Land degradation could displace 50 to 700 million people by 2050

March 27, 2018 by  
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Land decay is undermining the well-being of two-fifths of all the people on Earth, or around 3.2 billion people , according to an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) three-year assessment, penned by over 100 experts hailing from 45 countries. It’s the first comprehensive land health assessment, according to Agence France Presse (AFP) — and assessment co-chair Robert Scholes of South Africa said land degradation is “pushing the planet towards a sixth mass extinction .” Human activity is driving dangerous land degradation — specifically quick expansion and unsustainable management of crop and grazing lands, according to IPBES. They said land decay has hit critical levels, impacting food security , water purification, and energy. The impacts of land degradation can be glimpsed in loss of biodiversity , declining animal populations, deforestation , and loss of soil health, to name a few. The assessment also says land degradation contributes to climate change . Related: Substantial swaths of globe face desertification without climate action — new study Grazing and crop lands sprawl across one third of the planet’s land surface, with under 25 percent of that surface escaping significant impacts of human activity, according to IPBES, although scientists estimate that figure will plunge to under 10 percent by 2050. As the population grows, there will be an even higher demand for food and biofuels , and researchers think pesticide and fertilizer use could double by 2050. Scholes said around four billion people will reside in drylands in a little over 30 years, and by then land degradation and climate change could force “50 to 700 million people to migrate.” Social instability could be a consequence of decreasing land productivity; “particularly in dryland areas, where years with extremely low rainfall have been associated with an increase of up to 45 percent in violent conflict.” The researchers pointed to an array of options for land restoration; for example, planting native species , developing green infrastructure like parks , or river channel restoration in urban locations. IPBES’s statement said humanity can attempt to avoid agricultural expansion into native habitats by increasing yields on farmlands that already exist and by shifting toward eating habits that don’t degrade land to the same extent, such as  plant-based diets. IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson said, “Of the many valuable messages in the report, this ranks among the most important: implementing the right actions to combat land degradation can transform the lives of millions of people across the planet, but this will become more difficult and more costly the longer we take to act.” + Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Via Agence France Presse Images via Depositphotos (1 , 2 )

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Land degradation could displace 50 to 700 million people by 2050

Arnold Schwarzenegger to sue Big Oil for "killing people all over the world"

March 12, 2018 by  
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Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced he will soon file a lawsuit against major oil companies for their decades-long contributions to climate change and environmental degradation. Schwarzenegger, who specifically called out Big Oil for “knowingly killing people all over the world,” is working with several private law firms and developing a public plan for his lawsuit. Announced at the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Austin, the news comes as Schwarzenegger prepares to host a major environmental conference in Vienna , Austria, his native land. Schwarzenegger hopes to repeat the success of a similar legal crusade against the tobacco industry. “This is no different from the smoking issue,” he said. “The tobacco industry knew for years and years and years and decades, that smoking would kill people, would harm people and create cancer, and were hiding that fact from the people and denied it. Then eventually they were taken to court and had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars because of that. The oil companies knew from 1959 on, they did their own study that there would be global warming happening because of fossil fuels , and on top of it that it would be risky for people’s lives, that it would kill.” Related: Schwarzenegger-backed startup takes on Tesla with new battery tech Schwarzenegger believes that the oil companies have a duty to the public to inform them of the risks of consumption. “It’s absolutely irresponsible to know that your product is killing people and not have a warning label on it, like tobacco,” he said. “Every gas station on it, every car should have a warning label on it, every product that has fossil fuels should have a warning label on it.” Regardless of the lawsuit’s ultimate success, Schwarzenegger hopes to at least shine a light on the issue, using harsh words to describe the allegedly guilty party. “I don’t think there’s any difference,” he said. “If you walk into a room and you know you’re going to kill someone, it’s first degree murder; I think it’s the same thing with the oil companies”. Via Politico Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Arnold Schwarzenegger to sue Big Oil for "killing people all over the world"

New research reveals that sea levels could rise 1.5 inches every year

February 13, 2018 by  
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You know how we’ve been freaking out about how quickly global warming is causing ice to melt and sea levels to rise? Turns out, we weren’t panicking nearly enough. New satellite data shows that sea levels will continue to rise at a pace that is much faster than anyone predicted – at least 1.5 inches PER YEAR. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences analyzed 25 years of satellite data from across the planet to determine how far sea levels have risen, and how much more they may rise in the near future. According to their findings, in the past 25 years, sea levels have risen nearly 3 inches. At the current rate of acceleration, sea levels will be 2 feet higher by 2100. Related: New study shows a 1-in-20 chance climate change will cause a complete societal collapse The rise is being caused by warming oceans and melting glaciers and ice sheets. The recent acceleration, according to the study, is the result of melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. The predicted sea level rise of 2 feet by century’s end may not be catastrophic for wealthier countries, but it will be devastating for those without the money to deal with impacts of global warming . Via Outer Places and CBS Images via Deposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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New research reveals that sea levels could rise 1.5 inches every year

Meet your gadget’s next power supply: you

February 13, 2018 by  
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No power outlet? No problem. Juicing up your gadgets may soon be as easy as lifting your finger. Scientists from the University at Buffalo and the Institute of Semiconductors at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have developed a tiny metallic tab, known as a a triboelectric nanogenerator, that can generate electricity from simple bodily movements,” said Qiaoqiang Gan, associate professor of electrical engineering in the University of Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “No one likes being tethered to a power outlet or lugging around a portable charger. The human body is an abundant source of energy. We thought: ‘Why not harness it to produce our own power?’” Triboelectric charging, also known as the triboelectric effect, occurs when certain materials become electrically charged after rubbing against a different material. Most everyday static electricity, for instance, is triboelectricity, Gan said. As described in a study that was published online January 31 in the journal Nano Energy , the 1.5-by-1-centimeter tab comprises two thin layers of gold separated by a sliver of polydimethylsiloxane, the same silicon-based polymer found in contact lenses and Silly Putty. Stretching the layers of gold sparks friction with the PDMS. Relatd: 6 human-powered gadgets to improve your life “This causes electrons to flow back and forth between the gold layers. The more friction, the greater the amount of power is produced,” said Yun Xu, professor of IoP at CAS, one of the study’s authors. So far, researchers have been able to deliver a maximum voltage of 124 volts, a maximum current of 10 microamps and a maximum power density of 0.22 millwatts per square centimeter—not enough to charge a smartphone just yet, but a promising start nonetheless. Because the tab is easy to fabricate in a cost-effective way, Gan and his team plan to experiment with larger pieces of gold to generate more electricity. The scientists are also working on developing a portable battery to store energy produced by the tab. Their eventual goal? To create a power source for a raft of wearable self-powered electronic devices, Gan said. + University at Buffalo Lead photo by Unsplash

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Scott Pruitt thinks global warming could be favorable for humans

February 9, 2018 by  
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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt has once again aired thoughts that depart from mainstream climate science , according to The Guardian . In a recent interview with Nevada TV station News 3 , Pruitt suggested global warming could be beneficial for people. He said, “Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100, in the year 2018? It’s fairly arrogant for us to think we know exactly what it should be in 2100.” Pruitt said in an interview with News 3’s Gerard Ramahlo, “No one disputes the climate changes , is changing, that’s, we see that, that’s constant. We obviously contribute to it; we live in the climate, right?…Now measuring that with precision, Gerard, I think is more challenging than is let on at times but I think the bigger question is…is it an existential threat? Is it something that is unsustainable or what kind of effect or harm is this going to have? I mean, we know that humans have most flourished during times of what, warming trends. I mean, so, so, I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming that that necessarily is a bad thing.” Related: Pruitt met with Dow Chemical CEO before denying pesticide ban The EPA administrator echoed an idea that’s been raised in the past of a debate on climate change, to go over “what we do know and what we don’t know, so the American people can be informed and make decisions on their own.” A snapshot of the EPA website on January 19, 2017, the day before Donald Trump was sworn into office, was very clear that the impacts of climate change would threaten human health . They said people could be exposed to disease , be threatened by extreme weather events, or face food insecurity due to climate change impacts. Via The Guardian and News 3 Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Scott Pruitt thinks global warming could be favorable for humans

Polar bears could go extinct sooner than scientists previously thought

February 5, 2018 by  
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We’ve long known climate change will cause trouble for polar bears in the wild, but a new study reveals their metabolic rates are higher than we thought, and a changing environment is making it harder for them to snare enough food to satisfy energy needs. As they struggle to find prey, The Guardian reported they could go extinct faster than scientists previously feared. A team of scientists led by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Alaska Science Center and the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) studied nine polar bears over three years during a time period in April, in the Beaufort Sea near Alaska . They discovered the bears required three juveniles or one adult ringed seal every 10 days. But five of the nine polar bears didn’t reach that goal during the study, and their body weight plummeted as a result – up to around 44 pounds, during one study period of 10 days. Related: Video of starving polar bear ‘rips your heart out of your chest’ USGS biologist Anthony Pagano told The Guardian, “We found a feast and famine lifestyle – if they missed out on seals it had a pretty dramatic effect on them. We were surprised to see such big changes in body masses, at a time when they should be putting on bulk to sustain them during the year. This and other studies suggest that polar bears aren’t able to meet their bodily demands like they once were.” Metabolic rates the scientists measured in the field averaged over 50 percent higher than previous studies predicted. Combined with other studies on drops in the numbers of polar bears recently, and their body condition, scientists say this new study, published this month in Science , reveals the bears are in a worse plight than we thought. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average, per The Guardian. Polar bears hunt for prey on sea ice , but as that ice diminishes, many polar bears must resort to foraging for food on land – like in garbage bins of remote towns, according to The Guardian. + University of California, Santa Cruz + Science Via The Guardian Images via Jessica K. Robertson, U.S. Geological Survey and Anthony M. Pagano, USGS

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Tesla inks deal to turn 50,000 Australian homes into solar power generators

February 5, 2018 by  
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50,000 homes in South Australia will soon receive solar panels and Tesla batteries as part of a groundbreaking plan to transform homes into grid-connected power generators. This latest collaboration between the state of South Australia and Tesla seeks to create an interconnected energy system in which homes can share energy through a smart-grid system. Select homes will receive solar panels and rechargeable batteries for free, while the project will be funded by the sale of excess energy produced by linked, energy-producing homes. The recently announced plan is only the latest renewable energy initiative in South Australia, which began its comprehensive efforts towards clean power after a state-wide blackout in 2016. “My government has already delivered the world’s biggest battery, now we will deliver the world’s largest virtual power plant,” said state Premier Jay Weatherill in a statement . “We will use people’s homes as a way to generate energy for the South Australian grid, with participating households benefiting with significant savings in their energy bills.” To be fair, South Australia’s big battery was a collaborative effort with Tesla, one that began with a bet in which Elon Musk offered to offer the battery for free if it was not built within 100 days. Related: South Australia to host world’s largest thermal solar plant Musk won that bet, but South Australia is reaping the victorious benefits of clean energy. The latest plan will begin with a trial phase in which 1,100 public housing projects will be equipped with a 5kW solar panel system Tesla battery. This will then be followed by similar installations at 24,000 public housing projects, with further accepted homes over the next four years. With up to 250 megawatts of solar energy and 650 megawatt hours of battery storage, the clean energy potential of the interlinked 50,000 homes will be invaluable as Australia seeks to turn away from coal, the country’s main energy source. Via Phys.org Images via Tesla

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Tesla inks deal to turn 50,000 Australian homes into solar power generators

Trump bewilders scientists, says ice caps are "setting records"

January 29, 2018 by  
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The president of the United States raised eyebrows once again over his thoughts on climate change . In an interview with British journalist Piers Morgan on United Kingdom television channel ITV, Donald Trump said ice caps are setting records – without offering data to back up his statement. Morgan asked Trump, “Do you believe in climate change? Do you think it exists?” Trump said, “There is a cooling and there is a heating and look, it used to not be climate change. It used to be global warming . Right? That wasn’t working too well. Because it was getting too cold all over the place. The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records, okay, they’re at a record level.” Related: This map shows how uninformed Trump’s global warming tweet is There are several errors in Trump’s statement, for which he failed to offer scientific evidence. Reuters spoke with a few scientists about Trump’s claims, and World Glacier Monitoring Service director Michael Zemp told them, “ Glaciers and ice caps are globally continuing to melt at an extreme rate…maybe [Trump] is referring to a different planet.” Trump also talked about the Paris Agreement in the interview, saying, “Would I go back in? Yeah, I’d go back in. I like, as you know, I like Emmanuel,” referring to the president of France Emmanuel Macron . “I would love to, but it’s got to be a good deal for the United States.” Bloomberg pointed out Trump made similar remarks following a meeting with Erna Solberg, prime minister of Norway. So what are some of Trump’s beliefs on the environment ? The president told Morgan, “I’ll tell you what I believe in. I believe in clean air, I believe in crystal clear, beautiful water, I believe in just having good cleanliness.” Via The Independent , Bloomberg , and Reuters Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and Pixabay

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2017 was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans

January 29, 2018 by  
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Last year was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans , according to two scientists at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IAP/CAS). The increase in ocean heat led to a 1.7-millimeter global sea level rise – and other consequences like “declining ocean oxygen, bleaching of coral reefs, and melting sea ice and ice shelves.” The ocean absorbs over 90 percent of the planet’s “residual heat related to global warming ,” according to the researchers, Lijing Cheng and Jiang Zhu, whose work recently came out as an early online release in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences . While they said the increase in ocean heat content for last year happened in most of the world’s regions, the Atlantic and Southern Oceans displayed more warming than the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Related: Rising ocean temperatures are cooking the Great Barrier Reef to death According to National Geographic , the two scrutinized ocean temperature data from multiple institutions, including the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scientists started gathering the data during the 1950’s – and in the late 1990’s, ocean temperatures started to take off, per the publication. The IAP ocean analysis reveals “the last five years have been the five warmest years in the ocean.” National Geographic pointed out people visiting the beach probably wouldn’t notice the temperature rise, but a warming ocean could still have damaging impacts. Sea ice coverage and thickness have both taken a hit. And the window to save Earth’s coral reefs is closing quickly . The researchers said in their paper, “The global ocean heat content record robustly represents the signature of global warming…The human greenhouse gas footprint continues to impact the Earth system.” + Advances in Atmospheric Sciences Via Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences , The Guardian and National Geographic Images via Deposit Photos ,  Ant Rozetzky on Unsplash and Tim Lautensack on Unsplash

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2017 was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans

Dubai’s new self-sufficient floating villas can withstand rising seas

January 12, 2018 by  
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Millions of people will be displaced by rising sea levels – but these floating homes are designed to weather the storm. Waterstudio is building a community of 33 villas to float on top of the water so that they won’t be inundated by sea rise. Construction of the community – dubbed Amillarah – starts this month with developer Dutch Docklands off the coast of Dubai. Sea levels could rise 3 feet by 2100, which could flood a good portion of the United Arab Emirates. These buoyed homes are designed to float on top of the water, and they wouldn’t lack the luxuries of your typical villa. Each one will feature a swimming pool complete with patio, trees, and landscaping. Each artificial island will vary from 150,000 square feet to 450,000 square feet. Related: INHABITAT INTERVIEW: Koen Olthuis of WaterStudio.nl talks about design for a Water World Leave your car on land, because the only way to reach these homes is via seaplane or boat. If you want to take advantage of ocean-front property without the flooding risk, you’d better start saving your pennies, because they start at 23 million dollars each. Waterstudio says the concrete base of each villa is built to last 100 years and the bases can help create an underwater habitat for sea life. Buyers can design their own island, and each one is self-sufficient. Waterstudio is well-known for their floating architecture , which includes a floating neighborhood in Amsterdam and

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