New study predicts 6-month summers by 2100

March 12, 2021 by  
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Schoolkids and surfers might think an endless summer sounds too good to be true. But the world may soon be facing six-month summers with staggering consequences. A new study published in Geophysical Research Letters predicts that if emissions continue at their present pace, by 2100 it’s going to be summer for half of every year. These long summers will be filled with heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and more. Scientists at the State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography in China led the research. They analyzed 60 years of climate records and used models to predict future trends. For the study, they defined summer as the “onset of temperatures in the hottest 25 percent during that time period, while winter began with temperatures in the coldest 25 percent.” Related: NYC Metronome clock now displays deadline for irreversible global warming Using that definition, the researchers found that from 1952 to 2011, the number of summer days in the Northern Hemisphere increased from 78 to 95. Meanwhile, winter shrank by three days, spring by nine and fall by five. “Summers are getting longer and hotter while winters shorter and warmer due to global warming ,” lead study author Yuping Guan, a physical oceanographer at the State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography, said in a statement. “Numerous studies have already shown that the changing seasons cause significant environmental and health risks.” These changes will greatly impact the environment, agriculture and the health of all living organisms on the planet. It will change the timing of feeding, breeding and migration for many animals. Instead of this extra summer meaning more beach time, it will be difficult for humans. A longer growing season will torment humans with allergies. Pestilence-carrying mosquitoes will fly at the chance to expand their range northward. More extreme weather events like fires, droughts and hurricanes will drive untold numbers of humans from their homes — if they’re lucky enough to survive. The study concluded that policies on agricultural management and disaster prevention will need to be adjusted. Seasonal-related fields of study will also have to readjust, as six months of summer will mean a new reality for those studying topics like the ocean , atmosphere and ecology. + Geophysical Research Letters Via Yale Environment 360 Image via Roger Laurendeau

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Climate change increases pollen and worsens allergies

February 11, 2021 by  
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If you feel like you’re going through hankies faster than ever, you’re not just imagining it. Climate change is making allergy season even worse, according to a new study. Researchers concluded that pollen and planetary warming are closely tied in a study published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . Allergy season is both beginning sooner and generating more pollen overall, thanks to a sneeze-inducing mixture of warmer air and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The study’s authors found that pollen season in North America now starts about 20 days earlier than it did in 1990 and produces about 21% more pollen. Research predicts that this trend will accelerate. Related: Avoid allergies this spring with these 7 natural remedies The study used attribution science techniques to estimate the degree to which wildfires, rainfall during hurricanes, and other extreme weather events are worse than they’d be if the planet wasn’t getting toastier. “It’s a great piece of work,” Kristie Ebi of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington said of the study. “There has been very little research on the application of detection and attribution analysis to the health risks of a changing climate.” By examining data from 60 pollen-monitoring stations around the U.S., the researchers found the runniest noses and most watery eyes in Texas, the Southeast and the Midwest. Less pollen-driven mucous production was happening in the northern states. The greatest increase in pollen is coming from trees, not the more traditional culprits of grasses and weeds. While a runny nose is annoying enough, allergies can have serious effects on public health. Asthma and respiratory diseases are life-threatening and can increase the severity of respiratory viruses like COVID-19 . + PNAS Via The New York Times Image via Magda Pawluczuk

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From raising cows to growing veggies: ranchers go vegan

February 11, 2021 by  
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Richard and Cindy Traylor are part of a growing number of ranchers who have made the surprising switch to plant-based agriculture . In 2018, Honey, Cindy’s favorite cow, was injured. Cindy had become so attached to Honey that she didn’t want the cow to go to a slaughterhouse. She got in touch with Renee King-Sonnen of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary , who introduced the Traylors to a whole new way of living. The Traylors shared their experiences with Inhabitat about making the change to a vegan diet and livelihood on their Huntsville, Texas ranch. Related: Why American ranchers are feeding Skittles to their cattle Inhabitat: What have been the reactions of neighbors, family members and others in your life to halting ranching and switching to veganism? Cindy: Everyone we have talked to has been supportive. When we explain that we now eat vegan and how good we feel, they seem curious; however, so far we have not heard that anyone has tried to change their diet. We do have a young friend who was wowed when he sat and ate spaghetti and “meatballs.” Richard: When I was first confronted with veganism, I get the same ignorant response from others, which is “I’m carnivorous. I’m a meat eater. I need the protein. I’m healthy enough. It doesn’t hurt the environment that bad. There are other things that hurt the environment just as bad.” Inhabitat: Tell us a little bit about why Honey the cow was so special to you. Cindy: Honey was my “baby.” She would eat out of my hand and was a really gentle creature. When she gave birth, she immediately would let me know and show me her calf . I would ooh and ahh and tell her what a beautiful baby she had. She was the youngest of the mothers and she would let the other calves nurse off her. Our connection was really deep, and I hated to see her hurt! Richard: When she was a little over a year, I built a five-strand barb wire fence, one strand at a time, from the bottom up. In essence, I taught her, albeit accidentally, how to jump the fence. Each strand I put up, I thought would be the last one she would jump. The top strand, the fifth strand, she would still jump it. I have never seen a cow that could jump fences like her. She did that for several years. Inhabitat: What have been the best benefits to going vegan? Cindy: Personally, I had wanted to go vegan in my twenties. I asked my doctor, who immediately told me that I couldn’t. You see, I have Crohn’s and for decades, I was back and forth to the hospital. Now, I jumped at the chance. Not only to see how it may help me health -wise, but to do my part in ending cruelty to animals. I cannot remember feeling this good! It has really helped me with Crohn’s symptoms and my arthritis doesn’t hurt anymore. I have neuropathy in my feet, and now I don’t have that tingling all the time…it is gone! I love creating meals — everything is delicious. Richard: I don’t have knee or back pain, I have more energy that individuals half my age envy. The first thing I tell people is how good I feel! I have no muscle cramps from working and sweating. Inhabitat: What are the hardest things about going vegan? Cindy: I had been dairy-free for decades, because I have a milk intolerance, so that was not a problem for me and Richard followed suit, because I do the cooking! There were a couple of things for me that were difficult. First, it was putting together enough recipes and understanding what veggies provide essential vitamins, minerals and protein. Then, it was finding a substitute for eggs! Baking without eggs kind of stumped me at first. Then, as I read more, I found several products to solve that problem. We now use for breakfast, Just Egg and Just Fold, which we love! Another problem for Richard, was thinking that veganism was boring, tasteless and bland. He soon realized that spices can do wonders! We both wish we had pursued this decades ago. The amazing thing now is that there are so many new plant-based products in the grocery stores and in the fast-food markets. Inhabitat: Tell us a little bit about what the RAP Summit is and your involvement in it. Cindy: Well, we attended the first Summit in November, as ranchers in transition. Right now, we do not have our cattle on our property, so in order to have an agriculture exemption, we need to find our “niche” for the future. There are a lot of options, and our state is specific as to what we can grow. The Rancher Advocacy Program (RAP) is helping us find our way. Renee and Tommy [Sonnen] are there to help us with any questions and find experts in whatever direction we choose to go. We have held Zoom meetings with everyone to brainstorm and talk about what we need to do. Renee and Tommy have been incredibly supportive. Inhabitat: What are some of the new uses you’re considering for your land? Cindy: Right now, we have several ideas: growing hemp for CBD oil, peas and fava beans for protein sources (this was something that vegan cheesemaker Miyoko Schinner mentioned at the Summit), as we want to produce a product that will be marketable and beneficial for the environment. Bamboo is another option we have been considering; however, this may not be doable for us at this time. Inhabitat: How do animal and plant-based agriculture compare as far as making a living? Cindy: Well, animal agriculture is less intensive during the warm months, as the pastures provide most of the cattle’s feed. We have two ponds for drinking, so that is also taken care of. There is fencing to repair, cattle to take to the market (which I always hated!), hay to buy and store. Plant-based agriculture will be more work-intensive. Irrigation, picking the produce, weeding, marketing, packaging, talking to vendors. The list goes on and on. However, it will be more fulfilling to know that we are not sending an animal to market to get slaughtered. And we are helping the environment. For example, peas and fava beans give back nitrogen to the soil. Other plants will be rotated to put back other nutrients into the soil. That way, less fertilizers are needed. Richard: We hope to give back to the soil , rather than take from the soil, which we have done for decades. We want to have a healthy environment for the future. Inhabitat: What else should others know about transitioning from raising cows to plants? Cindy: There are lots of people out there who are knowledgeable and willing to be mentors to help ranchers transition to another industry. I can attest that changing over to plants is emotionally freeing, because I used to dread when the calves got to a certain age/weight. I don’t think anyone “likes” to have their animals slaughtered. Richard: The environment is most important to protect our planet. The entire process of methane gases causing rising temperatures, growing hay, grasses equals less trees and less oxygen, the runoff of the fertilizers that end up in the creeks, bayous, rivers and oceans is poisoning the planet. + Cindy and Richard Traylor Images via Adobe Stock

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Air pollution caused by fossil fuels kills millions

February 10, 2021 by  
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New research has revealed that fossil fuel pollution caused approximately 8.7 million deaths in 2018. The study, published in the journal Environmental Research , was a collaboration by scientists at Harvard University, the University of Leicester, the University of Birmingham and University College London. Experts found that countries that burn fossil fuels heavily for manufacturing and transport are the most affected. Countries such as the U.S. and many developed countries in Europe recorded 1 of every 10 deaths due to air pollution. The total was also higher than global deaths caused by tobacco and malaria combined. “We were initially very hesitant when we obtained the results because they are astounding, but we are discovering more and more about the impact of this pollution,” said Eloise Marais, study author and geographer at University College London. “It’s pervasive. The more we look for impacts, the more we find.” Related: Air pollution could increase risk of irreversible blindness The researchers have also established that the rate of deaths due to pollution is significantly lower in Africa and South America. They found that there are direct links between air pollution from burning fossil fuels and ailments such as heart disease, loss of eyesight and respiratory ailments.  According to Karn Vohra, a graduate student at the University of Birmingham and one of the researchers, the focus was on discovering the impact of pollution on specific populations. They looked at specific regions and used 3D modeling of pollution data to get more precise results. “Rather than rely on averages spread across large regions, we wanted to map where the pollution is and where people live, so we could know more exactly what people are breathing,” Vohra explained. This is not the first study to link loss of life or disease with air pollution. According to a recent academic  publication , the average global life expectancy would increase by more than a year without fossil fuels . A 2019 study by Lancet estimated that 4.2 million people die annually due to air pollution. The new findings place the figure much higher than previous studies, and some experts believe that the impact might even be worse than that presented by the latest report. + Environmental Research Via The Guardian and CNN Image via Juniper Photon

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GM airs funny electric vehicle commercial during Super Bowl

February 10, 2021 by  
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While people rooted for the Kansas City Chiefs or Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday, General Motors waged a war with greater implications. The foe? Norway . General Motors’ war isn’t directed at the Norwegian people but at beating them for global leadership in electric vehicles sales. For a commercial that aired during the Super Bowl, the auto company recruited actors and comedians Will Ferrell, Kenan Thompson and Awkwafina (Nora Lum) to play three Americans ready to fight Norway for EV supremacy. The commercial is part of GM’s “Everyone In” ad campaign designed to bring electric vehicles into the mainstream and increase North American sales. Related: GM pledges carbon neutrality by 2040, expands electric fleet So far, the Chevy Bolt has been General Motors’ EV offering. But in the last few months, the company has introduced the new Cadillac Lyriq SUV and the GMC Hummer EV. Hummer fans may be able to buy an electric model by the end of 2021. The Lyriq will likely go into production late next year. Both of these vehicles are featured in the Super Bowl commercial. General Motors has promised 30 models at a variety of price points coming out over the next four years and plans to sell only electric vehicles by 2035. “We feel like this transition is one that will protect all of our futures,” said Dane Parker, GM’s chief sustainability officer. “And it will help us create a future that will benefit not only the planet but the people.” So why take on Norway? More than half of cars sold in the Scandinavian country are electric, compared to about 4% in the U.S. General Motors was careful to prepare Norwegian leaders in advance of airing the commercial. The officials must have had a sense of humor about it, because part of the commercial was even filmed in Norway. Ultimately, the Super Bowl ad pokes fun at Americans, not Norwegians. Especially the ending, which mocks Americans’ notoriously bad grasp of geography when Will Ferrell winds up in Sweden while Awkwafina and Thompson find themselves on a snowy road in Finland. + General Motors Via Motor Biscuit and CNET Images via General Motors

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Nordic unveils LEED Gold-targeted visions for Indias greenest airport

February 10, 2021 by  
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Architecture firms Nordic, Grimshaw, Haptic and STUP have unveiled competition-winning designs for the passenger terminal of Delhi Noida International Airport (DNIA) at Jewar, an ambitious LEED Gold -targeted project that could become “India’s greenest airport.” Designed to combine efficiency and hospitality, the airport design will set sustainable benchmarks for airport terminal buildings in India, from its goal of net-zero carbon operations to the infusion of lush green spaces throughout. When complete, the Delhi Noida International Airport will serve as a new gateway to the state of Uttar Pradesh in the quickly developing industrial region between Delhi and Agra. The winning design for DNIA was selected from a three-phase design competition between June and August 2020, during which the invited architecture teams prepared, collaborated and presented their airport designs remotely. The consortium winners were selected by Zurich Airport International (ZAIA); the public limited company signed a concession agreement with the Government of Uttar Pradesh to develop DNIA in the fall of last year. Related: Singapore’s jaw-dropping new airport has the world’s largest indoor waterfall In addition to raising the bar for sustainable airport design, the competition-winning proposal will also help shape Jewar as a future aviation city and include flexible expansion options with a target goal of 30 million passengers per year with minimal environmental impact . Lush landscaping will surround the airport grounds; plants inside the terminal will bring a hint of nature into the light-filled airport. “We are pleased to partner with Nordic, Grimshaw, Haptic and STUP to design this long-envisioned strategic project at Jewar,” says Christoph Schnellmann, CEO of Delhi Noida International Airport. “The team created the winning design with an efficient layout, convincing design language, multiple high-quality areas, spaced out with lush greenery with a balanced concept for both energy savings and a tangible sense of sustainability. The team demonstrated their proficiency in complementing customer comfort with sustainability, timeless design with flexibility for future needs. We will work closely with the team to ensure a design with everything available that a passenger expects at a world-class airport.” + Nordic Images by Tegmark

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World’s smallest reptile discovered in Madagascar

February 5, 2021 by  
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Lizard lovers will swoon over a newly discovered species of tiny chameleon. Brookesia nana dwells in the Madagascar rainforest and may be the smallest — and cutest — reptile on Earth. Scientists announced its discovery in the journal Scientific Reports late last month. With a full-grown male measuring 21.6 millimeters from nose to tail tip, this wee chameleon can balance on the tip of a human thumb. Picture a living creature the size of a sunflower seed, and you’ll get an idea of just how small this reptile is. Related: Iguanas reintroduced to island after 200 years In 2012, researchers first saw the tiny chameleon in northern Madagascar’s Sorata massif, a damp, chilly area in the mountains . “At the first glance, we realized that it was an important discovery,” study coauthor Andolalao Rakotoarison, a herpetologist at University of Antananarivo in Madagascar , told National Geographic . Of course, it’s easier to spot, say, an elephant than a seed-sized reptile. That may be why scientists have only identified two members of the species so far. The female they found was about 7 millimeters longer than the male. The Bavarian State Collection of Zoology led the international team. While the discovery of the species is noted in the new report, the research was concentrated on a specific, personal matter. “A comparison with 51 other chameleon species showed that the new species has exceptionally large genitals,” the researchers concluded. Judging from the reptilian genital structures called hemipenes, scientists have determined that the smallest chameleons often have the largest genitals. In a comparison of racy reptiles, the new species came in fifth, with the genitals measuring 18.5% of the chameleon’s body size. Most impressive of all? Brookesia tuberculata , with hemipenes about a third of the male lizard’s length, excluding his tail. The researchers are already concerned that this species could be vulnerable or even endangered due to deforestation . The new chameleon isn’t the only petite critter in the East African country. “There are numerous extremely miniaturized vertebrates in Madagascar, including the smallest primates and some of the smallest frogs in the world, which have evolved independently,” Rakotoarison said. But why Brookesia nana evolved to seed-size is still a mystery. Its closest relative is twice as large and lives in the same mountains. + SNSB Via EcoWatch Image via Frank Glaw (SNSB/ZSM)

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Seagrass purges 900M plastic bits from the Mediterranean yearly

January 18, 2021 by  
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Recent research has found that underwater seagrass collects up to 900 million plastic items in the Mediterranean Sea each year. Seagrass is vital in collecting and purging plastic waste into what are known as Neptune Balls. These balls of plastic pollution form naturally as the seagrass collects and traps plastics before releasing them in clumps, some of which wash back to shore. The study, which was published in Scientific Reports  was lead by Anna Sanchez-Vidal, a marine biologist at the University of Barcelona. In a statement, Sanchez-Vidal confirmed the findings, saying that they have proved the extent to which seagrass can trap plastic waste . Related: SeagrassSpotter app empowers ocean lovers to become citizen scientists “We show that plastic debris in the seafloor can be trapped in seagrass remains, eventually leaving the marine environment through beaching,” Sanchez-Vidal told AFP. The findings of this study now add yet another benefit of seagrass. Seagrass has long been known to balance its ecosystem. The seagrass absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen into the water, improving the water quality in the process. Further, it plays the role of a natural nursery for hundreds of species of fish, and seagrass is the foundation of the coastal food web. The research team has only studied the building up of plastic within seagrass in the Mediterranean Sea. In 2018 and 2019, the scientists managed to count the number of plastic bits found in Neptune balls that had been washed to the shore in Mallorca, Spain. They found plastic debris in half of the loose grass leaf samples collected, with a kilogram of the grass found to contain approximately 600 pieces of plastic. As for the denser balls of seagrass, only 17% of the samples collected were found to contain plastic. However, the balls had plastic at a higher density, with nearly 1,500 plastic bits per kilogram of Neptune ball. Using the findings, the researchers were able to estimate the amount of plastic collected by seagrass in the Mediterranean. The good news is that the grass can help collect plastic waste. But researchers aren’t sure where all of the waste goes. The only waste that has been traced includes the Neptune balls and loose grasses that remain stuck on the beach. “We don’t know where they travel,” Sanchez-Vidal said. “We only know that some of them are beached during storms.” + Scientific Reports Via The Guardian Image via Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble

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Seagrass purges 900M plastic bits from the Mediterranean yearly

Climate crisis could turn the Amazon rainforest to savanna

October 6, 2020 by  
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A new study published in the journal Nature Communications indicates that the Amazon rainforest could shift from a closed canopy rainforest to an open savanna due to the climate crisis. The study shows that the rate of deforestation coupled with forest fires sparked by climate change could significantly change the status of the rainforest in the future. According to the researchers, rainforests are very sensitive to changes in rainfall. If they experience prolonged droughts and fires like the ones recently witnessed in the Amazon , they may lose more trees and become more like a savanna. Although scientists have always known that this was possible, it was thought that such changes were decades away. The new study, led by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, now indicates that the changes are much closer than initially anticipated. Related: You can help monitor Amazon deforestation from your couch Almost 40% of the Amazon is already receiving less rainfall than usual and is at the point where it could exist as a savanna instead of a rainforest . While the researchers say that the process of fully changing the forest to savanna would take decades, they also say that once the process starts, it is nearly irreversible. “Drier conditions make it harder for the forest to recover and increase the flammability of the ecosystem,” Arie Staal, lead author of the study, told The Guardian . If the Amazon rainforest changes to a savanna, there would be dangerous consequences. Rainforests are important because they support a huge number of species and absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If the rainforest changes, much of the plant and animal species here could be lost. The problems experienced by rainforests like the Amazon are exacerbated by harmful policies. For instance, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has made promises to develop the Amazon , a move that has been criticized by many. This year, the Amazon has experienced a 60% increase in fire hotspots compared to 2019. The study now warns that if such fires continue, the rainforest could be permanently altered. + Nature Communications Via The Guardian Image via Jose Eduardo Camargo

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Maryland bans single-use foam containers

October 6, 2020 by  
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Last week, Maryland became the first U.S. state to ban single-use foam containers for carryout. Although the legislation banning their use was passed in 2019, it came into effect on Thursday, October 1. Among the items that will be prohibited in the new law include cups, plates, trays and containers. All entities in the state will be affected by the law, including businesses and institutions, such as schools. Originally, the state had set July 1 as the deadline for implementing the new law. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the deadline was pushed to October 1. Even with the delays, many cities and counties within the state had already implemented the ban early. Related: Maryland could become the first state to ban plastic foam containers Democratic Delegate Brooke Lierman was the main sponsor of the House bill that led to the new law. Although she had proposed the bill twice before, it was unsuccessful. But due to the recent climatic events, her colleagues started to shift their positions. According to Lierman, plastics are already hurting our environment, and actions have to be taken now to stop their effects. “Single-use plastics are overrunning our oceans and bays and neighborhoods,” Lierman said. “We need to take dramatic steps to start stemming our use and reliance on them … to leave future generations a planet full of wildlife and green space.” For a long time, polystyrene foam containers have been the go-to solution for businesses. They provide a cheap option for food packaging and are preferred by most business operators. But they are detrimental to the environment. In opposition to the new bill, the American Chemistry Council said that banning the single-use containers would vastly harm the local businesses. “Polystyrene foam packaging and containers provide business owners and consumers with a cost-effective and environmentally preferable choice that is ideal for protecting food and preventing food waste , particularly when used for food service,” the council argued. “Foam packaging is generally more than 90 percent air and has a lighter environmental impact than alternatives.” Although the law does not leave loopholes for continued use of the outlawed products, the Maryland Department of Environment allows schools and other institutions to apply for a grace period of up to one year. This will only be granted in special situations, where the institution may not be able to fulfill the ban in time. + Maryland Expanded Polystyrene Ban Via CNN Image via Jens S.

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