Warming in deepest parts of the Great Lakes could be irreversible

April 8, 2021 by  
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New research published in the journal  Nature Communications  shows that the deepest parts of the Great Lakes are warming up. While it has been known that global warming causes increased ice melting and rising ocean temperatures, little has been said about the impact of climate change on deep lake waters. The study found that the deepest parts of the Great Lakes have been seeing a steady increase in temperature over the past three decades. Researchers analyzed 30 years of data, including hourly temperature recordings in deep waters. The temperature readings at 500 feet below the water surface reveal a consistent increase. The researchers have established an average of 0.11°F temperature rise per decade in Lake Michigan’s deep waters. Further, winters in the region have become shorter over the period in question. Related: Nearly 1/3 of freshwater fish face extinction According to Eric Anderson, lead author of the study and a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the changes in deep water temperatures are affecting biodiversity . Species like whitefish and yellow perch are already facing detrimental impacts from the warming waters. “We can already see declines in reproductive success in certain species that time up with the increases we see in water temperature,” Anderson explained. In lakes, there are seasonal flows where warm water comes to the surface and cold water is pushed down. It is through this process that oxygen and nutrients are released to deep lake fish and other creatures. According to Anderson, rising temperatures affect this water cycling and, as a result, disrupt the food web. The warming could have far-reaching consequences to the ecology and economy of the regions around the Great Lakes. Currently, the tourism and fishing industries here provide over 1.3 million jobs and are worth $82 billion in wages, much of which could be lost. Meanwhile, millions of people rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water, but warming can also cause an increase in toxic algal blooms. Unfortunately, the impacts on lake biodiversity and the economy of the region could be permanent. As Anderson explained, “Once we get past that point, we’ve affected things on an ecological level that aren’t necessarily reversible.” + Nature Communications Via Grist Image via David Mark

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Warming in deepest parts of the Great Lakes could be irreversible

Understanding NFTs and energy consumption

April 8, 2021 by  
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Non-fungible tokens (or NFTs) are the newest players in the cryptocurrency market, and their  environmental  impact may surprise you. What’s an NFT? Let me start by saying, I’m not a tech writer. I’m a sustainability writer. So, I’ll explain the best I can with the knowledge and tools I have.  At this point, you’ve probably heard about blockchain and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Ethereum is another cryptocurrency, and NFTs are part of its blockchain. In contrast to how Bitcoin, for example, can be traded like regular money, NFTs are assigned a unique ‘token’ that verifies one particular owner. It’s a little like the title of a car that shows the owner and the VIN of the vehicle. NFTs are non-fungible, which means they can’t be easily exchanged for a similar good in the way a bitcoin can be traded for another bitcoin. In this sense, it’s much like tangible art. If you own an original Rembrandt, you have unique ownership of the one-of-a-kind artwork. If you’ve seen recent headlines, digital artworks are the hot NFTs we’re talking about here. For example, according to  Christie’s Auction House , “EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS” by Beeple is the first purely digital work of art ever offered by a major auction house. It sold for $69.3 million. There are several other over-the-top examples of high-selling art in the digital realm. The bustling industry has flung open the door for emerging and established artists as another way to promote their work, especially when presented with the challenges of the pandemic.  So where does energy consumption come in? To get a sense of NFTs’  energy consumption , you’ll have to understand the process of how they’re bought and sold. Here’s a simplified version of how it all works. Let’s pretend you create a digital image of Snoopy dancing in the rain with an umbrella. To find your audience, you’ll need to get your work onto an online marketplace like OpenSea. Most of these sites use Ethereum, which verifies transactions through ‘mining.’ When an NFT is purchased, miners must compete to solve a block that results in your Snoopy artwork being the uniquely identifiable NFT the buyer wants. Miners are motivated to compete because the single person who solves the block first gets a commission for their work. All others who competed are out of luck, even though they consumed a huge amount of energy in their efforts.  How much energy? So, how much energy does this take? By current estimations, a single Ethereum transaction consumes 48.14 kWh. For comparison, that’s just over one and a half days of energy consumption within the standard U.S. household. Now, multiply that by thousands of transactions daily and you can see how NFTs’ energy consumption takes its toll. There are a few things to keep in mind here. As far as production and sales go, a single Ethereum transaction to purchase an NFT consumes less energy than making a t-shirt . Also, NFTs aren’t the only goods bought with Ethereum, so even if the art went elsewhere, there would still be transactions eating up energy. What may be more important to focus on is the impact of cryptocurrency in general. Some stats on Brightly.eco help bring this into focus explaining, “Bitcoin ‘mining’ already generates 38 million tons of CO2 per year, more than the carbon footprint of Slovakia .” Put in other terms, “The daily carbon footprint of Bitcoin is the equivalent of watching 57,000 hours of YouTube videos. And, its daily electricity usage is equivalent to the amount of power an average American household uses over the course of 25 days.” Shidan Gouran, co-founder of Gulf Pearl, a merchant bank in the blockchain sector, said one cryptocurrency transaction uses as much energy as more than 700,000 Visa transactions. To further illustrate his point, Gouran says, “Even if you take away carbon emissions, if we move Visa to the same system as Bitcoin, you would still heat the planet up by more than one-and-a-half degrees. Just the heat that the system would create would be unsustainable.” Possible changes ahead Now, here’s an important tidbit I skipped over earlier. The reason all the miners are competing for each transaction has to do with the way the system is set up. Currently, the ETH blockchain uses the competition-based “Proof of Work (PoW)” system, as explained above. But, there’s chatter about a move to a different system called, “Proof of Stake (PoS).” This system would randomly choose one person to solve the block, eliminating the competition and the copious energy consumed in the process. The result would be a  99% reduction  in energy consumed. Some are saying this new system could be implemented later this year or in 2022. There’s also the option to use a different chain besides Ethereum, then pick it back up when it’s moved to the PoS system. Furthermore, as more sources report on this energy consumption issue, some outlets are beginning to offer carbon offsets with each sale or purchase.  Via Brightly.eco , Loopify and Wired Images via Adobe Stock and Wikimedia Commons

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Turning food waste into aviation fuel could greatly reduce emissions

March 19, 2021 by  
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Food waste could be instrumental in producing sustainable aviation fuel, according to a recent study. Greenhouse gases from the aviation industry contribute 12% of transportation emissions and are bound to continue growing. It is projected that the industry’s emissions will double pre-pandemic levels by 2050. As such, researchers are working on finding viable biofuels for net-carbon-zero air travel. The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , was conducted by scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in collaboration with the University of Dayton, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Yale University. Related: Researchers develop hydrogen paste that could fuel vehicles According to the study, using untapped energy in food waste to generate sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) will provide an avenue to deal with two types of pollution at the same time. Plenty of food waste ends up in landfills, where it generates methane gas, one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases. The researchers found that this biofuel has a 165% decrease in net carbon emissions compared to standard fuel. “Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) comprise a significant portion of the aviation sector’s strategy for CO2 reductions given the limited near-term prospects for electrification,” the authors wrote. “In addition, the low aromatic content of current SAF routes has been shown to reduce soot formation and aviation-related aerosol emissions by 50 to 70%, which can significantly impact the net global warming potential.” Some large aviation companies have already started investing in SAF with the hope of finding a solution that can be widely used. Southwest Airlines is collaborating with NREL and other organizations in a demonstration project that is moving closer to commercial viability, thanks to scientific research and publications like this one. “If our refining pathway is scaled up, it could take as little as a year or two for airlines like Southwest to get the fuel regulatory approvals they need to start using wet waste SAF in commercial flights,” said Derek Vardon, NREL scientist and co-author of the study. “That means net-zero-carbon flights are on the horizon earlier than some might have thought.” + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Via CleanTechnica Image via The PixelMan

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Turning food waste into aviation fuel could greatly reduce emissions

From Reddit investors to wildlife conservationists

March 19, 2021 by  
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Gorillas, pangolins and other  endangered  animals are getting help from a surprising source: small traders who benefited in this year’s famous GameStop event. Many have donated stock market gains to conservation groups. The biggest winners?  Gorillas . In normal times, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund may get 20 new adoption pledges (this is a sponsorship deal — the gorillas do not come to live with you) during a weekend. But more than 3,500 adoption pledges came in since last Saturday, many with fictional names making fun of hedge fund managers. Related: IKEA purchases forested land in Georgia for conservation This $350,000 investment in gorillas has delighted conservation organizations. “The support that has come to our organisation, as well as others, is amazing,” said Dr. Tara Stoinski, president, chief executive and chief scientific officer of the Fossey Fund, as reported in The Guardian. “One of the biggest challenges in conservation is just that there’s not enough funding for the challenges we face on the ground.” The new conservation  philanthropists  came from the WallStreetBets subreddit, the same people responsible for inflating GameStop’s share price earlier this year. When a large group of small investors bought the stock, it raised the value for them while denying profits to hedge funds who’d planned to gain from GameStop’s failure. Some investors chose elephants over gorillas. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust runs a rescue center for orphaned  elephants  in Kenya, among other conservation efforts. Last weekend it received an unexpected $10,000 in donations. “It’s a new supporter base for us, for sure, one that we’re extremely thankful for,” said trust member Amie Alden. “We’ve currently got more than 90 dependent orphaned elephants in our care and it’s an expensive undertaking.” Other beneficiaries of this new breed of conservationist included the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Florida , the Orangutan Project, lynx, wolves, pangolins and polar bears. Even bulls got some love, as some investors found bovines to adopt as a reference to the bull market. Many conservation programs have suffered due to the pandemic, especially if their work relies on tourism, so the Reddit philanthropists were especially appreciated. Via The Guardian

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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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Colorados Electric Pass Lodge will be powered entirely by renewable energy

March 12, 2021 by  
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Just 9 miles from downtown Aspen, one of the world’s best ski resorts will soon welcome the Electric Pass Lodge , a luxury residential building that will run entirely on renewable energy. Designed by Colorado-based 4240 Architecture in collaboration with interior design firm River + Lime , the all-electric condominiums were created as part of the Snowmass Base Village, a LEED -certified, $600 million resort development at the base of Snowmass Ski Area. The Electric Pass Lodge will house 53 ski-in/ski-out residences that start at $1.4 million. Described by Snowmass Base Village as “one of the first of its kind in ski country,” the energy-efficient Electric Pass Lodge will draw its power from a combination of rooftop solar arrays and the purchase of offsite renewable electricity through Holy Cross, a local utility cooperative that plans to convert its entire network to renewable energy by 2030. Related: A new eco-minded neighborhood in Utah ski resort emphasizes land stewardship To minimize the building’s energy footprint, the designers integrated triple-pane windows, high-performance insulation, earth tubes, phase-change ceilings to retain and release heat and a mechanical system that pre-heats and pre-cools incoming fresh air through heat recovery ventilators. Operable windows let in plenty of natural light and ventilation, while an interior palette of non-toxic materials ensures safe indoor air quality . The light-filled interiors take cues from Scandinavian design with natural tones and clean lines. Available for reservation online, the 53 residences include two- and three-bedroom layouts. Private amenities include the village pool complex (not connected to the development’s electric system), meeting rooms, an SBVfit health club, a lounge, a courtyard, a ski locker room, storage and underground parking in addition to immediate access to the area’s famous winter ski slopes and summer trails. The Electric Pass Lodge is slated to begin construction in April and is expected for completion in spring 2023. + Electric Pass Lodge Images via Electric Pass Lodge

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"Carbon-absorbing" vertical forest skyscraper nears completion in Taipei

March 12, 2021 by  
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Paris-based  Vincent Callebaut Architectures  has revealed new photos of Tao Zhu Yin Yuan, a LEED Gold-certified high-rise slated for completion in the second half of 2021. Located in the financial district of Taiwan’s capital, the award-winning vertical forest building was created by the architects as an “anti-global warming and carbon-absorbing ecosystem” and will feature approximately 23,000 trees, shrubs and plants along the ground floor, balconies and terraces. The architects estimate that the 21-story building will absorb around 130 tons of carbon a year.  The Tao Zhu Yin Yuan — formerly known as the Agora Garden — includes 20 floors of luxury apartments expected to be the most expensive per square foot in Taipei. Designed to mimic the double helix structure of DNA , the building’s twisting form allows for stunning panoramic city views from every floor. There are two apartments per floor and spacious 165-square-meter open-air private terraces. Each column-free floor is rotated by 4.5 degrees clockwise, resulting in a 90-degree difference between the ground floor and the top level.  Since seismic activity and tropical typhoons are common in Taiwan, the architects bolstered Tao Zhu Yin Yuan with a suspended structural system and a Vierendeel truss system to ensure high earthquake and weather resistance. To meet  LEED Gold  standards, the energy-efficient building is wrapped in a double-skin facade and integrates natural ventilation chimneys, a rainwater recycling system, LEDs and solar panels to generate renewable energy. Related: France’s first Vertical Forest will add a “hectare of forest” to Paris’ skyline “A building should be a song of the earth and co-exist with the environment,” the architects explained. “A carbon absorbing  Vertical Forest  building is no doubt the most profound foresight for the buildings of future cities. Tao Zhu Yin Yuan puts fighting global warming into practical action, shows love for the trees and forests, interprets in depth through space and carves the sustainable faith. We hope to improve the world’s effort in fighting against global warming and establish the carbon absorbing culture of the people; we will set out from Taiwan and declare it to the world.” + Vincent Callebaut Architectures Images via Vincent Callebaut Architectures

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"Carbon-absorbing" vertical forest skyscraper nears completion in Taipei

Petaluma becomes first US city to ban construction of new gas stations

March 9, 2021 by  
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Petaluma, California has passed a law restricting the construction of new gasoline stations. Located 40 miles north of the San Francisco Bay Area, the small city is home to around 60,000 people and has 16 gas stations. In recent legislation, the city council has banned any further gas stations from being built here. “Prohibiting new gas stations serves the public interest by preventing new sources of pollution that adversely impact environmental and human health ,” the law states. Related: Chevron spills 600 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay The law solidifies a ban that had been temporarily implemented in 2019. Following the enactment of the law, Petaluma has been receiving attention both nationally and internationally. The law now makes the city the first in the U.S. to prohibit the construction of new gas stations. “We didn’t know we would be the first, and I keep saying that we didn’t do this to be the first,” said Mayor Teresa Barret. “We’re taking one step at a time here because that’s how change is made. To me, it’s really important we’re not just ticking off boxes. If we want to be carbon neutral by 2030, we have to make these changes.” A recent study carried out by the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority places the transport sector at the center of air pollution . According to the study, 60% of greenhouse gas emissions in the region are caused by vehicles. Although the news has been well-received by many, those in the fuel industry are opposed to the move. The California Fuels & Convenience Alliance said, “Various localities throughout the state have started down a misguided direction, banning new gas stations within city and county limits, through ordinance or moratorium. This single-minded approach will ultimately cause greater harm for communities than any potential benefit.” Even with such opposition, the city council maintains its stand. If the world is to successfully fight against pollution, and ultimately climate change , it is necessary for officials to start taking such actions. Via CleanTechnica Image via U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Digital Visual Library

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Lebanese hospital is world’s first to go vegan

March 9, 2021 by  
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If you’ve ever stayed in a hospital or visited someone in one around mealtime, you might have wondered if the lukewarm processed food was really going to aid in recovery. At Beirut’s Hayek Hospital, the personnel have given the issue serious thought and decided to become the world’s first  vegan  hospital. The switch didn’t happen overnight. For a while, Hayek has given patients a choice between plant or animal-based meals, along with helpful information about the nutritional benefits of the first versus risks of the latter. But starting March first, the staff decided to do what’s best for patients — and  animals . The hospital announced the change with an Instagram post. “Our patients will no longer wake up from surgery to be greeted with ham, cheese, milk, and eggs … the very food[s] that may have contributed to their health problems in the first place.” Related: From raising cows to growing veggies: ranchers go vegan Hayek is a private, family-owned hospital. Staff members have watched with concern as the World Health Organization classified meat as a carcinogen akin to tobacco. “So, serving  meat  in a hospital is like serving cigarettes in a hospital,” the hospital said in a statement. Furthermore, staff pointed out that “three out of four emerging infectious diseases come from animals.” Beirut has a fairly high vegan awareness, with at least six vegan restaurants, according to the  Vegan Maps  website. Lebanese cuisine has quite a few vegan staples, including pita, hummus, falafel and fava beans. A good meal like this could make a hospital stay easier to endure, and possibly make the road back to  health  quicker. “When adopting a plant based exclusive diet has been scientifically proven not only to stop the evolution of certain diseases but it can also reverse them. We then, have the moral responsibility to act upon and align our beliefs with our actions,” the  hospital  posted. Via VegNews , PlantBased News Lead image via iStock

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MVRDVs Mission Rock tower breaks ground in San Francisco

March 9, 2021 by  
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Construction has broken ground on an MVRDV -designed building at San Francisco’s Mission Rock, a multi-phase masterplan that will transform nearly 30 acres of asphalt into a sustainably minded, mixed-use neighborhood and community hub. MVRDV’s LEED Gold-seeking block — called Building A — is one of four Mission Rock Phase 1 buildings designed by high-profile architecture firms and is the second of the four to begin construction. Building A takes inspiration from Californian landscapes for its terraced forms and canyon-like spaces. It will provide a mix of apartments, offices, retail spaces and public areas. Developed by the San Francisco Giants and Tishman Speyer in a public-private partnership with the Port of San Francisco, Mission Park aims to provide a mixed-use waterfront neighborhood near Oracle Park. MVRDV designed Building A in collaboration with the three architecture offices — Studio Gang , Henning Larsen and WORKac — that were selected to design the Mission Rock’s other three Phase 1 plots. Related: LEED-seeking apartments house formerly homeless families in San Francisco Located near the entrance of Mission Rock via the 3rd Street Bridge, MVRDV’s block will connect the landscape from China Basin Park through a 23-story tower and into the heart of the Mission Rock masterplan via an internal and publicly accessible, canyon-like street. The project’s ensemble of low- and high-rise buildings will provide 395,000 square feet of mixed-use programming, which includes a diverse collection of apartments with roof terraces, lively outdoor spaces and approximately 58,000 square feet of office space. Ground-floor retail and restaurants will activate the streetscape. Created for LEED Gold certification, MVRDV’s transformative design of what is currently a plot of asphalt, including an old parking lot, follows a “holistic sustainability strategy” that includes ample greenery along its canyon-like space, rooftops and residential balconies. Onsite bicycle parking will be integrated underground, and a support space will also be carved out for the efficient District Energy System. + MVRDV Images via Pixelflakes, MVRDV, Rinaldi Group LLC and Binyan Studios

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