Trump’s first big brawl with China may center on solar panels

December 1, 2017 by  
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The Trump Administration has signaled its intention to take a significantly tougher approach to trade with China, where most of the world’s solar panels are produced. This stance follows President Trump’s campaign promise to protect American jobs from being outsourced to another country. Due to increasing international competition in the solar industry, at least a dozen solar companies have closed factories in the United States . In response to Chinese domination of the global solar market, the United States had already raised tariffs on solar panels produced in China during the Obama Administration , prompting Chinese solar companies to relocate production to nearby Southeast Asian countries. Now, the Trump Administration may authorize tariffs on all solar panel imports into the United States, potentially raising costs to American consumers of solar power. China’s solar industry has undergone an extraordinary transformation over the past decade. Though its contribution to the global solar industry was once relatively insignificant, China now produces more than two-thirds of the world’s solar panels. This economy of scale has enabled the global prices for solar panels to drop by ninety percent, positively contributing to the world’s shift away from fossil fuels and towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The current conflict in which the Trump Administration seeks to escalate pits American consumers and solar installation companies, which have benefited from cheaper solar panels, and American solar panel producers, which seek to even the playing field with China’s solar industry. Related: Solar record-breaking China aims for 50GW installed in 2017 American manufacturers contend that Chinese solar panel production benefits unfairly from state subsidies and low-cost loans backed by government-run banks. These manufacturers “are technically insolvent, but they still get capital,” said Mark Widmar, the chief executive of Phoenix-based First Solar, according to the New York Times . Interfering on behalf of American solar panel manufacturers is not without its risks. If the Trump Administration successfully implements a more expansive tariff system, which could happen as soon as January 2018, it raises the likelihood of retaliation from China and the potential for a broader trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Via the New York Times Images via The White House and Depositphotos

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Trump’s first big brawl with China may center on solar panels

Microsoft is razing its Redmond campus to build a sustainable mini city

December 1, 2017 by  
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If you thought Microsoft’s awesome treehouse offices were the ultimate step in the tech giant’s efforts to make its employees a top priority, think again. The tech giant just announced that it will be razing its 500-acre Redmond campus in order to construct a sustainable Microsoft mini city, complete with 18 new buildings, a two-acre open plaza , retail space, jogging and walking trails, two soccer fields, a cricket field, and its own light rail station. According to the company, the expansive campus, which will be divided into “team neighborhoods”, will be focused on providing a “more open and less formal” working environment. Inside, the spaces will be filled with social hubs and light-filled offices, but the new layout will be primarily focused on providing plenty of outdoor and recreational space for the employees. Once complete, the campus will have 18 new buildings, offering workspace for the 47,000 employees that currently work on site, as well as extra room for an additional 8,000 people. The Redmond campus is already a Zero Waste Certified campus, but will be renovated with increased waste-reduction initiatives . Related: Microsoft unveils amazing treehouse office where employees can brainstorm in fresh air As part of the green transportation focus, all of the cars will be parked in an underground parking lot, so that above ground, the employees can travel by foot, bike or, eventually, by a light rail system scheduled for completion in 2023. As part of the green transportation focus, a new foot and bike bridge will be built over the WA-520 in order to connect both sides of its campus. This will connect with a planned Redmond Technology Transit Station where the Link Light Rail is expected to arrive in 2023. Microsoft president Brad Smith said the project will run approximately $150m, and expects the rebuild to create 2,500 construction and development jobs.”We are not only creating a world-class work environment to help retain and attract the best and brightest global talent, but also building a campus that our neighbors can enjoy, and that we can build in a fiscally smart way with low environmental impact,” explained Smith in the announcement. + Microsoft blog Via ZD Net Images via Microsoft

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Microsoft is razing its Redmond campus to build a sustainable mini city

Trump administration quietly accepts 2016 climate deal

November 30, 2017 by  
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Will President Donald Trump respect a climate deal finalized while Barack Obama was still president? After pulling the United States out of the 2015 Paris Agreement , and working to undo many of Obama’s climate regulations , the idea seems unbelievable – but it appears Trump’s administration won’t try to back out of the 2016 Kigali Amendment, under which the government would have to limit climate change -contributing refrigerants and coolants known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Last year in Rwanda, delegates struck a deal to mandate countries to phase out the production and use of HFCs. The man-made chemicals “can be thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change,” according to the United Nations Environment Program . And it appears the Trump administration won’t bow out of the deal. Related: This could be the most important climate action in 2016 Judith Garber, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the United States Department of State, said last week in Montreal , “The United States believes the Kigali Amendment represents a pragmatic and balanced approach to phasing down the production and consumption of HFCs, and therefore we support the goals and approach of the Amendment.” She noted America was among the first countries that ratified the Montreal Protocol . But there’s no word yet on when the move could occur for this new amendment. Speaking at the 29th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, Garber said, “There are a number of steps in our domestic process that we would need to complete before reaching a final decision on transmittal of the Kigali Amendment to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent. There is no timeline currently determined for these steps, but we have initiated the process to consider U.S. ratification of the Amendment.” Scientific American said America has taken around two to four years to ratify amendments in the past. 20 countries have already approved the Kigali Amendment, so it’s already achieved the required threshold of support and will go into effect in January 2019. Via Scientific American Images via Depositphotos ( 1 ,

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Trump administration quietly accepts 2016 climate deal

Why Trump’s nominee to lead NASA is terrifying choice for the planet

November 6, 2017 by  
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In an administration that has been defined by its disdain for scientific concensus and even basic facts , it should come as no surprise that Jim Bridenstine, former Republican Congressman and President Trump’s nominee to lead NASA , has no scientific background. During a recent Senate confirmation hearing , Bridenstine claimed that while humans are contributing to climate change, there is no way of knowing to what extent – a statement that goes against scientific consensus. Bridenstine has aggressively denied climate science in the past , has gone so far as to introduce legislation that would eliminate Earth science from NASA’s mission statement, and seems poised to ignore scientific evidence even if appointed to lead what is perhaps the most iconic institution of engineering and science in American government . During his Senate hearing, Bridenstine was questioned by Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who took issue with Bridenstine’s failure to acknowledge current science. In response to a question on the factors that contribute to climate change, Bridenstine responded that “it’s going to depend on a lot of factors and we’re still learning more about that every day. In some years you could say absolutely, in other years, during sun cycles and other things, there are other contributing factors that would have maybe more of an impact.” Bridenstine’s statement revealed his failure to understand climate change , which is measured over decades, not in year-to-year variations. The most recent IPCC report concluded that there is a 95% chance that humans are mainly responsible for the changing climate. Even a report from the Trump Administration reached the same conclusion. Related: The isolated Pacific graveyard where spaceships go to die In a rare moment of bipartisanship, Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) offered his endorsement of Bridenstine in an op-ed for the Orlando Sentinel . “Jim Bridenstine has a firsthand perspective on the need to better understand our Earth and the behavior of the atmosphere,” Perlmutter wrote. “He has a keen awareness of the important Earth science missions NASA is undertaking and wants to continue to advance our understanding of the planet.” Although Bridenstine has pledged to keep NASA “apolitical,” his previous career as a Republican congressman seems likely to haunt his tenure at NASA, if he is confirmed. “I believe you’re going to get confirmed,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to Bridenstine during his confirmation hearing. “But, I would say to my Democratic friends on this committee, that if the confirmation ends up going down to a party-line vote, I think that would be deeply unfortunate for NASA and for the space community .” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1) , lead image via Wikimedia

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Why Trump’s nominee to lead NASA is terrifying choice for the planet

Newly-released report stating humans are the cause of climate change at odds with Trump officials

November 6, 2017 by  
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On Friday, 13 federal agencies under the Trump Administration released a comprehensive scientific report that states clearly that humans are the dominant cause of climate change. This may come as a surprise, given the Republican position on the issue . President Trump has called climate change a hoax invented by the Chinese and has removed the United States from the landmark Paris agreement. Trump’s fellow Republicans have even tied themselves in knots to praise fossil fuels, with current US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry going so far as to link them with the prevention of sexual assault . The release of the legally mandated report highlights how far removed Trump and his Republicans remain from mainstream scientific opinion, even from within federal agencies under Trump’s leadership. The report details the ways in which climate change has already impacted the planet, including a 1.8 degree Fahrenheit temperature increase in the past 115 years. The long-term trend towards a warmer, more volatile planet and human activity’s primary role in it is “unambiguous,” reads the report, and that there is “no convincing alternative explanation” for the warming climate. The Trump Administration and the Republican Congress continues to argue otherwise in spite of the scientific consensus. “This report has some very powerful, hard-hitting statements that are totally at odds with senior administration folks and at odds with their policies,” said Philip B. Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center, according to the New York Times . “It begs the question, where are members of the administration getting their information from? They’re obviously not getting it from their own scientists.” Related: Renewables keep booming despite Trump administration’s attempts to axe Obama’s Clean Power Plan The report is the latest installment of a congressionally mandated review known as the National Climate Assessment. Every four years, hundreds of scientists within government and academia compile a peer-reviewed report that is considered the United States government’s most authoritative statement on climate science. Although members of the Trump Administration clearly take issue with the science presented in the report, they are largely focused on passing tax reform and have chosen not to engage in a fight over climate change at this moment. Nonetheless, the Trump Administration’s decision to ignore climate science could have dire consequences in the future. “This profoundly affects our ability to be leaders in developing new technologies and understanding how to build successful communities and businesses in the 21st century,” said Christopher Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, according to the New York Times . “Choosing to be dumb about our relationship with the natural world is choosing to be behind the eight ball.” Via New York Times Images via Depositphotos (1) , lead image via Ralf Kayser  

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Newly-released report stating humans are the cause of climate change at odds with Trump officials

Almost 200 countries gather at COP23 to accelerate climate action

November 6, 2017 by  
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COP21 ultimately led to the groundbreaking 2015 Paris Agreement . Now, two years later, world leaders are meeting in Bonn, Germany to talk climate action at COP23, and how they can speed up implementation of the landmark deal’s goals without support from the US. Delegates from nearly 200 countries will be present. Fiji prime minister Frank Bainimarama will serve as COP23’s president. It’s not just government leaders who are gathering, but representatives from cities, businesses, and civil society organizations. The BBC reported around 20,000 visitors and delegates will be present. Speakers will include Solar Impulse pioneer Bertrand Piccard , United Nations Special Envoy Michael Bloomberg , and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger , to name a few. Related: Nicaragua joins Paris Accord, leaving the US and Syria as lone dissenters Although President Donald Trump yanked the United States out of the Paris Agreement , the country cannot leave until 2020 so there will be an American team of negotiators present, which the BBC said is comprised largely of career civil servants. But some Trump administration members will reportedly back an event at COP23 promoting fossil fuels and nuclear energy as climate change solutions, which is upsetting some delegates. The BBC said at the event, speakers will focus on how coal and other fuels can help curb the impacts of increasing temperatures . A White House spokesperson said, “It is undeniable that fossil fuels will be used for the foreseeable future, and it is in everyone’s interest that they be efficient and clean.” International Institute for Environment and Development director Andrew Norton said the idea that fossil fuels can help tackle climate change is beyond absurd, saying, “These talks are no place for pushing the fossil fuel agenda. The US needs to come back to the table and help with the rapid cuts in emissions that the situation demands.” American governors, mayors, and business people part of the We Are Still In coalition will attend COP23 to show the world much of the country below the federal government still backs the Paris deal. Via the BBC and United Nations Climate Change Images via COP23Demo on Flickr and Takver ( 1 , 2 ) on Flickr

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Almost 200 countries gather at COP23 to accelerate climate action

This candy-colored school in Spain disappears into the sky

November 6, 2017 by  
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  The upper floor of this candy-colored school in the city of Salamanca, Spain, disappears into the sky. Locally based design studio ABLM Arquitectos used mirrored panels to make the upper floor “almost invisible,” while covering the lower story with playful  ceramic stripes. The school is located in a neighborhood on the periphery of Salamanca, which is going through a process of industrialization. Its playful design contrasts this trend, with stripes of colors introducing an element of fun and ease into the area. Related: Japanese kindergarten features awesome green courtyard where kids can run and climb The entrance canopy is covered in the same material as the upper floor of the building. This dematerialization of the structure is achieved thanks to the use of mirrored panels of composite aluminum . Another intent in using reflective materials is to reflect the surroundings and visually reduce the scale of the building. Spanish ceramicist Toni Cumella chose the colors for the lower level, deciding on a wide spectrum of colors–from pink to maroon and green. The interior contrasts the façade and features neutral colors and materials. Related: Barcelona’s Beautiful Martinet School Boasts a Sun-Shielding Ceramic Facade “The almost invisible school proposes a reflection on the domestic scale of this kind of infrastructures, where the little ones must find spaces that they can catch, and places with which they can dream,” said architects Arturo Blanco and Laura Martínez of ABLM Arquitectos. + ABLM Arquitectos Via Dezeen Photos by Miguel de Guzmán

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This candy-colored school in Spain disappears into the sky

FEMA scrubs statistics on Puerto Rico’s lack of water and electricity from website

October 6, 2017 by  
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After Hurricane Maria — a category 4 storm — knocked out power for Puerto Rico ’s 3.5 million citizens, the FEMA website became a major lifeline for Americans to stay informed of recovery efforts. However just yesterday vital details vanished from the agency’s website – including statistics on how many people have access to electricity and clean water . Now, only information that showcases recovery efforts in a positive light is available. As a result, it is difficult to know the true extent of damages in Puerto Rico, and how citizens are coping with the aftermath. On Wednesday, the website clearly stated that 5 percent of Puerto Rican citizens have access to electricity and 50 percent have access to clean water. Later that night, the information was erased. As Gizmodo reports, more “positive” information is now shared, including the percentage of hospitals open (92 percent) and the percentage of grocery stores open (65 percent). There’s no longer any data on water availability – instead, there’s a new section on “Water/Wastewater Impacts,” and the only thing it reveals is that 64 percent of wastewater treatments are functioning. Also, instead of an Infographic detailing recovery efforts, there is now a photo of helicopters delivering relief supplies and another of a soldier hugging Puerto Rican residents. Information on the number of federal staff (14,000) and FEMA personnel (800) on the ground are still available on the website. Information on open airports (100 percent) and miles of roadway cleared in total (20 miles) is forefront and centered on the website, as well. When pressed for question, a FEMA spokesperson told The Washington Post that the information is still available on the Spanish website , which Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló maintains. Reportedly, the FEMA spokesperson had no idea why the federal agency was erasing information from its own site “that made it look bad.” Related: The Puerto Rico nursery still up and running thanks to solar power Some suspect President Trump’s recent visit had something to do with the agency deleting valuable statistics. When Trump visited the island earlier this week, he seemed more concerned with his reputation than actually helping the less fortunate. In fact, Trump “jokingly” told the storm-ravaged people that he was spending too much money on them. “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you are throwing our budget out of whack,” Trump said. “We’ve spent a lot of money in Puerto Rico .” The President added that Hurricane Maria wasn’t a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina. FEMA spokesperson William Booher told The Washington Post: “Our mission is to support the governor and his response priorities through the unified command structure to help Puerto Ricans recover and return to routines. Information on the stats you are specifically looking for are readily available.” + FEMA Via Gizmodo, The Washington Post Images via Hayales De Coama , FEMA , CNN, The Japan Times

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FEMA scrubs statistics on Puerto Rico’s lack of water and electricity from website

Nicaragua joins Paris Accord, leaving the US and Syria as lone dissenters

September 22, 2017 by  
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Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega has announced plans to sign the Paris Accord, leaving President Trump alone with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad as the two remaining national heads refusing to support the international agreement. In December of 2015, the leaders of nearly 200 countries signed the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce global greenhouse emissions and prevent climate change from worsening – including former president Barack Obama. But Trump refused has reneged on that commitment, formerly claiming climate change is a “hoax” invented by the Chinese. According to a report by Managua-based television station 100% Noticias, Ortega said on September 18, “We will soon adhere, we will sign the Paris Agreement. We have already had meetings addressing the issue and we have already programmed the accession.” The Central American nation originally opposed signing the Paris Accord because the goals in the text “did not go far enough.” To elaborate, it had been confirmed by scientists that emissions levels from some of the top polluters — including the US, EU, China, and India — were not low enough to prevent sea levels from rising or to keep global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. As a result, Nicaragua abstained. President Trump has said he will withdraw the US from the historic accord. Despite receiving an environmental encyclical from the Pope himself and being informed by a variety of scientists about the dangers of climate change , he said the action for the US by an executive order which Obama signed while in office puts American workers in the steel, coal and other manufacturing industries at an “economic disadvantage.” Related: Hundreds of Dead Sea Turtles Wash Up on Nicaragua’s West Coast Nicaragua has been a haven for renewable energy . More than half of the country’s energy is sourced from geothermic, wind, solar and wave energy. Nicaragua plans to increase that to 90 percent by 2020. The World Bank referred to the country as “a renewable energy paradise” four years ago. Because the agreement will not go into effect until 2020, Nicaragua has until then to draft a required national action plan and to formalize it into law. No date has yet been set for the signing. Via The Independent Images via Pixabay

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Nicaragua joins Paris Accord, leaving the US and Syria as lone dissenters

Soaring timber tower could clean up contaminated water in NYC’s Central Park

September 22, 2017 by  
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New York-based DFA Studio has unveiled plans for a soaring wooden tower in Central Park that could actually purify the heavily contaminated Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. The proposed tower measures 712 feet tall with a 112-foot-tall spire – and if it comes to fruition, it will be the world’s tallest timber tower. The tower’s helix structure is wrapped with a lattice of curved timber beams . The building would be anchored securely to a pre-cast concrete base with tensile steel cables. A transparent material covers the tower’s exterior, providing 360-degree views as visitors climb up to the top. Related: LAVA breaks ground on sustainable energy tower in Heidelberg The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir currently contains an estimated one billion gallons of stagnant, contaminated water . The tower’s filtration system could potentially convert the body of water into a clean pond. “Aside from supplying water to the pool and Harlem Meer, the Reservoir sits stagnant and fenced off due to its current state as a health threat to millions of New Yorkers, tourists and animals,” said DFA studio founder Laith Sayigh. “DFA envisions a temporary landmark that is remarkably of its time to creatively transform the reservoir into one of New York’s boldest urban amenities.” The tower’s integrated filtration system (as well as the elevators) would be powered by a wind turbine installed at the top of the tower. Sayigh believes that the NYC project would serve as an example for urban design around the world, “The Central Park Tower has the potential to be a model project for other cities aiming to fix existing infrastructure, build tall to capture views and elevate the urban public realm.” + DFA Via Dezeen

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Soaring timber tower could clean up contaminated water in NYC’s Central Park

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