18-year-old invents cheaper CO2 capture tech to fight climate change

December 8, 2017 by  
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Even with quick-paced developments in renewable energy , the world still produces the vast majority of its power via fossil fuels : over 80 percent . 18-year-old Ethan Novek is working on technology that could allow us to burn fossil fuels without climate change-inducing emissions , giving us time to install more renewable energy. His carbon dioxide (CO2) capture technology stands out from the rest because it could capture CO2 at about $10 per metric ton – around 85 percent less than the industry standard. Novek made the discovery that would lead to his potentially game-changing technology in his high school chemistry laboratory. CO2 capture technology has traditionally drawn on a substance such as amine that selectively reacts with just CO2 as other gases escape. The substance is then heated to break the chemical bond for a release of the greenhouse gas that can be converted into products. But the amines used are expensive, and it takes a lot of heat to break that bond. Novek’s discovery could overcome these issues. Related: World’s first commercial carbon-sucking plant goes live in Zurich In his high school laboratory, Novek was hoping to utilize a technique known as salting out to cheaply produce urea, a nitrogen-based fertilizer. He realized he could actually use the process to separate out and capture CO2 after fossil fuels are burned. Here’s how it could work: at a fossil fuel plant, exhaust gases could be piped into a mix of water and ammonia. Inert gases like oxygen would escape as ammonia reacted with CO2, forming a salt. A solvent could break the salt back into CO2 and ammonia. Distillation could separate the ammonia and solvent mix so each component could be recycled. And the CO2 could be transformed into chemicals like acetic acid or synthetic gas. The CO2 capture process needs 75 percent less energy than others. Novek attracted the attention of Yale University professor Menachem Elimelech, and with other Yale researchers they wrote a study published last year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters . Novek started a company, Innovator Energy , and is working on a pilot plant that could use waste gas from a chemical factory or power plant to capture 1,000 kilograms of carbon emissions per day. + Innovator Energy Via Quartz Images via Carbon XPRIZE and Depositphotos

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18-year-old invents cheaper CO2 capture tech to fight climate change

CO2 levels in Earths atmosphere hit a record high in 2016

October 30, 2017 by  
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2016 was a year for breaking records — and not all of them were good. Each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest month in the modern temperature record – and a new report shows that CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere hit their highest point in 800,000 years. “The abrupt changes in the atmosphere witnessed in the past 70 years are without precedent,” said the report published by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Every year, the Geneva-based organization compiles data for its annual greenhouse gas report. While reviewing 2016’s data, it cited a combination of “human activities” and “a strong El Niño event” as the reasons why CO2 levels increased so abruptly. CNN reports that the last time Earth experienced similar levels of concentrated CO2 in the atmosphere was 3-5 million years ago, when the temperature was 2-3 degrees Celsius warmer and the sea level was 10-20 meters higher than it is now. “Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions , we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “Future generations will inherit a much more inhospitable planet.” In 2015, 195 countries signed the Paris Climate Agreement , which outlines specific emissions targets each nation must meet to prevent climate change from worsening. The United States, under President Donald Trump’s leadership, is the only developed nation that hasn’t agreed to join the Paris accord. As a result, some US states have joined together and set their own emissions goals that are in line with the Paris treaty. Related: The world will run out of breathable air unless carbon emissions are cut In October, the UN Environment Programme will release a separate Emissions Gap Report. This report keeps track of the policy commitments each country has made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It also analyzes how present policies will meet 2030 goals. “The numbers don’t lie. We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed,” said Erik Solheim, head of the UN Environment Programme. “The last few years have seen enormous uptake of renewable energy , but we must now redouble our efforts to ensure these new low-carbon technologies are able to thrive. We have many of the solutions already to address this challenge. What we need now is global political will and a new sense of urgency.” + World Meteorological Organization Via CNN Images via Pexels, Pixabay

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CO2 levels in Earths atmosphere hit a record high in 2016

LEGO relaunches its beloved Taj Mahal model with almost 6,000 bricks

October 30, 2017 by  
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LEGO lets people enjoy the beauty of some of the world’s most iconic buildings, one stunning model at a time. Now, their collection of LEGO architecture models  is getting even better, because the company is relaunching an old favorite, the Taj Mahal. Originally released in 2008, the majestic building is back almost ten years later with an improved building experience that includes 5,900 pieces that capture the building’s most intricate details. Easily one of the most recognizable designs in the world , the iconic Taj Mahal was built in 1632 by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, the Empress Mumtaz Mahal. The building’s four facades are covered in a series of sophisticated arches, balconies and windows that give the design its unmistakable majestic character. A large central dome is surrounded by subsidiary domed chambers and a number of minarets covered in intricate finials. Related: LEGO celebrates Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday with Guggenheim Museum kit The original LEGO Architecture model of the Taj Mahal, which was released almost ten years ago, was one of the company’s most popular architectural sets. The brand new version carefully recreates the icon’s beautiful details, down to the ornate detailing and intricate tile work. As one of the largest LEGO models ever released, its dividable into seven modular sections to make for easy transportation. At almost 6,000 pieces, the set is sure to inspire both budding architects and serious LEGO fans. The LEGO Taj Mahal model will be available November 27th. + LEGO Architecture

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LEGO relaunches its beloved Taj Mahal model with almost 6,000 bricks

Here’s some climate hope: global CO2 emissions stayed static last year

September 28, 2017 by  
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The fall of coal and rise of renewable energy could be reducing global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions . The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (NEAA) published data this week showing global CO2 emissions remained stationary in 2016. Economist Nicholas Stern said, “These results are a welcome indication that we are nearing the peak in global annual emissions of greenhouse gases .” Every one of the largest emitting nations, minus India, saw their carbon emissions stay the same or fall. While that’s great news, the same can’t be said of all countries: Indonesia, for example, saw carbon emissions rise, as did Malaysia, Turkey, the Philippines, and Ukraine. NEAA attributed the slowdown in increasing CO2 emissions to switching away from coal to natural gas and renewable energy. Related: The world’s CO2 emissions have not increased in the past three years While NEAA said global CO2 emission levels “were more or less stable in 2015 and 2016,” total global greenhouse gas emissions did increase by around 0.5 percent. NEAA said that rise was largely due to an increase in non-CO2 emission levels, from compounds like nitrous oxide, methane , and fluorinated gases. NEAA report chief researcher Jos Olivier said, “There is no guarantee that CO2 emissions will from now on be flat or descending.” There’s still a victory for some major emitters. China saw CO2 emissions fall by 0.3 percent last year. The United States’ CO2 emissions fell by two percent, Russia’s by 2.1 percent, and the United Kingdom’s by 6.4 percent. The European Union’s emissions stayed flat. We need to keep taking climate action ; Stern said in order to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement , nations must accelerate their emissions reductions. But he still seemed hopeful, saying, “These results from the Dutch government show that there is a real opportunity to get on track.” Via Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and The Guardian Images via Petter Rudwall on Unsplash and Antonio Garcia on Unsplash

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Here’s some climate hope: global CO2 emissions stayed static last year

Incredible Algae Dome absorbs sun and CO2 to produce superfood and oxygen

September 5, 2017 by  
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Industrial agriculture is blamed as a major cause of greenhouse gas, but what if there was a way to sustainably produce food that could help solve some of the world’s toughest environmental problems? That’s what the folks at SPACE10 , a Copenhagen-based future-living lab, tackled with the futuristic Algae Dome, a four-meter-tall food-producing architecture pavilion that pumps out oxygen in a closed-loop system. Powered by solar energy, the Algae Dome offers a sustainable and hyper-local food system that can pop up almost anywhere with minimal impact on the environment. Architects Aleksander Wadas, Rafal Wroblewski, Anna Stempniewicz, and bioengineer Keenan Pinto created the Algae Dome, which was presented at the CHART art fair in Copenhagen last week. Although SPACE10 has experimented with growing microgreens before, the team targets an even smaller food with the Algae Dome—micro-algae. Praised as a future “superfood,” micro-algae is said to contain twice as much protein as meat and is packed with vitamins and minerals, with more beta carotene than carrots and more iron than found in spinach, according to SPACE10. Even better? Micro-algae are among the world’s fastest-growing organisms and can be grown with sunshine and water almost anywhere, all while sucking up carbon dioxide and expelling oxygen in the process. Related: SPACE10 creates an open-source Growroom you can build at home During the three-day CHART art fair, the Algae Dome produced 450 liters of micro-algae and provided an interactive architectural experience that was part food system, part furniture, and wholly educational. The large amount of food was produced in a surprisingly small amount of space thanks to the design that featured 320 meters of coiled tubing, showing off the flow of emerald green micro-algae. Visitors were invited to sit inside the pavilion and enjoy a “breath of fresh air” created by the micro-algae as it converted carbon dioxide into oxygen. Packets of delicious spirulina (a type of blue-green algae) chips, created by SPACE10’s chef-in-residence Simon Perez, were placed around the pavilion to give passersby the chance to try the superfood. “In the future, different species of microalgae could be used as a form of nutrient-rich food, as a replacement for soy protein in animal feed, in the development of biofuels, as a way to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and as a method of treating industrial wastewater,” said SPACE10. “In other words, microalgae could help combat malnutrition, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels , help stop the destruction of the rainforest, improve air quality, and reduce pollution. Little wonder that microalgae has been dubbed the future’s sustainable super crop.” SPACE10 sees the Algae Dome as the prototype for food-producing architecture that could pop up virtually anywhere, from bus stops to apartment complexes. + SPACE10 Picture credit: Niklas Adrian Vindelev

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Incredible Algae Dome absorbs sun and CO2 to produce superfood and oxygen

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

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

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

Energy-generating ‘artificial plants’ turn greenhouse gases into clean air

April 27, 2017 by  
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Groundbreaking research from scientists at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and Florida State University could help in the fight against climate change . The researchers were able to trigger photosynthesis in metal-organic frameworks (MOF) with a little help from blue light , and the process turned carbon dioxide (CO2) into solar fuel . UCF assistant professor Fernando Uribe-Romo described the find as a breakthrough. Scientists have been seeking such a breakthrough for years. The trick is getting visible light to set off the chemical reaction; ultraviolet rays can do it but only comprise four percent of the light hitting Earth from the sun. Most materials that can absorb visible light to set off the reaction are too expensive or rare. The Florida scientists, however, found they could use the common nontoxic metal titanium added with organic molecules that can be designed to absorb certain colors of light. Uribe-Romo set them up to absorb blue light. Related: MIT Scientists Create Artificial Solar Leaf That Can Power Homes The team tested the MOF inside a photoreactor – or glowing blue cylinder lined with LED lights to mimic blue wavelengths shining from the sun – and the resulting chemical reaction turned CO2 into solar fuel. Uribe-Romo said, “The idea would be to set up stations that capture large amounts of CO2, like next to a power plant . The gas would be sucked into the station, go through the process, and recycle the greenhouse gases while producing energy that would be put back into the power plant.” He said it may even be possible for the material to be put in rooftop shingles to both clean the air and generate energy usable for homeowners. He aims to keep working with the synthetic material and see if different wavelengths of visible light can set off the reaction. The Journal of Materials Chemistry A published the find online earlier this month. Via The Independent and EurekAlert! Images via UCF: Bernard Wilchusky and University of Central Florida

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Energy-generating ‘artificial plants’ turn greenhouse gases into clean air

Court condemns Wyoming wolves to first legal hunt in four years

April 27, 2017 by  
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Wolves have been taken off the United States government’s endangered species list in Wyoming , and a court decision just gave wolf management back to the state. This means for the first time in four years, according to the Associated Press (AP), Wyoming plans to have a wolf hunt . Wolves are still recovering after their numbers were severely depleted, and environmentalists warn this order could be a step backward for the animals . Wolves will no longer have federal protections in Wyoming. The state will allow a wolf hunt this fall; officials told the AP the hunt will probably be similar to 2012 and 2013 hunting seasons. In 2013 the state allowed for 26 wolves to be killed near the Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. The AP said the hunting season only applies to the greater Yellowstone area; elsewhere in the state wolves can now be shot on sight year-round. Related: Trump presidency could spell the end for wolves in America’s West The Wyoming Game & Fish Department put it rather bluntly: “Wolves outside the Trophy Game Management Area are now considered predatory animals as defined in state law and therefore can be harvested.” Back around the beginning of March Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney Rebecca Riley told The Washington Post, “Wyoming’s plan to shoot wolves on sight throughout most of the state was a bad idea when it was proposed, and it’s a bad idea now. The court’s decision to lift federal protections for wolves in Wyoming will be a step backward for wolf recovery in the West.” A few hundred years ago some two million wolves lived in the United States; that number has dwindled to around 1,700. Wolves live on just 10 percent of their historic range in the American West. Via the Associated Press , the Wyoming Game & Fish Department , and The Washington Post Images via Pixabay and Jeremy Weber on Flickr

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Court condemns Wyoming wolves to first legal hunt in four years

NYC mayor announces push to finish 32-mile Greenway linking entire Manhattan waterfront

April 27, 2017 by  
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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is looking to finish the biggest gap in the 32-mile Manhattan Waterfront Greenway. $100 million in the mayor’s executive budget will go towards completing the esplanade, allowing people to walk and bicycle on the edges of the city by the water. The new green space and promenade could be finished in around five years. The Manhattan Waterfront Greenway along the East River between East 61st to East 53rd Street could be developed with City capital money. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation , United States Coast Guard , and Army Corps of Engineers have already granted initial approval and designs for the esplanade will be sketched out this year. The city hopes construction, carried out by the New York City Economic Development Corporation , will begin in 2019 and end in 2022. Related: Former garment factory next to NYC’s High Line to be topped with new green spaces Mayor de Blasio said in a statement, “We’re jumpstarting the completion of a Greenway linking the entire Manhattan waterfront. The Hudson River Greenway has vastly improved quality of life on the West Side, and we want families in every corner in the borough to have that same access to bike, walk, and play along the water. This is the first of many big investments we’ll make as we bring the full Greenway to reality.” Department of Transportation (DOT) commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the longer Greenway would help meet the demand in cycling , which has spiked 80 percent during the last five years in New York City. DOT’s new bike lanes and a 1,100-mile bicycle network could also help more people get out of their cars and onto bikes. Mayor David Dinkins started the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway in 1993, and each administration since has added to it. The most recent major piece of the Greenway is a 10-block Riverwalk completing an 11-mile path between George Washington Bridge and the Battery. Over 7,000 cyclists ride on the path every day, making it the United States’ busiest bike path. + Office of the Mayor of New York City Images via the Office of the Mayor of New York City

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NYC mayor announces push to finish 32-mile Greenway linking entire Manhattan waterfront

Scotland reaches gutsy emissions reduction goal six years early

June 14, 2016 by  
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Scotland has made great strides towards meeting its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. Their goal was to reduce emissions by 42 percent by 2020. This week, the Scottish government announced in a press release that the country passed the goal in 2014, when they achieved “a reduction of 45.8 percent.” Climate change secretary Roseanna Cunningham said between 1990 and 2014, emissions fell by close to 46 percent. Emissions in the rest of the UK since 1990 only fell by 33 percent. Cunningham suggested that individuals turning down the heat may have contributed to the reduction. Related: 57% of Scotland’s energy came from renewables in 2015 Others said the government still needs to step up their commitment to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland spokesperson Jim Densham told The Guardian while it was good the goal has already been reached, showing people don’t have to sacrifice comfort drastically to combat climate change, the government still needs to “lead with the big policies for major emission reductions.” According to Densham, emissions from the transportation sector remain at the same levels as 1990, and in the housing sector, emissions have only been reduced by 1 percent. He said Scotland was able to reach the 42 percent target due to a warmer 2014 winter, heavy industry loss, a “changing share of European emissions credits,” and policies. Green Party Parliament member Mark Ruskell said if the government hopes to set greater targets for 2020, they need to address “home energy efficiency” and fuel poverty. They also need “far more ambitious” transportation policies. Ruskell said to The Guardian, “The real test of action on climate change isn’t how figures get fudged from year to year; it’s whether people across Scotland have real choices to live in warm, efficient homes or a transport system fit for the 21st century. That requires funding and action from the Scottish government.” According to the Scottish government, the target for 2050 is an 80 percent reduction in emissions. Cunningham said since the country has already met its 2020 goal, it will likely pursue more ambitious goals in legislation . Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Scotland reaches gutsy emissions reduction goal six years early

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