Climate twins: which city will your city feel like in 2080?

February 18, 2019 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

The phrase “global warming” gets tossed around a lot, but do we really understand what it means and how it will feel? In the groundbreaking Paris Agreement, 195 countries agreed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius — but how will those 2 degrees really affect our lives? A new study in Nature links 540 U.S. cities to other cities with a current climate that is similar to how those cities will feel in 60 years. As CityLab’s Robinson Meyer explained , the study takes each city and finds “the city whose modern-day weather gives the best clue to what conditions will feel like in 2080.” The researchers’ goal is to translate what abstract climate science and meteorological changes really mean for people by making them understandable in a modern — and personal — context. For example, Philadelphia will feel more like Memphis in 2080. That equates to summer days that are warmer by an average of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, and winters that are warmer by 10 degrees. Memphis, on the other hand, will feel more like College Station, Texas.  Use this web tool to find your city’s ‘climate twin’. The ‘Arkansas-ification’ of U.S. cities “Every place is getting warmer and many are getting drier,” Matthew Fitzpatrick, author of the study, told CityLab. In fact, most cities’ future climate twin is approximately 500 miles farther south and toward the middle of the country. “In the Northeast, you can envision the future as one big Arkansasification,” Fitzpatrick explained. For those who haven’t been to Arkansas, the authors explained that means more humid, subtropical climates typical of the southeast and Midwest. Western cities, however, will start to feel more like the desert conditions of Southern California and the southwest. The cities selected in the study cover 250 million urban Americans. By using a method called climate analog mapping, the authors used different emission scenarios and weather predictions to find all similar cities, and then narrowed down the options to find the best match based on statistical and topographical similarities. The 540 cities selected were those that had the strongest match and the most relatable “twin.” A lot can happen in 60 years, and most are still hopeful that we can make changes to curb climate change. The authors used different examples of carbon emission rates, called Representative Concentration Pathways, to compare the results based on our best- and worst-case scenarios. For example, if progressive policies are put in place soon to curtail carbon emissions, Washington D.C. might feel like Paragould, Arkansas by 2080. If mitigation policies are not put into place, however, D.C. will become more like Greenwood, Mississippi — an additional 200 miles south. D.C. residents are already familiar with hot, humid summers in the low-lying capitol, so the news that their children will face even stickier summers is lamentably relatable. Though the matches aren’t perfect, the authors explained they do give modern-day examples that make abstract climate change realistic and easier to understand. Climate change puts cities at risk Cities are especially vulnerable to climate change, with rapidly increasing populations, urban sprawl, aging infrastructure and limited budgets for forward-thinking climate adaptation. In New York City , where heat island effect (the intensification of heat by concrete, urban environments) is already a major problem, the thought of becoming Jonesboro, Arkansas is daunting. Imagine a stifling hot, underground subway platform well above 85 degrees in July with no breeze. Now add an average of 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Related: Reimagine a resilient future for your city with this nature-based tool But human discomfort isn’t the only problem. These shifts in climate also affect other species. Migratory bird patterns are already changing but so are insect populations . Increased humidity, flooding and temperatures cause an uptick in mosquitoes, ticks and flies. This means an increase in diseases such as zika and dengue that were previously contained to fewer states. Winter freezes that used to kill off larva may no longer be cold enough to have the same population-controlling effect. Climate changes we can understand For most urban dwellers, this alarming news of hotter days and health consequences is not new. However, the authors of the study are hopeful that these results help people conceptualize climate change and make discussions more relatable. Their assessment is “place-based” and aims to use cities that are familiar. Many people have visited these cities, know about them or at the very least have an idea what the weather in their future “twin” city is like compared to where they live. Framing the discussion about climate impacts in a way that is understandable — and in some cases so real you can almost feel it — is critical. Hopefully, these terms and tools help people understand the urgency at a global scale in terms that are meaningful at a personal level. Via CityLab Image via Pixabay

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Climate twins: which city will your city feel like in 2080?

Toxic bacteria found in microplastics on 3 different coastlines around Singapore

February 18, 2019 by  
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Scientists have found toxic bacteria on microplastics in waters around Singapore . The bacteria are believed to be one of the culprits behind coral bleaching. They have also been known to cause wound infections in people. Researchers working out of the National University of Singapore (NUS) discovered over an alarming 400 varieties of bacteria on a little less than 300 pieces of microplastics . The samples, which are only around 5 mm in size, were taken from three coastlines in the region: Changi Beach, Sembawang Beach and Lazarus Island. According to The Straits Times , scientists located the toxic bacteria through DNA sequencing. Once the results were in, they discovered traces of photobacterium, which has been linked to coral bleaching , and a species called vibrio, which is known to cause infections in wounds. The team also found traces of arcobacter, a microorganism that has been linked to gastroenteritis. “As the microplastics we studied were collected from locations easily accessible to the public  and in areas widely used for recreation, the identification of potentially pathogenic bacteria is important in preventing the spread of diseases,” Emily Curren, part of the team at NUS, explained in the report. Curren noted that the majority of microplastics came from straws and disposable utensils, such as spoons and forks. These plastics biodegrade in a few hundred years and serve as vehicles that transport toxic bacteria around the world. Not only can these affect human populations by getting in the water supply, but microplastics are ingested by marine animals, many of which are later consumed by people. Sandric Leong, who led the research effort at NUS’s Tropical Marine Science Institute, added that microplastics are one of the most popular forms of plastic pollution in the ocean. Organisms in these environments accidentally ingest the microplastics, which is how toxic bacteria could end up on dinner plates around the world. Leong explained how more research in microplastic distribution is needed to better understand how to manage this worldwide problem. The biggest way to combat microplastics, of course, is to decrease our use of non-biodegradable plastics and cut down on how much plastic ends up in landfills. Via The Straits Times Image via Shutterstock

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Toxic bacteria found in microplastics on 3 different coastlines around Singapore

Rwanda hopes to increase energy efficiency with new cooling initiative

February 14, 2019 by  
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Rwanda has big plans for a more sustainable future and is launching a new cooling initiative that will increase energy efficiency within the country’s booming electricity sector. As part of the new plan, Rwanda hopes to provide a cooling solution for food storage and indoor spaces without adding to the world’s greenhouse gas problems. The new initiative, called Rwanda’s National Cooling Strategy, assessed the current need for cooling products as well as the future market. Although countries traditionally meet cooling needs with the use of modern refrigeration, Rwanda is looking towards more sustainable methods that do not use as much electricity . “Through the Rwanda Cooling Initiative, we have conducted a cooling market assessment, developed a national cooling strategy and minimum energy efficiency standards, and created financial tools to support businesses investing in clean cooling,” Rwanda’s Minister of Environment, Dr. Vincent Biruta, explained. Rwanda is currently witnessing some of the fastest growth in the electricity sector in all of Africa. With 12 million people to serve, the East African Country is already looking for energy efficient options to meets those needs. Related: Top 10 states for LEED green buildings in 2018  Fortunately, Rwanda has been a leader in adopting sustainable practices. In fact, the country was one of the first to ban the use of plastic bags. A few years ago, Rwanda hosted a global treaty that agreed to an amendment to the Montreal Protocol. The initiative decreased the use of certain chemicals that are popularly used in air conditioners and refrigerators. But combating the use of harmful chemicals is only half the battle. As part of the National Cooling Strategy, Rwanda hopes to boost energy efficiency by regulating how much electricity can be used by modern air conditioners and refrigerators. The country also plans to raise awareness about other cooling techniques, including natural ventilation and shading. The new plan is the first phase of Rwanda’s larger cooling initiative. If other countries follow Rwanda’s lead, a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions could be cut over the next decade. Some experts predict that we can curb global warming by as much as 0.4C if countries increase their energy efficiency. Via United Nations Environment Image via Tumisu

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Mining in Tasmania raises water pollution concerns to a new high

February 14, 2019 by  
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Tasmania’s water pollution is becoming a major problem for local residents and wildlife. A new study discovered that metal contamination in the state’s lakes are about as high as they get, raising concerns about the quality of water and food obtained from the region. The majority of the contamination can be traced to historic mining operations in Rosebery and Queenstown. The new study, which was conducted by the Australian National University, looked at six lakes in Tasmania, including Perched Lake, Lake Cygnus, Lake Dobson and Dove Lake, and found levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and copper. Basin Lake and Owen Tarn had the highest levels of water pollution. The levels of contamination are bad enough to equal some of the highest contaminated waterways in the world, including Iran’s Shur River and Pakistan’s Kurang River. “The levels of contamination are really, really high,” the lead scientist on the study, Larissa Schneider. “They need to do research to know what is happening to the fish and if it’s really high… people should not be eating it.” Schneider compared the level of water pollution to what the United States has encountered in some areas of the country. In those cases, local fish populations were severely harmed by the pollutants, which is a major concern because the contamination levels in Tasmania are much higher. Related: California teen finds golf balls are a major source of plastic waste in our oceans Scientists, for example, discovered an alarming amount of lead contamination in Dove Lake, which could affect native organisms. The new research argues that the contaminates were spread via atmospheric transport. Mining operations in the 1930s used open cut mining, a popular practice until it was outlawed by the Environmental Protection Act in the 1970s. Metal contaminates were discovered over 80 miles away from old mining locations, and some of the lakes are in mountainous regions. This suggests that they reached these bodies of water by passing through the air. Will Hodgman, the premier of Tasmania, discussed the new findings and suggested a form of remediation on the part of government and private industries. The entity that looks after waterways, the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment , has not commented on Tasmania’s water pollution levels. Via The Guardian Image via Wikipedia Commons  

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Mining in Tasmania raises water pollution concerns to a new high

MVRDV to dramatically revitalize Frances historic Palais du Commerce

February 14, 2019 by  
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Dutch design firm MVRDV has won a competition to renovate and expand the historic Palais du Commerce in Rennes, France. The impressive 19th century palace had once served multiple public functions but now suffers from disconnect with current civic life. Working in collaboration with co-architects Bernard Desmoulin for developers Frey and Engie Avenue, MVRDV plans to reactivate the former public building and transform it into an inviting mixed-use destination that will serve as the centerpiece of the city’s main commercial street. The 18,000-square-meter redevelopment project will include not only a building restoration with a modern 6,000-square-meter timber expansion of the Palais du Commerce, but also the reactivation of the surroundings including the transformation of the Place de la République into a pedestrian-friendly public square as well as the conversion of the Rue du Pré Botté into a landscaped pedestrian area. The landmark building will also be updated with a sensitive approach that will be respectful of its iconic 19th-century design while greatly increasing the building’s transparency. In addition to the replacement of existing windows with larger panes of glass, glazed storefronts will be added to the arches of the arcade and a new grand, winding staircase will anchor the center of the facade. “Not only is Palais du Commerce a local landmark, but its transformation will turn the Place de la République into a popular destination and act as a vital catalyst for its surroundings,” says Nathalie de Vries, founding partner of MVRDV. “Our design approaches this task with an appreciation of the building’s history, but also with an eye towards the future, helping Rennes to achieve its urban vision. The additions that we will make are clearly modern in character, clearly showcasing this design as the latest chapter in the building’s storied history.” Related: MVRDV designs solar-powered “KoolKiel” with Jenga-like architecture in Germany The building’s mixed-use program will include new shops, a hotel, offices, a co-working space, a variety of leisure spaces — including a LEGO museum, event space and an electronic music bar — and a school for the kitchen and hotel industry led by chef Thierry Marx. All spaces of the building will be used more effectively, from the basements to the roof, which will include a new bistro in the building’s central dome. Construction on the project is slated to begin in 2022, with completion expected in 2025. + MVRDV Images via ENGRAM, diagrams via MVRDV

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MVRDV to dramatically revitalize Frances historic Palais du Commerce

Global warming makes 2018 the 4th hottest year ever

February 13, 2019 by  
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U.S. officials have confirmed that 2018 was the fourth hottest year on record. Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA just revealed that temperatures were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the worldwide average, which includes temperatures between 1951 and 1980. Temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest of any year since 1880. That places 2018 slightly behind the top three average temperatures on record: 2016, 2017 and 2015, respectively. According to The Guardian , the rise in temperatures affects more than just the heat index. Global warming also raises sea levels and spawns increasingly extreme weather patterns. In 2018, for example, the U.S. witnessed two of the worst hurricanes on record, while wildfires devastated California. Elsewhere around the globe, India experienced massive flooding, while a disastrous typhoon hit the Philippines. Greece and Sweden also suffered deadly wildfires , and the Arctic had one of the warmest years ever. In fact, scientists warn that the Arctic is experiencing double the warming rate of any other region on Earth. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 “2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” NASA’s Gavin Schmidt explained. “The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt — in coastal flooding , heatwaves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change.” With global warming not showing any signs of slowing down, scientists believe hotter temperatures are the new norm. This year has already begun with El Niño in the forecast, which means it could be even hotter than last year. Unless carbon emissions are drastically cut within the next decade, it is possible that we see another record setting year between now and 2023. Even if governments around the world exceed expectations in cutting  carbon emissions, slowing global warming will be difficult. Even more disturbing is the fact that we have seen 18 of the 19 hottest years since 2001. For reference, children who are now graduating from high school have only experienced record-setting temperatures. Last year was the fourth hottest year on record, but it may turn out to be a mild one for future generations. Via The Guardian Image via Pixel2013

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New research shows an organic diet shrinks pesticide exposure

February 13, 2019 by  
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The bad news isn’t news to many — eating a conventional diet leads to pesticide buildup. But a new study published in Environmental Research reveals surprisingly good news. Switching to an all-organic diet quickly and significantly reduced synthetic pesticide levels in study participants. After six days of an all-organic diet, their pesticide and pesticide metabolite levels dropped by an average of 60.5 percent. Four American families of different races participated in the study, titled Organic Diet Intervention Significantly Reduces Urinary Pesticide Levels in U.S. Children and Adults . The families lived in Atlanta, Baltimore, Minneapolis and Oakland. Related: Is a flexitarian diet right for you? The most significant finding was a huge drop in levels of organophosphates, insecticides that are commonly used in agriculture , gardening and household products, such as roach spray. Farm workers often administer them when growing apples, peaches, strawberries, spinach, potatoes and other common crops. The study showed a 95 percent drop in the organophosphate malathion, a probable human carcinogen linked to brain damage in children. Levels of pesticides associated with endocrine disruption, autism, adverse reproductive effects, thyroid disorders, lymphoma and other serious health issues dropped between 37 and 83 percent after a week of all-organic eating. “This study shows that organic works,” said study co-author Kendra Klein, PhD, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth. “We all have the right to food that is free of toxic pesticides . Farmers and farmworkers growing our nation’s food and rural communities have a right not to be exposed to chemicals linked to cancer, autism and infertility. And the way we grow food should protect, not harm, our environment. We urgently need our elected leaders to support our farmers in making healthy organic food available for all.” The study’s authors are affiliated with the University of California at San Francisco, UC Berkeley, Friends of the Earth U.S. and the Commonweal Institute. Friends of the Earth is urging the U.S. Congress to pass a bill to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that causes brain damage in children. In 2017 under President Trump, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reversed its proposed ban on chlorpyrifos. + Friends of the Earth Image via Paja1000

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New research shows an organic diet shrinks pesticide exposure

EPA criminal enforcement crumbling under Trump

February 12, 2019 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) criminal enforcement numbers have take a major hit over the past few years. A new study conducted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) found that the agency had the lowest criminal case numbers since the late 1980s. Last year, the EPA only filed 166 criminal referrals. These referrals are sent to the Department of Justice for prosecution, and those numbers were adjusted to account for the latest government shutdown. As a reference point, the EPA filed close to 60 percent more referrals in 2011 and over 72 percent more in 1998. The rate of new criminal referrals for the 2019 fiscal year, which started in November, is already at a slower pace than last year. So far, the EPA has only filed 24 criminal enforcement referrals, and the government shutdown is expected to affect those numbers even more moving forward. Related: Damage to Joshua Tree during the government shutdown could take centuries to repair Even more concerning is the fact that only 62 of the referrals in 2018 ended with convictions. That is less than any year after 1992 and illustrates a dire need for greater efficiency within the EPA. PEER argues that the Trump administration is one of the biggest reasons behind the low numbers of criminal referrals. “These figures indicate that the Trump plan to cripple EPA is working,” Kyla Bennett, the director of science policy at PEER, explained. “Not enforcing our anti- pollution laws steadily transforms them into dead letters.” The decline in criminal enforcement has also led to a drop in the number of agents who are assigned to such cases. In the spring of 2018, the EPA employed 140 special agents to handle pollution cases in its Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and that number has already decreased to 130. According to the U.S. Pollution Prosecution Act of 1990, the EPA is supposed to have 200 CID agents on staff at any given time. With EPA criminal enforcement at historic lows, the main concern is that the agency lacks effective means of prosecuting polluters, which will likely lead to an increase in violations over the next few years. Via Peer.org Image via USEPA  

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Eastern Puma officially extinct, allows for mountain lion reintroduction

February 8, 2019 by  
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The eastern puma, which used to range from Quebec and Manitoba to South Carolina and Illinois, is now officially  extinct , said Officials with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The government agency has also removed the cougars from endangered species list. Taking the eastern pumas off the endangered list will enable eastern states, such as New York, to reintroduce western pumas, also called mountain lions, into the region. The last eastern puma killed in the wild was in Maine over 80 years ago. Hunters killed off the majority of these pumas in the 18th and 19th centuries. “We need large carnivores like cougars to keep the wild food web healthy, so we hope eastern and midwestern states will reintroduce them,” Michael Robinson, who works for the Center for Biological Diversity, explained. Reintroducing western pumas will cut down on deer population and help decrease tick-borne illnesses that are harmful to humans. Government officials believe there are eastern regions that are suitable for the reintroduction of pumas. These areas include New England, Adirondacks and the Great Lakes. Related: Conchs in the Bahamas could be extinct in 10 years Unlike their eastern counterparts, western pumas have successfully repopulated regions in Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. Although western pumas and their close relative the Florida panthers have been spotted in eastern states, they have not been able to successfully reproduce because of human intervention and hunting . Deer populations have skyrocketed in the absence of predators like pumas and wolves. Certain kinds of deer populations, like white-tail deer, eat saplings and acorns, which has led to a rapid decline in new tree growth in the region. This also hurts ground-nesting birds as they do not have enough vegetation to protect themselves. Now that eastern pumas have been taken off the endangered list, politicians can start spearheading efforts to reintroduce western pumas into the region. Although it is extremely sad that the eastern puma has gone extinct, experts hope that reintroducing another predator will help the environment in the long run. At one point in time, pumas were one of the most widespread animals in North and South America. Via Biological Diversity Image via Shutterstock

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Bureau of Land Management moves forward with the sale of sacred land

February 6, 2019 by  
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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is moving forward with the sale of land in the vicinity of New Mexico’s Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The land, which is considered sacred ground by Native Americans in the area, was approved amid heavy criticism from environmentalists and tribal leaders. The land is being purchased to pursue the development of oil and gas, with around 50 parcels of land up for grabs. One of the biggest issues surrounding the sale is that it was approved while the government was partially shutdown , which resulted in limited access of information. Related: Damage to Joshua Tree during the government shutdown could take centuries to repair According to AP News , critics claim that government officials failed to properly inform everyone on the sale of the property. They also asked if the BLM had enough staff members on hand to properly analyze the land and sale requests. In fact, Senator Tom Udall issued a scathing report on the land sale and called out the BLM for not being transparent throughout the process. “It’s a mistake that while critical public services were shuttered for 35 days during the government shutdown, BLM still moved forward with this opaque process,” Udall shared. Critics of the sacred land sale also wondered if the BLM will open a protest period, which is usually standard in these types of transactions. Fortunately, the agency has opted to delay the sale to give tribal leaders and environmentalists a few weeks to protest. The BLM is officially accepting protests beginning on February 11. The land sale is expected to go through at the end of March. If the protests are successful, a portion of the land that is up for sale will be withdrawn. Supporters are hoping that land within 10 miles around Chaco will be deemed off limits. This area, which would serve as a buffer zone, would help protect features that are sacred to local tribes, including kivas and stone structures. Chaco is currently inaccessible by paved roads. Local tribes hope to preserve the remoteness of the area, which has served as a religious and economic center for centuries. The BLM has not issued any comments about the land sale. Via AP News Image via Zenhaus

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