New study predicts mass extinction in 140 years

February 25, 2019 by  
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A new study suggests that the old saying about history repeating itself is absolutely true. In this case, history repeating itself pertains to none other than the topic on everyone’s minds— extinction. Researchers believe it’s taken 56 million years for earth to face another mass extinction that can occur in as little as 140 years.  The research, released last Wednesday and published in Geophysical Research Letters , compares conditions in the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) period with our planet’s present warming condition. Back in PETM days, carbon dioxide shot up, increasing Earth’s temperatures by 9 to 14 degrees. The tropical Atlantic heated up to approximately 97 degrees. Land and marine animals died. It took 150,000 years for the planet to recover. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 Unfortunately for us, carbon dioxide emissions are rising ten times faster now than they did during the PETM. Back then, wildfires, volcanic activity and methane wafting from the seafloor and permafrost were the culprits. Today, it’s down to us. Last year, emissions in countries with advanced economies rose slightly after a five-year decline. At this rate, the study predicts Earth’s atmosphere will be comparable to the beginning of PETM in 140 years, reaching a peak in 259 years. The result? Mass extinction. Philip Gingerich, the study’s author, did a literature review of previous studies on PETM and the rate of carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere. Based on eight studies published between 2009 and 2018, he used models to project future emissions caused by humans. Gingerich is an emeritus professor in the University of Michigan’s earth sciences department. He directed the university’s Museum of Paleontology for nearly 30 years. “[It’s] as if we are deliberately and efficiently manufacturing carbon for emission to the atmosphere at a rate that will soon have consequences comparable to major events long ago in earth history,” Gingerich told Earther. As he states in his study, “A second PETM-scale global greenhouse warming event is on the horizon if we cannot lower anthropogenic carbon emission rates.” Via Earther Image via nikolabelopitv

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New study predicts mass extinction in 140 years

Art-inspired home sits as an ‘abstract sculpture’ in seaside town in Portugal

February 25, 2019 by  
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Located in the seaside town of Afife, Portugal, a beautiful, minimalist house was designed to pay homage to the traditional type of construction found in the region. Designed by Portuguese firm  Guilherme Machado Vaz , the geometric Afife House is a cube-like volume clad in bright white with golden-hued shutters that, when closed completely, transform the home into a modern “abstract sculpture” surrounded by greenery. Tucked into a green landscape that rolls out to the sea, the home’s design is quite modern. According to the architects, although the bright white facade of the geometric home is certainly eye-catching, the inspiration behind the design was to blend the structure into its tranquil surroundings. Related: A modern vacation retreat is embedded into the rolling hills of southern Portugal Using the local environment to inspire the design, the architects also took into consideration a beloved chapel that is separated from the home by a stone walkway. Not wanting to infringe on the religious site, the designers respectfully restrained the width of the building area to a mere 28 feet. “The chapel stands on a base of granite walls, and it imposes itself in that area. Its presence had an influence on the project, particularly as regards the design of the volume,” explained the Portuguese architects. “The house sought not to disturb the harmony of this religious space, but at the same time it did not want to be submissive to its presence.” The white volume is broken up by a series of square windows in various sizes and covered in flat shutters. The shutters on the south elevation are painted in a glossy gold color, a nod to religious triptych paintings. When open, the windows bring plenty of natural light indoors. The crisp color of the exterior continues throughout the interior living space. The unique layout was inspired by Austrian and Czech architect Adolf Loos’ Raumplan concept, which sees various multi-level spaces being connected by one long staircase that runs through the center of the home. This system helped take the design vertical to make up for its restricted width. The home also has plenty of exterior spaces, including a flat roof that pulls double duty as an open-air terrace. A circular swimming pool also sits in a square, all-white deck, again adding to the strong character of the design. + Guilherme Machado Vaz Via Dezeen Photography by José Campos via Guilherme Machado Vaz

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Art-inspired home sits as an ‘abstract sculpture’ in seaside town in Portugal

Deforestation could wipe out over 50 percent of species in Haiti

January 16, 2019 by  
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According to new research from Temple University scientist Blair Hedges, the Caribbean island nation of Haiti is undergoing a mass extinction event, and the country is close to losing its rich biodiversity. Hedges — who has spent decades in Haiti’s rain forests — says that the results of his latest study are shocking. In a paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Hedges and his co-authors revealed that Haiti , which was once full of lush trees and teeming with wildlife, has now lost almost all of its virgin forests because of deforestation, and is at risk of loosing more than half of its species by 2035. “Up until this analysis, nobody had any idea it was that bad,” Hedges said. “Haiti is in the middle of a mass extinction, and it’s already lost a large number of species because entire areas where unique species exist are no longer present.” Hedges and his colleagues used NASA satellite imagery to analyze Haiti’s current landscape and found that the country has about one percent of its primary forest left since people have resorted to cutting trees down in order to make way for farming and charcoal production needed for cooking. Related: Deforestation in South America causes extinction of 8 bird species He also explained that no one on his research team expected the forest to disappear so quickly. The team of researchers realize that Haiti is at a forefront of a global mass extinction as the country’s species are disappearing at the alarming rate of 100 to 1,000 times the normal rate. Haiti’s loss of wildlife and forestry is largely due to habitat destruction (cutting down trees), but that is just one component in worldwide mass extinction. Other factors across the globe include climate change , invasive species and other human-related activity. Hedges says people often associate deforestation as just removing plants and trees, but in reality everything is being removed. Stuart Pimm, professor of conservation ecology at Duke University, says that Hedge’s study is a “tragic and brutal” instance of the lengths of human destruction. Primm added that Haiti’s story should resonate, and should be a lesson that everyone should heed when managing wild areas, watersheds and rivers. Via Whyy.org Image via 753tomas

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Scientists say mass extinction warning signs exist and they can be observed today

March 28, 2018 by  
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Is Earth staring down a mass extinction ? Recent research from an international team of scientists reveals warning signs for the biggest mass extinction in our planet’s history were apparent far earlier than experts had thought — and we can glimpse such indicators now. Around 250 million years ago, the Permian-Triassic mass extinction saw about 90 percent of animal species eradicated, according to the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany, which led the research team. Huge volcanic eruptions and resulting greenhouse gas emissions wiped out scores of creatures. And for decades, scientists thought this so-called mother of all disasters occurred without warning “when seen on a geological time-scale,” the university said. This new research challenges that opinion. Related: Sixth mass extinction on Earth is driven by industrial farming, says leading academic Fossils in Iran hint that the first indicators of the mass extinction appeared as early as 700,000 years before the event itself. Multiple species of ammonoids, an  extinct group of marine animals, died off and surviving ones “became increasingly smaller in size and less complex” as time marched towards the mass extinction event, according to the university. Factors that led to the event are reminiscent of conditions today, according to professor and lead author Wolfgang Kiessling, who said in the statement, “There is much evidence of severe global warming, ocean acidification , and a lack of oxygen. What separates us from the events of the past is the extent of these phenomena. For example, today’s increase in temperature is significantly lower than 250 million years ago.” Even so, warning signs that were present near the Permian Period’s end can be seen in modern times, according to the university. Kiessling said, “The increased rate of extinction in all habitats we are currently observing is attributable to the direct influence of humans, such as destruction of habitat, over-fishing, and pollution. However, the dwarfing of animal species in the oceans in particular can be quite clearly attributed to climate change . We should take these signs very seriously.” Geology published the work earlier this year; scientists from institutions in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Iran contributed. + University of Erlangen-Nürnberg + Geology Images via Dieter Korn

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Scientists say mass extinction warning signs exist and they can be observed today

China reports meeting its 2020 carbon intensity goals three years early

March 28, 2018 by  
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Xie Zhenhua, China ‘s top climate official, has reported that the country has met its 2020 carbon intensity target three years earlier than expected. China’s carbon intensity, as measured by the amount of carbon dioxide produced per unit of economic growth, has decreased by 46 percent since 2005. Such changes in China’s energy economy bode well for a global community that is struggling to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement . If China, the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels, can continue its progress towards a carbon-free economy, the nation of nearly 1.5 billion may be well-positioned to support other countries in their efforts to stop catastrophic climate change. In 2009, China set its goal of reducing its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent of its 2005 carbon levels. This initial concession towards a less carbon -intense economy helped to set the stage for the successful negotiations of the Paris Agreement. At the time, China also made a commitment to set up a national cap-and-trade system by which emissions would be reduced through market forces. Thus far, it has been unable to establish a functional emissions market. Related: Less fertilizer, greater crop yields, and more money: China’s agricultural breakthrough The cap-and-trade system has also been hindered by technical difficulties and a lack of reliable emissions data. The current scheme, which launched in late 2017, involves only the power sector. As the country attempts to develop its cap-and-trade regime, it also must confront challenges created by a major bureaucratic change that transferred the responsibility for climate change from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment. “It is questionable whether in the short term [the new ministry] can be elevated in status and power to the extent that it will be able quickly to assume the influential role that the NDRC occupied in the area of climate change ,” Peter Corne, a managing partner at the Shanghai legal firm Dorsey & Whitney, told Reuters . Nonetheless, China is making progress and that is good news for all of us. Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos (1)

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China reports meeting its 2020 carbon intensity goals three years early

Extreme fossil fuel financing has surged to $115BN under Trump

March 28, 2018 by  
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Financing for extreme fossil fuels  like tar sands  swelled in 2017 under Trump, according to a new report.  Banking on Climate Change 2018  tracks 36 of the largest banks in the world to discover they poured $115 billion into these polluting projects, up 11 percent from 2016, according to the Rainforest Action Network (RAN). Coal mining and power, Arctic and ultra-deepwater oil, and liquefied natural gas export are among the extreme fossil fuels covered by the report, endorsed by more than 50 groups — but the tar sands sector leaped ahead of the pack, overtaking coal to become the most heavily backed extreme energy sector. From 2016 to 2017, financing increased by 111 percent, and banks poured almost $47 billion into tar sands. Related: Here’s every bank funding the Dakota Access Pipeline, and how to switch Organizations including RAN, BankTrack , Oil Change International , Honor The Earth , Indigenous Environmental Network , and Sierra Club , graded banks worldwide on their financing, and found JPMorgan Chase was the number one Wall Street funder of these polluting fuels. That institution, along with the Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto Dominion Bank, passed what RAN described as coal-heavy Chinese banks to be extreme fossil fuels’ biggest bankers in 2017. According to RAN’s statement, “JPMorgan Chase increased funding to coal mining by a shocking 21 times and quadrupled its financing of tar sands oil.” Multiple European banks pledged to reduce financing for fossil fuels like shale or oil sands, according to The Independent , but the report revealed banks in North America, especially in Canada, increased funding. “Every single dollar that these banks provide for the expansion of the fossil fuel industry is a dollar going to increase the climate crisis ,” Oil Change International executive director Stephen Kretzmann said in a statement. “The World Bank, which understands the deep threat that climate change poses to poverty alleviation, has gotten the message and is ending its financing of upstream oil and gas projects. Meanwhile, it seems some commercial banks appear intent on going in the opposite direction. It’s time banks like Chase and TD and US Bank took the World Bank’s lead and stop funding fossils. Until they do, these banks will be complicit in our climate catastrophe.” Find out how your bank stacks up in the Banking on Climate Change 2018 report on RAN’s website. + Banking on Climate Change 2018 + Rainforest Action Network Via The Independent Images via Depositphotos and Backbone Campaign on Flickr

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The rapid disappearance of 5 billion passenger pigeons shows no population is safe from extinction

November 21, 2017 by  
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Five billion passenger pigeons once spread across North America in flocks so big that they could block out the sun and spread for hundreds of miles. Then, in just a few decades, they were gone. Now, scientists have found the cause for their devastating decline, and it reveals how fragile even large populations of animals can be. A new study shows that passenger pigeons have existed since the Ice Age in massive populations. But as large as their numbers were, they lacked genetic diversity. This allowed them to adapt quickly within the population, but it also meant that when a new threat came along – in this case humans – they couldn’t adjust quickly enough. While hungry humans are the main cause of their decline, the genetic shift caused by the shift from massive groups to small groups sped up the decimation of pigeon populations. Related: The sixth mass extinction is killing off wildlife 100 times faster than “normal” “We often think of large populations as a safeguard against extinction ,” said the study’s co-author, University of California, Santa Cruz biologist Professor Beth Shapiro. “What this study shows, however, is that we must also consider the longer-term natural history of a species when making decisions about their extinction risk.” Via The Independent images via Wikimedia  and DepositPhoto

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The rapid disappearance of 5 billion passenger pigeons shows no population is safe from extinction

The sixth mass extinction is killing off wildlife 100 times faster than normal

July 11, 2017 by  
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For years, scientists have warned that Earth is entering it sixth mass extinction — an era in which three-quarters of all species die off within only a few centuries. However terrifying this notion may be, nothing compares to a recent finding, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which paints a full picture of “biological annihilation.” According to the study, which was conducted by Gerardo Ceballos, an ecology professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, hundreds of species are disappearing at a faster-than-expected rate. And, believe it or not, even humans are at-risk. The researchers wrote that numerous species around the world are experiencing an “extremely high degree of population decay.” Findings from the study support this. For instance, nearly one-third of the 27,600 land-based mammals, bird, amphibian and reptile species are shrinking in terms of territorial range and their numbers. After looking at a well-documented group of 177 mammal species, the researchers also determined that all had their territories reduced by at least 30 percent between the years of 1900 and 2015. Furthermore, more than 40 percent of the species lost at least 80 percent of their geographic range during this time. As a result of these findings, the study authors wrote that “Earth’s sixth mass extinction is more severe” than previously believed. Additionally, the major event is “ongoing.” Scientists have already established that 50 percent of the Earth’s wildlife has been wiped out in the last 40 years alone, but no one really comprehended the extent to which the numbers have declined. According to Anthony Barnosky, executive director of the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve at Stanford University, this is because conservationists and researchers are “not constantly counting numbers of individuals.” He added, “it doesn’t take complicated math to figure out that, if we keep cutting by half every 40 years, pretty soon there’s going to be nothing left.” Related: Vanishing land snails signal the 6th mass extinction is happening now Perhaps the most terrifying discovery is that species are going extinct at roughly 100 times the rate which could be considered normal. In fact, within twenty years, the African elephant may go extinct. Barn swallows, giraffes , rhinos, pangolins, and jaguars, as well, may only be preserved in zoos if their populations continue to decline. With 37 percent of the Earth’s land surface now farmland or pasture (according to the World Bank), and humans utilizing polluting resources at a faster rate than they can be replenished, the whole world is in jeopardy unless sustainable initiatives are introduced and implemented. Fortunately, there’s still time, according to Ceballos. He wrote, “The good news is, we still have time. These results show it is time to act. The window of opportunity is small, but we can still do something to save species and populations.” + PNAS Via CNN Images via Pixabay

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The sixth mass extinction is killing off wildlife 100 times faster than normal

The world will run out of breathable air unless carbon emissions are cut

June 22, 2016 by  
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As the world struggles to find effective ways to limit carbon emissions and slow global warming , a recent study has found that the stakes may be higher than anyone has realized. According to Sergei Petrovskii, an applied mathematics professor at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, an unchecked rise in global temperatures could end up drastically reducing the amount of breathable oxygen in the planet’s atmosphere, threatening life on Earth as we know it. In a study published late last year in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology , Petrovskii ran computer models looking at the phytoplankton in the world’s oceans, microscopic marine plants responsible for producing two-thirds of the world’s atmospheric oxygen. In examining the ability of phytoplankton to photosynthesize at various temperatures, Petrovskii learned something incredibly troubling — at a certain point, these plants would simply halt oxygen production, leaving the world gasping for breath. Related: Alarming study shows disastrous climate change will strike much sooner than expected Perhaps the most terrifying part of Petrovskii’s findings is the fact that this catastrophe would come with few, if any, warning signs. If global warming continues unchecked, some scientists estimate we could reach this drastic tipping point as soon as 2100 , leaving us with only about 84 years before a mass die-off of human and animal life might occur. It’s important to note that this is an avoidable, although plausible, catastrophe: this doomsday scenario will only occur if we allow the world’s oceans to warm by a total of 6 degrees Celsius. Most climate scientists warn that to avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change , global temperatures must be halted before they rise more than 2°C  above pre-industrial levels, and this is the goal recently adopted by the world’s nations at the Paris climate accord. Related: Runaway Global Emissions Make the Two-Degree Global Warming Limit Highly Unlikely That being said, the research is also showing that staying below the 2°C limit is increasingly unlikely unless global emissions can be slashed drastically, and the deals reached during the COP21 talks simply aren’t enough. The Climate Action Tracker , an independent group of European climate experts, estimates that current agreements will put eventual global temperatures at around 2.7°C , far lower than the scenario outlined in Petrovskii’s paper, but high enough to potentially trigger major sea level rise , destroy most coral reefs and glaciers , and permanently alter agricultural cycles around the world. In other words, though we’re currently on track to avoid an Earth with completely unbreathable air, we’re nowhere near where we need to be to avoid the worst effects of global climate change. Still, lawmakers must absolutely keep the possibility of this catastrophe in mind when crafting environmental policy. All life on Earth may depend on it. Via TakePart Images via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

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The world will run out of breathable air unless carbon emissions are cut

The cicadas are have arrived, blanketing Midwestern porches by the thousands

June 21, 2016 by  
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The iconic, spine-tingling line from Poltergeist, “They’re here…” is on the lips of wide-eyed mid-westerners during the deafening invasion of 17-year cicadas. Photos of one Mansfield, Ohio homeowner’s porch have gone viral , depicting piles and piles of discarded exoskeletons and deceased insects. The scene, to some, is like a real-life horror movie. Cicadas emerge from under the ground in broods. This particular brood is surfacing for the first time since 1999. Over the span of about six weeks they will shed their exoskeleton, mate, lay eggs, and then die. The thunderous mating call of millions of male cicadas is the biggest nuisance for humans, unless they show up on your doorstep. Richelle Smart, in northern Ohio, recently posted photos of thousands of bugs overtaking her porch. Her children dutifully helped sweep up the crunchy mounds, when they weren’t not jumping back at the sight of a live, bug-eyed cicada. Related: They’re coming… BILLIONS of cicadas to invade the northeast next month The cicadas’ presence may only be an annoyance to people, as they have a symbiotic relationship with Mother Nature. Laying eggs on tree branches promotes healthy pruning and the underground burrowing aerates the soil. The exoskeletons are returned to the Earth as nourishment, completing the cycle of life. If you are living in eastern Ohio, northern West Virginia, southwest Pennsylvania, or some pockets of Virginia and Maryland, the beauty of nature may be the last thing on your mind. Luckily, once this brood takes care of their business, you won’t have to worry about them popping back up for another 17 years. Via  Daily Mail Images via  Wikimedia , Facebook

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The cicadas are have arrived, blanketing Midwestern porches by the thousands

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