IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis

September 26, 2019 by  
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The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — which is, in fact, the UN body responsible for communicating on the deteriorating climate — has officially recognized the oceans as a critical component in the climate change crisis. Warming ocean temperatures are becoming commonplace and are melting ice sheets and glaciers and contributing to rising sea levels. Additionally, the warm waters affect the ocean’s oxygen levels. As these phenomena accelerate toward a tipping point, nature’s ecosystems will be disrupted, and human society will be adversely affected. The IPCC’s announcement of its Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate — which is based on almost 7,000 peer-reviewed research articles — signals a crucial milestone. If things remain as the status quo, then ecological upheaval is imminent. Related: Even scientists are shocked by the latest UN report on climate change Our oceans comprise an important habitat that many living things, including humans, rely on for food and sustenance. Oceans also collectively absorb more than a quarter of the human-made carbon dioxide being produced, while simultaneously providing half of the oxygen created on our planet. Similarly, more than 90 percent of the heat generated via greenhouse gas emissions is likewise absorbed by our oceans. In this way, the oceans play a significant role in global climate regulation. But our climate is in dire crisis. Rising global temperatures are making oceans warmer through marine heatwaves. Warm ocean water is less likely to hold oxygen, leading to subsequent ocean acidification. Plus, warmer waters bleach coral reefs and also increase the likelihood of water chemistry disruptions, so that both bacterial and algal blooms become more common, as do red tides. Marine biodiversity is thrown off-kilter, leaving certain ocean regions devoid of life. Mass endangerment and extinctions of particular marine species becomes inevitable, and fishing yields dwindle considerably. Hence, for the 70-member coalition known as the Ocean and Climate Platform, the ocean’s sustainability comes into question. To stem the tide of climate catastrophe, the authors of the report are warning humanity and calling for policy change. If human-induced warming continues, there will come a time when the damage can no longer be healed. Immediate collaborative action is required, before it is too late, to reverse and remedy the climate crisis. + IPCC Image via Oregon State University

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IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis

Honda makes largest renewable energy purchase of any automaker

September 25, 2019 by  
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Multinational auto manufacturer Honda Motor Company, headquartered in Tokyo, recently made the largest renewable clean energy purchase by any car maker. The electricity will be utilized to offset emissions from its United States factories, thus enabling Honda to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent in its North American manufacturing plants. With widespread public debate and mounting regulatory pressures, automakers have no choice but to shift their business models to address the carbon dioxide reduction challenge. It is no wonder then that a growing number of automobile companies are turning to renewables, like wind and solar, to achieve sustainable returns. Related: Beautiful, solar-powered EV charging stations promise to charge a vehicle in 15 minutes According to Honda, it currently obtains about 21 percent of its North American operations’ power from low- or zero-emission power sources.  But it hopes to improve upon that, thanks to clinching the car industry’s largest renewable energy purchase. Honda’s new clean energy deal involves the purchase of wind power from an Oklahoma wind farm as well as sourcing energy from a Texas solar farm. Projections show that, with this clean energy purchase, Honda can annually offset 800,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s equal to “100,000 U.S. households’ worth of CO2-emissions from household energy usage,” as described in Honda’s press release. Honda revealed, “Two Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs) will secure 320 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar power totaling over 1 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable electricity annually.” How do VPPAs operate? Honda explained that VPPAs are “a way for Honda to purchase renewable energy in locations where it is unable to purchase renewables from the local electric utility.” The automaker buys “electricity from a renewable energy supplier, but the clean energy does not go directly to Honda’s facilities; instead, it is sold into the electricity grid where the clean power is generated.” In effect, Honda’s ‘virtual purchase’ of that “renewable energy adds more clean energy into the nation’s grid,” which decreases fossil fuel dependency and any accompanying carbon dioxide emissions. Honda’s VPPA purchase essentially “de-carbonizes” the electricity grid. Analysts say VPPAs are becoming an ever-popular means for large corporations seeking to meet carbon dioxide emission reduction goals.  Tech giants, like Google and Microsoft, for instance, have historically purchased VPPAs as well. Business industry pundits forecast an uptick of VPPA procurements in the next couple of years as renewable energy policy intensifies. Aligned with its revitalized green mission, Honda’s long-term plans go far beyond clean energy purchases, as it continues its commitment to sustainability. The company similarly announced plans to electrify two-thirds of its manufactured vehicular fleet so that they are charged via renewable energy by 2030. + Honda Motor Company Image via Honda Motor Company

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Honda makes largest renewable energy purchase of any automaker

Could planting 1 trillion trees counteract climate change?

September 20, 2019 by  
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The U.N. suggests that adding 2.5 billion acres of forest to the world could limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050. But some researchers aren’t so sure.

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Send your news tips to Inhabitat!

September 19, 2019 by  
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As the climate crisis worsens by the minute, it is more important now than ever to report on the issues that both plague and benefit our world. Inhabitat has long been a steward in reporting the latest environmental happenings, but we need your help in order to further strengthen our reporting and keep readers informed with the latest news. Whether you are an environmental non-profit organization, a company trying to do its part for the planet, a citizen concerned about the Earth’s future, a scientist, a conservationist or anything in between, we strongly encourage you to reach out to us with the latest information related to the environment, sustainability, green technology, etc.  To help us post the most relevant, accurate news, please include any fact sheets, published research, accompanying images and/or contacts for interviews as well as any other related sources and documents for us to review in your tip email. Please note that we will thoroughly review and fact-check each news tip and reach out for more information if we decide to publish a tip. It is important to Inhabitat to fairly and accurately report the news and inform audiences of what is helping and hurting our planet. We are working to report original, exclusive content as much as possible, and your help is extremely valuable. We appreciate every news tip, and we look forward to hearing from you. Please submit tips and relevant, related material for review to tips@inhabitat.com Image via geralt

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Climate fears affecting meat, bottled beverage and plastic production industries

September 16, 2019 by  
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The growing apprehension surrounding climate change is altering consumer behavior. Kantar, a data analytics firm, recently published a report documenting that environmental conscientiousness is shifting consumption choices, particularly on sales of meat and single-use plastic items. Of the 65,000 people surveyed in 24 countries across Asia, Europe and Latin America, one-third expressed worry about the environment. Roughly half of those people, or 16 percent of total respondents, actively take steps to decrease their environmental impact . “We’re already seeing small reductions in spending on meat , bottled drinks and categories such as beauty wipes,” Kantar revealed. “As markets get wealthier, the focus on issues of environmentalism and plastics increases.” Related: Germany proposes a meat tax increase to improve animal welfare and curb climate change The poll further disclosed that Western European respondents were more engaged in reducing environmental impact compared to their Asian and Latin American counterparts. Austrian and German shoppers ranked as the most ‘eco active,’ followed closely by British consumers. But 37 percent of the Chilean respondents proved to be eco-conscious, thus making Chile the environmental nonpareil of Latin American countries. Kantar asserted, “Our study shows there is high demand for eco-friendly products that are competitively priced and readily available.” Just last month, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conveyed the urgency that global meat consumption must decrease to help reverse global warming . Furthermore, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions can be accelerated by the rise of plant-based food consumption and production. Consequently, there has been market expansion in plant-based protein and other alternative offerings to meat. Companies like Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and even London-based Moving Mountains Foods have become more mainstream with many of their flexitarian , vegetarian and vegan products appearing on restaurant menus as well as wholesale and retail grocery store shelves. Because meatless protein is still a fledgling industry, competitors are likely to emerge in the near future as a response to the call for cutbacks to meat and dairy. Meanwhile, recent legislative bans against single-use items such as bottles, straws, carrier bags and other plastic packaging have helped. Surging global awareness of the environmental damage wreaked by plastic has hiked restrictions, in turn, denting demand for their production. With recycling efforts and sustainability initiatives gaining momentum in today’s world, both the meat and plastics industries are being called upon to adapt to the changing consumer landscape. + Kantar Via Reuters and TreeHugger Image via Beth Rosengard

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Mountain in Sweden loses highest peak title as global warming shrinks it

September 9, 2019 by  
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Kebnekaise, the highest mountain peak in Sweden, has fallen victim to global heating. Scientists reported that the glacier at the iconic mountain’s summit is shrinking because of rising Arctic temperatures. Now, the peak is no longer considered the highest in the country. “This is quite a symbol,” said Gunhild Ninis Rosqvist, a geography professor at Stockholm University who has been measuring the glacier for years. “A very obvious, very clear signal to everyone in Sweden that things are changing.” Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 Located in northern Sweden and about 95 miles inside the Arctic Circle, Kebnekaise has two peaks, each of which has been measured regularly since 1880. The southern peak has always been higher, but after scientists measured in early September of this year, they found the northern peak was now the highest by 1.2 meters. “We suspected this was probably the case last year,” Rosqvist said. “But unfortunately, our measurements were not precise enough. Now we can say with certainty: we are accurate to within a couple of centimeters.” In fact, the most recent measurements showed that the southern peak was the lowest it has ever been. “Almost all the shrinkage has been in the past two decades when the glacier has lost an average of one meter a year,” Rosqvist said. But all may not be lost; the glacier could reach its status as the tallest peak once again with winter snow and ice. “It will keep changing for a while,” Rosqvist said. “But the trend is now firmly established and very clear.” This is not the first time there has been trouble atop Kebnekaise. Sweden reached unprecedented high temperatures at more than 10 degrees Celsius, or 50 degrees Fahrenheit, above average in May and July 2018. The Kebnekaise glacier also shrunk by about 4 meters because of the Arctic wildfires . Although scientists expected this would happen, the official title loss for the southern peak was emotional for the research team. Rosqvist said, “We can see the climate changing before our eyes up here, and we need to do something about it.” Via The Guardian Image via Kaj Schmidt

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New report warns of extreme heat of 127 degrees or more in the US

July 29, 2019 by  
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Just when you thought the environmental news couldn’t get any worse, a shocking new report warns Americans that they may be facing temperatures of 127 degrees Fahrenheit. By the year 2100, more than one-third of the U.S. population could be exposed to this kind of heat and its accompanying health risks. The county-by-county survey predicts that by mid-century, more than 250 American cities will suffer from at least one month of days where the heat index surpasses 100 degrees. Historically, this number has been 29 cities. The heat-index scale combines temperature with humidity to arrive at what the temperature feels like. Related: Extreme heat wallops the US “We were very surprised at how steeply and quickly the number of days of dangerous heat increased in such a short time,” said Kristina Dahl, senior climate scientist at Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Dahl co-authored the dire new report, “ Killer Heat in the United States: Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days .” Extreme heat will hit the Southeast and Southern Great Plains the hardest. Texas and southern Arizona will also be sweltering. But even temperate areas, such as Seattle, will notice a significant increase in hot days. Humans, with a normal internal temperature of 98.6, function poorly in extreme heat. Climate researcher Tom Crowther said the increase in heat events “represents a terrifying prospect” and “a direct and immediate threat to human health and wellbeing.” Droughts, floods and wildfires will accompany the extreme temperatures. Sea level rise and compromised food production will also make life tougher. Humankind’s best hope? A fast and drastic reduction in carbon emissions . “Our past climate can no longer guide us,” said meteorologist Richard Rood. “We have to build and adapt to what’s coming.” + Union of Concerned Scientists Via National Geographic Image via Mark Hemmings

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Beyond & Impossible alternative meats: are they actually healthier than the real thing?

July 29, 2019 by  
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Tempting the most loyal of carnivores, plant-based foods are spreading faster than wildfire as restaurant chains like Carl’s Jr., Del Taco, Burger King and White Castle have added alternative meats to their menus, providing vegans, vegetarians and non-meat eaters with popular food options like burgers and tacos. However, a lingering question remains— how healthy are they? Studies Say Many of us remember the infamous 2006 study revealing that livestock and meat production are generating more greenhouse gas emissions than transport. The report, released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), was enough to make any carnivore rethink their meat consumption. At the time, Henning Steinfeld, Chief of FAO’s Livestock Information and Policy Branch and author of the report said, “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.”  Related: Impossible Foods tests a fish-less fish protein The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, released a statement classifying processed meat as a carcinogen in 2015 . It also classified red meat as a probable carcinogen. It took a total of 22 experts from 10 countries and the review of over 800 studies to reach this conclusion. They found that consuming 50 grams of processed meat each day (the equivalent of about four strips of bacon or one hot dog) could increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. When it came to red meat, the report found evidence of increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancers. The Big Bucks More and more people are making the switch to a plant-based diet, whether for the environment , personal health or love of animals. As the vegan and vegetarian lifestyles rise in numbers, corporations are taking notice and forming strategies to take livestock out of the equation.  The plant-based meat market is already booming. According to the Good Food Institute, the sale of plant-based meat grew 10% from April 2018 to April 2019 and 37% over the past two years. Last year 11.9% of all U.S. households purchased plant-based meat, which may not sound like much, but that equates to about 15 million households. Plant-based food is currently a $4.5 billion industry and has grown 31% in the past two years. Beyond and Impossible The question of whether these plant-based meats are actually good for your health, however, still has experts debating . Unsurprisingly, the futuristic vegan burgers of two most popular plant-based meat companies in the nation have found themselves under the spotlight. By 2016, Beyond Meat released the first plant-based burger sold in grocery stores (such as Whole Foods) internationally. Impossible Foods began selling their plant-based “bleeding” burgers to fast-food brands and gourmet spots such as Bareburger and Umami Burger in 2017. The controversy first began in 2018 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expressed concern over soy leghemoglobin or “heme,” which is an essential ingredient in the Impossible Foods burger “meat.” The key ingredient creates the illusion of blood and aroma of real meat, and the company found a way to harvest it from plants creating a protein produced by genetically modified yeast cells. Soy is also a key ingredient in popular veggie meat patty brands, Morningstar Farms Garden Veggie Burgers and Kraft Heinz’s Boca Veggie Burgers. Beyond Meat uses beets for color and pea protein isolate, which is processed and is not considered a whole food. The Ingredients Beyond : Water, Pea Protein Isolate, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Rice Protein, Natural Flavors, Cocoa Butter, Mung Bean Protein, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Apple Extract, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Vinegar, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Sunflower Lecithin, Pomegranate Fruit Powder, Beet Juice Extract (for color). Related: Cell-based meat could replicate and replace shrimp, lobster and crab Impossible : Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12. Things to Consider While the protein content is similar to actual meat, the plant-based protein used to produce vegan meat is processed. Processed proteins should be eaten in moderation, so more isn’t necessarily better. The process isn’t nearly as synthetic or harmful as say, a twinkie, but it is still something to consider. Both burgers include coconut oil (rich in saturated fat) as a main ingredient, which the American Heart Association has risen concerns about . There is a large amount of sodium in both burgers. Beyond has 390 milligrams of sodium and Impossible has 370 mg. There is also the concerning fact that both Impossible and Beyond have yet to reveal how exactly their burgers are made. The companies consider production methods to be trade secrets, which is understandable in a business sense, but far more complicated than the cow = meat process we’ve all grown up with. When compared to a 4-ounce beef burger with 20 percent fat content, both Beyond and Impossible burgers have fewer calories, fewer grams of fat and the same amount of (or slightly more) protein. Both plant-based burgers have no cholesterol and more fiber than a regular beef burger. So, are these plant-based burgers actually healthier than the real thing? Well, it depends on the individual. High risk for colorectal cancer? Need to lay off the saturated fats or sodium? Your lifestyle, diet and personal health all need to be considered when making the switch to plant-based meats— and that’s between you and your doctor. Images via Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat

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Beyond & Impossible alternative meats: are they actually healthier than the real thing?

RISD student designs a micro-algae farm for home use

July 29, 2019 by  
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Rhode Island School of Design student Hyunseok An has created a prototype indoor micro-algae farm in a bid to sustainably and beautifully integrate algae into our everyday lives. Dubbed The Coral after its coral pattern, the micro-farm takes on the shape of a four-by-four gridded bioreactor that can be mounted on the wall like artwork. The algae that grows inside each square component is rendered visible through transparent containers so that owners can watch as the algae grows and changes color. In 1974, the U.N. World Food Conference declared algae “the most ideal food for mankind” for its rich nutritional makeup; however, popular opinion often dismisses the superfood as nothing more than pond scum. Hyunseok An, who is pursuing a master’s degree in industrial design at RISD , wants to change our perception of algae and promote its health and environmental benefits. Algae, which grows quickly with few inputs, is also lauded for its ability to sequester carbon at an absorption rate that’s estimated to be 10 times greater than typical plants. Related: Soil Algae aims to improve soil quality through algae cultures The Coral comprises 16 cells arranged in a grid pattern with two grams of algae in each culture cell — the recommended daily intake amount. Each cell replenishes its stock on a biweekly cycle so that users will always have access to the sustainable food. As the algae grows and replenishes its stock, the cell changes color from clear to varying shades of green. The coral pattern printed on the transparent cells symbolizes the reversal of “coral bleaching,” a global phenomenon where coral is irritated — the causes can be varied from sea temperature fluctuations or pollution — and expels algae, thus turning the coral completely white. “Through its use and indoor experience, The Coral aims to change the preconception of algae, suggesting a socially acceptable way of reconnecting with algae and bringing it into our everyday lives,” Hyunseok An explained in a project statement. “By doing so, The Coral can help us take one step forward to a better, more sustainable way of living for us and for our world.” + Hyunseok An Images via Hyunseok An

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RISD student designs a micro-algae farm for home use

Iceland will unveil monument for the first glacier lost to climate change

July 24, 2019 by  
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Scientists and local Icelanders will unveil a monument next month that memorializes the first glacier out of the country’s 400 glaciers to be lost to climate change. The Okjokull glacier, nicknamed “Ok”, no longer qualifies as a glacier, given that it is melting at a faster rate than it can expand. When this happens, glaciers become known as “dead ice”. Scientists in Iceland and Texas’ Rice University believe that this will be the fate of all Icelandic glaciers by year 2200— unless the world takes drastic action to curb climate change . “By marking Ok’s passing, we hope to draw attention to what is being lost as Earth’s glaciers expire. These bodies of ice are the largest freshwater reserves on the planet and frozen within them are histories of the atmosphere. They are also often important cultural forms that are full of significance,” said Cymene Howe, a professor at Rice University. Related:Earliest human air pollution detected in glaciers The unveiling celebration will be held on August 18 and attended by scientists, locals, media and Hiking Society members. Just 100 years ago, the glacier covered nearly six square miles and was over 150 feet thick. The plaque, located at a site where the glacier once covered, will read: “Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.” The plaque is in both Icelandic and English. The plaque also monumentalizes the current count of carbon parts per million in the atmosphere, which reaches a record breaking 415 parts per million in May. “An Icelandic colleague said: ‘Memorials are not for the dead; they are for the living,’” Howe said. “We want to underscore that it is up to us, the living, to respond to the rapid loss of glaciers and the ongoing impacts of climate change. For Ok glacier it is already too late.” The Guardian Image via RICE University

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Iceland will unveil monument for the first glacier lost to climate change

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