Climate change-induced melting of mountain ice threatens global supply of freshwater

December 11, 2019 by  
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A study recently published in Nature found that glacier-based freshwater systems are highly threatened by climate change. Called “mountain water towers,” they supply water to communities in the downstream basin by generating and storing vast quantities of water from their high-elevation rain and snow. Unfortunately, ice melt is becoming more pronounced and precipitation patterns are disrupted, in turn placing these water towers’ storage capacity at critical risk. The study warns that the depletion of freshwater supplies and severe water shortages will become more evident, especially as “water stress, governance, hydropolitical tension and future climatic and socio-economic changes” put these natural water towers at risk. Narratives on climate change must shift to include discussions on mountain ice melt and loss and not just revolve around sea level rise. Related: IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis The research, authored by 32 scientists across the globe, recognized 78 mountainous regions as crucial water towers primarily found in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Based on the study, Asian water towers were the most vulnerable, particularly the Indus water system. “The study quantified for the first time both the natural water supply from the mountains as well as the water demand by society and also provided projections for the future based on climatic and socioeconomic scenarios,” said Tobias Bolch of the University of St. Andrews’ School of Geography and Sustainable Development. “The projected loss of ice and snow and increasing water needs makes specific densely populated basins located in arid regions, like the Indus basin in South Asia or the Amu Darya basin in Central Asia, highly vulnerable in the future.” Reliance on these water towers means these mountain ecosystems must be safeguarded. Jonathan Baillie, executive vice president and chief scientist at National Geographic Society, explained, “This research will help decision-makers, on global and local levels, prioritize where action should be taken to protect mountain systems, the resources they provide and the people who depend on them.” + Nature Image via Ashish Verma

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Climate change-induced melting of mountain ice threatens global supply of freshwater

Koala-sniffing detection dog, Bear, helps save koalas from Australian bushfires

December 11, 2019 by  
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Record-breaking bushfires are raging along the eastern and southeastern coast of Australia, burning through prime marsupial habitat and claiming the lives of hundreds of koalas, an already vulnerable species . Search-and-rescue teams are underway to locate surviving koalas, and they do so thanks to the efforts of koala detection dogs, like Bear, who has been trained by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Human-caused climate change is to blame for the severe temperatures, vegetation dry-out, worsening drought impacts and low-to-almost-no precipitation, all of which have exacerbated bushfire conditions in Australia. Raging bushfires have devastated the eucalyptus stands populated by koalas. Related: Koalas declared “functionally extinct” Koalas can survive weeks following a fire, but they are likely suffering from severe burns and smoke inhalation. Finding these surviving koalas, many of whom are injured and distressed, to provide them proper care and rehabilitation then relocate them to safer areas has been a challenge. That’s where the deployment of koala detection dogs, like Bear, can be of value. The University of the Sunshine Coast has been training canines at the Detection Dogs for Conservation Centre. These trained detection dogs locate koalas by recognizing the scent of koala fur as well as fresh koala scat. What makes a good koala detection dog? A canine must be disinterested in people and not have a strong prey drive. More importantly, they must be hyper-focused on koalas. Bear, now 6 years old, meets those qualifications. IFAW shared about Bear’s training and upkeep, “He was brought in for assessment at about 1 year old. Within minutes, the team knew he was ‘The One’ they had been looking for to train on live koalas. He is high-energy, obsessive, doesn’t like to be touched and is completely uninterested in people, which sadly means he doesn’t make the ideal family pet. But these qualities do make him a perfect candidate for a detection dog, which is exactly why he was chosen. He also has zero prey drive, which is essential for a wildlife detection dog, as they need to focus purely on the scent and not the animal, ultimately ignoring the animal .” Unlike other detection dogs that are trained to sniff out koala scat, Bear is trained to detect live koalas by their fur. Scat remains aren’t always effective, for they don’t always lead to the koalas who left them. But, with Bear’s abilities to detect koala fur, living koalas can be found even at the top of burned trees, giving them more chances of survival success. + IFAW Via People Photography by Fiona Clark Photography via IFAW

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Koala-sniffing detection dog, Bear, helps save koalas from Australian bushfires

Costco is now selling Beyond Burgers in bulk

December 10, 2019 by  
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Those who love the plant-based Beyond Burgers can now rejoice — Costco, a chain of warehouse club stores, is now selling them in bulk at select locations. The roll-out started in Florida, New York and Texas, then followed in Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia and more, with eight-patty packs selling for about $15. In most grocery stores, a two-pack of the burgers retails for about $6. What’s in a Beyond Burger? While it looks, cooks, sizzles and somewhat tastes like a beef patty, Beyond Burger sources its proteins from pea, mung bean, fava bean, brown rice and sunflower. One patty contains 20 grams of protein, but it does not contain any cholesterol, a fact that has helped propel Beyond Meat as one of the largest vegan meat producers in the market. Earlier this year, the company became the first vegan meat brand to launch an IPO, catapulting its startup valuation to $3.9 billion. Related: Impossible Burger is now available in grocery stores Projections estimate the global plant-based market to bring in upward of $140 billion over the next decade as more health- and eco-conscious consumers reduce meat from their diets. Global concerns over industrial animal farming’s impact on the environment and climate are similarly shifting consumer choices, since livestock emerged as a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and the correlative burdens to land, water and energy. The popularity of plant-based foods is now compelling some of the leading U.S. meat producers to explore and invest in plant-based protein. For instance, Tyson Foods, once an investor in Beyond Meat, will also debut its own line of meatless products in the next few years to meet changing consumer demands. Then there’s Hormel Foods, which has recently unveiled its “plant-forward” vegan meat line called Happy Little Plants, with a flagship product that is soy-based and gluten-free with no preservatives or cholesterol. Besides the Beyond Burgers from Beyond Meat, Costco likewise stocks vegan meat selections from Nestle’s Awesome Burger and even Don Lee Farms’ organic and gluten-free Better Than Beef burger products. + Beyond Meat Via CNN Images via Beyond Meat

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Costco is now selling Beyond Burgers in bulk

Earth911’s 5 Things Today: COP25 Carbon Commitments, Climate Models, & Water Filtration Progress

December 3, 2019 by  
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Every day brings new climate information and news about scientific … The post Earth911’s 5 Things Today: COP25 Carbon Commitments, Climate Models, & Water Filtration Progress appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911’s 5 Things Today: COP25 Carbon Commitments, Climate Models, & Water Filtration Progress

Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act is signed into law

November 27, 2019 by  
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In a bipartisan win, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act has been signed into law, making serious harm to “living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles or amphibians” a federal crime. The law also includes a ban on the creation, sale and distribution of any electronic image or digital recording that depicts acts of animal cruelty . The measure was jointly introduced by Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL). The Humane Society of the United States has expressed support for how this anti-cruelty bill has “sailed through the House of Representatives and the Senate with almost unanimous support.” The bill was supported by 302 House cosponsors and 41 from the Senate. It was then signed by President Trump on November 25, marking a defining moment that establishes federal protections for animals . Related: The PACT Act hopes to ban animal cruelty at the federal level “PACT makes a statement about American values. Animals are deserving of protection at the highest level,” said Kitty Block, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “The approval of this measure by the Congress and the President marks a new era in the codification of kindness to animals within federal law. For decades, a national anti-cruelty law was a dream for animal protectionists. Today, it is a reality.” Prior to this federal law, only state laws existed against animal cruelty. But the previous lack of federal legislation on the matter made it difficult to prosecute cases of animal cruelty that spanned different jurisdictions and across several states. Meanwhile, the text of this new federal legislation does itemize some exceptions, such as “(A) a customary and normal veterinary, agricultural husbandry or other animal management practice; (B) the slaughter of animals for food; (C) hunting , trapping, fishing , a sporting activity not otherwise prohibited by federal law, predator control or pest control; (D) medical or scientific research, (E) necessary to protect the life or property of a person; or (F) performed as part of euthanizing an animal.” The Animal Wellness Action, one of the groups involved in the bill’s passage, issued a statement praising lawmakers after the law was signed. “We’re thrilled to see the first anti-cruelty statute in American history signed into law and applaud the President and Congress for providing the voiceless with a level of protection never seen before,” said Marty Irby, the group’s executive director. “The PACT Act will allow federal authorities to crack down on the most egregious of animal abusers and help keep American pets safe from harm.” + PACT Act Via NPR and Humane Society of the United States Image via Pixabay

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Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act is signed into law

Research raises animal welfare concerns over "humanely" raised turkeys

November 18, 2019 by  
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While many meat eaters don’t want to think about the actual slaughter of a turkey, they might comfort themselves with the thought that their Thanksgiving dinner was humanely raised. Think again. The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has just released a new report showing that poultry producers are deceiving customers by making unfounded animal welfare and environmental claims. The report used Freedom of Information Act requests to procure the USDA’s label approval files, then analyzed them for supporting evidence regarding these claims. Unfortunately, things haven’t improved since the AWI petitioned the USDA in 2014 to require third-party certification of animal welfare in order to earn the “humane” label. Related: Is your Thanksgiving turkey putting your family’s health at risk? “The system is easily manipulated by producers who want to make higher welfare claims on their packages and charge a premium without improving the treatment of animals raised under their care,” said Erin Sutherland, staff attorney for AWI’s farm animal program. “Because of the USDA ’s lack of oversight, consumers are often thwarted in their attempts to use labels to guide their food-buying decisions.” In its new report, the AWI evaluated label approvals for claims like “humanely raised,” “free raised” and “sustainably farmed” on 19 poultry and meat products. The AWI concluded that the USDA failed to enforce labeling standards and that producers’ definitions were often vague and irrelevant. Using its own scoring tool, the AWI gave 12 of 23 claims an F score. Two turkey product lines, Diestel Turkey Ranch Organic Turkey Products and Empire Kosher Natural Ground White Turkey, fared slightly better with D grades. The AWI pointed out that the current label approval process harms honest farmers , because producers who make false claims can undercut them by selling inhumanely raised turkeys disguised as humanely raised at lower prices. Part of the problem is that the USDA doesn’t visit farms to see if practices conform to the claims made on labels. Instead, the USDA relies on information about animal treatment provided by the producers themselves. It’s ironic that while meat producers lobby against “deceptive” fake meat labeling, they’re practicing some fakery of their own. + Animal Welfare Institute Image via SJ Baren

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Research raises animal welfare concerns over "humanely" raised turkeys

Earth911 Podcast: Author Alice Hill on Building a Resilient Future

November 18, 2019 by  
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In an important new book about the climate challenges faced … The post Earth911 Podcast: Author Alice Hill on Building a Resilient Future appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Podcast: Author Alice Hill on Building a Resilient Future

Climate change is adversely affecting childrens health worldwide

November 15, 2019 by  
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Today’s children are facing climate crisis-related health issues, warns The Lancet ’s Countdown on Health and Climate Change, the annual research collaboratively conducted by 35 global institutions. Collated and published each year before the international negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), The Lancet ’s Countdown strongly emphasizes that tackling climate change would be a significant global health opportunity. Unless significant intervention takes place, global warming and climate change will negatively “shape the well-being of an entire generation.” The Lancet ’s Countdown was established to provide a monitoring system to track health indicators across five criteria and thereby assess the complex association between health and climate change. These five areas include (1) adaptation, planning and resilience for health, 2) climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerabilities, 3) finance and economics, 4) mitigation actions and 5) public and political engagement. Work began in 2015 and has since been annually tracked, with anthropogenic climate change threatening all the progress and gains made in public health for the past half-century. Moreover, since 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized that health issues attributed to climate change can be prevented or improved upon simply by mitigating the climate crisis . Related: Climate change is a public health issue amounting to billions in medical costs Climate change can no longer be ignored as a force multiplier threatening global public health. The direct impacts of climate change manifest as rising temperatures, heatwaves and frequent extreme weather events (blizzards, droughts , floods, storms and wildfires), all of which have far-reaching health and social consequences. Human activities have similarly been breaching environmental limits, instigating biodiversity loss, depletion of freshwater, ocean acidification, soil degradation and other irreversible processes. Health-related incidents flagged by The Lancet ’s report include increased risks of low birth weight and infant mortality for newborns. A warmer world affects food productivity, resulting in food and water shortages, population displacement and conflicts that leave children and youth vulnerable to health risks. Children, adolescents and young adults are likely to experience additional maladies that range from cardiovascular issues, asthma attacks, insect-borne diseases, malnutrition and exposure to extreme heat, weather vagaries and climate-driven catastrophes. If the current greenhouse gas emissions trajectory persists with business as usual, then children will face billions of dollars in healthcare costs. The purpose of The Lancet ‘s Countdown is to bring awareness to the interrelationship between public health and climate change, in hopes that a shift can take place to steer society away from business as usual. Ultimately, it is hoped that by engaging with policy makers and the health community, better responses to climate change will happen to improve public health and well-being for everyone, including the most vulnerable demographic — children. + The Lancet Via EurekAlert Image via Shutterstock

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Climate change is adversely affecting childrens health worldwide

Excessive road salt threatens public health and wildlife

November 13, 2019 by  
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Many people and municipalities turn to road salt to de-ice wintry streets and sidewalks. Unfortunately, road salt poses serious environmental and water contamination risks. Just one teaspoon is enough to contaminate 5 gallons of water, making removal via reverse osmosis extremely expensive. Moreover, the health of humans, pets, wildlife , aquatic organisms, vegetation, soil and infrastructure are heavily impacted as road salts enter the environment, seeping into groundwater and draining via runoff into freshwater estuaries. At the forefront of advocating for better practices on road salt use is the Izaak Walton League’s Winter Salt Watch program. Just last winter, the League dispensed 500 chloride test kits to volunteers across 17 states. Tests showed consistently high levels of chloride ions in waterways surrounding eight major metropolitan areas, signaling excessive misuse of road salts. This year, the League has sent out a batch of chloride test kits to more than 200 new volunteers. Related: The Ocean Cleanup reveals the Interceptor to remove plastic pollution from rivers “Our goal is to not only make residents aware of the impact road salt has on local streams but also give them the tools to advocate for changes to road salt practices that will decrease salt impacts while keeping roads safe for drivers,” explained Samantha Briggs, the League’s Clean Water Program Director. Road salts are mainly comprised of sodium chloride, ferrocyanide (an anti-caking substance) and impurities like aluminum, cadmium, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, nickel, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. All of these components are contaminants in water and exacerbate salinity levels. What risks do they pose? The sodium chloride, for instance, breaks down into sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl-) ions. Sodium in drinking water is unhealthy for individuals suffering from hypertension, or high blood pressure, which explains the EPA’s measure of monitoring sodium content in public water supplies. Meanwhile, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has issued warnings regarding road salt ingestion and dangers to paw health of pets. Paw exposure to road salt exposure begets irritation, inflammation and cracking that leads to infection. When road salt is licked off paws or eaten, pets can exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, depression, disorientation, cardiac abnormalities, seizures, coma and even premature death. As for wildlife impacts, once road salt enters a body of water, it is nearly impossible to remove. This adversely affects bird, amphibian, mammal, fish and aquatic plant populations. Road salt in the environment elevates both salinity stress and osmotic stress, which are associated with aberrant development, nutrient uptake degradation, toxicosis, weakened immune systems, low reproductive levels, population decline and mortality. When road salt damages vegetation, that creates losses in food resources, shelter and breeding sites. Similarly, road salt’s presence accelerates infrastructure corrosion and structural integrity. Streets, highways and bridges are all subject to damage as road salt impairs asphalt and creates potholes. The corrosion extends to vehicles, as repeated salt exposure increases rusting and damage to critical vehicle components, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA) . Even more worrisome, road salts damage water pipes, causing toxic metals, like lead or copper, to leach into drinking water. To promote awareness and best practices regarding the hazards of de-icing, the Izaak Walton League has been pushing for “smarter ways” of using road salt, especially with “alternative approaches that include brine or sand application.” For those interested in volunteering as a stream monitor with the League’s Winter Salt Watch program to help gauge water quality and road salt risks, a free chloride test kit can be ordered here . + Izaak Walton League of America Image via Eddie Welker

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Excessive road salt threatens public health and wildlife

Alliance of more than 11,000 scientists warns that our planet faces a climate emergency

November 6, 2019 by  
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At our current climate trajectory, humanity will likely face “untold suffering,” as reported in a new study signed by more than 11,000 scientists around the globe. Moral obligation has prompted this Alliance of World Scientists to “tell it like it is,” by issuing a warning that human activity is accelerating the climate emergency “faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.” The First World Climate Conference, which took place in 1979 at Geneva, recognized disturbing trends in climate change , sounding the first alarm. Several other warnings were made again during the 1992 Rio Summit, 1997 Kyoto Protocol and 2015 Paris Agreement. However, the climate crisis has continued to worsen. The study laments, “Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have generally conducted business as usual and have largely failed to address this predicament.” Related: IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis “Business as usual” and human consumption threaten our world biosphere, the study continues. “Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points and nature’s reinforcing feedbacks (atmospheric, marine and terrestrial) that could lead to a catastrophic ‘hothouse Earth,’ well beyond the control of humans. These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable.” To mitigate the climate crisis, the study recommends changing economic and energy policies. Thus, energy conservation practices can be enhanced by fossil fuel divestments and shifts toward cleaner renewable energy sources. Wealthier nations likewise need to assist less affluent countries in transitioning away from fossil fuels. Doing so can help reduce short-lived pollutants like black carbon (soot), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and methane, thereby slowing climate feedback loops and minimizing any warming trends. The scientists also urge for more effective protection and restoration of our planet’s ecosystems on both land and sea. Habitat and biodiversity losses must be avoided by curtailing forest overharvesting and mismanagement. Besides, forests rapidly sequester and capture carbon, so increasing reforestation measures is advantageous to the environment and climate. Similarly, socioeconomic shifts regarding food and population can be natural climate solutions. For instance, shifting to plant-based diets reduces carbon footprints . Slowing the human population boom via improved family-planning and better access to education can help reverse the climate crisis, too, by not overwhelming our ecosystems. Essentially, the study states that a more sustainable future for all living things on our planet can be secured by altering “how we live.” + BioScience Image via NASA

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Alliance of more than 11,000 scientists warns that our planet faces a climate emergency

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