Here’s what could happen if America went 100% vegan

November 14, 2017 by  
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What if America threw out its hot dogs and hamburgers in favor of vegan fare? You might say that would never happen, but two scientists – from Virginia Tech and the United States Department of Agriculture – decided to explore how such a choice would impact the country’s greenhouse gas emissions . Their study discovered that annual agricultural emissions would fall from 623 million tons to 446 million tons. Eating vegan wouldn’t solve all of America’s greenhouse gas problems. But it would definitely make an impact. Animals currently comprise 49 percent of the US’ agricultural emissions. In a vegan America, agricultural emissions could drop by 28 percent. But total US emissions would only fall by 2.6 percent, according to the study . Related: 10 vegan sources of protein you can grow at home The study authors also noted a plant-only system wouldn’t meet the American population’s dietary needs for calcium, a few fatty acids, and vitamins A and B. Lead author Robin White of Virginia Tech told Science Magazine , “With carefully balanced rations, you can meet all of your nutrient requirements with a vegetarian diet. But the types of foods that seem to do that, we don’t currently produce in sufficient quantities to make it a sustainable diet for the entire population.” The study did find that without animals, total food production could increase by 23 percent – mostly in grains, according to Gizmodo . Not every expert agrees with the study’s assumptions. Nutritionist Joan Sabate of Loma Linda University told Science Magazine, “[We] could yield a better nutrient profile if we do restructure the land use.” Agricultural researcher Mario Herrero of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization said America going vegan could impact other countries as well – if the United States ceased importing so much meat , greenhouse gas emissions of other countries could fall too. Even if going vegan doesn’t solve all of the US’ climate change woes, it is clear a diet with less meat and more plants could help the planet. Project Drawdown – a coalition of scientists, entrepreneurs, and advocates – ranked a plant-rich diet as the number four solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America published the study online yesterday. + PNAS Via Science Magazine and Gizmodo Images via Tim Wright on Unsplash , Brooke Cagle on Unsplash , and Alexandra Andersson on Unsplash

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Here’s what could happen if America went 100% vegan

Greening the Earth could fight climate change as efficiently as cutting fossil fuels

October 18, 2017 by  
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Planting trees, revitalizing soil, and other natural environmental actions could prove as effective in fighting climate change as ceasing all oil use across the planet, according to new study published by an international team of scientists in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Better stewardship of the land could have a bigger role in fighting climate change than previously thought,” said the team in a statement. Protection of carbon-storing peatlands , sustainable land management, reforestation, and other natural solutions could account for 37 percent of all emissions reductions required under the Paris Agreement by 2030. Perhaps most astoundingly, a complete re-greening of the planet would have as much of a positive impact on climate change mitigation as completely stopping the global burning of oil for fuel. The estimates of the potential benefits from natural climate change solutions are about 30 percent higher than that predicted by a 2014 UN panel of climate scientists. In the recently released study, scientists conclude that more sustainable management of natural resources and the environment could result in 11.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of China’s yearly emissions, by 2030. Trees are particularly important to this system, as they act as carbon banks while they are alive. After they die, trees decompose and this carbon is slowly released back into the atmosphere. More trees and more resilient forests means more potential carbon storage, among other health benefits. Related: Megacities could save $505 million a year thanks to trees Although the current plans from governments across the globe are insufficient to avert a 2 degree Celsius global temperature rise, the new study offers hope for alternative solutions. “Fortunately, this research shows we have a huge opportunity to reshape our food and land use systems ,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. Unfortunately, the planet is rapidly running out of time before catastrophic climate change upends the world as we know it. “If we are serious about climate change, then we are going to have to get serious about investing in nature ,” said Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy. You heard it here: get out there and start planting trees. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos

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Greening the Earth could fight climate change as efficiently as cutting fossil fuels

Fixing Earth’s ozone layer has other surprising benefits, new study shows

August 16, 2017 by  
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Dozens of nations signed an agreement nearly 30 years ago to stop the expansion of a massive hole in Earth’s ozone layer. Today, thanks to the Montreal Protocol, the hole in the ozone layer has shrunk as countries reduced, then eliminated, the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). A new study from  Geophysical Research Letters  now shows that the agreement not only achieved its stated aim, but has also been one of the most effective tools for fighting climate change in the United States. The recent study confirms what scientists and policymakers have been observing as the Montreal Protocol was enacted, though it focuses primarily on the United States. “This is something that’s been talked about for a while, this dual benefit of the Montreal Protocol limiting damage to the ozone layer, also curtailing climate change,” said Rachel Cleetus, climate policy manager and lead economist with the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s because all these ozone depleting substances are also very potent global warming gases.” The regulations enacted to fulfill the Montreal Protocol resulted in greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to approximately half of all other climate regulations between 2008 and 2014. Related: Antarctic ozone layer shows “first fingerprints of healing” The near-total removal of CFCs and steep decline in HCFCs in the United States was made possible by the Clean Air Act , a law that was used by the Obama Administration , as approved by the Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Though CFCs and HCFCs have been replaced by hydroflourocarabons (HFCs), which still contribute to climate change but do not burn a hole in the ozone layer, the signatories to the Montreal Protocol have amended the agreement to reduce HFCs as well in a move that was praised by US Secretary of State John Kerry as the “single most important step” in combating climate change. As the Trump Administration refuses to fulfill its duties under the Clean Air Act to protect public health, the success of the Montreal Protocol is a hopeful reminder of what can be done if dedicated parties work together and take action. Via Gizmodo Lead image via Depositphotos , others via  NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center   and  Rémi Vincent/Flickr

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Fixing Earth’s ozone layer has other surprising benefits, new study shows

Federal court stunts EPA plans to suspend methane emissions rule

July 4, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump in February instructed cabinet members “to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens placed on the American people,” and it appears Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt has taken that to mean attack the environment and public health . He attempted to suspend a rule put in place under President Barack Obama to regulate methane emissions from new gas and oil wells. But now a federal appeals court has dealt Pruitt and Trump a blow. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled yesterday that the EPA can’t suspend the Obama-era rule. In a two to one decision, the court said under the Clean Air Act , the EPA doesn’t have the authority to obstruct the rule. Pruitt had placed a 90-day moratorium on enforcing portions of the methane rule – and then stretched that moratorium to two years. He also said his move wasn’t subject to court review. But the federal appeals court called his decision unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious. Related: In surprise vote, Senate keeps Obama’s methane rules in place Judges Robert Wilkins and David Tatel said, “EPA’s stay, in other words, is essentially an order delaying the rule’s effective date, and this court has held that such orders are tantamount to amending or revoking a rule.” Pruitt’s efforts to foment climate change as much as he can haven’t been put to a full stop. The court did say the EPA does have the right to reverse the rule – but will have to go through a new rule-making process to get there. When it comes to greenhouse gases, methane is 25 more times powerful than carbon dioxide , according to The New York Times. American Petroleum Institute spokesperson Reid Porter said 2012 standards had already done some work in cutting methane emissions. In a statement he said, “A stay is needed to allow for regulatory certainty as EPA continues the formal process to review the rule making.” Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp took a different view, saying, “The court’s decision ends the continued pollution by the oil and gas industry that’s been illegally allowed by Pruitt.” Via The New York Times Images via Wikimedia Commons and Ken Doerr on Flickr

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Federal court stunts EPA plans to suspend methane emissions rule

These mind-blowing gigantic flower cakes will make your mouth water

July 4, 2017 by  
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These incredible cakes shaped like gigantic flowers and bursting bouquets show just how delightful vegan treats can be. Berlin-based pastry chef Juliana Tar of Culinary Dots creates mind-blowing cakes that are free from dairy, flour and sugar – and the results are every bit as delectable as they are visually stunning. Tar creates her flower-inspired vegan creations – which are free from flour, sugar, dairy, preservatives and dyes – using nuts and raw fruits such as dates, figs, and plums. Her homemade blend of nut, avocado, and coconut cream are used for each cake’s filling, and the colorful toppings are made out of raw marzipan, edible flowers, fruit, and coconut shavings. Related: These incredibly lifelike succulent cakes will blow your mind The talented pastry chef has been honing her craft for over 15 years, selling her sweet, flowery creations at street food markets, local cafes, and online. You can check out her work as well as her recipes at the Culinary Dots Instagram page . + Culinary Dots Via Fubiz

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These mind-blowing gigantic flower cakes will make your mouth water

Google Street View cars are helping scientists spot methane leaks

March 23, 2017 by  
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The Google fleet has been mapping cities around the world for years, making navigation easier for travelers. Now they have an important new responsibility: Google Street View cars will seek out natural gas leaks in urban areas. The data will not only help cities protect citizens from potentially harmful gas leaks, but also help cut accidental greenhouse gas emissions. The project was outlined in a new paper published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology . It’s a collaborative effort between Colorado State University researchers, the Environmental Defense Fund , and Google that involves attaching methane sensors to Google Street View cars. Related: Google Street View takes you inside the fiery depths of an active volcano The cars have been outfitted with special infrared lasers that can detect the amount of methane in the surrounding air in real time. Experiments found that the sensors had a range of about 65 feet, more than enough to detect leaks in urban settings where pipelines run beneath or near public streets. So far, the cars have found that there may be many more methane leaks in America’s major cities than previously believed. Cities with more modern pipelines were far less likely to have leaks, while Boston —the worst offender—was found to have thousands of leaks, resulting in a loss of about 1,300 tons of gas per year. Related: House Republicans move to make methane pollution great again While these aren’t necessarily a threat to public health or safety as long as the leaks are outdoors and natural gas can’t build up to explosive levels, they can wreak havoc on the atmosphere. Methane is far more potent than carbon dioxide, and leaks could seriously accelerate climate change if they aren’t addressed. Via The Washington Post Images via Wikipedia

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30 billion tons of stored carbon discovered in Congo peatland

January 12, 2017 by  
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At 3.7 million square kilometers, the Congo Basin contains some of the planet’s largest tropical rainforests and vast wetlands. Buried within this awesome wilderness are the Cuvette Centrale peatlands, recently discovered and mapped swamps that may contain 30 billion tons of carbon. This makes the Cuvette Centrale one of Earth’s most carbon rich ecosystems, one that desperately needs protection to avoid the release of the equivalent to 20 years of carbon emissions from the United States. The Cuvette Centrale peatlands were first discovered five years ago by a UK-Congolese research team, whose research, based on three year’s worth of peat analysis and satellite data, was published in Nature on Wednesday . “These peatlands hold nearly 30% of the world’s tropical peatland carbon,” said research co-leader Professor Simon Lewis of the University of Leeds. “Our research shows that the peat in the central Congo basin covers a colossal amount of land. It is 16 times larger than the previous estimate and is the single largest peatland complex found anywhere in the tropics.” More commonly found in cooler climates, such as Scotland where it is used to flavor scotch, peat is formed from soaked , partially decomposed plant materials. In order for carbon to be stored, peat must not dry out. If it does, due to climate change or land disturbance, decomposition of the material will continue and carbon will be released into the atmosphere. Related: Cambodian floating toilets filter human waste naturally via wetland plants Only recently discovered, the Cuvette Centrale peatlands have not yet been disturbed. However, their protection is of the utmost importance in reducing the impact of climate change. “The maintenance and protection of this peatland complex, alongside protecting our forests, could be central Africa ’s great contribution to the global climate change problem,” said Dr. Ifo Suspense, study co-author and researcher at Université Marien Ngouabi in Brazzaville. In addition to its value as a carbon sink, the Congo Basin is also of enormous ecological value as it is home to gorillas , elephants, okapi and other large mammals threatened by deforestation. The Republic of Congo is considering an expansion of its Lac Télé community reserve to protect an additional 50,000 square kilometers of swamp forest, much of which is peatlands. As governments and scientists move to protect the peatlands and the planet, one cannot help but be awestruck. “It is astonishing that in 2016 discoveries like this can still be made,” said study co-leader Dr. Greta Dargie of University College London. Via the Guardian Images via David Holt  and Flickr

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30 billion tons of stored carbon discovered in Congo peatland

Majority of Americans support Paris climate deal as Trump reconsiders pulling out

November 25, 2016 by  
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A new survey shows strong bipartisan support in the US for staying in the Paris climate agreement that formally commits its 193 signatories to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avert dangerous climate change. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll of 2,061 Americans finds that 71 percent agree that the US should participate in the pact, including a majority of Republicans (57 percent), Democrats (87 percent) and Independents (68 percent). President-elect Donald Trump has previously stated that he believes climate change is a hoax and that he intends to pull the US out of the Paris climate deal as soon as he takes office. However, in a potentially major reversal if he holds to it, Trump told New York Times reporters during a visit to the Midtown Manhattan newsroom that human activity is connected to climate change and that he would keep an open mind on the landmark climate accord. Related: Al Gore reaches out to work with Donald Trump on climate change On the link between human activities and climate change, Trump said that “I think there is some connectivity. Some, something. It depends on how much.” And when pressed on the Paris climate deal, Trump said that “I’m looking at it very closely. I have an open mind to it.” While this is a stunning reversal on his previous positions regarding man-made global warming, it remains to be seen whether Trump will change his policies that currently advocate for more oil, coal and natural gas at a time when many climate experts are warning that we have no carbon budget left and that we must keep remaining hydrocarbon reserves in the ground to sustain a livable climate. Trump’s new stance accepting human-induced climate change also goes against the climate deniers and fossil fuel industry insiders placed on his transition team and cabinet. The survey’s lead author Dina Smeltz, a senior fellow on public opinion and foreign policy at the Chicago Council, told The Washington Post that “an increasing percentage of Republicans now say that some gradual action should be taken” to address climate change concerns and that the American public “has been growing in their support for mitigating climate change.” + Chicago Council survey: Growing support in US for some climate action Via The Washington Post Lead image via Wikimedia , others via Wikimedia

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UK becomes 111th country to ratify Paris climate agreement

November 18, 2016 by  
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The election in the US of the only world leader to deny climate science is not deterring the United Kingdom from moving ahead with climate action. While President-elect Donald Trump promises to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement , the UK just became the 111th country to ratify the landmark accord aimed at preventing dangerous global warming by keeping global average temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson signed the pact in London on Thursday after a 21-day parliamentary review period passed with no objections raised by the House of Commons or Lords. “The UK is ratifying the historic Paris agreement so that we can help to accelerate global action on climate change and deliver on our commitments to create a safer, more prosperous future for us all,” Nick Hurd, UK climate change minister, said at the UN climate summit in Marrakech, Morocco. “I hope this will send a very strong message of continued international commitment to implement Paris because it is obviously very important to send that signal out.” Related: John Kerry says Obama administration will work to stop Trump from leaving Paris agreement The UK has set an ambitious climate target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 57 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. However, Barry Gardiner, shadow minister for international climate change, said the country faces a 47 percent shortfall to meet its 2030 decarbonization goal. With the US likely to lose its leadership role on climate change because of Trump’s anti-science stance and pro-fossil fuel policies, the UK could play an important part in making sure that the rest of the international community, including China and India, keeps the commitments in line with the Paris climate agreement to decarbonize their economies so catastrophic climate change is averted. Via Guardian Images via Wikimedia

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Here’s how much Arctic sea ice melt you are personally responsible for

November 8, 2016 by  
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Our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels is melting the Arctic . According to a new study in Science, for every ton of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere, we lose 32 square feet of Arctic sea ice. The EPA estimates that total US emissions in 2014 was 6,870 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, so that would have caused 219,840 square feet of Arctic sea ice to vanish. The average American emits more than 16 metric tons of carbon each year, according to the World Bank, amounting to 512 square feet of lost Arctic sea ice. The study’s lead author Dirk Notz, a climate scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany, calculates that 32 square feet of Arctic sea ice melts for every person who drives a car 1,000 miles or takes a round-trip flight from New York to London. “This makes it possible to intuitively grasp how we all contribute to global warming,” said Notz. “It’s really possible to translate how individual actions contribute to sea-ice loss.” Co-author Julienne Stroever, a senior research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, said the results of the study take climate change from an abstract notion to something that is concrete. Related: The Arctic is greening and scientists confirm it’s due to human activity The Arctic acts as the Earth’s refrigerator with sea ice regulating the global climate system by reflecting sunlight back into space. But the Arctic is rapidly warming, leading to an alarming retreat of sea ice that is causing the Arctic to absorb more solar radiation. A warming Arctic alters planetary weather and ocean patterns. At some point, perhaps sooner than later, there will be a blue ocean event, an ice-free Arctic Ocean during summer that could further destabilize the global climate system and trigger feedbacks that accelerate global warming such as the release of seabed methane from the continental shelves of the Arctic Ocean. The study predicts that another 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions will cause the sea ice to disappear throughout September, the lowest month each year for Arctic sea ice. However, there is a silver lining in the research. If emissions are brought down in an effort to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as the Paris climate agreement has called for, Arctic sea ice loss and the associated impact to the global climate system could be slowed down. The authors write that “our results also imply that any measure taken to mitigate CO2 emissions will directly slow down the ongoing loss of Arctic summer sea ice.” + Observed Arctic sea-ice loss directly follows anthropogenic CO2 emission Via Grist Images via Wikimedia

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