"We are not prepared" for climate changescientists issue bleak warning

February 16, 2018 by  
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Researchers have determined that countries around the world are failing to fulfill their greenhouse gas reduction commitments under the Paris climate agreement , inevitably subjecting the world to unpredictable extreme weather. In a study published in the  journal  Science   Advances ,  scientists concluded that extreme weather, such as drought, flooding, or heat waves, will increase across 90 percent of North America, Europe and East Asia if countries maintain their current pace of climate action. “We are not prepared for today’s climate, let alone for another degree of global warming ,” study author Noah Diffenbaugh, a Stanford University professor of earth system science, told Time . The Paris Agreement aims to keep global temperature rise below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, with an ideal goal of less than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. That extra 0.9 degrees will make a significant difference in how extreme weather manifests in the coming decades. The study documents the specific differences built into that temperature divergence, including the number of record warm or wet days. Following an extraordinary hurricane season in North America and a year that was once again dubbed the hottest on record, the urgency to address this challenge is clearer than ever. Related: Trump budget proposes huge cut to EPA and climate research Unfortunately, the Paris Agreement has a math problem. Each country in the agreement was encouraged to create their own pledges individually tailored to their political and economic situations. Though the goal remains less than 3.6 degrees of warming, the cumulative impact of all these pledges, if they were all fulfilled, would still result in a global temperature of 5.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Even the modest pledges made in the agreement are proving difficult to achieve. Some countries, most prominently the United States , have expressed interest in ignoring the consequences of climate change and are actively encouraging the growth of fossil fuels . In the meantime, greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb while the weather gets weirder. Via Time Images via Depositphotos (1)

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"We are not prepared" for climate changescientists issue bleak warning

300 artificial islands in Dubai, ‘The World,’ may get another chance

February 16, 2018 by  
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The World , an archipelago of 300 islands in Dubai , has sat largely vacant for around 10 years. But construction is underway once again. The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright reported , “After a decade in limbo, The World is back – with more ambitious plans than ever before.” The World was dreamed up in 2003, with Nakheel as the master developer, and 320 million cubic meters of sand and 25 million metric tons of rock were put into place, according to The Guardian. Workers laid the last rock in the breakwater in January 2008. The development sprawls across over 5,000 hectares and stands, in the words of Wainwright, as a “mind-boggling monument to the spectacular hubris of a moment in time when anything seemed possible.” Related: Dubai’s World of Islands is Sinking Into the Sea But construction is beginning again. Josef Kleindienst, of real estate company Kleindienst , talked to The Guardian about his plans for The Heart of Europe , saying he wants to make it snow there throughout the entire year. The Kleindienst website describes The Heart of Europe as “a first of its kind, breathtaking hospitality development, spanning six of the islands on The World in Dubai, with each island taking inspiration from some of Europe’s most captivating locations.” Swiss chalets, Austrian castles, and Russian palaces are among the plans. Kleindienst told The Guardian the development will be finished in time for Expo 2020 in Dubai. Other island owners seem to have been inspired by Kleindienst, according to The Guardian. Emirati developer Seven Tides aims to finish a 100-villa resort on one of the 10 islands they own in the South America portion by the end of this year. And actress Lindsay Lohan said she’s designing an island in The World. It remains to be seen whether or not the projects will ultimately come to life. Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 ) and The Heart of Europe

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300 artificial islands in Dubai, ‘The World,’ may get another chance

Green-roofed house blends beautifully into a Mediterranean landscape

February 16, 2018 by  
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Giuseppe Gurrieri Studio completed a beautiful new home for artists in Sicily complements its Mediterranean environment using natural materials and landscaping. The home, called Casa ECS, was also created with a major focus on sustainability. Powered by renewable energy, the building is topped with a green roof and built with thick earthen walls that ensure effective insulation. . Located in the town of Scicli, the 230-square-meter Casa ECS is set atop a series of terraces that gently cascade down towards the Mediterranean Sea. Olive and carbon trees grow atop the dry stone retaining walls that visually tie the structure into the landscape. Solar and wind studies informed the placement of the building for the optimization of natural daylighting and ventilation. The large roof overhang shields the interior from solar heat gain and a pool on the south side of the home also helps cool the home. The architects wrote: “The central idea focuses on the construction of a retaining wall covered with the local stone, reproducing the typical receding terrace, which generates a natural step that allowed to plan the insertion of the building into the environment, creating a noticeable continuity with the country-side view and the traditionally cultivated land.” Related: Charming Italian farmhouse hides a surprisingly modern interior in Tuscany The main living areas are arranged linearly, while two courtyards are placed to the north of the main structure. The master en suite is located in the center of the home and separates the living room on the home’s east end from the kitchen on the opposite side that also extends to a covered outdoor dining area to the north. A secondary bedroom is placed on the far west end. The use of simple natural materials throughout ties the building into the landscape. + Giuseppe Gurrieri Studio Via ArchDaily Images © Filippo Poli

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Green-roofed house blends beautifully into a Mediterranean landscape

Trump budget proposes huge cut to EPA and climate research

February 14, 2018 by  
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The Trump Administration released its fiscal 2019 budget proposal on February 12, revealing a desire to deeply cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If adopted, the budget would cut the EPA ‘s budget by 23 percent, or more than $2.5 billion, and eliminate nearly all funding for climate change research. The Administration describes a return to the true mission of the EPA by reducing “unnecessary reporting burdens on the regulated community” and ending programs that “create unnecessary redundancies or those that have served their purpose and accomplished their mission.” Environmental groups describe the budget as an effort to dismantle federal environmental protections. “The Trump administration budget released today is a blueprint for a less healthy, more polluted America,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, in a statement . “A budget shows your values — and this budget shows the administration doesn’t value clean air , clean water, or protecting Americans from toxic pollution.” Related: Why Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan is a disaster for the environment Specific targets include programs such as water improvement funding for U.S.-Mexico border communities, state funding for radon-detecting initiatives, and efforts to restore the health of large bodies of water, such as Puget Sound , the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes. While clearly laying out the administration’s priorities, the budget is not likely to become law. Congress recently passed a two-year bipartisan budget agreement, so Trump’s budget will have to wait its turn. At that point, Congress may have changed parties. Even if the Republicans maintain control in two years, it remains to be seen whether Congress would agree to inflict such draconian cuts onto important federal agencies and programs. Still, the budget is a telling symbol of what this Administration wishes the United States to become. Via The Washington Post Images via The White House/Flickr and U.S. Geological Society/Flickr

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Trump budget proposes huge cut to EPA and climate research

Tesla inks deal to turn 50,000 Australian homes into solar power generators

February 5, 2018 by  
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50,000 homes in South Australia will soon receive solar panels and Tesla batteries as part of a groundbreaking plan to transform homes into grid-connected power generators. This latest collaboration between the state of South Australia and Tesla seeks to create an interconnected energy system in which homes can share energy through a smart-grid system. Select homes will receive solar panels and rechargeable batteries for free, while the project will be funded by the sale of excess energy produced by linked, energy-producing homes. The recently announced plan is only the latest renewable energy initiative in South Australia, which began its comprehensive efforts towards clean power after a state-wide blackout in 2016. “My government has already delivered the world’s biggest battery, now we will deliver the world’s largest virtual power plant,” said state Premier Jay Weatherill in a statement . “We will use people’s homes as a way to generate energy for the South Australian grid, with participating households benefiting with significant savings in their energy bills.” To be fair, South Australia’s big battery was a collaborative effort with Tesla, one that began with a bet in which Elon Musk offered to offer the battery for free if it was not built within 100 days. Related: South Australia to host world’s largest thermal solar plant Musk won that bet, but South Australia is reaping the victorious benefits of clean energy. The latest plan will begin with a trial phase in which 1,100 public housing projects will be equipped with a 5kW solar panel system Tesla battery. This will then be followed by similar installations at 24,000 public housing projects, with further accepted homes over the next four years. With up to 250 megawatts of solar energy and 650 megawatt hours of battery storage, the clean energy potential of the interlinked 50,000 homes will be invaluable as Australia seeks to turn away from coal, the country’s main energy source. Via Phys.org Images via Tesla

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Tesla inks deal to turn 50,000 Australian homes into solar power generators

Hong Kong votes to end its massive ivory trade by 2021

February 2, 2018 by  
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In an historic vote, the Legislative Council of Hong Kong voted 49-4 to ban the trade of ivory by 2021. The conclusion of a campaign waged by organizations such as Avaaz and WildAid Hong Kong , the ban could save tens of thousands of African elephants from poaching each year. The vote comes two years after Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying pledged to end the ivory trade and over a year since the government submitted its plan to end the world’s largest ivory trade. To force action in the Legislative Council, US-based global actvist group Avaaz gathered one million signatures in support of ending the Hong Kong ivory trade. “It was a huge boost to be able to deliver a million voices into the debate before we voted for the ivory ban,” Hong Kong legislator Hon Elizabeth Quat told Avaaz . “The world stood with us, and it made a difference.” After Avaaz activists applied additional pressure, including a social media campaign featuring Hong Kong superstar Li Bing Bing, a traditional media campaign, and in-person protests, the ban was called up for a vote and passed overwhelmingly. Related: Hippos could be threatened with extinction due to demand for their teeth While the vote is a positive step forward, it leaves much to be desired. “Every positive step to us concerning elephants is good news,” Philip Muruthi, vice president of species protection for the Nairobi-based African Wildlife Foundation, told National Geographic. “But the urgency of the issue as it pertains to elephants hasn’t been taken seriously here.” In the past decade, the African elephant population has dropped from 490,000 to 350,000, primarily due to poaching . Mainland China banned its legal ivory trade last year, but there are concerns that a black market may take hold. “With the later implementation of the Hong Kong ban, those with ivory in mainland China might perceive a potential back door for unloading their stock,” Richard Thomas, spokesman for TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring organization, told National Geographic . “It will be critical to closely monitor and document ivory stockpiles and secure borders to ensure this door remains firmly shut.” Under the new Hong Kong law, smugglers could face up to 10 years in prison and a $1.3 million fine for illegal ivory trading. Via Avaaz and National Geographic Images via Avaaz (email)

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Hong Kong votes to end its massive ivory trade by 2021

Fact-checking Trump’s State of the Union speech on energy and climate change

January 31, 2018 by  
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Last night, President Donald Trump took to the podium to address a nation historically divided, framing his speech as a call for unity. Despite an advertised unified front, the specific details of Trump’s speech hewed closely to the partisan positions of the Republican Party while his trademark loose relationship with facts and truth revealed itself throughout the address. Trump focused his speech on the economy, energy, and immigration, with a brief shout-out to his long-promised, still-undeveloped infrastructure plan. Read on to learn more about what was said and left unsaid (like how climate change is impacting the US) in the President’s speech. Trump’s economy – and reputation – took a hit from the devastating hurricane and wildfire season in 2017. “To everyone still recovering in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, California, and everywhere else — we are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together,” said Trump on the same day that his Administration announced that it is ending food and water aid to Puerto Rico. “If we’re giving free water and food, that means that families are not going to supermarkets to buy,” FEMA’s director in Puerto Rico Alejandro De La Campa told NPR . “It is affecting the economy of Puerto Rico.” Still, some communities do not feel ready to go without FEMA food and water aid. “There are some municipalities that may not need the help anymore, because they’ve got nearly 100 percent of their energy and water back,” Morovis Mayor Carmen Maldonado told NPR . “Ours is not so lucky.” Related: Trump bewilders scientists, says ice caps are “setting records” While it is not possible to say with any certainty that any particular extreme weather event is caused by climate change, the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is precisely what scientists expect in a rapidly warming world. The historic flooding in Houston during Hurricane Harvey broke the all-time record daily rainfall accumulations on both August 26 and 27. It seems likely that this record will be broken soon enough as the planet’s climate continues to be drastically altered. To avoid the worst, the United States must rapidly transition to a clean energy economy. Unfortunately, Trump infamously withdrew the United States from the landmark Paris agreement, an international effort spearheaded by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, and has pursued anti-environmentalist policies at seemingly every turn. Related: Trump’s 30% solar tariffs could kill thousands of jobs and harm industry growth Trump became President in part because of his economic call to arms to defend manufacturing workers and coal miners. “Many car companies are now building and expanding plants in the United States — something we have not seen for decades,” said Trump, disregarding the fact that automotive employment is actually lower than it was a year ago . “We have ended the war on American energy — and we have ended the war on beautiful, clean coal,” Trump boasted. “We are now very proudly an exporter of energy to the world.” Related: US CO2 emissions declined during Trump’s first year as president In fact, the United States still is a net importer of energy, though it is expected to become a net exporter in the 2020s as a result of long-term trends that, you guessed it, developed under President Barack Obama. More importantly, coal is not clean. Efficient clean-coal technology has not yet been developed, though the fossil fuel seems likely to fade away anyways as competition from natural gas and renewable energy becomes more pronounced. Meanwhile, coal miner deaths in the United States nearly doubled in Trump’s first year in office. Related: Ai Weiwei to build 100 fences in NYC to shed light on immigration issues Trump at times seemed to be describing a very different country than the one he now leads. “A new tide of optimism was already sweeping across our land,” said Trump, reflecting on the early days of his presidency. Optimistic we are not. As of early January 2018, 69% of Americans believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction. Although this is consistent with numbers seen during the second Obama Administration and earlier in the Trump Administration, it is a far cry from widespread optimism. This strong pessimism regarding the country’s future comes at a time when a majority of Americans are now optimistic about the economy. Related: $30M contract canceled by FEMA after supplies to Puerto Rico fail to arrive Finally, Trump spoke about the hottest issue on Capitol Hill right now: immigration. When the President explained his plans to limit legal immigration to the United States, he was greeted with boos and hisses. Immigration to the United States has proven to be an important ingredient in the country’s economic success. More than 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants to the United States. Studies have shown that immigration has resulted in a net positive economic impact in the United States, with negative impacts of immigration most felt by native-born adults without a high school education. In light of Trump’s push to limit legal immigration and deport Dreamers (undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children), business and tech interests have responded with opposition. It remains to be seen whether industry opposition can persuade Congress to protect their Dreamer employees. Absent from Trump’s speech: any mention of the sprawling Trump-Russia investigation which has consumed his presidency. At least Trump did not mimic Nixon, who urged the nation to end the Watergate investigation during his 1974 State of the Union Address . Seven months later, President Nixon resigned from the office in shame. + The White House

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Fact-checking Trump’s State of the Union speech on energy and climate change

Here are 5 ways climate became part of the 2018 Davos dialogue

January 29, 2018 by  
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Despite the U.S. government’s silence, plenty of world leaders and corporate chieftains are speaking up.

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Here are 5 ways climate became part of the 2018 Davos dialogue

Science-based targets gain traction

January 29, 2018 by  
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It’s a budding movement, and questions remain about how some companies can set targets without major changes to their business, but it’s a big step forward.

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Science-based targets gain traction

EPA ends "always-in" clean air policy opposed by fossil fuel companies

January 26, 2018 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is withdrawing a key  Clean Air Act provision. They’re reversing the “once-in always-in” policy for major sources of pollution , which requires sources like  power plants , to always be classified as a major source. Under the new change, if a source “limits its potential to emit below major source thresholds,” per the EPA , it can be reclassified as an area source. What’s the impact of all this? According to a statement from Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) clean air director John Walke, “This is among the most dangerous actions that the Trump EPA has taken yet against public health .” The EPA , in their own words, is “reducing regulatory burdens.” They’re withdrawing a policy “for the classification of major sources of hazardous air pollutants under section 112 of the Clean Air Act.” According to Reuters, the “once-in always-in” policy was established in 1995. The agency said it had acted as a disincentive for sources to put pollution abatement and prevention attempts in place, “or to pursue technological innovations that would reduce hazardous air pollution emissions .” Reuters reported the petroleum industry, utilities, and others sought the withdrawal. Related: EPA cancels plan to clean up polluting Texas coal plants A major source emits or could emit 10 tons a year of any risky air pollutant, according to the EPA, or 25 tons or more of a combination of air pollutants a year. Area sources are those with emissions under that threshold, and according to Reuters, are subject to pollution control standards that aren’t as strict as those for major sources. The NRDC doesn’t agree with the move. Walke said it would “allow the greatest increase in hazardous air pollutants in our nation’s history.” “This move drastically weakens protective limits on air pollutants like arsenic, lead, mercury, and other toxins that cause cancer, brain damage, infertility, developmental problems, and even death,” he said in a statement. “And those harmed most would be nearby communities already suffering a legacy of pollution.” + Environmental Protection Agency Via Reuters and the Natural Resources Defense Council Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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EPA ends "always-in" clean air policy opposed by fossil fuel companies

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