New report warns of extreme heat of 127 degrees or more in the US

July 29, 2019 by  
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Just when you thought the environmental news couldn’t get any worse, a shocking new report warns Americans that they may be facing temperatures of 127 degrees Fahrenheit. By the year 2100, more than one-third of the U.S. population could be exposed to this kind of heat and its accompanying health risks. The county-by-county survey predicts that by mid-century, more than 250 American cities will suffer from at least one month of days where the heat index surpasses 100 degrees. Historically, this number has been 29 cities. The heat-index scale combines temperature with humidity to arrive at what the temperature feels like. Related: Extreme heat wallops the US “We were very surprised at how steeply and quickly the number of days of dangerous heat increased in such a short time,” said Kristina Dahl, senior climate scientist at Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Dahl co-authored the dire new report, “ Killer Heat in the United States: Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days .” Extreme heat will hit the Southeast and Southern Great Plains the hardest. Texas and southern Arizona will also be sweltering. But even temperate areas, such as Seattle, will notice a significant increase in hot days. Humans, with a normal internal temperature of 98.6, function poorly in extreme heat. Climate researcher Tom Crowther said the increase in heat events “represents a terrifying prospect” and “a direct and immediate threat to human health and wellbeing.” Droughts, floods and wildfires will accompany the extreme temperatures. Sea level rise and compromised food production will also make life tougher. Humankind’s best hope? A fast and drastic reduction in carbon emissions . “Our past climate can no longer guide us,” said meteorologist Richard Rood. “We have to build and adapt to what’s coming.” + Union of Concerned Scientists Via National Geographic Image via Mark Hemmings

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New report warns of extreme heat of 127 degrees or more in the US

Beyond & Impossible alternative meats: are they actually healthier than the real thing?

July 29, 2019 by  
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Tempting the most loyal of carnivores, plant-based foods are spreading faster than wildfire as restaurant chains like Carl’s Jr., Del Taco, Burger King and White Castle have added alternative meats to their menus, providing vegans, vegetarians and non-meat eaters with popular food options like burgers and tacos. However, a lingering question remains— how healthy are they? Studies Say Many of us remember the infamous 2006 study revealing that livestock and meat production are generating more greenhouse gas emissions than transport. The report, released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), was enough to make any carnivore rethink their meat consumption. At the time, Henning Steinfeld, Chief of FAO’s Livestock Information and Policy Branch and author of the report said, “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.”  Related: Impossible Foods tests a fish-less fish protein The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, released a statement classifying processed meat as a carcinogen in 2015 . It also classified red meat as a probable carcinogen. It took a total of 22 experts from 10 countries and the review of over 800 studies to reach this conclusion. They found that consuming 50 grams of processed meat each day (the equivalent of about four strips of bacon or one hot dog) could increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. When it came to red meat, the report found evidence of increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancers. The Big Bucks More and more people are making the switch to a plant-based diet, whether for the environment , personal health or love of animals. As the vegan and vegetarian lifestyles rise in numbers, corporations are taking notice and forming strategies to take livestock out of the equation.  The plant-based meat market is already booming. According to the Good Food Institute, the sale of plant-based meat grew 10% from April 2018 to April 2019 and 37% over the past two years. Last year 11.9% of all U.S. households purchased plant-based meat, which may not sound like much, but that equates to about 15 million households. Plant-based food is currently a $4.5 billion industry and has grown 31% in the past two years. Beyond and Impossible The question of whether these plant-based meats are actually good for your health, however, still has experts debating . Unsurprisingly, the futuristic vegan burgers of two most popular plant-based meat companies in the nation have found themselves under the spotlight. By 2016, Beyond Meat released the first plant-based burger sold in grocery stores (such as Whole Foods) internationally. Impossible Foods began selling their plant-based “bleeding” burgers to fast-food brands and gourmet spots such as Bareburger and Umami Burger in 2017. The controversy first began in 2018 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expressed concern over soy leghemoglobin or “heme,” which is an essential ingredient in the Impossible Foods burger “meat.” The key ingredient creates the illusion of blood and aroma of real meat, and the company found a way to harvest it from plants creating a protein produced by genetically modified yeast cells. Soy is also a key ingredient in popular veggie meat patty brands, Morningstar Farms Garden Veggie Burgers and Kraft Heinz’s Boca Veggie Burgers. Beyond Meat uses beets for color and pea protein isolate, which is processed and is not considered a whole food. The Ingredients Beyond : Water, Pea Protein Isolate, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Rice Protein, Natural Flavors, Cocoa Butter, Mung Bean Protein, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Apple Extract, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Vinegar, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Sunflower Lecithin, Pomegranate Fruit Powder, Beet Juice Extract (for color). Related: Cell-based meat could replicate and replace shrimp, lobster and crab Impossible : Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12. Things to Consider While the protein content is similar to actual meat, the plant-based protein used to produce vegan meat is processed. Processed proteins should be eaten in moderation, so more isn’t necessarily better. The process isn’t nearly as synthetic or harmful as say, a twinkie, but it is still something to consider. Both burgers include coconut oil (rich in saturated fat) as a main ingredient, which the American Heart Association has risen concerns about . There is a large amount of sodium in both burgers. Beyond has 390 milligrams of sodium and Impossible has 370 mg. There is also the concerning fact that both Impossible and Beyond have yet to reveal how exactly their burgers are made. The companies consider production methods to be trade secrets, which is understandable in a business sense, but far more complicated than the cow = meat process we’ve all grown up with. When compared to a 4-ounce beef burger with 20 percent fat content, both Beyond and Impossible burgers have fewer calories, fewer grams of fat and the same amount of (or slightly more) protein. Both plant-based burgers have no cholesterol and more fiber than a regular beef burger. So, are these plant-based burgers actually healthier than the real thing? Well, it depends on the individual. High risk for colorectal cancer? Need to lay off the saturated fats or sodium? Your lifestyle, diet and personal health all need to be considered when making the switch to plant-based meats— and that’s between you and your doctor. Images via Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat

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Beyond & Impossible alternative meats: are they actually healthier than the real thing?

Scientific consensus reaches beyond 99% on human-caused climate change

July 25, 2019 by  
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Researchers have released three additional studies confirming the consensus among scientists that climate change is real. More than 99 percent of scientists have reached the same conclusion that global warming is real and caused by human activity, with findings showing that current warming is unprecedented when compared to the last 2,000 years. Even though most deniers are political or corporate-backed — rather than driven by science — scientists continue to release worrisome research repeating and reconfirming that all evidence indicates climate change is real in hopes that the consensus itself will be convincing. Related: Climate anxiety — is hopelessness preventing us from confronting our biggest challenge? “There is no doubt left — as has been shown extensively in many other studies addressing many different aspects of the climate system using different methods and data sets,” said Stefan Brönnimann of the University of Bern. The three studies were published in Nature and Nature Geoscience and indicate that the temperature spikes over the last few decades have not been as dramatic over the last 2,000 years . While there have been other roving and site-specific temperature changes, such as the Little Ice Age , the current record-breaking temperatures impact the entire globe. The researchers used proxy indicators such as evidence in trees , ice and sediment, which show that changes in climate have never been as severe as they are now. “The good news is public understanding of the scientific consensus is increasing,” said researcher James Cook, who wrote the original paper on scientific consensus in 2013. “The bad news is there is still a lot of work to do yet as climate deniers continue to persistently attack the scientific consensus.” Last week, the original paper was downloaded for the one millionth time, making it the most-read study by the Institute of Physics. Cook also wrote a follow-up to this study, but because of the recent rise in disasters and interest in climate change , he plans to revise his paper again. Via The Guardian Image via Christopher Michel

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Arctic permafrost already thawing at a rate not expected until 2090

June 20, 2019 by  
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Frozen ground — called permafrost — is thawing in the Arctic up to 70 years earlier than scientists originally predicted. The thawed landscapes were discovered during an expedition trip by a team of researchers from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. The rock and soil in this area has been frozen for thousands of years, but a string of unusually warm summers was enough to drastically alter the temperature and ecosystem. “What we saw was amazing. It’s an indication that the climate is now warmer than at any time in the last 5,000 or more years,” University professor Vladimir Romanovsky told Reuters . The scientists used a small propeller plane to collect data in the far reaches of the Canadian Arctic . Some locations are so remote that the closest human settlement is up to 186 miles away. To their amazement, the landscape looked remarkably different than it had the last time they flew over 10 years ago during a baseline data collection mission. Related: NASA finds cavity the size of Manhattan underneath Antarctic glacier Instead of frozen ground and solid ice, the team saw depressions in the ground indicating thawing and sinking, and ponds where ice had melted, called thermokarst. They also saw vegetation in these areas, which is highly unusual for such a frozen place. The thawing of the permafrost is not only alarming because of the changes to ecosystems; the ice in these areas also contains large quantities of greenhouse gases. As the ice melts, the gases are released into the atmosphere and contribute to the climate crisis . According to the researchers findings, published on June 10 in Geophysical Research Letters , the amount of gases released could undo progress to curb emissions through the Paris Agreement . Jennifer Morgan from Greenpeace International told The Guardian, “ Thawing permafrost is one of the tipping points for climate breakdown, and it’s happening before our very eyes. This premature thawing is another clear signal that we must decarbonize our economies, and immediately.” Via The Guardian and Reuters Image via Bureau of Land Management

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Arctic permafrost already thawing at a rate not expected until 2090

This on-the-go carafe heats or cools water instantaneously as you pour

February 26, 2019 by  
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Good news for coffee and tea drinkers: No more wasting time and energy waiting for the perfect cup. Thanks to Heatworks, the company responsible for creating an innovative new heating carafe, you won’t have to. Using patented Heatworks ’ Ohmic Array Technology, the DUO Smart Untethered Carafe has the power to heat (or cool!) water to the exact degree while you pour. The DUO Carafe has Frog Design to thank for its modern, sleek exterior, and it is the third in a line of award-winning collaborations between the two companies. When it comes to functionality, convenience and stylish appearance, the DUO looks like quite the game changer. Related: This countertop dishwasher promises to wash your dishes in just 10 minutes So how does it work? The precise temperature control on the side panel lets you pick the water temperature to the plus/minus one degree. Simply set your temperature, pour water into the reservoir (fits four cups) at the top and pour into your cup. The carafe features one spout for filtered cold water and another spout for hot water (hence the “duo”). On the red side, the water appears to heat up instantaneously, or pour from the blue side for crisp, cool water. The entire device is battery operated, making it perfect for taking it to the office or really anywhere else. You’ll also be able to plug it in, so the carafe can stay comfortably on your kitchen table or desk to charge for on-the-go use. The DUO boasts 99 percent energy efficiency and an advanced water filtration system created by Heatworks CEO Jerry Callahan, who wanted to create a heating system without using metal heating elements. Unsustainable and flawed, metal heating parts have been used for heating for the past 100 years and carry the risk of rust and limescale to form, causing elements to fall apart or leak sediment into the water supply. Callahan felt it was time for an upgrade to traditional heating systems, and the Ohmic Array Technology was born. Using electrical currents passed through the water itself rather than separate heated elements to transfer heat into the water, Ohmic Array cuts out a whole step in the process. The DUO is not yet available for purchase, but you can learn more information and sign up for release updates on the Heatworks  website . + Heatworks Images via Heatworks

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This on-the-go carafe heats or cools water instantaneously as you pour

LEED-seeking winery in Uruguay is built almost entirely of locally sourced materials

February 26, 2019 by  
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Nestled in the bucolic countryside of Garzón, Uruguay, the boutique winery Bodega Garzón produces estate-grown premium wines while keeping sustainability in mind. Designed by Argentina-based architecture firm Bórmida & Yanzón , the winery optimizes energy efficiency with insulating green roofs that total nearly an acre in size, rainwater harvesting and reuse, as well as a high-efficiency HVAC with heat recovery. Fitted with state-of-the-art technology, the 205,000-square-foot development is currently pursuing LEED certification. Set on property formerly overgrown with invasive species and marked by rocky and steep slopes, the Bodega Garzón winery has reintroduced the landscape to native species and more productive uses. Not only does the state-of-the-art winery encompass 500 acres of vineyards, but it also boasts a production facility, a tasting room for visiting guests, retail space, a wine club, an open-fire 120-seat restaurant, and caves for barrel storage, tours, private dining, and events. Views of the idyllic countryside are optimized in the design and placement of the buildings. As part of the winery’s commitment to sustainability, over 90 percent of the construction materials were locally sourced and include granite, concrete and stone. An earthy and natural material palette of raw steel, honed marble, brass accents, leathers, and rich textiles give the interiors, dressed by California-based Backen Gillam & Kroeger Architects, a luxurious and polished feel. The designers were also careful to select recycled and rapidly renewable materials, such as Forest Stewardship Council-certified timbers. Related: An award-winning winery in British Columbia elegantly steps down a hillside The 19 varieties of grapes grown on site — including the brand’s flagship Tannat and Albariño grapes — are connected to drip irrigation that uses recycled surface runoff harvested in newly dug man-made pond systems. All stormwater runoff is treated before leaving the site and recycled for not only all of the irrigation, but for cleaning the outdoor areas and for the water pond as well. + Bórmida & Yanzón

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LEED-seeking winery in Uruguay is built almost entirely of locally sourced materials

New study predicts mass extinction in 140 years

February 25, 2019 by  
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A new study suggests that the old saying about history repeating itself is absolutely true. In this case, history repeating itself pertains to none other than the topic on everyone’s minds— extinction. Researchers believe it’s taken 56 million years for earth to face another mass extinction that can occur in as little as 140 years.  The research, released last Wednesday and published in Geophysical Research Letters , compares conditions in the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) period with our planet’s present warming condition. Back in PETM days, carbon dioxide shot up, increasing Earth’s temperatures by 9 to 14 degrees. The tropical Atlantic heated up to approximately 97 degrees. Land and marine animals died. It took 150,000 years for the planet to recover. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 Unfortunately for us, carbon dioxide emissions are rising ten times faster now than they did during the PETM. Back then, wildfires, volcanic activity and methane wafting from the seafloor and permafrost were the culprits. Today, it’s down to us. Last year, emissions in countries with advanced economies rose slightly after a five-year decline. At this rate, the study predicts Earth’s atmosphere will be comparable to the beginning of PETM in 140 years, reaching a peak in 259 years. The result? Mass extinction. Philip Gingerich, the study’s author, did a literature review of previous studies on PETM and the rate of carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere. Based on eight studies published between 2009 and 2018, he used models to project future emissions caused by humans. Gingerich is an emeritus professor in the University of Michigan’s earth sciences department. He directed the university’s Museum of Paleontology for nearly 30 years. “[It’s] as if we are deliberately and efficiently manufacturing carbon for emission to the atmosphere at a rate that will soon have consequences comparable to major events long ago in earth history,” Gingerich told Earther. As he states in his study, “A second PETM-scale global greenhouse warming event is on the horizon if we cannot lower anthropogenic carbon emission rates.” Via Earther Image via nikolabelopitv

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Flood frequency of the Amazon River has increased fivefold

September 21, 2018 by  
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New data suggest that flooding in the Amazon River has dramatically increased by as much as five times in both intensity and frequency in the last 100 years. Scientists analyzed data points from the past century and believe the increase in flooding is linked to global warming. Scientists have measured the river’s water levels for 113 years at the Port of Manaus in Brazil . Over time, they found that large flooding events and extreme droughts have gone up over the past 20 to 30 years. In the early part of the century, massive floods only happened about once in every 20-year period. That number has increased to one major flood every four years. Related: High tide coastal flooding in US has doubled in the past 30 years The researchers believe the uptick is related to an oceanic system called Walker circulation, which describes air currents created by temperature fluctuations and pressure changes in the ocean , specifically in tropical locations. The Pacific Ocean has been cooling while the Atlantic Ocean has been getting warmer, which creates these circulating air currents. These changes are affecting the surrounding environment, including precipitation in the Amazon basin. Scientists are not sure why the Atlantic Ocean has been warming up. They do, however, believe that global warming is contributing to the temperature changes, but in a more indirect way. They theorize that global warming has shifted wind belts farther south, which pushes warm water from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic. This creates an opposite effect of El Niño and results in more rainfall in the Amazon. Flooding along the Amazon River lasts weeks on end. Not only does it spread disease and contaminate water supplies, but it also destroys farms and homes. Right now, there is no indication that the flooding will decrease. This past year, water levels rose above the flood range, and scientists believe the water levels will only get higher as the years progress. Via EurekAlert! Images via Dave Lonsdale and NASA

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Flood frequency of the Amazon River has increased fivefold

MIT’s thermal resonator generates power "out of what seems like nothing"

February 27, 2018 by  
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A brand new power-generating system from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers creates energy “out of what seems like nothing,” according to chemical engineering professor Michael Strano in a statement . Their system, which they’re calling a thermal resonator, harnesses daily swings in ambient temperature , potentially enabling remote sensing systems to operate for years — no batteries or other power sources required. Nine MIT scientists from the chemical engineering department envisioned a new way to transform temperature changes into electric power. Their system doesn’t need two different temperature inputs simultaneously; it simply draws on fluctuations in the temperature of the air. Strano said, “We basically invented this concept out of whole cloth. We’ve built the first thermal resonator. It’s something that can sit on a desk and generate energy out of what seems like nothing. We are surrounded by temperature fluctuations of all different frequencies all of the time. These are an untapped source of energy.” Related: MIT battery that inhales and exhales air can store power for months MIT said the power levels the thermal resonator can generate are modest at this point, but the system’s advantage is that it isn’t affected at all by short-term changes in environmental conditions, and doesn’t require direct sunlight. It could generate energy in oft-unused spaces like underneath solar panels . The researchers say their thermal resonator could even help solar panels be more efficient as it could draw away waste heat . The thermal resonator was tested in ambient air, but MIT said if the researchers tuned the properties of the material used, the system could harvest other temperature cycles, such as those of machinery in industrial facilities or even the on and off cycling of refrigerator motors. The scientists created what MIT described as a “carefully tailored combination of materials” for their work, including metal foam, graphene , and the phase-change material octadecane. MIT said, “A sample of the material made to test the concept showed that, simply in response to a 10-degree-Celsius temperature difference between night and day, the tiny sample of material produced 350 millivolts of potential and 1.2 milliwatts of power — enough to power simple, small environmental sensors or communications systems.” The journal Nature Communications published the work online in February. + MIT News + Nature Communications Images via Melanie Gonick and Justin Raymond

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MIT’s thermal resonator generates power "out of what seems like nothing"

Antarctica just hit a record high temperature of 63.5F

March 2, 2017 by  
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Climate change is already ravaging the Antarctic Peninsula, which the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) described as one of the fastest warming regions on Earth. In a recent statement, the organization announced the area has witnessed record high temperatures. The Argentine Research Base Esperanza, which rests on the Antarctic Peninsula’s northern tip, hit 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit on March 24, 2015. WMO identified three subregions in Antarctica, and listed the high temperature record for each. The Antarctic Region, or all the land under the 60th parallel south, saw a balmy temperature of 67.6 degrees Fahrenheit back in January 1982. It’s the Antarctic continent, or “the main continental landmass and adjoining islands” as defined by WMO that saw the recent hot temperature of 63.5 degrees. The Antarctic Plateau, which is land higher than 8,202 feet, saw a record temperature of 19.4 degrees Fahrenheit in December 1980. Related: Scientists warn rapidly-melting glacier in West Antarctica could cause serious global havoc WMO said the average annual temperature is around 14 degrees Fahrenheit along the coast of Antarctica, and negative 76 degrees Fahrenheit at the interior’s highest regions. But parts of Antarctica have already heated up nearly three degrees Celsius, or 37.4 degrees Fahrenheit, in just the past 50 years. According to the organization, “Some 87 percent of glaciers along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated in the last 50 years with most of these showing an accelerated retreat in the last 12 years.” Around 90 percent of the planet’s fresh water is in Antarctica, frozen as ice. Should all that ice melt, sea levels would spike by around 200 feet, so even extremes around the edges of the region concern scientists. The recently released data highlights the dire need for continued climate change research . Polar expert Michael Sparrow, of the World Climate Research Program co-sponsored by WMO, said in the statement, “The Antarctic and the Arctic are poorly covered in terms of weather observations and forecasts, even though both play an important role in driving climate and ocean patterns and in sea level rise. Verification of maximum and minimum temperatures help us to build up a picture of the weather and climate in one of Earth’s final frontiers.” Via Reuters Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Antarctica just hit a record high temperature of 63.5F

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