the planet return to sustainable levels. “Ultimately, we live on a finite planet, with finite resources,” said University of Leeds professor Tim Benton on the study, in which he did not take part. “It is a fiction to imagine there is a technological solution allowing us to produce as much food as we might ever want, allowing us to overeat and throw food away.” + Nature Via The Guardian Images via Andrik Langfield and Deryn Macey

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Meat consumption must drop by 90% to avert a climate crisis

Earth911 Quiz #32: Not So Watery World

October 11, 2018 by  
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More than 800 million people lack clean water, while water … The post Earth911 Quiz #32: Not So Watery World appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Quiz #32: Not So Watery World

Even scientists are shocked by the latest UN report on climate change

October 10, 2018 by  
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According to a Monday report on climate change from the United Nations, maintaining the Earth’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius is crucial if more extreme weather events and species’ extinctions are to be avoided. The current ceiling on temperature increase is set at 2 degrees Celcius since the 2015 Paris Agreement , to which nearly 200 nations are committed. However, new UN research shows that this pledge is not enough to avoid possibly irreparable damage to our planet’s ecosystems. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) both weighed in on the report, saying that as of now, the world is not even on course to achieving the 2C benchmark, let alone a lower target. The UN is calling for rapid changes on the part of nations, businesses and individuals. The unprecedented changes to travel and lifestyle may be jarring but are the only way to avoid catastrophic damage to our planet in the near future. Related: Flood frequency of the Amazon River has increased fivefold “There is clearly need for a much higher ambition level to reach even a 2 degrees target, we are moving more toward 3 to 5 (degrees) at the moment,” explained Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the WMO. The 1.5C target would slow coastal flooding and ocean rise by the end of the century, giving people in these areas time to adapt to changes. Many species would also be given a greater chance of survival. Under the 2C target, coral reefs are still projected to disappear. The lower target would allow anywhere between 10 to 30 percent of coral reefs to possibly survive. “Even the scientists were surprised to see … how much they could really differentiate and how great are the benefits of limiting global warming at 1.5 compared to 2,” IPCC Vice-Chair Thelma Krug told Reuters . According the the IPCC, the human carbon footprint must fall by at least 45 percent by 2030 in order for the planet to maintain the 1.5C temperature rise and reach “net-zero” by mid-century. The report also stated that 70-85 percent of energy needs to be supplied by renewable sources by 2050 to stay at the 1.5C target — right now, renewable energy accounts for about 25 percent. Amjad Abdulla — board member for the IPCC and chief negotiator for small island states at risk of flooding — said, “The report shows we only have the slimmest of opportunities remaining to avoid unthinkable damage to the climate system that supports life as we know it.” While the U.S. is on target to meet the previous goal, the UN is still stressing that more action is needed. Urging individuals to make changes to their lifestyles, even at the smallest of levels, the report believes that every small incentive will make the difference. For us, this means reducing meat consumption and dairy intake, choosing public transportation or switching to electric and hybrid vehicles and demanding companies to supply low-carbon products for purchase. + United Nations Via Reuters Image via  Natasha Kasim

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Even scientists are shocked by the latest UN report on climate change

Flood frequency of the Amazon River has increased fivefold

September 21, 2018 by  
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New data suggest that flooding in the Amazon River has dramatically increased by as much as five times in both intensity and frequency in the last 100 years. Scientists analyzed data points from the past century and believe the increase in flooding is linked to global warming. Scientists have measured the river’s water levels for 113 years at the Port of Manaus in Brazil . Over time, they found that large flooding events and extreme droughts have gone up over the past 20 to 30 years. In the early part of the century, massive floods only happened about once in every 20-year period. That number has increased to one major flood every four years. Related: High tide coastal flooding in US has doubled in the past 30 years The researchers believe the uptick is related to an oceanic system called Walker circulation, which describes air currents created by temperature fluctuations and pressure changes in the ocean , specifically in tropical locations. The Pacific Ocean has been cooling while the Atlantic Ocean has been getting warmer, which creates these circulating air currents. These changes are affecting the surrounding environment, including precipitation in the Amazon basin. Scientists are not sure why the Atlantic Ocean has been warming up. They do, however, believe that global warming is contributing to the temperature changes, but in a more indirect way. They theorize that global warming has shifted wind belts farther south, which pushes warm water from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic. This creates an opposite effect of El Niño and results in more rainfall in the Amazon. Flooding along the Amazon River lasts weeks on end. Not only does it spread disease and contaminate water supplies, but it also destroys farms and homes. Right now, there is no indication that the flooding will decrease. This past year, water levels rose above the flood range, and scientists believe the water levels will only get higher as the years progress. Via EurekAlert! Images via Dave Lonsdale and NASA

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Flood frequency of the Amazon River has increased fivefold

Cities around the world lay the groundwork for a zero-waste future

September 18, 2018 by  
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Cities around the world are pledging to reduce waste over the next 12 years in an effort to curb global warming and eventually become zero-waste cities. During the Global Climate Action Summit, the C40 announced a new initiative that encourages cities to eliminate waste production and end the practice of waste burning. So far, 23 cities have agreed to become zero-waste and will work toward that goal by “reducing the amount of municipal solid waste disposed to landfill and incineration by at least 50 percent … and increase the diversion rate away from landfill and incineration to at least 70 percent by 2030,” according to C40 . Each city has agreed to cut down on waste that ends up in landfills by at least half over the next decade. The cities — which include San Francisco, Catalonia, Auckland, Dubai, Copenhagen, London , Montreal, New York City , Milan, Rotterdam, Sydney, Paris , Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Washington D.C. and Vancouver — also pledged to reduce waste generation by 15 percent and encourage alternative waste management practices by 2030. Related: 19 mayors, thousands of buildings, zero carbon emissions by 2030 Reducing the amount of waste disposal and incineration is an important step in fighting global warming. Scientists believe that the new initiative could cut global carbon emissions by around 20 percent as cities begin to recycle and compost waste instead of dumping it into landfills or burning it. The 23 cities who signed the zero-waste declarations hope that they will lead by example and encourage other municipalities to do the same. The EPA says that incinerators and landfills significantly increase the amount of greenhouse gases around the globe. These practices also encourage companies to acquire new resources and materials, leading to an endless cycle of waste disposal. In addition to cutting down on waste, increasing recycling and reusing materials also contributes to a better economy. Instead of wasting old materials, recycling and reusing keeps the items in the system for longer periods. This reduces the need to purchase new materials and manage waste. + C40 Image via Patrick Tomasso

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‘Super pollutants’ such as methane, HFCs and black carbon were a hot topic at GCAS

September 17, 2018 by  
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Acting quickly to reduce relatively short-lived yet potent gases could have a big impact on human health and slow global warming.

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‘Super pollutants’ such as methane, HFCs and black carbon were a hot topic at GCAS

Talking climate change with voters

September 17, 2018 by  
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The awareness is there, now we need to get much more personal.

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Talking climate change with voters

Climate change is expected to bring more intense storms like Hurricane Florence

September 11, 2018 by  
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Hurricane Florence is on a collision course with the southeastern United States. The immense and powerful storm will create high winds and surges along coastal towns and cities, but scientists are more concerned about how much rain Florence might produce — and the increased frequency of similar storms as a result of climate change . James Kossin, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , said flooding is the biggest risk with the incoming hurricane. Florence is moving so slow across the ocean that it might come to a near standstill once it hits land, moving somewhere around two to three miles per hour. If that happens, Florence could hit cities on the East Coast with record rainfall. Related: 2018 hurricane season may be worse than last year A similar situation occurred last year when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas. The massive storm slowed almost to a halt in the Houston area, dumping more than 60 inches of rain in some locations. The excess rain led to 93 deaths and completely shut down certain areas. With Hurricane Florence set to repeat history, scientists believe slow moving storms may become the new norm — and it is all thanks to climate change. Kossin and his team published a study this year that showed cyclones are moving slower on average. In fact, hurricanes have undergone a decrease in speed by about 10 percent over the past 70 years. Kossin believes climate change is slowing down wind currents, which hurricanes use to travel across the ocean. Once the storms stall over land, they continuously dump rain and produce record flooding. The only exception to this trend is in the Indian Ocean, where wind currents have remained strong. Along with slowing down hurricanes, climate change is creating larger and more intense storms as ocean waters warm. The added warmth creates more fuel for the storms as the water evaporates. Harvey and Florence are two examples of this, and scientists believe that trend will continue until we begin to cut down greenhouse gases. + NOAA Via NPR Image via NOAA

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Climate change is expected to bring more intense storms like Hurricane Florence

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