What’s next for the Paris Accord

June 5, 2017 by  
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What happens to the Paris Climate Agreement now that the leader of the world’s second biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions has signaled his intent to withdraw from the landmark accord? We take a closer look at the consequences of Donald Trump’s decision to rescind US efforts to limit global warming in accordance with the 2015 agreement. President Donald Trump is a showman and his press conference was political theater for the 61 million Americans who voted him into office last November. The reality is that the withdrawal process could take up to four years to complete and Trump could be exiting the White House before he exits the Paris Accord if he doesn’t win reelection. The other reality is that, thanks to Senate Republicans who would never ratify the Paris Accord as a treaty, in order to push it past the finish line with the US onboard, the deal had to be “non-binding,” meaning all actions are voluntary. Related: Trump announces U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement By declaring its intent to withdraw from the Paris Accord, the US joins Syria and Nicaragua in refusing the deal. It should be noted that Nicaragua didn’t join the agreement because it didn’t go far enough in emissions reductions for the Central American nation. Minus the US, a total of  194 countries have signed and 147 parties have ratified the accord , representing 66 percent of global emissions. The accord entered into force on November 4, 2016 — 30 days after at least 55 parties representing at least 55 percent of global emissions joined. While it certainly could be argued that Trump has damaged America’s standing in the international community, it is not so clear that Trump has actually hurt the Paris Accord, Actually, there are indications that Trump’s announcement is having the opposite effect, with countries, cities and corporations redoubling their commitments to the Paris Accord and greenhouse gas emission reductions. Many experts believe that since Trump was never serious about committing the US to climate action, that his decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord could actually free up other world leaders to draft an even stronger agreement with enforcement mechanisms not possible with a Republican-ruled Senate in the US. Australian climate scientist Luke Kemp told The New York Times, “I worry that letting the United States just stay in the agreement and do whatever it wants could show how weak Paris is. It sends the message that the agreement is more about symbolism than action.” CHINA AND EU TAKING THE LEAD With Trump ceding US leadership on climate, China and the European Union are stepping in to fill the power vacuum. In a joint statement following Trump’s announcement, China and the EU — backed by all 28 EU member states — reaffirmed their commitment to full implementation of the Paris climate deal. The statement, the first between the EU and China, commited to cutting back on fossil fuels and increasing development of green technologies. Related: China says they’ll stay in the Paris Agreement – with or without Trump “The EU and China consider climate action and the clean energy transition an imperative more important than ever,” the statement reads. “The increasing impacts of climate change require a decisive response.” CITIES, STATES AND BUSINESSES STEPPING UP A group that so far includes 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses is negotiating with the United Nations to have their climate contributions accepted alongside other nations who have signed onto the accord. The Democratic governors of California, Washington and New York formed the US Climate Alliance to reaffirm their commitment to the Paris Accord after Trump’s announcement. It isn’t only Democrats defying Trump — Charlie Baker, the popular Republican governor of Massachusetts, said on Friday that he was joining the US Climate Alliance . Related: US states and cities say they’re sticking to the Paris Accord without Trump “As the commonwealth reiterates its commitment to exceed the emission reduction targets of the Paris Climate Agreement, today we join the U.S. Climate Alliance to expand our efforts while partnering with other states to combat climate change,” Baker said in a statement, adding that the initiative aims “to protect the environment, grow the economy and deliver a brighter future to the next generation.” Also after Trump’s announcement, 187 mayors representing more than 52 million Americans and some of the largest US cities, stated their intention to individually join the Paris Accord and work together on stronger climate change mitigation measures and transitioning to the 21st century clean energy economy. Cities around the world protested Trump pulling out of the Paris accord, including Tel Aviv, which lit up city hall in green lights . “We need to take responsibility for the next generation,” Mayor Ron Huldai said in a statement posted to Facebook. “That means, among other things, continuing to research, learn and act on the quality of the environment and the climate.” Major corporations are also on board with the Paris Accord — 95 of the world’s largest companies have commited to 100 percent renewables, including Google, Walmart and Nike. GREEN TECHNOLOGIES GETTING CHEAPER The price of solar, wind, batteries and other green technologies are dropping fast, leading to increased integration into the electricity grid. In 2016, the amount of new solar power coming online nearly doubled from the previous year — enough to power 2 million homes. Related: The sweet moment California got a record 50% of its electricity from solar Republican-ruled states are leading the renewables revolution. Kansas tripled its wind power production between 2011 and 2015. Wyoming leads the nation with 1,600 watts of new renewable energy capacity per capita being built. Nevada leads the nation in new solar power jobs while North Dakota leads in new wind power jobs. The conservative town of Georgetown, Texas is on track to be 100 percent renewable energy this year, becoming the largest US city to achieve the clean energy goal. Dale Ross, the mayor of Georgetown, admits “it’s the reddest of cities, in the reddest of states…but we put national politics aside to do our best for the people we’re elected to serve.” Images via Wikipedia 1 , 2 , 3 , 4  and White House Archives

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What’s next for the Paris Accord

Mirrored shipping container building reflects its natural surroundings in Taipei

June 5, 2017 by  
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We use mirrors to reflect on ourselves – but this mirrored building in Taipei asks us to reflect on how we interact with our environment. B+P Architects transformed an old shipping container into a shining art annex in New Taipei City that blends in with its surroundings while challenging viewers to question their relationship to nature. The project, titled “Within The Reflection : THE ARK of ART” establishes diversified environments for creativity using mirror-polished stainless steel. Its aim is to create a space where neighboring communities can learn about aesthetics. The architects chose to put the container at the far end of a boulevard in order to preserve the serenity and peace as integral parts of the project. Related: “Reflect London” conceals Covent Garden construction with a dazzling mirror display Mirrored buildings like Doug Aitken’s Mirage House and this beautiful reflective cafe in Japan by Bandesign are captivating examples of architecture blending into its surroundings and accentuating the beauty of nature. Mirror-polished stainless steel boards that cover the building allow the large box-shaped volume to be concealed in the reflections of the surrounding environment. Another aspect of the use of mirror-like surfaces is to stimulate students to rethink the relationship between themselves and their environments. + B+P Architects Via Archinect Photos by Hung-Yu Lin, WENYA Studio

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Mirrored shipping container building reflects its natural surroundings in Taipei

This amazing underground house in Greece frames views of an olive grove

June 5, 2017 by  
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This underground holiday home in Greece is topped with a green roof that offers panoramic views of the Peloponnese peninsula. The owners commissioned LASSA Architects to design a house that would activate the periphery of the plot and provide a vantage point from which to observe the surroundings. The 1614-square-foot Villa Ypsilon is located in an olive grove in southern Peloponnese. A three-pronged concrete shell forms the roof and establishes three courtyards with different exposures to the sun. An eye-shaped swimming pool and sun deck are partially sheltered underneath a concrete lip that defines the green roof. Two other curved facades frame a sunken seating area and the main entrance to the building. Related: Take a Peek at a Stunning Secret Swiss Villa Hidden Into a Mountainside! “The design of the concrete shell and the courtyards’ orientation is such that it produces shadows at specific times of the day,” said the architects. “We are interested in the idea of form integration. That is, that form can be the result of overlapping and precise design decisions . . . in this case the vaulting concrete shell is structural, its bisecting axes frames specific views, its sloping [form] makes it walkable and its extent is a result of environmental optimization.” Related: Beautiful Underground Aloni House Blends in With The Earth Most of the structure is prefabricated, which significantly reduced assembly costs and construction time. The architects used a CNC machine to fabricate prototypes of the concrete shell and develop the final shape of the house. The use of locally sourced materials – such as concrete, terrazzo and marble – root the design in its cultural and geographic context. + LASSA Architects Via Dezeen Photos by NAARO

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This amazing underground house in Greece frames views of an olive grove

Head of EPA Scott Pruitt calls Paris Climate Accord a "bad deal"

March 28, 2017 by  
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Don’t count on Scott Pruitt , head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency , to do much environmental protecting. Weeks after rejecting scientific consensus about the role of carbon dioxide in driving global warming, the nation’s top environmental official doubled down on Sunday by describing a landmark accord to curb the planet’s industrial emissions as a “bad deal” for the United States. “You know, what was wrong with Paris was not just that it was, you know, failed to be treated as a treaty, but China and India, the largest producers of CO2 internationally, got away scot-free. They didn’t have to take steps until 2030,” Pruitt said in an interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos. “So we’ve penalized ourselves through lost jobs while China and India didn’t take steps to address the issue internationally. So Paris was just a bad deal, in my estimation.” There’s plenty to nitpick about Pruitt’s stance, which mischaracterizes the positions of China and India, both of which officially ratified the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change in late 2016. For one thing, China is the world’s No. 1 polluter, but India comes in fourth after the United States and European Union. Neither does the 2030 cutoff give China or India special latitude. All 197 countries that have committed themselves to the pact are legally bound to develop plans to curtail greenhouse-gas emissions through 2025 or 2030. And while there’s no legal requirement that specifies how much countries should cut, they must report every two years on their efforts to mitigate emissions levels, which are subject to technical and peer review. Related: EPA chief says carbon dioxide is not a ‘primary contributor’ to global warming Far from getting away “scot-free,” China and India are making inroads in their energy policies. Although it continues to be bogged down by inefficient coal power plants that contribute to its infamous smog, China has been expanding its renewable-energy capacity at a breakneck pace. Even as President Donald Trump decried climate change as a “Chinese hoax” , the Chinese government announced that it intends to spend more than $360 billion through 2020 on renewable power sources like solar and wind, slashing carbon emissions and creating over 13 million jobs in the renewable energy sector in the same time frame. India, in the meantime, has pledged to obtain at least 40 percent of its electricity from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030. To nudge itself closer to that goal, the South Asian nation is planning 33 solar parks in 21 states, with a capacity of at least 500 megawatts each—no mean feat for a country where millions still have no access to electricity . Indeed India currently houses the world’s largest solar power plant in a single location , a title once held by Topaz Solar Farm in California. For anyone who has been paying attention, however, Pruitt’s statements shouldn’t be too surprising. The former attorney general of Oklahoma has long boasted close ties to the oil and gas industry. He also sued the EPA—the very same agency he now heads—a stunning 14 times , frequently in tandem with companies that donated money to campaigns he was affiliated to. Related: New EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s emails reveal troubling oil-industry ties Pruitt noted on Sunday that President Trump will soon be signing a new executive order that will halt the implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan , an Obama administration policy designed to, among other things, rein in America’s greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent by 2030. “With respect to this executive order that’s coming out on Tuesday, this is about making sure that we have a pro-growth and pro-environment approach to how we do regulation in this country,” Pruitt said. Pro-growth? Debatable. Pro-environment? Not a chance. + ABC News Via Huffington Post Photos from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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Head of EPA Scott Pruitt calls Paris Climate Accord a "bad deal"

Trump’s new executive order to undo Obama climate action

March 28, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump’s onslaught on the environment continues. He is set to sign a new executive order today that would undo the Clean Power Plan and slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by one third. The White House claimed this move will boost job creation even as clean energy jobs swiftly outpace fossil fuel jobs . Trump could cancel some of Barack Obama’s actions on climate change with his executive order, which could tell federal regulators to rewrite rules aimed at curbing carbon emissions and lift a federal coal leasing moratorium. Trump has claimed some of these rules, which have placed restrictions on the fossil fuel industry, hurt the economy, and the White House said his steps would “help keep energy and electricity affordable, reliable, and clean in order to boost economic growth and job creation.” Never mind that renewable energy prices have been falling , or that burning fossil fuels pumps greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Related: Trump to purge climate change from federal government The Washington Post quoted an anonymous senior administration official who spoke to reporters on Monday and said, “This policy is in keeping with President Trump’s desire to make the United States energy independent . When it comes to climate change, we want to take our course and do it in our own form and fashion.” Will the executive order create jobs ? Trump supporters say yes, as the order would liberate oil and gas industries. Opponents say the new jobs will be for lawyers, according to the BBC, as some environmental organizations have announced their intention to sue. But one person the BBC referred to as a green source said the Trump administration wants delay; lawsuits could give the Trump administration what it wants. The executive order doesn’t address the 2015 Paris climate agreement . Via the BBC and The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons and Gage Skidmore on Flickr

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Trump’s new executive order to undo Obama climate action

Clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs in most US states

March 28, 2017 by  
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Clean energy is increasingly providing work for people across the United States, contrary to what the president might think, and a new Sierra Club report reveals just how much of an impact on the economy it has made. Renewable energy jobs now exceed jobs in coal, oil, and gas in 41 American states and Washington, D.C., according to the report. Sierra Club drew on 2017 Department of Energy jobs data to discover clean energy jobs exceed those in fossil fuels by more than 2.5 to one. The energy jobs of the future, including those in wind , solar , energy efficiency , battery storage , and smart grid technology, already exceed coal, oil, and gas jobs nationally, including positions in extraction, mining, and power generation. According to Sierra Club’s analysis, clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs by over 2.5 to one, and exceed gas and coal jobs by five to one. While only nine states have more fossil fuel than clean energy jobs, just six states have more jobs in coal and gas, according to the report. Related: Solar power now provides twice as many jobs as coal in U.S. In a statement Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, “Right now, clean energy jobs already overwhelm dirty fuels in nearly every state across America, and that growth is only going to continue as clean energy keeps getting more affordable and accessible by the day. These facts make it clear that Donald Trump is attacking clean energy jobs purely in order to boost the profits of fossil fuel billionaires.” If Trump really wants to increase jobs as he claims – and not just fill the pockets of his fossil fuel friends – he should look no further than renewable energy. The report concludes policies to invest in and incentivize clean energy could generate millions of new jobs across America, more than could be created in the fossil fuel sector. Sierra Club also said the clean energy transition should benefit everyone; this means putting first communities and workers who depended on fossil fuels in the past. You can read the full report here . Via Sierra Club ( 1 , 2 ) Images via U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr and Walmart on Flickr

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Clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs in most US states

Scientists turn spinach into human heart tissue

March 28, 2017 by  
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Popeye was right: spinach really is good for the muscles, and not just the ones in your biceps. In fact, scientists have discovered a way to use the leafy stuff, which has a vascular system not dissimilar to ours, to grow layers of working heart muscle, according to a paper published this month in the journal Biomaterials . The new technique, a collaboration between Worcester Polytechnic Institute , the University of Wisconsin-Madison , and Arkansas State University-Jonesboro , marks a breakthrough in the field of human tissue regeneration, which has hitherto been stymied by scale. To wit, although current bioengineering methods can recreate cellular scaffolding on a large scope, fabricating branching networks of tiny blood vessels has proven far trickier. But then scientists noticed that plants and animals evolved parallel means of distributing water and nutrients to their respective cells. “Plants and animals exploit fundamentally different approaches to transporting fluids, chemicals, and macromolecules, yet there are surprising similarities in their vascular network structures,” the authors wrote. “The development of decellularized plants for scaffolding opens up the potential for a new branch of science that investigates the mimicry between plant and animal.” To test their theory, the researchers stripped a bunch of spinach leaves of their cells, leaving behind a network of cellulose. They then seeded the spinach veins with beating human-heart cells. With the leaf fully networked, the team pumped fluids and microbeads through their pint-size proto-heart, mimicking the flow of human cells through our own arterial system. Related: Engineers build artificial muscles from onion skin and gold So far, so successful. “We have a lot more work to do, but so far this is very promising,” said Glenn Gaudette, professor of biomedical engineering at WPI and corresponding author of the paper. And it’s not just spinach that’s up for the job. Other decellularized plants could help deliver oxygen to damaged tissue in victims of heart attacks or other kinds of cardiac trauma. Even better, bioengineers could tweak different plant species to repair a range of tissues in the body. Spinach might work best for highly vascularized cardiac tissue, for instance, but the cylindrical hollow structure of something like jewelweed might be more appropriate for an arterial graft. Similarly, the vascular columns of wood could one day play a role in healing human bones. “Adapting abundant plants that farmers have been cultivating for thousands of years for use in tissue engineering could solve a host of problems limiting the field,” Gaudette added. + Worchester Polytechnic Institute Via National Geographic

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Scientists turn spinach into human heart tissue

Insider says Trump could pull America out of Paris deal within days

January 31, 2017 by  
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For months President Donald Trump has blustered about yanking the United States out of the Paris climate agreement ; now Myron Ebell , who led the Environmental Protection Agency transition team, said the new president could pull America out of the historic, hard-fought deal within days. Ebell, a climate change denier, said he expects Trump will be “very assiduous in keeping his promises, despite all of the flack he is going to get from his opponents.” Speaking at a London briefing, Ebell said Trump could pull out of the Paris agreement “by executive order tomorrow, or he could wait and do it as part of a larger package. There are multiple ways and I have no idea of the timing.” He also claimed the United States will “clearly change its course on climate policy ” and that Trump is “pretty clear that the problem or the crisis has been overblown and overstated.” Related: Majority of Americans support Paris climate deal as Trump reconsiders pulling out Two weeks after his election, Trump indicated he had an “open mind” about the Paris agreement. He also said there was “some connectivity” when asked about the relationship between climate change and humans. But he hasn’t yet come out in support of the Paris agreement, or taken a stronger stance on climate change. The president’s Secretary of State pick Rex Tillerson said America might be better off staying in the agreement at his confirmation hearing: “I think it’s 190 countries have signed on. We’re better served by being at that table than by leaving that table.” Will Trump listen to his cabinet pick? Ebell doesn’t seem to think so. He said of Trump, “His mandate is pretty clear, and he knows who he got it from. If Rex Tillerson disagrees with the President, who is going to win that debate? Well I don’t know but the President was elected and Rex Tillerson was appointed by the President, so I would guess that the President would be the odds-on favorite to win any disagreement over climate policy.” Via The Independent Images via Jim Mattis on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Insider says Trump could pull America out of Paris deal within days

Beautiful beechwood envelope filters light into modern Italian BIO winery

January 31, 2017 by  
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Inspired by the agricultural architecture of the country’s Veneto region, design studio MADE Associati Architetti restored an existing building in Italy and designed new facilities for a modern winery focused on organic production. The new BIO Winery in Treviso is housed in a continuous, horizontal volume clad in beechwood . The new winery enlarges an existing single-story building, introducing a new volume alongside it to create a compact campus. The main circulation route, visible through the glass connections between the buildings, provides views of the different stages of production and leads to the tasting and meeting rooms. Related: Extraordinary Red Hill rammed-earth residence’s funky funnel shape helps direct light The architects enveloped the existing structure and addition with a skin made from vertical wooden planks. Locally-sourced beechwood has been used as cladding material that dominates both the interior and exterior of the building. The use of this endemic, sustainably harvested species promotes natural products and helps protect the region’s biodiversity. + MADE Associati Architetti Via Archdaily Photos by Francesco Galifi , Adriano Marangon

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Beautiful beechwood envelope filters light into modern Italian BIO winery

Historic Paris climate deal on track to activate before year’s end

September 23, 2016 by  
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This week, the global climate agreement designed last December has reached a crucial milestone after 31 countries ratified the accord at the United Nation’s General Assembly meeting on Wednesday. The new signers bring the total number of participating countries to 60. The Paris climate deal required participation from at least 55 countries representing 55 of global greenhouse gas emissions in order to activate the accord. Although the number of countries surpasses the requirement, only around 48 percent of emissions are represented. Even so, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has predicted the accord will go into full effect before the end of this year. Embed from Getty Images Among the nations ratifying the agreement this week are some heavy hitters in terms of emissions contributions, such as Brazil, the world’s seventh largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Mexico, Argentina, Sri Lanka, and United Arab Emirates also ratified the accord, which aims to cap global temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial levels. With a total of 60 countries now on board, 47.7 percent of global emissions are represented, just points away from the 55 percent activation target. Related: 5 things the Paris climate deal must do to slow global warming During the annual UN General Assembly meeting this week in New York, video messages from a number of countries relayed promises to ratify the agreement in the coming months, including Germany, France, the EU, Canada, Australia and South Korea. If even a few of those promises are fulfilled, the participants will exceed the 55-percent emissions threshold and the terms of the accord will officially go into effect. When the agreement was drawn up last winter, 195 nations signed off and agreed to lower emissions in order to slow the effects of climate change . Each nation set forth the process of ratifying the historic international deal, which is the first of its kind. As temperatures and sea levels continue to rise around the globe, many are urging that there is no time for delay. “The problem we continue to confront is growing,” said US Secretary of State John Kerry. “Each day the planet is on this course, it becomes more dangerous. Via The Guardian Lead image via Unsplash

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Historic Paris climate deal on track to activate before year’s end

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