Large section of Arctic Ocean is six times more acidic than 20 years ago

March 16, 2017 by  
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Ocean acidification is increasing rapidly in the Arctic Ocean . New research from an international team reveals between the 1990’s and 2010, the area of acidified water expanded northward by around 300 nautical miles from near Alaska nearly up to the North Pole . The depth of acidified waters hiked up too, from around 325 feet to more than 800 feet. 13 scientists from institutions in China, Sweden, and the United States scrutinized data from the 1990’s up through 2010 to see how acidification has escalated in the Arctic Ocean, and they found both area and depth of acidified waters spread. Acidity in the area is six times greater than it was 20 years ago. Paper co-author Wei-Jun Cai of the University of Delaware said in a statement, “The Arctic Ocean is the first ocean where we see such a rapid and large-scale increase in acidification, at least twice as fast as that observed in the Pacific or Atlantic oceans.” The journal Nature Climate Change published their research online in late February. Related: Melting Arctic Seas are Turning into Giant Pools of Acid, Researchers Warn There are a few possible reasons for such rapid acidification. One is the lack of summer sea ice ; water is exposed to the atmosphere for lengthier periods of time now and therefore has more time to absorb acidifying gas like carbon dioxide . Currents in the atmosphere have also sent Pacific Ocean water, which tends to be more acidic, into the Canada Basin. Co-author Richard Feely of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the combination of those two phenomenon likely led to the speedy acidification. Naturally the news isn’t great for marine life. Feely said mussels, clams, and small sea snails may have a hard time maintaining or building their shells in acidified waters. As sea snails in particular are an important source of food in the Arctic food web, sustaining herring and salmon, their decline could impact the rest of the marine ecosystem . Via the University of Delaware and the Toronto Star Images via Pixabay and Tammy Beeson/University of Delaware

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Large section of Arctic Ocean is six times more acidic than 20 years ago

Rick Perry confirmed as Energy Secretary

March 3, 2017 by  
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With bitter battles over the confirmations of Scott Pruitt as Environmental Protection Agency administrator or Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise the Senate confirmed the slightly less controversial Rick Perry . In a 62 to 37 vote, the former Texas governor slid right into his new role as Energy Secretary. He’ll oversee energy policy , 17 national laboratories, and the United States’ arsenal of nuclear weapons . Perry’s views have come a long way from those he touted during his failed campaigns for president, or so it appears. During his 2012 campaign, he called for the elimination of the Department of Energy , but could not remember the department’s name in a debate. During his recent confirmation hearing, he said he regretted that proposal. Related: Rick Perry tapped to run the Department of Energy – which he once promised to shut down According to The New York Times, people close to Perry said he once thought the Energy Department centered around promoting and developing America’s energy resources – a weighty task in its own right, but it was only after the former governor heard about the agency’s other functions he changed his tune. During his confirmation hearing he said after “being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy,” he now supports its goals. For many years Perry showed complete disdain for the science of climate change , but the Energy Department does deal with the issue through research into energy technologies. It appears Perry has changed his mind on that too. He told senators, “I believe the climate is changing. I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by man-made activity.” Some of that man-made activity can be linked to oil and gas companies, such as Energy Transfer Partners , where Perry once sat on the board. To his credit, he did resign from the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline after his appointment, according to The Texas Tribune . During his confirmation hearing he also made a poorly phrased but promising claim: “I am going to protect all of the science, whether it’s related to the climate or other aspects of what we’re going to be doing. I am going to protect the men and women of the scientific community from anyone that would attack them, no matter what their reason may be, at the Department of Energy.” Via The New York Times Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Rick Perry confirmed as Energy Secretary

Only 9% of California is still in drought as Sierra Nevada snowpack hits 185%

March 3, 2017 by  
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A year ago 95 percent of California was in a drought . Today, just 9 percent of the state is still experiencing drought conditions thanks to one of the wettest winters on record. Those are the findings of the United States Drought Monitor, a weekly map of drought conditions produced jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The percentage of the state currently in drought is the lowest since 2011, when the drought began. Scientists say the Sierra Nevada snowpack measured on March 1 was an astounding 185 percent of average, measuring 45.5 inches. The Sierra Nevada hasn’t had this much snowpack since 1993 when the snowpack was at 205 percent of normal, measuring 51.25 inches. The historical average snowpack is 24.6 inches, according to the state Department of Water Resources. Related: California storms could herald the end of punishing historic drought A series of “atmospheric river” storms flowing east from Hawaii and the tropical Pacific have slammed the state, bringing heavy rain and dumping massive amounts of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. There have been about 30 atmospheric river events since Oct. 1 – well above the yearly average of 12, and the six annually during the last five years of the drought. However, even with record levels of rain filling up reservoirs and snow accumulating in the Sierra Nevada, Gov. Jerry Brown is not about to declare the drought over. The snowpack will be measured again on April 1 when it is considered at its peak and Brown said he will wait until those results are announced before making a call on the drought and associated water conservation measures . + United States Drought Monitor Via Los Angeles Times Images via Pexels and Wikimedia

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Only 9% of California is still in drought as Sierra Nevada snowpack hits 185%

New images reveal Google’s plans for a futuristic solar-powered California headquarters

March 1, 2017 by  
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New images submitted to the City of Mountain View in January provide our best look at Google’s proposed 18.6-acre Charleston East campus – the first the technology giant is constructing from the ground up. The heart of the new space, according to plans drafted by the design teams of Bjarke Ingels Group and Heatherwick Studio , is a two-story, 595,000-square-foot building. It’s topped by an expansive tent-like canopy that conjures up images of Bonnaroo rather than stuffy business meetings. The roof is studded with photovoltaics, plus other enhancements designed to regulate indoor climate, air quality, and sound. There will be plenty of breathing space, both within and without. The building will enclose “flexible building components” that can be reconfigured on a whim, as well as indoor and outdoor green spaces, populated by native, drought-tolerant flora, to bolster biodiversity. Google , in collaboration with city biologists, has made special considerations for the burrowing owl, once one of California’s most common birds but now a species in decline due to habitat loss. “No plants will be installed that would provide perches for raptors or hiding places for feral cats, both of which prey on the owls,” the plans read. “Grasses, forbs, and small shrubs that provide habitat for insects will be targeted to support owl foraging.” Related: New tent-like HQ plan emerges from the ashes of Google’s original vision Google’s proposal also includes a detailed “landscape narrative” featuring the so-called Green Loop, a “linearly connected canvas of trees” that bridges the Charleston Basin and the main Googleplex headquarters by way of Charleston Park. Could this make up for the planned removal of 160 trees, 100 of which have been designated heritage? We can hope. More than a place of business, Google’s new campus will apparently serve as a “destination for the local community.” Myriad small green hubs scattered throughout the site will house pedestrian walkways, and bike paths will abound in the small green hubs scattered throughout. An open plaza could host al fresco seating, food trucks, small stalls, perhaps a seniors’ tai chi class or two. “Quieter and more intimate” spaces will support collaboration and private conversation. Pulling all this together would hardly be a modest endeavor. If approved by the city, construction on Charleston East will span roughly two-and-a-half years. + City of Mountain View Via 9to5google

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New images reveal Google’s plans for a futuristic solar-powered California headquarters

New map reveals the world’s most toxic countries

February 22, 2017 by  
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Just about every country in the world grapples with pollution , no matter how rich or poor they are. But you may not be aware of just how toxic your locale is. The Eco Experts from the United Kingdom recently cross-referenced data to rank the countries of the world by toxicity on a new map , and some of the results may surprise you. To create their map, The Eco Experts scrutinized data for 135 countries on carbon emissions , air pollution levels, and energy consumption, along with how much the countries draw on renewable energy . They also considered how many people have died from poor air quality . Bringing together all the individual rankings, The Eco Experts determined which countries are most damaging the environment and risking public health . Related: New Google Timelapse shows how humans have destroyed Earth over 32 years They ranked Saudi Arabia as the world’s most toxic country, with the highest recorded air pollution levels. Other oil-rich countries like Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates topped the list as well. The United States ranked 66, doing better than countries like Canada, China, or Russia but worse than India and the United Kingdom. One surprise was that Nordic countries like Iceland and Norway guzzle more energy than others. Meanwhile, the top five least toxic countries are all located in Africa . The world’s least toxic country is Kenya , followed by Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Cameroon. In a press release, Jon Whiting of The Eco Experts said, “This research is a way of naming and shaming the worst offenders around the world. Their lack of action against emissions not only puts their populations at risk of deadly pollution-related diseases but also threatens the future of our planet. These threats are not distant concerns for future generations; their effects are being felt now and lives are already being lost. This research highlights the need for every country to act fast and put more investment into renewable energy alternatives.” + The Eco Experts Images courtesy of The Eco Experts

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California introduces its own 100% renewable energy bill

February 22, 2017 by  
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Massachusetts recently introduced a bill to derive 100 percent of the state’s energy from renewables , and now California is following suit. A new bill introduced by state Senate leader Kevin de León would require the state to obtain 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2045. Under de León’s bill, SB 584 , California would need to reach 50 percent renewable energy use by 2025, five years earlier than the state’s current target of 2030, and cease using fossil fuels completely by 2045. Related: Massachusetts lawmakers sponsor 100% renewable energy bill In 2016, the state obtained 27 percent of electricity via wind , solar, and other clean sources, and California’s deserts offer potential spaces for more renewable energy plants. The solar industry has created 100,000 jobs in California. Experts say the state could reach the 100 percent goal since costs for solar and wind power are falling – in many areas of the state solar is already the cheapest option, according to The Desert Sun. Some people wondered if de León’s bill as a reaction to Donald Trump’s energy policies. Large-scale Solar Association president Jim Woodruff, who worked with de León on the legislation, told The Desert Sun, “Whether it’s a direct response to what’s happening in Washington, I don’t know, but it’s certainly an indication that California will continue to lead in this area. It’s the sixth-largest economy in the world. I think by putting these goals out, it’s making a pretty powerful statement, not only in the U.S., but globally, that if we set out the goals and put the resources to it, those goals can be achieved.” The Desert Sun said it’s not yet clear if de León will move forward with the bill; as he filed it right before the state’s deadline to file bills on Friday, it could act as a placeholder until legislation more detailed can be written. Massachusetts recently introduced a similar bill , but it’s slightly more ambitious than California’s. Under the 100 Percent Renewable Energy Act , Massachusetts would transition to obtaining all their electricity from renewable energy by 2035, and would grant sectors like heating and transportation a 2050 deadline. The California bill gives its state’s electricity sector an extra ten years to reach that 100 percent target. Via The Desert Sun Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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California introduces its own 100% renewable energy bill

One in 11 US public schools are plagued by toxic air

February 20, 2017 by  
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When parents send their kids off to school, they might worry their child forgot their homework or won’t eat enough lunch. Air quality isn’t usually among their worries. But a joint investigation from The Center for Public Integrity and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting shows almost 8,000 public schools in the United States are located within 500 feet of highways or roads – that’s one in 11 schools. As vehicles travel those roads, they spew pollutants that may seriously impact children’s health . Around 4.4 million students across all 50 states attend the nearly 8,000 public schools threatened with toxic air – and that’s not even counting private schools and Head Start centers. Many parents and teachers aren’t even aware of the issue, according to the joint investigation, since air pollution isn’t always visible. Related: WHO finds 92% of the world’s population exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution But health issues stemming from air pollution could harm children for a lifetime. According to the joint investigation, pollution near highways can lead to stunted lung growth and asthma attacks . It can increase the risk of cancer or play a role in heart disease. Pollution coming from tailpipes could hinder a child’s ability to learn and even contribute to brain maladies typically found in the elderly. New York University School of Medicine professor George Thurston said, “The expectation of every parent is that they’re sending their child to a safe environment. And with this kind of pollution, they’re not.” As part of the article on the investigation, The Center for Public Integrity included a tool so you can see if your child’s school is close to a road on which 30,000 vehicles or 10,000 vehicles and 500 trucks pass on an average day. What can you do if your child’s school is near such a highway? Parents at El Marino Language School located near Interstate 405 in a Los Angeles suburb pushed for high-grade air filters and pollution-trapping plants . A test run of the filters found they snagged over 90 percent of the unhealthy particles inside. Via The Center for Public Integrity Images via screenshot and Matthias Ripp on Flickr

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One in 11 US public schools are plagued by toxic air

The UAE joins race to build first city on Mars

February 16, 2017 by  
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The race to colonize Mars first is in full swing, with everyone from Mars One to Elon Musk angling for the prize. Now the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced their intention to build Mars’ first city within 100 years. Their plan, called Mars 2117, aims to inspire, and act as a seed for future generations to grow. Mars 2117 was launched on February 14 , on the sideline of World Government Summit in Dubai, where a Mars 2117 virtual reality experience was offered. UAE Prime Minister and vice president Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum announced the plan : “We aspire to great things, so my brother Mohammed bin Zayed and I today decided the UAE will join the global effort to send humans to Mars. Mars 2117 is a seed we are sowing today to reap the fruit of new generations led by a passion for science and advancing human knowledge.” Related: Elon Musk reveals his big plan for colonizing Mars Mars 2117 isn’t just a dream for the UAE. In a statement Al Maktoum said, “The landing of people on other planets has been a longtime dream for humans. Our aim is that the UAE will spearhead international efforts to make this dream a reality.” The UAE government plans to create an international scientific consortium to pursue research for the project. Thus far only the United States has been able to land a craft on Mars – Europe and Russia have both failed. And the UAE just started their space agency in 2014, but they already plan to send a spacecraft, Hope, to orbit the red planet in 2021. Popular Science notes although the country lacks rockets, they have plenty of money and have shown they can move swiftly to achieve large goals, such as transforming Dubai from the pearl-fishing village it was around 40 years ago to the architectural wonder it is today, boasting the world’s tallest structure in the Burj Khalifa . Via International Business Times , Popular Science , and Government of Dubai Media Office Images via Dubai Media Office on Twitter

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The UAE joins race to build first city on Mars

Floating ring-shaped memorial celebrates Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai

February 16, 2017 by  
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This ring-shaped memorial dedicated to internationally renowned Kenyan environmental political activist and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, celebrates human rights and environmental conservation. Boogertman + Partners architects designed the circular form to emphasize the notion of “walks and talks”, solidifying Wangari’s enduring legacy. A long timber-decked route leads visitors over a body of water to the main entrance of the memorial located beneath the structural floating ring. The underside rests on the terrain which envelops an auditorium at the rear. The simple circular form unfolds the life of Wangari as a conversation en route, referencing her legacy and a childhood sense of wonder. Related: Inhabitat talks with NYC’s 9/11 Memorial designer Michael Arad The building houses the main exhibition space , library, conference centre and functional areas. The courtyard , enveloped by the ring, contains an amphitheater , a mausoleum and a subterranean space. + Boogertman + Partners  Via v2com

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Floating ring-shaped memorial celebrates Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai

Solar power now provides twice as many jobs as coal in U.S.

February 8, 2017 by  
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Regardless of what one fossil fuel-loving president might like, renewable energy is flourishing in the United States. A new survey from nonprofit The Solar Foundation reveals there are more than twice as many workers employed in the solar industry as there are in coal . The solar industry employs over 260,000 people, and pays a median wage of $25.96 an hour. In 2016, the solar industry created one out of every 50 jobs added, according to The Solar Foundation’s findings. These solar jobs can be found in all 50 states. Employers the foundation surveyed said they anticipate a 10 percent employment increase in the next 12 months. The industry employs 28 percent women, 17 percent Latino or Hispanic, and seven percent African American. Also, there are seven percent veterans in the overall United States workforce , compared to nine percent in solar jobs. Related: The Keystone XL pipeline would only create 35 full-time, permanent jobs According to the report, even though solar accounts for just 1.3 percent of America’s electricity, “Solar employs slightly more workers than natural gas , over twice as many as coal, over three times that of wind energy , and almost five times the number employed in nuclear energy . Only oil /petroleum has more employment (by 38 percent) than solar.” But Vox points out in order for solar to overtake polluting energy sources, it needs to be cheap. Right now solar requires more manpower per megawatt-hour than any other form of power. For the industry to bring costs down, they’ll likely need to automate some jobs, and won’t require as many human workers. On the other hand, solar may need to employ lots of people initially to gain political clout. Vox cites information from the Center for Responsive Politics , which reveals renewable companies spend far less on lobbying than oil and gas companies. But if an industry creates jobs – as solar does – it may garner more influence. For example, even some Republicans now defend wind and solar production tax credits, as wind energy is a noteworthy source of jobs in states like Ohio and Iowa. Trump can wipe any mention of solar from his White House energy page for now, but should solar and other renewable energy industries keep on adding jobs, he may just have to pay more attention. + The Solar Foundation Via Vox Images via 10 10 on Flickr and Student Design and and Experiential Learning Center on Flickr

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