Warming in deepest parts of the Great Lakes could be irreversible

April 8, 2021 by  
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New research published in the journal  Nature Communications  shows that the deepest parts of the Great Lakes are warming up. While it has been known that global warming causes increased ice melting and rising ocean temperatures, little has been said about the impact of climate change on deep lake waters. The study found that the deepest parts of the Great Lakes have been seeing a steady increase in temperature over the past three decades. Researchers analyzed 30 years of data, including hourly temperature recordings in deep waters. The temperature readings at 500 feet below the water surface reveal a consistent increase. The researchers have established an average of 0.11°F temperature rise per decade in Lake Michigan’s deep waters. Further, winters in the region have become shorter over the period in question. Related: Nearly 1/3 of freshwater fish face extinction According to Eric Anderson, lead author of the study and a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the changes in deep water temperatures are affecting biodiversity . Species like whitefish and yellow perch are already facing detrimental impacts from the warming waters. “We can already see declines in reproductive success in certain species that time up with the increases we see in water temperature,” Anderson explained. In lakes, there are seasonal flows where warm water comes to the surface and cold water is pushed down. It is through this process that oxygen and nutrients are released to deep lake fish and other creatures. According to Anderson, rising temperatures affect this water cycling and, as a result, disrupt the food web. The warming could have far-reaching consequences to the ecology and economy of the regions around the Great Lakes. Currently, the tourism and fishing industries here provide over 1.3 million jobs and are worth $82 billion in wages, much of which could be lost. Meanwhile, millions of people rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water, but warming can also cause an increase in toxic algal blooms. Unfortunately, the impacts on lake biodiversity and the economy of the region could be permanent. As Anderson explained, “Once we get past that point, we’ve affected things on an ecological level that aren’t necessarily reversible.” + Nature Communications Via Grist Image via David Mark

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Green-roofed Czech cabin is built with recyclable hempcrete

April 5, 2021 by  
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After living as a modern nomad for years, Ond?ej Koní?ek finally decided to settle down by realizing his dream cabin on a 20,000-square-meter wooded property in southeast Czech Republic. Fueled by his love for the nature, Koní?ek tapped Czech architecture firm Ateliér Lina Bellovi?ová to design House LO, an eco-friendly, green-roofed home that not only embraces landscape views but is also built with hempcrete — a bio-composite building material seldom used in the country. When architect Lina Koní?ek Bellovi?ová was asked by Koní?ek to build with hempcrete — a composite of hemp hurds and lime with insulating properties typically used to construct non-weight-bearing infill walls — she knew it would be a challenge. The architect had never seen it used as a building material in the Czech Republic. “First struggles evolved in a valuable experience and fascination with its features and its history,” said Bellovi?ova, who used hempcrete for House LO’s walls. “Building with hempcrete is easy and allows the builder to build their house on their own.”  Related: “Cannabis walls” add warmth to this eco-friendly home in Israel In addition to ease of construction, hempcrete also has carbon-sequestering and insulation benefits; it can be recycled and is resistant to pests, fire and mold. The architect topped the home with a green roof for additional insulation. Completed over the course of a year, the timber-framed cabin features a simple, modern design to blend in with the landscape. The single-story dwelling includes a concrete basement that houses technical equipment, storage, a lounge and a special chamber where the client develops his photographs. The ground floor above is a light-filled space centered on an open-plan living area, dining room and kitchen flanked by two bedrooms and a bathroom. A large terrace that is sheltered by deep roof overhangs wraps around the entire cabin and can be accessed by sliding glass doors that bookend the main living space. + Ateliér Lina Bellovi?ová Images by BoysPlayNice

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These brilliant treehouses show what it means to be eco-kind

April 2, 2021 by  
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You’ve heard the expression that you can’t see the forest because of the trees? Well, Ivona Ercegovic looked at a forest and saw the future. This eco-kind project in a Croatian forest offers a retreat and event space unlike any other. The unique concept is based on treehouses. The project will have four themed treehouses , each one representing a basic element of nature: earth, air, fire and water. You can rent a single treehouse or buy out the property to host an event, enjoy a vacation or arrange a retreat with friends, family or colleagues. Through partnerships with non-profit organizations in the local area, the treehouses will also sometimes serve as a place of healing for abused and ill women and children. This, Ercegovic explains, is the concept of eco-kind. Natural forested land surrounds the treehouses, providing a backdrop painted by nature . Inside, the treehouses are light and airy. Many windows and skylights allow natural light to pour inside the spaces, which are designed with open floor plans. Each separate treehouse tells a story, using color and detail to allude to one of four elements. Three treehouses represent earth, wind and water , while the gathering space and main house represent fire. The treehouses are constructed with certified materials: tin roofs, wood and steel. Pressed mineral wool will also be used for high-quality thermal insulation . The property will include heat pumps, rainwater harvesting systems and a bio-septic sewage system. Water-saving showers and low-water toilets round out the houses’ eco-friendly systems. Ercegovic has had a love for forest environments since childhood. Trees have always inspired her, ever since her childhood goal of making the perfect treehouse. In Ercegovic’s own words: “I think trees are the most brilliant creatures on the planet. I love how alive they are, how connected with their roots they are with other trees and the magic that happens.” + Tree Elements Images via Ivona Ercegovic, Tree Elements

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Concern arises over increased use of antimicrobials in building materials

April 2, 2021 by  
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A joint statement released by leading green construction organizations has raised concerns about the increasing demand and use of antimicrobial chemicals in building materials. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic , there has been a surge in antimicrobial construction products, such as countertops and doorknobs. But experts warn these products could actually do more harm than good. The statement looks at key areas of concern regarding the use of such chemicals , their effectiveness and their possible side effects on human health and the environment at large. The statement notes that while more people are now relying on these antimicrobial products, they have no proven benefits. The joint statement also questions the misleading marketing of such products. Related: 11 green building materials that are way better than concrete In recent months, there have been more advertisements geared toward promoting chemicals and disinfectants that can be applied to households in various ways in a bid to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While most advertisements sound harmless, the statement cautions that if an evidence-based approach is not taken, then more dangerous chemicals could be released into homes. The statement says that the possible environmental and health effects of these chemicals are not known. “Unfortunately, the science behind antimicrobials in building products doesn’t live up to the marketing claims,” said Tom Bruton, one of the statement authors and a senior scientist at the Green Science Policy Institute. “In fact, these products may be providing a false sense of protection from the novel coronavirus while posing other health threats.” There are many antimicrobials used in construction materials and other home products. Among the most common chemicals are quaternary ammonium compounds, which have been associated with asthma. Others include triclosan, which can affect hormone functioning and has been banned in products like hand soaps but is still allowed in building materials . Oftentimes, these chemical additions are not disclosed. “Now more than ever, we should strive to create healthier spaces for people to live and work,” said Gina Ciganik, CEO of Healthy Building Network. “Architects, designers, and building owners should take a precautionary approach and avoid unproven solutions with known harms.” + Mindful Materials Image via Chris Robert

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Concern arises over increased use of antimicrobials in building materials

Unilever sets out net-zero plans for shareholder vote

March 25, 2021 by  
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Unilever sets out net-zero plans for shareholder vote Michael Holder Thu, 03/25/2021 – 00:30 Unilever has become one of the first multinational companies in the world to publish a corporate net-zero action plan for oversight by its shareholders, as it prepares to put the climate strategy to an advisory vote at its upcoming AGM in early May. The consumer goods giant this week unveiled its strategy for achieving net-zero emissions across its entire supply chain by 2039 in line with recommendations from climate scientists, with a focus on decarbonizing its heating and cooling, encouraging its suppliers to set science-based targets, and stepping up its broader advocacy work in the run up to the crucial COP26 U.N. Climate Summit later this year. The “climate transition action plan” (CTAP) is set for a non-binding, advisory vote at Unilever’s AGM May 5, with the company also promising to report annually on its progress towards implementing the strategy in line with the guidelines of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFDs). “We will also submit an updated CTAP for an advisory shareholder vote at our AGM every three years, noting any material changes we have made or propose making,” the company said. The Anglo-Dutch firm first announced plans to give its shareholders a direct say over its climate action strategy back in December , in a bid to boost corporate transparency and governance surrounding its drive to reach net-zero emissions for its core business by 2030 and across its entire supply chain by 2039. It is also aiming to eradicate deforestation in its supply chains by 2023, including for commodities such as palm oil, paper, soy, cocoa and tea. We hope that by setting out our plan, and the assumptions underpinning it, investors will share our confidence — and other businesses will start to follow suit. In a blog post explaining the firm’s decision to give its shareholders a say on its sustainability strategy, Unilever CEO Alan Jope said the aim was “to be transparent about our plans, and to strengthen engagement and dialogue with our investors.” “As governments around the world wake up to the full implications of the climate crisis and start to regulate and price emissions, we are confident that early and ambitious climate action will drive superior performance and create value for all our stakeholders,” he wrote earlier this week. “We hope that by setting out our plan, and the assumptions underpinning it, investors will share our confidence — and other businesses will start to follow suit.” Jope also explained Tuesday that achieving net-zero by 2039 would mean ensuring that the emissions associated with Unilever’s products are reduced towards zero “as far as possible, with residual emissions balanced by carbon removals, through either natural technological carbon sequestration such as reforestation or carbon capture and storage.” However, over the next two decades, the company’s primary focus would be on emissions reduction across its value chain, he insisted. “We will not seek to meet our targets through purchasing and retiring carbon credits, known as offsetting,” explained Jope. “By 2039 and thereafter, we will ensure that any residual emissions are balanced with carbon removals to achieve and maintain our net zero position.” In order to deliver its targets, Unilever said its priority was to decarbonize its use of heating and cooling, including removing HFCs — harmful greenhouse gas pollutants — from its refrigerants, having already achieve 100 percent renewable electricity across its business worldwide. It also has set up a $1.18 billion Climate and Nature Fund to help its brands invest in decarbonization and nature protection projects, and the firm aims to increase its investments in plant-based food offerings and harness the influence of its brands to help encourage greener consumer behaviors. We will also call for ambitious goals and actions by both governments and the private sector on key themes like nature-based solutions, finance, and adaptation and resilience. And, in order to slash both upstream and downstream emissions in its value chain, the company said it would work with suppliers to encourage the adoption of their own science-based emissions targets, and to help its logistics partners to shift towards low emission transport options. Unilever also promised to “step up our climate advocacy ahead of COP26,” including though its membership of global industry groups such as the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition and Transform to Net Zero. “We will also call for ambitious goals and actions by both governments and the private sector on key themes like nature-based solutions, finance, and adaptation and resilience,” explained Jope, who argued that leading on climate action “will help Unilever be a more successful business.” “Consumers are becoming more demanding of brands,” he wrote. “Investors are increasingly seeking to build net-zero-aligned portfolios. High-quality talent is seeking employment with purpose-led companies. In this context, we believe that any costs associated with this additional level of ambition represent a wise investment in building our purpose-led, future-fit business, one that will be respected and trusted by future generations as much as it has been by past generations.” Jonathon Porritt, founder and director of corporate sustainability nonprofit Forum for the Future, welcomed the publication of Unilever’s climate transition plan this week as “something of a breakthrough on getting shareholders focused on what companies need to do to get to net zero.” Pull Quote We hope that by setting out our plan, and the assumptions underpinning it, investors will share our confidence — and other businesses will start to follow suit. We will also call for ambitious goals and actions by both governments and the private sector on key themes like nature-based solutions, finance, and adaptation and resilience. Topics Finance & Investing Corporate Strategy Net-Zero BusinessGreen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by  JHVEPhoto  on Shutterstock.

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Bottom trawling contributes more carbon emissions than air travel

March 22, 2021 by  
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The bottom trawling fishing technique is more harmful to the environment than previously thought, according to a new study. While it has long been known that this method captures fish indiscriminately, there was no available data on its carbon footprint. A recent study now shows that this method of fishing releases carbon emissions from ocean beds. The study, published in Nature , becomes the first to give a clear estimate of the carbon emissions caused by bottom trawling. In this technique, nets are dragged along the ocean floor, scraping for fish and other ocean creatures. This damages a significant part of fish habitats and releases CO2 that had been captured in the sea bed. Related: Super trawlers ravage UK’s protected waters amid pandemic The study broke the ocean into 50-square-kilometer blocks and used collected data to measure how much each square contributes to marine life in terms of fish stock, biodiversity and salinity among other aspects. Researchers estimate that bottom trawling releases about one gigaton of carbon emissions into the atmosphere every year, meaning this method of fishing alone contributes more carbon to the atmosphere than the aviation industry at pre-pandemic levels. This practice also impedes the ability of the sea bed to continue absorbing and storing carbon. On top of the pollution, damaged habitats for fish and indiscriminate capturing of species leads to diversity degradation. According to Enric Sala , lead author, marine biologist and National Geographic’s Explorer in Residence, the team had originally set out to find ways of discrediting this method of fishing to encourage those in the industry and governments to put an end to it. Scientists have been trying to petition governments against bottom trawling due to the effects it has on marine habitats. Bottom trawling is also one of the most  expensive methods of fishing  and the most destructive. Sala explained that most fishing operators that depend on bottom trawling rely on government subsidies to remain afloat. The team hopes this research will lead people to think twice about allowing bottom trawling to continue. + Nature Via Time Image via andrasgs

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7 Leave No Trace Principles for Your Next Outdoor Adventure

March 15, 2021 by  
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If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you understand the value of caring for the natural… The post 7 Leave No Trace Principles for Your Next Outdoor Adventure appeared first on Earth911.

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Wildfire smoke is more harmful than car exhaust emissions

March 8, 2021 by  
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New research published in the journal Nature Communications has revealed that pollution caused by wildfires is more harmful to humans than than poor air quality caused by car exhaust. The study, conducted by researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego, was achieved through an analysis of health records. The study follows increasing wildfire events in the United States. Last year, many western states experienced fires, with heavy smoke clouding major cities. In some areas, residents were warned against stepping outside their homes to avoid possible health risks. Related: Wildfires have burned 2.3M acres across California this year The researchers looked at health records over the past 14 years and determined that there was a 10% spike in hospital admissions in Southern California during wildfire breakouts. According to Tom Corringham, one of the authors of the study, the economic impacts of wildfires are typically highlighted, with little focus on health impacts that are usually of the same magnitude. “We’re pretty aware of the physical costs of wildfire, in terms of firefighting costs and damage to property,” Corringham said. “But there’s been a lot of work that has shown that the health impacts due to wildfire smoke are on the same order of magnitude, or possibly even greater than the direct physical cost.” In the study, researchers focused on PM2.5, which are very common in wildfire smoke. These microscopic particles are very small and can bypass the human body’s security systems. When this happens, they make their way into the lungs and the bloodstream. There are various health risks that have been associated with these particles, including increased risk of respiratory problems, heart attacks and strokes. “We’ve seen it getting much worse in the last decade,” Corringham said of the wildfires. “Anything we can do today to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize the global climate system will have significant benefits.” A separate study on air quality on the West Coast found that one in every seven residents experienced at least one day in unhealthy air conditions last year due to wildfires. + Nature Communications Via NPR Image via Peter Buschmann / USDA

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Why investors are putting biodiversity on the balance sheet

March 4, 2021 by  
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Why investors are putting biodiversity on the balance sheet C.J. Clouse Thu, 03/04/2021 – 02:11 Reprinted from GreenFin Weekly, a free weekly newsletter. Subscribe here . Last summer, the investment arm of northern Europe’s largest financial services group dropped Brazilian meat giant JBS from its portfolio. Nordea Asset Management, which manages roughly $280 billion, gave several reasons for the decision, including JBS’s links to farms involved in Amazon deforestation.  “The exclusion of JBS is quite dramatic for us because it is from all of our funds, not just the ones labelled ESG,” Eric Pedersen, Nordea’s head of responsible investments, told The Guardian .  Until very recently, investor demands regarding environmental impact largely have focused on the climate crisis and greenhouse gas emissions. Now, investors are beginning to wake up to the threat of habitat destruction and biodiversity loss and we’re beginning to see examples of action by means of both carrots — such as sustainability-linked loans tied to biodiversity-related metrics — and sticks such as the one which Nordea whacked JBS with.  Recent research by Leaders Arena ESG Advisory Services finds that institutional investors managing more than $7 trillion in equity assets consider biodiversity issues to some extent, including Allianz Global Investors, BNP Paribas Asset Management and California Public Employees’ Retirement System, better known as CalPERS. Both S&P Global Ratings and Bloomberg rank biodiversity among the top ESG themes for 2021, the latter naming Fidelity International and AXA Investment Managers as examples of firms that have made it a priority.  Investors are waking up to the threat of habitat destruction and biodiversity loss, and we’re beginning to see examples of action by means of both carrots and sticks. That said, huge as it sounds, that $7 trillion represents only a fraction of the more than $100 trillion in global assets under management . Most investors and companies still don’t put a price tag on natural capital, or the cost of losing it, and biodiversity becoming a top “theme” only means people have begun talking about it. Still, progress in this area could move faster than we’ve typically seen in ESG-land, for a few reasons:  The coronavirus pandemic “has focused investors on the vulnerability and resilience of the financial system,” according to a new report from the CFA Institute , an association of investment professionals, which found 85 percent of its members consider ESG factors when making investment decisions. The fact that the pandemic has illustrated in such a brutal way what can happen when we jackboot into nature’s territory could make habitat destruction and biodiversity loss especially relevant for investors going forward.  A decade of pressure on companies to report on and reduce their contribution to climate change has created something of a blueprint for investors to demand the same in terms of the separate but interconnected biodiversity crisis. Last summer, a coalition that includes the UN Environment Finance Initiative and World Wide Fund for Nature announced the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures , which takes a page from the 2015 Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures , and aims to deliver a framework to guide financial reporting on biodiversity and natural capital by the end of 2022. Abundant research revealing just the urgency and existential nature of the biodiversity crisis has heightened awareness. In its Global Risks Report for 2021 , the World Economic Forum ranks biodiversity loss as the world’s No. 5 risk by likelihood and No. 4 risk by impact. It estimates that $44 trillion of economic value generation, or more than half of global GDP, is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services. The most dependent industries: construction, agriculture and food and beverage.  New metrics, such as the ones proposed this week by the UN Statistical Commission that go beyond GDP to include natural capital. Dubbed the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting — Ecosystems Accounting (SEEA – EA), this method of measurement would fundamentally change economic and policy planning in countries that adopt it. Given that we have less than a decade to address the double whammy of climate change and biodiversity loss, and given that the technology to monitor and track, for example, deforestation or overfishing already exist, the slow pace of progress can be maddening. Nordea’s divestment, along with pressure from other institutions, such as Norwegian pension fund KPL, led to a pledge from JBS to use blockchain to monitor its entire supply chain by 2025, including the problematic “indirect suppliers” that have been linked to illegal deforestation. Still, these particular investors weren’t satisfied.  “JBS’s 2025 target for tracing cattle is too far away, we need immediate action,” Jeanett Bergan, head of responsible investments at KLP, told The Guardian. “It is a positive step, but we have to see the detailed evidence in practice.” Here are a few other recent examples of the financial industry walking the walk in the name of biodiversity.  Paris-based Ossiam just launched a global equity ETF that invests in food companies making efforts to minimize habitat and biodiversity destruction. The Ossiam Food for Biodiversity ETF is listed on Deutsche Börse Xetra and is available to trade in euros or U.S. dollars.  Bank of Ayudhya, Mizuho Bank and MUFG Bank last month syndicated a $400 sustainability-linked syndicated loan for Thai Union, one of the world’s largest seafood companies, which was two times oversubscribed. The interest rate on the five-year loan is tied to three performance metrics, one of which is a new commitment from the company to reach 100 percent transparency in its international tuna supply chain by 2025, through electronic monitoring and human observers. The company will pay a lower interest rate as long as it continues to make progress toward its goals, measured annually against a 2020 baseline. Thai Union, known for household tuna brands such as Chicken of the Sea and John West, has partnered with The Nature Conservancy on the monitoring effort.  Finnish forestry company UPM last year secured a $905 million revolving credit facility  with an interest rate tied to its ability to meet long-term climate and biodiversity targets. To receive a lower rate the company must show a net-positive impact on biodiversity in its forests in Finland and a 65 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from fuels and purchased electricity between 2015 and 2030. BNP Paribas, France’s largest bank, last month pledged to stop financing companies that produce or buy beef or soybeans cultivated on land in the Amazon cleared or converted after 2008. Britain’s Prince Charles in January said he had established the Natural Capital Investment Alliance under his Sustainable Markets Initiative. The alliance — with founding partners HSBC Pollination Climate Asset Management, Lombard Odier and Mirova — aims to accelerate natural capital as an investment theme and mobilize $10 billion across asset classes by 2022. The one undeniable fact in all of this is the plant’s finite resources. For theirs and everyone else’s sake, let’s hope companies make the move more like an über-fast cheetah, of which roughly 7,000 are left, and less like a pygmy three-toed sloth, of which there are fewer than 100.  Pull Quote Investors are waking up to the threat of habitat destruction and biodiversity loss, and we’re beginning to see examples of action by means of both carrots and sticks. Topics Finance & Investing Biodiversity ESG GreenFin Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage, via Shutterstock

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Why investors are putting biodiversity on the balance sheet

Take Your Kids on a Winter Nature Scavenger Hunt

February 15, 2021 by  
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